After Life

(Note: This is the last one of these I’m going to write for a while. Not because they’re particularly depressing for me, but they can be a bit of a downer for others. Still, I’ve had a couple of people ask about “what happens next”, so without further ado, here’s what happens next.)

(Also note: this isn’t about the spiritual afterlife — the one that happens to your spirit when it leaves the body, if that is your belief. This is about what happens to others who are still in this life, when that happens, in a practical tactics sort of way.)

I once had a break of a whole week between two jobs — a real break, I had left company A and was moving to company B. In preparation for that I started a checklist of all the things I was going to do during that week — various house stuff, crafting projects, probably catching up on filing, reorganizing the pantry — and it grew. The checklist started about four weeks before the break, and about one week before the break, it was complete.

I had done all the things on the checklist.

It has taken me years to allow things to sit on a list for their appointed time, because my instinct is to do the thing if it can be done. This has historically resulted in manic cleaning fits, late-night papers, insomniac email, and associated unhealthy behaviors; I’m working on it. Still, I typically craft my resolutions for the New Year around Thanksgiving and start addressing them around mid-December.

I’ve had a will, and the standard, boilerplate living will/healthcare directive since I had my son. I felt like I had done all that needed to be done, things were addressed, and so if something were to happen to me, the “work” left to my estate would be trivial. My mom also had a will, a healthcare directive and healthcare power of attorney (that specifically named me). It took seven months from the time of her passing to the last bit of paperwork/administrative work to be complete.

(NOTE: I AM NOT A LEGAL PROFESSIONAL AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO TALK TO ONE). In the interest of preventing others from going through this same hassle (inasmuch as it can be avoided), I’m going to share some specific experiences and some guidance for you as you think about your own paperwork or guide a family member through theirs.

When my mom got put on hospice, the hospice team suggested reaching out to make pre-arrangements with a funeral home. We did do that, a local place that was hugely sympathetic and understanding (I had to do it virtually thanks to the viral outbreak), and walked me through the process. They had a lot of questions that were not answered in mom’s documents: did she want an obituary? Did she want a full or partial viewing? What kind of container did she want her remains in? Did she want them interred in a cemetery or to come home? And so forth. Learning: go talk to the local funeral home/investigate their site and look at their intake forms. It will give you an idea of the questions you should either have answered in your will or separate letter to whomever you want taking care of that.

When it happened, the home walked us through the initial administrative process, and we notified mom’s lawyer that she had passed. Both the home and the lawyer walked us through next steps, which included such things as “let us know” (the home) “how many death certificates you need”, and “get me a death certificate and the most recent bank and title statements of the joint properties listed in the community property agreement” (a thing my parents had in addition to their will, that was supposed to streamline the process and avoid a lengthy probate). Learning: each financial or legal institution you will deal with will want a *certified* death certificate. So each life insurance, bank, etc. Start with five if you can, or if things are super-tight, start with the one and then ask each office to send it back. (In Washington State, death certificates are about $20 each, and your funeral home can get them for you as part of their service).

About a month or so in to going through mom’s papers, we discovered not one but two ancient life insurance policies – one opened up as a “savings account” for her by her father when she was born (the kind you pay each year and then cash out at 21, except she didn’t) and one she opened when she was still married to my dad, her first husband.

The savings account one wanted not only a death certificate but receipts from the process, and when they made a copy error (I am not making this up) and copied the receipts over the death certificate they held up progress for FOUR MONTHS while they sent me form letters saying they hadn’t heard from me. (I’d call and they’d tell me the form letter wasn’t as specific as it could be and that they wanted a new death certificate. When I pointed out they already had one and that their copy error shouldn’t be my problem, they agreed and said they’d handle it. The next month I’d get another form letter saying they hadn’t heard from me. Repeat.) Learning: the Insurance companies aren’t just going to let you file a claim and receive the paperwork and have it be all fine, be prepared to spend some phone time and (in my case) know who the OIC (Office of the Insurance Commissioner) is in your state, the state the life insurance contract was opened in, and the state the insurance company operates in. (In my case, I ended up opening a complaint in California, Pennsylvania, and with the BBB).

For the one opened in her first marriage, the insurance company did NOT care that there was a will, that my mom had divorced my dad, and that my mom had remarried. The beneficiary in this policy was my dad, and so to my dad the payment would go. (Dad mailed the payment to my StepDad because my dads are cool). Learning: Check your beneficiaries, especially if you have had a life change. Those can override any sentiments in your will.

