My drive to L.A. got pushed back thanks to the attention-devouring powers of Math.

I just read a post on ambition and goals, and toward the end was this quote:

“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” – W. Clement Stone

It’s not an unfamiliar sentiment or metaphorical piece of advice. Shoot for the moon. Go big. Aim high.

But the funny thing is, the moon is both closer to us on earth *and* smaller in size than most stars, so you could argue that by aiming for the moon, you’re actually aiming low. On top of which, because due to its proximity, the moon is such a large target, the difficulty in hitting the moon is significantly lower than hitting a star. This is the equivalent of choosing between aiming a theoretical tranquilizer dart gun at either a theoretical stationary elephant or a theoretical stationary beetle (note: I don’t care for game hunting, if you can’t tell). Compared to the beetle, that elephant’s going to be pretty hard to miss. Aiming for the elephant would be the cop-out, really.

Going back to my first point, though: the moon has a radius of 1738 km. The sun has a radius of 695,500 km, which means the moon is about 2.5×10^(-3), or .0025, or 25-thousandths the size of the sun (even simpler: you could fit about 25,000 moons into the sun). This number is also the magnitude of the moon’s solar radius (which is how stars are measured). Remember that: the moon’s solar radius is 0.0025.

This is a page that lists some of the largest stars in our galaxy, and a lot of them are visible from even the outskirts of a city (i.e., unideal stargazing environments). Beta Cygni, the tail-end star in the Northern Cross constellation, is the smallest star referenced in this chart, and it measures 16 solar radii. The largest, VY Canis Majoris, clocks in anywhere between 1800-2100 solar radii. 1800-2100 times larger than our sun. That’s HUGE!

As for distance? The moon is, on average, about 384,000 km away from the earth. A light-year is about 9.5×10^12 km, or just under 10 trillion km. This means the moon is about .04×10^(-7), or 0.000000004 light years away from the earth.

Beta Cygni is 380 light-years away, and VY Canis Majoris is about 5,000 light-years away. The nearest star to earth is Proxima Centauri, at 4.2 light-years away– so the closest star is still a billion times farther from us than the moon.

So when Bette Davis says, plaintively, "Don’t let’s ask for the moon; we have the stars" in "Now, Voyager"– she was nearer right than most people would suppose. But I’d like to think that the ultimate form of ambition would be to take your bow and shoot that arrow into the dark, (possibly) infinite abyss that is the space marked by neither moon nor stars. That requires the utmost faith– and courage. To say, "I know what is out there, and it isn’t enough. I want more." To delve into the unknown, believing that there are bigger and greater things somewhere and that you will be the one to discover them– what a fearless heart that would require! Then again, what’s the worst that could happen? You could end up with a handful of stars.

[edit: I’m not actually sure, now, that I interpreted that first quote right. I initially thought it was implying that the star would be a consolation prize, but now it sort of seems like the star would be an unexpected way-cooler prize. Still. The encouragement to aim for the moon remains, and balls to that.]


Make mine a daffodill

I don’t know why I’m filing this under "Science." This has nothing to do with science. Oh well, maybe I can throw something science-y in here. Then again, who really gives a damn as to the propriety of my categorization?

At 2 a.m. this morning (Thursday), I was rudely awakened for a reason I couldn’t identify right then. After tossing about for a few seconds, I looked over to my nightstand and saw my phone was blinking in succession. I checked it, discovered someone had sent me a text message (the alert sound was what had pulled me out of my sleep).

The sender was identified by a phone number, meaning I didn’t have that person filed in my phone book. Checked it, and this is what showed up:

"what do i remember of Lora? You were so much hotter than you ever noticed. miss ya!"

