Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New Economy

The future is going to be different. Growth is by nature unsustainable. At some point the world can not sustain more growth. What this means for the population: we have a maximum that can be sustained. What that is wether it is 12 billion or 700 million I don't know but it is important to realize. What this means for people with jobs: salaries that go up and up across the board is not practical. While you will probably get paid more for having more experience and in management roles staying in the same place doing the same thing you can not expect to get paid more every year. Money needs something to back it up.

What does this mean for companies: uhh, people won't keep buying stuff. If people aren't making money hand over foot they won't keep going out to eat and buying new stuff. What does the future hold? That's a good question. I guess I kind of imagine a state of the economy that is half a step above a depression. It won't get much better or worse just always about the same.

It's going to be different. Look how far we have come in the last decade! Imagine how far we will come in the next decade...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 1

I'm starting a new series! A series about my unemployment (sad face). Hopefully this series won't last very long. The conditions for this series to end are employment in a position that is not seasonal and consists of a career, not simply a job. That is to say I would like to get an engineering job using my education. I will be giving an overview of the things I am actively doing to make money and the things that are taking money away from me.

So I shook my advisors hand last Friday and started unemployment. I had a good mile race the next day setting a new PR at 4:36. Then Sunday I had pretty much the worst nine hours of my life thus far. Going through US customs they asked why I went to Pakistan. Which turned into a 45 minute stop where they searched my van and found the Tzo (half Yak half Cow) horns. I had to answer many questions while the lady on my left had problems with her green card and the guy on my right (Zamir or something) was being questioned about why a middle eastern would go to graduate school in the US. It was kind of funny but kind of annoying because I did not break any laws. They eventually let me go.

Then three hours later the spare tire I was driving on blew out. It's not as hard to control a blowout as I thought it would be. So not having a spare I had to call a tow truck, at 7 AM on a Sunday. After a quite 30 mile (and $100) ride to Walmart they fixed my other tire for $10 and I was off again.

Then after two rather usual delays I did the hat trick. Going through Chicago I got to the North end and there were signs for the tollway or the freeway, well I took the free one obviously. That turned into city streets with stoplights. So I headed toward the tollway. It was $ .50 to get on from there and as I looked down to get two quarters I came up to a stop light. I had not seen the stoplight, or the car stopped at it. So as I looked up and slammed on my breaks, and screamed, it was all too late. I rear ended the other car. Who would I hit but a pregnant woman and her husband. Now I was gong pretty slow at that point like 5 mph or less because nobodies air bag went off and the damage, especially to their car, was very small. Yet the fact remains I rear ended a pregnant woman. Want to feel bad about something you did?

The next few days were pretty low key. I ran a bunch of miles. Then I started selling my stuff on eBay. I have all sorts of stuff I don't use and don't need or want so I figure I will try to get paid for it. I haven't actually gotten paid for any of it yet but my first two items are set to sell because they already have bids.

I signed up for one of those take surveys get paid things on the internet. Probably a waste of time...

I bought another 2ft by 3ft canvas and I am going to make a painting of the Worcester Reservoir #1. I figure that I can paint to make money while I am not employed. It is a one or two day investment that could possibly pay enough to pay an entire month of rent.

I did some thinking and pretty quickly decided that I will never draw unemployment pay unless I have some terrible injuries. I mean I have so many money making skills and I am smart enough to figure out some way to make money.

I only applied for like three jobs this last week but I applied for perhaps 15 the week before. I need to apply for at least 100 before I feel like I have really applied to enough places.

Also, Christmas was this week and it went well. I got some shirts, DVDs and money. Almost enough money to pay a month of rent. Of course right now I am at home so rent is free but I plan to make the trip out to Colorado in the next two weeks.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 12

The Successful Innovative Company of the Week is: Full Circle.
What they do right: they make organic foods! I turned myself onto Full Circle when I was cereal shopping. I was looking for one of those healthy grain and nut cereals and I wanted something without all sorts of sugar and corn syrup. I saw the organic label and decided to try it. It was really good. In fact most of the cereal I buy now is Full Circle because it tastes good and doesn't make my teeth hurt.

Since then I've tired their pastas as well. The grocery stores I frequent don't have more products that I buy made by Full Circle.

They were started in 2006 in California. I like companies that push the environmental conscious movement. The reason being that the world can not handle the kind of consumption the US enjoys if more than the US enjoy it.

What they could improve: lower prices so that direct competition between the inorganic brands and the organic brands for the poor consumer is possible. They could also stand to improve their distribution of products to grocery stores. They seem to be doing well with the cereal but not so well with the other hundreds of products.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Thank You!

Merry Christmas! If you aren't Christian and don't celebrate Christmas have you ever considered trying it?

Secondly, thank you all for reading this year! When I started this in February I wasn't sure exactly what would happen or what I would write about. Well, it's easier than I thought, most of the time. There are so many snippets of knowledge, experience and curiosity that I have to share. You can be assured that Learning to DO will continue strong in 2010! So thank you for reading, thanks for the comments both in person and on my posts and thank you for caring. Not necessarily caring about my blog but caring about my friends, my family and I.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We're not running the same race

I've been cruising the forums a little at RunningAhead but I rarely comment. The problem is that people are running 10 minute miles and that's like their race pace. Besides Reach the Beach relay this year I have not averaged over 6 minute miles in any race since 2007. I'm no great runner. There are guys out there who never average slower than 5 minute miles, including marathons. When it comes to longer distances the difference in time spent running varies a lot for faster runners and slower runners.

One person runs a 4:20 marathon and another runs a 2:10 marathon. A four hour race and a two hour race are vastly different. Where am I headed with this? People need to train differently. A four or five hour race sounds more like an ultramarathon than a marathon. Ok here is good ultra training: super long long runs up to 70% of the race distance (huh, that's about an 18 miler for a marathon). Running miles just to get used to running and building an aerobic base. Any speed work at all is nice and I guess helps a little but the main thing are those long runs. The thing is you will be running the race at the same pace as your easy runs so every mile is pretty race specific. Good two hour race training: lots of intense pace workouts around goal pace, slower and faster as well. Say an hour at goal pace. 30 minutes somewhat faster than goal pace or an hour and a half slightly slower than goal pace, but faster than an easy pace. Still very aerobic runs but faster than for the ultra race. For a two hour race there is a good chance that you will do a 2.5-3 hour long run that covers the same distance as your race, maybe even farther.

The problem is I read about people trying to survive a 15 mile run or a marathon but I don't know what to say because I've only run one ultra. I also mapped out my own marathon and ran it just to see what it was like. The thing is I am in good enough shape that I felt great and was able to turn in like 15 miles over two runs or something the next day. So for me a 20 miler is not much over two hours. But I can't tell a five hour marathoner to go out on a 20 mile run because they would be out there for four hours and I would hate to tell someone to go out and run for four hours to get ready for a marathon. Because I know from experience that if I was to run for four hours I would be so exhausted I would break a rib or something later that day.

So keep in mind what you are training for. Finishing the race, qualifying for Boston or something even more difficult. Your training needs to reflect your fitness and your goals. Regardless, get out there in the blizzard and get the work done!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Goodbye WPI

As you read this I am no longer in Massachusetts. I don't know when I am coming back. This is hard. I mean I knew from my first semester here that Massachusetts is not the place for me. There are so many people. It is hard to actually get away from people in the New England wilderness. There are not really quiet streets. It is loud here. The general attitude is one of putting everything aside for your career. But still it is hard to leave this place that has become a home for me. I have so many friends. I know some of the streets of Worcester and New England better than most locals will every know. I can describe Salisbury street in great detail. It's a great street. I'll write a blog post about it soon.

It's funny how this placed seemed to have nothing to offer until I am about to leave. I did not appreciate the changing leaf color in October until last year when I was injured and biking 25 miles a day around the countryside. I did not fully appreciate Mt. Wachusett until recently when I ran it, biked it, and skied it. I once read an article about qualifying for the Olympic Trials and the author said that you have to create the routes that will become legend, at least in your mind. I don't know if I have actually connected with much here, besides other WPI students, because of my running but there are routes that are legend in my mind. Go run the Rutland Marathon or Paxton Towers or Aaron's XXL. I guess it sounds strange that a run along some route could change a person and make them better but that's the way I feel. Some of my runs have brought me close to crying.