Additionally, with Life Insurance, the appreciation you get on it (e.g., if the policy matured N years ago and therefore has been collecting X interest since then) is taxable. Learning: Talk to an accountant/estate planner about how that works and/or talk to yours if you are on the receiving end about the tax implications so you’re ready. (Also, not every insurance company withholds anything from this payment. I have a letter from the “savings” insurance company saying they did. The actual check stub and accounting does not show this. I’m not saying that insurance company sucks, but I won’t be voluntarily doing business with an insurance company whose name rhymes with Detrimental).

(Incidentally, the local banks and mortgage company, the department of licensing and the social security office all went easy as pie.)

Dollars and cents aside, there’s then the physical artifacts: what do you want to become of your stuff? I’m not talking about the stuff you name-check in your will — the family opal ring or the signed print or such — I’m talking about your *stuff*. Your clothes, shoes, etc. mainly. In my mom’s case, she had a lot of nice, barely worn things from a stretch of cruising. The nice things got donated to a local women’s shelter, as did unopened extras of toiletries and such. There were also some not-nice things, and those went into the trash. (I don’t think my mom ever considered it but I think she would have agreed with a women’s shelter and would’ve disagreed on the “not nice” label). Learning: if you have a preference, spell out where you want your stuff to go. If you don’t, spell out that it’s up to the person executing the estate.

It probably comes as no surprise that I processed this grief the way I process most everything — there was an Excel spreadsheet, a detailed One Note; there was lots of productive activity, there was lots of avoidance of the icky, emotional deluge (which didn’t turn out to be much because, as I sorted out with my therapist, I’d been grieving since she got admitted to the hospital)– but I hope that the learnings from this will help you and/or yours in how you approach your preparations, perhaps as a New Years’ resolution.

Giving Tuesday

It’s Giving Tuesday, and while this is but one of many opportunities to donate to the charities that have meaning for you, it’s the one that’s here right now, nestled between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

A couple of weeks ago I reached out to family and friends to find their favorite charities. It’s not that I don’t have an idea of where my money can go, it’s more that I usually see these folks during the course of the year across a banquet table with elaborate, biddable centerpieces and carefully-folded linen napkins and dubiously fresh rolls and frozen butter. If your thirties are spent at soccer matches and theater practice, your forties (at least mine) are spent at fundraiser breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; at auctions and pop-up shops and cookie drives and popcorn sales.

I don’t get to see my friends much these days, we’re all disinclined to collect a new health concern (being in our forties we save discussion for “what’s the latest part of my body to go south” until after dessert). There’s no dessert lately, because we’re all staying home; so there’s no emotional guest-speaker, no witty and quick-moving emcee, no carefully (or not) placed nametag over the ubiquitous scarf-of-the-season.

So I reached out to my friends and asked them about their local charities, the ones they like, the ones for which I should’ve got an email invite to a downtown hotel that would make me mentally calculate my parking options, except that there are no said events. I got replies, some expected, some not, and in case you’re looking for some places to give, I hereby give you the List. It is a working list, I’ll keep adding to it, but here’s the list, this Giving Tuesday.

If these aren’t for you, I encourage you to reach out and find the one(s) that are, and see what you can do; COVID has hit not only the predictable health, homeless, and food security spots, but also there are downstream education and childcare impacts, disenfranchisement, etc. You can also reach out to me if you’d like to add to the List.

Eat Your Frogs

“Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

The relative cholesterol of frogs notwithstanding* this has been my mantra for the past several days. As part of the seasonal reorganization of things here at my company, I have a new boss and new coworkers (sorta) and so there’s a bit of an administrative tax associated with that: the PowerPoint that describes your products. The weekly update email on how those products are doing. The monthly update PowerPoint on how those products are doing. The one-off PowerPoint to discuss the ProblemChild in your product, and the one-page Word docs to describe the individual projects of your Product. Then of course there’s the emails about each of these items.  It was a rough three weeks getting all of that in order, but now I think we’re there and it’s time to eat another frog.

America needs to eat a frog. Actually, your average American citizen needs to eat a *lot* of frogs, because it is Election season. Whatever their opinions are about the candidates for the Top Office are, and how much they do or do not like said candidates, that is (frankly) the least of the frogs Americans need to eat.

