Exit 183. I learned something new.

I’ve been seeing an interesting news item that keeps coming up: Apparently, starting on January 1, gas stations in rural parts of Oregon are now allowed to offer self serve pumps.

If you don’t live in Oregon or New Jersey or haven’t spent a lot of time there, you may be wondering why this is news, or why this is even a thing.  Here’s why.  Until this week, it has been illegal to pump your own gasoline in Oregon.  (There is a similar law in New Jersey, which is why I mentioned it, but nothing else in this week’s post relates directly to New Jersey.)  Drivers in the other 48 states, which contain about 96 percent of the population of the United States, regularly use gas pumps without any major incidents or adverse effects.  But for some reason which I haven’t researched thoroughly, these two states decided that they would prefer to place the act of pumping gas in the hands of people who actually work for the gas stations.  (A quick Google search suggests that it was historically for safety reasons, since pumping gas involves working with hazardous flammable substances.)

At any rate, the Internet exploded with Oregonians complaining about the inconvenience and safety hazards of pumping their own gasoline, or  bragging about how they don’t know how to pump their own gas, and suggesting this is a job better left for trained professionals.  And the memes followed soon after this.  I can’t tell (Poe’s Law) if these are actual complaints by actual Oregonians afraid to pump their own gas or trolls mocking them.  Probably a mix of both.

There are two important points being missed here, the first of which is what the law actually says.  It says that gas stations IN RURAL COUNTIES have the OPTION of allowing self-service gasoline.  Most Oregonians do not live in the areas affected, by the definition of “rural.”  And any rural gas station can still offer the option of having an attendant pump gas.  This was the norm everywhere until the mid-20th century.  So why do self-service gas stations exist in the first place?  It costs less to not have to pay an attendant.  As automobile travel became more common, more people preferred paying less, even if it meant pumping their own gas, and full-service gas stations either went out of business or stopped offering that service, because so few people were willing to pay extra for it.  This is exactly how capitalism and the free market is supposed to work.  There is nothing stopping someone from opening a full-service gas station in one of the 48 states that allow self-service pumps, except for the fact that in most areas, they probably would not get enough customers to stay open.  It’s just like how there is nothing stopping someone from opening a video rental store or an ice block delivery service so people can keep their food cold.  They just would not get many customers in this era.

As for the second important point… story time.  The setting is a self-service gas station in Davis, California, in the fall of 1994.  I think it was the Chevron station on Anderson Road at the corner of West Covell Boulevard, across the street from Save Mart (which was Lucky at the time and was Albertson’s for a while in between).  I was 18, on my own for the first time.  A few weeks earlier, I had moved from my parents’ house into a dorm that doesn’t exist anymore on the UC Davis campus, and at the time, students who lived in undergraduate dorms were still allowed to park cars at the dorms (although it cost extra).  I needed to fill my tank for the first time, and when I got to the gas station, I realized I had no idea what to do.  I had been driving for two years, but I had never had to fill my own tank.  My family pretty much had all shared one car for much of the two years I had been driving.  On the few occasions when we needed two different cars for different family members to be in different places, we would borrow a car from either Grandma or Grandpa, who were retired and in their 70s at the time and still both had cars despite not using them all that often.  (Grandpa passed away in 2003, but Grandma is still alive at 97 and still has the same 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass, I think, although now on its last proverbial legs.  And I might be off by a couple years on the car model year.)

The point is that I was never made responsible for filling my own tank.  Someone else would always do it for me.  Besides not having a car that was entirely my own, I also grew up in a fairly sheltered family, where I was not often forced to learn and experience new things.  I don’t remember exactly what I did that afternoon in 1994; I think I parked, found a pay phone, and called home, panicky, asking what to do.  And through some combination of listening to Mom or Dad and reading instructions, I figured it out.  I filled my own gas tank.  No one died, there was no explosion.  Instead, although I may not have realized it, I felt accomplished.  I learned something new.  And that’s part of growing up: learning new life skills, so I don’t have to have someone do everything for me forever.

So maybe those people who live in areas affected by this new law should embrace the challenge instead of complaining about it.  They get to join the other 96% of the population and learn how to do something useful.  Trust me… you’ll feel good about yourself once you do.

Now that I’ve finished writing this week’s post early, I’m going to go run some errands, one of which will be getting gas.


Exit 182. Unfinished business.

