A proliferation of purpose?

Day 66: Monday

Morning, Tim!

I’m wifi-less at the moment, so I’m not sure when this will end up heading your way. Crazy to think of traditional mail and how, for a very, very long time, you wouldn’t know when something got delivered — just hoped that it did some time in the future.

We’ve talked about this before, of course. Words perhaps carried more meaning. Each time I wrote (presumably) I’d have something to say. The yearning for a loved one that much greater — and rightfully so! If all you got from your loved one was a letter every couple of weeks, it better be a darn good letter!

So here I am, put under the same circumstances, writing to you with all of the pressure of traditional mail…

Thankfully that’s not true. And, moreover, if it’s not that good you have tons of other things to read! Tremendously more than you ever could, a wealth of information in front of you.

Last week you wrote that human contact was the end purpose of language. And I believe it that to be correct.

In more recent times, there has been an absolute proliferation of written language. Books, followed by more prolific newspapers, followed by regular blogs and junk emails, followed by and even more consistent [hourly] updates on Twitter or Facebook.

Do you think that the amount of language has proliferated? Has there been more language, more desire and reach for human contact? Or simply a change in form? If there has been a shift in the amount of language, with more desire for human contact, what it is the cause?

Hoping this gets to you before too long, of course. Say hello to the pony express for me!

Until tomorrow,
Zak

Could you have meant porpoise?

Day 64: Thursday

Morning, Tim!

When you first left for Italy I had moderately regular thoughts about you over there during fashion week. I was eager to get the lowdown on what it was like, and knew you’d have some pretty good takes:

“…jean jackets with one arm torn off…”

“…frilly with all kinds of colorful feathers…”

“…art like flamingo jackets…”

“…use a pen to write something that makes your friend cry…”

I’m not sure the last one will really catch on, but I suppose I know nothing about fashion…I hope yesterday was just a taste of more to come.

And, inspired by the talk of art and communication, I thought I’d write a poem.

Others
make me
a Sandwich

Squishy
Not on Rye
No bag of chips

Paper plate
Unevenly spread
Nevertheless, calories

Why
am I
a Sandwich

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Until tomorrow,

Zak

Trip to India

Day 62: Tuesday

Morning, Tim!

You may be immediately suspicious of my title — and rightfully so, as I didn’t actually take a trip to India. That said, it’s a little less dubious than when I tried to pass off a visit to Cologne

I did, however, visit Devon street, which was much closer to experiencing India than I ever had before. I went with a friend who took us to what he called a cabbie restaurant – nothing fancy, just very authentic. We had food from Hyderabad, what he described as the southernmost northern tasting – and in being so, took some spicy queues from the south. My friend ordered in what I believe was Hindi. We ate mutton biryani, chicken 65, and paratha. We ate with our hands as my friend told me about chicken 65 being a leaked recipe from the ever popular 65th item from the Buhari hotel restaurant.

It was an interesting experience. Unique. Growing up in a very rural, very small town in midwest America I didn’t encounter different cultures. I don’t say ‘often’ there because that wouldn’t be true – we simply didn’t encounter them at all. In college I wasn’t really faced with them either. It’s interesting to see how gigantic the world is, and wonder how anyone could act as though they’ve figured it out.

It’s eye opening – starting to see how much you don’t know. And ever more realize there is so much you don’t know that you don’t know.

It seems important to interact with things different than what we know. The unknown can be terrifying – the downside risk seems overwhelming at times, so fearing embarrassment for a cultural misstep, a violent act for reasons we can’t really explain, or perhaps even a bad case of diarrhea, we sometimes find ourselves closed off to new experiences and unknowns.

I’ve hated the city for quite some time. Growing up in my farm town I had space, I had nature with beauty abounding. I could see stars, breath fresh air, get a moment without smelling the sewers, hearing the whizzing of machines or the honking of car horns. Yet getting a taste of India helped me appreciate what the city has to offer.

Diversity isn’t a pillar, Tim. It’s no end in its own. But it’s remarkable how it helps provide perspective.

The world is too big for us to ever stop learning. We at times act like we learn what we like – growing up experiencing some positively and decide ‘yes’ and others negatively, deciding ‘no’. But the world is far too big – something completely unknown might be good. While we fear the downside of it being bad, we also must realize that all the good was once unknown to us as well, was once foreign. We have to continue to learn, continue to grow and develop, continue to take share ideas and life together…

…and food. Because that was good stuff.

Until tomorrow,

Zak

Oh! Almost forgot. Though I regrettably didn’t take pictures of my food (because that’s a thing now-a-days), I also had Thums Up, what my friend described as ‘Indian Coke’. Owned by the Coca Cola company, it was less carbonated and less sweet, and the sweetness almost had more of a molasses quality to it. It was pretty good!IMG_1110.JPG

Visiting Cologne

Day 60: Friday

Morning, Tim!

I just got back from an amazing vacation! While I didn’t take many, I wanted to share one picture from my trip – what a dream!!


Until Monday,

Zak

Arguing against effeciency

Day 57: Wednesday

Morning, Tim!

You may know, but I’m a big fan of efficiency. My first job out of college was nearly half dedicated to automating inefficient processes throughout the department. The other half of my job fed that half too, as I was to design new processes to help us better forecast volume and then match those with pricing strategies. Most of the time these projects were done in a rapid-fire, quick test kind of way, and, if successful, would warrant a more standard, automated approach as applied in the first half.

