Take Ownership Of Your Health

I did a sleep study a couple months ago. I’ve had sleeping issues my entire life. My parents stopped giving me naps as a toddler because I would stay up until midnight. When the naps stopped, I still stayed up until midnight.

I won’t bore you with the complicated details of my sleep habits, but I’m tired almost all day. I nap a lot. I’ve had bloodwork done and thyroid levels checked, all to come back in normal ranges.

The funny thing about depression is that it makes you tired. But my depression has been fairly well controlled recently with therapy and medication.

So I got a referral to a sleep doctor in Bethesda.

Because this is D.C., I had to wait two months after my study to even see the specialist to review my results.

Because this is D.C., I had to wait two hours past my appointment time to finally see the doctor. I was feeling pretty zen that day, so I did some work on my tablet in the waiting room.

As with most doctors recently, I have the fear that I’m just going to be told to lose weight to fix all my problems. I always wait, ready to let them know this is a lifelong problem, not something precipitated by my sudden weight gain related to my binge eating disorder.

So, two hours past my appointment time, I finally was called into the specialist’s office. She had a nice demeanor, unlike the nurse who had taken my vitals beforehand. Little did I know that I would be weighed and blood pressured for this consultation. I sat there with my latte half empty, unsurprised that my pulse and blood pressure were high given my reaction to caffeine. I was sure this would be another mark against my weight. Great.

I had already watched the required pre-recorded video in the waiting room about parasomnia in adults, and tensed up when the specialist said that anti-depressants often create these problems. Ugh, I thought, this stuff was happening way before I started meds.

So I sat in front of the doctor, ready for her to tell me to get off meds and lose weight. My blood pressure was already high from the latte, and I felt it rising as I waited for her to speak.

“Do you want a York Peppermint Patty?”

She went over to a box and grabbed two, and she started eating hers immediately.

I declined, not because I was wary of being perceived as the fat kid who eats anything she’s given, but because I just wasn’t really hungry. Plus one to intuitive eating.

“Alright then, so tell me why you’re here.”

I told her my sleep history, starting as a toddler. I told her about my vivid dreams and sleep paralysis, my sleep talking and flailing, my binge eating, and how this time 3 years ago I was 180 lbs and on zero medications. Yet the sleep problems were constants.

She listened. I loved it. As she was typing she furrowed her brow, “Hmm….you’re making things complicated.”

The appointment lasted two hours. She wanted more details and I was happy to provide them. She said that my mental health was the most important thing and that, after years of work in the medical field, she finally realizes that there is much more at play than calories in and calories out when it comes to weight. We talked about hormones and how sleep and other conditions affect their levels.

We went through my sleep study results and she explained what each thing meant. She, a doctor in her 60s, was unafraid to tell me that there are things about sleep they still don’t understand.

I left with a better (albeit big picture level) understanding of sleep science and with the relief of knowing I told my story and she listened.

The lesson here is to take ownership of your health. Give them more information than they think they need, because that information may become valuable in your records.

There are two parts of making this work, of course, and a doctor set in her ways may not care about your history and look only at the data she has.

I made sure that my story was more than the numbers, and it paid off. When I left, she set me up with one of her staff members for a follow-up visit, then shook her head to herself. “You’re an interesting case, so I’m putting you with one of my staff who has a bit more experience. She may have to pull me back in to look at things as well.”

Working with doctors can be intimidating, especially if you find one who is set in his ways and unwilling to look past your size, disability, or other numbers. You have to advocate for yourself, even if that means finding a new doctor, because no one else is going to.

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The Speed Of Information (And Why It Matters)

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I often go off on a rant when breaking news happens and I can’t find anything on TV about it until an hour after the event.

As a meteorologist with many friends working in broadcast media, I often get a lot of heat for pointing out how outdated television news as an information source is. I’ve had plenty of Twitter arguments with people whose livelihoods rely on the ongoing profits of television broadcasts.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have friends asking me “who cares?”

I do. And you should too.

