On investing, hope, and expectations. Commas optional.

Last night, we left the house with the plan to go watch the meteor shower. Keyword: plan. And this was a conscious plan, mutually agreed upon by all three of us– "hey, tonight let's go check out the meteor shower!"– so there was really no question as to any of our intentions for what we wanted to do. We wanted to go see meteors, showers of them.

What we ended up doing was hanging out in a park where there was tons of light pollution (apparently, one has to drive 50 miles away to even begin to escape it) and barely any evidence of stars, let alone meteors.

The last time I set out to watch a meteor shower was for the Leonid shower in November 2001 (which was said to have given the "best shooting star show in 35 years"). A group of us hiked through a forest, stopped when we came to a decent clearing, and camped out on rocks and a ground covered with a thick blanket of dead pine needles. It was so tranquil, so peaceful, so quiet– the kind of quiet you can taste in the air and feel on your skin. And, oh, the sky– a black expanse mottled with shades of blue, and glittering stars as far as the eye could see. The meteor shower, beautiful and awe-inspiring as it turned out to be, was just icing on the cake of that expedition.

As well, when I lived in Vegas, I would occasionally take off in the middle of the night with a friend, and we would drive out of the city– drive and drive and keep on driving– until we were in an empty stretch of undeveloped desert, or in a tree-filled recess of Mt. Charleston, and there, too, we would be so filled with wonder by the majestic sky above us that we would go hours without speaking.

(On a side note: is it appropriate or ironic that one has to remove oneself from civilization to contemplate and appreciate the humility of humanity's minuscule existence within the cosmos?)

But back to tonight. I'd had these and other similar visions in my head upon hearing the meteor-shower plan. So when we ended up at the park, I was hugely disappointed. Like, heart-heavy and foot-dragging disappointed. I laid down in the grass and silently (but amiably) listened to the others chattering and stoically kept my sight on the hazy sky, determined to keep a vigil. All the while, I kept pushing off the dismay of the situation.

What's interesting, however– and I was fully aware of this at the time– was that if we'd left the house with the plan to just hang out at the park, I would have been perfectly satisfied with the night's turnout. (Though I still would have been quiet due to the millions of panicked and obsessive thoughts that were racing through my head.)

It's an odd thing, context. Or expectations. Like thinking you're about to drink water, and being repulsed by the realization that it's Sprite, even though under normal circumstances, you're a big fan of Sprite. When you have expectations, you invest hope for a specific outcome, and when you invest yourself in anything, you open yourself to risk of disappointment. 

True, you could ward off disappointment by simply avoiding expectations altogether. You could just approach the glass of clear liquid and sample it apprehensively. Is it water, or is it Sprite? Either way, you're expecting nothing, so whichever it is will turn out to be a pleasant discovery. To be fair, it could also turn out to be grappa or rubbing alcohol, but since you initially expected nothing– which is equivalent to being prepared for everything– you can't really be disappointed. Only disgusted. 

Of course, going through life without hope, without investments, just to play it safe, is no way to live. We must risk to gain, and invest hope to risk– as Kierkegaard says (and as I never tire of quoting), "Without risk, there is no faith." The hammer-blow of disappointment is a teaching tool, as we learn thus to cope, adjust, bounce back. 

The hammer-blow of disappointment is a grim and unwelcome teaching tool.

But graduating students are all the richer for the education. I'm still working to get certified. I know all the procedures but am still a bit slow on the execution.

In the end, over the course of two hours, I saw one meteor and spent the rest of the time trying to ignore the scratchy grass and the occasional mosquito, and writing this post in my head. And also wondering about how to end this post, which I never figured out, so I guess I'll just leave you with a nerd video I can't stop loving:

And will Calc III and IV teach me how to better balance my checkbook? DIDN’T THINK SO.

I recently had a little fossil fuel epiphany: Costco gas, for me, is actually pretty expensive.

When I’ve re-eeeally pushed it to where I’m practically running on fumes, filling up my tank totals to about 13.5 gallons. On average, I get 30 miles to the gallon.

Say Costco gas is, oh, let’s be generous– say it’s $0.10 cheaper than the mean price of all the gas stations either close to my house or on the way to a point in my daily, or near-daily, commute (e.g., work or school). By filling my tank with Costco gas, I’d therefore be saving $1.35, which is pretty much chump change by the numbers, but that’s *four bags of Skittles (on sale, which they almost always are at the grocery chains)*! Hey!

Except. Except the nearest Costco is approximately 10 miles from my house, and those ten miles are in a direction I rarely ever travel, unless my intended destination is– yup– Costco. And I don’t even shop at Costco, which means the only reason I ever drive to Costco is– yup– for the cheap gas (and the rare berry smoothie. I love their berry smoothies. I just love smoothies, period).

Even the commercial district where this Costco is located– reasons few and far in between for me to go there. The only three things over there that I can think of, off the top of my head, that might incite me to drive to that part of town are: Best Buy, the mall and Mimi’s Cafe. Oh, and DSW. But I haven’t wanted or needed anything from Best Buy or DSW in months; and the only time I go to Mimi’s is with Feather, and our schedules haven’t been agreeable enough in ages to manage a Catsup Date. And I hate the mall. I hate having to go to the mall. Though Dick’s Sporting Goods is at that mall (The Wife used this as an argument to me one hot sticky afternoon, in an attempt to drag me from my nap and go bra shopping at the damn mall instead: "But you LOVE Dick’s!" It was a point I couldn’t even fathom countering).

