Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Designer vs. Developer

The world of products has changed somewhat the past few decades. There is a group of people who get college degrees in design. Graphic design, fashion design, and other forms of design are becoming increasingly common. I only have a limited knowledge of this field so what I say may be wrong about it. It seems that this is not purely art. It is applying art to an otherwise "structural" situation.

For example, clothing companies come out with new product lines and updates every year. A large amount of the "new" is due to designers creating new lengths, seems, cuts, pockets, color schemes, and the like. Designers are to products what architects are to buildings. These seem to be the creative people that challenge the limits of what is possible.

Then there are developers. Developers are to products what civil engineers are to buildings. These are the people that make it work. They apply manufacturing constraints to the designs and come up with the best solution. Their creativity is figuring out how to make something. Welded seam gloves. It's the next big thing if anyone can figure out how to do it well. Many millions of dollars if you can make gloves with welded seams that last as long as sewn seams. Companies are starting to try it now, but it is not working yet.

Right now as a do-it-all-myself person it's hard to separate the different tasks. As I apply for mainstream jobs I have some difficulty most of the time even understanding what they are looking for. In my education, proof of concept and functionality have been stressed over looks. If it worked with duct tape, we used duct tape. The more I learn about marketing it seems that people care how things look. Now, my experience in industry is very limited. So when I apply for these jobs I wonder if I will be creating new products from scratch like I have done before or if they want someone to take a prototype and make it shinny and figure out how to make tens of thousands of them.

There are many other people in the product line chain such as the people that actually manufacture the stuff, the sales people, the marketing people, management, investors/owners, and the support people that keep all of those people running. However, when it comes to the creation and production the people that create items and solve production problems are designer and developers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What is the Problem?

Before you can fix something you have to know what is broke. In my more advanced schooling we did not try to answer a question first, we made sure that we were asking the right question. Two examples...

First, for my MS thesis I was trying to solve a distortion problem during a heat treating process. One of the ways we were trying to quantify the distortion was by measuring the distortion at every step of the process instead of just the beginning and end. It turns out there were some surprises and a large part of the distortion was coming from part of the process that had not been considered a problem before. By asking what the measurements were after that step we were better able to answer the question of how to reduce distortion.

Second, something is wrong with me. The doctor does not know what it is. My X-rays (which I have on a cd on my desk with a .exe file extension I can not open and look for myself because I have a six year old mac) came back clean. The doctor thinks I still have kidney stones. From the reading I have done on the internet that seems likely. A thought occurred recently, could this be stress manifesting itself in my body? I really hope it's just a kidney stone or infection because I don't really know how I am supposed to reduce my stress.

First, define the problem, then address the problem.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 14

Well, this is the end of "carefree" weeks. Next week when I can't pay my bills I will start getting phone calls and my credit will go downhill. Thus is life. What is credit anyway? Do people or institutions have credit? Such as when you work for a company or go to a school should they help you progress to your next stage of life? I would give more credit and respect to those that did. Maybe that would be integrity.

I don't mean to point the finger at everybody. I have had a lot of help from several people at many different places. Unfortunately, "help" is becoming a pretty worthless word in my vocabulary. I don't think it counts as help unless it actually contributes to accomplishing anything, and I have not accomplished anything recently.

I applied for jobs this week. I applied to be a barista at a local coffee shop. I sent a friend an article about running that he sent to several business associates with Runner's World. I applied for half a dozen jobs at Sikorsky in Connecticut. I just get the feeling that Colorado doesn't want me.

I also put together everything I have about Janzen Gear in one document. I need to smooth it out before I send it out, but it will be another incarnation of my business plan. Now for those of you that aren't in business, business plans are generally 10-20 pages long. They describe everything about the company from the management team to the advertising strategy to the production. I think they are ridiculous. I mean I think that for someone like me creating a 12 page paper about what I plan to do is unrealistic. Oh I have 14 pages right now, but a lot of that is repeated and a little is not included. The point is it's all fluff. Numbers and statistics about companies that don't really do what I do. I shouldn't compare myself to The North Face. They have hundreds of employees and I am just me. The other super frustrating thing is the value system around business plans. To have a business plan created for you it can cost upwards of $20,000. If I had $20,000 I would have a product available this fall.

There are basically three types of investors in the world. First, including most people is the group that has a few thousand that could be invested in something but they are not rich. Second, is accredited investors, people who make over $500k per year or have over 2 million. These are usually known as angel investors because they can give out tens of thousands or a few hundred thousand without a problem. Third is the group at the top. Decamillionaires and billionaires, who have so much money that they actually can't spend it all on having fun. There is always more land to buy and companies to invest in so they can spend it but seriously, what is the difference between owning 40,000 acres and 800,000 acres? Anyway, traditional angel investors are looking for high tech start up companies where they will make a lot of money when they sell the company in five years. That is not my goal. I just want to make stuff and license or sell it. My desires are so basic. I would like to get a new computer so that I do not have to use my six year old laptop with a broken battery. One of the biggest expenses would be getting an investment casting mold for about $6,000. That number is so big to me right now I just can not handle it. However, I know that out there this past week people bought Porches and Corvettes. I am sure that someone in Manhattan spent more on room and board this week than $6,000.

It's tough because most of the people I know really do not have any money to give me. Those that have a little I don't really want to take because I know that it is just that, a little and they could easily lose their income or other investments. Yet creating a 12 page business plan to show to multimillionaires while asking for less money than they spend on a single car seems ridiculous. They buy a car based on two pages of specs and a test drive. They know it will depreciate yet spend tens or hundreds of thousands on it. I just can not relate. I drive a van with over 260,000 miles and it works fine, I have no intention of getting rid of it anytime soon.

