Great Seafood Restaurants in Boston

My personal recent favorites are, from left to right, Pammy’s, Waypoint, and Select Oyster Bar. First, the food was excellent. I have been to these places multiple times so they are not a one-meal wonder. Second, the places are cozy with character. I enjoyed being there. For the man who was on a blind date with me and wonders where we should meet next, well, here is a big hint! For other men out there looking for a nice post-first-date spot, check these out and don’t forget to make a reservation for your special someone!

More about these dishes that I love:

  1. Citrus Grilled Prawns, nori fattoush, herb salad, pickled pepper aioli · $17
  2. Spanish Octopus, roasted tomatillo, chimichurri, blistered snap peas, cilantro · $21

Solving and Stopping Voices

I have seen some videos online that try to show what it’s like to hear voices. Often, the videos show someone doing something while recorded voices shout out words. In my experience, the voices sounded just like from real people and not just a recording. They sounded three dimensional. They were not random phrases but specific to what I was doing. Other than not having a physical presence, they almost made sense. That was why they were so confusing!

When I first heard Joe, my first voice person, I imagined a young man talking into a microphone in a room somewhere. Of course, I did not think that my brain made him up. I thought he was real somehow. Somehow I could hear him through some impressive technology that I did not know about. He was a soft-spoken, friendly, and not terribly talkative person. Mostly he made comments about what I did. He was not particularly funny or smart. I could not tell if he was logical because we did not have enough “conversations” that would make me think that. I could not get him to tell me anything about himself even though I asked him many questions. We took turns “talking” and never talked over each other. He never yelled or whispered.

Once in awhile, he would tell me what to do. For example, he told me once to go to Starbuck and talk to a stranger. We had very harmless “interactions.” At first, I tried to figure out where his voice was coming from. I would look around to see if I could find a speaker or some sort. Failing that, I tried to reason with him. If I could figure out what he wanted then I might be able to get rid of him or get him to show up.”Why are you doing this to me?” “Did someone hire you to follow me?” I was not successful. Sometimes I felt romantic. Sometimes, I thought he was helping me to be happy, somehow magically. But at the end, I kept repeatedly facing the reality of Joe never showing up when I kept asking him to.

After Joe, after a while I had another episode for a few weeks. I did not just hear back from him, but from many different voices. This time they were all voices of people I knew, my friends and family. My voice friends and family took me right back into a world of my own alone in my apartment. My voice friends and family led me in personal conversations and fun games. I tried to stay quiet and fight against them, but I often was consumed and swallowed by them completely.

When I first heard my family and friends, I felt disbelief. These could not have been my family and friends. Could they? They would not talk to me this way. They would not put me through this. But my disbelief did not stop them. Different circles of friends talked to me on different days.

I made rules for myself on how I should behave with these voice friends and family: don’t do anything they told me to do and don’t talk back to them using my mouth. Doing those things, I thought, would mean that I was okay. Okay for what, I was not sure. It seemed to make sense then. As much as I tried to use logic to conquer the voices, I still could not reason my way out of them. I did not seem to “talk” or “think” better this time either.

I tried to understand how the voices worked. This also seemed to make sense at the time.

Normally, when someone talked, I heard the words in my head. My hearing had always been normal. I could also talk to myself silently in my head. In these situations, I could also hear voices talking to me in my head without seeing someone. They sounded real to me. Other than talking voices, I also heard sounds that sounded like talking from raindrops, birds, etc. I could tell all these different kinds of talking apart.

As I said, when I was alone with the voices, I tried to understand them. I moved around in my apartment and realized that the voices did not move with me. If I turned my head to look out of the window, the voices I “heard” did not move from where they were before, just liked how it should if there were real people in the room. When I walked out of my apartment, the talking sounds stayed in my living room in the far end of the hallway. I also used earplugs and that helped. They could block off the voices when I tried to fall asleep. Similarly, I also could block out voices by listening to music using earphones. These made me felt that I had proved the voices were real somehow.

When I was out of the house and among people, the voices were less prominent or nonexistent. That made it easier to forget about them when I was out with friends, and therefore allowing me to live in two different parallel worlds.

