Tag Archives: love

Dear Gluten: Find Your Own Dating Website!

Stumbling across someone you know on OkCupid is so awkward. Worst of all is when it’s an ex. Your cursor hovers over the profile image until curiosity takes over and you have to click, even though you know you’ll show up in his visitors list, and therefore he’ll know you looked. (Then, you check in every hour to see if he peeked at yours, and, if not, wonder why. Did he not check in? Did he resist temptation? Does he just not care?)

Anyway. Here I am, minding my own love life, and who should I come across but our old friend gluten? Naturally, I looked—and now you can, too. (Click for the full-size version.)

OkCupid dating website profile for gluten

I don’t know what I ever saw in him. I valiantly resisted sending a message, but I did rate his profile 1 star, just to be vindictive. And no, he hasn’t viewed mine.

If you’re baffled, you might want to read my previous letters to gluten here and here. If you’ve read them and are still baffled, I can neither blame nor help you.

Savvy OkCupid users will notice I left out the section on gluten’s favorite books, movies, TV shows, music, and food. I did that on purpose so you can help fill it in! Whaddaya say? Is gluten a rhythm & blues kind of guy?

* “Bready for love” profile photo © Oyvind Solstad | Flickr

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Dear gluten (it’s me again),

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Almost a year. And I’ve been thinking. That letter I wrote . . . maybe it was a bit hasty. Oh, I’m not taking anything back. I still hate you. I walk by cafes where you sit and avert my eyes; I see you on the subway and change cars; I tell my friends I won’t show if you do.

In truth, all that avoiding you has taken a toll on my social life. But mostly, things have been better. I smile wider, I laugh louder, and I can’t recall the last time I pulled a Myrtle. But I can’t say I’ve been quite as happy as I’d hoped. I thought you were the only thing holding me back—now I fear there’s more.

Still, everyone says I’m better off: my friends, my sister (once your pal, she too has given you up), and even my doctors, not that my love life is any of their business. Certainly, my parents have been happy enough to see you replaced at family gatherings.

Replaced? Yes, I admit, there have been a few new sweethearts. The Whipped Pastry brownies, the King Arthur Flour vanilla cakes, the flourless peanut butter cookies, the Everybody Eats baguettes, the Food Should Taste Good and PopChips . . . It’s been a whirlwind. You may call it promiscuous, but I prefer “keeping busy.” And, by the way: not to brag, but they’ve been good. Almost as good as . . .

Do you know, gluten, that you cause me physical pain to this day? I dropped all that tissue transglutaminase on your doorstep, but instead of a whole new life I found a donut-hole in my heart. You haunt me; you obsess me.

Kindly do not misunderstand. I don’t want you back (several systems in my body wouldn’t stand for it). But here we are, in the thick of the holiday season, and you’re cropping up at all the parties, grinning in that rye old way of yours, trying to get a rise out of me. I hope this isn’t too bold—I can be honest with you, right? We’ve known each other a long time—but just the smell of you makes my mouth water.

I started 2013 with no resolutions, dear gluten, but by the end of January, you’d given me one: stay away—far away—from you. And I’ve been good. I’ve stuck to my guns. It hasn’t even been so hard: it’s in my DNA to hate you.

Still, you and I both know your very purpose is to form bonds, and Stockholmy though it may be, I feel your pull. I’ve scanned too many appealing pictures of you online, eyed you regretfully from across too many crowded rooms. I think I’ve gotten away, then snap! I’m back in the cereal aisle making doe eyes at the Cheerios. Something about you is . . . elastic.

So I wonder if, maybe, I should let you back in. Just a little. A taste. How’s this: At one of those parties, we can both get a little tipsy, and one thing can lead to another, and then for many days to come I can thoroughly regret it as my friends berate me for my lack of will, and I lie in bed, clutch my stomach, and cry for what shall never be. You’re happy, I’m unhappy, and we both get a nice little reminder of my 2014 resolution. Good, right?

