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Exit 212. The best part of a birthday.

I recently celebrated a birthday.  And I think I’ve figured out what it is that I love about birthdays.

It isn’t the excitement of getting older.  That stopped being exciting in my 20s, especially when I was going through that phase where I was invited to a wedding about once a month, and it felt like everyone else’s lives were moving on and I wasn’t.

It isn’t the excitement of getting to treat myself.  I’m an adult.  I do what I want.  I treat myself plenty of other times.  And I suspect that people who like treating themselves on their birthdays probably do too.

For me, the best part of a birthday is feeling loved.  And this birthday was one of the best yet by that measure.

This is the first year that I have had a fair number of coworkers on my Facebook friends.  For years, I always kept Facebook and my job separate as much as possible, just because I didn’t ever want to say anything on Facebook that would get me in trouble at work.  A couple years ago, I did start following and occasionally replying on a Facebook group set up by the local chapter of the teachers’ union where I work, and a few coworkers started to find me there.  I allowed it, and I added a few more of my own, the ones I tend to talk to about more than just work stuff, because compared to most people I know, I don’t really share a whole lot of controversial stuff and I’m being paranoid about nothing.

So when I got to work on the morning of my birthday, several of my coworkers knew that it was my birthday.  We had a staff meeting in the afternoon, and they sang to me and gave me cake.  (The principal’s secretary got it all on Facebook Live, and a former coworker who retired commented on it and said hi, so I’m now back in touch with a former coworker whom I hadn’t seen in over a year.)  Two of my classes also sang to me, although I wrote up on the board next to the date that it was my birthday.

This weekend, I invited people over to help me celebrate.  I always tell them that gifts are not required, but a few of them bring gifts anyway, and the ones who do are usually so thoughtful about it.  I have one friend who makes artwork of pixelated retro video game characters out of plastic beads; my game room with all my old video games is decorated with quite a few of his creations, of which he always brings a few new ones every year as birthday presents.  My friend who made the cake made it in the shape of a basketball jersey in Sacramento Kings colors, with my last name and the number 42, both because I turned 42 and because of the number’s use in the works of Douglas Adams.  (There was a little more to the story of the cake, but I don’t need to get into that here.)  Someone else made me a t-shirt of a Jeopardy game board, with categories that would be perfect for me, like Mathematical Equations, Sacramento Kings, and “Firefly” Quotes.

I think what makes this all the more special for me is that I remember a time when I really didn’t have friends.  I know what it’s like to be on the absolute bottom rung of the social ladder, and because of that I will never take for granted the people in my life now.

Thank you all.

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Exit 211. I see them running too.

I discovered classic rock in the early 1990s, my high school years.  As my teens wore on, I realized that I was enjoying less and less the R&B and rap that the remaining radio station of my childhood played.  By the middle of my high school years, the stations that played what I considered good music of that time period were gone.  MTV still played music in the mornings, and they had the show where they played the most requested videos of the day that came on in the early evening.  I watched a lot of that, especially during school breaks when I was home in the morning.  But when I was listening to the radio while in my room doing homework, or in the car once I started driving, I wasn’t finding anything I liked among the numerous R&B, rap, country, and Spanish-language stations that Monterey County was in range of at the time.  There were a couple of classic rock stations, playing rock music from a time period that spanned from the mid-1960s (my parents’ teen years) to the mid-1980s (my childhood).  Most of these songs were before my time, and I didn’t remember them.  Some of them were by artists I had never heard of.  But I came to discover that I enjoyed it.  Good music.

Some of these songs remained background music to me for decades, coming up every once in a while while flipping around the radio, without me actually paying close attention to the lyrics.  And sometimes, I will actually listen closely to the lyrics of a song like this for the first time, and I’ll have a sudden realization and find some meaning in the song that I had never found before.

Like this one.

Running On Empty was first released in 1977.  I don’t remember 1977.  I wasn’t old enough to eat solid food or wipe my own butt in 1977.  I probably was in high school listening to classic rock radio in the car when I first heard this song.  Or possibly it might have been while watching Forrest Gump, during the montage in which Forrest is running across the country; that movie was released a few months after I graduated from high school.  But I think I already knew of the song’s existence by then.

