Sunlit Water

September 30, 2009

Why I Hate Insurance Companies

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 6:28 pm

My mom has a very good insurance plan through Blue Cross.  One of the ways in which it’s very good is that it provides coverage for her children until the end of the month in which they turn 25.  For me, of course, that means that I’m still covered today but won’t be tomorrow.  Knowing this, I went ahead and signed up for the insurance plan offered to Rutgers students through Aetna, which I’m sure isn’t as good as my mom’s but isn’t very expensive and includes a prescription drug benefit, which is the main thing I need.  I paid my premium at the beginning of the semester, and they were supposed to send me an insurance card, but I haven’t gotten one yet.  Since I don’t think there’s any way for me to get prescriptions covered by Aetna without the card, and, annoyingly, I also can’t sign up for the customer service website without a membership number, which I won’t have until I get the card, I decided to go ahead and get a prescription, which will run out soon but not immediately, refilled before the end of the month.

I sent in the refill request via the Walgreens website two days ago and was going to pick it up yesterday, but I forgot to go over there (it’s kind of out of my way).  So I went by today to pick it up, only to learn that they didn’t have any record of it and I had to request it again and wait an hour for it to be filled.  I went and got something to eat, then came back an hour later to pick up the prescription.  Unfortunately, at that point the pharmacist told me that it was too soon since I had last had the prescription refilled for the insurance company (presumably Blue Cross) to pay for it, and that they wouldn’t pay for it until tomorrow.  She offered to put it in overnight and have it ready first thing in the morning, and I said that was fine, but I don’t know if it’s worth bothering since tomorrow I won’t have the Blue Cross insurance at all.  I guess I’ll go over to Walgreens and see, and maybe try to figure out where the hell my Aetna card is so I can get them to pay for it, but if insurance doesn’t cover it there’s no way I can afford this medicine.

In conclusion, the American healthcare system sucks.

September 29, 2009

Birthday

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 9:50 pm

25.  Not much to say about it really, but I figured I should put up a post to mark it.

September 27, 2009

Oh, For Hell’s Sake

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 9:42 pm

It’s been over a month since I signed up online for the utilities to be transfered to my name, and weeks since I mailed in my voter registration form.  Nevertheless, neither seems to have gone through.  I guess I’m going to have to call the electric company’s customer service number tomorrow.  I don’t know what the best thing to do about the voter registration thing is, but I’ll probably just fill it out and send it in again.  This stuff isn’t a huge deal, but it’s important for establishing residency, both in and of itself and because I need the documentation before getting a driver’s license and opening a bank account.

More generally, I feel like I’m not settling in very easily so far.  School has been great, but outside of the classroom I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere except at home, and while I’ve been trying to do things like get a job and such, I seem to be basically on my own for everything and given my general shyness and lack of motivation that means I haven’t gotten much done.

Also, I’m hungry.  Damn religion.

September 19, 2009

A Rabbi Walks Into A Ghost Town…

Filed under: Culture — by teofilo @ 9:33 pm

Keeler, CaliforniaAs many of my few readers know, this year I didn’t go to Rosh Hashanah services for the first time in my entire life.  I had a lot of reasons for that decision, and I think it was the right one.  My relationship with Judaism has become increasingly strained and complicated lately, and this is a good time to take a bit of a break from organized religion and see how it feels.

That said, I haven’t abandoned Judaism entirely, and while I won’t go to services on Yom Kippur, I will fast.  Most people I’ve talked to about this haven’t seemed to understand why I would do that, but I feel like it’s important to maintain some connection to Judaism, which I still see as a major part of my heritage and a deep well of meaningful tradition that has a lot of potential for addressing problems in the future.

This post, which speaks to me on many levels, is a great example of that potential, which is still there even if it isn’t being fully realized right now.  It’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve read in a long time, and I’d recommend it to anyone of any religious background or lack thereof.

And on that note, L’Shanah Tovah to all my readers, Jewish or not.  May it be a worthwhile year, no matter how challenging or difficult it becomes.

September 9, 2009

There’s A Pleasant Surprise

Filed under: Culture — by teofilo @ 7:17 pm

Contrary to my earlier pessimism, it seems that the Israeli government has pulled their anti-intermarriage ad in response to what seems to have been a significant uproar among Diaspora Jews.  This suggests that the divide between different camps of American Jews may not be as stark or definitive as I had been thinking, and it gives some (but, I hasten to add, not really very much) hope that the tide may be starting to turn away from the recent divisiveness.  We’ll see.

