In which that was fun

I dunno if you’ve been following this GameStop thing or not.

I decided to start fucking around with the stock market a couple of weeks ago, partially out of boredom and partially because I actually do have a small amount of discretionary income right now and who knows it’s not impossible that I’ll live long enough to consider retirement. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not dumb enough to believe that dropping $25 a week into stocks is going to magically make me rich or anything, but getting my feet wet and gaining a basic understanding of how this shit works seemed like a good idea.

And … well. Then the GameStop thing happened. Well, is still happening, technically. I think. An explanation, if you haven’t been following this: Reddit discovered that a particular hedge fund held (don’t ask me how this is possible, it’s on the long list of things I don’t understand) more short sales in GameStop than there were actual shares available for the company. A short sale is when you borrow a stock at a certain price, sell them at that price, wait for the price to drop, then buy them and return the shares you bought to the entity you borrowed the shares you sold from. Since you bought them at a lower price than you sold them at, you make money. If this seems somewhat counterintuitive and also a little unethical to be making money off of some other company doing poorly, that means you understand the process correctly.

So Reddit started buying up shares of GameStop. Lots and lots of shares of GameStop. To the point where it was trading at like $4 a share earlier this year and earlier today was up to $500 a share. In the process they blew up that hedge fund, which apparently has gone bankrupt, so it’s good news for everyone.

I went ahead and got in for $100 when the stock was at around $270. This morning when I woke up and it was damn near $500, so if I’d sold instantly I’d have made about seventy bucks. (To be clear, other people have made millions in the last few days.)

I did not sell instantly, and by the time I got out of the shower this morning the app that nearly all of these folks have been using to buy up the stock had decided that they were not only not going to allow further buying of GameStop stock, they even disabled looking it up, making it impossible to do anything but sell. In the course of a ten-minute shower, the value of the stock plummeted nearly a hundred and fifty dollars a share. As of right now, according to the Stocks app on my computer, it’s down to $132.

There’s been lots of dark muttering lately about how what the Redditors did (and those of us who aren’t Redditors but heard about it) should be illegal, because … reasons, and I’m unclear as to what those are, since this is literally some folks on a message board who decided to act as a group. I have heard no dark muttering about how what Robinhood, the app in question, did ought to be illegal, and I feel like arbitrarily deciding it’s okay for them to cause small investors to lose money is okay while small investors causing big hedge funds to blow up is … well, sadly typical is probably how I think that feels, actually.

One way or another, I’ve closed everything out with that app. I ended up breaking about even on GameStop, selling at the wrong time to make money but the right time to avoid losing any, and ended up making maybe $15 over the course of those two weeks. I feel like– and this is no surprise– unless I want to make this a Big Hobby, I’m almost certainly better off putting more money into the withdrawals my job already takes and ignoring that money, because I was spending way too much time watching the rich folks feelings charts tick up and down over the last few weeks. I haven’t been stressing about it, but it’s occupied more of my attention than I need it to.

I will enjoy watching those same Redditors burn Robinhood to the ground over the next few weeks, though.

A hiking story

Nobody reminded me, but luckily for y’all I remembered on my own. If you don’t feel like clicking through to the AITA, here’s the gist: an avid, experienced hiker wants to take a bunch of his (athletic, hiker-adjacent) friends on a rather difficult 8-mile hike. He prepares these friends in advance for what they’re about to get into and makes sure everyone has proper footwear, water, snacks, hats, that sort of thing. And then one of them drags along a friend who in every available way is unprepared for the hike– and, after pointing out that the person is genuinely endangering herself if she tries this and getting nowhere, he bails on the hike entirely. Later in the day, one of his friends sends him pictures from the ER that two members of the group, including the girl, ended up in, because basically everything went wrong that dude said would go wrong.

This is a not-the-asshole situation for me, and it got me thinking about something that happened when I was in Israel just after graduating college. I was there for a dig at Tel Beth Shemesh, which is a Bronze Age site just west of Jerusalem. We were there for a month, and two of the weekends featured preprogrammed touristy stuff on a rented bus with a guide. The first weekend we were supposed to go to the northern part of the country, and for the second weekend we were supposed to head south. Now, if you know anything about Israel, you might be aware that there is a staggering climate difference between the lovely, temperate, Mediterranean northern half of the country and the fucking Negev desert that occupies most of the southern half. Staggering enough that you dress significantly differently depending on which way you’re going.

We were all rather surprised when we realized which direction the bus was headed, and where our tour guide took us. South. To the desert. To the hot.

Oh, and there was going to be a hike. A three-mile hike, roughly, at Ein Avdat, which is Hebrew for “one motherfucker.” Ein Avdat is beautiful! It looks like this:

I don’t know if the place has gotten more popular since 1998 or what, but I remember it being deserted (heh) when we were there. But it’s gorgeous! Seriously!

There are parts of the hike that are like this, though:

Those are steps carved into the side of the canyon. I don’t know for sure that we carved these specific ones, because I remember there being handholds, but you get the idea.

Going back, by the way, is not an option, because once they drop you off the other side of the hike is … well, three miles away, and your bus drops you off and heads tot he other side. So when we got to the very last part of the hike, I took one look at what they expected me to do to get out of this hot-ass canyon that I didn’t know I was going to be fucking hiking in (and I was not in much better shape in college than I am now) and declared that somebody was sending me a fucking helicopter. Because this is the last part of the hike. After three miles. With no water:

Yeah. That’s a metal ladder. Again, I’m not 100% sure that’s our actual ladder– I remember the rungs being more rebar-y, but again, you get the idea. Nah. Send me a damn helicopter. I ain’t doing it.

I did, eventually, make it out of the canyon. And I forced everyone on the trip with me to take a picture giving the canyon the finger. I didn’t go find that picture today, but when I checked my 22-year-old memories (Christ, literally half my life ago) with a friend of mine who was with me on the trip, she sent me this one. Look at our shoes:

That’s the Dead Sea behind us, so this wasn’t immediately after the hike, but it was the same weekend, and it was definitely the same fucking Birkenstocks. A three mile hike in a box canyon in the desert in Israel in June, with insufficient water and fucking Birks on my feet, because the trip organizers fucked up what weekend we were heading north.

The next day after the hike, we went to Masada, which by rights should have been one of the highlights of the fucking trip. Masada is a Jewish fortress on the top of a mountain. There are two ways to get to it: through what basically amounts to a ski lift, and by climbing the earthen ramp the Romans built while they were laying siege to the place so that they could kill everyone there. It’s called the Snake Path.

This is the fucking Snake Path:

Now, again, each of these two things is on different sides of the complex. There was a small riot on the bus when we pulled up to the Snake Path side of the mountain, and after some debate everyone got off the bus and got ready to hike some more.

Not me. Nope. I took one look at that entirely uphill climb, the day after an unscheduled three-mile desert canyon hell trek, and noped right the fuck out. There are certain things I simply cannot be manipulated into doing, and that bullshit was definitely on that list. I stayed on the bus, and as it ended up had a fascinating conversation with our Palestinian bus driver while everyone else nearly died trying to hike straight up. So I went to Israel and went to Masada, but I have never been inside Masada … but on the other hand, I’m still alive, and I can to this day recite this guy’s explanation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, complete with broken English and the map that he drew a bunch of lines on to indicate which parts of Israel should be given back.

And that’s why I’m not about to get angry with somebody for telling someone he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to go on a hike.