And I did have some idea what the song was about.  Life on the road.  Constantly moving from one place to another with no clear destination.  And that is a feeling I know well.  Sometimes I don’t know where my life is going.  Sometimes I feel like my direction and goals are unclear.  And I literally spent four months on the road in 2005 trying to find myself, not knowing the specifics of where I was going more than a week or so in advance at the most.

But then, a couple years ago, the song came on, and one part of the lyrics really stuck out to me, at the end of the third verse:

I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…

I see them running too.  Everyone around me has their own struggle to find their destination and meaning in life.  It’s not just me.  I’m not alone.

Knowing that doesn’t always help me find my answers or my destination.  But it still helps to know that my struggles are not unique, and that there are others running on the same road I am.

Exit 210. A letter I’ll never send.

Dear ___,

It’s been a while.  582 days since I have seen you, and 220 days since I have had any sort of communication from you.  I have no idea what’s going on in your life.  I’ve been thinking about you again the last few days. I know why. It’s pretty obvious why, considering what day it is. I’m not proud of this fact.  I feel quite immature that I’ve been thinking about you today.  But my mind isn’t like that. I have been cursed with holding on to memories and thoughts long after their times have passed.  So why can’t I just move on?  It sure didn’t take you long to move on.

I still feel like I owe you an apology for unfriending you and cutting off all contact.  I never wanted it to be like this, and I’m sorry for that.  I don’t know if that was the best way to handle things, but it felt like something I had to do in order to have some chance of moving on someday.

To be honest, it almost felt like a blessing in disguise when you ditched all of us and found a new group to hang out with.  As much as I spent most of 2016 trying to stay on good terms with you after everything that happened, it was hard sometimes.  We used to be so close before then, and I was just watching you grow apart from me right in front of me.  I wasn’t getting much more from you than small talk.  You never shared your life with me like you had before.  You were always off flirting with whichever drunk guy was paying attention to you, while you were giggling and claiming to be shy and awkward.  And after you found your new friends, I only heard from you in texts once every four to six months, and those conversations always ended quickly and abruptly.  I just couldn’t stand to go through that.  You said that we couldn’t be together because it just wasn’t a good time for you to be in a relationship with anyone, but you sure had no problem running after other guys.  I kept getting my hopes up that we would be close again, and I eventually realized we wouldn’t.  I normally get annoyed with people who find new friends and disappear from my life, but in your case it probably needed to happen.

I don’t know what you’re doing today.  You’re probably out doing something fun with your new friends.  I don’t need to know.  You’re out there living the perfect happy life that I always thought I wanted, while I’m growing apart from some of my longtime social circles and finding new ways to be hurt and ignored by women.  And for as much as your bad decisions have hurt me in the past, this particular part of the struggle is entirely on me.  No one has promised me anything, and I have no right to actually find the happiness that I pursue. How your life turns out is no concern of mine. My long memory and my logical mind make forgiveness exceedingly difficult. Believe me. I have tried. I even wrote here about forgiving you, back when we were trying to be on good terms again.  What changed? Was I being dishonest? I don’t think so… but, as I said before, at the time I was hoping that we would be close again someday, and your actions in the time after that have shown that you aren’t interested in this.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if we were suddenly to cross paths again, face to face. Would I want to talk to you? Would I want to work things out and welcome you back in my life? Would I angrily tell you how much I am still hurt by the way you pretend to want to communicate and then leave me hanging?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what I would do. And maybe that’s why it is best that our paths not cross right now.

I’m not good at letting go and moving on.  I still sometimes carry around hurt from others before you.  I’m just going to have to learn to live with it, to accept that it happened and choose to focus on more positive things.  And hopefully as time goes on, it’ll hurt less and I won’t think about you as much.  So, in case you ever seen this, I’m sorry I’m not emotionally strong enough to keep you in my life, messaging me every six months to see how I’m doing.  But that’s okay.  You seem to be doing very well without me, and it’s probably just better this way.

Exit 209. The week that everything happened.

In my last post, I made reference to “The Week That Everything Happened.”  I have used this name at times to refer to a period of seven days in my life in which, as the words suggest, a lot of things happened, many of which were the kind of things that affected me for a long time.   I’ve never explained exactly when that was or what happened, though… so it’s story time, especially since the anniversary of The Week That Everything Happened is this coming week.  As usual, I won’t mention names, and if there is someone in these stories whom I have told about before, I will use the same pseudonym I’ve used for them before (“Mimosa,” for example).