*All* of the 435 House of Representative seats are up for reelection this year. Thirty five of the 100 Senate seats are, too. One hundred and sixty three ballot measures are up in 35 states, and 72 citizen initiatives. In my home state we have some pretty big decisions to make, including the possibility of a carbon tax (the Economist covered it last week). There are initiatives about pot, about gun control, about taxes, and about minimum wage; I guarantee the average American has an opinion about some or all of those. I equally guarantee there are no simple choices.

Let’s take my home state: Washington. We have the aforementioned carbon emission tax on the ballot, which economists love but I guarantee you local businesses will not. Ditto the Minimum Wage initiative (actually economists are split on that one, depending on who you talk to regarding artificial price floors, etc.). Firearms make another appearance, this time around risk protection orders. Another initiative asks you to weigh privacy risks against proper compensation for home health care workers. There’s also not one, but two advisory votes (where we get to let the State House/Senate know how we feel about taxes they approved without subjecting them to vote). You may think we have a lot in our state but it turns out California and Alabama voters will have a much thicker pamphlet to read through.

All of these frogs to eat and yet, while the states are doing their best to saute them in butter and garlic (or is that braise them in red wine and tomato sauce?) our election year coverage seems largely devoted to the biggest frogs who, depending on the status of the Congress they are rewarded with, may be stuck in the mud anyway and unable to do much other than croak for the next two years.

Because of the howling cacophony over those “biggest frogs”, it’s rare you find an intelligent, balanced conversation over the little frogs (and possibly tadpoles) we need to consume. It’s almost like the sheer dread of that first big frog negates the fact that once we’re done chewing that one and swallowing it, we have to eat another fifteen, or twenty, or thirty frogs.  Unlike college, there isn’t going to be some sort of machismo pride on the line for chugging your frogs; there’s not going to be a team of your brothers and/or sisters cheering you on as you eat your frogs.  This is probably because they’ll be busy with their own frogs. Stopping to discuss the balance of flavors in the small frogs, or cooking method, seems ridiculous.

It is, however, the platefuls of small frogs that await us are what we’ll have to subsist on for the next two years (at least — remember Senate terms, for example, are six years), and they are not getting the attention they deserve. I’d argue the biggest frogs are over seasoned and will be cooked to a crisp, leaving little taste on the palette and not otherwise making any long-term impressions. It’s those carefully prepared, home-grown frogs we need to fill up on. On voting day,  you get to pick your frogs.

*50mg per 100g of frog meat, in case you were wondering, vs 88 for chicken. There may be a missed opportunity here.

The Illusion of Control

It’s a testament that my Cardiologist remembers my father when he asks me why I’ve come to see him and I reply by saying “this” and hand him my laptop with my Cholesterol charted over the last 9 years. The chart was full-on Excel, broken out into the different types (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, and my ratio on a 2nd series). I am not the only one in my family to chart a bunch of things in Excel and come armed to a doctor’s appointment with data. “Ah,” he said, “You’re discovering that your cholesterol is going up in spite of what you do to make it not.”

I had explained about the diet and the exercise, I had explained about seeing it go down back in 2010 and in 2012 when I undertook larger physical activities (namely the Ride to Conquer Cancer and the STP), and how with Ragnar (last year and this) there was no downturn. With a restrictive diet there was no downturn.

I was prepared for him to tell me it is genetic (it is, both of my parents and their families have related histories) and I was prepared for him to tell me that short of “drastic changes” I wasn’t going to be able to make my LDL go down without help. I’m not a drastic person so I didn’t want to ask what “drastic changes” were, although I should have just for comparison.

Naturally, I expected him to whip out the ol’ prescription pad and prescribe a statin.

Nope.

“With young healthy people,” he said, and I could have kissed him for the “young” part except I had already figured by the waiting room that I was a good 20 years younger than his usual patient, “I don’t like to put them on statins.”

There’s another reason he’s not putting me on a statin, and that is because I have osteoarthritis in my joints. I’m able to run because I have a fabulous physical therapist, orthodic inserts in my shoes, and I use Hokas. But statins tend to cause joint pain, and I already get joint pain if I’m not careful, so statins, for me, right now, are not the magic bullet. The plan is to take 3 additional supplements, for 3 months, and come back for another round of lipid panels. The 3 supplements? Vitamin D (5000 IU, rather than the 1000 I’m already taking), CoQ10, and Cholestene.