Author Sue Grafton died last week.  Ms. Grafton is best known for writing the Kinsey Millhone books; those are the ones with the letters in the titles, A is for AlibiB is for Burglar, and all the way up to Y is for Yesterday which was just published in 2017.  Ms. Grafton was already in her 40s when she started the Kinsey Millhone series, after having written two other novels and working for many years as a screenplay writer.  She was 77 at the time of her passing.

I’ve written before about being a fan of this series, and how I came to discover these books.  I just read Y is for Yesterday a few months ago, and I just reread it this month.  Knowing that Z is for Zero (the tentative title) will never be published gives me a sense of unfinished business.  Ms. Grafton made it clear in numerous interviews that she never wanted to work with a ghost writer or have anyone else have control over her characters, and it would be wrong not to respect her wishes.  But at the same time, it feels kind of wrong to leave the series incomplete.

I’ve been thinking a lot about unfinished business in my own life.  Much of my lack of inner peace comes back to this in some way.  I never got to be a normal teenager with friends and parties and a silly puppy-love girlfriend.  I never got to marry my college sweetheart and start a family in my 20s and take my kids to Sunday school.  If I could go back and do high school and college again knowing what I know now about people and socializing and the world, I might not have ended up stuck in this limbo.  And some of the relationships and relationship-like experiences I’ve had might have worked out better if we had met at a different time or in a different place.

So how do I deal with this?  There is only so much I can do in the first place.  Things happen that don’t give closure; that’s just life.  People die with their life work unfinished.  People change and leave others behind for no apparent reason.  Everyone’s life is full of what-ifs, and dwelling on them only brings pain, so I need to learn to make a conscious effort not to dwell on these things.

Dealing with this might also mean unfollowing certain people on social media whose posts reflect the kind of supposedly perfect life that I’ll never have.  But it’s definitely going to have to mean being honest with myself, taking a long, hard look at my life, and figuring out two important things: what exactly it is that I really want, and how to work with what I have.  Just because I can never have what I once thought to be the perfect life or the perfect relationship doesn’t mean that there are no good options left for me.  But as I said, I need to figure out what those options are, and I need to figure out what it is that I want in the first place.

I just wish I didn’t sound so repetitive.  Much of this I’ve written before.  How long will it take me to make real changes?


Exit 181. The one time out of the year.

Last night, I was at Christmas Eve Mass at the Catholic church where I grew up.  I was thinking about how Christmas is the one time out of the year when I still attend Catholic Mass, despite having left Catholicism for evangelical Christianity at age 20, and I thought, that would be a good thing to write about this week.  But in looking at old posts about Christmas on this site, I realized I already addressed the topic two years ago (click here to read).  In that post, I focused primarily on how all the prayers and rituals of the Catholic Mass are so much more meaningful to me as an adult, now that I know more about the Bible and the history of Judaism and Christianity.

There is another question I did not answer… why do I still attend Catholic Mass on Christmas, instead of attending my own church or a church more like the ones I have attended as an adult?  Part of the reason is practical.  I am always visiting my family on Christmas, and my mom, grandma, and some combination of other relatives who are here or visiting always attend Mass on Christmas.  This year, we attended Mass on Christmas Eve because my mom does the Scripture readings at church, and that was the time that she was asked to read for.  Depending on when exactly I come to see my family, I am occasionally able to attend Christmas service at my own church as well.  This year, the church I’d been attending the last two years had an early Christmas service last Thursday, and I was going to go there as well, but I decided not to at the last minute for reasons that this isn’t the time to get into here.

I guess the other reason I haven’t stopped going to Mass on Christmas Day is because I haven’t felt a need to.  I’m worshiping Jesus and celebrating his birth with my family.  The fact that this particular group of worshipers has other views regarding transubstantiation, for example, really isn’t that big of a deal to me.

I’m going to keep this short this week and emerge from my old bedroom to see what the family is doing.  (We already opened presents last night.)  Merry Christmas to all of you.

Exit 180. 180.

I’m going to keep it short this week.

I’m currently rereading the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, for at least the fifth time.  Yes, I loved it that much, which is why I have ambiguous feelings about the upcoming movie adaptation.

I’m excited, because one of my favorite books is being made into a movie.  I’m apprehensive, because there will inevitably be changes mare from the book to the movie. The book had so many little details, and surely many of them won’t make it into the movie.  I hope the changes don’t ruin the movie for me.