It is really about the friends. There are people here that can easily challenge me running and climbing and career wise. I feel like I am chasing a dream. I don't know if I will find the place I want to be. I have found a number of places I really like but I have also found that as I spend more time in a place the more I see that I don't like. I like to say that Worcester grows on you, but I think it is more about getting comfortable, having friends, and knowing your way around. It could happen anywhere. It is a scary thought. I have moved around so much growing up and still now in my life I am bouncing around. Will I ever "settle down"? I would like to... I think.

There is only one of me. The problem is that I have so many friends all over the place. I also like to do things based on location. Longs Peak rocks! Magnolia road is about as fast and magical as Salisbury, even at 8000 feet. The Crestones are such a great secret don't tell anyone. The drive from Cimmarron to Taos is amazing. It's an hour and fifteen minutes that is barely short of magical. Mount Washington is like this little experiment of the most hardcore weather in the world a three hour hike from an always paved road and great restaurents. Mount Wachusett is like this piece of fun year round. Crow hill is the little crag that launched dozens of climbing careers. Highland street is this timeless college support network keeping us sane. The piers at Sheboygan are so fun to run out on, even when they are iced over. Epic exists everywhere. And to dispell a myth, there are a lot of great single girls at WPI.

Recently I have changed my plans. I was pretty focused for several years on Boulder. Well, just give me a few decent mountains and a paycheck and I'll live about anywhere. Throw in a 200 meter or longer indoor track and I don't care how cold the winter is. I'm out there looking. Looking for my place. There are so many things I want but so few things I need. My life is already awesome! My life just seems to get better and better every year. My life takes me on unexpected adventures. I can guarantee that 2010 is going to be a very crazy year for me. I will run fast, climb hard, make dozens of new friends, sleep in my van, and live it up!

I am afraid of what the future holds. I am nervous it won't go well. I am scared that I will mess up. I am constantly scared that I'm making a mistake. Is leaving Worcester and New England the right decision?

Well, my friend, we may not see each other face to face every day like before, but I will keep my email, my phone number, my Facebook, my RunningAhead, and this blog. So now it is time for you to step up. Who is going to take the place of the 100+ mile per week kid on the track team? Perhaps several of you could. Who is going to go to Mezcal with the girls? All these things I do, you can do. I am just the sum of conversations and reading and media. Most of which I have imparted to you. I can pretty much guarantee you can guess what I would say most of the time. For example:

"How far do you want to run?" My response, "14, but I did double this morning so slower than 7 flat pace..." In reality it is usually just 2-5 miles more than everyone else usually wants to go on days that I double.

"Another pitcher?" My response, "yes."

"What can I do to run faster?" My response, "run more miles."

"How was mountain climbing this weekend?" My response, "we had really good weather, it was almost 20 and the winds were less than 40 mph."

"Buffalo chicken with the dill sauce?" My response, "yes."

"Is that a beer!?" My response, "no."

"What's your mileage up to?" My response, "well I did 110 last week but I took a day off so it's in the tubes this week. I'd be happy to just get 90."

"Movie Sunday at 8?" My response, "yes."

And finally here are some quotes I've used with great success that you are free to use:
"Would you like to go do (something a little unsafe and slightly painful) with me in two days?"

"Oh you've never done (running route X) it's like 10 miles and pretty flat (actually closer to 11 miles and only flatter than a mountain)."

"I'll drive and I have all sorts of extra gear if you need something. Besides the heater works and I have a radio."

"I'm going to add on (some long running route up to 8 miles)."

"I just want to run a (ridiculous time far better than I ever have before) in this race."

"Back in my day when I was first here in 2004 or 2005 we did..."

If you ever actually have any questions let me know. I'm just moving not disappearing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 11

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: ING Direct.
What they do right: give you interest on your checking and savings account. There was a time in life I paid bills with checks. Then I finally learned something and started using free bill paying on the internet. No more stamps, envelopes, not even bank statements mailed to me. I don't have to pay postage and nobody has to waste paper. ING masters the internet bank. They only have nine locations according to Wikipedia, but they have millions of users.

Now lots of banks give interest, but ING Direct consistently gives 2-3 times higher interest than other banks on their checking account and somewhat higher interest on their saving account. Most of the money saving is due to not have brick and mortar locations and using so little paper. As a corollary they also have less employees than a similar sized bank.

Their website is also set up very conveniently. Several of the banks I am part of have confusing websites but ING has done very well. There are not many buttons, the links are descriptive, and the pages show you everything you want to know without a bunch of advertising fluff and disclaimers.

I must also mention ShareBuilder. Apparently you can invest in the stock market and in very little amounts. I've never used it but Russ told me to mention it. I think that Russ recommends it too and he is a smart cookie with his money so I believe him. So there Russ, I mentioned it.

They also sponsor a bunch of marathons and other races. People that sponsor stuff for running are just cool. It's like a subversive way to get people exercising.

What they could improve: ATM access is always a little troublesome. It's fine when you find one of the free withdraw ATMs but when I am traveling it is a hassle because I'm looking for an Allpoint sign which is tiny. So I often get charged the two or three dollars to withdraw money.

Also, ING group recently announced that their business model was unsustainable. Their insurance branch received like 7.4 billion from the dutch government because of the recent economy so they announced they would separate the insurance and bank instead of being a banc-assurance company. Also, it is possible for other companies to copy the business model of offering a high interest rate and steal customers. So ING Directs looks poised to lose a bunch of customers because people have no loyalty. That being said they are the first and still the biggest online bank so they have experience which will probably help them survive a slew of new competitors.

As I set out to publish the 11th edition of this series I have to remind people that success as I define it can be short lived or long term. Also, innovative sometimes means just harder marketing so people forget about your competitors. I'm saying that in ten years perhaps none of these companies will be around because their business was not sustainable. That being said I think we have a lot to learn from failure and success. Even short term success if properly managed can turn into something great. Professional athletes compete for 5-15 years and many never have to work again. I will be interested to see in several years how my "successful" companies are doing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Read More!

I realized a while ago that I read a lot. It is not all quantifiable book reading either. In fact I do not read too many books. Maybe one or two books a month on in a busy month. I do read articles, blogs, status messages, away messages, scientific papers, emails, and a little bit of computer programming language all on a regular basis. I like reading because everything I read contributes to making me more well read. It helps me see through arguments. What I mean is that while often there is more than one way to accomplish a task there is often one way that is better than another. I should explain...

Once again I will talk about running because I do that almost every day. I am also quite well read on the subject. You want to run a 5k faster. There are several options which may all lead to a faster time. The challenge is to find the one that is right for your situation. Not the one that will make you the best 5k runner you can be but the one that fits you. In my running I have always been my own biggest competitor. I want to set a personal record as well as I can. I try not measure my progress against my friends because to some extent we are all doing different things. So if you are content to run 10 seconds faster than why go down the path of trying to run 40 seconds faster? You might become discouraged or injured. It is very counter productive. Everyone has to decide for themself the appropiate level of commitment.

For example:
  1. Run hard three times a week and go swimming or biking another three days a week.
  2. Run hard twice a week and easy four days a week and do no cross training or anything physical on the day off.
  3. Run hard 2-5 times a week, run every day, cross train, run twice some days, and take recovery seriously.
You might be able to run better than before doing 1 or 2. Doing 1 you won't get bored as easily because you are doing a different sport every day. Doing 2 you can be part of a team and have time to do something else important. Doing 3 you will most likely get a lot better, destroy that 5k, be tired all the time, and have no social life outside of running. What is the point of all this running talk? This post is about reading! The point is that each method accomplishes the goal of getting faster. Like reading, reading status messages is like the news because people will comment on the news so you don't have to read the news. Reading emails is like having a lecture without having to sit there. The future of communication is far more diversified than it ever has been. Now pretend the message of X, Y and Z is the same. Who is to say you should read X when Y and Z will get the message across?

The point is to extract the information you want the way you want. How you are educated on some topic is almost irrelevant. There are so many sources saying the same things. In fact search engines search by words. So the more words there are in a webpage relating to what you are searching for the more relevant that webpage will probably be. While audio media is a big force it does not have the transparency that written word does.

