Little Bit Nerdy Much?

You know how technology is supposed to help your life and make things easier? But sometimes it just seems to do the opposite?

Way back in my college days we had to take a computer course which covered productivity software like Wordstar and Lotus 1-2-3. It’s so crazy to think that I now use Microsoft Office products exclusively for work and home use. I mean, the basics were there, but except for word processing and databases, I wasn’t really sure what I could do with them for home use. Fast forward to October 2020.

With the pandemic, in order to reduce contact with other people, I’ve stocked up on some of my staples (diced tomatoes, spaghetti, and flour). This means fewer trips to the store. But I don’t have room to keep it all in my cupboards. So some go in the cupboards and the rest goes downstairs in the basement. But I worried that out of sight would mean out of mind and I would accidently start hoarding items and having them expire. With Excel I’m generally good enough at it to know what I want it to do but can’t always make it happen or I can read and interpret the formulas. What I wanted was a system where I could track what I have and when it’s time to buy more. A couple searches, some YouTube videos and voila! I have a workbook now with multiple spreadsheets. I didn’t build it but I modified it for what I needed. The first spreadsheet has a list of the items, the second shows how many items have been brought into the house, the third shows how many has been used, and the final one shows what I currently have in the house. Granted, I’ve only used it for about two weeks but so far, so good.

I also made a workbook for my book reviews. I have books I read back in 2018 that I haven’t officially reviewed yet. I read them but never posted reviews. How lame of me! So I put this together to keep me a little bit more organized. I have a spreadsheet for NetGalley and one for LibraryThing. Unless something really fantastic comes my way that I can’t pass up, I’m going to concentrate on my reviews and book club readings for the time being. As you can see from the screenshot below, I already have books to review with 2021 publication dates.

Screen grab of Excel sheet for tracking book reviews
Screenshot of NetGalley Spreadsheet

Under Appreciated Authors

Last weekend, Ayelet Waldman started a Twitter conversation about under appreciated authors. She listed three authors:

  1. Kelly Link
  2. Shirley Jackson
  3. Edward St. Aubyn

Kelly Link is one of my favorites and I was hoping to meet her at the 2010 World Fantasy Convention.

It’s not often my reading material crosses with those of other people so I was surprised she was on Waldman’s list. I’d have to put some thought into my own list. Do you have any under appreciated authors on your list of favorites?

What Have I Been Up To?

Let’s see… first I went to this place for a week:

Sunset on Topsail Beach

We stayed at the same beach house we’ve been going to for years. This year the internet connection was nonexistent. Even being plugged directly into the router didn’t work. I wrestled with it off and on the entire week with only my cell phone to provide a lifeline to the outside world.

When I got back, I rebelled against the internet, I think. I didn’t read my Google Reader, visit blogs or even check all of my email accounts.

For about 20 years I’ve wanted to learn how to knit. Since this is a milestone year I decided this would be the year to learn it. First I took a basic knitting class. We were supposed to make an iPod Cozy but really we just made swatches and began scarves. I’m still working on one for a sister-in-law as a Christmas present.

The instructor’s pep talk gave me enough confidence to do the intermediate class. I learned how to make a hat.

Roll brim hat

Now that I can work with double pointed needles, I’m knitting a rabbit for my 8-month old niece. If I don’t finish it in time for the holiday, I can have it ready for her 1st birthday.

There’s a backlog of reviews to do. While on my beach vacation I started and finished quite a few books. Since all my holiday shopping is done, I expect my time over the next few weeks will be knitting a rabbit or writing a review and doing some year-end posts.

The Gym

On Sunday I went to gym for the first time in *mumble mumble* years.¬† I took a tour before getting the membership so I could check out the equipment and get a feel for the members.¬† But while riding the exercise bike I couldn’t help but stare at some of the people around me.

They were reading.¬† While stair stepping.¬† While biking.¬† The exercise bike even had a metal clip to hold your book in place.¬† I think I’m going to like this gym.

It Officially Feels Like Autumn

The past two years I’ve spent part of my autumn at Top Sail Beach, North Carolina with extended family.¬† Each time upon my return it seemed fall was really here.

Two days ago it was 90 degrees.¬† Today is the day when it really feels like autumn for me.¬†¬†I woke up to rain which made me fall back asleep.¬† Even the Resident Corgi wasn’t stirring much.¬† When we finally made it out, the Resident Corgi was missing the spring in his step… the spring that makes him splash into the puddles.

It’s about 58 degrees out right now.¬† I’m blogging in my fleece pajamas with a cup of hot chocolate beside me.¬† The garage gutters are full of leaves and branches from the corkscrew willow tree.¬† I can’t seem to get warm enough and it’s not even close to winter yet.¬†

Let’s hope this is a mild winter.