Even though I sort of figured out ways to block out of the voices, I could not do it for long. I could not wear earplugs and listen to music all day. I ended up listening to the voices most of the time. I gave them my attention. All that did not made me understand them more.

What I wanted to do the most was to stop them. I never figured out a way to stop the voices. I still was not thinking about being a schizophrenic. I never thought that my brain was the cause of them.

I regretted how I let myself got sick the first time I met Joe. Every time after that, I thought they were my second chances to do over and be smarter about it.  The voices were a problem that I could not solve on my own no matter how hard I tried.

A wise friend told me a few years later, “Mindy, this is not something you can reason your way out of!”  That hit me. I repeated that in my mind many times. Then, after all these years, I gave out a heavy sigh. “I can’t solve this!” Finally, I stopped asking myself what I could do when I heard “them.”

 

Locked Up

I was deep asleep. I vaguely felt someone put a needle into my left arm. The needle did not wake me completely. I felt hands putting a bandage where the needle was. My mind felt very heavy. I fell back to sleep. It happened again. I heard a man next to me talk about drawing blood. This time I said no with my eyes closed. My right hand moved to cover my left arm. He did not draw any more blood from me. My mind still felt heavy. I fell back to sleep again. Someone came again. I heard a cart rolling towards me. Something was taped on my head and body. Someone was measuring my heartbeat, I thought. Even with all that, I did not wake up. I fell back to sleep again. I did not know how long I slept.

As soon as I woke up, I jumped out of bed. I looked around. I did not recognize the room I
was in. There were two other twin beds. There were three wooden desks and chairs next to them. There was no other furniture. The wall was bare. No one else was there.

I saw that there were two brown paper bags on the desk next to my bed. In them, I found my cloth and handbag. I looked at myself. I was wearing a set of brown cotton shirt and pants. They were not mine. I picked up my handbag and checked my things. Was everything there? No! My iPhone was gone. My wallet was gone, but my house keys were still there. There was a small plastic cup filled with coins that was not mine. My heart skipped a beat. Something was terribly wrong. I quickly put on my dark brown sweater, blue jeans, light brown wool coat, and white scarf. I grabbed my bag. I walked out of the room. “I am leaving!”I mumbled to myself.

I talked to the first person I met in the hallway.
“I want to leave,” I said to the stranger.
“You can’t,” he said.
“Look there is a urine cup in my bag. My wallet and phone are missing. Why is there a urine cup with coins in my bag?” I said, louder than I normally spoke. I wanted answers.
“I don’t know,” he said sympathetically, calm, and matter-of- fact.
I looked at him; he looked at me. Silence filled the next few seconds. I walked away from
him.

I did not want to get upset at a stranger. He did not do anything bad to me. I walked back to the room, still upset. I looked out the window to see if I could tell where I was. I saw a garden with many trees, and snow on the ground. I could tell that I was not in Boston anymore. I also noticed that the windows were sealed and locked with metal bars. A piece of paper on the desk mentioned Belmont.

“Okay, Belmont.” I thought. “As long as I have my keys, I can still go home. I can walk home to Back Bay from Belmont. I have done that before for the three-day breast cancer walk. It might take me all day but I can do it!“

Belmont was about eight miles from Boston. Without any money or a phone, I could still walk home. I have my keys and my legs. I could depend on myself. I sneaked out of the room quietly again. This time, I headed towards the longer side of the hallway and looked for an exit door. I did not see anything obvious. I felt like I was doing something wrong, trying to sneak out. I stopped. After a few more minutes, I felt calmer. I went back to the room, took off my jacket, put down my handbag, and sat down in the bed I was in before.

I now knew for sure that I was locked up. I did not need to talk to anyone to understand that. The last thing I remembered was when I was at the ER at MGH. After evaluating me, the doctor at the ER must have admitted me to this place, McLean Hospital, overnight. I found the hospital name from the piece of paper on the desk. Was it the night before? Or longer? At the age of thirty-seven, I was now confined in the ABII unit at the McLean hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts for the first time in my life.

