Three Questions for ChatGPT.

A few questions I have asked ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot:

“Is the journalist Chris Hayes actually a donut?”

ChatGPT responds that Chris Hayes is a human being, not a pastry.

For reasons that make sense to no one except for me, Chris Hayes‘s face reminds me of a donut: round, smooth, and fluffy. (Maybe this is just an inappropriate way to comment that he has nice skin?) I appreciate that ChatGPT not only wonders why I think he is a pastry, but also makes it clear that Chris Hayes is not a donut.

“Which is better: left turns or pizza?”

ChatGPT says that left turns and pizza are incomparable because, you know, they're not.

ChatGPT has no patience for my foolishness, though graciously explains that left turns and pizza are categorically different things. I appreciate ChatGPT deferring to my personal preferences and experiences. (If I had to choose for only one to exist, I think I would choose pizza. Three right turns make a left turn, but other flatbreads are not pizza.)

“How long does it take to write a 750-word essay?”

ChatGPT responds that, on average, it takes two to three hours of focus to write a 750-word essay.

I found this response validating. I have wondered if I’m just slow, as it often takes me a few hours to write a post for publication here. Those few hours of writing transform into a mere three minutes of reading!

And that, dear reader, is how I have “cheated” in generating this week’s blog post.

Blogosphere Random

Four Items.

Four items, the first of which is self-promotion:

A medical student interviewed me on UC Irvine’s independent, underground radio station. Kyle runs the radio program Monkeywrench, which “features music from across the punk spectrum and interviews with activists, artists, musicians, and organizers working to create a better world in Orange County and beyond.” He asked thoughtful questions about my past work with underserved populations and my current job in the jail. You can listen to the interview here.[1. The internet has connected me with interesting, thoughtful, and intelligent people who hold a variety of perspectives. Start a blog; you’ll be pleasantly surprised with who you meet and what you learn.] Then wish Kyle good luck as he starts his fourth year of medical school!

The remaining three are articles I recently read that are related to psychiatry:

  1. The Nightmarish Online World of ‘Gang-Stalking’ (hat tip: Brock)

    Gang-stalking victims describe “complex systems” financed by the US government, employing “civilian volunteers, government agents, contractors, and often dangerous ex-convict felons” to harass people. Gang-stalking functions as a nexus for further conspiracy.

  2. John Hinckley Left the Mental Hospital Seven Months Ago

    On June 21, 1982, a jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity for shooting and attempting to kill President Ronald Reagan in a display of romantic devotion to the actress Jodie Foster, who was then 19. Now, after 34 years in residence at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a public psychiatric facility in Washington, D.C., John Hinckley is home.

  3. Deadly Decision: Malheur County murder suspect feigned insanity for 20 years to avoid prison (hat tip: Scott)

    Available records establish that Montwheeler ran a medical con for 20 years, insisting to a string of state psychiatrists and psychologists that he was mentally ill. He did so to evade state prison, where he would be sent if he was convicted of kidnapping his first wife and son in Baker City in 1996. Because he was found to be guilty but insane, he was treated as a patient instead of a convict.


Suggestions for Coping with a 5000-person Conference.

So you’re about to attend a conference with five thousand other people. Maybe you don’t enjoy being around thousands of people for multiple hours over several days. Your reasons are your own, though they might include the endless small talk; walking with, through, and around hundreds of people just to get from one end of the building to the other; or the overstimulation of hearing the surrounding conversations, seeing the throngs of people, or sensing not only your restlessness, but also the restlessness of thousands of other people stuck in the same building.[1. I am always delighted if people find posts like this one helpful, though this one is clearly a reminder for me. I’ll be at the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference this week. And, while I am pleased with the opportunity to learn stuff, I’m not thrilled with the prospect of spending three days with five thousand other people.]

Here are some suggestions to cope with make the most of your time at the conference:

Sit up front and near the center aisle. By sitting up front, you’re more likely to forget about all the overstimulation people behind you. Sitting next to the center aisle (if there is one) does the same thing; you don’t have to look over an entire room of heads to see and hear the speaker. If you’re more comfortable with one-on-one conversations, this seating strategy mimics that interaction: You can tune everyone else out and focus on the speaker.

This strategy doesn’t work well for speakers presenting to enormous rooms because the seats up front are often pressed up against a stage… which puts you close to loud speakers and Powerpoint presentations with words that are wider than your head. In that case, I still suggest sitting near the middle, though you’ll have to decide how many dozens of people you want to climb over and can tolerate for at least an hour.

Bring your own meals, snacks, and beverages. If you don’t like spending time with thousands of people, I am going to guess that you also don’t like waiting in lines with dozens of people who are hungry and thirsty. Packing your own food will give you the freedom to find a quiet corner or hallway between sessions or during lunch while everyone else is waiting in line.

Learn the locations of the bathrooms that are a little out of the way. This is particularly useful for the ladies because it is entirely possible that several hundred women will use the women’s restroom at the same time. If you use the bathrooms that are a little out of the way, you are less likely to both wait in line and have to make small talk. You are thus more likely to have a few more quiet moments to yourself.

Bring a lithium battery charger for your phone. This ensures that you will have sufficient charge to text your other introverted friends and colleagues when you want to share something without talking. You also won’t have to worry about your battery draining when you’re live-tweeting the sessions. And, if you really need to tune out, you’ll have the power to plug in headphones between sessions and listen to music you like. The visual cue of headphones prevents most people from approaching you to talk.

