Short-term health insurance

On sabbatical from my job, and no longer a student, I’m for the first time in a position where I need to find my own health insurance. I started seeking out options to provide at least catastrophic coverage in case anything should happen during this period. Happily, it turns out that there are some providers that offer exactly what I need: short-term coverage for otherwise healthy people while between jobs (or for students who’ve just graduated, etc.).

Previously I knew about PPOs and HMOs, but short-term insurance is a third kind: indemnity. This means that you’re not restricted to any particular network, but can instead go wherever you want. You simply specify the deductible you’re willing to absorb, and how many days you want coverage for (usually up to 180), and pay the specified amount. After the deductible is met, these plans generally cover either 50% (or 80% for a higher rate) of additional expenses. The nice thing is that you can get your policy activated almost immediately, since there is no underwriting or health exam involved. Essentially, insurance is reduced to its bare essentials: protection against a major event. Pre-existing conditions are *not* covered.

The two main options I identified for coverage in Oregon are Regence and PacificSource. The rates were almost identical (about $1.75/day for a $1000 deductible). Regence was a little better about providing details on what was and was not covered up front, so they got my business.

I’m pleased to have learned that there is a niche type of insurance that provides just what I needed. If I’d had to sign up for a “regular” individual policy, the rates would have been a lot higher, and I was told it would take weeks to get it set up. The coverage probably would be a little more extensive (e.g., copays for prescriptions and doctor visits rather than having to use up your deductible first), but for a short-term solution, I think this is just right.

The joy of finishing things

Today I finished knitting a pair of socks that I started in January, 2010. That’s right, over a year and a half ago. Progress went in fits and starts, interrupted by trips, other knitting projects, and various daily demands on my time. About a month ago, I was all but done; one sock was complete and the other needed only the final bind-off row to finish it. A single row of knitting! But work and life got really crazy, preparing for my sabbatical and then traveling for a few weeks, then packing up and moving. I never could justify the time needed to sit down, look up and remind myself the details of Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, and knit that row.

Today, mission accomplished.

And oh, how much more this means than finding time to execute a row of knitting! I have finished something! I finished a pair of socks. I now have these beautiful Coriolis socks knit from Painted Desert yarn:

And more than that, I have the psychological satisfaction of having finished something. One item, at least, can be removed from the mountain of Unfinished Things. I think all of us can, at a moment’s notice, come up with a list of things we haven’t completed: the shoelace that’s broken, the window that sticks, the yard not mowed, the book halfway read; and all of these add to the background level of stress we experience. Even cats, apparently, can experience frustration when given toys that can never by “caught”, like a laser pointer or a mouse inside a plastic tube.

How simple, how pleasurable it is to actually finish something!


My new home is in the tiny town of Philomath, just outside of Corvallis, OR. It tickles me to no end that Philomath means “lover of learning”; what better place for me to reside? [Contrast with “philosoph” (lover of wisdom) and “polymath” (one who has learning in many subjects).] I was curious, however, as to how this tiny town (fewer than 4000 residents) could have gotten such a name. Today while exploring the town on foot, I came across the Benton County Museum, which illuminated some of the town’s history.

Philomath was named after Philomath College, which was founded in 1867. The College consisted of the building that the museum now occupies. During my visit today, workmen were busy replacing the roof (you can see evidence of construction in my picture). The museum itself also featured an impressive display of quilts, an entire room of historic children’s toys, and a tiny side room showing fluorescent rocks. Philomath as a name for a college seems… just perfect. Sadly, the college closed in 1929 due to “declining enrollment”.

Philomath’s nickname is the “City of Volunteers”. Again, what a great place to be! I’ve already picked up an application form to volunteer at the library. While walking around, I passed the fire station — which is also seeking volunteers (“will train!”). I visited the library, the bank, the post office, and had lunch at a local cafe. The most amusing store I saw was the combination “rock shop” and “auto parts store” (insert B.C. Comic joke here).

This is definitely a great place to be. And only 10 minutes from Corvallis, with all of its own attractions!

Perdido vocabulary

I recently finished reading Perdido Street Station, a book by China Miéville. I struggled with whether to categorize it as sci-fi or fantasy or what, then came across Miéville’s own description, which is just right: “a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology.” (“Secondary world” here is intended in Tolkien’s sense of the phrase, I imagine.) The story itself is colorful, vivid, wildly creative, grungy, and fueled by crisis — a lot like the world it portrays. And one of its primary defining characteristics is its use of vocabulary.