Earlier this week, I saw on Facebook (of all places) that a shooting was ongoing at Ft. Hood,TX (again). I texted my mom to let her know, as we used to live there and still have some connections to the place. She texted back “On what channel?”

She was flipping through the cable news stations and getting no information. At this point, the shooting had occurred nearly half an hour prior.

My mother is relatively comfortable with technology for her age. She has an iPhone as well as Twitter and Facebook accounts. But she still gets most of her news from TV or anything she catches on the radio on her commute.

She’s not alone. A Gallup poll in the summer of 2013 showed that TV is still America’s primary news source. This goes for all age groups–yes, Generation Y included.

In January 2009, a regular guy named Janis Krums broke the Miracle on the Hudson story with a simple picture on Twitter.

The picture quickly went viral, with news stations picking it up and reporting on it.

Now, five years later, social media is consistently breaking news faster than old school media.

Should technologically savvy citizens have faster access to information than less savvy citizens?

If the news doesn’t impact you directly, why do you care if you hear about it half an hour later?

Information is invaluable. I imagine this same conversation has happened throughout the millenia as new ways of getting information have been developed:

  • Who needs writing when we have spoken word?
  • Who needs the printing press when we have monks handwriting books?
  • Who needs to deliver messages by horse when we can just run?
  • Who needs the telegram when we have horses to deliver news?
  • Who needs the telephone when we can just wait for the telegram?
  • Who needs the internet when we can just call someone on the phone?

Now I’m flipping this and asking: who needs TV when we have social media?

Sure, older forms of communication are still valuable–hell, we still use spoken word more than we use the internet. But many forms of communication have become irrelevant with time, like the telegram and handwritten books, while others are struggling to keep up in a changing time, like the postal service, whose services are still necessary but less necessary than they were even 20 years ago.

Thankfully, ships no longer have to cross the Atlantic to tell us how the war with the colonies is going. Wars have been won and lost with timely and truthful (or misleading) intelligence. Who gets to decide what information is important for you and me to know?

Let me be clear: I’m all about accuracy of information. This is not about speed for speed’s sake, although I would argue that if you care about the speed of your internet and cable but not about the speed at which you obtain information, your priorities may be misaligned.

There is a lot of misinformation on social media. A lot a lot. But if a news channel can tweet about breaking news as it happens but not even cut in to their corresponding 24-hour news channel to say “We are receiving information about XYZ event, we will keep you updated as we learn more,” then why should I even turn the TV on?

Old media really seems to be struggling to merge its new media presence with the old. Almost every TV station and newspaper has a website and social media profiles. While I don’t expect the newspaper to be printed off fresh every time breaking news occurs, it is mind boggling to me that CNN can tweet about something as it happens then continue to report on something irrelevant on the air.

Unless television news can successfully integrate the information I can find quickly online into its format, I have as much need for it as I do for the telegram.

Viva la información.

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The Printing Press and The Internet

I’m working on an ebook for The Irrational Mind called The Millenials’ Survival Guide. It’s an interesting project and I hope a lot of my fellow Generation Y members get a lot out of it. My younger brother has volunteered to be my beta reader, so if you don’t like it, blame him! (I kid, I kid)

I love working with analogies and, despite my science background, I really loved history classes in school. I like to consider myself a modern-day Renaissance woman, which really translates into Jill of all trades, master of none. I seem to be successfully rolling with that though.

As I’m writing this book, I realize that the Millenials are looking at a world shift unmatched by anything since the (European) printing press was introduced in the 15th century.

The internet has changed the way we interact with the world, learn, and exchange information in a way unparalleled by any other time but the age of the printing press.

Whoa.

This is not to downplay the struggles other generations have gone through. But the internet is not comparable to the Cold War or the establishment of the American colonies…it is comparable to movable type.

The printing press allowed for the Protestant Reformation to take off, for the Renaissance to spread, and for an educated class to emerge below the royals. A highly volatile time, those in charge began to lose their control over the populace as information spread. The Catholic Church saw a new threat to their empire as the schism led to the formation of new religions, new trains of thought, and, eventually, new nations.