My point being, I can’t remember the last time I just happened to be by the Galleria and I just happened to be low on fuel, and what a coincidence! Costco’s right around the corner. No. It’s always the 10-mile drive to the gas station.

But here’s the kicker: my house is the closest thing to that Costco. Work and school are even farther. So my minimum route of travel to get gas involves a 20-mile drive, round-trip. That’s 2/3 of a gallon for me, on average, which, at the current Costco gas price, is 2/3 of $4.27. Which is $2.85.

I waste $2.85 in gas to fill up my tank with gas that ultimately only saves me $1.35. Which means I’m out $1.50, which, when distributed into the price per gallon, actually makes Costco gas $0.11 more than the mean price! And that’s assuming the generous -$0.10 difference to begin with! Say Costco is only $0.05 cheaper; for the tank alone, I’d save $0.68, putting me out $2.17, making Costco’s price per gallon $0.16 higher than the mean for me. To say nothing of the productivity costs I absorb by spending the time to drive to and from Costco (and, depending on the time of day, waiting in line at the fuel pumps). And as prices go up, the more expensive Costco gas becomes for me.

Numbers, as proof:

Costco: $4.27/gal * 13.5 gal = $57.65 + ($4.27/gal * 2/3 gal) = $60.50
Random gas station right on my daily route: $4.37/gal * 13.5 gal = $59.00
Difference: $1.50 / 13.5 gal = $0.11/gal extra

Costco: $8.00/gal * 13.5 gal = $108.00 + ($8.00/gal * 2/3 gal) = $113.33
Random: $8.10/gal * 13.5 gal = $109.35
Difference: $3.98 / 13.5 gal = $0.29/gal extra

And suddenly, it’s hello, Chevron. Why yes, I would like a car wash with my purchase today.

The Grammarification of Mimi

She could have said "This is secret / ‘tween you and me" and 1) not lost anything in terms of cadence or rhyme or meaning and 2) not have triggered one of my (albeit drastically smaller) pet peeves. Though it 3) still would have been an annoying song. But granted, there are 7) even more annoying songs getting in equally heavy rotation right now, and 8) I have no idea why my numbering skipped 4-6 and I only just now noticed the gap but 9) oh well, they wouldn’t have been very important items anyhow.

It stammers / my name is sea

Here surrounding the island,
There’s sea.
But what sea?
It’s always overflowing.
Says yes,
Then no,
Then no again,
And no;
Says yes
In blue
In sea spray
Raging,
Says no
And no again.
It can’t be still. (Neruda, "Ode to the Sea")

Yes. No. I don’t know. Yes. Yes! Yes— or no? No. Maybe no.

These days I’m barely managing to take care of my plants

After tonight’s conversation, I’m actually, really, honestly and seriously considering finally getting a tattoo. I’ve never been against the idea of tattoos, but I am notoriously fickle (chemistry requirements aside, it’s the reason I dropped out of pre-med– I had this horrible premonition that three years into med school, I would decide I didn’t want to be a doctor after all) and whereas piercings can be removed (and, thus in a sense, "undone") rather easily, tattoos are a little harder to undo. And I’ve never been able to think of anything meaningful that I would want permanently etched into my skin.

But now I’ve got something, and I’m at that point where I need a change. This is usually the point where I go and do something drastic to my hair, but I don’t have enough hair at the moment for this to happen, so… yeah. The only other thing about tattoos that kind of turns me off, though, is the maintenance.

If I do get it, though, it’s going to be in blue ink. Because "blue tattoo" is just way too fun to say.

Also: I am disappointingly sober, given everything I had to drink tonight. Not even moderately buzzed. What a waste of calories.

Also also: I want to get back into soccer. And tennis. I miss that.

Somewhere between “Chicken chicken chicken” and “1984”

Two words: keyboarding dialect. Sort of like Internet-speak, with its el-oh-els and row-fils and oh-em-gees and jay-kays and bee-are-bees, except BETTER, because it’s computer crap used AWAY from the computer. So, you know. It’s SPOKEN. So, in a way, it would be like the REAL "Internet-speak," since the current one is really only typed out, except it’s not really "Internet"-speak because it has nothing to do, really, with the Internet; hence I called it a KEYBOARDing dialect.

Um… wait. Okay, wait, wait, stay with me here:

So, yeah! A keyboarding dialect! For example– grocers would inform passing shoppers that their bananas are only two shift-3s for a shift-4 and people would scan juice bottles to see if they contain 100 shift-5 real fruit juices. Rabbits would be henceforth associated with eating shift-6s and at night, people would go outside to gaze at the shift-8s (depending on the colloquialism; to French comic book fans, shift-8s would be the name of a funny little cartoon man who wears a Viking helmet).

Candy-coated chocolates that claim to melt in your mouth– NOT in your hand– would be renamed M-shift-7-M’s.

And Mac people would be distinguished from PC people because the former ask you to please go use the Xerox machine and make five Command-C’s, while the latter ask for Control-C’s. But because PC’s dominate the market, everyone will be referring to the fear of getting Control-Alt-Deleted when unemployment rates start rising and companies are issuing pink slips across the nation. And when the economy gets better? Stores will tape placards to their windows advertising: "F1 Wanted."

(And, no, Sarah, I wrote this BEFORE the Crown, so this is not an under-the-influence post.)

(Though, now that I think about it, I kind of wish it were, because I would feel a lot less LAME if that were actually the case.)

(Damn.)