I'm just saying: read more.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tales of a Broken Rib

After breaking my rib a week and a half ago I rebroke it Sunday, doing dishes. I had just finished a 19.5 mile long run and was cold and wet and I was washing a bowl in the sink and I twisted to place it in the drying race on my left and I heard a snap like a twig from my chest. I gently set the bowl down and twisted back to normal and felt the pain. It was in the same place as before but it was much much worse.

My theory is that after about 20,000 cycles (steps running) the rib and cartilidge were weaker due to fatigue and that slight twist was enough to break it. I did not run Monday because it hurt that much and only ran six miles Tuesday. This morning it felt ok again. I think I am a fast healer. I know that when I run a lot mmy body reacts to injuries and muscle tears by recovering very fast. I think that is what is happening to fix my rib. While Sunday and Monday were terribly painful, Tuesday was ok and today has gone well.

It is such an odd injury. Who breaks a rib? There is basically no way to fix it, besides surgery and putting metal plates in me but that is not practical unless I am in danger of internal bleeding. So I live with this constant feeling of what feels like a stick is jabbed in my side. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Thesis Presentation (Defense)

Here is how it went down yesterday: I shaved and showered and shampooed (twice) then made my way to WPI. I went over my presentation one more time and headed over to the room to get everything set up. Everything was working out better than I expected. Everyone was being really helpful. They opened the room and the Facilities guy moved some chairs out and found a table cloth for the food at the back. The ME secretary brought a poinsettia in for the table as well. Then I took my suit jacket off before anyone arrived and I realized later that I went to the trouble of wearing a formal jacket and no one saw me wear it!

Before I started presenting a number of my undergrad friends showed up. I think it was a nice benefit for them. I would have liked to go to a thesis presentation when I was an undergrad just to see how it works. My advisor got up and started talking about how I shaved and stuff. Then I presented for I think 19 minutes. Then people started asking questions. Most of the questions I either expected or felt comfortable answering. It was a bit odd because one of the members of my committee was on the phone. So after a few initial questions the questions got deeper. The kind of questions I expected them to ask when the general audience left the room. The other committee members followed suit.

After 30 minutes of questions and discussion everyone left. They gave me one comment about how to modify my report by separating some sections. They complemented my writing but not my organization, which is exactly word for word the feedback I got on my Janzen Gear business plan. Then we spent ten minutes talking about Sergey Brin and Google, my ice axe, and Tiger Woods. I was speechless because I was expecting harder questions like, "Do you think you deserve this?"

Then it was over they said I did well and I proceeded to not get much of anything done the rest of the day. Well, I did have a fundamental change in my business strategy. I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009


First, I just presented my thesis and it went really well. I had a bunch of tough questions at the end because in reality this project is more than a master's thesis. I'll write about it in the next few days but I'm going to talk about something else today.

Global warming. In Copenhagen they are having a big multinational meeting to set limits on emissions for the future. A corollary to this is the money that rich nations will give to poor nations to reduce emissions or for that matter how rich nations are going to reduce their emissions. There are a lot of protesters basically saying that the governments aren't trying hard enough. In fact over 1000 protestors have been arrested during this summit.

Global warming is something that I am passionate about. It didn't start with me caring about global warming. It started because I went hiking and backpacking in the mountains. I saw the wilderness first hand and learned about invasive species and ecosystems and the effect of hot dry summers on northeastern New Mexico. The moral of the story is that forrest are being killed by beetles because of the dry climate the trees are more vulnerable and there have been no fires to thin the forests because we have put out all forrest fires the past 100 years.

The problem is that the problem is not life threatening right now and the solution is not cheap. Well, I guess riding your bike and walking instead of driving is cheaper. Also, buying less stuff is cheaper than buying a bunch of stuff that takes fossil fuels to process. Unfortunately, buying a car that doesn't need gas is nearly impossible and not economical. But what is economical? How do you quantify an investment in life? I wrote about this in my ebook. Who thinks about the world in 2100? There is a real chance that my kids (assuming I have some) will be alive in 2100. There is no way my 23 mpg van will be around then, except in a museum or classic car show. I think in 30 years less than 100 mpg will look fuel inefficient.

The world now is about 1 degree Celsius above where we were the last 2000 years on average. Now that was a generally cold time so maybe we are only a half degree above a nice average but we have upped the temperature rather rapidly.

  1. Solar panels on every upward facing man made surface. Roofs, cars, even roads.
  2. Wind turbines in places where people won't complain about how they look. First I think they look cool. Second there are a lot of places miles and miles from "population centers" where land is cheap and wind blows. For example, the oceans, the 300 miles East of the front range of the Rock Mountains, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Australia, or even Antarctica.
  3. Capturing rain water for whatever use. Use it in toilets or purify it and use it for everything. In stead of trying to get rid of the water on your roof how about try to keep it? When wells go dry it will be a much better alternative.
  4. Spend one minute a day plugging your car in. People that live in the far north have to plug heaters into their cars at night to keep the battery warm. Why not plug the whole car in?
  5. Recycle as much as you can. Not everything recycles well. Plastic is kind of depressing with only 25-40% of the plastic actually getting recycled. Aluminum is great! It takes like 5% of the energy to recycle Aluminum as it does to extract it from ore.
  6. Globalize some things. This is already happening but it could be much better. Is there a problem with tech support in India? It probably only depends on how well you understand their English.
  7. Localize more things. How often do you need bananas? Where does that jacket come from or how many countries did it go through before it you put it on?
The problem is that these things cost money. They cost money today. They also don't match the current capabilities. I mean I could build you a solar powered car that drove 50 miles a day just about every day that you never have to plug in. But let me guess, you want an unlimited range, like a gasoline car. While that barrier has been conquered by a remote control airplane we aren't very close at the level of a practical car yet.

Will we figure it out before the arctic glaciers flood the world? Will we learn before a heat wave kills crops and famine kills millions? I don't know. As a master of science most of what I know is that I don't know things.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Masters Thesis Presentation

I am presenting my Masters Thesis, Modeling of Heat Treating Processes for Transmission Gears, Monday morning at 9 AM in Higgins 102 at WPI.

If you are in the area and have 45 minutes of free time come by and watch. You will probably learn something. There will also be coffee and some sort of pastry.

If you are wondering what I am going to talk about it's all in the title. Basically, I have spent the past year and a half learning how to make finite element models and heat treat them. All sorts of crazy things happen when you heat up and cool down steel at different rates and add carbon to the mix. Before you know it you have a $50,000 gear that likes to turn into a potato chip. So I have worked on simulating the process and trying to have the exact distortion results in my simulations that have been measured on the gears.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 10

The Successful Innovative Company of the Week is: Wikipedia.
What they do right: they give away free information. I first heard about Wikipedia in high school and at the time we were not allowed to source it. In serious publications people still don't but everyone takes a journey there to verify information. It is a starting step for a journey of a thousand miles. It is a pool of knowledge to swim in or dump your glass.

The strength of Wikipedia is in the millions of people that update it. I was reading a message board the day after Dathan Ritzenhein set the 5000 meter US record and one of the first comments was something like 'you know Wikipedia is great when it already has his record less than an hour after he set it'.

Wikipedia is also vastly underutilized by the advertising industry. I mean if you are doing something that you want to make your company look good, well go on Wikipedia and change it so that people know you are trying. I mean when it comes to companies first there is your website (propaganda) then there is Wikipedia (the truth). I'm not saying delete the negative information on Wikipedia I'm saying add more of the positive stuff. Add the history, the people stories, sales information, product information, details, add wikipedia pages for your products. It's free. People believe it. It's like a snowball effect, start a page for your new product and as people update it it will grow and become it's own thing. I mean it's just so obvious to me how any company, brand, famous person, whatever can help their image by using Wikipedia. It's like a minibiography that you have the chance to edit. Do you want to see how history will remember your company (or you), well, write history! For all the money spent on bandwidth, website templates, computer templates, just about anyone could add a paragraph to Wikipedia.

What they could improve: If people had to have an account to update Wikipedia that would make them more accountable. I mean you could still set up an account to falsely update one thing and then not worry when it was deleted, but it would slow down a lot of trolls.

I see accountability as the largest challenge to Wikipedia. For incorrect information there is no punishment to the person that posts it. I am not sure exactly how to get around this, maybe some sort of approval before something goes live by the page author.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Aiming for a Higher Standard

So often we try to achieve the minimum in some pursuit.