In arriving at my second job, though not tasked with it, I did much of the same. I’ve since moved on to other things, but for the most part, I have a thorough passion for efficiency. It’s why I made my sandwiches with homemade bread when I realized the savings it would have. It’s why I ate sandwiches in the first place, thinking it a waste to spend money going out to eat for lunch every day. Eliminate waste, wisely use resources. Makes a ton of sense.

Yet efficiency isn’t an end goal (obviously), and it isn’t even always the best one.

It’s also really hard to know what’s efficient.

Let’s look at health insurance. If we look at one end of the spectrum, we’ll call it the “market theory” we have individuals who are each responsible for their own insurance and savings. In this, they often buy insurance to some degree and have dollars out of pocket for what insurance doesn’t cover. Each individual has to save so that they can cover their costs. Two observations:

First, this means individuals should save more than they would if they pooled resources. If something happens to them (and in healthcare, it’s literally a matter of life and death), they will spend all of their resources on that health. Without health, their resources aren’t worth anything to them, because they would be unable to reap their rewards (can’t go on the fancy trip if you’re in a hospital bed…). So they are incentivized to save more in case of catastrophe — either through their savings or through buying much higher coverage in insurance. Notice that if resources were pooled, the total for the whole system is lessened, because the impact of even a rare risk happening and costing dollars is borne by a large, collective group (this is how insurance companies can make money).

Second, in practice, individuals are not good about saving enough to be covered. Because it is a very unknown risk (we don’t have great information on risk scores for e.g. cancer, heart disease at an individualized level), and because people discount the possibility it happens to them and not a neighbor, they often buy crappier insurance and/or don’t save enough to cover the out-of-pocket costs. This is also a bad outcome because you have individuals who need access to care in order to live but do not have a way to pay for said care.

As human beings, there is moral responsibility to help life flourish, and it would seem that one way to do so is setting up systems that encourage flourishing. This is why those who do argue for a “market theory” can’t just be cast aside – having incentives to save money, spend it wisely, make ongoing healthy choices, etc. can be remarkably valuable. If in a system where all resources are pooled, the incentives to overuse, for example, creep in. It’s simply not clear cut.

I’m a little all over the place. I’ll likely try again Friday. I’m trying to get at the idea that efficiency isn’t always the best goal; that there are, at times, externalities with inefficiency that are worthwhile and create a better system.

Until tomorrow,

Zak

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Super Bowler

Day 56: Monday

Morning, Tim!

Yesterday was the biggest day of the year for American sports. The Super Bowl has come and gone.

I tried to pitch having a party where there was only soup to eat, and you had to pick between that soup or getting a bowl. It would have built teamwork between party guests, not too dissimilar to how the big game builds teamwork between players. Your sister wasn’t having it.

Over the weekend we celebrated a friend’s birthday at The Cheesecake Factory. It was a nice to spend time catching up with friends. When most meals come with a side, the waitress asks “…and would you like a soup or salad with that?” I take way too much joy in saying “Oh! Yes, a super salad does sound really good, thank you!”

In case you missed the game, it was quite exciting. The Patriots overcame a scoring deficit greater than twice what any team had overcome previously (in the super bowl…). Those are the silly kinds of statistics we got to hear on the TV. “No team has ever played in the Super Bowl in 2017 before these two; these two are both setting records right now because of that”.

But nevertheless, it was exciting. The grit to keep on chugging is commendable. As a wise woman once said:

What a game!  Kinda gives you a lesson to never give up even if things look bad and you’re down 28 to 3.

It only really applies when you’re down 28 to 3, though…

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Until tomorrow,

Zak

Costing a leg

Day 54: Thursday

Morning, Tim!

Silly Josephine…

Tim as you well know I work in healthcare. Thinking about healthcare as a business feels kind of grimy at times — you are making money off of those who desperately need help, many times in order to live. That said, having worked with a lot of Catholic hospital systems, the usual saying goes “No margin no mission”. In order to operate, in order to help all of those people, they need to have the financial backing to do so. They certainly have a lot of write-offs each year, essentially donating care back to communities; but it’s no news that in the U.S., healthcare is expensive, and many people are paying all they can afford in medical bills.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to think about making money off of others’ misfortune. In one hand, I’m helping them extend life; in the other, the cost of that extension is often a poor quality of life, constantly fretting about bills and work.

I recently came across some articles about financially backing legal cases. I asked a friend of mine with a law degree to explain in a bit more detail, but the gist is that there are many wrongs done to people – e.g. abuse, discrimination, etc. – done by a corporation that has quite a bit of money. If the individual were to sue, there are legal ways for the corporation to spend those dollars quickly prolonging and “drowning” the individual, making it effectively impossible to sue in many cases. There are some lawyers who will work on a contingency basis, not getting paid until the individual does — but they typically have caps far smaller than would be necessary to take on a corporation.

The linked article discusses financially backing some of these cases. Now I certainly don’t have enough money to bankroll anyone’s legal case, but the idea still intrigues me. If real harm was done, shouldn’t there be some recompense paid? The same problem we saw above begins to arise, though – in order to operate like this, the financial backer would need some form of compensation, thus taking a portion of what would go to the individual. There’s this feeling of doing good while simultaneously lessening the good done.

I’m not sure there’s any way around it within healthcare. Hopefully make it cheaper to deliver care, I suppose. It’s just unfortunate that there’s a cost to doing good.

Until tomorrow,

Zak