The world is constantly shifting. What paradigm shifts to the world has the internet already instigated? What shifts have yet to be realized?

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My Three-Month Plan/Second Quarter Goals

In less than a week, Matt and I are closing on our first home in Frederick, MD. We’ll both still be working in Bethesda but at off-hours that will hopefully decrease the commuter hell most Washingtonians deal with.

I’ve blogged before about the feasibility of five-year plans, but I’m toying with the idea of shorter term goals/milestones/achievements/whatever.

So, as I embark on this solopreneur journey I have a few things I’d like to at least begin setting up as we head into the summer:

  1. YouTube channel
  2. Podcast
  3. Online courses
  4. Ebooks
  5. Consulting/coaching clients

Overambitious? Maybe. But I’m feeling pretty pumped about these ideas.

YouTube Channel

I imagine the YouTube channel overlapping at least partially with the online course offerings I’m planning. The primary focus (as I envision it today) would be on science communication in meteorology and beyond. There are a lot of sci-tech startups out there with business and technical know-how, but they may be lacking in the “engaging the audience” arena. I’d also like to do a couple of mini-courses on basic meteorology concepts for my non-meteo friends and followers who are interested in all this haboob/derecho/etc. mess.

Podcast

I’d like the podcast to be a more practical application of the skills discussed on the YouTube videos and online courses, with a meteorology focus. I envision a more chillaxed version of the Weather Brains format, talking with meteorologists (many of you!) about their experiences interacting with the public. Seminars? Meetings? Publications? Your own podcasts? Let’s chat about it. I have a few of you in mind for this project already (and you may be surprised to be on my list!), but, if you think you’d be a good fit for this, shoot me an email at consult dot mallie at gmail.

Online Courses

I’d like to do a mix of courses for the start-up business/tech people and for the laymen who follow me on Facebook/Twitter/this blog. Courses would include a mix of videos and written materials, as well as some guest lecturing/writing from other industry experts in either science communication or meteorology.

For the startups: Engaging Your Audience

For the laymen: Meteorology 101

Ebooks

Ebooks provide (almost) all the information that an online course would without the pesky interaction. I’d like to expand these product offerings into some of the personal development topics I discuss on The Irrational Mind.

Consulting/Coaching Clients

While the above offerings should be pretty comprehensive, it’s useful for many people to receive one-on-one time. I’m offering:

Consulting services: Talk to me about your company’s problem, give me some background information, and I’ll do the ground work and put together a report on engaging your target audience.

Business coaching services: Let’s work together individually to improve your communication skills so you don’t need me to reach your target audience. The “teach a man to fish” method.

Personal development coaching services: Some of my Irrational Mind readers are interested in working with me individually to begin making actionable progress in their own lives. Let me stress again that this is not therapy, which focuses on your past, but a process to hold you accountable and help you reach your life/career goals.

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Phew!

Lots of stuff coming up! In the meantime, I again ask for your help in sending anyone who may be interested in these products or services my way.

Did you notice I have a newsletter sign-up for these things now? Yeah, check out the sidebar to sign up.

Also follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook….

Thanks for everyone’s support! If you think you could be a contributor to any of these things, email me at consult dot mallie at gmail.

Other thoughts? Comment below! Thanks!

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Creating My “Solopreneur” Path

As many of you have seen, earlier this week I launched my professional services site, which will allow people to reach out to me for solutions in various areas: scientific communications, writing and editing, speaking and training, and personal development.

I’ve been playing with self-employment for almost a year now, but I assumed (incorrectly) that, in order to properly market my brand, I had to pick one niche and stick with it.

Then I realized: I am my brand.

We’re moving into a new work world, one filled with non-traditional careers that no one could have dreamed of before the advent of the internet. Solopreneurs are working from their laptops all over the world, selling their talents under umbrellas of varying sizes.

What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a solopreneur?