Sit by yourself with your nametag out of sight. The more people at a conference, the more anonymity you can have. If you’re one of a thousand people sitting in a room, you can easily surround yourself with others who also don’t look interested in talking to strangers. Being alone all together often doesn’t feel overstimulating because that pocket of people is focused on the speaker, not on each other.

To be clear, sometimes this strategy backfires: You might sit down next to someone who looks uninterested in small talk, but then she starts asking for your name, where you work, and what you do there. This is my “woo woo” strategy, which is going to sound weird, but it works for me: If I’m not in a space where I want to talk to people, I make a point of “turning my energy down/making myself invisible” before I walk into a room. I literally tell myself, “Okay, Maria, make yourself invisible.” In my mind’s eye, there is a light—like a spotlight—that emanates from my chest outward into the world. When I make myself invisible, I dim that light in both color and intensity. My body language and “energy” must visibly change because people leave me alone.[2. Conversely, there are times when I want to make sure I’m visible. I “turn up” the light before I teach or give presentations. I also brighten the light when I’m crossing the street and a mob of people are walking towards me. Again, my body language and energy must change sufficiently because most people get out of the way.]

Remember why you’re there. Remember that you don’t have to talk to anyone. If your goal is to learn from others, you don’t have to do anything but listen. If you have questions, you’ll naturally ask them. If other people talk to you, you don’t have to have a conversation with them. There are ways to stop talking without coming across as rude, though many of these strategies involve avoidance. If these are people who don’t know you, though, they won’t think about or remember you or what you did. Provided that you were courteous and didn’t zip a sweater over your entire head when they started talking to you.

You’re not the only person who feels overstimulated at these sorts of events. There are plenty of other people who will feel relief that you’re not introducing yourself with the energy of a thousand suns, talking about the weather that lacks the light of even one sun, or asking questions to determine how you should file them into your mental catalog.

And, lastly, remember that you’re not a curmudgeon. You’re just an introvert attending an extroverted event in an extroverted world. Good luck.

Medicine Random

Belief in the Occult.

“Some weird things have happened in my life that I can’t explain,” I said. My friend, a radiologist, said nothing, though I could feel her rolling her eyes through the telephone.

“I’m not saying that I believe in the occult; I’m just saying that some strange things have happened,” I concluded.

“Well,” she huffed, “the only occult I believe in are occult pancreatic cancer, occult head tumors, and occult fecal blood.”


Tools I Regularly Use and Recommend.

Because I’m apparently not taking sufficient care of the Muse these days, I don’t have fresh stories to share right now. Thus, I instead present to you the tools I use to write and organize my ideas, in the event that you might find them useful for your work.

I was an ardent user of the now retired Writeboard. Though there are many who extol the virtues of Google Drive documents for rough drafts and editing, I found it lacking in comparison to Writeboard. I then stumbled upon Draft.

The feature I find most useful about Draft is the ability to review all previous drafts in their entirety. As I strive for brevity and clarity, sometimes I realize that what I had written in draft 2 is more useful than what I have in draft 7. It is easy to both review and compare what you previously wrote.

Draft also has a simple, uncluttered interface. The navigation is clear. The running list of documents (both in general and in any folders you have created) makes it psychologically easier to let go of (but not erase) those crappy first drafts, which often don’t seem as hopeless and terrible a few weeks or months later.

I use Field Notes to capture ideas and reminders. I’m fond of stationery and enjoy trying new notebooks. I’m that person who can spend hours at a stationery store, admiring all the different pens and pencils, looking with wonder at the staple-free staplers and brightly colored and curiously shaped sticky notes, and feeling the textures and weights of the pages in all the various notebooks. Many notebooks seem “too serious” for me: The sheets are crisp and formal, the cover fonts and designs are somber, and I worry that any scribbles from my mortal hand will ruin the pages.

An empty notebook is a useless notebook.

Field Notes are whimsical and hardy. As they travel through the world with me, the covers get dog-eared, pages crease, and the colors on the cover fade. Because they’re informal, though, these blemishes of time only add to their character and encourage me to fill the pages to completion.

I currently use bullet Space Pens to write in my Field Notes, though not because I am writing upside down, in oil, or in zero-gravity environments. Women’s pants often have small pockets and bullet Space Pens are small enough to remain inside the pockets. That’s it.

I otherwise am fond of Pilot G2 gel pens (ultra fine tip, usually black) and Marvy Uchida’s Le Pens (all the colors!). Le Pens have helped me get through many textbooks and journal articles.

Lastly, like this fellow, I am a believer of TeuxDeux. While I use Field Notes to capture the things I both need and want to do, TeuxDeux helps me schedule those things so that I actually do them. It is uncluttered, easy to use, flexible, and helps me stay focused on what I should do on a given day.

Though my penchant for paper makes me yearn for a paper-only organization system, the reality is that TeuxDeux is easier to manage. (As much as I would like to use the Bullet Journal system, I know I cannot sustain it.) I find TeuxDeux technical enough for efficiency and effectiveness, but not so technical that I spend a lot of time tinkering with it.

(May this be a sufficient offering to the Muse.)