Aside from that frustration I ran this week. I ran like 63 miles. It is the first time I have been below 70 since September. Why so low? Was I doing really hard quality workouts? No. My right side decided to shut down. From the bottom of my ribs to my neck on my right side is in pain. I can't sleep unless I take all sorts of drugs. I can't lay down. Running is basically terrible. Isn't this exciting? No income and I get sick or hurt or something. I went to the doctor and they don't know what it is. Maybe pneumonia, but probably not, maybe kidney stones, that's the one my personal research is leaning towards. They took four blood samples, blood oxygen measurements, a chest x-ray, and listened to me breathe. My most recent thought, maybe it's stress. I have this way of getting depressed. Try being unemployed for more than three months sometime. What am I supposed to think that is happy? I don't have a job and I can't run as well as I want.

So I have not sent a bunch of emails that I was planning on sending this past week because honestly I didn't feel like it. If you haven't noticed, my attitude right now is not an attitude I want to pass on to people while I am asking for money, a job, or whatever.

I feel like a total failure. I have no money. Nobody wants to hire me. My running is terrible. My health is failing. It's not bad enough that I want to die. I went through that stage when I was much younger and came out of it so that I will never really want to die or commit suicide again. However, I don't really want to live either. I'm in a hole so deep that I just don't think my problems will be solved easily. I think there will be a lot more pain in my near future.

Most interesting feeling of the week: I was driving up one of the roads from Denver to Evergreen after taking my 800th milligram of ibuprofen and as I was going around the corner I thought, "This is strange the van is turning. I know I am holding the steering wheel but the van is turning and I can't really feel it."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Threesomes Are Not All Fun

Some of my post titles are worded to get people interested. This is one of them.

I once watched a drama/documentary about three football commentators in the 60s or 70s that changed the way football was broadcast. One of the points of the movie was that in any group of three you always end up with a two on one. Now the sides can change depending on the argument, but you end up with a two against one conflict.

This does not have to apply to all three party systems, but in my limited experience in the seven years since I heard the comment it seems more right that wrong.

In a group of two it is either together or apart. They fight as equals because they each have one voice. In a group of three, two sides be taken taken. Two against one. It is a rather harsh and unequal environment. If Survivor has taught us anything it is alliances and trust. When it gets down to three people only the person with immunity votes. It is one simple vote which gives one person at least thousands of dollars and the other nothing.

A triangle is a great shape for structures, but it doesn't work the same way for relationships. Of the three someone has to be in control. However, if someone gets 40% control the other two will decided that one is not worth 40% and stage an overthrow and bring the group down to two. Three is often not a sustainable number.

I am a huge proponent of honesty. I can not lie well at all. Ask my friends. I might say that I can do more than I actually can do because often I do not understand how hard it will be. I will also be the first to say that the minority can be the ones with the truth. That less than 1% can be the in the right while more than 99% are in the wrong. In that context two against one is no big deal; however, humans are shallow. I am one of them so I know from my own experiences. We see two ganging up on the one and tend to side with the two because it is safer. We like to have a scapegoat. It is easier to be the bully than the victim.

In the worlds of people, groups, politics, fights, and relationships three can be a dangerous number.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SPF 100+

Sun Protection Factor 100+. In other words, you won't get a sunburn.

When I was shopping around for sunscreen to take to Pakistan I wanted the highest, most protective stuff out there. At 26,000 feet there is a lot less air in the way blocking the sun's UV rays. I went looking for zinc oxide. That white paste that you see on lifeguards noses in movies. Well, it's a pretty difficult thing to find. When I finally found some it was a 5% solution and had an SPF of like 45. On the same shelf at Walgreens was a new line of Neutrogena products called Ultra Sheer. At the most protective they had a tube of SPF 100+ which only debuted in 2009.

After asking the pharmacist it turns out that SPF is a measured factor. So zinc oxide or not SPF 50 protects from the sun more than SPF 20 no matter what the ingredients are. So I bought the SPF 100+.

I must say I have been nothing but pleased. Every part of my skin I have covered in that stuff has stayed sunburn free. I haven't even gotten red after wearing it. However, SPF measures only UVB rays and not UVA rays which still cause cancer and aging. So staying out forever just because you aren't getting red does not mean you are not getting cancer, it means you are less likely to get cancer.

Every time I whip it out I feel like it's a gag. Nobody else ever has anything over SPF 50. I feel like a walking science experiment. Fortunately, it doesn't stay white once you rub it in. It's just like any other sunscreen I have ever used, except it lasts a long time. I have never applied it twice in one day.

Technology. What will we think of, improve, invent, change, or create next?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Spring Equinox!

Saturday March 20th was the vernal spring equinox. That means that there was an equal amount of day and night. This is significant because it ushers in the best six months for outdoor sports. At least outdoor sports that don't involve snow. Well, snow at low elevations on south facing slopes.

For runners the next six months are just fantastic! There is plenty of sun. It's generally warm enough to wear shorts. You can work until 6 PM and still have an hour or more of sunlight. In the winter it is easy to make excuses to not get outside and do something. The weather is bad and it's dark. Now life is better. The weather is not as bad and it's light out. It's time to get back on the bike, get a new pair of running shoes, buy a swimsuit, pump up the bike tires, plant the garden, or swear at road bikers and runners with the windows down if that is your warm weather hobby.

So get out there. Have some fun. Exercise a little. Smile. You have just made it through another winter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 13

In the world of income searching: First and foremost I took a big step. I blind carbon copy emailed a whole lot of people telling them about Janzen Gear, and asking for money. Well, it's more than just the money. I asked for other things and had a lot of responses from people in web development or networking to other possible opportunities. This was a big step for me because I do not like to ask for help. I realized that in one email I might have asked more people for help than I have ever asked in my life. It was humbling. The verdict is not in about how "successful" it was yet but things look good. If you want to invest in Janzen Gear email me.

I applied for eight different jobs, none in Colorado. It's not that I have to stay here. I just like it so much I don't want to have to vacation here I would like to weekend here. Also, I have never lived in the northwest and I wouldn't mind trying that. However, I also like the sunlight and Seattle doesn't have the greatest reputation for lots of sunny days like Denver.