"I hope to get a B in this class" or "It has to be at least five pages" or "I want to run 3:10:59 and qualify for Boston" or "we have to run eight miles today" or some other statement of work. Now those are all very good goals. There are a lot of people that would love to get a B in that class. Billions of people will never qualify for the Boston Marathon. However, I think you are better.

This may not apply to everyone that reads this blog but since I know most of you here it goes: If you do something, do it. None of this wishy washy half effort stuff. Get the work done. Set a higher standard for yourself.

I have found that whatever standard I create for myself I usually end up achieving, but just barely. Examples: I just wanted to pass a class (twice), I got a C. I wanted to break 33 minutes in the 10k and I did by 1.5 seconds. I wanted to get above 7000 meters this summer and I got to 7030 meters.

I don't always hit my goals, in fact I fail a lot. However, setting these goals changes my attitude and focus so that I put in the work necessary to achieve those goals. Many of my failures are also failures by the slimmest of margins, which in retrospect are sometimes as good as the goals. Setting a higher goals makes you figure out how to get there. Instead of thinking of tasks as impossible you can understand the steps necessary to get to that level.

I also think we are limited by our goals. As soon as we set the bar for ourselves we want to just barely get over that bar. Anything much higher or harder is seen as nearly impossible. By setting higher goals we also change our thinking so that we fail at a higher level. There are many examples of this: the kid who gets the highest score in the class on a test and still asks the teacher why she got two questions wrong or the guy who PRs by 30 seconds in the 5k and is disappointed that he wasn't 15 seconds faster. I've seen these people and it's not that they are better it's that they hold themselves to a higher standard.

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars." — Les Brown

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crossing the Street

I spend a lot of time crossing streets. I found this article and it puts an interesting spin on an interview. The basics are that you can tell a lot about a person's risk taking and priorities by how he or she crosses the street. So if you ever have to cross a street immediately before an interview or during an interview you might want to consider what message you are sending.

It's amazing how little things can tell so much about a person.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I broke a rib!

Well, probably not exactly a rib but the cartilage from the highest floating rib on my right side to my actual rib cage. How did this happen? I went for a 20 mile run Sunday and proceeded to slip and fall on an iced over section of pavement going downhill turning a corner. I landed on my right side. Now watching runners fall is always kind of amusing. We are so focused on running that we just fall. There is no putting our arms out to slow ourselves down. There is no slow motion, down to our knees, fall down slowly action. It's: trip, boom. After I got back up I took two steps and forgot about the pain. After I finished the run it started to hurt but I thought it was a side stitch because we didn't really cool down or stretch. It continued to hurt and 31 hours after it started to hurt I remembered that I fell on the ice.
(The bruise is just beginning!)
I thought I was just being a wimp. I thought maybe I was dehydrated or slept strange. Then I remembered the fall and told the trainer at WPI and she poked and pushed and said that it would be two months before it was healed. She also said that I could do whatever was at my threshold of pain. This means no stopping. I mean on Monday I ran over 15 miles including an eight mile tempo at 6:08 pace. That's a good day for me healthy, but I did it with a broken rib, the day after a 20 mile run at 6:40 pace. I must be some kind of different.

It hurts to sit up from laying back, it hurts to take a deep breath (but really who needs a deep breath to run six minute miles?), and it hurts to touch it, it hurts to cough, and it hurts to laugh. If I just smile instead of laughing please excuse me, but it hurts.

Now why would I be so enthusiastic and optimistic about having a broken rib? Well, I thought I had a side stitch for over a day. I've never known how my pain tolerance compares to other people because I can not be other people. This shows me that I can handle a lot of pain. Granted I have a somewhat minor break compared to others.

I look at other people in the world in awe. They do so much more than me. I measure myself to the impossibility of being the best in the world, at everything I do. So I hammer on myself. I want to be the best. More specifically: I want to be the best (that I can be without sacrificing too much). Which is to say I do not measure myself to the world's standards but to my own. I hope to do things that have never been done. I also hope I am able to do things other people have done. So if Brian Sell ran through a broken rib, well then, I will too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pre-start-up work

Before a company starts there are things that usually happen. They do not have to happen for every industry and I am focusing on the production of goods for the outdoor industry and selling them to consumers. For those that have started businesses or read about this sort of thing please comment below when I miss something.

A hopefully complete list in no particular order:
  • A business plan: usually a document but it could just be in your head that provides insight into how the business will be run, who the customers are, How many customers there are, how you will get the customers, the money that is needed before a profit is made, the employees and management team, the predicted growth, and more or less where you want to be in five years.
  • A customer(s): someone willing to hand you money for something you are doing.
  • An employee(s): who is actually going to do the work. I count a small business of only a few people all as employees. The reason is that, I think, customers and investors are the ones that determine how good of a job you are doing. So they are in essence your boss.
  • Money: unless there is basically no barrier to entry (like blogging) there needs to be some input of money to jump start the process. People need to eat and they can't do that working for free. Products need to be made but someone has to pay for the material and production.
  • An idea: you have to have something that people will pay for be it an idea, service or product. You have to provide something for them to consume.
  • You have to be enthusiastic and committed: I can not think of even one business where you start making money on day one. Perhaps in the first month for ebusinesses. Probably the day you go "live" or open your doors but chances are you are working on it full time before that point. This is more like investing and gambling than working at a job. You don't get paid just for showing up.
Additionally there are things that you should consider before starting:
  • A lawyer: if you are starting with founders having a personal lawyer in addition to the company lawyer can help insure that you are not forced out overnight as has actually happened to inventors before.
  • An accountant: because money will be flying in all different directions you might like to know where it is all going because there is a good chance that someone's money disappears and you will get the blame.
  • Money: if you can live without a salary for several years more power to your start-up!
  • A vacation: when is the next time you are going to get to go somewhere?
  • Insurance: there is a better chance you will get sued as a business owner than an employee of the man.
  • A place to live: just incase you can't afford rent for awhile it's nice to have friends with couches or parents or a van.
  • Found with a woman: there are many grants and loans available to women in small businesses. There are also incentives for minorities and people with disabilities.
  • Do work for the government: there are hundreds of grants through the government for science and technology in addition to contracts for all sorts of work.
  • Consider location: what resources could help your business grow? Business incubators, state tax incentives, target market, potential employees, cost of living, and shipping costs all vary by location.
  • Have fun: if you're getting into the business to make millions of dollars you're in it for the wrong reasons. If you are starting this business to make the world a better place, well, I can't really think of a better reason to start a company.
Please add your thoughts below. I'm sure I missed something.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 9

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: The Bean Counter.
What they do right: They have good coffee. After having a cup at The Bean Counter Dunkin Donuts will take pretty terrible. They have consistently been ranked the best coffee in Worcester year after year for the last decade. They have two locations, one in Worcester and one in Shrewsbury. How are they innovative? Simple they focus on the quality of the product.

Starbucks has good quality coffee too, but when you go in you feel like you should be wearing $300 shoes and driving a new Lexus. At the Bean Counter you can go in with holes in your pants and no one will care. It is a place that takes all types. Yuppie college students with laptops at 10 PM grinding out tomorrow's assignment. The 8:30 AM coffee crew age 50+ that defines liberal Massachusetts. The old retired lady sipping the small coffee just looking out the window. The British guy who shows up randomly for a week and hangs out with everyone then disappears for two months. The summer gang of acoustic or punk 20 somethings that smokes and drinks coffee from sunset til close. The pale vegans searching out some unadulterated piece of candy. The impatient business woman waiting to buy a cake. The best part is the girls behind the counter that know your usual drink.

Example: wake up at 7 in January or February and go over to The Bean Counter to do homework. Sitting beside the windows and the heater drinking a mocha. Scribbling rocket science as the snow flitters down from a gray sky. The rush of cars through the slush. The contrast between me warm and dry and productive on the inside and the outside world a cold wet mess three feet away. For some reason I'm three times as productive here as I was last night in the library. How I get so fortunate?

What they could improve: A student discount would be great! They also kind of a strange setup with the register and condiment counter. It's fine as long as they only serve one person at a time but sometimes they are serving three at a time and I have a little trouble knowing where to stand. Also a few of their electrical outlets don't work. My computer's battery lasts all of 15 minutes so an outlet is vital.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


What does the future hold? I don't know. This is a scary time to be graduating. I don't have several job offers like I expected several years ago.