I guess what I’m asking is, gluten, what are you doing New Year’s Eve? Because I’ve got a sloppy midnight kiss with your name all over it. All you have to do is show up dressed as a cake pop.

Yours wafflingly,

P.S. Gotcha, sucker.

Dear reader: If you’re looking for more that’s-kinda-weirdness about love and gluten, try this song, about 48 seconds in. And if you liked my letter, please share. You, I truly do ❤.

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Man vs. machine: Who will win the title of Dr. Right?

I’ve got doctors on the brain recently, probably because I’ll be seeing a new one next week. I get excited about a new doctor almost the way some people anticipate a first date. Will I like her? Will she “get” me? Will she at least be better than the last loser? Might she—dare I dream she could be the One? The doctor I’ll want to commit to forever, in sickness and in health?

I am hoping this new doc will work out. But lately I’ve wondered if I’ve been looking for care in all the wrong places. What if the doctor for me isn’t like those others I’ve known? What if my Dr. Right isn’t even human? That’s right—I’m talking about Watson.

watsonjeopardyAccording to an article in the Atlantic, a future in which computers process symptoms, test, diagnose, prescribe, and even perform surgery is no idle daydream. Picture this: you walk into your doctor’s office and he/she sits in front of you with a laptop or tablet, typing in your symptoms (or recording them via voice recognition technology), and then you both wait as the system crunches the data and spits out a list of potential diagnoses and tests to be ordered. Or, maybe, the symptom-listing step is bypassed entirely, because you’ve already been walking around with sensors in your clothing or on your smartphone that have been feeding information about your bodily processes directly into the system, leaving you to fill in only the less quantifiable information—the psychological stuff, perhaps, if they haven’t found a way to quantify it yet. The doctor, in this scenario, wouldn’t be much more than an accessory to the work of the computer.

Personally, I’m intrigued. I’d love to know that my symptoms were being recorded in a database longer lasting than my memory or a doctor’s poorly executed scrawl on a clipboard (it’s mind-boggling to me how backwards and unsystematic our current electronic medical records are). I also appreciate the idea of my symptoms being systematically investigated for patterns, without ignorance or biases clouding the picture. Research is moving too quickly and medical practices are too overbooked for doctors to be able to keep up with the volume of new knowledge or prioritize it appropriately. A computer, properly “trained,” perhaps could.

The Atlantic article references a TechCrunch article from 2012, in which writer Vinod Khosla writes compellingly about “Dr. Algorithm” eventually replacing 80 percent of physicians, with the remaining 20 percent continuing to make themselves redundant by helping the computers improve at diagnosing illness. The Atlantic article characterizes doctors’ response to this prediction as “skepticism, derision, and anger.”

I’m sympathetic. Since I work in book publishing, you might say that I’m living in a glass house when it comes to throwing technological stones. After all, people love to claim that publishing houses are on their way out. Why work with a publisher when you can use CreateSpace? Who needs a publicist when there’s Twitter? Why bother with an editor when you can just turn on spell check?

From my perspective in the publishing industry, I see the oversimplifications implicit in these questions. I know that editors do more than check spelling, and I don’t think that what they do do—isolate and clarify ideas, improve upon the readability, accuracy, and quality of writing, and push authors to consider cuts or additions that would not occur to them, given their proximity to the material—will be made redundant anytime soon. Beyond that, anyone who self-publishes must face the difficulties of designing a beautiful cover and interior, working out the intricacies of metadata and ebook distribution through multiple channels and formats, and finding the time for the kind of promotion that allows a book to sell more than a hundred copies or so. People in publishing have developed expertise in these things and do them on a daily basis. It’s hard to say exactly which traditional publishing professions will still be in play ten or fifty years from now and how the industry as a whole will look, but I do feel safe predicting that it won’t be dead yet.