Some of the unusual words that appear in this book are made up ones, set as it is in an alternate reality with different species (and physics). But some of them are genuine English words, just not ones I’d encountered or become familiar with. What a delight to be educated and entertained at the same time! Here is my list of new words, thanks to Miéville:

  • autopoiesis: self-creation
  • autotelic: an activity or work containing its own purpose (“autotelic processing”)
  • bathos (not pathos) and bathetic (not pathetic): unintentional anticlimax
  • bitumen: sticky, black, highly viscous liquid (“bitumened terrace”)
  • caliginous: misty, dim, obscure, dark (“caliginous halo”)
  • deracinated: torn up by the roots (“deracinated outsider”)
  • desquamating: coming off in scales or flakes
  • eidolon: idealized person or thing
  • femtoscopic: coinage to indicate even tinier than microscopic
  • kukris: curved knife that broadens towards its point (“organic kukris”)
  • oneiric: relating to dreams
  • phlogistic: inflammatory
  • pugnacious: eager or quick to argue or fight (“faltering, pugnacious steps”)
  • pyrotic: caustic (“pyrotic gas”)
  • quintumvirate: council of five
  • ratiocination: the process of logical reasoning
  • scintillas: tiny trace or spark (“scintillas of glass”)
  • secateurs: one-handed pruning clippers
  • shambolic: in a shambles (“shambolic housing”)
  • stele: stone or wooden slab erected for funerals or commemorative purposes
  • thermotaxic: related to internal temperature regulation (for animals)
  • viscid: glutinous, sticky (“viscid scum”)

  • These two I could not find definitions for; possibly made up? Any tips?

  • hieronomer (“dervishes and hieronomers”)
  • karcist

  • The novel itself is full of food for thought, and also fodder for your vocabulary. Enjoy!

    A famine of ideas?

    Have we trained ourselves out of thinking about big ideas?

    That’s the thesis behind a recent NYT editorial titled “The Elusive Big Idea” by Neal Gabler. While much has been written about the decline of attention spans and the distractions created by social media and the general motion towards shorter sound bytes at the expense of longer, thoughtful analysis, this article takes such criticism a step further.

    “[W]e are living in an increasingly post-idea world,” writes Gabler. By “post-idea” he means a deliberate choice not to think! He argues that we’ve come to focus on collecting knowledge and given up on actually thinking about it.

    “We are inundated with so much information that we wouldn’t have time to process it even if we wanted to, and most of us don’t want to.”

    Information overload is not a new concept, but Gabler’s sketch of a society in which we are not only overwhelmed with information but we deliberately choose to continue glutting ourselves on it instead of taking the time to carefully chew over what we already have disturbs me in the way that only an idea with a kernel of truth can. Every time I glance at my RSS feed, I get that exact feeling: there is too much information, too much that is new and interesting and that I want to read, and nowhere near enough time to really think about it. This observation is exactly one of the reasons that I have this blog: a chance to stop and think about something, not just skim and nod and move onto the next nugget. This goes beyond a missed opportunity for reflection and increased insight. If Gabler is right, it could be habit-forming. Is there no room today for a Thoreau, an Emerson, a Twain? If they did appear, would they be systematically ignored, their essays too long, their ideas too musing, their observations demanding too much of the limited time any reader can bear to spend on any single source?

    Gabler hints at the impact such a shift in priorities can have for society. How can we find space and time to incubate the next Big Ideas? How can we recognize and pay attention to these insights when they don’t fit into 140 characters? We have more people alive today than ever before, more thinking capacity at the ready — if we choose to engage it. This isn’t just about being an intellectual, engaging in some elite snobbery; it’s the chance to choose between cultivating what is new and exciting and valuable, the unique outcome of human cognitive capabilities, versus drowning in a vast, passive sea of trivia and unending distraction.

    I thank Mr. Gabler for his timely essay and for giving me the inspiration to indulge in a moment of reflection myself. I’ve repeatedly come across advice about journaling in a work context, just taking 5-10 minutes every day to write down the thoughts bubbling in the back of your head. Every time I’ve made time to do this, I’ve had new ideas pop up or crystallize or point the way to some new direction. I won’t claim that these qualify as Big Ideas, but maybe they can guide the way. This is an activity I already hoped to indulge in more regularly during my sabbatical. After reading this essay, I’m all the more motivated to create a new habit, one dedicated against the post-idea slump.

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