Everything Tagged "Life"

(In reverse chronological order)

How to Replace Your CPAP In Only 666 Days

This story is not practical advice. For me, it’s closing the book on an almost two-year saga. For you, I hope it’s an enjoyable bit of bureaucratic schadenfreude. For Anthem, I hope it’s the subject of a series of painful but transformative meetings. This is not an isolated event. I’ve had dozens of struggles with Anthem customer support, and they all go like this.

If you’re looking for practical advice: it’s this. Be polite. Document everything. Keep a log. Follow the claims process. Check the laws regarding insurance claims in your state. If you pass the legally-mandated deadline for your claim, call customer service. Do not allow them to waste a year of your life, or force you to resubmit your claim from scratch. Initiate a complaint with your state regulators, and escalate directly to Gail Boudreaux’s team–or whoever Anthem’s current CEO is.

Stay Home

Stay home.

I’ve been talking to folks 1:1 about this, but from a scroll through the feed today, I don’t think the general community has caught on. COVID-19 is not fucking around. If we don’t contain or dramatically slow it, we are going to run out of health care workers, hospital beds, and equipment. People are going to die for want of care. This is not a problem of the distant future: recent modeling suggests that without a significant reduction in social contact, Seattle will exhaust healthcare capacity around two weeks from now. Other regions will not be far behind.


I finished my tattoo last night. If you like puzzles, here’s a primer for the language, and the design itself. You’ll need some basic algebra for the primer, and a little domain knowledge–or a few Google queries–for the tattoo proper.


Identity and state

I have it pretty good, in America. I’m White, male, young. Grew up with books. With enough food on the table during critical phases of brain development. In a neighborhood composed of people who looked and spoke like me, a neighborhood with a creek, and trees, and street hockey, somewhere safe. Through deterministic happenstance–a confluence of genetics and education and economics and municipal investment in public education and intellectually challenging parents and the right teachers at pivotal moments–I’m good at thinking about a class of problem which too few people are working on, and present market dynamics allow me to do what I love for far more money than I need.

People grant me the authority to speak as is expected of males, with the lack of recognition of my skin color that comes for people of northern European origin, and for my youth I am forgiven all manner of brash and disrespectful rejoinders. I am significantly more likely to be a victim of a murder, and feel constant pressure to be resolute, correct, gruff. I have never worried for my physical safety in the presence of male companions, and think nothing of walking alone at night. As a motorcyclist and as an engineer I am never the odd one out. I can wear comfortable clothes at formal gatherings. I can enter any building freely, and when boarding a bus, folks never rustle and stare at the delay. I feel tremendously self-conscious when surrounded by people of color. My coworkers never comment about how pretty I am. I am never expected to speak for all young, White males.

Scaling up

“So,” our CEO asked me, “what happens if our new service becomes a huge success?”

aphyr: I think basically we can *expect* the service to collapse in unpredictable ways
mark: that would not be good
aphyr: No this is good!
aphyr: It means we averted all the ways it would predictably collapse!
mark: thanks kyle, i'll sleep well over the weekend now :-)

Back on a bike...

So Justin took my bike out for a spin with some friends from out of town—and while locked up out in the Marina, it was stolen!

I’m sad to see you go, little grey hybrid.

First Lowside


Optimism prior to embarking on the Great SF-Seattle Adventure…

Moving to San Francisco in 3, 2, 1...

It’s midnight, and the car is almost packed. All our stuff in one little minivan, moving back to the west coast! Oh man it’s exciting! Should be there in a little over a week.

Implant Surgery: Part 1

I went in for the first implant surgery today, to replace the missing three upper teeth from my January Broomball accident. For those of you who haven’t heard of dental implants (I hadn’t!), they’re roughly 1.5 cm titanium screws which are inserted into the bone where the tooth’s roots used to be, ending right under the gumline. Artificial teeth are then attached to those screws.

The impact shattered two teeth, so I had to have the left-behind roots extracted from my upper jaw. Between the injury itself and having to dig around a lot to get the roots out, I’m now missing the thin sheet of bone which runs over the front of the roots, for the canine side of the upper jaw. Luckily the bone near the middle is reasonably intact. This is problematic, because the implants need solid bone to anchor to. If, upon opening everything up, they found that there wasn’t enough bone to place the implants, I’d need a bone graft taken from my mandible behind the molars, and six months additional recovery for that graft to integrate. Luckily, this wasn’t the case! The implants took hold in the jaw even though the labial bone wasn’t intact. (Note to kids: another reason to get your calcium!)

Fall 2008

Term’s almost over; one final left. Research reached a nice finishing point this week; I finished the comparative Lyapunov analysis and prepared the graphs for submission. Noise really kills the linearity we’re looking for, but it does suggest an experimentalist will see some unexpected things, which is what the original paper tried to show with power spectra–and moreover, the figures are in the right ballpark for More on that when we draft a response to PRL.