The Week That Everything Happened was Friday, July 30, through Thursday, August 5, 2010.  Eight years ago.  In the time leading up to this week, I was living in the same house where I am now.  It was summer, and it was toward the end of summer break at the school where I worked at the time.  I had been doing a lot of swing dancing and blues dancing that summer.  At the time, I was carpooling to both dancing places with a girl who lived not too far from me, whom I will call “IC443”.  I’ve told previously (#12) about a party I had been to in Davis earlier in July 2010, hosted by some college-age friends.  Most of the people at this party were from the swing dancing student club at UC Davis (some of them I already knew from my usual dancing place), and for part of that summer my friend and I started crashing the UC Davis swing club, just because we wanted to dance.  But there was also a much younger girl from that group, Mimosa, who I had been talking to a lot, to the point that other people were starting to notice and wonder if something was going on between us.  I had plans coming up to go on a long bike ride with her.

Friday afternoon, July 30.  A friend had a picnic in the park birthday party.  One of her friends, “Y Sextantis,” left before I did.  A few minutes later, the birthday girl told me that Y Sextantis had texted her and told her to give me her number and tell me to call her.  That caught me completely off guard.  Y Sextantis is cute, but she didn’t seem like my type, and more importantly, I had plans with Mimosa the next day, so I didn’t respond to that.  However, Y Sextantis found me on Facebook a few weeks later, and we did end up spending a day together in September.  I’m still in Facebook and Instagram contact with Y Sextantis, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in person since then, and I’m still pretty sure she’s not my type.

Friday night.  I gave IC443 a ride to swing dancing.  On the way, I was talking about my plans with Mimosa the next day.  IC443 has a very different background on dating and relationships compared to me, as most people do, and I got a little frustrated with some of the things she was saying.  Something changed that night.  We never carpooled again, and she never really seemed as friendly toward me after that.  I don’t know if it was because of the way I acted while we were talking, or because she just happened to find new friends the following week who were younger and more attractive and more popular, or if she just does things on whims for no reason.  It could have been any of those.  I still tried to be friendly to her for a while, but never got much more than hello out of her.  At some point in the future, she stopped going dancing.  She came back once in 2015 and was friendly again, but we didn’t stay in touch.

Saturday morning, July 31.  My long bike ride with Mimosa.  I didn’t sleep much the night before.  I was nervous.  At one point later in the day, I kissed her… at several points, actually.  It was my first kiss in over three years.  Everything felt wonderful, and it didn’t seem to matter that I was 33 and she was 20.

Saturday afternoon and evening.  I dropped off Mimosa at her friend’s house after our bike ride date, as we had planned.  I went home and showered.  I was going to a wedding that evening of some friends from church, and they had asked me to bake something to serve at their reception.  After I was done baking, I attempted a quick nap, since I had only slept for about an hour and a half the night before and I had ridden my bike about 40 miles that morning.  There was dancing at the wedding reception.  One of my dance friends, “Gamma Comae,” also knew the couple getting married; she was there with her entire family.  That night was the first time I remember talking to her 16-year-old sister, “Sulafat,” although to this day Sulafat insists that she already knew me, or at least knew who I was, at that time.  A few years later, Sulafat (at that time 19) and I carpooled to a mutual friend’s game night, and in that half hour car ride we quickly went from acquaintances who say hi in passing occasionally to close friends, which we still are today.  But we first talked (and danced) at that wedding during The Week That Everything Happened.

Later Saturday night.  I was going to hang out with friends after the wedding, even though it was going to be pretty late by then.  Gamma Comae was friends with this group too, so both of us carpooled there (to the house of the same mutual friend from the game night a few years later in the above paragraph).  Mimosa and her friend with whom I dropped her off earlier were there too.  On the way home, at about 2am, Gamma Comae asked me how I was still functioning, since I had slept for less than two hours of the last 44 or so.  I guess I was just on a high because of the whole Mimosa situation.

Sunday, August 1.  I went to the fair with a friend.  The concert that night was Weird Al Yankovic, the most recent of two times I’ve seen him live.