I went to a Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce cocktail hour at the Bradford Washburn Mountaineering Museum. I was invited by one of the members who started his own company and was formerly one of the head people at Quest Communications. I talked to some people and was in a little bit of awe. Jefferson County is kind of a big deal. The members of the Chamber of Commerce are not little people like me. As I looked around the room I saw two things in all of the people: people who get it done, and people who are afraid of the future. Sure they acted confident, but I kept seeing stray glances of fear. Someone would look at someone else, as if he or she had something to say to that person, but not go talk to that person.

My documentary is down to 82 minutes. I have a few more places where I can edit it down. What is the big deal with length? People getting bored is the biggest concern. Then to get aired on PBS it has to be less than 56:40 for a one hour run time. To be considered a feature length film at the Vancouver Film Festival it has to be 60+ minutes, mid length 20-60 minutes and short 20 or less. To get into the Banff it seems like either feature length at 70+ minutes or short at 15- minutes. So I think I might end up leaving it at 70+ minutes but then make a short/preview of like 10 minutes or less (YouTube max length) and perhaps submit that to film festivals. The reason I have a hard time making it shorter is that I was behind the camera the whole time. It all matters to me. Also, there is no repeating of actual frames. I have two helicopter evacuations, but that's because I was around for four of them.

In my world of pure fun: I ran 71 miles had one workout and one race. Every Tuesday I've been running this 6k route as a fartlek either one minute hard one minute easy or two minutes hard two minutes easy. This week I was 19 seconds faster than last week and that week was 17 seconds faster than the week before. So I'm getting faster every week which is nice. I ran a 10k race in Denver on Saturday. My time was 38:14, because more than 37 minutes of that was on ice and snow. I just could not go faster. That is the slowest 10k I have ever raced by about three minutes. The half marathon I ran in November was much hillier and I ran faster than that twice in a row. It's no problem because I just wanted to get in a long anaerobic tempo and I did.

I toured the Colorado School of Mines Metallurgy department. They have fantastic facilities! I've been considering a Ph. D. for a long time and seeing their facilities motivates me even more to go for it. I still have not decided if becoming a doctor is what I want. It is a hard decision. On the one hand you get more respect, you learn more about research, and you publish papers; but on the other hand people treat you differently because you are a doctor, the actual opportunities that you have are very narrow to do something in the same field as your doctorate, and it would take me three or four years. 2014 is a long way away. I am not sure what I am doing tomorrow let alone the next four years. Like I said when I commit to something it's 100% so I'm taking my time to commit to PhD school. Also, long term what I want as a career is not a degree offered by any university. I want to go to Mars. Since I'm the only person at the moment, or at least the only person I have ever met, that has that goal I feel like I'm writing the book for how to do it.

Who knows? I mean if I die today I have already done so many things that it would be okay. I am past the point of "he died so young". I just do not want to waste my time. There is so much I want to do, yet all of it seems so far away sometimes.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 20

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Adventure Consultants.
What they do right: The world of high altitude mountaineering is a small one. There are only several thousand people around the world that do it on a regular basis. Also, 30-60% of those people are your average people that only ever hit up the standard routes on the standard mountains. That is to say that Everest is the most popular 8000 meter peak. A friend of mine that was at Everest North side base camp a few years ago said that there were around 1500 people total there. Compared to Broad Peak or K2 last year when there was probably 100 people at each base camp. To make things even smaller, there are only a handful of guiding companies or commercial expedition providers. These are companies that specialize in setting up expeditions for climbers that are inexperienced enough to get invited on private expeditions or set up their own. This is a great way for a few hundred people around the world to make a living. Most climbing guides do not guide high altitude mountains like Everest but it is a major aspect of the guiding industry. How small is this guiding world? I have only been on one expedition but the connections I made through that trip are enough that I could probably get the personal phone number of Russell Brice (from the Everest: Beyond the Limit Discovery Channel series), Ed Vestiurs, or Steve House with one phone call to people I know. Not that I have anything to ask any of those people that hasn't already been published.

The small industry forces every company to scrape out their own niche. Due to bad weather, difficult mountains, and terrorists Pakistan has only a few companies that guide there on a regular basis. It is similar with other nonstandard mountains like Mt. Logan (second highest in North America).

I still haven't answered what they do right. I'm not quite done explaining the situation yet, bear with me. Now mountain guiding started in the 1800s in Europe. In fact several first ascents of mountains were done by guides and clients during the 1800s. The history of guiding thus dates as far back as the history of modern alpine climbing. What separates Adventure Consultants is that they took guiding to a new level. In 1992 they led their first Everest expedition. It was not the first commercial expedition to Everest, but they organized it and advertised it in a way that no one else did at that time. They brought a level of support to Everest that no other company had brought for their clients at that time.

People want to climb Mt. Everest because it is the tallest. Adventure Consultants started at the right time and offered the right services to carve out a niche as the premier guiding company on Everest. Of all the niches, within the niche of high altitude mountaineering, to "own" I estimate that it is the most stable and probably most lucrative.

They have been copied by many companies now but they still remain the standard for an Everest guiding company. They were one of the companies dramatically involved in the 1996 Everest disaster. However, high altitude climbers are a somewhat risky group of people and the resulting publicity only fueled the "go climb Everest" band wagon.

What they could improve: Adventure Consultants has garnered a reputation as a sort of pay-your-ticket-and-get-pulled-to-the-top sort of company. They have a reputation for wearing matching bright down suits and attracting mid life crisis climbers. This is definitely an exaggeration of the reality, but like most rumors it has roots in the truth. In general, the more you pay on an expedition the more support you can expect. At the highest level, the high altitude porters (Sherpas, generally in Nepal) carry your sleeping bag to every camp and hand you soup at the high camp at 7900 meters. My experience in Pakistan was somewhat different. I carried cooking equipment, fuel, all of my personal gear, and helped chop tent platforms. At high camp at 7000 meters I also manned the stove to make my own water and cook my own food. That was the experience I wanted, to do some of the work.

