Applying for Health Insurance

My mission for today was to apply for health insurance for next year through our state health exchange website. Last year I went through this process and ended up calling the call center to help me through the process because it was confusing. Most of the questions are designed to be easily answered by people with simpler life situations. They know what their job is next year and live in a suburban house with their children. I however am a millennial that lives at home and I have no idea what I am doing for work next year as I continue to apply for things. I do not quite fit into the box they designed.

Today I made it to the point where I had to arduously interrogate my parents for their information because you have to apply as a household. This is in spite of the fact that both of my parents have insurance. While the website itself is not difficult to use, much of the language around the application is ambiguous as it applies to specific situations. For example it asks when income ends but isn’t clear whether that end date should be the date that it finishes accruing or the date it finishes actually paying out. Meanwhile I’ve had to go back and research quite a bit of my own financial information relating to student loan deductions.

I now realize that my bias against dealing with paper is coming back to bite me as there are many paper documents that would be useful to access if they were scanned into Evernote. I typically use TurboScan on my iPhone to scan documents but it can be slow for larger volumes, so now I am considering moving to a ScanSnap. I suppose I could get more hanging folder boxes and just keep paper records there until I am ready to scan them with my iPhone, but they take up space and are not as easy to use.

Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the most useful and underrated things you can do to be more efficient with your computer is to learn keyboard shortcuts. Some of the ones I use regularly include Copy, Cut, and Paste with CMD+C, CMD+X, and CMD+V respectively. CMD+Z is undo in almost every application. I also have keyboard shortcuts I have mapped to easily add information to programs like OmniFocus and Fantastical. The number of shortcuts can seem overwhelming at first so I recommend trying and learning a few at a time. Apple has a useful list of shortcuts.

Using GitHub

A year or two ago I learned about and started using GitHub. I have not put many of my projects on my GitHub account because some are properietary and confidential and others are not ready yet to be public. In Chemistry class we learned about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the idea that observing a phenomena changes it. I believe this is as much the case with software development as it is with electrons. So one of my new resolutions is going to be to do more of my development and projects in the open. Hopefully this will push to me to be a bit more organized, less lazy, and to document more. As a part of that I updated my first repo so that it is easier to digest and included a PDF of the presentation I made to the Civic Hack Night group at SeeClickFix back in March.

I also made my first contribution to another project, known as a pull request, by uploading 2012 shapefiles for Connecticut’s voting precincts. It did not require any coding on my part, but it was a fun milestone to help someone out with their project.

I am currently in the process of reading John Foreman’s Data Smart book so you will soon see some data analysis projects in my GitHub account. Let me know if you have any suggestions for data sets I should wrangle.

How is your e-mail inbox doing?

For e-mail it is both the best of times and worst of times. Tools like GMail and Mailbox make it super-easy to sort and process it. Companies have figured out how to use it in interesting and effective ways like sending me my airline boarding pass or a map of the Uber ride I just took and its cost. I receive some high quality newsletters from Connecticut Mirror,, and Popvox.

Then some companies and organizations are doing a terrible job. Political organizations (and some charities) treat it like a slot machine and every e-mail seems to just ask in a different way to give money. Gary Vaynerchuk would say there are too many right hooks and not enough jabs in those. I like to read them once in a while to see the copy, but I filter them so they don’t hit my inbox.

Sony and Bed Bath & Beyond seemingly send me the same list of products or coupon every week. I just unsubscribed from both of them.

How do you keep your inbox under control? Who is doing e-mail well and who is doing it poorly?

A Note for Those Wishing to Connect on Social Media

So I have not had the time to sit down and write a proper reflective post on 2013. Things have been in flux over the past couple months but I recently was offered the privilege of working for the Connecticut Democratic Party for the 2014 election cycle. While I had spent time extensively searching for legal work, and going to numerous interviews, the market unfortunately did not present an opportunity that fit well with my legal interests and background. I helped out at the state party for a couple weeks leading up to the 2013 election and enjoyed it very much. As the party’s new Deputy Data Director I get to use my technology skills, and many of the analytical and research skills that I honed in law school.

With this new position I have seen an influx of people that wish to connect on social media. I am generally liberal when it comes to accepting requests on social media. My facebook profile is open to the world and I usually use it to disseminate interesting articles. I also tweet interesting articles, but will also use twitter for ranting, (not so) witty comments, and chatting. I also maintain a LinkedIn profile that I don’t post things to as often. While twitter is free flowing I sometimes receive requests on Facebook and LinkedIn from people I do not know. I am happy to connect with and meet new people online if we share interests or experiences, but I will often neglect or reject requests from people I am unfamiliar with.

If you are trying to connect and do not know me, the best thing to do is send a short introduction letting me know why you want to connect when you send your friend or LinkedIn request. That way I have some context for the request and our relationship and am more likely to accept it. However if I don’t accept you do not despair, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are mostly open and you are free to linger as a follower unless you harass me in which case you will probably be blocked.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.