I’ve written in here before (once, twice) about my favorite quote from the book, and today I got to that part again in my rereading: “Like any classic video game, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level. A new level often required an entirely new strategy.”  As I said in those previous posts, I can understand what Wade is going through here.  In order to accomplish his goal and take down IOI’s corporate bigwigs, he needs a radically different strategy.  And as my life has changed over time, I need a radically different strategy too.  I’ve had a hard time figuring this out, partially because I’ve had a hard time letting go of some things.

I’m not going to rehash what I’ve written about before; I’m just going to say that the timing of this is interesting.  A new year is coming up in a few weeks, and new years are often seen as times of change and renewal, a good time to try a new strategy for life.  And this is post number 180 on this blog.  The number 180 (as in 180 degrees of rotation) has entered English slang to mean a complete turnaround.  And that’s what I need.  I need to go in a different direction, at least in some parts of life.  Maybe not a complete 180, but definitely not the way I’ve been going.

What that means, however, is still in question.  And to find that, I’m going to need a lot of quiet reflection and prayer.  And a willingness to try new things.

Exit 179. Poor, naive me. I’m a n00b.

As I’ve mentioned before (once, twice), I have a complicated history with Pokémon Go.  The TL;DR version is that I didn’t grow up with Pokémon , and I didn’t get into Pokémon Go when the game was first released in mid-2016, but last summer I started playing while hanging out with a friend who was playing, and I was pretty much instantly hooked.

Last weekend, a different friend invited me to hang out and find some raid battles.  We drove around downtown Sacramento looking to see where the raid bosses were, while checking a Pokémon group on Discord to see who else was out raiding.  (For my un-Pokémonned readers: a raid battle is where multiple players gather in the same real-life location to battle a powerful Pokémon, and after the battle each player gets a chance to catch a Pokémon of the species they just battled.)  I haven’t done a lot of raid battles, since I’m usually playing alone.  I’ve won three raid battles of fairly low strength raid bosses alone, and each time I was able to catch the guy after the battle.  But I hadn’t gotten together before with other players to take down a powerful boss, like my friend and I were planning on doing.

Eventually, someone on Discord said that there were six “accounts” waiting at a certain nearby location, and that they wanted at least nine to go into battle.  Poor, naive me.  I’m a n00b.  By six “accounts,” I assumed that this meant that there were six people, each signed in to their Pokémon Go account from their phone, ready to battle this raid boss.  I was wrong.

When we got there, there was one guy sitting at a table with four phones and tablets in front of him.  He was playing four games of Pokémon Go simultaneously.  (I think the rest of the people in the battle were only playing one each.)  When the battle started, I asked him if I should be trying to dodge the raid boss’ attacks, as I would do with a regular non-raid battle.  He said sure, if I can, but he couldn’t dodge the attacks since he was frantically tapping on four devices simultaneously with different fingers and hands.

We lost the first time, but we tried again and won, and I caught the boss.  After that, all of us decided to look for another raid battle.  Instead of walking around like the game designers intended, the guy who had the four accounts went to this other third-party site (i.e., not part of the actual Pokémon Go game) and pulled up a map of all the raid battles currently happening.  As he was trying to explain to us what this site is, one of the other players who came to this raid battle started telling about this other third-party site where you can figure out exactly how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics and how to tell if the one you caught is the most powerful possible.  I couldn’t really hear what was going on.

We found a second raid battle about a mile away… interestingly enough, it was in the middle of a cemetery.  We won, nothing special happened there.  Then, as we got to the bonus round where we try to catch the raid boss, someone bumped into me from behind and made me drop one of my Poké Balls.  The guy who was talking about how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics started going on and on about that again, repeating everything he had said before about three or four more times, and with all the noise, I couldn’t time my throws properly.  I didn’t catch it, and I was probably a bit more visibly annoyed than I needed to be.

