Friday, January 19, 2007

Hello from Exile

Just checking in.

Hi guys. This is Geoff. Sorry about that whole "Fray Thing." I'm not here to talk about it. I'd rather give you a personal update and I would like to request a personal favor.

Law school has been a disconcerting but valuable experience. I lived a relatively austere first year. I spent a lot of time at home; reading, playing computer games, reading, watching cable, reading, engaging in colossally verbose arguments with friends, family, professors and colleagues, reading, drinking too much, reading.

About half way through that year, I was asked to come on board Slate. My GPA was doing well, and it was a hard proposal to refuse. I did decide to drop Mock Trial, which was sad. That was kind of fun and going well. The team did just fine without me.

School ended. I spent the first part of the summer in Brooklyn, bumming around. Then I went to San Francisco and Oakland, and slacked off with some dear old friends.

In August, I returned to Southern California and had all my assets drained from my bank account. After an unpleasant week, all was made good, but I got the new academic year off on a wrong foot. I was troubled by my position in the power dynamics of my encounter with a hapless bank manager. I snatched up an unpleasant and overpriced apartment within days of school's start. I had missed several deadlines for participating in the paid summer internship interviews. I was stressing out and doubting my own integrity.

I had either a divine revelation or a nervous breakdown. I was literally walking through the streets of West L.A. weeping. I eventually reached my breakthrough point. I've since begun attending Mass on a weekly basis. I made confession for the first time in twenty-two years. I'm working up the courage to actively pursue the Sacrament of Confirmation. There's a long and complicated list of reasons and explanations, but the truth is, I've surrendered my ambition to understand.

Anyhow, things got a little surreal after that. I got an interesting call that led to a delicate situation. For a brief period, I found myself dialing lawyers to discuss a personal problem. In the world of personal stuff, some other good things happened (dating). And I got a phone call from a guy interested in putting together a new non-profit.

I like his idea - to create a site where people can discuss the positives and negatives of their experience in the healthcare industry. Ideally, the site will provide a place where users can teach and learn from one another. It would also serve a bridging function between healthcare professionals and their patients - an airing place for what works and what doesn't. If we receive enough participation, we also hope to use the site and Foundation for research purposes. It would also be a source of information for policy makers, where they could hear from patients themselves about the healthcare industry (right now, there is no dedicated consumer advocacy group for healthcare patients).

I've been giving him advice on a volunteer basis. My GPA's holding up (though it ain't what it used to be), so when I was asked last week to serve as Executive Editor, I agreed. It is still an unpaid position, and I'm not quitting either of my other day jobs. I have Slate's blessing to pour my energy into this (make of that what you must), but this is absolutely not associated with them. Some incredible graphic designers I'm privileged to know have agreed to work on the site for free. I'm lining up some top-notch Silicon Valley programmers to help with the implementation. And I'm asking you to please consider sharing your healthcare stories with me.

I can't get this project off the ground without content. I consider many of you personal friends. You're some of the best damn writers I know, coming from an enormous range of backgrounds and positions. If you think this project is worth a shot, please send us something at info@americanassociationofpatients.com. I'm not doing the membership thing (the plan ultimately contemplates offering members services), but if joining interests you, I can get you in. If that's not your cup of tea, I'd still appreciate your help with the stories. If you're interested in taking an active role helping, we'd welcome the extra hands.

If I can do you any personal favors, short of the impossible (i.e., Fray-related) please let me know. I'm stretched kind of thin, but I like to be of use. I'm pretty excited about this idea... I feel like it is a chance to do some good... I'm hopeful (trepidation, too) that you might agree.

33 comments:

TenaciousK said...

Sure Geoff - thanks for asking, and thanks for the self-revelation.

I hope your new project goes well.

Schadenfreude said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
switters said...

Oh man. You found Jesus. Shit. Well, at least you're Catholic, so you were, for better or worse, actually looking for the right one. And that's a Lutheran saying that.