How did I get here? What happened? What did I do?

I was a Cornell-educated woman who had a steady job, had lived independently for all my adult life, had traveled the world, and had loving friends and family. I tried to retrace my steps. I went over it again and again in my head. How the hell did I get here?

PHR2: Initial Concept

How personal health record information is presented back to the users after the information is recorded is very important. Nowadays, users expect instant value after a few clicks here and swipes there. Let’s ignore how the data gets into this PHR2 for now. (I know that’s big! I do!) I have some thoughts on what would be helpful to me.

IMG_9938View 1: Dashboard

User health goal: A good habit for everyone to have is to get regular yearly check-ups for physicals, vision, and dental. That is the basics. It is needed for a lifetime.

User need: It would be so nice to be able to see in one place, how I am doing with my goal. When did I do what? Who did I see? When do I need to do it again?

Concept: Instead of listing personal health records by data types which I had seen in a view solutions, we can list the information base on the type of care we received or want to get. The information should be how we think about and use health care. In this view, the most recent visits (or I can them health events) are listed. I can view details if I want more information. For people with chronic conditions, this view would be longer and more specialized to a specific condition.

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IMG_9939.PNGView 2: Timeline / History

User health goal: I want to maximize my insurance benefits. I want to track my deductibles for the year. I want to know what’s coming up.

User need: To manage my health, I need to know what I did in the last few months or year. How many visits did I have? The more I have to manage, either as a parent for kids, as a caregiver for my parents, or as someone with a chronic condition, the more coordination, I need to do. I want to see in one place, what health events happened and are scheduled.

Concept: Yes, I can always look at my Google calendar. BUT this is one place to look at all my health events. This view also helps coordination with different types of cares or visits.

*~*~*~*~*

I am not a UX designer at all, but I work with many very talented designers and strategists. I mimicked what they do and talked to “users,” aka, my close friends. Based on those conversations, I created these simple sketches for PHR2 for fun and to advance my own thinking!

Let me know if you have feedback! Hey, maybe someone at Google or Apple will see this and has an opinion?

Educated, Hunger, Born A Crime, Hillbilly Elegy, Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

I love reading about someone else’s life, to learn and experience life through another mind and heart. Here are my five favorite memoirs from the last six months.

educatedEducated by Tara Westover

I learned how to be an adult through my family. Growing up, my father made sure that I did not have to worry about anything but just being a happy kid. I had a loving home. I was never hungry. I never had to worry about money. I also learned from being at schools how to breakdown problems and think logically.

Tara grew up in a completely different family and environment from me, much less loving support and order. Reading her memoir, I am so impressed by how strong she was. It is an eye-opening story about perseverance, fighting to live one’s own life against all odds, and making sense of it all.

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hunger

Hunger, A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

I was always a stick growing up, until I started taking the medication for schizophrenia. Now, compounding that with aging, I gain weight very easily. I try my best to manage this.

Roxane talks about her body and weight with amazing clarity. Similar to me, there were triggers, life changing events, for her.  Trigger might fad in our memories if we were lucky. But we are still left to manage the after effects. I command Roxane’s brutal honesty and letting me learn more about her both outside and inside.

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bornBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhoodby Trevor Noah

I am lucky that for most of my life I felt that I belonged, to the country I was born in, in the family I grew up with, in the new country where I became independent, where I lived and worked.

In South Africa, Trevor was born a crime because of the races of his parents. He had to hide. He had to be careful. As he grew older, he had to find groups and places where he felt like he belonged. He had to navigate complicated racial issues, just like breathing air, through his smart and wit. A great memoir about being triumphant through all the racial odds the world dealt him.

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hillbillyHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisisby J. D. Vance

I feel quite ordinary like J. D. Vance. I am writing a memoir even though I feel that I have not accomplished anything great. But J. D. Vance has! The world that he grew up and lived in kept generations of people in the same place. Lives were hard for him and everyone around him. It was hard to see a way out. This is part of the America we live in today. This is a very honest memoir about abuse, alcoholism, and poverty in middle America. As I read this, I thought, we can not forget and turn a blind eye on this part of our country.