Monday, August 2.  I was in Davis hanging out with Mimosa for most of the day.  We went to see Toy Story 3 in the afternoon.  Great movie.  Then we hung out at her house for a while.  That night we went to the swing dancing club at UC Davis, and after dancing came back to her house for a few hours of kissing.  I was really on a high at that point.

Tuesday, August 3.  In the morning, I made the Facebook song lyric quote that I wrote about in #208 last week.  That night, I went to the Sacramento River Cats game with some friends from church (that’s AAA baseball, one step below Major League).  I don’t remember much about the game (I looked it up, the River Cats lost, 7-5 to Las Vegas), but I do remember texting Mimosa during the game; she was packing to go out of town to visit her friend for a few days.  I’ve already told the rest of that story twice on here.  But there was another long-term consequence of the Mimosa incidents: a couple weeks later, we were still trying to be friendly, and she mentioned that she and her aforementioned friend knew someone who they wanted to set me up with.  At first I didn’t like their friend, but a few months later we seemed to click better… and that was Acrux, the horrible relationship that I was in for most of 2011, the one that became long distance because she decided she was going to move away without even discussing it with me, and then she didn’t make me a priority once she moved away.

Wednesday, August 4.  As far as I can remember, nothing special happened this day.

Thursday, August 5.  I went to a friend’s birthday dinner.  I talked a lot with one of her friends, “Aurora” (whom I mentioned in one of the other stories I linked to this one).  We got to be close over the next few months (and we actually figured out that we had met once before, through the same circle of friends, but neither of us realized it at the time), and the following January she told me that she liked me.  We hung out a lot for a couple months, but I just wasn’t feeling it, and I felt terrible having to tell her so.  I felt especially terrible because this was all during the same time that I was first getting to know Acrux, and I feel like I had to choose one over the other.  I didn’t go on an actual date with Acrux until I knew I really wasn’t into Aurora, but I still wonder if my judgment wasn’t clouded.  In hindsight, I don’t think either of them would have been right for me.  I did end up on good terms with Aurora, although I haven’t actually seen her in two years.

So what does it all mean that all of these things happened within a week of each other?  Probably nothing.  But all these little things together have made that week feel like a turning point in my life.  I guess there isn’t really a point to this story.  I like stories.  Have a good week, everyone.

Exit 208. I want to love somebody like you. Wait, no I don’t.

I have a complicated history with this song.

I pretty much didn’t know that the song existed until 2005, three years after its initial release.  I mostly ignored country music until the four-month period when I was wandering around the USA trying to find myself.  One day, I was driving from San Antonio to Austin flipping around on the radio, I got to a country station, and I decided to leave it on for a bit, because, hey, I’m in Texas, may as well immerse myself in the culture… and I realized that country music wasn’t all that bad.  A few weeks later, I was staying with a friend in Alabama, and she was so excited that I had started listening to country music that she copied a bunch of country albums to my laptop, including the one that this song is part of.

I quoted a line from this song on my personal Facebook page once (specifically, the opening line, “There’s a new wind blowing like I’ve never known”).  I remember exactly when it was: Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, during the time in my life I refer to as The Week That Everything Happened.  If you’re friends with my personal Facebook, you can go look that up; it’s there.  I remember exactly when it was, because I remember why I posted it.  It was the morning after my second date with Mimosa (as explained in #12).  From my naive perspective, it looked like new love was in the air, or at least on the way, and it was going to be a different experience from anything else in my past… which is basically what this song is about.  But it didn’t last; I found out a week later that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, and that all the kissing didn’t really mean anything to her.  This seems to be normal for most people these days, but having grown up sheltered and then among Josh Harris types, the idea that kissing doesn’t mean interest in a committed relationship was heartbreakingly new to me.  (We did end up on good terms years later, after some very complicated ups and downs, although we don’t really talk or message much these days because of natural causes.)