An entrepreneur is often growth and income-focused, trying to grow a company that sells specific solutions to a specific problem. In an entrepreneur’s ideal work world, they may start and sell websites, ideas, or companies for thousands (or millions) of dollars. They may establish a start-up with investors and a small set of employees. They may open a small business selling their wares downtown.

A solopreneur is also income-focused, but is more interested in flexibility. She works primarily alone, maybe outsourcing some of her administrative duties to a virtual assistant. She is selling herself and her skills to companies and individuals who may be disenchanted with corporate solutions and are looking for a personal touch. Her work can be done almost entirely remotely.

While an entrepreneur may hire a marketing, accounting, and administrative expert/department, the solopreneur wears the hat of content creator, marketing department, accounts manager, and administrative staff.

What I love about reading other solopreneurs’ stories is that they have all made their own path. No one’s story reads like anyone else’s, but they have managed to make a living doing work they are passionate about.

As I continue to create my path, I invite you to follow along on this blog. My regular weather/self/body acceptance posts aren’t going anywhere–they are part of the package I’m selling: me.

Of course, if you know anyone who may be in need of my services, please pass along my name. Your referrals are invaluable as I grow as both a person and a business.

Communicating Winter Weather Uncertainty

Dr. Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society, tweeted this as a catastrophic winter storm, slated to impact most of the Gulf and East coasts, began coming together in the forecast:

Most of us have struggled to explain model uncertainty and weather prediction to our friends outside of the science. I have blogged on this topic before. This time, I’ve noticed a few different viewpoints coming from professionals across the forecasting spectrum:

NWS Forecasters

Understandably, NWS forecasters seem to be struggling with sounding the alarm prematurely (as the Sterling office did not issue a winter storm warning for the D.C. metro area until late last night, 24 hours before the storm was forecasted to begin) versus not sounding the alarm loudly enough (the Atlanta forecast office began discussing the storm last weekend, likely in an attempt to make the government take notice).

Non-NWS Forecasters/Academics

People in the private sector and academia seem to be playing up the uncertainty most unapologetically. I think this is understandable, as their audience/clients may be more interested in a big picture of the event. Rather than needing to issue a public weather advisory/watch/warning or tell an entire community to buy bread and water, they can be more liberal in adjusting forecasts as new information comes in without confusing the general public.

TV Meteorologists

Many of my friends and social media followees (not a typo!) are TV meteorologists. While I think they are also doing a good job of communicating uncertainty, they are doing it at a price. Their name and face goes with their forecasts, and, often, they alone will receive the brunt of a blown forecast. While the other two groups tend to work in teams and are often anonymous (forecast discussion names and meteorology journalists notwithstanding), an on-air meteorologist is often held responsible for his or her forecast by the community. Being more in the public eye than the other groups, their forecasts cannot change drastically from day-to-day (or hour-to-hour!) without raising red flags with the audience.

Other

Some of us are not working as forecasters or otherwise involved with meteorology in an official capacity right now. Nonetheless, friends, family, and coworkers still turn to us as the “resident meteorologist.” While I try to keep up with the data as much as possible, I, personally, find myself parroting others’ forecasts when caught off-guard and behind on the updates. Other than my personal reputation, however, I have little at stake than some after-the-fact ribbing for a busted forecast.

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Of course, these are generalities, and your mileage may vary.

I’ve appreciated that the local D.C. TV meteorologists have, overall, done a decent job introducing the storm at an early enough date ahead of time and explained that different models have shown different data. The Capital Weather Gang is always under fire during the winter in D.C., as they live-blog model runs and give regular updates on how they are adjusting their forecasts. Many mets in all categories have taken to social media, either through professional or personal pages, to show and explain model data to their friends, family, and followers.

How much is sticking?

You would think that if we were properly communicating this uncertainty to the public that we wouldn’t hear the same tired complaints about forecast accuracy every week. Where is the disconnect? I see the updates throughout the event from tons of people, but, in the end, the public remembers what went wrong.

Is this a case of people wanting to complain, or are we really not reaching laymen the way we need to?

With current technology, we can reach more people than ever, so why is this an ongoing problem?