succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, January 04, 2008

Trying not to be cynical

One of my students took an incomplete last semester, for a totally legitimate reason, and I'm totally sympathetic to what's going on with her right now. I've been over-extending myself to help her out - scrambling to create new assignments so she can wrap up this class as quickly as possible without eating into the new semester too much. My fellow teachers and students keep looking at me like I'm crazy - they vary along the spectrum from thinking that I should have insisted she take her chances with the final last semester and risk failing to passing off the extra work on to next year's prof and making the student just wait the extra semester to get the assignments. But I'm new and bright eyed and bushy tailed (from time to time) and I have this crazy notion that it's the learning that's important, and I want her to complete the assignments and learn the material and graduate on time and blah blah blah. And she just sent me an e-mail that makes it totally clear she hasn't thought about any of this until roughly noon today (her first assignment is due today). She signed a contract and everything, with deadlines for when all three of her make up assignments would be due and when she would take the new final exam. And here she is about to blow it in the first week. Please, dear student, please don't break my heart.

I know it's my investment that makes me a good teacher, but I know it also means I take everything too personally and will burn out before I can actually shape any young minds. If only there were some middle ground.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Giant needle 0 Megan 1! Actually, it was much ado about nothing, as (for once) the topical anesthesia they gave me was totally effective. And, bonus, the contrast dye was not cold, so it didn't feel all weird going in. My hip is still a bit distended and achy, but all in all, not bad. The MRI was also not bad, though holy crap, those things really are small! If I hadn't closed my eyes I definitely would have had some problems with claustrophobia.

Anyway, the results are, I do have torn cartilage in my hip. Which in some ways is gratifying, to know that I haven't just been whining about nothing for the past three months.

So, what to do now? For the immediate future, nothing. It really doesn't hurt all that much, at least not enough at the moment for it to be cost effective to do further interventions. Unfortunately, I am damaging my joint, as we speak, and this tear is a known precursor to worse things down the road (arthritis, hip replacement). Doubly unfortunately, this type of hip imaging and diagnosis is so new that there's no evidence that intervening at this point will do anything to avoid those things down the road anyway. Intermediate evidence looks promising, but at this point, there's just no way to know what the right course of action is.

So I figure for now I'll just sort of keep an eye on it. My doc says if it starts to bother me more I can come in for cortisone shots, which will both relieve my symptoms and reduce the swelling, so may indeed reduce the damage currently happening. I think eventually I will go in for orthoscopic surgery, but my grand plan is to wait a couple of years, until I have a real job, with real health insurance, and real money. Then they'll go in and both fix my cartilage and shave down the asymmetric bit of my femur that caused the tear in the first place. Although it shouldn't be all that invasive, shaving down bone is, well, unpleasant, so I'd like to wait until I can sort of afford to be layed up for a bit.

So that's the news.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Health Insurance

I realize it's far from novel to lament the state of healthcare and health insurance in this country, but holy crap! I am an intelligent, mathematically ept individual, who is fortunate enough to have really good insurance, and I still can't figure this shit out! The summary of my benefits states that as long as I stay 'in network' (easy enough to do, since I'm a student, with student insurance, who visits the student health center) anything beyond a healthy check-up costs $25 co-pay + 20% of the negotiated price. It's that negotiated word that's pesky. Now, I know I shouldn't complain, since in the end it's saving me money, but still, criminy, these bills are so full of gobbledygook it's absolutely no wonder that people pay incorrect amounts all the damn time!

Ok, so I've been working out this business with my hip*, so back in October I had a consult with a specialist that cost $190. Except that it didn't really cost $190, because even though that's the charge, the negotiated price includes a $57.47 'credit.' So subtract that off, then subtract off my $25 co-pay, then multiply by 20%, then add that to $25, and that's what I owe for that one visit. Except during that same visit I also had $236 worth of x-rays. Now, my deductible is $100, but for some random reason my x-rays are costing me $94.21 and my insurance company is picking up the rest. Again, I know I sound like an ass complaining that I've been saved $5.79, but it's just all so random that it can't possibly be a legitimate accounting of my bill. Don't even get me started on my physical therapy bill, where for one visit I was charged $38.63 and for the exact same visit two weeks later I was charged $43.80. It's the fact that they're just so clearly making shit up that drives me insane. And it's precisely the people making shit up, and sitting on the phone with people like me to confirm that the bill is even vaguely legitimate, who are eating up a huge, unnecessary chunk of our healthcare dollars in this country.

*speaking of my hip, I'll be having a giant needle inserted into it, along with some contrast dye, early tomorrow morning, so if you've got a second to spare, send me some pain-free thoughts, would ya?