For a time in 2014 and 2015, I was running a Song of the Day page on Facebook.  Sometimes I would just post a random song that was on my mind, but sometimes the song would be something that had a deeper meaning to me.  I kept it in the back of my head to reserve Somebody Like You for a time when I had met someone special again.  SN1604 came along in May 2015; I’ve mentioned her a few times on this blog, but I don’t believe I’ve told the whole story.  We hit it off quickly, there were two dates and a lot of kissing, and then she decided that spark wasn’t there.  We stayed good friends for a few months, and during that time she told me that she had changed her mind and realized she liked me after all.  I didn’t act on that right away, though, because I still had questions in my mind, because I was comfortable just being good friends, and because this conversation happened right when I was starting the school year and had a lot of other things on my mind.  In October, we revisited those conversations and decided to give things another try.  And as I pulled away from dropping her off after the first date of our second stint, I turned on the radio… and Somebody Like You was playing.

I had already stopped doing my Song of the Day page by then, so I never posted Somebody Like You as the Song of the Day.  But hearing it at that moment felt like a sign, a sign that new love was on the horizon.  And just like when I quoted the song during The Week That Everything Happened, new love was not actually on the horizon at all.

In the next five weeks, SN1604 and I had one more date.  We also had five times when she either had to cancel on me or attempt to reschedule, and one time when she flat out stood me up, supposedly because she fell asleep.  The five times were all legitimate excuses, though, either related to work, family, or health, so this left me confused as to whether or not she actually wanted to be with me.  In a tearful phone conversation on November 10, 2015, she said that with all of the work, family, and health things, she just had too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone right now, and she cared too much about me to see me keep getting hurt.  That would have just ended there with a bit of sadness, and possibly staying on good terms, except that a month later she was with someone else.  Not exactly the actions of someone who just has too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone.

Last month (June 2018), I met someone.  It was great at first, but it became increasingly evident that she and I have very different ideas of how relationships should develop and grow, and very different concepts of “taking things slow.”  A few days ago, during a Facebook conversation attempting to make plans for later in the week, she ambushed me with a serious long term future type question that I just don’t feel qualified to answer about someone whom I’ve only known for 25 days.  I could have told her what she wanted to hear, but I panicked and gave an honest answer instead.  She said that I was wasting her time if I couldn’t answer that, and proceeded to make some really insulting, patronizing, and slightly disturbing remarks which I won’t go into detail about here.  The next morning, I tried to call her and explain my side a bit more calmly; she didn’t answer, I left a voice mail, and as I posting this, a little over four days later, I still have not heard anything from her.

After I made the phone call that she didn’t answer, I needed to eat my feelings, so I wandered down to a place in the neighborhood that has a lunch special on weekdays: all you can eat pizza, salad, breadsticks, and inferior but acceptable soft drinks for comparatively cheap.  I walk in… and Somebody Like You is playing.

Really?  Now?

I got so distracted thinking about my history with that song that I got tongue-tied trying to place my order (even though all I had to say was Lunch Buffet).  This was probably just a coincidence, but the song is 16 years old, not something that is going to be all over the radio at any given time.  The lyrics of the song are about new love, but in my life the song has been more about romantic encounters that went bad quickly.  It makes me wonder if this is a coincidence or God trying to tell me something, since I’ve felt in the past that songs I’ve heard at noteworthy times might have been messages from God.  My mom would probably say that it’s only natural for a Keith Urban song to be associated with bad dating experiences because Keith Urban looks like a child molester.  For that matter, what kind of name for a country singer is Keith Urban?  He should be named Keith Rural.  But I’m getting sidetracked.

About half an hour later, as I was reaching my stomach capacity for eating my feelings, this song came on.

The message here is a bit more obvious and unambiguous.  Time to stop drowning in sorrows.  This woman who can’t accept the fact that I can’t make long term decisions about someone I’ve only known for 25 days, she ain’t worth the whiskey.  Or in this case, she’s not worth the pizza.

I am currently conflicted between trying to contact her again and work this out or just letting her go and admitting to myself that she and I have very different views of how relationships work.  So far, my actions (or lack thereof) have been consistent with the second option, and the songs I heard in the pizza place seem to be pointing in that direction too.  But we’ll see.

Exit 207. I thought about the situation from many different angles.

I bought a new car last week.

I’ve mentioned it to a few people close to me, and some of those have actually seen it and ridden in it.  And, in fact, while I was waiting for the paperwork to be ready for me, I was thinking about how I would announce it on Facebook and Instagram, what I would say about it, how much I would divulge about the decision process… and I eventually made a bold decision.

I decided I wouldn’t announce it at all.

A few reasons.