September 8, 2009

Out Of State

Filed under: Personal — by teofilo @ 3:01 pm

I need to set up a local bank account, so today I went over to the nearest bank and attempted to do so.  They asked me for ID, so I gave them my New Mexico driver’s license.  No good, it turns out.  They need proof that I live here, which I don’t have yet.  So it looks like it’ll be a while until I have a local account, since getting a New Jersey license looks to be a bit of a pain.  It’s something I need to do anyway, though, to establish residency, so it’s not that big a deal.

Later, I went over to the local Rite-Aid to get some beer.  The clerk asked for my ID, and when she saw it she exclaimed “What brought you to New Jersey?!”  (School.  Around here, it’s always school.)  It was apparently the first time she’d seen a New Mexico license, so it really jumped out at her.

I have to say that I’m getting pretty tired of this sort of thing.  Establishing residency is a hassle, but I think it’ll be worth it.  I prefer to blend in.

September 7, 2009

Tweet Tweet Tweet

Filed under: Blogs — by teofilo @ 3:17 pm

John Fleck notes something that I just happen to have been thinking about recently, which is that “different communities use different social media in different ways”:

We’ve got cool new tools, but divergence in terms of who uses which ones. Some folks interact via email lists, some via interlocking blog conversations, some via Facebook, some via twitter, some via some overlapping set of the above.

The context in which he mentions this is the use of Twitter among water-news enthusiasts, and his post is an attempt to put together some links to water news in a format that will reach people who aren’t part of that crowd.

The way I’ve noticed this phenomenon is related, and actually involves those same twittering water people.  I’ve been getting a surprising (to me) number of visitors to Gambler’s House through Twitter, beginning with this post on water, which Fleck himself seems to have brought to the attention of the water-news community via his Twitter feed, and which subsequently made the rounds of various other people’s feeds and reached a wider audience.

Since then, it seems that the water-news and other related communities including science and environmental journalists have continued to tweet about particular posts of mine on a variety of topics, which brings those posts, and thus the blog, to a wider audience in all sorts of directions.

I’m not on Twitter myself, and I don’t really “get” it; I’m much more of an “interlocking blog conversations” guy.  When it comes to Gambler’s House, though, I’m happy to get as broad and diverse an audience as possible, and I’ve been impressed with the way Twitter and the niche communities of interest who use it extensively have drummed up a lot of interest in what I have to say.  This is especially useful since there doesn’t seem to be much of a southwestern archaeology blogosphere, so my blog-oriented approach toward online community hasn’t had much effect on increasing readership.

Anyway, I just wanted to note this interesting phenomenon, and thank John for all the readers he’s steered my way both directly and indirectly.  I appreciate any help I can get in getting my ideas out there.

September 4, 2009

Who’s Self-Hating Now?

Filed under: Culture,Personal — by teofilo @ 12:00 am

I can’t say it surprises me at all, but this sort of thing is just disgraceful.  This abhorrence of intermarriage is, I think, one of the ugliest aspects of contemporary Zionism and the strains of American Jewish thought that are most aligned with it.  I definitely echo Dana Goldstein’s thoughts here word-for-word:

On a more personal note, this policing of personal lives — the guilt attached to the circumstance of loving someone who is not Jewish — has always been one of the elements that pushed me away from organized Judaism, after being raised in a conservative shul.

Dana doesn’t say if she is a product of intermarriage herself, but I am, and that has only made it easier to drift away from organized Judaism recently as this stuff has become more prominent.  I want nothing to do with a movement that considers me a “captive” although I was raised in a Conservative synagogue and am unambiguously Jewish even by the totally arbitrary rule used by Orthodox and Conservative Judaism (though not by the equally arbitrary but opposite rule used by Reform Judaism).  I was born Jewish, I was raised Jewish, and I still consider myself Jewish and always will, no matter what the government of Israel thinks or says.

What is, I think, more disturbing is the extent to which organized Judaism in America seems to have entirely bought into this worldview itself.  That’s why I’m skeptical and pessimistic about what Dana says next:

This ad is an embarrassing misstep, and sure to alienate many of the Jews it is intended to reach.

