About six weeks ago, I lost one of my running shoes with one of my orthotics in it. When I finished college and started law school, I tried to continue running to decompress after a long day of what became useless classes. However, by December, I was having trouble walking. I went to a podiatrist who showed me that I had a neuroma, which basically meant that my nerves in my foot were much thicker than they should be. This was an injury I ran through in college with much pain, but it eventually caught up to me.

The doctor fitted me by using plaster casts for orthotics that cost over $500, which the receptionists assumed would not be covered by my health insurance since they were not mandatory. Luckily, the health insurance I had through Chicago-Kent paid for the device without me having to pay a cent. I wore them when I periodically ran and whenever I wore my running shoes. I had very few leg injuries that could have been caused by my lack of running. Nonetheless, I began running more often about a month ago and then lost the expensive pad. Ironically, it was the day I signed up for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee that I realized the shoe had disappeared.

I called and made a new appointment for new orthotics so I can continue my marathon training. And again, they were not going to be covered by health insurance. About a week before they arrived, I got a bill from the doctor that asked me to remit $25 and that the expected $1230 that would be due afterwards would be expected from insurance. When I was at the appointment, I was quoted about $540 for the new pair of orthotics and did not like seeing this expensive bill sitting in the mail. I assumed that I would have to pay this when insurance turned me down again. In addition, I had called in between to inquire if insurance would be covering the bill. They told me no and I moved some money to pay the $540.

When I picked them up today, I was ready to pay the price but wanted to ask about the bill. I asked if insurance was covering this because of the bill I received. The receptionist said no. I charged the $560 that the orthotics cost and left. But I could not understand why if insurance covered the same orthotics that they would cost more than twice as much. I know this is something that goes on, but can anyone explain to me why? This cannot help any sort of health care reform if insurance companies get shafted to cover costs for people who don’t have them. If they cost $540, then the insurance company should be charged $540. All of this smoke and mirrors regarding prices doesn’t make anything easy for consumers, let alone people trying to fix a broken system.

This was a voluntary purchase of a device I need to run. I understand insurance not paying for it. But I would imagine they would be more willing to cover the cost of them if they only cost the company $540, instead of almost $1300. I don’t use my insurance often as I luckily am rather healthy. This situation just made me question how the medical industry works and wonders if the sick aren’t the only ones getting screwed by the system.

I haven’t heard one word of this in the health care debate and I like to believe that I am rather well-informed. If you have any knowledge why this happens, let me know or point me in the direction of information that would help me understand what is going on here.

My brain is fried

After finishing The Shallows, I am not too positive about our future. I think that may be part of the point of the book though. We do spend too much of our time online and get most of our information through a computer screen. And yes, I am writing this on an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard as I watch The Daily Show. It is multi-tasking at its worst, but as Nicholas Carr found, it is hard to disconnect and change the way of life that involves the Internet and the digital medium. But that doesn’t mean we have to focus our lives on this medium.

This evening, I had dinner with my friend, Oscar. We try to schedule a monthly dinner after my therapy session to get together and reconnect: talk about things that are troubling us and trading war stories about work. It’s a nice complement to our usual IM conversations on Gmail or random text messages when we see a crappy movie or see something dopey. I enjoy the random phone call from a friend more than the IM conversation online. It seems more geniune. And definitely more genuine than a random Facebook message.

But that is the way communication and knowledge is currently being conducted. Facebook and Twiter feeds have become a predominant source for news because if it’s important to a friend or relates to a family member, that is news that you can use. Why would a random event in a faraway land trouble you if it does not affect your world? It seems counter to globalization, but it appears to be the truth today.

Technology has always been a blessing and a curse, but humanity must be maintained. Today, I saw an article on MSNBC about “Facebook” depression in teenagers. I didn’t read the article because the headline was enough and I wasn’t interested in the concept. I find it sad that there is even such a concept no matter what it is about. We should not be depressed by the interactions with a tool. No one would be depressed by a book or a circular aw, unless you got a paper cut or lost a limb. But we have humanized Facebook and our Internet interactions. Many people have become completely reliant on their Internet presence. And we should worry about that the same way we worry about someone who watches too much television or even someone who reads too many books.

I highly recommend Mr. Carr’s book to anyone who is interested in our brain chemistry or is interested in how the Internet was developed. The chapter on Google made me fear for the future of knowledge and copyright. The passages from past fear-mongers who scared generations about the future of the world are fascinating. But in the end, the passage that stuck with me was from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He argued that writing required contemplation. That is would take years for a good piece of writing to take hold. I wrote down the quote in my little notebooks to remember to focus my writing and know that time is the best accelerant for creation. Long form story telling and true writing outside of the Twitter mainstream is not dead. It’s important to stop and think. It’s important to write and rewrite. Read a book and enjoy the slowness. That YouTube video will still be there tomorrow.

Is the Internet Frying my Brain?

I am currently reading the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It is subtitled “what the Internet is doing to our brains.” As I read along about how the digital age has shortened my attention span and has changed how I read a page, I wanted to get online and type out an entry in my blog. I do not contest that the Internet and computers have changed how we think, but I cannot assume it’s the defining reason why we think differently. Although I do feel my attention span shrinking, I never had a good one. My mind always worked best when it was multi-tasking. Maybe it would be clearer if I focused on one task at a time, but I never had that chance. In school, we had eight or nine periods with multiple papers, books, and projects to do at a single time. I had to connect social science with literature to seen how disciplines were interrelated. None of this is extrinsically bad, but it did lead to me having to juggle, even before the Internet became a dominant force in my life.

And this continues in the working world as well. I cannot focus on one single task. I would get fired. I have to read new introduced legislation, while writing up a story on a recent tax law case, and then concluding with some sort of project work that is outside the typical scope of my day. Unfortunately, the world is more intertwined and unable to handle the simplicity of solitary research.

However, I see his point that we are jumping around without that solitary/contemplative portion of life. That isn’t true for me, but I know people who cannot just sit and think through problems or thoughts. I love my alone time where I can read and think and postulate about using certain terms, certain concepts, and certain philosophies. I go for runs listening to podcasts to streamline my thoughts. I lay on the futon in my room listening to classical music on my turntable while flipping through the new issue of Newsweek. Although I am multitasking, these moments clear my head and allow me to focus on contemplation. Although digital signals are involved, it isn’t just searching the Internet.

Maybe the takeaway from this book is to think about how I conduct my day-to-day operations and try to set aside some time for non-Internet reading and get carried away with literature again.