This is the kind of situation that makes me feel like I can’t call myself a gamer anymore.  In my childhood and teen years, video games were simple little distractions.  I could get home from school and spend about half an hour playing Super Mario Bros. or Tetris, then put it aside and move on with my life, still leaving me plenty of time to eat dinner, do homework, and watch The Simpsons or Full House or Home Improvement or Roseanne or whatever show my family was watching that night of the week.  That isn’t true with modern video games.  In order to be a true gamer today, it seems that one would have to immerse their entire life in the world of the game, spending hours each day on their quests and battles and, often, paying a subscription fee or paying extra for features not available to all players (in my Pokémon example, that would be the four tablets that the one guy had, in addition to the various optional in-game purchases that can be made).  Back in the day, I didn’t have to use some third party service to tell me the statistics of every Koopa Troopa that Mario stomped on, and I didn’t have to play four games of Tetris simultaneously in order to increase my chance of getting a long straight block.  And I just don’t have the time required to immerse myself in modern video games.  I have a demanding career, and I value other aspects of the real world too much as well.

People like the Pokémon players I met take the fun out of video games for me.  It is really unfortunate.  I know that not all games are like that and not all players are like that.  And I guess I just have to find ways to make video games fun and enjoyable for me.  That’s probably why I still like a lot of retro video games.

Exit 178. So why don’t we get it?

I took a week off.  Sorry.

A few days ago, I was with some friends trying to get into the Christmas spirit.  We watched all three of the Santa Clause movies.  I had only seen the first one, and it had been many years.  The main character, Scott (played by Tim Allen), does not always see eye-to-eye with his ex-wife and her new husband, and their conflict is starting to affect their son, Charlie.  Santa Claus dies on Scott’s property, accidentally falling off the roof.  Because of a clause in a contract (get it, it’s a play on words; the name Santa Claus is not actually spelled with an E), Scott has to become the new Santa Claus.  The following winter, when Scott’s appearance begins to change into that of a fat old man, the stepfather becomes convinced that he is suffering from some massive delusion of being Santa Claus and gets his custody taken away.  But this is a family-oriented Disney movie, so there is a happy ending, of course.

Two more movies with these characters were made some time later.  The second movie focuses on the search for a Mrs. Claus and Charlie being put on the Naughty List for being a rebellious teenager.  But it was the third movie that really got me thinking.  Scott has now been Santa for twelve years, and he and Mrs. Claus are expecting a baby.  Jack Frost, tired of being forgotten among the other holidays, tricks Scott into magically going back in time and not putting on the Santa suit the night that Santa fell off the roof.  Jack puts on the Santa suit instead, and Scott returns to a world very different from the one he left.

Early in the movie, when Jack Frost first mentioned the existence of a way to turn back time so that Scott never became Santa Claus, I turned to my friends and said, “Which movie came first, this one or Shrek Forever After?  Because they basically have the same plot.”  (For the record, Santa Clause 3 did.)  Scott finds out that in this alternate timeline, Jack Frost has turned the formerly secret Santa’s workshop into a very public amusement park, where tourists bring their children every Christmas.  The elves are now bored and cynical employees, the reindeer are attractions in a petting zoo, and parents are reminded to spend more money to show their blatantly ungrateful children that they supposedly love them.  Upon seeing the portrayal of this horrible alternate timeline, I said, “I want to add to what I said earlier.  Both Santa Clause 3 and Shrek 4 are basically the same plot as Back To The Future Part II.”

But alternate timelines where a greedy and selfish person becomes powerful and turns something wonderful into something ugly didn’t start when Biff Tannen stole the DeLorean.  Forty-two years before Back To The Future Part II, something similar happened in It’s A Wonderful Life, when George Bailey sees an alternate Bedford Falls in a world where he had never been born.  And, without the alternate universe aspect, stories of greedy and selfish individuals making the world a miserable place have probably been around as long as storytelling itself.

So why don’t we get it?  Why are there so many greedy and selfish people if there are so many stories like this out there?  And for that matter, why are so many wealthy people in the film industry making movies that show the dangers of greed while acting greedy and selfish themselves in their personal lives?

For one thing, usually greedy people are making others’ lives miserable, not their own.  The greedy villains in these movies always have their empires toppled in the end, but real-life selfish people probably just don’t think it will happen to them.  And all of this really comes down to the fact that human beings are broken and fallen and just generally capable of all sorts of destructive behavior.

I’ve been there before.  There were Christmases in my childhood when I threw a tantrum over the one gift I didn’t get.  I’m not proud of those moments.  I still have times as an adult when I lack gratitude.  I have so much that so many in the world would love to have, but the mention of the one thing I don’t have makes me just as pissy as the bratty children at Jack Frost’s North Pole.

I can’t change the world by myself.  I cannot singlehandedly fight all the influences that feed people’s greed and selfishness.  The burden is too great to bear.