I plan things out in my life. They always change but I still expect things to go a certain way. I always thought I would get a full scholarship to college, I never thought I would be a competitive runner, I never thought I would get out of the direct aerospace business, and I wonder what else I am thinking now that won't go as planned.

How do I deal with fear? Well most of the time I try to think about other things. I mean I really don't have much time to worry. On my run this morning I was thinking about investor repayment strategies and shoe designs, not fear of the future. Things never pan out quite the way we expect but they always seems to work.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tying up loose ends

I am graduating in December. My advisor liked the draft of my thesis I gave him last week. However, I still have a few things here in New England I need to do before I leave. Sunday I accomplished one of those, I ran 21 miles to the nearest mountain and ran up to the top. It's the kind of thing you think about for a long time but requires a friend to pick you up because a 42 mile run is a little beyond me at this point.

That also means an ice climb on Mt. Washington and since Baxter State Park just changed the winter regulations I would like to get up there before I leave. It also means spending time with my friends before I leave because I have no idea when I will come back. I'm sure I will but I do not know when. I think that moving around and traveling so much when I was young has kind of made me a mover and shaker. Worcester has a lot to offer. I have so many great friends in New England. But at the same time I feel stale, and reminiscent (not a bad thing but not a great way to live). I run around Worcester alone thinking of the shenanigans we pulled and I smile. A gut wrenching smile because I know we will never have that day to day revelry that we did before. Well, actually I can think of a few situations where we might... But those are rare and probably unlikely. Unless someone wants to come out to Boulder with me and live poor while we start a company and run our legs off.

I try to live with no regrets. For the most part I do but there are things I have done and said that I regret. I am about to go from sophomore graduate student to freshman of real life. How many mistakes have I made? How many more will I suffer through? At what point will I look in to my friend's eye and know that the only future we have is a few emails a year and a Reach the Beach or alumni meet here and there?

On the other hand, who will I meet next month, or tomorrow, that will change my life?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Remembering to Rest

I just finished the longest consecutive number of days I have run in my life: 42. 657 miles in 42 days for an average of 15.6 miles per day. I hope to maintain that sort of average for the next few months before dropping down to like 80-90 per week for the track season. In that time I had five long runs over 22 miles and a blistering 20 mile run at 6:20 pace as well as a half marathon PR by nearly three minutes on a very hilly course.

It can be hard to take a rest because things have been going well. The key is to take the rest before your body breaks down so far it takes you out of the game for a long time. The old adage "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" is completely right. I've struggled with several injuries and I have learned that it takes so little effort to prevent something but getting healthy is very hard.

I read somewhere recently that some coach only coached people that he had to hold back. I think that concept can be applied to many situations. Everybody does something a little more than is healthy. Wether that is playing a video game eight hours a day or studying 15 hours a day it is often good to take a rest or at least hold yourself back.

I often tell people to stay motivated. Burnout, overtraining, stress, and not taking a rest every now and then contribute to loss of motivation. Once your motivation is gone it can be hard to get back. I think this is one of the advantages of extracurriculars (like running) in school. It's not that it actually makes you smarter it's that it makes you focus on something else so you aren't thinking about school. From September until May almost every Saturday is taken up with our cross country or track teams traveling somewhere to race. The event usually takes up most of the day and most people don't even touch their homework on Saturday. I think this short little weekly break is often enough to reenergize people to hit the books during the week. Another little diversion is the daily practice and for two or three hours each day people more or less accomplish nothing as far as academics are concerned. This convenient break keeps people motivated to spend four or five hours every night working on homework and projects instead of a strait 14 hour grind.

At Philmont (a camp I worked at for two summers) the Conservation department (which I was part of both years) had the moto "work hard, play hard". So simple and so true. When you do something, do it. When you rest, rest hard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 8

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Patagonia.
What they do right: They care about more than just profits. The founder Yvon Chiounard, the same guy that founded Black Diamond, had this environmental idea that he would try to make performance clothing with the least damage to the environment. That means he uses recycled materials, nontoxic dyes, organic cotton, safe labor environments in third world countries, and actively recycles old Patagonia products among other eco-friendly initiatives.

Patagonia promotes The Cleanest Line of products as a world leading brand in putting the environment before profits. They also helped to start the 1% For the Planet charity. Patagonia is surely one of the leaders in environmental production and does well informin their customers about their initiatives.

They also make some great clothing! I bought a R1 Hoody last year for $95 marked down from $135. At the time I thought I was crazy. It fit well and had nice features like thumb loops, a hood, an offset zipper and chin mask, a chest pocket and it was warm. I thought it would be a nice addition to my stuff to take to Pakistan. I wore it for two days while ice climbing and hiking in February. Oh my it was good! It breathed so well that if I wore it alone I could run or hike hard when the temperature was well below zero and the sweat would quickly vent off of me. It really provides no protection from the wind but that is no problem for most situations. As soon as I would stop hiking and stand there, as long as there was no wind, it would quickly heat up so there was no need to throw on another layer. To adjust the ventilation I could take my hands out of the thumb holes and slide the sleeves up my arms or I could take the hood off and zip the zipper down until my bare chest, head and neck were venting to 15 degree New Hampshire. I wore the R1 Hoody every time I went above camp one on Broad Peak this summer. I wore it on Longs Peak in August. I wore it running the Presidential traverse in September. If there is one shirt I will use when the temperature will be below 40 it is the R1 Hoody. I even bought a second one for $85 in March when I saw it on sale. I was so paranoid that they would quit selling them that I have it still with the tag on in my room just waiting for me to break the one I currently use.

But Patagonia, also known as Patagucci, does not only sell amazing hooded shirts. They cover the entire mountaineering range of clothing as well as city dweller clothing of sweaters and pants made of cotton and cashmiere.

Finally they have created a website called The Tin Shed. It is a collection of stories told with videos, pictures and words of the Patagonia environmental effort as well as their sponsored athletes.

What they could improve: Personally I think they send too many emails. I seem to get two or three emails a week sometimes twice a day announcing new sales or new items or the new surfing catalog. While it is nice that they are so proactive about telling people what they are doing they are trying to hard and I have archived several of their emails just from reading the subject.

They are also a very expensive company. None of their clothing comes cheap. This is the price of their hard work making The Cleanest Line yet for a poor 23 year old like myself it is prohibitive. That is not a bad marketing strategy, in fact they are doing quite well, but unless you can afford it it is too expensive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Making it your own

I have been spending a lot of time recently writing things that have predefined templates. My thesis, which isn't so bad after all, my business plan, which is so bare it is kind of funny, a website, and of course my ebook. People often suggest that you need to make something representative of yourself. However, they don't tell you what that means. I'm going to try to answer that, at least for my life.

First off take my business plan. I am an engineer. It's what I do and I'm not half bad at it. Unfortunately, it's called a business plan and I am more than half bad at business. I want to describe the company and how it will survive but many of the things I want to say are from my personal experience. There are no formulas, I am aware of, that say why it is a good idea to go to ice climbing festivals to sell more ice axes.

The solution: write what I think needs to be in my business plan. Write it so that someone who doesn't know me can understand it. Which is to say that in the business plan I am saying that I am the one and only employee with experience engineering, mountaineering, and running and not so much with business, law, marketing and stuff. If someone wants to invest they should know my strengths and weaknesses.

Second take my thesis. Describe what I can stand behind. Everything else is left out. It turns out my summary is less than a page, as of now. A year and a half of long days in front of my computer screen analyzing finite element results in bright orange, yellow, green, and blue. Scrolling through thousands and thousands of lines of code to find that one misspelled word or comma or wrong number and I have less than a page to say.

The solution: besides an awesome literature review and background that describes most of what I learned in the last year and a half I can say a few things my simulations demonstrated. That is the key, being able to say something. I have been to a number of masters and doctorate thesis' presentations and I have learned when it comes to basic sciences advances happen slowly. A person can work on a project for years and at the end have a 25 minute presentation describing the difference between two sample groups. It is not that a doctorate degree or masters degree means any less now that I know what it takes to get one. In fact I respect the degrees that much more. Many of the most powerful discoveries in science can be described in ten minutes once you understand all of the background.