Stress and Sleep

Blech. Went to bed last night with a splitting headache (too late in the day to be hangover-induced), then slept like crap in between two stress dreams (one of which I kept falling back in to until I finally gave up and turned on the tv to hit the reset button in my brain), and finally got out of bed this morning with a skull that still wants to split in two. Thanks body, message received - I am stressed out. You can quit it now. What irks me is the chronology of the whole thing - the holidays were a bit rougher this year than in the past, but still not terrible, and the parents left a couple of days ago, and I'm back ensconced in my own little world. Plus, both dreams were so clearly about my parents, which makes no sense, since it's my relationship with my brother that's all dysfunctional at the moment.

I'm sure I've posted bits and pieces of this particular feud, but here's the re-hashing. My brother lies to me, about things large and small. As part of my whole therapy thing I tried to set up some boundaries in our relationship and hopefully start the work that would eventually help us work out a more genuine, healthy, grown-up sibling relationship. So back in February I picked a specific instance where it was very clear that he had been untruthful, and dragged him into an awkward conversation about it. That seemed to go ok, until I realized a month later that we hadn't spoken since then, and it took 5 phone calls from me before he called back. At which point there was this whole falling apart of a planned trip together over Easter and then the silent treatment between us became mutual. I was hurt and pissed and he was whatever emotions he was.

Fast forward to November when I was going to be in his neighborhood for a conference, so I sent him an e-mail. Perhaps not the best form of communication, but I wasn't convinced that I could trust myself to say all that I wanted to say over the phone. So I e-mailed him and said I was sorry if our last few conversations had made him uncomfortable, but that this process was really important to me and I miss him and I want to work things out and I'll be in his neighborhood across these dates and would really like to see him and here's my phone # again in case he needs it.

And nothing. Not even a lame excuse about being too busy to get together. So xmas rolls around and I'm wondering what it will be like. I'm prepared (or so I thought) for him to be awkward and cold or nice and pretend like nothing has happened. He chose the latter, and surprisingly (probably only to me) this hurt so much worse. Because it felt like he was saying that I was so unimportant to him that we could go 8 months without speaking and he could be totally unaffected by it. Yes, I recognize that he could have just been playing nice to spare family drama over the holidays, but nevertheless, it hurt. A lot.

Our last night there I finally managed to bring up our estrangement but I was doing all the work - he doesn't even want to acknowledge that something is wrong. So that's where I am. I'm going to sit on it for a couple of weeks and then, I don't know, I guess maybe call him and see if we can start talking again. But I'm just not sure if telling him over and over again how he's making me feel, when talking to him is like talking to a brick wall, is going to ever make me feel better. And I really don't want to be estranged from my brother for the rest of my life. But I also really don't want to grow up to have the sort of crappy relationship that I see my Dad have with his siblings, just for the sake of maintaining family ties.

Bah! My brain still hurts. I'm supposed to go back to work today, but maybe I'll indulge in one more day in my pajamas.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Crappity crap crap crap

Just found out that I did not receive a student paper award to fund attending this conference in March. Twenty are given out, and it's impossible to figure out how many students submitted, but my field is pretty small, so it's sort of hard (at least initially) to avoid feeling like my paper was crap*. I wonder if I can contact the judging committee for feedback? I mean, this thing is, theoretically, chapter one of my dissertation, so I'd appreciate some constructive criticism before putting it out there for my department...

Blah. Plus, now I have to figure out how to prioritize and which conferences to plan to attend the rest of the year...without actually knowing which ones I'll be accepted to with/without funding. Blarg.

Ok, thinking out loud. The meeting is in DC, my favorite city, and I could see old friends and stay for free (assuming Kate doesn't rescind her gracious offer to put me up). So the cost would be a plane ticket (~$200), registration ($115), food (?), and four lost research the moment, I sort of feel like I blew my wad on a barely justifiable trip to DC for a different conference just before Thanksgiving, so maybe I should pass on this one...I'm sure the advisor will have an opinion too...

*must avoid extrapolating this out to assuming that I also blew my fellowship application and am generally full of shit. must avoid road to hell.

EDIT - upon re-reading I realize that I sound whiny and entitled, but you must understand, it's difficult to get statistical students to write any sort of paper, much less papers with subject-verb agreement and the like. So it's been my experience that it's reasonable to assume you'll get 30 submissions, max, for an award like this. Some conference organizers even consider themselves lucky when they have to turn down any submissions for awards or contributed sessions or what have you. I could easily be wrong, but my knee-jerk reaction/fear is that I must have been pretty near the bottom of the pile, not some sort of assumption that I should be among the top 20 students in the country.

Not Dead

Just spending 8 mostly lovely days in Florida with no internet access. My family makes me crazy (just like everyone else and their family), more so every year, it seems, so today will probably be a bit of a mental health day. Eventually I'll wander back here to work some things out, or maybe just bore you with details about my latest pop culture adventures.