But I can do my best.  And I can change myself.  And both of those are better than doing nothing.

Exit 177. What am I going to do with the rest of the afternoon?

When I got home from church this morning, one of the first things that ran through my mind was, What am I going to do with the rest of the afternoon?

A number of options went through my mind.  I had about an hour and a half of grading papers that I brought home.  That had to get done at some point.  But that left much of the afternoon and evening still unaccounted for.  So I started thinking.  I have a project I’m working on in the yard little by little.  I could work on that.  Or I could go for a long walk and play Pokémon.  Or I could go take my bike to get fixed, again.  I need to find a new bike shop, again.  Every single bike shop at my end of town either doesn’t exist anymore or has screwed me over in some way.  The most recent one I’ve been to twice for major repairs, and both times, something went wrong again a few rides later.  But that’s another story, and the bike is at least still rideable.  I haven’t been riding much, though, because either I’ve been busy or it’s been raining.

But I digress.

I decided to do exactly none of these (except for grading, since that had to be done).  I’ve been stressed and busy a lot lately, I have things on my mind that I need to process, and I need a day to myself to relax.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  And it has been a wonderful afternoon and evening.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers, or to anyone else who wishes to take time to be thankful and celebrate family and friends.

Exit 176. Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream.

I was always that kid who liked to build things out of common household items accessible to a kid.  Growing up, my room was always full of simple pinball machines made of cardboard, duct tape, and marbles.

As an adult, I still occasionally take on do-it-yourself projects that remind me a lot of the kind of things I would build as a kid, the kind of projects that I imagine someone like MacGyver would take on.  A while back, I used two long sticks and a tape measure to unclog the dryer vent.  When I posted a picture on Facebook of the huge pile of damp lint that had been clogging the vent, I said that I would like to thank Angus MacGyver for teaching my preteen self that there is always a solution using common household objects.

Which brings me to last week.  One of my current projects requires large amounts of scrap cardboard.  I thought of the perfect place to acquire this cardboard: Costco.  For those of you who do not have Costco in your area, this is a bulk wholesale store that sells large quantities of groceries and other common items.  Many of them are sitting on wooden pallets, with sheets of cardboard separating boxes that are stacked on top of each other.  So I walked around the store, grabbing as many of the sheets of cardboard that I could without making a huge mess of the stacked items.  I even checked with an employee if it was okay, and he said sure, we usually just throw them away anyway.  That’s what I assumed.

A few people asked me what the cardboard was for, and I just told them it was for a project I was working on.  I thought about what I was going to say if anyone asked me what the project was.  I didn’t want to be one of those snobs who gets all uppity when a stranger tries to make conversation, telling the other person that they have no right to talk to me.  But explaining exactly what I was doing didn’t feel right.  At one point, I considered telling the truth: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling really anxious and self-conscious right now, because whenever I do a project like this, people always respond by telling me it’s stupid and it’s not going to work.”

For example, a few years ago, I got another clever idea, this time an electronics-computer-type MacGyver project.  I was telling some people about my idea, and one guy just sneered and told me why my idea was dumb.  Now this guy is just an asshole all around, and not just because of this.  We still cross paths occasionally, and I try not to say more than hi to him.  But it still hurt.  And I never did finish this project.

So… back to Costco.  No one asked me what the project was.  Four people asked me on what aisle they could find things; apparently they assumed that someone pushing a cart full of scraps of cardboard around the store must be an employee.  I hadn’t even foreseen that happening.  Apparently they didn’t see my case of toilet paper, bucket of laundry detergent, or four pound bag of chocolate chips in the bucket under all the cardboard.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I checked again to make sure it was okay for me to take the cardboard.  I said I wasn’t using it to hide anything I might be trying to steal.  And while attempting to make small talk with the cashier, I told her what the cardboard was for.

And she promptly told me why my idea might not work.


You’re not helping.  Just shut up.  Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream or something.  But leave me alone.  I don’t need your advice.

Meanwhile, nothing about that experience has helped the way I feel about this.  Notice that I haven’t even explained here what the cardboard is for… and I’m not going to.  I guess I’m just better off keeping my bright ideas to myself.  Maybe that’s ok.

And it remains to be seen whether or not my idea will work.

Exit 175. It’s not too late for a comeback.

I have a lot of my mind right now.  None of it is ready to be a full post on here.  And now I’ve forgotten what I was actually going to write about.