For many people the entire goal is the top of the mountain. That is fine, that's a worthy goal. My goal is more about the experience. The challenge of seeing how much I can do. I think the premier challenge of high altitude mountaineering would be to climb a new route, solo (or at least with a small 2-3 person team), in winter, alpine style, on the west face of Gasherbrum IV. The problem is, that would be very hard. Nobody has even attempted that.

So what they could improve in my eyes would make the climb more challenging. However, the niche they fill requests as much support as possible. That is to say I do not see myself going on an Adventure Consultants trip anytime soon. However, for many people Adventure Consultants is the best option.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Do Not Like Leftovers

Does that make me a bad person? I feel so guilty when the menu consist of this leftover or that leftover. I feel like I am evil and a snob for wanting food made fresh.

I have spent so many years cooking meals for one. For me it is usually no trouble to put a pot of water on and then throw in some stuff and eat. I also really like hot food. Perhaps microwaves have failed me. I do not like getting half way through a reheated meal and finding that the middle of my plate is cold. Perhaps I have had too many bad experiences reheating foods that do not reheat well such as any sort of bread.

Many people I know like leftovers. In fact, it seems like most of the people I know purposely cook far more than will get eaten the first time around. I experimented a few times with this strategy, I just don't like it. I would rather break open a package of dry Ramen than reheat some four day old meal. I just have never felt so pressed for time that it was a better investment of my time to do all the cooking one day and eat leftovers for several days. I would rather cook than watch tv or check my email.

This is terrible. I feel like the article will fall on deaf ears. That more people will write me off as crazy and a spoiled elitist. I don't think it is wrong to like fresh food, and when I say fresh food I even mean dry Ramen. Is it human nature to cook extra in case something happens and we are not able to cook for several days? Is is a carryover from a time when we were starving? Should I be worried about starving on a day to day basis? I'm not. Who knows, maybe a day or two without food would do me good.

For those of you that relish eating old food, good job. That is a skill I do not have. Please do not be offended when I do not want to partake in your consumption tradition.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization or SEO as it is often called is a vital and to most people scary thing. The truth behind the matter is quite different. It is easy and simple.

Search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) have robots that crawl the web know as crawlers with web addresses like Basically they go from link to link and use words in webpages to determine which searchers will want a certain page. There are algorithims and stuff that turn this simple process into a confusing affair for most people. The key is to keep it simple. If you want more search engine traffic to your website use words that label what you are talking about. My best example is "bottom-up meshing in abaqus". I wrote a long post about how to do it and as soon as the search engines found it with all sorts of key words like mesh, abaqus, and bottom I turned into a celebrity of this one particular type of meshing.

How does this apply to you getting more hits. Well, pictures, Flash animation, and video are not read by search engines. Wikipedia, which is a very simple website composed nearly entirely of html (the most simple programming code I can think of) often comes up in search results because it is loaded with words and links. Those are the two things you need and in that order:
  1. Words are the blood of search engines. Searches are done with words and so far they only find words. If you want to become the most famous plumber in Boston, you need to make a website that incorporates words like plumber, Boston, best, maybe even the word famous to get more search engine hits.
  2. Links are the nerves of the internet. A click on a link sends a signal somewhere else. If you want to get noticed by a website or better yet a blogger, link to their website. If enough people click on the link they will notice that they are getting traffic from your website and go check out what you have. This applies to search engines because their robots go from link to link to find other webpages. So the more links you have coming into your website the higher you will appear in search results.
That is all there is to SEO. Before you go out and spend a dozen hours trying to find a secret or pay someone to help with search engine optimization just keep in mind words and links.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Review: Beyond the Mountain by Steve House

This is a solid mountaineering book. Steve describes the process of him going from a naive teenager to that of an experienced, one of the world's best, alpinists. He covers everything from being terrified on a 5.9 route (relatively easy) and using ancient climbing gear to getting divorced and his friends dying.

Much of the book reads like a journal or a conversation. He takes snippets of his life that were the more dramatic and puts them together in Beyond the Mountain. That is to say that much of the book can stand alone. Several of the chapters are short eulogies to alpinists died in the mountains. Others are trip reports of first ascents. Together it is an accurate description of what he gave to get to that level both on a physical and emotional level.

Beyond the Mountain struck me not for the descriptions of difficult climbing, which I promptly forgot, but for the emotional aspect. He tries several times to describe the connection between people after completing a very difficult and dangerous route. He describes the connection as one that might even be stronger than between a married couple. His descriptions reminded me of war veterans that often say they were closer to the people they served with than anyone else in their life. Veterans shared with each other in a way that people who weren't there don't understand. From my limited experience in that type of stressful situation I have an inkling of what they mean. Steve House, in my opinion, really centers his book around trying to describe those emotions.

It is a very insightful book into the life of one of the best alpinists. I will not say you need to go out and read it now. However, if you have a loved one who ventures into the mountains this is the book I would recommend most so that you might better understand your loved one. Beyond the Mountain describes the emotional effects of mountaineering, beyond the mountains.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 12

In the world of income searching: I had a big week applying for jobs. I think I applied for 23, about 21 of those in California or Washington. The reason being a recommendation from an engineer in the local aerospace industry to check out farther west. Also because I would like to see my track season out while living at altitude and jobs that I apply for now I probably won't get until May. More jobs are becoming available as the next year graduates so there are more opportunities every week. But who knows where I'll be or what I'll be doing in a month or three months?

I am continually learning about what I want to get out of life and I developed that again this week in relation to having a job. I decided that the main reason I am paranoid about being unemployed is that I have debt. If I was simply broke without debt I would be much less stressed. Along those same lines my running and mountaineering may never pay for themselves on their own. However! as I learned with my coaching perhaps there are other avenues to create income from my adventures. Documentaries about expeditions, books about training or expeditions, lectures about that stuff, coaching, and other ways that I can provide information may prove to create income for me. That is to say I'm not going to put up a new 5.13 free route at 7000 meters on Masherbrum anytime soon and get sponsors, but then again Jon Krakuarer did very well writing a book about jugging up Everest.