Tested for 2nd kyu this week. It was tough–especially remembering the right vs. left distinctions for techniques that sound very similar in Japanese! Mechanically things felt pretty solid, though, which was nice. I was even able to clear 3 feet on jumping-over-partner, which was a great feeling. Plus, the front strike continuation is just plain awesome.

Spring Break

Winter term concluded nicely: solid work through 9th and 10th week, then caught a ride with Anna out to Madison for a couple weeks with Justin & company. Finished up my finals and emailed them in from WI–everything was either a paper or take-home, so I was able to take my time, put in my best work on everything, and turn them in without a 4 hour drive. So, spring break felt like 3 weeks, which was a really nice change. I needed the space to decompress, get to know myself again.

I’m taking up the guitar again: bought an old Suzuki from a guy in Madison through Craigslist, which sounds pretty good. Deeply resonant sound, bit of a buzz (in the tuner?) on the open G string, but otherwise plays nicely. I ran into Dirk’s Guitar Page, which pleasantly has many of the same pieces I played as a kid: Carcassi, Sor, Paganini. Progress has been surprisingly fast, but I’m a long way from playing well.

Assassins, Broomball, Class

Brief update, as reading is tearing my life into tiny shreds right now. I died in assassins, after effecting a fifth kill in Burton. Decided the first Aikido Broomball game was worth going to, even though I knew Kevin and his partner would probably be there. I wasn’t killed at the game, but Henry Keiter waited in the trees outside the Libe for the whole game, tailed me home by running the long way around the Olin-Hulings-Mudd complex, and met up with me at the entrance to Nourse. I had time to block his 10-shot, but was exhausted from a hard game, so I was too slow. Henry went on to test his luck against Bendikson in a re-enactment of the Princess Bride iocaine powder scene, featuring two goblets of juice, one with tabasco sauce as a deadly poison. Man, those guys are winners at this game. :-D

Class has been interesting: quantum is tearing my brain to tiny little pieces, metaphysics is alternately interesting and infuriating, and psych of prejudice is absolutely fascinating. Lots of cool stuff about stereotype formation and metacontrast bias, but I won’t write much right now–maybe a paper or two to come later.


So, I'm back in town! That was fast!

Managed to get out of school okay: finished my two papers on time, and despite my notes disappearing managed to make it through finals without too much difficulty. The papers are actually pretty cool: for Philosophy of Physics I got to look at two accounts of the mass energy equivalence relation, and talk about how we revise the scientific process for education. I didn't get to explore that thread as much as I would have liked, but I did get to read all of Einstein's work on special relativity. I know it's been said before, but the guy's a genius. The reasoning itself is straightforward, but he makes these intuitive jumps that are very surprising unless you know where he's going.

Fire Alarm

Two hours after going to sleep, I awoke to a shrill alarm with a start, kicking off the bed and into the air. Three things went through my head in the second or so before I touched down.

  1. Hmmm, that's not my alarm. It's much too high-pitched, and isn't intermittent.
  2. Gosh, there's a lot of smoke in here.
  3. Hey, is that the ground?

Weekend, Tests, Genyokan Trip

The weekend was pretty darn awesome. Sophie and her housemates invited Nik, Max, Rachel, Anna, and I to dinner, where they'd made tons of delicious Jewish food. There was salad, fresh-baked bread, delicious kugel, and a massive roast with carrots and other veggies... it was *soooo* tasty! After weeks of Sodexho, getting to have a real meal with good company made my day. Max and I washed the dishes, and after we hung out on the couches, studying and watching Grey's Anatomy.

The two tests from Monday's classes went okay--I was definitely more confused by the EM material than Partials. Of course, the Partials test didn't actually ask us to solve any PDEs, and that's the part of the course I totally don't understand yet, so I got off easy. Seeing the unusual connections between function spaces and Linear Algebra is mind-bending at times.

Electrostatics, and Then I Found Five Dollars

A couple of funny things happened to me today. Over break I got a series of e-mails with tips for taking the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a scenario-based assessment of critical thinking skills. The names for each tip started with the letters B and S: "Be Specific", "Be Skeptical", etc.* However, the e-mail for tip number four was:

TIP #4: READ DIRECTIONS ($5.00 extra to anyone who can come up with a version of this tip's name that starts with an “S”) Check that you’ve done what you’ve been asked to do. If you’re being asked to play a role, think about who you are suppose to be writing for. Don’t assume that your audience knows what you’re writing about.

Winter Term 2007

To sum up the last term:

I took three classes: Ordinary Differential Equations, Japanese 205, and Classical/Computational Mechanics, affectionately (though with a thin edge of nervousness) referred to by many physics majors as "Classy" and "Compy". These last two ate me alive: the average weekly problem set was 18 hours in length, although one went up to 25 hours. I spent a lot of mornings (9:00 P.M. -- 3:00 A.M.) in Olin, the physics building, staring at Mathematica and struggling through Lagrangians. "You know, the windmill is really pretty at sunrise," my friend Max told me. "You can see it through the windows of the Olin hallway."