(1) It is possible to live your life and not announce everything on social media.  That’s what we all did until about 2007.  Gender reveal parties, cute little professional photos asking someone to be your prom date or bridesmaid, selfies every thirteen seconds, none of that existed until very recently.  Shocking, I know.

(2) More importantly, it’s really not anyone’s business, especially not people who are going to criticize my decision.  I just didn’t feel like opening myself up to that kind of criticism.

I know some people who are fierce devotees of the kind of financial experts who make a living telling people how to get out of debt and save money.  Dave Ramsey in particular comes to mind, although I’m sure there are other financial experts who do this as well.  Before I continue, I should say that if you are reading this, and you are a follower of Mr. Ramsey or any other well-known financial expert, good for you.  I haven’t studied his works, so I might be mischaracterizing some of what I say here.  I’m sure he and others in his business give a lot of good advice, and if that works for you, if you are making progress toward getting out of debt and getting your finances in order, that’s great.

But I am not you.  Everyone’s situation is different, and while some things are just generally good advice, not everyone can, or should, or will follow all of the same principles exactly.  Some time ago, the church I was attending was hosting Financial Peace University, a Christian-based class on finances using curriculum developed by Dave Ramsey.  I remember someone was telling me how I should sign up, it’ll be really good for my future financial planning, there’s a lot I’ll learn, and it’s only $100.  My first thought was, thanks but no thanks, I’m doing okay financially right now.  And I certainly didn’t get where I am by blowing $100 to learn things that everyone learns about in math class… or at least they would if they didn’t waste so much time hating math class.

Now, that is an oversimplification, of course.  There are other subjects covered in the Financial Peace curriculum, and I’m sure I would have some things to learn.  But most of the people I knew who had taken this class were talking about paying off their credit card debt.  I have no credit card debt.  I don’t run up a balance big enough that I can’t pay it off when the next monthly bill comes.  I don’t have that mentality that if I have money in the bank, I have to spend it, or the mentality that I can keep sliding the card and not worry about it until later.  And that right there is already the most important step in getting one’s finances under control, the way I see it.

I have my reasons for buying a new car instead of buying a less expensive gently used car.  And I have my reasons for financing the majority of it rather than paying it off all at once, a big part of which included the fact that it was a holiday week and they were offering 0% financing.  I sat down and thought about the situation from many different angles before I made my decision.  And that, really, is how one should approach major decisions.  This is how learning and thinking works, rather than regurgitating something that an expert said that may be totally out of context for the particular decision at hand.

If you know me personally and have questions, thoughts, or comments, I might be willing to discuss this a little more specifically.

And again, for those of you who are applying Dave Ramsey’s principles to your own lives, like I said, good for you.  But please, use those to think about situations from multiple angles and make a decision, rather than just assuming that he’s right all the time.

Exit 206. The math did not accurately model my digestive system.

My brother has taken up a new hobby: food challenges.  He looks up restaurants that offer some sort of challenge, usually something along the lines of if you eat this ridiculous amount of food within a certain limited time, the meal is free and you get your picture on the wall (and sometimes something else like a free t-shirt).

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining him for one of these challenges, at Pizza Plus in Reno, Nevada.  Their challenge requires two people, and I live just about halfway between him and Reno, and I can eat a ton of pizza, so it worked out perfectly for him.  He drove up to my house late Friday night and slept here.  We left my house Saturday morning around 8:30 and got to Reno at 11, right when they opened.  The drive from Sacramento to Reno over Donner Pass (yes, as in those Donners) is beautiful, going through high mountain forests.  There is no snow this time of year to delay the drive, and most of the people making weekend trips up to the mountains left Friday afternoon to come home on Sunday, so we missed all the possible sources of traffic for this drive.  And the pizza was really good.  Pizza Plus has four locations in Reno and Sparks, and if I’m ever up that way looking for a place to eat again, I’d go back if I’m in the mood for pizza.  (And they’re not paying me to say this.)

The challenge was for two people to eat a 24-inch combination pizza in an hour.  In the days leading up to this trip, I was getting nervous, doubting my ability to eat that much pizza that quickly.  But then I did some math.  I know from experience that I can eat a 12-inch pizza and not feel completely full.  A 24-inch pizza is four times as much pizza as a 12-inch pizza (four times because it is twice as long and twice as wide).  So if my brother and I split it evenly, I would have to eat two 12-inch pizzas.  If I can eat one and not feel stuffed, surely I can eat two.

