Category Archives: lifestyle

Studying for the LSAT while training for a half-marathon

Insanity? Mmmm, perhaps.

Earlier today I pounded out my 3-month LSAT study plan, which is to begin a week from this coming Monday. As a result, I’m taking the next week and a couple days off from the studying I have been doing (learning test-taking strategies, common question types, common language used, etc.), and plan on playing a healthy dose of Fallout: New Vegas tonight. Tomorrow morning my friend Anthony and I are to run the NYRR Coogan’s 5K race up in Washington Heights in what is pretty much guaranteed to be a downpour…at least it’s also supposed to be 50 degrees.

At the same time, I will be training for my first half-marathon ever, which will take place May 21st of this year (the NYRR Brooklyn Half-Marathon). Consequently, on every weekday night you can be assured I will be doing one of the following: LSAT studying or half-marathon training. As it gets warmer and the sunlight starts to last a little bit longer, I will probably be able to get the half-marathon training in before work (I used to go to the gym before work last fall and it was fantastic! Training for the half-marathon simply involves stepping out of my house and taking off!), so that will help to increase the number of nights I have “free” to do other things. I never thought I’d see it, but I think winter might be coming to an end soon, which means all of us will be able to come out of hibernation mode!

The interesting thought is that I’m essentially doing a similar process in both respects, so I feel like it’s not at all unmanageable while others (maybe even you, dear reader) may think I’m nuts; however, both endeavors require extreme diligence and work ethic in order to be successful. The only difference is that one is physical and one is intellectual/mental, and it’s the very environment that I tend to thrive in. Bring it on!! 🙂

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This is why doctors are bad for me

People think that I’m joking when I say I hate doctors and everything to do with them. Scenarios like what happened to me this morning are a PERFECT illustration of why I am, in fact, not joking when I say these things. Personally, I feel like a significant percentage of the American health care system is a scam. Physicians prescribe medications left and right for “conditions” that may or may not exist; at the same time there is little to no emphasis on patients helping themselves by exercising regularly, eating healthier (e.g. lay off the McDonalds every once in a while for starters), and understanding that it’s a natural byproduct of the human condition to feel “off” every once in a while. If your mom just passed away and you’re feeling a little depressed, then here’s an idea: you’re supposed to be feeling that way. Far too many people run to their “doctors” who then prescribe the newest drug on the market to take those feelings away.

But there’s another scam that gets my blood boiling and that’s the insurance business. For the past two years an amount has been taken from my paycheck every two weeks to pay for my health insurance. For the past year and a half an additional amount has been taken from my paycheck every two weeks to pay for my partner’s health insurance. I have no qualms about paying for this insurance because I believe that a) you should work hard and pay for the things you want, and b) it’s important to have health coverage in the event that you get seriously ill or injured. I will leave it at that because this post is not about the politics of health care and/or what “type” of health system we should have. I, personally, have been fortunate in that I have not once had the need to use this insurance since I began paying for the coverage; consequently, I haven’t “needed” to see a doctor in years. This has been especially true for a little over a year when I began running road races regularly and working out consistently, and I cannot remember the last time I felt seriously ill. I make sure to get enough sleep each night, I consciously make decisions to pay the extra couple of dollars for a wrap at lunchtime rather than eat the cheaper option of fast food (which I very rarely eat in fact), and I try (though struggle with) to take time off and vacations in order to recharge (I seriously felt so great coming back to New York after my 5 days off spent in Boston doing next to nothing). I take care of myself as best I can, and it seems to pay off.

However, I finally gave into all the “suggestions” that I go get a check up today because hey, that’s what people do, right? I’ve already written a full account of what occurred at my appointment this morning here (or rather, what did not occur), and I’ve managed to fully calm down from what I believe is just a ridiculous system of health insurance and so-called “qualifying doctors”. You may need to scroll down the Yelp page a bit to see my review, but it should be at the top. Read it, then continue reading this post to get the full context…

Look, I pay for the insurance and have done so for the past two years. I am, by far, the LOWEST cost patient you could have and my tax dollars pay for FAR bigger drains on the Medicare and Medicaid systems (to fund a population that does not provide the same monetary contributions to the system and opts for a far less healthy lifestyle). You’re going to deny me a routine check up because I happen to use a subset of an insurance company that you’ve arbitrarily decided not to accept? It’s the SAME company, and it’s not like I had much of a choice as to what exactly my employer chose as its insurance coverage! I don’t waste my time going to doctors unless I absolutely need to for a reason, and this is one of the major ones.

Time to Unwind!

Wow! I’ve forgotten just how good it feels to get out of the city for a simple weekend away or a vacation. Margot and I took over her parent’s house in New Ro this weekend because they were going to the beach in Rhode Island and offered us their house and car. Free cable? A/C? Free transportation? No bus stop outside our window? No MTA? A shiny espresso machine? No…no people?!? Um, sign me up please!