Not sure what it all involves, but about the only thing I can do well, other than insult people, is write. And sometimes that's questionable. So if all it involves is writing (e.g., true stories, "I really wish that…", quizzes, &c. and things of that nature), I'd be happy to contribute, when there's time.

Sincerely sorry to hear about your troubled journey, but glad to hear you "made it through the rain/[you] kept [your] world protected…"

Sorry.

Anyways, I went through something similar last Spring which you may or may not be aware of. Turns out The Fray's a pretty fuckin' cool place. (I'm still blown away by your compassion, TenK. Thanks again.)

Oh, and the feeling's mutual. Let me know, and I'll let you know. Take care. And tell Yeshua ben Josef switters said, "Hey!"

Schadenfreude said...

Good-bye from limbo.

Another one finds Jesus but loses his brain.

Re: the "friend" thing - whatever.

MsZilla said...

Geoff,

Sorry to hear your cape got sort of sucked into the intake there, but I'm also very glad to hear that you're getting into a good place afterward.

As far as the site, I read through it and I'm not sure what you want from us. I can write you stories about this stuff, but most of my stuff is dealing with the mental health system. Do you just want regular doctors here, or both?

rundeep said...

Jesus, Geoff. And I mean that literally. As a Catholic lawyer from a better trial team school (the Temple National Trial Team has won the national trial team regional competition for 16 consecutive years, has won the National championship three times in five years and has the best-rated trial advocacy program in the country according to U.S. News & World Report), I say "ouch" but also "good for you." Then I say: "you are doing too much." And you really are.

It's fine to do all this if you truly, truly, truly want to. It is all too easy, however, to get sucked into things because you think you ought to be doing them. Do only what you love and only to the extent it doesn't make you sick.

It is an unfortunate truth that the summer after your second year of law school controls your career (at least 70% of the time). So IF the law is indeed your long-term goal, make sure you are giving adequate time to the pursuit of a paying position. It doesn't even matter if you like it. The law is one of the last professions to work on an apprentice system, and both having the experience and getting the offer will direct a lot. Not that it will pigeonhole you thereafter. If my experience is to be believed, you end up doing stuff you never planned on. The doors were easier to open, however, because of that summer gig. (If you already have a great summer position, then ignore everything).

Don't know you that well so sorry for the presumed familiarity and don't have much in the way of medical stories. If, however, I think of one, or know of someone who has one, I'd be happy to steal it and send it in.

Heliogabalus said...

Glad you found God, humility is probably the next on your "Christian to do" list.


I knew something was wrong with you , you are one of those pseudo-intellectual who believe in supernatural and magical thinking superstitious bullshit.

Where can i send you a check, the sooner you quite your job as the Fray editor....
I am willing to sponsor you for the sake of rational & real critical thinking discourse on the Fray.

Geoff said...

MsZ, we're definitely not looking for stories from doctors. And I also think mental health care is a critical and sorely misunderstood part of the overall system. Anything you can share about your experiences would be welcome.

rundeep, you're absolutely right that I'm doing too much, and I'm grateful for the concern. I can't seem to help it. The odds I'll become a practice lawyer have become vanishingly remote. I'm still wrestling with an ambition to apply to the California State Attorney General's office for this summer (who wouldn't want to work for Jerry Brown?)... but a summer spent in my beloved Bay Area, working on these two projects and being close to family and friends, has a pretty strong appeal.

Hi to the rest (not sure what else to say.)

TenaciousK said...

Hmmm. I just love it when somebody gets to one of those critical moments of uncomfortable self-awareness and makes a pained, revelatory gesture.

I love it because it's a moment of acute vulnerability I can capitalize on - nothing makes me feel powerful and vindicated like finding someone who feels shitty and making them feel a little shittier.

There are people who are always fucking up and apologizing, and there are people who fuck up occasionally, apologize, and then subsequently try to avoid fucking up in that particular way. The first category of people we call "fucked up." The latter category we call "on the path."