I would like to think so, but I think most of the American Jews who would be alienated by this ad are alienated already.  The only people still paying attention to this stuff are the true believers and the people who, whether products of intermarriage or not, have no personal connection to Judaism at all.

I’ve seen, even just in my lifetime, a remarkable bifurcation of the American Jewish community into the organizations and their followers, who tend to take an uncompromising “circle the wagons” approach to Israel and any criticism of it.  All of the major religious denominations, at least in their official organized forms, are on this bandwagon, as are all of the more secular groups, whether explicitly Zionist or not, including B’nai Brith, the Jewish Community Centers, etc.  This is the perspective that almost every rabbi in America preaches from the pulpit every Saturday.  As such, it has a lot of popularity among the regular congregants, especially those who play important roles in the funding and management of the synagogues and organizations.

On the other side is everyone who’s been alienated from this worldview.  This is nowhere near as organized a group, partly since the other group controls all the organizations.  It’s also diverse in its ideological composition, including progressive Zionists, leftist peaceniks, former Zionists who have “seen the light” and now support the Palestinian cause with the same fervor they previously had for the Zionist one, relatively moderate American liberals who have just been turned off by the extremism on the other side, and people who no longer feel welcome in their Jewish communities because of their political views and/or their attitudes toward things like intermarriage.

I’m definitely in the second camp, of course, as are a very large number of American Jews.  It’s very difficult to mobilize this group to counter the influence of the other, of course, given the asymmetry in institutional capacity, although J-Street has been a worthy effort at starting some mobilization.  The Obama administrations actions on the subject of Israel have been of enormous comfort to this group, after so many years of aggressive US government action in a very different direction, but whether anything will come of them remains to be seen.

Honestly, I’m feeling very estranged right now.  The town I now live in has a very substantial Orthodox Jewish population, so for the first time in my life I’m surrounded by both many other Jews and a whole system of kosher restaurants, Judaica stores, and other infrastructure that seems to operate largely in parallel to the mainstream equivalents.  It’s like there are two towns: one Jewish, and one not.  They coexist side by side, but there’s surprisingly little overlap beyond shopping at the same drugstores and supermarkets.  It’s kind of in-between the situation in most of America, where Judaism is marginal within the mainstream Gentile society, and the situation in Israel, where Judaism is the mainstream and anything else is marginal.  Having only ever experienced the first before, I was surprised at how bothered I was by seeing the parallel system.

It’s like Judaism here exists in a clear but hermetically sealed bubble, visible to the outside world but isolated from it in important ways.  In this version of Judaism, everything has to be a certain way.  Food has to be kosher, men have to wear yarmulkes, and marriage partners definitely have to be Jewish.  There is some engagement with the non-Jewish world, but only in domains where that doesn’t conflict with Jewish law, which takes precedence.

This is not the Judaism I know.  I was raised in a Conservative synagogue that couldn’t really demagogue about intermarriage much because so many of the congregants were either products of intermarriage or intermarried themselves (or both).  Levels of observance varied, but were rarely very high.  Engagement with the outside world was so inevitable that there was little anyone could do to stop it, so it became accepted at least in practice.  That’s Conservative rather than Orthodox, of course, and I’ve seen Conservative Judaism elsewhere and it’s been fairly comfortable to me, but seeing for the first time what things would be like if we actually carried out all this stuff to the letter is disturbing.  This exclusionary wonderland is not for me.

And, of course, it doesn’t have to be.  Here in America I can do whatever I want regardless of what any rabbi or Israeli official says.  I don’t know how things work in Israel itself, of course, having never been there, but the idea of Israel as expressed in Zionist thinking (as opposed to the actually existing country) is looking less and less attractive as these opposing camps and their opposing values harden.

I didn’t, and won’t, leave Judaism.  Judaism left me.  I see enormous potential in the rich, cosmopolitan heritage of the Jewish people, as opposed to the narrow, exclusionary tribal heritage that has always been in tension with it, but until organized Judaism begins to turn back my way I’ll stick with my “abductors,” thanks.

September 1, 2009

Back To School

Filed under: Academia,Personal — by teofilo @ 11:49 pm

Today was my first day of grad school, although I didn’t actually have any classes because of the orientation events.  It was a bit of shock to be back in an academic setting, and I felt kind of overwhelmed at first, but over the course of the day I began to feel more comfortable.  Everyone I’ve met has been very nice and supportive, which I think says good things about the culture of the program.  I think this is going to work out well for me.

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