It’s funny. I love where I work now, things are looking good on many fronts, I live very comfortably on my income, have a wonderful partner, and just about anything I could want. Yet, you don’t recognize just how much we all need some decompression time away from our lives no matter how good they are. The last time that I actually got out of the city on a vacation of some type (not including several trips to see law schools, take care of and sign on apt’s, etc.) was October of last year. Keep in mind that last time also involved me driving to Indiana from New York and back several days later. Still, it was fun and somewhat relaxing.

However, the last 24 hours have been bliss for me. Thanks to our summer office hours, I left the office around 3 p.m. yesterday, commuted home, and took off for Canada (e.g. Margot’s old house). I have had nothing pressing to do since we arrived. I believe we sat and ate brie and bread for over an hour last night while we watched the Rachel Maddow show. Then we relocated to the living room to watch the third episode of the new Pillars of the Earth movie on Starz. Fell asleep after that. Slept in (though sleeping in means 10 a.m. for me now). I took off on a run while Margot went over to Michaels because, well, it’s Margot. That’s what she does. 🙂 Clearly the decompression had already started working because I ran an 8:19 pace for a run where I felt like I was running at a leisurely pace, plus almost 50% of the route was hills and I was also battling with traffic and traffic lights. But sure enough, I checked my watch when I got to the end of the route and only 30 minutes had passed. Hmmm, okay.

Now I sit here watching movie two in the Pirates of the Caribbean marathon on TV right now. My “pressing” plans for the evening? Figure out the BBQ grill for some dinner! As much as I love New York, we all need to get out of it every once in a while!

Why I Use ING

This post will be about how I am going to save and/or create money for you. Be excited.

In the midst of all the banking scandals, meltdowns, bailouts, et al., last year, I opted to open up an “Orange Savings” account through ING Direct. What drew me in was the promise of no-fee, bi-weekly direct deposits into this savings account from my normal bank account, and the promise of high interest earnings. Now, if you clicked on that link like you were supposed to, you’ll notice that the interest rate is a whopping 1.1% [/sarcasm]. However, when I signed on, it was 1.5% and steadily decreased to the now 1.1% for the past 6 months. Why am I telling you this in the same breath that I’m telling you to do yourself a favor and open one of these accounts? Well, two reasons actually: a) ING as a company is very upfront and transparent about its interest rate calculations (lets face it, savings interest rates are extremely low everywhere right now), and b) it’s still a hell of a lot higher than what you’ll find anywhere else. But with the bad news out of the way, lets get to the good: the interest you earn is capitalized every month and added to your balance. Why is this good news? Because the interest that starts accruing the next month is calculated not only off your principal balance, but with the added interest balance as well. That’s you earning interest off your earned interest. How is that not cool? Naturally, the higher your principal savings balance, the more you earn in interest.

In the event that you need to transfer money out of your ING savings account (though I like the approach of just making it untouchable monies and watching it grow), then there are no fees associated with doing so. None whatsoever. Nope, no pesky little $4, $5, or whatever dollar fee to transfer money out. Just arrange it online, and presto, you’re done.

After about a year with a successfully managed Orange Savings account, ING notified me that I was eligible for an “Electric Orange” checking account. I’ll be honest, it took me a good 6 months before I finally decided to try this out and I’m so glad that I did. I am seriously considering the possibility of turning my original checking account into a bills and rent only account, and my ING checking into an all other type of spending account. With an Electric Orange account, you can access most ATMs (including other banks’ ATMs) for free, transfer money for free, and set up an online bill pay for free. But one of the most salivating benefits? If for whatever reason you go into overdraft, say goodbye to those, what is it now, $30-something overdraft fees? If you go into overdraft with ING, you simply pay whatever the interest rate percentage is for that day (right now that’s roughly $0.20 a day). Yep, $0.20 vs. $30-something dollars. Which would you pick? Oh, and you automatically qualify for overdraft protection if you qualify for an Electric Orange account unlike some other banks *cough cough* I’m looking at my bank, who wait a good 6 months or so before you qualify for it. Finally, the balance in your checking account earns interest as well, though it is not as impressive as what you see with the savings account. For one thing, the balance fluctuates in a checking account because, well, it’s a checking account. That you’re using regularly. Not to mention you have to have a ridiculous sum in there in order to earn anything substantial, so don’t sign up for the checking account in order to earn interest. Sign up for it because it’s awesome.

There are also other nifty things for investors, mortgage holders, etc., and I can’t personally testify to those, but if they’re anything like the products I do use, then you can’t go wrong. I spoke to their customer service in order to set up the checking account and it was fast, simple, and the guy was really nice. They even have nice customer service representatives! How is that possible with a bank? So what are you still doing here reading this? Go. Go over to their website and check it out! You can thank me later with cookies and SmartWater.