Which category Geoff belongs in (if he's like a lot of people, he's got a foot in both puddles), I couldn't hazard to say, though I'd say most evidence points to the latter. I do know that, if there is a morality to human interaction that is objective, presenting people with barriers when they're trying to make their way has got to fall into the "don't" collumn somewhere.

Everybody's a hypocrite, Helio.

Other than that, nice to see you around.

And Geoff - it must be nice to drop the freditor nametag for awhile. I hope you stay around.

topazz said...

I definitely have a few healthcare stories I could share with you, instances where someone close to me was in a serious health situation and although under an established plan was denied coverage, or only given a paltry amount toward a staggering sum.

One of these cases involved needing coverage for ongoing psychotherapy, which was critical, but had to be discontinued because it wasn't "under the plan"...
Is this what you mean? Not something I'd want to post here or on the fray, but I'd be willing to send these stories to your email if you think it might do any good.

Geoff said...

Topazz, those absolutely sound like the kinds of stories we'd appreciate. Right now, we've got three submissions, all from college undergrads. We're not looking for The Death of Artemio Cruz, but it'd be nice to kick it up a notch.

Also, we will respect the anonymity of all submissions, unless you actively ask to sign your name to your entry.

TK, I can't hazard a guess whether I've found the path. I just hope some kind soul will offer me a rent-free room with padded walls when word gets out that I haven't a clue where I'm going. It's disconcerting to self-disclose online (there seems to be a real risk of losing it), but it comes with goods and bads. I've aggravated and disappointed quite a number of folks... and to many I wasn't much to brag about to begin with. It's what I've done. It's only fair that I should hear about it.

Keifus said...

Glad you're finding your way. I did a lot of soul-searching in grad school too, and then I knocked up my girlfriend, so...

Any insights I may have with healthcare relate to better and worse experience with pregnancy and birth. That, and doctors who were wise enough to assuage a lifelong healthy person who's now barely old enough to develop aches and pains. (Big fucking deal.) Aaand, my in-laws' very bizarre attempts at medical retirement could make a good story. I'll think about it (after I ask them).

But I must admit, part of me is rather tired at being an unselfish content-provider.

K

(TK: that doesn't sound like you.)

Dawn Coyote said...

Geoff: the thing that bugged me most about you as an editor is that you stopped being a poster. Welcome.

TenaciousK said...

Oh sure, feedback, the right to vent and all that. Big difference between venting and damning, of course, though I'd expect you know that. Self-disclosure online is interesting, and seems quite risky at times. For you, for example, I suggest you consider changing your nic and avoiding mention of your other employer. If you care. Which you may not.

I saw what was going on too, and the whole thing made me sad. On the other hand, the site's been suffering such neglect that it seems inevitable that something (well many things, I guess) would eventually give. The place really is unique and special in a way I can't really describe to somebody who is not a member of the community. I understand why people are upset, and I wasn't even there at it's peak.

As far as your own crisis of faith is concerned, congratulations on seeing the fallacy of the "who-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up" myth - maybe you'll be able to circumvent a later mid-life crisis. Seems to be no lack of people eager to tell you the right way to do things, but it's all a lie, really. There are undeniable consequences with not going along with the fiction, but undeniable payoffs as well.

My own life has taken some bizarre and entirely unexpected turns in the last year, and I find myself in circumstances completely beyond what I anticipated. One of the things I've come to understand in all of this is the folly of judging the circumstances of other people. The people who really know me best are relieved and happy. There are people in the world who used to respect me, and now find me morally repulsive. Doesn't bother me much, really - their judgments aren't really about (or of) me at all. They can't be - they can't see me well enough for them to be.

But I've certainly made my share of missteps along the way. So, I'd just like to say - sorry to anybody I hurt. I'm sorry I couldn't handle the complete restructuring of my entire life with a greater degree of equanimity and grace. Believe me when I say, it would've worked a lot better for me too.