(Can we just take a second to have three cheers for a Cardiologist who is Director of Cardiology for the hospital chain and has been practicing some 30+ years, offering an initial alternative medicine approach? Usually you have to seek that out. )

So, here we go. We’ll give this a try and see if it works; I feel like I’m in good hands.

Next up: The Great Protein Shake Challenge!

 

200 Square Feet

200 Square Feet is the size of the room I, the male person, the boy child, and the bulimikitty have lived in these past 3 days. It represents one bedroom, one bathroom, one kitchenette, and one livingroom/kids’ room. It has not been harmonious joy. Surprisingly, not because of the humans.

Look, I’m a little difficult when it comes to large-scale change in my life, and I need a certain sense of order and organization to function; living in a hotel room with other people at any length while trying to have a “normal” day — functioning as mom, functioning as worker-bee, functioning as human — is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have a dishwasher again.

No, my issue is with the cat. The cat who meows loudly. Every 10 minutes. From 10pm to 6am. Don’t worry folks, she’s here all week. The last two nights have been a repetitive round of “MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!” followed by harsh, hasty whispers by the male person to “Stop That!”.  Each morning the alarm beckons at 5am and I freely admit, only one of those mornings did I actually get up to work out.

I’ve rediscovered the joys of cooking on an electric range (the old-fashioned sort), as well as having a Real Dishwasher. The past five weeks have consisted of doing dishes in our bathtub. It has caused me to start checking my left wrist again, as for ten years there was a Seiko there that had to be carefully removed before doing dishes by hand in the first, and second, apartments I had whilst wearing it. That was more than ten years ago.

Tomorrow is Halloween, what was once my favorite holiday; on that day I get to go “home” but it still won’t quite be home as I still won’t have things back where they belong. My study and library are full of boxes, the dining room table is in the livingroom. The boy will be at his father’s house, having an Epic Halloween! I’m sure, and we will receive our usual two new people who don’t realize that our street, as busy and uphill as it is, is not as fun or lucrative to Trick-or-Treat on as the one just two blocks up. It’s the same story for Halloween at this house, one I’ve lived in, on and off, for the better part of 26 years. The house is larger than 200 square feet, for which I am newly, appreciatively grateful.

Entropy

For a dyed-in-the-wool control freak, the absolute worst thing you can do to them is to introduce mass chaos into their environment for which there is no solution but time. Welcome to my kitchen remodel.

The notion of this remodel has been some time coming, and after much deliberation and fiscal jiggling we signed papers in July with a contracting company. A dear friend warned me that contractors never, ever, ever come in on time and on budget, and so far we are finding that pretty much true. While the budget creeps are of our own choosing (Let’s do this light over that light! This countertop over that countertop!) the time overruns are not. My cabinets are in Canada somewhere and there they will stay until December, so we’re going with an alternate vendor. The cabinets being stuck meant the countertop can’t get cut according to schedule. The drywall guy has come and gone but can’t finish until the cabinets are in, and the floor finish can’t be sped-up. And so we wait for cabinets.

Meanwhile, seven large boxes of kitchen gear, and two sets of curtains and assorted wall decor, are stacked in the small available space of the study. Another box, a kitchen aid, and stacks of cookbooks impede on the library. Pots, pans, glassware, an end table, a wine rack, and a stack of coats take up the spare space in the bedroom. Dishes are done in a large blue plastic tub in my son’s bathtub. My current kitchen is the male person’s workbench plus a fridge, in the garage.

After I got over my initial meltdown (yes, I had one, get over it) I tried to look at it for the charm. It’s kind of like camping but with electricity, right? I get to really test my recipe mettle. At least it’s not the dead of winter and the garage is a comfortable 60 degrees. The boys can play radio control cars on the unfinished floors. Above all, this chaos forces us to be more organized , more cognizant of where we put things and how we use them.

Yet the change keeps coming. In my head I had a due date of 11/4 — on that date, I had a kitchen again. I had a dining room. My study and library would be cleared and I could get to my sewing machine. Then came the news that after you get your floors finished you must wait 30 days before putting furniture on it.  And so now I’m hopeful that by my son’s birthday we have furniture in place.