In the world of Janzen Gear, contractors have taken their time to actually give me a number. All I want is a number, a price for what it would take for them to produce my ice axe. I was also turned down for one of the business competitions I applied for. I've been rejected in so many ways in the recent past that one more rejections doesn't really bug me. I am sure that the course of my professional life will be very satisfying.

In the world of my documentary I met with an experienced sponsored alpinist friend of mine and he gave me lots of good advice about what to include and how to make it short. I've been reinvigorated to make it profitable. I have cut it down to 100 minutes. The goal is less than 56 minutes, perhaps even less than 30. I know that is short but I want to hold peoples attention. As much as die hard unexperienced people or people who were there would easily watch two hours (my parents watched all eight hours with me!) I think that many people would rather less than an hour.

In the world of coaching, my only athlete was sick with pneumonia the last two weeks in the hospital. Fortunately he is better now, but needless to say I haven't been coaching. I did read a book on coaching by Renato Canova and started the Joe Vigil book. Strangely enough for a long time I have wanted to coach high school runners. Well every once in awhile the last half year or so I've considered making it more of a career. Full time running coaches are actually kind of rare. There are probably only several hundred in the US. Most are at universities coaching a college team. Only a handful make a living coaching professional athletes. I can't even think of ten coaches in the US that coach exclusively professional runners. Anyway I don't see that happening anytime soon with my mediocre personal records but perhaps some day I will have the opportunity to be there face to face with my athletes every day.

I have read about creating multiple streams of income as a way to stabilize my "portfolio" or income and I like the idea. I just have more work to do before I actually have multiple streams of income. For example: sell my documentary, license a patent, coach, and write books (or blog) all at the same time. No one would provide an entire income but together it could be enough. I am trying hard not to limit myself to one particular area of work. I have a broad set of skills from writing to sharpening cross cut saws to finite element heat treating simulations.

In the world of non-income: I ran 102 miles this week. It was perhaps one of the best weeks of running I have ever had. Not super high mileage but solid. I also had a good long run and three workouts. The first two were nothing terribly special but the last workout on Friday was just amazing. I did 20x400 meters at 10k pace and 400 meters recovery. The total of 8k of quality work was 25:16 which is nearly a minute faster than my pr (personal record). It was also done alone on an asphalt track at 5900 feet. I figure with an altitude conversion of 2 seconds per lap that puts me below 31 flat 10k pace, which is the goal. I know there was a lot of rest and some could easily argue that this is really a 5k specific workout and not 10k, but I am happy. I would like to do a few workouts of equal or slightly harder effort in the next few weeks but overall I am pleased that I am on the right track. It looks like I will be racing the 10,000 at the Kansas Relays at KU in Lawrence Kansas April 15th. I am still looking for a second track 10k this season at least nine days before or after the race in Kansas. If anyone knows of anything relatively close to Denver and close to sea level please let me know.

I bought some new clothes including a pair of jeans. After trying on several pairs it seems that I am an even 28x28 person. Unfortunately many companies don't make anything smaller than 30x30. Also, what's up with holes in jeans? I seem to tear enough holes in my pants from riding my bicycle, going over barb wire fences, crawling around on the ground, and using saws. I mean seriously, pants that come with holes in them? If I want people to see my legs I'll wear running shorts.

This is also extremely tentative but I might be able to go to Mt. Everest in 2012 and perhaps Aconcagua in early 2011. There are so many details that I need to figure out before it is confirmed. There is also the approval of a number of other people that I need before I go. I also have to figure out how to fund it all. Fortunately those are all details that I think will work out.

Honestly, I had a good week. Life takes ups and downs and this week I had more ups than downs. I hope that you had a good week as well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Love Commitment

I love commitment. It has taken me many years to realize this, but I know it is true. First of all the English language is particularly bad when it comes to the word love. The best way for me to describe love in this sense is passion. In the same way committing is giving your approval and saying that you care enough to stay in the game for the long haul.

To give a few examples: I like to do my long run every Sunday afternoon on a long loop. I like the idea of being nine miles from the closest way back home. I like mountain days that start before the sun rises and ends after it sets. I like the fear of not knowing if I can finish. I like the idea that just seeing something through until the end is a huge accomplishment. I like the thrill of graduate school because I did not know for several months in 2009 if I would finish my thesis. To walk out on the other end of all of those setbacks, after all of the doubt, I wouldn't trade my experiences for all the money I can imagine. Without my experiences who am I?

On every committing endeavor there are challenges. This fact is known from the beginning. Yet people still get married, try to climb K2, or take out a mortgage. I can not say I look forward to the challenges, because they are hard. The farther "out" you are the harder the challenge. The more committed you are the harder the challenges will be.

I have often heard people say they are afraid of commitment, generally in reference to relationships or military service. I feel it is very valid to be afraid of commitment. Commitment is hard. Easy things can be left at any time. In fact, I commit to very few things because I am afraid of making the wrong commitment. It terrifies me to take too many steps in the wrong direction.

I have mentioned it before but in case you did not know what the purpose of life is, it is relationships. At least in my world relationships are the purpose of life. I won't go into what relationships mean in this article. If you want to strengthen a relationship do something committing together. It's that simple. Overcoming challenges brings out a myriad of qualities in people that we do not normally see. When I think of those people in my life I am closest to it is the people I have sweat, bled and cried with. We did not sip our mochas and chat about something we were not influencing. We went out and did something. Something that was not easy. Something that required our commitment to each other. Something that at the end of the day I could say "I love you" and it wouldn't be awkward because the other person felt the same way.

What defines easy and hard? In 2006 I started logging every single run I run on an internet running log. I call my "easy" runs recovery runs because they are there to recover for harder sessions. I think that running is rarely easy. There are a lot of times when I would rather skip a run instead of actually going out and doing it but I know that what I want is on the other side of many unpleasant miles. (I also know from experience that after a run there is a 99% chance that I will feel much better about life than when I started the run. Sometimes, running doesn't help.) So when I say something is easy I basically mean it was handed to me. Commitment is not easy. The penalty for committing to something could easily be your life.