Finally, take my fun, like running, climbing, going to Pakistan... I am Isaiah Janzen not someone else. I can not live my life trying to achieve physical feats that other people accomplished.

The solution: I have my own unique set of goals. Some of them are probably the same as other people but the combination of all of them, I would assume, is unique. Top athletes try to innovate their sports by taking it to a new level. I just want to say 'this is what I did, it was fun, and my life is better because of it'.

So go out and make it your own. It doesn't have to be different, but it will be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The purpose of slow runs after hard runs

Totally a running post today. So you go out and do a hard workout or a 23.4 mile long run and your legs are trashed. Instead of taking the next day off you decided to double (run twice) the next day. Why would this help at all? It seems this would ruin your body not make it better. Well, here's my take:
  1. By doing a workout and running the next day you teach your body to be hungry and store up all the glycogen it can. This is repeated every day but it is most noticeable on the day after a long workout. If you plan to race longer races like the marathon you can't afford to fake it. It is important for your body to store up as much energy as possible. So your body anticipates being depleted of glycogen and uses more fat to offset that. In other words your metabolism becomes more efficient and your gas tank is bigger.
  2. Unless you are sprinting full out you are not using 100 percent of your muscle fibers. So when you do a hard workout and use the same 40 percent of your muscles they get tired. When you run later that day or the next day your brain tries to reduce the stress on your muscles and recruits some of the other 60 percent to do some of the work. If you can distribute the work amongst even a few dozen more muscles fibers that will help you go faster. Benji Durden suggested doing a long run of over three hours and then running another half hour later that day to get used to spending time on your feet. Same concept but honestly, that's sounds pretty pretty tough, I can 't wait to try it!
  3. Although it seems there is not much proof of this, if at all, a slower run after a hard workout works to flush the legs of waste. Not sure if I believe this one but I do know that for some reason I usually feet better after a shorter and slower run. If not immediately then the next day.
(This is all part of my secret plan to get my friends that are competitive runners to run more miles. I mean that's really the basis of it. To get better at running you have to run. But don't tell them because they might get offended that they aren't working hard enough.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Knowing a Failure

As my time as a masters graduate student winds to a close I have to reflect on everything I have done. That means writing the summary to my thesis. While trying to do that the last few weeks I hit a huge mental road block. All I could think about or write about were the many things I had done wrong. The several hundreds of simulations that inevitably ended with nothing worth writing about. As I sat there trying to figure out the purpose of it all I realized that I did learn some things worth mentioning. No I didn't solve the problem. I did find several contributing factors, none of which add up to the whole, but corrected would definitely make a difference.

In all those failures and what I consider semi-failures I see now that even in something that I used to think was so simple (metallurgy) is actually very complex and we still don't have all the answers. It can be very humbling to do research. You start out with grandiose plans and at the end it can be a little depressing what is actually accomplished. On the other hand, even accomplishing something small from scratch is a huge victory. Scientists, you have my respect.

I have learned, even in those failures where you feel it is a loss and a waste, there is learning to be had. That is very important. No one in the world will have all of the same failures that you do. That means your learning curve is different than everyone else in the world. I think that means that some day you will be able to solve a problem that no one else in the world has solved. Maybe you have already solved unique problems like that. Maybe I'm totally wrong.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 7

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI).
What they do right: they facilitate people to get out more. In middle school I started to take the outdoors more seriously and started thinking about camping more than 30 feet away from someone over 40 or a car. I do not remember if it was my dad who introduced me to REI or if I stumbled upon them on the internet. I do remember vividly the first time I went into one of the stores. I was 14 and our family was on vacation in California and we showed up ten minutes before it opened so we waited in the car. This was in middle to southern California. I remember pulling on the wooden handled ice axe door handles and thinking that this was really hardcore. I felt like a mountaineer just opening the door! As we looked around inside I remember seeing the huge assortment of climbing gear and marveling at how many different things there were. That was the first time I had ever seen a cam in real life. Now I own 15. They had tents and sleeping bags even warm down to -40F(C)!

When we walked out of there my life was changed. While it would be years before I would start buying rock climbing and ice climbing equipment, the seed had been planted. Maybe it's an engineering thing. I find it so interesting how to put a piece of metal into a slot in the rock so that if you fall it will hold you. Similarly I'm interested in the heat transfer involved in hiking up a mountain when the windchill is far below freezing.

REI succeeds where others fail because they span the entire range of outdoor committed enthusiasts. Walk into an REI and you can easily buy a $400-600 rain jacket, one of the most expensive on the market. You can also buy a $39 polyurethane rain jacket. It is the same with tents. You can spend $800 on a tent that could probably be used on Mars or $100 on a tent that is still way better than the one I slept in at 12,700 feet in Colorado on one trip. It is important to have a range of items because as consumers grow and their interests changes there is a real possibility that at some point years later the same person that bought a $39 rain jacket will be back for a $400 one.

My advisor old me that people are most disposed to pick medium if given three or five options. I think it is the same with prices. They don't want the cheapest but don't need the most expensive. Sounds like good marketing to me.

Also, several times a year REI stores have the garage sale. They sell the returned items that other people didn't want. Much of the merchandise is broken or in need of serious repair but there are very good deals if you are willing to look. My best finds were two pairs of rock climbing shoes for a total of $25 which is far better than the $220 they would have originally cost.

They also have this great program called the member dividend. It works by paying $20 when you sign up and as long as you buy $10 or more each year you get a percentage of all that you bought back to spend again. The reason it is so easy to keep buying year after year is that if you spend $100 and get the 10% back the next year you just have to buy something to use those $10. They also have a credit card where you earn even bigger dividends on REI purchases and small dividends on all purchases. I can not suggest getting a credit card as it encourages you to spend more money than you have but if you must have one this is a good one to have.

What they could improve: this is just my opinion and I am a special case but not many people at REI can help me any more. I know more about the gear and clothing they sell than they do. It can be frustrating to ask a question and get a totally bogus response.

Another things I think would be great is having sponsored athletes. I know they are a retailer as well as a manufacturer but they make a lot of good stuff and giving free gear and travel money to a few talented outdoors athletes would help promote their name among the dedicated outdoors professionals. What I mean is that I do not remember seeing the REI logo in Pakistan this summer but The North Face, Scarpa, and Mountain Hardware logos were everywhere, especially on their sponsored athletes.

Also, and again this is just my opinion, I would like to see REI delve into the niche aspects of outdoor recreation. Which is to say selling or producing cold weather gear, ultralight gear, and more running apparel. I think they have done very well with their product line as it is but they could expand into other segments of the market.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dark Horse

I'm talking about the guy nobody knows. The guy pounding away and straining to be the best. The guy who sweats passion. The guy who doesn't sleep because he found something and can't sleep until he absorbs it all. I'm talking about the guy that people think is a little unrealistic. The guy with nothing to lose so he doesn't quit.

I'm talking about Adam Young who created Owl City at 2 AM in his parents basement. I'm talking about Yanni when he played crazy stuff at after parties in Minnesota. I'm talking about Gary Erikson creating Cliff Bar from his parents house. I'm talking about Billy Mills PRing by 50 seconds in the finals of the 10k at the 64 olympics to take gold in a crazy sprint finish. I'm talking about Steve Wozniak building computers with high school kids in a garage.

Dark horses, you rock!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FREE eBook: What Gen Y Wants You to Know

It finally happened. I wrote and published a book! It took about nine weeks from the time I came up with the idea until it was all put together. This is very exciting for me! About the book...

I have been reading all sorts of blogs about marketing and social networking and the transition the internet is making into mainstream life. I was reading all of this stuff and they are talking about Facebook and what Generation Y is into and how we use the internet. I couldn't help but think that we are old enough they should be asking us what we want. Or maybe some of us should be telling them... So I did a quick search and our generation does not really have a spokes person. Sure we have famous people, but I think that they are a bad representation of our culture. Personally I can't relate to having millions of dollars, having cameras in my face all the time, or reading about my life in magazines. So I decided to write an eBook and give it away for free. I just want people to hear from us a little bit. I want to help older people understand younger people because the more we understand each other the more we are going to get done.

The problem with this sort of topic is that I want to be general and talk about the perspective from our generation not just my own personal views. So I enlisted the help of my little sister. We are somewhat different so I think we covered most of the bases.