So, I'm sorry you're in a difficult place, Geoff, and I'm very sympathetic about the strength of the push the universe might give you, if you happen to be really stuck, and what this might do to your sense of balance. I trust it'll turn out to be a good thing, in the end - just probably not what you expected.

But what is?

(K: Hmmmm. I dunno - I have my moments.)

Heliogabalus said...

Amazing how people always find moral & ethical redemption when they are suffering or experiencing financial or material difficulties.

You know Geoff, even hardcore non-theist like myself, totally lacking any notion of religious compassion, are still able to reconcile ethical morality & social Darwinism.
My ex-girl friend (who still owns me quite a lot of money), lives by herself on North Rodeo Drive. If you really are in need for a place to stay for a while, i could ask her. You have my @mail.

Geoff said...

H, thanks for the offer. I'm quite comfortable for cash at the moment. I'm not rich, and most of it has to be paid back eventually. But I live like a monk, so the dollars I have take me pretty far.

The religion thing is somewhat differently oriented. I can't say anything interesting about "the Divine." But, I did come to learn that theology has developed an elaborate vocabulary for discussing a very real aspect of my lived experience. I can't deny that religion is imbued with a certain element of "bearded guy in the sky" fantasy. But, God ("I AM") is a complex signifier that strikes me as worthy of expression and contemplation.

I was foundering on the high seas of reality. If nothing else, religion is a life line for those of us too weak to make it on our own.

K, thanks for considering it. FWIW, this project is a companion to a membership-based organization which should provide member services. Ultimately, membership in the org should have a monetary value. It is available free to early contributors (though I don't want to push it upon any of you). I won't pretend that's much of a biscuit (especially since I don't know what it will ultimately entail, let alone whether it will succeed). But it's at least a nominal goodie for the taking. Even in theory, it's worth more than I'd pay for a subscription to TimesSelect.

LentenStuffe said...

Dear Exile-From ...?

I've never trusted a Born-Again anything in my whole life, unless it were a born-again idiot, which is simply to say, yes, you're still an idiot except now you're looking at your idiocy from an entirely new angle. That new angle leads you to believe you've rediscovered you, but the impartial observer has to quibble and say, "Nope, you're still the same idiot you were before."

That said, you are the reason I've left the Fray.

And you can rest assured it has everything to do with the malicious editorial aforethought, with which you have conducted yourself in your capacity as editor, and which you now seek to visit on this site.

Maybe your starred "team players" here, who have the fortitude to attack those horrible enemies of civilization at Blorple Falls will commiserate with your plight, and abet your insecurities, but I suspect the reason you are here is to disclose some soppy vulnerability in lieu of excusing the inexcusable.

It seems you're now trying to be two-dimensional, and multi-colored. I say you'd throw any self-respecting chameleon into convulsions ... which is to say, you may have found your proper speed here.

As for me, I smell a rat: Diplomacy by fiat of sentimentalized disarmament!

Heliogabalus said...

Well Geoff i hope you learned something today?.
Despite the fact you treated my friend Antithesis & myself like dirt, i am not sending you back the elevator (tells you something about individuals, and the world is not as Manichaean as you think...).

I am certainly an arrogant & nefarious son of a bitch, and enjoy to be mean & demean others but i need a pretty good reason.......

Still if you ever need a place to crash.....
(and i am not doing this in order for you to lift the ban on my friend Antithesis), none of us will ever post on the Fray anyway...
There are some individuals who still hold a pretty solid notion & personal interpretation of pride.....

I still remember your words of yesteryear," To hear the complaining, you'd think people were casting their finest jewelry into this dirty bowl", I am not one of those, i cannot take myself seriously enough, and besides, i still don't like fawning upon the Great.

Keifus said...

Geoff: Don't push your luck. How many friends do I have to sign up to get those membership bennies? (Your) chutzpah aside, I'll maybe look into it and see if it's a good thing.