Oh yeah… Two big things happened in my world this week: the end of the Major League Baseball World Series, and Halloween.  My team wasn’t in it, but if you know me, and you know how baseball works, you can figure out who I was going for.  The series went the maximum possible number of games, seven (for my unbaseballed readers, the champion is the first team to win four games, therefore the maximum length is seven games).  After around game 3, I predicted it would probably go seven games, because these two teams were so good, and so many of their games had been close, going back and forth.

I tried to keep my mouth shut.  I have very strong feelings against one of the teams that was involved this year, but I know people who like that team, and even though sometimes I want to feel differently, my rational thinking side still believes that supporting different teams is not in and of itself a good reason to lose friends.  At times during this series, I really tried hard to stay calm and keep quiet and not say anything.  I had the game on while I was handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.  The game was visible from the front door, and a few people asked me how the game was going.  I had some choice words for the dad waiting at the sidewalk wearing the jersey of the team I wanted to lose, but I was good and kept them to myself.

One important reminder to take away from this Series is that there is always hope, no matter how gloomy and pointless things can seem.  Many of these games featured one team taking an early lead, only to have the other team come roaring back later.  I often feel like life has me beaten down… but as long as I’m still breathing, it’s not too late for a comeback.  Play ball.

Exit 174. I enjoy traveling by train.

My twenty-five-mile commute to work runs parallel to a railroad track, used both by freight trans and an Amtrak route (for my readers outside the USA, that means a passenger train) that runs twice per day in each direction.  A few miles down the highway, I cross the track, and sometimes, if the timing works out just right, I can see the Amtrak train, and I end up following it for about another 15 miles until my exit.  Then, shortly after my exit, I cross under the railroad track again, and if the timing is still just right, I see the train one last time above me.  Last Thursday, I saw the train following me along my drive, but by the time I got to the underpass, I had gotten stuck waiting at a stop sign, and the train had already passed.

I am discovering more and more that I enjoy traveling by train.  I’ve often used BART, the regional electric commuter trains in and around San Francisco and Oakland, to get to Giants games or other occasional events in San Francisco for which I don’t want to deal with traffic or finding an overpriced place to park.  I went to a concert in the city a few weeks ago, and I took BART and then connected to a local bus, and I didn’t even miss the bus or get on the wrong bus or anything like that.  Me 1, San Francisco 0.  The local light rail in Sacramento is my usual method of transportation to get to Kings games when I don’t have to pick up someone who doesn’t have a way to get to games or won’t use public transportation.  I have also used light rail and buses many times to get home from long one-way bike rides.  And in June, I rode Amtrak for the first time, going to visit my family.

I think I would use public transportation more often, except that it usually does not go where I’m going when I need to be there.  When I say this to many people, they proceed to criticize the public transportation system in this region compared to others, or public transportation in the USA compared to other countries.  But this is not the issue.  The issue is that my commute is not along a common commuting corridor.  It is theoretically possible for me to get to work using three buses, run by three different agencies that do not issue transfers, with inconvenient layovers in between.  I could also just do the long bus route, getting to and from the stops by bike instead of two other buses.  However, that would still be about three and a half miles on my bike each way, which I do not like to do in work clothes or without being able to shower afterward, especially on hot days.  (I am thinking, however, that it might be useful to try this, just to see how it works.  I could be sure to arrive early enough to clean up a little and/or change clothes before the students arrive.  Even if this does not become my daily commute, this may come in handy in a pinch if I am ever without a car for any reason.)  As for using public transportation for trips that are not work, my social life usually involves doing things late at night, leaving me with no way to get home on public transportation.  Either that, or I am rushing from one place to another and do not have time to wait for a bus or train.

I’ve already reserved my ticket on Amtrak to visit my family for Christmas.  It’s longer and more expensive than driving, but to me, not unreasonably so.  And I’ve come to realize that maybe I don’t like driving as much as I thought I did, or as much as I used to.  As a roadgeek, driving is fun.  But sometimes it’s also fun to just sit back and stare out the window at the scenery going by.  And I’m definitely looking forward to doing that on the way home for Christmas.  It’ll be dark on the way back; the city where my parents live only gets one train per day in each direction, and the one taking me home leaves around 6:30pm, long after sunset in December.  But I’ll be bringing my Christmas presents home, so I’ll probably have some new movies to watch on my laptop for when it’s too dark to see outside.