Tuesday, January 14, 2020


New year, new job, new blog post describing it all. On January 6, I started working as a Data Analyst at the American Board of Medical Specialties, which oversees certification and maintenance of certification activities for 24 Member Boards (such as the American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, and so on).

The main part of my job will be doing analysis, research, and program evaluation of the CertLink program, which is a really cool online system that tests physician knowledge in their certification area, provides feedback and introduces new information to improve over time, and measures the relevance of items to their practice, so that their maintenance of certification assessments can become more targeted to the population and types of cases they encounter in their practice. We're hoping that this kind of system will become the future of medical specialty certification, so rather than taking a high stakes exam every 10 years, medical specialists can maintain their certifications through targeted, longitudinal assessment and continuing education. And we're hoping to show this approach works by tying it to long-term, quality of care outcomes, like prescribing patterns. I'll share more as I learn more about the company and my role, to the degree that I can based on data privacy. But I'm so excited to be involved with this, using my psychometrics and statistics skills for the data I'm working with, and my research/program evaluation skills to show (how) the system works. I also finally get to use my SQL knowledge as part of my job, and will be using my R and Python programming skills pretty regularly as well.

Zeppelin is adjusting well to me working again. He adores his dog walker, who he sees three times a week, and has made many new friends in the doggy daycare he attends twice a week. He also has a huge crush on Mona, who can be found at Uncharted Books, stopping to stare longingly at her every time we walk by the shop. As is the case with so many crushes, this love seems to be unrequited; Mona tolerates Zeppelin but doesn't like the way he drinks out of her water bowl when we stop in.

On the blogging front, I'm working on an analysis of the 88 books I read last year, and might even do some long-term analysis of my last few years of reading data. Stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Meet Zeppelin!

I recently spent a couple weeks visiting my family. While there, my mom found a lost dog with no tags or collar. She brought him home and we set out to find his owners. The vet found no microchip and didn't recognize him. Walking the neighborhood, I found no one who knew him and he didn't act like he recognized anything. And I had no bites on posts in lost dog Facebook groups. The vet suspected (as do I) that he was dumped. So that's how I got a dog. Meet Zeppelin!

He's a terrier mix between 1 and 2 years old and a total sweetheart. He's my little shadow, following me around since I first met him. His name is thanks to a comment from my mom. She was describing the dog to someone, in an effort to find his owner, and mentioned he was a black dog. I remembered the Led Zeppelin song, Black Dog, and thought Zeppelin was a cute name. It was also one of the few names I tried out that he responded to in some way. He's also sometimes known as "Zep," "Zeppie," and "Z-Man," as well as "little shadow."

He likes anything that squeaks, especially soft toys. His favorite is his monkey that I've started calling Van Gogh, because Zep chewed its left ear off.

He also likes anything ball-shaped and his rope for tug-of-war. Food likes include chicken, cheese, cucumbers, and blueberries. He adores people and other dogs; the only dog he isn't sure about yet is the one he sees in mirrors and other reflective surfaces (though I think he's learning that dog is him). He prefers to sleep on a blanket on the floor but every night and morning, he hops up on my bed with me for belly rubs, and only jumps down when he feels sufficiently petted. He knows "sit," "drop," and "leave it," and we're working on more. I can't take credit for all that, because he already knew "sit" when we found him.

We also play a game where I put his toys away in his box while he's sleeping, and he immediately wakes up and drags all of them out onto the floor in a span of about 30 seconds.

He loves to be sung to, and while he likes his namesake song, he also really likes music by female artists. He seems to especially like Taylor Swift.

Welcome Zeppelin!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Review: It Chapter 2

Speaking of Stephen King, I recently went to see It Chapter 2 with a friend. Here's what I thought (while I try to keep spoilers to a minimum).

The story starts off in Derry, Maine, present day, when Pennywise the Clown is seen again. Mike Hanlon finds a message at the site of a murder that says, "Come home." He proceeds to call his fellow members of the Losers' Club, telling them it's time to keep the promise they made 27 years before: to come back and kill Pennywise if he ever returns. Unfortunately, the remaining "losers" don't remember their time in Derry, and have to be reminded of many of the events from the first movie in order to effectively fight Pennywise.