Similarly, I think it would be oversimplifying to ask, “Who needs doctors when we have WebMD?” WebMD is a fantastic tool, and more sophisticated systems like Watson offer even wilder possibilities. Still, as the Atlantic goes on to note, doctors “do more than process data. They attend at patients’ bedsides and counsel families. They grasp nuance and learn to master uncertainty. For their part, the innovators at IBM make a point of presenting Watson as a tool that can help health-care professionals, rather than replace them.”

Doctors—those mystical good ones, anyway—provide something a computer cannot: connection on a human level. A real, warm hand to hold in trying times, a shoulder to lean on, a compassionate face, a soothing tone. Will we see doctors become, essentially, medical counselors? Will, perhaps, the top 20 percent go on diagnosing alongside the computers, while the rest simply provide the “human” care they’re currently too busy to give?

I must admit, I scoffed a bit at this idea. My mind went to a recent NYT Well blog post about “failing” medical students, which discusses a certain student who couldn’t handle the pressure of working with patients but “did extremely well on all her tests,” so her professor found it difficult to fail her. The prof claimed there were “no multiple choice exams when it comes to things like clinical intuition, communication skills and bedside manner.” Many commenters on this post pointed out that medical schools prioritize the memorization of data for standardized tests over the teaching of those “soft skills” that the Atlantic article suggests may be doctors’ most critical contribution in the future.

On a personal note, I’ve had terrible doctors when it comes to soft skills. They were uninterested in communicating with me, they were too harried for empathy, and as for providing a shoulder to lean on, they may as well have worn barbed-wire epaulettes. Their “hard” skills weren’t stellar, either—they couldn’t seem to cobble my symptoms together into a diagnosis, and they all had their own pet distractions: one harped on fiber, one was big into prescriptions, and one always managed to turn the conversation back toward ear wax. I’ve never felt confident in my doctors’ ability to help me, and in the end, like many people, I had to ask to be tested for celiac disease (and then ask—beg, really—for my test results, too). Would these doctors improve if they had more time to relax and speak with their patients, or would they just become even more useless? I don’t know for sure, but faced with docs like mine, I’m ready for the robot revolution.

But I do have one friend in med school who talks a lot about her doctor-to-patient training as though it’s the part of school that interests her most: the part in which students role-play difficult conversations about health or meet real patients to learn about their medical history. My friend is smart, too, and if she retains her interest in interacting with patients and doesn’t get burnt out by school, she just might be the face of the future of medical care. If the doctor I’m about to meet is anything like this friend, I’ll feel like I’m in good hands—though that doesn’t mean I’ll stop doodling Watson’s name in the margins of my notebook anytime soon.

How do you feel about the idea of robots taking over the stethoscope? Heady daydream, or science-fiction nightmare?

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Because nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like a flowchart

Today’s post was going to be an OkCupid profile for gluten, since, as you may recall, we broke up last weekend. Unfortunately, gluten’s not ready to move on, still hanging around trying to wheedle his way back into my good graces—refusing to pick up his tTG collection, sending me flours. I’ve told him and told him, but he’s a sticky little protein composite. Maybe by next Valentine’s he’ll have cleared out for good.

In the meantime, to keep my resolve strong, I thought I’d remind myself of my other options. The world is just full of prospective dates, after all. And sure, needing to date someone who maintains a strict GF diet (or at least waits four hours, eats something else that’s gluten-free, then brushes his teeth before kissing me, just to be safe) narrows the pool to something more like a rivulet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have options. I just have to find someone who likes me. Simple. Oh, and he has to meet a standard or two, but that’s reasonable enough, right?

flowchart begin

Click to start down the warped and twisted way to my little celiac heart.

The fact that I spend my off-work hours making things like this—rather than, oh, I don’t know, dating—may be a minor contributor to my being single this Valentine’s Day. But anyone I ever date will have to like me as I am, flowcharts and all. Plus be funny. And well-read. And employed. I also realized I finished the chart without ever adding vegetarian. Factor that in somewhere between cute and Boggle. Me, picky?

So, enjoy. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my family, my friends, my new blogosphere buds, and yes, even you, gliadin and glutenin. As for you, avenin? Jury’s still out.

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