Which is not to say that there hasn’t been a bit of change in other areas as well. A recent re-org at work, while ostensibly relatively minor, puts into question overall vision and goals which of course trickles down to those of us “unaffected”. As the holiday season approaches I am reminded as well of all of the dire warnings from friends who had worked in the Retail sector before. At Expedia, things are relatively slow business-wise in November and December, the time is used to plan for the new year. At Sur La Table, the push and craziness starts mid-September and I’ve heard it ends sometime around January.

Layer The Rest Of Life onto this and I’m looking forward to a potential power outage or some other unseen force that will allow us all to take a little break.

AFTER I have my kitchen back.

Please Stand By

Greetings from Chicago O’Hare, and my second time EVER being here not as a business traveler. Bonus points for the food court between K and G gates.

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and we left Seattle at midnight local time “last night”; ergo, we are running on about three hours’ sleep. The reality of flying to a non-major city (hello, Jacksonville) is you either spend your entire day, or your entire night, flying, because you’re going to be stopping over someplace that is not quite but almost entirely out of any reasonable travel path between your points A and B. In this case to maximize our time with family and fun, we are spending the entire night. It’s not completely awful.

If you think about it, one of the most common ways to placate the boredom, frustration, and general weariness associated with modern travel, is your electronic leash. It may be a laptop; it may be an iPhone or a Crackberry. It used to be a book, but books are losing this race. I am sitting at our gate and follow me around the room: teenager across from me on iPhone. His Dad on iPhone. Behind him, lady with full back and arm tattoos (thanks to her tank top) pulling her cell phone out of her bag. Business lady on an iPad. Businessman on a Blackberry. Other businessman eating, iPhone, iPhone while eating, iPad, something-not-quite-an-iPad but not a Kindle, either.

Our connectivity gives us the opportunity to not connect with others. Anyone stuck in an elevator with (shudder) other humans will note two things: 1. The propensity for an elevator full of strangers to be, in fact, an elevator full of strangers looking at their smartphones, and 2. That the people in the elevator, in the absence of interpersonal communication thread active as they entered the elevator, will space themselves out as far apart from each other as possible. (E.g., if there’s one person in the elevator they’re dead center or in the corner. If there are two, you have upper corner and rear opposite corner. Three are usually one in front middle, two in the rear corners. Four = all four corners. Five = all four corners plus one in middle. And so on.) If ever you’re bored and don’t mind messing with other people’s personal space (and yours), deliberately defy this mechanism.

Yours truly is on her laptop, as it is my electronic babysitter as we wait at the gate for a couple of hours. This is wholly unremarkable with the exception that I know, coming up, I will have a day without connectivity.

I tried, the other night, to trace back how long I’ve had some form of connectivity (to the internet, I suppose), and as best as I can figure that started when I moved back up to Washington and started working for Premera. I think we’re looking at Spring 2001. But the connectivity wasn’t all-encompassing, all-binding until I started working for Expedia, 3 years later. I’ve had a blog since 2005 (not this one), “smartphone” of some sort since 2006, a Twitter account since 2007.

Nine years at Expedia trained me to expect emails 24/7 (this is the boon to working for an international company and having international internal customers). Moving  to Sur La Table has meant a dearth of weekend email. After about 6pm on a Friday it slows to a halt, and doesn’t kick up again (apart from automatic job notifications) until Monday morning. Twice now I have sent myself a test email to my work account to verify that it’s still working.

My addiction to this connectivity is starting to get noticed, and, while normally the recipient of a shaking head or an arched eyebrow, has spawned a bet by Grog the Luddite (Grog works with me, sits in what is referred to the “Man Cave Annex”, and does not understand addiction to connectivity. For “fun”, Grog went to Montana to go do crazy physical acts – like carrying other grown men for ½ mile – in high heat). Grog has declared that for a full 24 hour period, I am not to have any connectivity. To test myself. Like an alcoholic preparing for a day without booze I’m already nervous and wondering what my coping mechanisms will be. It will help that the day selected is a day we’re at the Magic Kingdom all day, right? Well no, because then I don’t get to do my Foursquare check-ins. And what about using Yelp reviews to pick the better eating options? And what if something happens at work?

