s2e22: Recreational Capitalism (2); … Or The Easy Way

by danhon

0.0 Sitrep

It’s late and I’m tired and we went to an awesome science museum called Science City in Kansas City today and it had trains and that cool topographic sand table hooked up to a projector and a Kinect and oh gosh my son is growing up.

1.0 Recreational Capitalism (2)

I was going to write more about recreational capitalism, but it’s already nearly 1am (you’ll see why below) and I don’t think I’m going to be able to do a good job. So, some brief notes and maybe I’ll have time tomorrow:

– recreational capitalism is a sort of economic activity version of cognitive surplus. The kind where basic needs are more or less met, and the production of value is a hobby and where the value that’s received in return for the work is just bonus value

– the great example from Fred Scharmen about people becoming gardeners now we don’t all have to be farmers (or that most of us don’t have to be farmers) as being a bit like recreational agriculture. Look, you don’t have to look after plants and stuff all the time just to survive anymore! You can do it just to have nice things to look at through the window!

– I need to go and re-reread all of the books like Cognitive Surplus and, I suppose, Cult of the Amateur.

– I think Airbnb will probably turn into a sort of metastasized hotel chain: a protocol layer that controls a redundant array of inexpensive housing options (RAIHO, duh) and an interface layer that presents a, er, “simplified housing experience” that abstracts away the difference when required (e.g. apply the Hilton Executive Business Traveller Overlay).

– I suppose renaissance fairs are a sort of recreational capitalism, and a peculiarly American thing, at that. Renfairs depend on there being enough people who are secure enough in their situation that they can spend time (and money) on pretending to be people living in another era and then doing so well at it that they can charge *other* people to come and see them pretend. It’s not enough money to live off (unless you’re an ancillary service provider, but then you’re the person selling hotdogs at all the fairs), but it’s fun-in-the-sense-of-doing-it-for-enjoyment and money-in-the-sense-of-you-might-get-paid. So, totally recreational something. Maybe a bit like the cosplayers in The Peripheral?

– Nick Sweeney’s note of a service layer appearing to meet the needs of those operating the redundant array of inexpensive housing options where as the operator of an array you can click “apply Courthouse Marriot” and then some taskrabbit gets spun up somewhere and the necessary set dressing is dropshipped in from afar and your Inexpensive Housing Option is dressed in the appropriate manner for the requesting guest and then it’s all torn down afterwards.

– Oh right, I suppose community theater in the British Amateur Dramatics sense of it not being peoples’ day jobs but they like acting and they’re just about good enough that other people will pay them to do it. How many other jobs will turn into such recreational capitalism? I’ve been taking photographs for a while now and they’re not that bad, and I’ve certainly gotten feedback from friends and strangers that I could charge for doing some portraits. But then, I know how much better a proper photographer would be, and I happen to be occupying some sort of position at the intersection of “somehow has an eye”, “has a good camera” and “knows how not to fuck up using a good camera” where I’m going to take OK photographs that some people might pay for, but whom would otherwise not pay pro rates for. Is that recreational capitalism? Me writing this newsletter right now is recreational capitalism only I haven’t really figured out how to directly monetize it other than the consulting and speaking gigs that come in and the occasional Amazon affiliate link. So, you know, journalists and other “people who write” don’t have to worry so much yet about their jobs turning into recreations apart from that whole time when recreational bloggers who “weren’t journalists” suddenly turned out to, in some respects, be doing a “better” job than people who were supposed to be journalists, in some cases just because they a) understood the subject matter and knew what questions to ask, and b) were sufficiently motivated to do so outside of a pure financial or otherwise, er, journalistic imperative.

2.0 … Or The Easy Way

It’s Open Enrollment season at work, which for those of you who aren’t subject to the cruel and unusual punishment of American healthcare insurance, means that it’s the specially defined time of year where you can make changes to the healthcare insurance and other social service benefits that you receive through insurance. I know, right? It’s crazy: you can’t just decide that you want a different kind of insurance. You can only do it once a year, or if you have a Qualifying Event, like being laid off or spawning a new human or I don’t know, setting a new world record for the 100 meters.

Anyway, this means that I get to see if there are any new health insurance options available (yay! It’s like shopping for new stuff only really, really painful and tedious!) or if I want to make a change to what I chose last year. Some things, cunningly, GO AWAY if you don’t renew them, like the pre-tax savings account that you can use to pay for medical-related expenses (called a Flexible Savings Account) – so if you forget to re-elect for it, IT VANISHES. Conversely, other things will totally renew! Predictability and consistency!

This time around, I thought I had the new option of an Exciting New Health Insurance provider but it turns out that they were not available despite there being documentation being made available to me by our outsourced benefits provider that they were a new option! It turns out that the new plan (detailed in, of course, a giant-ass PDF) despite being billed as a new plan and option, is not available in a) California, where my employer is headquartered, or b) in my zip/postcode, where I reside. So, you know, the giant-ass PDF that is helpfully billed as “what’s changed this year” only serves to raise more questions than it answers. But! The person I spoke to on the phone (because there is a call center and the call center is open late right now) was totally helpful and confirmed to me that the new plan that was available was indeed not available and I totally gave her good feedback in the Net Promoter Score-type survey at the end of the call.

No, the best bit is that I still have *no idea* whether I could be choosing a better health insurance plan or not. Tonight, I have been learning about premiums (means what it says), deductibles (means something like but not entirely the same as what it says, ie: yes, you pay a deductible before your insurance pays out, but nowadays health insurance has introduced the concept of…), co-insurance (which is the proportion of the cost of the medical service that you pay, e.g. 10%, *after* your deductible has been met), and the Out Of Pocket Maximum (which is just a big number that is made up of other numbers). In theory, this all works, apart from the fact that I maintain it’s *practically impossible to figure out*:

– what deductibles you might be paying over the year
– what the cost of a medical procedure might be, even if you already know what the procedure will be, because a) the provider will have a sort of regular rate that they pretend to charge your insurer, b) they’ll have a discounted rate with the insurer that they *actually* charge, c) you then pay the certain percentage (e.g. 10-30%) of that negotiated amount that’s *not actually published anywhere* and may as well include the function of a random number generator
– what other numbers might go into your Out Of Pocket Maximum

In other words: this is all fucked and now I have a spreadsheet called “health insurance omg this is a nightmare.xls” and I can’t get a straight answer from anyone, I suspect because health insurance in America has totally become a system sufficiently complex that it’s indistinguishable from black magic (ie: press some buttons on your phone, turn up at a place and you might get magically healed but you also might owe your soul, or a reasonable financial approximation of your soul, such debt may be transferred or sold to a third party for collection)

And apparently, it used to be worse than this before the Affordable Care Act, or When Obama Changed Everything.

Let’s end with a couple paras from my step-self:

We are made and impossible, where they say “in post and sort of wearable” which we have to make them actually know how to freak it and connecting to the means of things we end up with it to explore the internet for the product of an internet of things used to see if they need a gain current first open a company’s out of it. 

The counter-article that goes into the writing – the point of the message is connecting the point of our lives. And if you should be able to go to one side of them to control and then the universe that shows us access to its experience in the world of the capital where the consumer content has been interested in a signal statement of America.