Download the ebook (pdf): What Gen Y Wants You to Know

Along the way I learned more things. I plan to publish a book in 2010 and this whole process was great because I learned all about the publishing process. Specifically, the self publishing process which is a little like the wild west. It's amazing what you can do for free on the internet with very little computer skills! While researching all of these separate tangents I decided to make the book into a paperback as well. You can buy the paperback copy of What Gen Y Wants You to Know on

So read, enjoy, and perhaps now you might understand the teenagers and 20 somethings in your life a little better. If you are in Generation Y I hope that we got the gist of what you want.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And Arthur Lydiard said "Run"

Arthur Lydiard is responsible for two huge breakthroughs in athletics. As with many of my posts this begins with some history. Go back to 1940s or early 1950s New Zealand. An out of shape factory worker goes on a five mile run with a coworker. He is wheezing and having a tough time of it. After this experience this man decides that he is not in shape and he wants to get in better shape. He takes up running because it is very accessible, cheap and effective. He begins to run more and experiments with how to get better. Everything from running fast but very few miles to running over 200 miles a week. Finally he comes up with the basics of his first theory. A theory built on a huge aerobic base. He says to run a lot of miles at just below your aerobic threshold and then as many miles as you can at an easy pace and do this for 3-8+ months. Alternate the number of miles of your aerobic run every day running longer and a little slower three days a week and shorter and faster four days a week. For elite runners this is about 100 miles a week at close to aerobic threshold pace and 50+ miles at an easy pace. You can also do strides and hill work to maintain some fast turnover but the key is lots of miles.

What exactly is your aerobic threshold? Definitively answer that question and you can publish a book, make money, and coach the rest of your life. I would say that aerobic threshold is usually slower than marathon pace. Perhaps it would be better to say that it is like four hour race pace. That may be your marathon pace but for competitive runners it is slower than marathon pace. It is supposed to be a little faster than easy. So that you breathe slightly harder but could continue at that pace a long time.

His second breakthrough was experimenting on out of shape old golfers. He had them run 15 minutes three times a week and all of their health improved. He called it jogging. In the past either you were a runner or you weren't. Now you didn't have to be a runner or a couch potato, you could be a jogger complete with 5k race t-shirts and sore muscles just like a real runner without the pressure to run every day and do well in races. As far as inventing sports go this had to be the greatest invention yet.

I have two of his books: Running With Lydiard and Running to the Top. The first is more of a general overview of how to run with the goal of racing faster. The second is more specific to being a really good runner not just running faster and it was 12 more pages and is three dollars less. I can't really recommend one over the other because honestly they are probably 85% exactly the same. Reading any of Lydiard's books is a perfect introduction to running and a read that no runner should skip. Many of his theories are still in use today by many of the top coaches. In fact the performance booms in Japan, Finland, Kenya, and other places can be traced back to Lydiard teaching coaches in those countries his basic principles.

Wether you run 15 minutes three times a week or 15 hours a week over 13 runs and play golf or run marathons you can stand to learn something from this coach of coaches.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 6

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Google.
What they do right: They made the internet what it is. They made a source of information. The internet was cool before but this took it to another level. You could search the world and actually find what you wanted to find. They took a moderately competitive market and fixed the errors. Ads were smaller and all in text. There was a focus on text and not images. Their managed to connect everything and make it searchable. If you don't remember, it was hard to find things ten years ago. Not every website seemed to be on the same internet. Now it really only matters if you are indexed by Google. That's what it means to be on the internet: searchable by Google. Had they stopped there and just sold ads and indexed websites they would still be great. However, they saw other possibilities.

Then came Gmail. At first it was a staggering 1 GB of available space for your emails for free, now it's over 7. The mailbox has easy inbox and archive features and the star feature for important emails. Again, had they just done that it would be the best out there, but they linked it with a new chat feature Google Chat. Instant messaging and texting are slow compared to the speed of Google Chat. It also saves conversations in your archived emails so you have records. They also linked a calender to the email so you could see upcoming events. Then they released a new program Documents. It is possibly the most simple word processing device that has been created in the last 10 years but for simple writing and editing text it is great. For collaborations between multiple authors a single document can be edited at the same time and is updated about every minute. It tracks the changes and can show you what different authors changed. As far as producing group papers this is such a useful tool.

Their stable of products, and mostly free products is really staggering. They have Blogger the world's most popular blogging program. They recently came out with a fairly popular phone. They rule internet marketing by developing industries like search engine optimization and Adwords.

Aside from all of these technical innovations they have managed to create a new corporate system. I have a friend who had an internship at Google. They have a free cafeteria and games and all sorts of on site employee benefits. My friend said that he stayed there up to 14 hours a day. Obviously not working the whole time but the culture was such that everyone just hung out there. Wether that attitude in the business world is catching on is hard to say. With the current recession I would guess that most companies aren't giving out free lunches every day.

What they could improve: This is hard because I am afraid of Google becoming too powerful. They are so good and so connected to almost everybody that if they chose to wield their power it could be a bad situation. In the world these days it is hard to know where the balance of efficiency and fair are. If there was only one search engine people used it would be fine as long as you were on it but if you were not on the search engine then you would be invisible. It is the age old monopoly problem. On the other hand, the web of the internet has grown so much that a company could be spread by Facebook, email, and other networking systems so that very little of the traffic to that site would come directly from Google. Also, with the advent of smart phones and netbooks the internet is beginning to change. I think in the future it will change even more to perhaps pieces of thin flexible plastic that are just connected to the internet. We shall see how Google responds to this new era in the digital age.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mornings

In my effort to run more I've started running most mornings as well as in the evenings. In an effort to also spend more time at school I used the time change and now I wake up a half an hour earlier than before. This is great and I get to run more miles, blah, blah, blah. The problem is these mornings are rarely examples of awake and well rested Isaiah. If I don't trip or stumble on something in the gym in the morning getting changed it's a good morning. Often times I am stiff and I run so slow that when I finish I wonder if it was even worth it. Other times, like today, I sleep in and just skip the run because I have to listen to my body tell me that I am tired and need nine hours of sleep. I am a big fan of trying to push your limits but not a big fan of breaking them.

One other thing about the mornings is that it is the best time to take your pulse. If you want to know what your resting heart rate is take it before you do anything in the morning. It is the lowest it will be all day. (Today mine was 44 which ties for my personal all time low.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Juggling my future

I am at a pivitol point in my life. Soon I will be in the real world. The place without new student loans. In fact the last five years of life I will now have to pay for. Going back in time... I scrimped and saved my whole life and it only payed for about a semester of college. I worked in the summers and all that payed for was a few months of rent and food. The thing is, I have less debt than many of my friends and I feel I live in more luxury than most.

To avoid the inevitable unemployment that approaches I have begun work on several sources of passive income. That is work that I do once and make money off for a long time. This blog is among those but it has not paid out any money at all, yet. I also published my first book Monday. More details on that will be coming shortly after I proof it to make sure it is releasable to the public. If everything goes well I will release it next week along with the free identical ebook. I also designed my first website about two weeks ago. It is really rough but it will grow with time and eventually I will sell a book there as well. I am also working on two patents right now. Then I am also running races for prize money. So far I am one for two on that front but it does pay out a little. While the running is not passive income it is an alternative source.

The purpose off all of these is to have things that inform people about something and can also provide some money for me. In this, the 21st century, things are going to be different. I see a decentralizing of almost everything. Instead of huge corporations and giant facories there will be dozens of nearly identical smaller factories. This is because the cost of shipping will go up and the standard of living around the world will even out so that it is not cheaper to produce things halfway around the world. I think that the power grid will turn to alternative energy spread out before we discover how to contain fusion in which case one powerplant per continent might be enough.

What does that have to do with my passive income? Well, I am an innovator, an entrepreneur, and an inventor. The problem is that these things depend on me producing something that people buy. At this point in my life I am living by the seat of my pants. I have no contract for future income past December 15th. I want to run a company, even if that is a company of just one. So I am learning html and css coding for websites, I am learning blogging and website development, I am learning the publishing industry, I am learning the intellectual property industry, I am writing a business plan and I am writing the coolest thesis ever! Well okay, my thesis is less than perfect right now... The point is that if I want to help build a company from the ground up I have to know how to do a lot of different things. Of course in the future, when I can hire people to do that kind of stuff for me, I will be able to work on the things that I like doing more such as research and development.