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happinessHappiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

I considered being a single mother once and wanted to be responsible for loving a new life. Heather described that beautifully in this memoir. But something unexpected happened. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to give birth to a baby girl and immediately go to the emergency room. Reading about a sick baby is heartbreaking. Then there was the father who did not want to be a father. Aside from the challenges that life throws at us, this is a memoir about love. Heather’s love for her daughter. Love between a mother and a father. And the father’s love for his daughter. I felt love!

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Have you read these? What do you think? Do you have another favorite memoir that you would recommend? Leave me a comment!

Personal Health Record 2

When I was in my early twenties, I found a solid mass in my left breast. The mass was removed at a day surgery. Lucky for me, it was a benign cyst. I don’t remember the exact date of when this happened. But every time I had to explain my health history, I mentioned this fuzzy memory. If I ever forget, nobody would know about this. Part of my health history would be missing. I might also be missing the opportunity to take actions against future breast cysts or tumors.

Recently, I participated in a study for schizophrenia and went through MRI scans. The researcher found a slightly significant white dot in my brain scan and notified me. She also sent me a report and a CD of all the images. If one day I need this information, I hope I remember. I have not idea where the physical report and CD is at home.

When Google, Microsoft, and WebMD released their PHR a decade ago, I was excited. Finally, I would have a place to organize my health information. I tried them and found them clunky. I decided to stick with my mess and did not end up using any of them. Since then, there have been other attempts at creating a personal health record but nothing has taking off yet.

I often think about this problem – digitizing and organizing my health record. The analog for me is how we went from balancing our checking account on paper to using Quicken to manually enter each transaction based on physical receipts, to using banking websites that automatically track our spending and saving, to using Mint which provides an integrated view of multiple financial accounts, to using Betterman where we can easily make investment decisions. We have come a long way with how we manage money. So what about health?

I believe that we all need to organize our own health record. I suggest that we create PHR2, a second generation of a personal health record software solution for the everyday consumers. Here are the whys.

Why do we need to have our Personal Health Record (PHR2)? 

  • Take control of my and my family’s health
    • Prevent loss of part or all of my and my family’s health history
    • Understand our current health status and risks based on our health history
    • Increase my health literacy and make informed health decisions
  • Be a better patient or caregiver
    • Manage my chronic or acute conditions more effectively
    • Avoid serious drug interactions by knowing my medications
    • Know what to do next by understanding my test results
  • Be prepared in an emergency
  • Stay healthy. Can take preventive measures
    • Able to validate the accuracy of my records and history. Find the gaps in my doctor’s medical records

How is it different from electronic medical records (EMR)?

EMR often contains medical terms and jargon that everyday consumers may not and don’t need to understand. EMR is a record keeping system for health professionals, not patients. I don’t believe that we can put a patient-facing interface on top of an existing EMR and call that PHR.

Existing solutions?

I came across PicnicHealth and found their model very interesting. Patients pay Picnic a fee, and it will try to get all of your medical records from all of the different hospitals and health systems in your life. For more details, see Tech Crunch.

Apple announced earlier this year that, Health Records is going to be a new menu in the Health Data section of the Health app. You’ll be able to add any file to this menu as long as it’s a CDA file (Clinical Document Architecture). Some hospitals already email you those files or make them available on their website. But Apple wants to automate this process. For more details, see Tech Crunch.

On the other hand, why do we not need it right now? 

  • I am fairly healthy and don’t interact with doctors too often
  • I have not done anything and that seems to be okay
  • I don’t have time to manually organize everything
  • I will depend on my memory if someone asks me about my health history
  • I find it easy to keep a notebook
  • The doctor or someone has my information and that should be enough

Taking control is definitely not easy. Health is not as straightforward as money. But I definitely see consumer needs, pain points, and opportunities. I am waiting for the right, simple, and easy solution to be created. If I win the lottery, I would try to build a PHR2 for us! Meanwhile, I am keeping a close eye on what becomes available for everyday consumers.