TK: It's like reading me, but with extra balls.

K

Geoff said...

I understand your skepticism, K. I'm not much of a joiner, myself.

But if it won't kill you, you can test out my new survey at this link. The public has a right to know.

If you guys want to have fun with that white space on your left hand margin (whoever's in charge of the template HTML), try signing up for the trial period at www.questionpro.com. The "MicroPolls" are free.

august said...

Geoff,

Template makes it easier to read the site when one is supposed to be doing other things. I think you can rest assured that the majority of our readership will read your post with great interest. Good luck with the project.

Anonymous said...

"(right now, there is no dedicated consumer advocacy group for healthcare patients)"

Oh, really? (Don't miss the "Share Your Story" section.) Perhaps you should do a little more looking before you leap.

In any case, speaking of looking, I suggest that you engage a competent proofreader for your website (to go with the "incredible graphic designers" and the "top-notch Silicon Valley programmers"). At a glance, I noticed two glaring typos--one on the Contact Us page and the other on the Patient-to-Patient page.

You're welcome.

Geoff said...

Thanks for the help, anon.

The site definitely needs some work. That's one of the reasons I was asked to get involved, and one of the reasons I've agreed.

If you consider the AMA to be a "consumer advocacy" group, then I am wrong. I've worked for the California Medical Association for years, and I think organized medicine is genuinely concerned for public health. But there are a lot of issues where the interests of doctors diverge substantially from their patients (medical staff peer review is one obvious example that leaps to mind).

For the most part, healthcare consumers have enjoyed their benefits through the provision of third parties - unions and employers, mostly. Unions especially have played a big role in represnting patient interests in healthcare debates.

But organized labor and employers are getting out of the healthcare benefits business. The head of the SEIU recently announced that "the employer-based system of health coverage is over."

Here in California, there's been a growing trend among doctors to refuse patients from Medicare and HMOs, because reimbursements simply don't cover costs - so that's another avenue of representation (such as it was in the first place) being foreclosed to growing numbers of patients.

It's a serious issue, and is likely to take on a growing significance in coming years. By lowering transaction costs and broadening reach, the internet can hopefully mobilize constituencies previously too dissolute to acquire representation, so that they can advocate directly for their own interests.

I can't say for certain this idea will work. It could be a bad idea. It could be the right idea at the wrong time. Most organizations such as this fail to get off the ground, and those who follow the history of healthcare policy know that the field is especially jinxed.

Nonetheless, from my perspective, the need is real and the internet has made it feasible. Whether American Health Stories succeeds or fails, it strikes me as a worthy effort.

Schadenfreude said...

Mandatory link (also good for how to put a similar site together) here.

Anonymous said...

Geoff,

The Network Feed on the right side of this page is quite a handy feature! From it, one may learn that heliogabalus is even more forthcoming when talking about you behind your back--

Excerpts from heliogabalus's comments on tenaciousk's blog:

"I apologize for the 'off topic'. but i love your response & comment to our Fray Editor farcical entity post on today's Wikifray.
Geoff is a pompous hypocrite & a professional mediocrity."

--from comment on January 19, 2007 5:00:00 PM MST

"Personally it is not a matter of resentment, i find him almost amusing in his peculiar daily snotty arrogance, the puerile way he interacts with people, his personal xtra inflated ego maniacal power trip."

"I have no idea who & what is Geoff outside his professional context, but as an editor he certainly represents the worst, while escaping any accountability for his puerile & infantile prepubescent bully behavior as the Fray grand inquisitor."

--from comment on January 19, 2007 9:38:00 PM MST

Indeed, best not to accept h's offer of hospitality.

Geoff said...

Schad, many thanks for that link.

Anon, I'm at something of a loss (are you a new Anon or what?). H is good people and an honest man. He hasn't kept his opinion of me a secret. I don't have anything more to say about the matter.

Anonymous said...