First, what I liked about the movie. While most of the movie takes place in the present day, there are a few scenes that go back to the losers as they were 27 years before. The clubhouse they built, which was very important in the book, finally makes an appearance. We also get to meet Bill's bike, Silver, at last. The movie, while scary, is also incredibly funny. The characters impart their dark, dry humor with each other often, even during tense scenes, which feels completely real and believable. And my favorite part was a great reference to this scene in my all-time favorite horror movie, John Carpenter's The Thing:

Oh yeah, and in addition to The Thing reference, the movie features some fun fan service for people who love horror movies, and great Easter eggs for anyone who loves horror movie trivia.

I also liked seeing Mike get a much more important role in this movie, since he was relegated to the sidelines in the first one and much of his contribution to that story was given instead to Ben. And some of the subplots from the book, while interesting, were cut from the movie, making it a much more straightforward story.

At the same time, the things I didn't like as much about the movie were also related to departures from the book. The clubhouse, while finally appearing, was given little to no importance in terms of the ritual to fight Pennywise. I also didn't like some of the changes they made to Mike. In the book, Mike often didn't tell the others things he remembered but they didn't because they needed to find them out in their own time. But movie Mike also lied to his friends and purposefully put them in danger, not something book Mike would have done. In the book, the danger was always Pennywise. Really, my biggest complaint about both movies has to do with their changes to Mike's character.

The Ritual to kill Pennywise was also much more interesting in the book, though I suppose it would have been difficult to film coherently, because the book version was much more about emotions and thoughts, as opposed to clear actions. Honestly, I didn't really like the way they defeated Pennywise in the movie, but I still enjoyed the rest of the movie, so I'll let it go.

Overall, It Chapter 2 was a fun, entertaining movie that neatly wrapped up the Pennywise and Losers' Club storylines. While I'm a little sad about some of the elements from the book that were cut or changed, I'm glad that they did this as a single film instead of a two-parter, as they would have had to in order to include some of the scenes Stephen King requested they keep in the movie. The tone of this movie is certainly different than the first, but it works. As I said, you could see these characters growing up into the sarcastic, wry, somewhat dark humor they impart throughout their scenes, based on what they went through in the first movie. Despite fighting a shape-shifting, pan-dimensional fear and flesh devourer, the characters felt real.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mad Tangerine-Colored Commissar

If you haven't already, you must check out Randy Rainbow's brilliant showtunes medley/political commentary:

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Totally Superfluous Book Review: Stephen King's Cujo

I've been a fan of Stephen King's since I was a child, and have recently created a personal goal for myself to read all of his books. The most recent entry into that read list was Cujo, the story of a rabid St. Bernard who terrorizes two families in Castle Rock, Maine.

This book was an incredibly difficult read and I finished it last night feeling gross all over. I have to say, I hated this book. I sincerely hope people who want to get into Stephen King don't choose this as their first read, because it will leave them with a completely inaccurate view of King's writing. His style is brutally honest and often darkly funny, but not mean-spirited and sexist as this book is. The monster wins, and I know that message of this book was a reflection of what was going on in his own life at the time. He had a severe substance abuse problem at the time, and as such, says he has no memory of writing this book. The monster in his closet was winning, and he poured all of that strife and darkness into this book. If anything, this book is a reflection of how the history of the writer influences how one of their projects is viewed and interpreted. This book is filled with hopelessness and anger.

If you, like me, want to read all of King's books, you should probably read this one. But otherwise, this is one to be avoided, unless you'd like a demonstration of how personal demons seep into one's writing.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Working on a New Project

I'm working on a new project that I'll be sharing on my blog. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Rough Night

I had an incredibly rough night last night. In the early morning, I woke up and had the terrible feeling that I wasn't alone. I felt someone or something was in the room with me, even in the bed with me, though I knew I was the only one there. Over the excruciating moments, I began to feel I was being haunted or even possessed by something. I woke up this morning unbelievably anxious and feeling sore in every muscle in my body. It seems last night I was the victim... of sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is an interesting, and quite terrifying, phenomenon. What happens is that you wake up while still in REM sleep. Dreams intertwine with reality and can cause such experiences as hallucinations (auditory, visual, even olfactory), emotions (such as fear and dread), inability to move (because your body paralyzes you during REM to keep you from acting out your dreams, that carries over into this semi-wakeful state), and muscle soreness. Though sleep paralysis is more common among people who already have some form of sleep disturbance, such as insomnia, it can happen to anyone. It's been theorized that many so-called experiences of the paranormal are actually cases of sleep paralysis.

There's a great documentary on sleep paralysis I highly recommend if you'd like to learn more:

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Feel free to share in the comments!