Thursday, July 2, 2015

I'm Headed to Colorado

We're on our way out to Colorado! There should be a link to track me at the bottom of the right column, and tracking is activated on my Delorme. Plan is to climb shorter stuff like the flat irons around Boulder Friday then head up to Vail on Friday night and take a crack at something big on Saturday in central Colorado. Maybe Peak C in the gore range or Capitol Peak. It will depend on weather and how we are feeling. The plan is leave tracking on my Delorme running as much of the trip as possible, because it's just nice to let people know where we are. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What We Don't Know, That We Think We Know

In 100 years will society look back on us as simpletons the way we like to think of our ancestors 100 years ago?

In business, just like in a foot race or climbing a mountain, we are constantly making decisions based on limited information. That is part of the excitement. There is a thrill to stepping into the unknown when you think it is going to go well, but you don't really know. However, using mountaineering as a perfect example, sometimes a serac falls down and kills 16 people climbing up to Everest camp one. They thought they were simply going to hike up to camp one April 18th, 2014.

In business companies go bankrupt when enough wrong decisions are made. Kodak invented digital photography. Empires rise and fall. Rome fell. Runners win medals and set records, and then get busted for doping scandals. All the while people are suffering and dying in South Sudan yet no one really knows or cares.

A former supervisor of mine once said, "everyone thinks he or she is the smartest person in the room." I think about that fairly often. There is nothing new under the sun. We are no smarter now than our ancestors 100 or 1000 years ago. We simply have a huge knowledge base that is accessible now, so we're solving different problems.

In 100 years or 1000 years from now, if the world is still around, our descendants will certainly wonder why we did some things and didn't do other things that in hindsight seem obvious.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You Are Going on Vacation!

We live in a digitally and virtually hyper-connected world where the temptation to constantly check email and log into the work laptop from home is ever present. If there is something I do fairly well it is draw boundaries between my corporate life and the rest of my life. I have talked to a few people in the minutes before they leave on vacation recently and I think I have come up with some best practices.

There are fears associated with going on vacation:

  1. They need me, I am essential to the success of the program and irreplaceable.
  2. They don't need me. I am not adding much value to the program and quite replaceable.
The challenge is to allay both fears. Each one is very real even if none of us want to admit either one. 

The truth is somewhere in between depending on the specific situation. We need to communicate the following to people well. You are unique. We like having you in your job, there is a reason you are in the job you are in. You create value for us. Sure, it may be hard to quantify and political sometimes, but you are there for a reason. On the other hand, yes, you are in fact replaceable and we will survive for two weeks without you. After all, someday you will be promoted, retire, or take a different assignment. 

I started writing this strictly in the realm of business and corporate life, but this applies to other relationships as well. Certainly, a parent is needed by a child more than any one employee is needed by a corporation. At the same time, that child grows and becomes more independent and does not need the parent in the same way a three month old baby does. 

My solution has been telling people that they need to not check their email or log into their computers, and also that we will be waiting for them when they return. Go, do your thing, we'll be here when you get back.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 210

Weeks can be good or bad for totally different reasons. Also, the definition of good or bad seems to be always changing depending on our goals of the moment. This was an above average week, for two reasons.

  1. I ran 27 miles! I know that's not a lot, but it's more than I have done in two months. Also, Friday on my run I didn't have any sort of bad feeling in my achilles, for the first time in this recovery.
  2. We solved a pretty big issue at work! I didn't personally solve it, but I was one of the first three people to agree from looking at the data that yes, that was our problem. Part of the problem now is, the root cause (the specific part, the design) is unavoidable. However, when put into our system there is some damping missing, or perhaps we just optimized everything else too well...
On the work side, solving problems, especially the ones that take months, is very rewarding. I wanted to walk out of that two and a half hour meeting Tuesday and jump for joy, expect that I had been at work for like 9.5 hours and in meetings like 7 of those hours, so I was exhausted. Still, the problem has a root cause now, and it's even more interesting because it might not actually be a problem. HA! Oh engineering...

This stress fracture/tendonitis on my left leg that led into achilles tendon issues on my right leg is the longest injury I have dealt with since plantar fasciitis in 2008. Coming back is not easy. I ran every day this week, which is an accomplishment. I did a "workout" on Thursday of 3x30 seconds at a moderately fast pace, which ended up being about 4:50 pace, downhill of course. Still to be able to pick up and do that for the first time in months was great! Then Friday having no pain or tightness at all... amazing!

In other news, wow space is getting interesting! Philae is slowly making contact with Rosetta. Dawn is spiraling down to Ceres and those bright spots keep breaking up into smaller spots. New Horizons is finally getting to Pluto and returning the best pictures we have of the planet so far, including colored pictures! 

One of my friends was teaching in Taiwan the last year and I had a chance to talk with her this past week, and it's funny how across all disciplines and cultures communication is always a bottleneck. The challenges she faces teaching middle school and high school kids are some of the same challenges we as engineers face simply talking to each other. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Colorado Next Weekend!

I'm headed out to Colorado July 4th weekend like I did last year. It's going to be a short trip about 4 days total. I am not in shape to run Nolan's 14, and there has been snow and rain in the mountains, so many of the routes might be difficult in running shoes and clothing. So, the objective will be climbing, specifically I want to take a shot at the north face of Peak C in the Gore Range just north of Vail. Obscure mountain range, officially unnamed peak, only one real north face route so far, long approach, unknown conditions, it's going to be fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Relationships, that's all we've got. The relationships with ourself, God, our family, our friends, our coworkers, our planet, our neighbors, the air, are really it. You can buy many things, including relationships, but that doesn't give them any depth. They are work, not always easy, but they are all we have. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The Record"

There is a record for everything. World records, American records, state records, facility records, personal records, route speed records, most difficult climb records, first person to do this or that, best in class, highest mileage midsize suv, steepest route in the Gore range, you name it. There are many goals, everyone is inspired by something different. I have found myself recently thinking in terms of records. It's strange to think about external records. On one hand, it's no longer you against them, it's you against the world. On the other hand, it is no longer you against you, but rather some external measure of "success". 

In some ways it's a shame, instead of the process being the most interesting part the result becomes more interesting. Instead of seeing what is possible, it's simply seeing if it can be done 0.5% better/faster/more than before. In other ways it is inspiring. The mentality that says, 'just doing it, even doing it well, is not enough. I have to do my best.' It's a different level, and in a way brings it back around to the you against you because to get "the record" it's going to take the best you have, without yourself standing in the way. 

I'm not sure what record you are striving for. I can tell you if it is a good one you will laugh in elation and cry when you struggle and the effort will be worth it. The results aren't always pretty, but the lessons we learn along the way are well worth the pain it takes to learn them.