Geoff--

Another link for you: patients' stories from the "Share Your Story" webpage of SEIU's own advocacy project, Americans for Health Care.

(Because all of the reforms that SIEU seeks would benefit patients, the inclusion of nonpatient constituencies (such as low-level healthcare workers) seems irrelevant--that is, to patients.)

I guess my point is that the online story-sharing "wheel" and, far more important, the netroots lobbying "wheel" have been invented and are being deployed by groups with considerable clout. And if anything other than legislative action could make a difference, it's escaping me.

Anonymous said...

"(Because all of the reforms that SIEU seeks . . . "

Sorry--SEIU.

Geoff said...

Thanks for that link, Anon. I hadn't seen the SEIU's page before, and it is good to know it's out there. I've found alot of interesting stuff, but I hadn't run across it.

I can relate to your grounds for skepticism. I was a pretty hard sell for this idea, myself. I don't think of "patient" as a natural identity. There are many things I would label myself before getting to "patient."

As such, being interesting to people who aren't presently sick will be a tough challenge. I'm hopeful we can serve enough audiences to turn this site into a self-sustaining community.

I'm not sure if you're just being skeptical, or if you're trying to say that this idea shouldn't be pursued. If the former, it's a risk I'm prepared to take. If the latter... well, I disagree.

There isn't a lack of organizations willing to speak on behalf of patients. One of the guys I'm working with has served on "blue ribbon panels" for healthcare reform in the past, and he's remarked on the oddity that unions are most commonly asked to sit as representatives of patient interests.

Yes, unions can be an advocate for ordinary patients. But in the age of the internet, there's no reason why people can't speak in their own voices on their own behalf. My role in this project is to create a platform from which people can be heard.

I, like many of the other folks involved in this project, have a history of working on behalf of organized medicine. The folks who came up with this idea were genuinely dismayed by the lack of a representative voice for their patients at the political level. They have a genuine enthusiasm for turning this into a completely user-driven site, which has won my respect.

If the membership idea has legs, and this site spawns some mutant hybrid of MoveOn and the AARP, that might even be a cool development in its own right... uh...

But, even if it doesn't, the idea behind the forum itself seems intrinsically useful. A chance for people to exchange valuable information. If I do this right, not just patient-to-patient, but a place for doctors to check in and find out what's going right and what's going wrong as well. Its also possibly a chance to illuminate policy problems that aren't getting the attention they deserve.

Having worked my share with healthcare "policy experts" I can attest to a rigid segmentation of problems and interests that doesn't map well onto the experiences of actual people. If this site serves its purpose, it may be possible to break down those barriers.

Heliogabalus said...

Thank you Geoff for your response to "anon". Whatever we may think about each other is our problem, i certainly never kept my very own opinion secretive, you are fully aware of my personal feeling in regard to specific issues, but that doesn't prevent me from engaging you or even giving you the proper respect you deserve as a fellow human being. I don't have to personally like you in order to appreciate and acknowledge any other value you may have (that you have), and there is one value we certainly share, straight talking, and nobody is going to take that away from me. Especially not an "anonymous" poster who has confused pesky "talking behind your back" with sarcasm and cynicism.....

Considering the fixation of "anon" on yours truly, i may have a clue about his real identity, but that's another issue, totally alien to the present matter.

Elbo Ruum said...

So Geoff, when did you see "the light?"

Scratch that. I don't care.

Thy Goddess said...

Schad's deleted comment:

Barfaroni on meta-shroom.

Just guessing.

Gregor Samsa said...

My New Year's resolution is to brag more. It goes against my natural modesty, of course, but I've noticed that if you're not tooting your own horn, it just gathers dust up there in the attic.

So, Geoff, how'd you rate my deconstructive feat? (Note last line of 2nd graf).

Btw, please ask the Lord if He'd consider providing access to the Internets up there if we agree to take an extra thousand or two degrees. Of course I use "Internets" as a complex signifier.