Commitment also means being selective about what you do. You can not commit to everything. That is part of the beauty of commitment. Singling one particular thing out and saying "yes". It is making your world black and white. Things you do and things you do not do. (Trying new things is generally good though. Who knows? Maybe you will end up committing to it. Eight years ago I had done so little climbing in my life I would have never guessed that I would own a portaledge or spend two months in Pakistan.) Commitment is cutting away the excess baggage so that you can steam on full speed ahead with what is more important. It is prioritizing your life. It is putting yourself out there and facing the risk that you might fail but will keep doing it. Failure is an interesting thing. I don't think that people totally fail very often. I think that we often learn skills and habits from our perceived failures. That is to say, I have failed thousands of times. I have also come out wiser thousands of times.

In the words of Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try." The idea is commit to someone, even if it is yourself. Commit to finishing what you started. Go. Do.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Waves

Many things in life are like waves. They go up and come down. Back and forth. Higher and lower.

People like the high times and despise the low times. I feel that the low times really let me appreciate the high times. About a year and a half ago I tore the plantar on my right foot. I did not run a step for 11 weeks and one day after trying for a month to muscle through it. It was quite upsetting. It basically destroyed a year of what I thought would be the best of my NCAA running career. Instead I rode my bike through the New England fall. I never really appreciated the changing of the colors until I rode on curvy back roads up and down hills through Massachusetts. Even at that low point I had a lot to enjoy.

When I started to run again I remember this one run I had which was only like two miles around the track, but my foot did not hurt. I was so elated. I had gone through a time when I wondered if I would ever run again. Yet now a year and a half later I have set personal records in the 800, mile, 5 mile, and half marathon.

The motivation for this post is obviously the low point of income that I have now. This too shall pass. When, I don't know. How, I don't know. There is so much I don't know. I do know that things work out. Maybe not the way we intended and usually not when we intend, but they do work out.

Bad days make the good days that much better.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Speak Up or Shut Up?

Navigation can be a hectic thing. Left, right or strait? When there are two ways or three ways which one do you take?

More than once in my life I have watched as the person navigating took us on a longer or less efficient route. Then inevitably I would point the finger later when the mistake was realized. In my head the reason I point out the error is so that we do not repeat the mistake again. However, I think I come across pretty mean as a know it all or better than thou.

I'm not sure what to do in this situation. Do I just plain say "we're going this way because your way is wrong." Because I don't want to say that. It will probably make the other person really mad. Do I just take their directions and see what happens?

I was on a backpacking trek once and we were planning to camp at this little abandoned house. There was a push within the group to head cross country using a compass. I suggested that we hike down the road until a steam and then hike up the stream. I prefer to follow features on the map instead of bushwacking with a compass. However, I didn't want to push my point and thus shut up. Over the course of three miles you can end up way off course. Inevitably using the compass we ended up in the wrong place and spent a lot of extra hours hiking.

What am I supposed to do? I learned in the past that unless the navigator is taking illegal drugs or taking us somewhere dangerous we were supposed to follow like sheep. The problem is that getting lost takes a lot of time and energy. More than a discussion beforehand.

Another example that has happened in my life is listening to two people argue, when I know they are both wrong. It's surprising how often this happens. Is it better for me to interrupt and let them know the facts or sit there and let them be wrong?

Another factor to this whole speak up or shut up debate is that what if I am wrong? I mean let's say I'm 99.9% confident. That means I could be wrong. Speaking up, and speaking wrong is a sure fire way to end your credibility.

The examples of navigation and two wrong people are just examples. This extends to so many other areas. When is it necessary to correct the boss? Is it ever necessary to correct the boss? Is the customer always right? Is bending the rules ethical? Is bending the laws legal?

Of course, this will always be situation dependent. Sometimes it is better to speak up and others it is better to shut up. The question I am asking is: how do you know which kind of time it is? Is there any sort of overriding guidelines that will suggest either way?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Entrepreneur is:

I've realized that I've been using the word entrepreneur often recently and it isn't something they really teach in any school I've been in so I will tell people what it means. I'm going to try and describe different qualities of an entrepreneur. First the definition from the Apple Inc. Dictionary application 2.0.3 on my computer:
entrepreneur |ˌäntrəprəˈnoŏr; -ˈnər|nouna person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.a promoter in the entertainment industry.
ORIGIN early 19th cent. (denoting the director of a musical institution):from French, from entreprendre undertake(see enterprise ).

To be honest, that is a very lacking definition. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
  • Scrappy. An entrepreneur will do what it take to survive. He or she will do unpleasant things to stay afloat. For example: "Call who? You've got to be kidding. I can't do that!"
  • Desperate. Whatever it takes to make the sale will be considered.
  • Terrified. This is one that separates those who do and those who do not. To make it as an entrepreneur you have to wake up terrified about what you have to do, then do it anyway. Many people delay their life because they are afraid. I am working on this one...
  • Committed. There is no half effort in starting a venture like a company. It's all or nothing.
  • Passionate. Who else would work around the clock on some project just to get paid in sweat equity (ownership in a company based on work put in instead of money invested) and intellectual property?
  • Stingy. Somehow money just seems to always disappear...
  • Brave. Facing fears on a daily basis changes the nature of risk. What might once have seemed like a huge risk is now even less scary than driving in Boston.
  • Helpless. While many entrepreneurs start with the intention of doing everything on their own most quickly learn they can't do everything. In fact many find that there aren't too many things that they do well.
  • Curious. Of the successful start up companies that I know of most of the owners thought 'why can't I/we do it better?' There is a certain interest to attempting something with an uncertain end.
  • Resourceful. An entrepreneur doesn't have to be a true renaissance man but he or she does have to get things done that are outside of his or her formal training.
  • Energetic. I think this word fits better than optimistic or hopeful. The idea is that an entrepreneur is excited to go to work and be there all day long.
That's what I can think of. I thought about innovative for a while but I think that an entrepreneur honestly does not have be terribly innovative. I think that often times it involves applying a proven method to a different location or market such as franchising.