But the math did not accurately model my digestive system.  We did not complete the challenge.

We started out well.  When time was half up, we had eaten a little more than half the pizza.  We were pacing ourselves just fine.  But I definitely slowed down as time went on.  With five minutes left, we still had three slices remaining (out of 16).  We both knew that we weren’t going to be able to eat all of that in five minutes, so we just accepted defeat and took the leftovers home.  I think my problem is that I hit the wall quickly when it comes to eating.  I go from not full at all to completely stuffed relatively quickly with little warning.

I feel bad that we didn’t win; I thought for sure I could do this.  And I feel bad for letting my brother down, even though he told me not to worry about it.  But it was a good experience.  It was a good day trip to get away for a while, good scenery, good time talking about basketball and music in the car, and it was really good pizza.  And even though it was fun, I’m not so sure that food challenges are something I’m going to keep doing in the future.  And that’s okay.  It was an experience.

Exit 205. Here is what needs to happen.

This month, a ballot initiative to divide California into three states qualified to be on the November ballot.  One state (still called California) would include the Central Coast and Los Angeles; a new state of Northern California would include the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and everything to the north; and a new state of Southern California would include Fresno, Bakersfield, the southern Sierra Nevada, the rural area east of the Sierras, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego.

As I’ve said before (here, here, here) I have mixed feelings these days about my home state.  And on the surface, this three state plan doesn’t look like a very good idea.  Looking at voter trends and recent elections, we would be replacing one liberal state with two liberal states and a swing state that has been trending more liberal recently (with Southern California being the swing state).  It also seems like some of the regions that would be in the same state after this split have little in common.  This plan puts Salinas and Los Angeles in the same state, Fresno and San Diego in the same state, and San Francisco and Redding in the same state.

It should also be noted that any plan to create a new state would also have to be approved by the federal Congress.  Also, the Constitution says that no new state can be formed within the boundaries of an existing state without the approval of that state’s legislature, and some have questioned whether a ballot initiative approved by the voters counts as approval by the state legislature.  Ballot initiatives did not exist in 1787 when the Constitution was written, and this kind of thing has never happened before.  If I remember right, only two states have ever been created from territory already part of existing states: Maine, in the 1820s, whose statehood was part of an extensive compromise to kick the question of slavery down the road; and West Virginia, created during the very unique and extreme situation of the Civil War, by Union loyalists in the mountains after Virginia left the Union.

There has been a movement off and on dating to the 1940s to create a new State of Jefferson in far northern California; historically, the movement also included parts of rural southern Oregon, although the more recent Jefferson movements are much more active in California than in Oregon.  I would support a State of Jefferson, and if it happened I would seriously consider moving there.  The rural parts of far northern California have a very different culture than the rest of California, and the rest of California pretty much only wants them because they have water.  But this current plan is not Jefferson.  This current plan lumps Jefferson into the same state as the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Jefferson conservative voices will be drown out by liberals, just as they are now.

Here is what needs to happen: some kind of convention where delegates from all over the state sit down and spend a minimum of several days, probably more, hashing out very specific details of how to split the state. How many new states? What are the new boundaries? How would the water be divided up? Would any of the new states be entitled to any water stored in reservoirs in a different new state? Would any existing counties be split, or would county lines stay the same such that each county only ends up in one new state? Would any state parks need to be split? Would any of the new states owe each other money for any of the infrastructure that is or isn’t in their new state? Would there be a grace period under which residents of pre-split California will get in-state tuition at all of the public universities that existed in pre-split California, whether or not they end up in the same state after the split?  (I haven’t read the text of the proposed plan, so I don’t know how many of these details have been spelled out explicitly at this point.)

Before any plan goes to the voters, or to Congress, all of these details need to be worked out. And everyone needs to realize that no new state or subculture is going to get everything they want. It will take some give and take among all parties involved, just like the drafting of the United States Constitution did. This won’t be perfect, but if something like this does happen, it is the best way to end up with something that will be somewhat better than what we have now.