There are also other advantages to this these passive incomes. Once you write a book you make money every time someone buys a copy. Since I am going with low budget print on demand publishing for my first book it never goes out of print unless I decide to take it out of print (or the company goes out of business). The advantage even if you only sell one book per month is that in ten years you can still sell one book per month. I would guess that you could also work this out with a traditional publishing house after they sell your 5,000 books and decide it is not worth a second printing and continued publicity. While it is nearly impossible to think of myself as a writer it would be nice to know that I could write a few books and use that money to travel around the world climbing mountains and sightseeing.

A few other thoughts about why I have been doing all of this and not working 12 hour days every day on my thesis: Publicity for me. You can call it my personal brand if you want. I get to influence the world. Now I can write a stellar thesis and maybe seven people will read it this year. Maybe two next year and then 14 people in the next 20 years. Unless it is phenomenal new science it will not make me famous. I average about 30 people per day on my blog now. Not too many by internet standards but more people read my blog in one week then may ever read my thesis. I have even helped some people with Abaqus problems and motivated a few people to run more or maybe work a little harder. Finally, I have fun! I like telling people about different things. Sometimes I feel like I have all this pent up information

Want a preview of what will be coming in the near future to Learning to DO: how to create a website from scratch, several running related book reviews, a retraction/clarification of the metabolism article, a few more Abaqus examples based on hits I get from Google, and my sister and I's free ebook and not so free identical paperback.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Past is History

I am specifically referring to my summer in Pakistan. The sharp memories are beginning to fade and the reality of living so close to danger is not keeping me awake at night. It is interesting how something that is the most memorable crazy thing I have ever done begins to be less of a novelty as time passes.

Over there I was more or less in constant fear. On the glacier it was falling in a hidden crevasse and getting hurt or killed. On the mountain it was avalanches, rock fall, fixed lines failing, blizzards, falling, not enough oxygen, not enough water, and cold temperature. On the jeep rides it was falling off the road. In the cities it was terrorism.

When I returned I went to Colorado for a few days and went running and climbing a lot. I was numb somewhat. I wasn't feeling pain or fear like I had always before. Some of that has lasted but it is not the same. I will be forever changed by my trip this summer but it will not always be the sharp knife in my emotions that is once was.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 5

The Successful Innovative Company of the week: Krispy Kreme.
Disclaimer: I do not want to be the leader for the obese America movement but I like doughnuts and Krispy Kreme is king. I also exercise about 14 hours a week.

What they do right: The make the best tasting mass produced doughnuts. The first time I had Krispy Kreme was in the summer of 2002 in Sedona, Arizona at my grandparents timeshare. My uncle went out and bought two dozen for everyone and I had one. The taste was light and fluffy, not heavy or too sugary, with just a hint of strawberry. It was so good I followed it up with two or three more that morning and the next time he went to go buy some doughnuts I went along with a few others in my family. We had all liked the doughnuts and apparently it was an up and coming company so we all wanted to see it first hand. The store there did not have the conveyer belt, but it still emitted that high class, oil paintings for sale on the walls, free wi-fi, yes life is amazing vibe.

When I went to a Krispy Kreme with the machine that makes doughnuts I was astounded. Then they gave me a free hot glazed doughnut just for standing there! Watching the machine pop out perfect circles and then so evenly cook them and frost them I was just amazed. It was so simple but yet so different. Most bakeries have some sort of magic that goes on in the back and you have no idea how it all works or if they just use a microwave or something but here you could see everything. Krispy Kreme still keeps the exact dough recipe secret but they show so much more of the cooking process so I'll let them keep the recipe.

Krispy Kreme has also expanded to have doughnuts available in grocery stores and for fund raisers. Selling plain glazed doughnuts as a fund raiser. Aside from selling eggs (another good story) that is the most basic thing I have ever heard of. Yet it works. Thousands of doughnuts are sold every year though fundraising. In total they sell 11,000 doughnuts every hour of every day on average.

What they could improve: More locations so that people like me who live more than a half an hour away from the nearest location can have them more often. Also, I think that industries in the business of less than ideal food (fast food, doughnuts, candy, soda, you get the idea) would be doing their customers a service by making an effort to both educate their customers and provide more nutritious options. People aren't getting any skinnier in the world. In the future I see food shortages due to population explosions and running out of arable land if we continue to pursue the life of excess that we live in now. The blame is spread on all of us but it would just be nice to see a company like Krispy Kreme take more initiative in the battle for sustainability and health.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

City People!

Dear City People,

You make me laugh. When I told you that I own several guns the expression on your face was priceless! In case you still don't understand: most guns are not used to shoot people. When I tried to explain fields and plains to you and you just didn't get that there are places without buildings and trees, I was very surprised. When you complained about driving three miles across town to go out to eat I thought of the numerous times I have driven an hour one way for good food. By the way the suburbs is not the countryside. I don't know if you remember the night up in New Hampshire cruising around the actual countryside and you were worried about someone crazy jumping out and some sort of horror movie situation happening. If that ever does happen to you let me know. When you told me you didn't know how to drive I'm sorry but I really thought you were joking. Same for riding a bike. When we had that bonfire and you just kept playing with it until you burned yourself I felt like I was watching a 26 year old person pretend to be nine. You should try and get out more because despite living here for several years you really don't know your way around. Do you remember the time that you went to Florida even though you've never been to New York City? When you came back I would have thought that you had spent two years traveling the world. Just to let you in on a little secret: there is in fact stuff to do and things to see west of Albany. But I am sure you will never get bored or unhappy here so there is no need to try something new.

Also, you are insane. Case in point: you passed me yesterday going 45 in a 30 but had to stop at the stoplight less than a quarter of a mile away and I pulled up right beside you. When we walked over to Dunkin Donuts yesterday you sprint walked to get in line ahead of me even though we both had to wait for five minutes. Then your order took longer to make than mine so I still left before you. I apologize for accidently eavesdropping on your conversation yesterday about the divorce you are in the middle of with the woman that you first met in a night club. I won't tell. But I will suggest that perhaps night clubs are not the best place to meet people for long term relationships. That's great that your family is from the area and has been here for seven generations and you plan to spend your entire life here, even though the winters are too cold for you and you never have actually lived anywhere else. I am sure that wherever you live now is the best place to live. I mean change is a pretty scary thing. I've heard it even scares people to death.

Your Friend,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our bodies are not typical engines

We (in the running community) sometimes liken our bodies to a car talking about fuel efficiency and maximum power or speed. Well that's not entirely correct. Our body has several different metabolic processes that can occur simultaneously. Specifically aerobic and anaerobic respiration. Additionally, and I'm hazy on this because I haven't taken any biochem in awhile, our bodies convert fat to glucose or something like that so that when we are working aerobically we are burning both strait up glucose and glucose from fat. Take that a step farther so that we need a little bit of anaerobic respiration to do whatever we are doing. So now we are burning everything we have fat, glucose, and more glucose. Now the body's supply of glucose (from glycogen) is limited. This is why in marathoning the "wall" is so famous. The distance of a marathon is short enough that people can try to run hard the whole way and it is long enough that you can't run hard the whole way. So many runners get into the 20+ mile range and hit the wall because they ran out of sugar and now their body is forced to burn the glucose from fat which takes a little longer to metabolize. The problem is that while you can "run" on fat as long as you can stay awake it does not provide as much energy "quickly" as sugar (glucose). This applies to just about every exercise not just running. Although, lower intensities (walking), activities with frequent rests (sports involving whistles), or eating all contribute to making it possible to do those for long periods of time. Our bodies are more like a tribrid that will change metabolism depending on the exertion.

A few other comments on metabolisms:
  • Before breakfast you have less sugar in your system so you burn up to 3x as much fat than later in the day after you start eating.
  • I have about 11 pounds of fat and thus 38,500 calories of fat fuel in me, in theory enough to run well over 300 miles continuously, now, if I wanted.
  • I have hit the wall in the 400, 800, 5000, 10,000, and a number of 15+ mile long runs, notably an 18 miler in Colorado on Gold Hill. So our bodies are complicated.