If you have any additional thoughts post them blow.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 11

In the world of job searching: I worked kind of hard this week. Two things happened to encourage me. First, I paid my bills. Nothing is as motivating to make money as paying one credit card with another credit card. I also applied for more student loan deferment. Second, my formerly unemployed roommate got a job. Now he is a mechanical engineer and had he gotten a job at a power plant or something I would be as disappointed or motivated, but he got a job as a product development engineer at a small company working on pieces for shoes, among them running shoes. Uhh... yeah.

I checked all the websites for aerospace companies in the area, applied for half a dozen more jobs including internships. I asked about a possible part time job with the local Boy Scouts, again no go. They would like to have me in May, but that's another ten weeks away.

So It looks like I am in the lead for one of the professional blogging jobs I applied for. It seems that I will get paid by the click or visit. I proposed this because that way if I get more traffic I get more money. I am a big fan of getting paid on commission. Maybe that's why I'm not getting paid now?

I finally finished my documentary on Pakistan! Well, I finished the director's cut. That is the 2:29 long version. I know about 11 people who would want to watch a two and half hour documentary. So I'm going to work on cutting it down, and retroactively asking the "actors" for permission when I decide how much each person is in it. My goal with this documentary is to be real. I don't want to make these mountains seem dramatic or romantic or insane. I want to show it like it was. As the 2:29 version stands now it's about 99% accurate. There are a few things from the expedition I left out. Some things are not meant to be shared. However, comparing my movie to other related documentaries I have seen they really miss a lot of the personal feelings. Most mountaineering documentaries portray experienced, jaded, professional people and in mine I am the main character. Everything was new for me. I think that it all elicited a higher emotional response than my more experienced friends. I had never been to a mountain when someone died. I had never seen a helicopter evacuation. I had never had dysentery in the middle of nowhere Asia. All of these things were freaking me out! I think that in places you can see the fear on my face. In other places you can see the disassociation between the fear and the danger that everyone has up there that keeps us alive and moving.

In Janzen Gear news I borrowed a sewing machine! This means that fabric prototypes will be appearing shortly! I haven't played with it yet but I bought climbing webbing and plan to start making harnesses shortly. I also talked with several investment casting companies because after further research it seems that investment casting is the best way to go about making the head of my ice axe. As far as ice axes go, it is by far the most complicated head on the market. That probably means it's going to be more expensive. Cilogear upped the ante with backpacks, why not Janzen Gear with ice axes? (Besides I have a few ideas for crampons and carabiners... I also know more about metal than most...) I also applied to two different competitions with five digit monetary rewards which could float Janzen Gear and I through 2010.

The rest of my time was spent: running 94 miles. I was hoping to get more miles in but I had two good workouts so I'll take it. One of those was a hill workout which after grade and altitude conversions means I was doing some of my repeats at sub 5 minutes per mile effort. That is very good news although for the actual hill I was doing over 6 minute pace.

I finally got to see another friend that I worked with in the summer of 2008. However we only hung out for about 45 minutes. We went to the Frozen Dead Man Festival in Nederland. Apparently in the past some guy in Ned wanted to be frozen so when he was almost dead or dead someone put him on dry ice, he was poor and could not afford the more expensive cold chambers. Then apparently the story got out and now they have a festival complete with no parking, 1500 people, and two local brewing companies.

I did go skiing, only four runs. I did a few runs and was so dead from running that I quit at lunch and slept in the car. (I managed the ticket free. I'm not in position to spend money skiing right now. Thank you friends!)

Motivational quote of the week:
"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible." Buy at Amazon.comDoug Lawson.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Successful Innovative Company of the week: volume 19

The successful innovative company of the week is: Jetboil
what they do right: Jetboil came on the camping and mountaineering stove scene in 2001 with their namesake signature stove. This stove changed the possibilities of what a stove could do. It is more effiecient than any stove was before. It locks in place so it is easy to hang in steep situations. It has neoprene on the outside so you can grab it with barehands when there is boiling water inside. It is made of aluminum and is very light. The actual stove and a fuel canister pack inside the mated pot. It just works better than any stove that came before it. This was a game changer.

I was talking with an aquaintance who is a professional mountain guide and he said that on a training trip about two years ago he started to cook supper and he was the only person that didn't have a jetboil so he went out and bought one the first chance he had. When professional mountain guides are all using it you know it works.

Since their first product they have expanded to include pans and larger pots and detached fuel canisters. Their product line includes everything for cooking. They also have a coffee press attachment and I have to say a nice cup of coffee in the morning is so nice sometimes.

What they could improve: Simply put a few years after Jetboil came on the scene MSR responded with the Reactor. The Reactor is amazing and I would easily take it over the Jetboil. It boils water faster, it has a bigger pot, and is less prone to wind which are all significant factors when using the stove to mainly melt snow high on a mountain (which is what I like to do). The Reactor does not have the twist lock connection that the Jetboil has and thus I have never seen anybody hang one, which is necessary when you are using a portaledge (which I also like to do).

I would also be interested to see what Jetboil could do in the liquid fuel stove realm. Currently all of their stoves use propane/butane canisters. Offering a stove that used white gas and/or kerosene would expand their appeal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I will take one Hottie with a side of Crazy

In the recent past I had garnered a reputation for going after the girls that are a little crazy and inevitably quite attractive. My reasoning was simple: I’m attracted to them and if they are a little crazy they might be able to understand things like running 12 hours a week or spending two months in a war torn Asian country climbing a mountain. However, what I think is continually being challenged, whether the people who challenge me know it or not. In the last few weeks several situation have occurred that have changed my thinking once again.

Several weeks ago I watched a few minutes of Tough Love a television series in which a man tries to teach women how to find a truly compatible man and have a relationship built on something substantial. I believe he said something like, “look for a person that makes you feel the way you want to feel, instead of trying to find someone that looks good on paper or by some other superficial measurement.” I just kind of twirled that around in my head for a while until another comment from a wise elder two weeks ago brought up it’s meaning.