Because that’s the real crux: what if something happens at work, and they need me, and I’m not available? That’s bad enough. What if something happens at work, and they don’t need me – or discover I’m not needed? Ridiculous, yes, but when you love your job that’s the irrational fear that comes with it.

So Friday it is. From Thursday night whenever I hit the rack, to the following Saturday morning when I awake, I will be totally, and completely, offline. The phone will be on to receive calls, but all email accounts will be turned off, cellular data will be turned off, and my phone will just…be a phone. By way of publishing this now, I am that alcoholic putting in place an integrity check: I’ve SAID I’m going to do it, now I have to do it.

I honestly don’t know what my reaction will be. I wonder if I’ll be irritated by the lack of convenience – or if like a mosquito bite I ignore it long enough I simply forget it? I will be sure to blog all about it… on Saturday.

AGAIN with the Injury

Point of clarification: I have NOT entered into any major sporting event (yet) (I may or may not have been conned into doing Tough Mudder thanks to Ms. Krieant), I have done nothing out of the usual in workouts lately, and yet I’ve managed to muss up my hip flexor. This doesn’t take any particular talent, other than having a crap-tastic lower back, because (fun fact) the hip flexor runs from your lower back and wraps around the front, down into your inner thigh. F-ing with your hip flexor feels rather like having a pulled muscle right where the cut of your leg is, and I can tell you from personal experience it 1. doesn’t go away after a few days (we’re working on two weeks, here) and 2. it is really awful to get PT for it.

Mind you, my PT is for my lower back (hello, arthritis, so very wonderful to see you there too) but suddenly that felt fine and this other area started hurting. As I associate visiting the PT with a massive amount of whining, I added that in for good measure, and Dr. Dan arched an eyebrow (never, ever a good sign) and started asking questions. Since the 3 people you should never lie to are your doctor, your lawyer, and your self, I told the truth… and found myself lying back on the table and having him digging his hands into my pelvis.

I am not exaggerating.

Because your psoas (aka, hip flexor) is so buried and deep, the only way to get it to chill the *F* out is to dig in between your gut and your hip bone, quite deep, while extending and contracting the affected leg. This feels appallingly like having someone dig into your pelvis to clean out the inside of the bone, much like you take a spoon to the inside of pumpkin mash when making Jack-o-lanterns. It doesn’t SCREAMING hurt, but it is one of the least pleasant things I’ve let another human being do to me.

Today was my second session in PT for this (actually, for the lower back facets issue but apparently this gets grouped under that) and I can walk without limping but I’m still not allowed to run. This weekend I’m off to cub scout camp so we’ll see if a Hobbly Mom is okay.

Advil, take me away…

The Economics of (a Minor) Failure

First, let me point out I’m safe. I am sitting in Heathrow, for the 2nd time today, waiting to get on my flight. For the 2nd time today.

Twenty minutes into flight I realized we hadn’t gone above 10,000 feet. Another minute later all cabin crew were called to the cockpit — over the PA system — and this, if you pay attention at all, and you haven’t had anything to drink and/or have a deep-seated fear of flying you totally forgot about until just the moment you hear this, will make you quietly fret. Then if you pull up the travel map on-screen and discover for the last ten minutes you’ve flown in circles, well… you’re pretty not happy.

We couldn’t pressurize. They tried everything ground crew suggested, none of it worked; so they confessed (our Captain was extraordinarily calming), and flew over the water to dump fuel (fun fact: dangerous to land a fully fueled plane, because the wings are so full of fuel). We spent 20 minutes dumping fuel that vaporized as it exited from the wings, it was both spectacular and appalling (to those of you on the east side of the English channel you may have an odd taste in the air…). Imagine a fire hose strapped to the wing of a plane (on the underside) and then turn it all…the…way…on. For twenty minutes.

After that completed we went back inland and landed.

We were handed 10GBP vouchers. For information, this purchased one tomato-and-mozarella sandwich, one bottle of water, and one glass  of wine. The flight was full (no space), and so this got me thinking about the economics of this little enterprise.

We flew a 747-400, which has a fuel capacity of 57,285 gallons and a passenger load of roughly 416 people (1) (for 3-class version, which is what I was in) but British airways uses 345 for their figure. The plane consumes 5 gallons of fuel per mile (2), at 250 knots per hour and we were up for 45 minutes. The delta between maximum takeoff weight and maximum landing weight is 240,000 pounds, which for fuel means 6.8 pounds per gallon of jet fuel, and therefore 35,294 gallons of jet fuel we had to dump. Currently, jet fuel goes to about $3.30 US as of today (3).