Guest Post by Dora Calott Wang, M.D.

I’m reading Dr. Calott Wang’s book right now and this guest post is a good introduction to what her book is about.
~Amber

Is Wall Street Making Life or Death Decisions?

By Dora Calott Wang, M.D.,
Author of The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist’s Reflections on Healing¬†
in a Changing World

Is your health insurance company traded on Wall Street?

If so, is Wall Street deciding your medical care?

It’s hard to recall that for-profit corporations were once kept out of¬†
health care — in fact, for most of the 20th century. During this¬†
time, the nation’s medical system was built largely by non-profit and¬†
charitable organizations, which is why so many hospitals are named for 
saints. Courts across the country ruled that for corporations to 
profit from medical care was simply “against sound public policy.” In¬†
the early 1980’s, however, when the financial and airline industries¬†
were deregulated, a similar process occurred for American medicine. 
For-profit corporations became newly encouraged to take leadership of 
health care. Deregulating health care into the free market was 
intended to drive down costs and to improve care. After all, medical 
care in 1980 consumed a whopping 9.1 percent of the nation’s GDP.

Never mind that after 30 years in the free market, health care costs 
have doubled to consume 18 percent of the GDP (with a third of these 
precious dollars wasted on bureaucracy). Never mind that health care 
has gotten increasingly inaccessible to the uninsured and even the 
insured, or that American health care has become an international 
poster child for reform.

The real issue is that modern medical care has simply, finally, gotten 
so effective. Today, even cancer and AIDs are no longer death 
sentences, and if organs fail, you try to get a new one. But prior to 
the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines in the 1930’s, leeches were¬†
routinely applied, and medicine was steeped in superstition. Between 
1918 and 1920, three percent of the world’s population was wiped out¬†
— by the flu.

The fair and effective distribution of life-sustaining resources like 
food, water and shelter, is the very story of civilization. Yet now, 
thanks to centuries upon centuries of civilization and scientific 
inquiry, we have at last, a new life-sustaining resource — modern¬†
medical care, which is less than 80 years old.

How should this powerful new resource be distributed? I believe that 
medical care shouldn’t be considered an ordinary product, like¬†
athletic shoes or flat screen TV’s. Rather, it is quickly becoming¬†
essential, like water. Yet there will be no easy answers when it comes 
medical care, in this brave new world in which DNA is already being 
tweaked to grow completely new organs. We are embarking on a new, 
complex and long chapter of history.

I can’t help but think that health care reform isn’t over, and wasn’t¬†
concluded with the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable 
Care Act in March.

I believe that health care reform will be our entire future.

In the meantime, for now, how is modern medical care, a new 
Prometheus’ fire, being distributed and decided in the United States?

Physicians and patients sit face to face and discuss medical decisions 
— about whether a life-sustaining cardiac bypass surgery is¬†
warranted, or whether a new liver should be gotten. But ultimately, 
the purse strings on medical care are held by health insurance 
companies.

The new health reform laws will obligate insurance companies to 
provide “coverage” even when patients become sick or if they have a¬†
“pre-existing condition” or what I will call “illness”. The PPACA has¬†
a provision on “administrative simplification” scheduled to take¬†
effect in 2014, which aims to streamline the process of doctors and 
health care providers asking for approvals from health insurance 
companies before treatments are rendered.

But even after the new laws are implemented, health insurance 
companies, many of them for-profit corporations traded on Wall Street, 
will continue to hold the purse strings on medical care.

Our recent health reform efforts are landmark progress in the right 
direction.

However, in the last thirty years, the values of Wall Street have so 
infiltrated the values of American society that seemingly all aspects 
of life are impacted, even medical care of the human body and mind, 
even the everyday life or death decisions that happen in doctor 
offices and hospital rooms.

© 2010 Dora Calott Wang, M.D., author of The Kitchen Shrink: A 
Psychiatrist’s Reflections on Healing in a Changing World

Author Bio
Dora Calott Wang, M.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the 
University of New Mexico School of Medicine. A graduate of the Yale 
School of Medicine and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, she 
received her M.A. in English literature from the University of 
California, Berkeley, and has been the recipient of a writer’s¬†
residency from the Lannan Foundation. Her memoir, The Kitchen Shrink:  
A Psychiatrist’s Reflections on Healing in a Changing World
was 
published by Riverhead Books, The Penguin Group.

For more information please visit www.doracalottwang.com and follow 
the author on Facebook and Twitter.