Morning Ritual

I’m a fairly good morning person. I’ve found that I tend to be one of the first people into the office, and definitely the first person in the department that I work in. But I still struggle with what often becomes a ritualistic, monotonous morning routine that try as I might, I can’t break. Here’s how it goes:

– Cell phone alarm goes off. Cat starts meowing outside the bedroom door. At this point I must decide whether I am to get up immediately, or snooze the alarm a few times (which results in getting up for a few seconds to spray the cat with the water bottle so that she’ll shut up). Occasionally negotiate my exit from bed with sleepy girlfriend.

– Once I’m up, I stumble to the coffee pot in order to brew some coffee goodness. I say stumble for two reasons a) the cat has decided that weaving in and out of my legs as I walk over to the kitchen is a good idea, and b) I don’t have my contacts in at this point. Oh yeah, and the cat continues to meow through this process as if I do not know exactly where she is by her proximity to my feet.

– Shower. As soon as the shower’s off, the meowing resumes. Secretly plot the next “bath” time for the cat as she carries on with what I can only assume means “hey! Are you in there? I’m out here! Pay attention to me! Are you in there? Why won’t you let me in? Why don’t you love me?!?” over and over again.

– Pour a cup of coffee, feed my vociferous cat, and proceed to read the morning news online. Cat decides to come over for some loves, so I pet her. She quickly gets feisty and we proceed to play the “bat each others’ paws (except I have hands)” game for the rest of the morning.

– Get dressed and ready for work. Find three quarters or a one dollar bill somewhere in my things or in the apartment in order to buy a bagel from the cart next to my subway stop.

– Leave.

There’s a definite theme to all of this…

TGIF

The 5th day at the new job (e.g. the first Friday) consisted of yet more training, and a small amount of casework, but I still love the new gig.

I stayed in the office a little past 5:00, and after almost everyone had left for the weekend, BUT I got in a great run through Central Park this evening. This was the same route as the ridiculous Japan Day 4M race in the 80 degree weather with 80% humidity. I made a few moderations that extended the distance a little, and the weather tonight was absolutely beautiful running weather. Low 70s, a breeze, hardly any humidity. Perfect. There was even a dude who high-fived me as I was flying down East Side Drive between miles 3 and 4. I could tell I was pushing it from the start, but it felt sustainable so I kept at it. Had a pace of 8:08, and for the first time I’m starting to reach my high school pace levels (back when I ran both track and cross country), and I felt fantastic both during and afterwards.

To top off the evening? A mimosa with some leftover champagne from Wednesday night’s celebration. Bring on the weekend! The U.S. and England play tomorrow, and I think I’ll be watching that game. Go USA!

Caffeine intake…

I’ve just realized that my last two post titles have ended in ellipses. I have decided to continue this trend for an undetermined amount of time. Who doesn’t like ellipses? It’s even a fun word to say every now and again!

With that out of my system, and having just opened a 9.5 oz “mocha frappuccino coffee drink” for my personal enjoyment, I have to wonder about my caffeine intake sometimes. A friend of mine on Facebook posted an illuminating article about the benefits of coffee a while back, and it forced me to think about the various caffeine-injection methods I have sampled over the years and their benefits.

First and foremost, coffee. Who doesn’t like coffee? You can have it hot for those cold, rainy days (like the one right now, grrrr). Or you can have it iced on those nice warm summer days like the ones we were having last week (again, grrr). According to those smart scientist people and researchers, there may be some significant health benefits for the 95% of us who are coffee drinkers. Hurrah for lower risks of various types of cancers and Alzheimer’s! AND we’re far more productive than the office zombies who refuse to drink a harmless cup of joe.

There’s also those energy drinks that I’ve actually stopped drinking for the most part. You know, “Red Bull gives you wings!” I’ve consumed a lot of Red Bull in my day (the highest consumption rate took place while I was studying for the LSAT during my senior year of college), and I can tell you from experience, I did not once receive a set of wings. I demand a refund. There’s also Monster, which earned me the endearing (?) nickname of, you guessed it, “monster” from a coworker at a certain bookstore for a while. The height of this type of consumption was essentially the two years I spent earning a Master’s. Unlike coffee, the jury’s still out on what sort of long-term effects these things have on the body. Hence why I seriously cut down on my consumption of them…sort of. I actually cut down on them because they’re carbonated, which can effect your running pace and breathing. 😉

And today? I’m back to coffee and “coffee drinks”. I have a 10K race coming up this Saturday and entered the “rest days” phase this morning. Rather than heading out to the gym when I woke up this morning, I put on a pot of coffee and played Assassin’s Creed II. It was weird doing absolutely nothing this morning. But at least I can say it was productive; I was busy fighting off certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease! Non-coffee drinkers can’t claim that one!

How do you get your caffeine fix?