I don’t have a lot of faith that this will happen, though. The kind of people who are in power in California don’t want to do anything to give up that power.  And, let’s be honest, the different subcultures within California really don’t like or respect each other, so they aren’t likely to want to make any compromises or concessions.  The liberal populated areas of California kind of hold all the cards here.  If you were to tell someone from, say, San Francisco that there is a people group who are not represented in their government, and that their government oppresses them and steals their natural resources, the San Franciscan would most likely be on the side of increased autonomy for that people group.  But then when they find out that this people group is gun-carrying conservatives from Jefferson, all of a sudden the San Franciscan may say that they don’t deserve autonomy, because they need enlightened liberal San Franciscans to force them out of their backward ways.  The only substantial thing Jefferson really has is water, and since the dams and canals were built by California, Jefferson can’t really cut off Los Angeles from taking their water without starting a violent conflict.  I really don’t want it to come to that.

The big question for me, however, is do I vote for this three state plan?  It isn’t perfect, I don’t know that I’d even call it good, but is it better than the mess we have now?  I really don’t know.  It’s something I’ll be thinking about.  And I’ll have to at least skim the text of the proposal.

Exit 204. I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

I’m sitting on a train from Sacramento to San Jose right now with no idea what to write.

Someone I know just got on the train in Davis.  I would say that that was unexpected, but maybe it’s not.  Since June of 2017, I have made three round trips on Amtrak, and twice someone else I know ended up on the same train as me.  Maybe it’s just that I know a lot of people.

The Wi-Fi on the train is actually working today.

I made a list of goals for the summer, as I said I would do last week.  I haven’t made much progress on it, but that’s okay, because I have plenty of time.  I did make small dents in the total number of miles I want to run and bike before I go back to work,   I thought about doing one of my bigger goals (go to a Giants game) last week, but I backed out at the last minute on the grounds that I was better off taking some down time, starting my Teacher Summer with a week and a half of dead time, then going to visit my family (hence today’s train ride, which will be followed by a bus ride from San Jose to Salinas), then tackling my big adventures after that.  But after watching the game I didn’t go to from home, I wish I had gone, because the Giants came back from a two run deficit in the 9th inning to force extra innings and win in the 10th.

The aforementioned dead time was just the right balance of fun, relaxing, and productive.  And now I get four days with my parents, not having to worry about things like making dinner every night.

I left a pile of dirty dishes in the sink at home.  Probably not the best idea.  I hope I don’t come home to a big stinky mess.  I was going to put them in the dishwasher before I left, but there were still clean dishes in the dishwasher from yesterday.  And I literally didn’t have time to put the clean dishes away, because I had a train to catch.  Oh well.  It’s not the end of the world.

I’m now somewhere in the marshlands between Suisun and Martinez, and I still have no idea what to write about.  So I guess this is it.  This is your post for the week.  Have a great week, everyone.

Exit 203. I need to sit down and write out a list of goals.

It’s summer.  Well, not technically.  From the astronomical perspective, summer begins on June 21 at 10:07 UTC (which would be 3:07am here in my time zone in California).  But the school year is over for me, so it’s Teacher Summer.

Every year, around this time, friends ask me what my plans are for the summer.  Every year, I say something like just sit around and relax.  And every year, when school is ready to start again, I feel unaccomplished, like there was so much more I wanted to do before the school year starts.

At some point in the next few days, I need to sit down and write out a list of goals for the summer.  I don’t want to try to take on too much, but I also should include a few goals that are a little ambitious, or at least out of my comfort zone.  If I actually write these down or make some kind of formal statement that these are my goals, then I am more likely to actually accomplish them, or at least put more effort into attempting to do so.  I say this every year at the start of summer, and every year around New Year’s Day-ish, but then I rarely do.

I have before, and writing goals down has actually motivated me to do them in the past.  I was about to tell a story about a time when I made a goal for myself that was quite far out of my comfort zone, but I actually did it.  However, I then discovered that I’ve told this story before on here a long time ago, and alluded to it on multiple occasions.  For that matter, I’ve had several other posts like this where I say I need to make some goals… and then I don’t.

So, friends, start bugging me about this.  Remind me to come up with a list of goals.  I don’t know yet if I can promise that I’ll share them on here.  If I know you well, I may be willing to share them privately with you.  But the important thing is that this needs to get done.  So keep reminding me.