The number had a (760) area code, and I wanted to identify that as Oceanside but wouldn’t have bet on it. All the same, Oceanside made me think of Ben, whose number I *did* have, and it, too, was (760). Replied to the message, asking who he or she was, and in a few minutes, I got my answer:

"…joe from usd theatre"


It made me laugh and forgive the untimely wake-up call (dude, some of us have JOBS we have to be at early in the morning). He was one of the many, one of the few, I didn’t keep tabs, one of the guys I’ve known in my lifetime who scolded and nagged and berated me constantly about my self-perception, my self-image, then threw his hands up in the air and rolled his eyes in exasperation when I heatedly insisted nothing he said would change anything I thought. I do remember he said I had the best ass out of all the girls in our cast, an interesting comment given as I did everything I could to keep said ass hidden from sight with coats and loose dresses and sweatshirts.

But his text message has been on my mind all day, whether out of vanity or amusement or nostalgia (remembering San Diego makes me miss it all over again), I don’t know, but it provoked me into thinking about really unnecessary shit. Like appearance and attractiveness and my constant, tumbling fear that I become less attractive with each passing day– or, though I’m sure this makes no sense to you, less attractive with each received compliment.

I suppose I should be grateful that I’m finally in a relationship where I don’t feel my looks are hugely important, where I don’t feel like I have to dress up, or sometimes even dress passingly acceptable, in order to impress him. I should take this as an opportunity to stress to myself how there’s so much more to me than my physical being, how my entire self-worth is not wrapped up in my measurements or my weight.

But it’s hard. And I feel so shallow and superficial writing this, even just thinking this. It’s hard, coming out of a string of relationships where I was constantly bombarded with praise of my body, my eyes, my hair, my choice of outfit, my feet, my whatever– it’s hard, suddenly having all that removed from the relationship, removed from the conversation, removed from the lazy mornings and afternoons and evenings of half-awake murmurings and sleepy laughter.

Don’t get me wrong, *please* don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy because of this– it’s just a little hard to not analyze it, to not think that because he doesn’t say what all the others said, and said with such frequency– and not because they thought I wanted to hear it, which I didn’t and would often argue a compliment’s truth value endlessly– it means I’ve become less attractive and I’ve lost whatever physical appeal I might have possibly carried before. And truth be told, I don’t know that all the emphasis on my looks from past relationships was a good thing. I don’t know that it might not have fed into the things I struggle with on a daily basis still yet, given what I mentioned before, how every compliment I’m given causes me to burrow even deeper into doubt of and distaste for my body.

I’d like that say I don’t want him to be like the others, that I don’t want him to tell me he thinks I’m somewhat pretty, that I don’t want him to combat these ridiculous insecurities I inflict upon myself day after day… but what an obvious lie that would be. A better truth would be to say that I’d just rather not have this need to hear those words. I’d rather not need him to be physically attracted to me and tell me so. I’d rather not believe that I have no staying power if I’m not considered "pretty," or "beautiful," or "sexy," or whatever, and truth be told, even when I am considered any of that, I *still* don’t believe I have any staying power.

SCIENTIFIC INTERJECTION: The element Seaborgium is completely unstable and decays rapidly, with a half-life of approximately 0.9 seconds. That’s my kind of element.

NONSCIENTIFIC AND UNRELATED FOLLOW-UP: "Build Me Up Buttercup" was playing last night (we’d been watching "There’s Something About Mary," and this song comes on for the credits), and halfway into the song, I asked The Guy, "What does that mean?"

In the perplexed silence I received in reply, I elaborated: "To build a buttercup. Is that a phrase? Does it mean something?"

See, what I’d heard was, "Build me a [long pause] buttercup, baby…" I was utterly confused, trying to figure out how someone could build a flower, specifically a buttercup. It didn’t register that he was asking, "Why do you build me up, buttercup, baby?" Probably because I can’t see anyone calling anyone else "Buttercup." I don’t know what I would do if a guy I was seeing suddenly started referring to me as "Buttercup." Ugh.

And having successfully changed the subject, I’ll now proceed to do something else at which I excel: abandon an uncomfortable situation whose awkward tone I no longer feel I can undo.