Including flight crew time (time starts when the door closes, for 8 crew members and 2 pilots they probably ran $800, maybe $1000 fully-loaded). I’m not going to include the passenger opportunity cost (e.g., I could’ve done something else for the hour or so this ate up), and they’re going to stick me on another flight that I do not also have to pay for, so they don’t get “credit” for the income of the ticket against the first flight. The rest of this we’ll assume is a dead weight loss.

  • Cost of the meal vouchers for passengers: 10GBP x (345-154) passengers (first class passengers were invited to the lounge for private dinner)=1,910 GBP, at today’s exchange rate is 1.55 USD to GBP, so $2960.50.
  • Cost of fuel burnt (45 flight minutes, which is 3/4 of an hour, at blended speed of 250kph (would actually be a little less, let’s call it 225)is roughly 845 gallons of fuel burnt, at $3.30/gal is $2785 in lost fuel.
  • Cost of fuel expelled: assuming they planned on their burn, they still needed to dump 35,294-845 gallons, which is 35,450 gallons (roughly) at current price is $117,000 roughly.

Total cost: $122,750 (very roughly). This sounds huge to an individual (it is) but in terms of overall expense I’d think it were a rounding error in terms of the bank of overall flights leaving Heathrow for British Airways.

There are other things here that should be flagged but are hard to quantify: costs incurred by passengers beyond their 10GBP purchase (which would be a plus to Heathrow but not British Airways), and the aforementioned opportunity costs. There’s also the plus/minus on the experience in terms of word-of-mouth — interestingly most people were jovial getting off the plane. The general feeling was one of “hey, we’re alive, and they let us know what was going on”. It’s interesting to watch people purchase items they didn’t really want to take full advantage of their free 10 quid, by the way. They’d come to the register having purchased their beer and sandwich, ask for change, realize they won’t get it, and then ask what they could get for 1.5GBP or what have you. The apostrophe here in Heathrow is doing a fair trade in bananas and nuts.

A Did Not Equal B. I Don’t Know Y, Either

Someone very dear to me told me about a year ago that I kept succeeding and succeeding at things, and one day, I was going to fail at something, and it would be interesting to see how I took it. Sad to say, that time has come. I bombed my Calculus test. (Please do not read a Perfectionist’s “I got less than an A” into this). The fact of the matter is I went IN to the midterm with a 98.5% cumulative grade in my homework assignments and discussion groups. (Yes, you can have discussion groups in Calculus. Yes, they’re about as stimulating as you may think.)

I left the midterm with a 74% in the class.

You don’t have to have taken Calculus, or anything other than some very basic Algebra, to know that I bombed the midterm. Here’s the rub: math is cumulative. So how could I get all of the homework *right*, but the test so very, very wrong?

“Taking Calculus online is probably the hardest way to learn it”, my teacher had warned us. Still, I went in feeling confident, I left the test thinking I may have gotten two (2) problems incorrect, and so the grade was a shock to me.

I withdrew from the class.

The numbers are thus: I could have stayed IN the class (I’m taking another one), been a metric stressbunny, and possibly toiled enough to bring that grade up to a B –*if* I aced the next Midterm, *if* I aced the Final. Statistically speaking that would mean one thing would have to give in my life — and since I can’t give on motherhood and work pays the bills, school had to give. I’m still taking my other class (that one still have my A, thanks, the midterm isn’t until this Wednesday — I’ll be taking it from Rome) but, given current conditions, I can’t take a class where the context is not intuitive… or at least not right now.

Many friends recommended Khan Academy, which I will likely play with as I get a little more time; but quitting and/or failing at something (it amounts to the same thing) was a huge disappointment and I didn’t take it well. It got bad enough to where I was wondering if I was having a midlife crisis, then I realized at 39 I am in fact, mid-life, and things really got ugly for a couple of hours whilst I wallowed in self-pity and the belief that I wouldn’t amount to anything.

It’s been about five days since my reality check and I am feeling better — a lot of peripheral stress died down and I realized that I can still take classes and still toddle on to the goal — just perhaps a bit slower, and without the ability to phone it in.

I took it as a sine.