Eighth Weekend

Classes haven't killed me yet!

It's eighth week, and time for overdrive. Two take-home finals (one expected to take two weeks!), an ODE lab, an 80 hour final project for Computational Mechanics analyzing the dynamics of our tinkertoy siege engines, and all the regular Japanese and ODE coursework on top of that. Of course, this can only mean one thing: it's time to take harder classes.

Winter Term

So stuff here has been busy as heck the last few weeks. Classes are beating me up: Classical Mechanics, Ordinary Differential Equations, and Japanese 205 this term. Aikido hasn't been going at all recently, which is sad. First week I caught whatever cold was going around, then this Monday I knocked my shoulder out of commission on one of the 4th kyu sacrifice throws. It's slowly coming back, but I'm still not up to rolls, or really much of anything with that arm. Realistically speaking, I'm probably not going to test this mid-term: I've just missed too many classes.

This week was full of out-of-town visitors: Des and Bitsy came out here for the weekend, which was full of Aikido, reading, and photography. Bitsy helped me out with the alumni interview for Physics, which was more informative than I had initially expected.


I am thankful for good friends, fun, educational, confusing, and generally unforgettable college experiences, a warm (comparatively speaking) house, cats, music, large quantities of delicious food, a job doing what I love, bicycles with functional pedals and brakes (The Brick, I'm referring to you here), photography, and hugs.

Back Home

I guess I'm back. Woke up Tuesday at 7:30. 11 hours of cars, airports, airplanes, half-hearted goodbyes, J.D. Salinger, The Samples, Neil Gaiman, and Something Corporate later, I arrived (somewhat displaced) at the doorstep of my old house. A lot's changed since I left. The walls, once a gallery of landscape and family photographs, are home to spare collections of hooks where frames once hung. The plan is to re-paint most of the interior walls, hence the spare decoration. The back door, the one that never closed properly, is replaced as well. All the doorknobs feel small here.

Writing the title of this post makes me wonder really where home is. I don't have a permanent address, really, just a probabilistic chance of successfully being reached. I live a quantum life, shifted by finite yet predictable uncertainties.


It's 11 PM, and once again I'm stargazing on the hill of three oaks. There is no trace of human activity here--only the full moon for light, the soft sound of snow crunching beneath my boots, and winds slipping fiercely past my coat. An hour at these temperatures concentrates the mind; one's world contracts to the blazing, tingling flame igniting in one's fingers and toes from the cold, the taste of blood flowing from frozen, cracked lips, and the howling of the wind against one's face, slowly numbing into a frostbitten simacrulum of one's former physiognomy. At the same time, there's nothing else like looking into this white expanse, tinged blue by the cold light of the moon and stars; to wonder at the majesty of the trees which stand here year after year, etched in black against the sky; to look up, and fall softly to the ground at the sight of ten million brilliant and specific stars.

I lay here, and wait to become a part of the landscape.


It's snowing today: dry flakes swirling down through the cones of light from the street lamps. -17 degrees celsius wind chill, says the observatory's weather station. Walking to work at this hour of the night is an exercise in self-control, moving from step to step with care to avoid slipping on the icy walks, squinting to keep the flurries of snow from smacking into the eyes, and keeping hands tightly within pockets to keep the frigid air at bay.

Really, though, the snow and the cold make me happy. The vortices of air swirling around buildings whips the flakes into an intricately fractal frenzy, and the biting cold is a reminder of how crisp the world can be, absent of warmth. Tomorrow morning, I look forward to opening the door onto a landscape transformed into smooth forms of black asphalt, white snow, and grey stone and sky. Black and white has a certain, quiet, eloquence.

Ah, College.

It's a crisp autumn morning, the trees are alight with midwestern color, and cool sunlight defines sharp shadows on the pavement, grass, and leaves. I'm making my way down to the dining hall for lunch, and observing the trajectories of warmly bundled students flowing towards the chapel for convocation. Suddenly I realize that the half-familiar melody chiming across campus is not the bell tower's usual sonorous intonation, but the Hogwarts theme from Harry Potter.

I love this place.

Thank you!

After a harrowing day of homework and Assassins, Pechous and I stopped by the mailboxes. I'm used to not getting much mail, but I was expecting a book for my physics class. To my astonishment and suprise, my mailbox door was ajar--and a bouquet of colorful flowers were sprouting from its brass frame! I took them home, converted a CD spindle into an impromptu vase, and placed this unexpectedly joyful gift on my desk. It brings some much appreciated color to my space.

Thank you so much, mysterious giver of floral festivity. This makes me very happy. :-)