My elder was describing how he was married with two children at my age (23). He said that this strained his marriage and that he was too young to really enjoy raising his kids. He suggested that I was wise for not getting myself into that situation at this point in my life. Another comment that arose during that same conversation was the importance of having buddies. His wife made him get out of the house and in his case go golfing so that he would meet people. That way he would have some of his own friends. I guess I had never really looked at a relationship as having any time apart from each other. I thought it was 100% together, but I think now that’s probably naive.

A third input to this whole equation was contributed by the book "Beyond the Mountain" that I am reading by a recent top level alpinist, Steve House. He had married a fellow mountain guide, but then she moved on to other pursuits. He was describing how his marriage was failing due to him being on climbing expeditions all the time, which caused me to think about my personal quest for the "perfect" woman. While thinking about expeditions I could not help but remember this couple that was at basecamp on my expedition this summer. He was a climber, had summitted Everest, she had never done any ice climbing yet she stayed at basecamp both at Everest and Broad Peak and I think Cho Oyu with him. That was amazing. I think most of the men were jealous that their wives or significant others weren't there.

I believe in fate, and actions and consequences having purposes or meanings. So when I learned the stories of hardship and independence, I remembered the quote from Tough Love and it finally made sense. I have been looking for the wrong things. Searching for someone that runs, climbs, and that is interesting to talk to while still being amazingly attractive is more or less a pipe dream. Oh yeah women like that do exist, I think. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve met a few they just have never measured up to my huge expectations. (Don't I feel shallow.)

What I am really looking for is support. Perhaps it sounds selfish, but on the other hand I am looking to give support as well. Since support is a rather vague term I will attempt to describe it in this context.

This descriptions starts with a scrap of information. I have taken at least 14 people traditional lead climbing for the first time. What this means is that in general I have to teach them how to belay a lead climber, how to remove gear from the rock, and a few simple safety procedures to keep them from killing themselves (and one of them almost did one time) or killing me. Now I have always chosen routes that are not terribly hard so I am not very worried about falling. However, in that situation I am definitely putting myself out there with my safety in their hands and their safety in my hands. If anything bad were to happen the novice would probably have no idea how to solve the problem. I am supporting them.

Another way to describe support is to tell about my parents. From handing me a water bottle in a half marathon at the age of 15 to letting me go to Pakistan. There is a certain mental boldness and confidence that I have in the presence of my parents that I don’t have everywhere. I know they care about me. My parents came to all of my sporting events, plays and musicals, scholars’ bowls tournaments, and concerts that I ever had through high school. I even told them numerous times they didn’t have to come yet they still did. They have taken an interest in my education even reading my MS thesis. Years of watching and supporting me as I attempted to do stuff. All the breakfasts, suppers, driving me here and there, doing my laundry, everything they have done amounts to so much I can't put a price on it. They have supported me like no one else.

One more way to describe support is the support of someone who understands. The past few years I have had several teammates and friends who I have suffered with and they understand what I am going through. Perhaps not because they do the exact same thing, but they see me every day and see the toll that whatever stress takes on me. They understand the challenges I was going through are not easy. The understand because they were there.

When I think about the support I am looking for in a relationship the final answer is that you can not fully describe emotions. Want to hear a little secret? After most of my longest days in the mountains I have cried. You see after about 14 hours of movement dehydration, fatigue and doubt creep into your head. Several times when I have been hiking down a mountain I have stumbled for the 200th time or seen another mirage or seen a trail sign that says four miles left and I have broken down. Sometimes it just comes out as a whimper other times there are buckets of tears. Having a partner helps tremendously. With a hiking or climbing partner it is closer to 18 hours on the go. It also gets more bearable as I get older and have more of these emotional days. It still happens but it's not as life changing. Inevitably though neither person talks because both are tired. I can last longer before emotions overwhelm me when I am with someone than alone.

What I’m looking for is that emotional connection spread across all aspects of my life. She doesn’t have to be a runner if she is willing to come to the race and drive me home. She doesn’t have to be a climber as long as she is willing to come to basecamp or at least hike a 13er in the summer. Most of my running is done alone and having someone to jog with or ride a bike beside me on a few of my 20 milers would be really nice. In fact, referring to the example above both with my elder and his wife and the elite alpinist, perhaps I need a relationship that is built with differences in hobbies so that we don't spend 100% of our time together? Perhaps then we would have an understanding of each other outside of our hobbies? I don't know the answer. I've never seen myself as a mens club type of guy but perhaps a nice grade three climb in the summer with the boys is my mens club.

Inevitably, I believe who I am gifted with will be who I need and not necessarily who I want. Who am I to know what is best for me? Many times those people close to me have pointed out what is best for me while I had no idea.

So what have I learned to do in this context? Redesign my relationships away from the physical into the emotional. Yeah, that sounds good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Huge Expectations, Huge Disappointments

I was recently a huge disappointment to one of my friends. After beating myself up about what a terrible person I am and trying to explain the situation to him I realized something. He wanted more from me than I was willing to give. That brought on a slew of memories that have shaped me as a person.

We begin this tale as a junior in high school. I gave my best friend the silent treatment for two months. I thought she wasn't spending enough time with me and didn't care about me. Finally, we were hanging out together and she exploded at me. Explaining that I was being ridiculously jealous and ignorant. It was one of those moments where you realize she isn't done yelling quite yet but you suddenly understand the point. It was an epiphany. I had been a selfish jealous idiot. I was jealous of the other people she was spending time with. I thought they were more important than me. The reality was I wasn't as important as I thought I was, although I was still very important to her. Sometimes my ego needs a swift kick. I just needed someone to explain it to me. Since that time I can not remember being jealous. If someone is not spending the kind of time with me that I would like, well they are still spending time with me and I figure a little time is better than no time.

A second event occurred my junior year. One of my friends was dating a guy from another town. when I met him for the first time he said, "Oh, so you're Isaiah. I've heard a lot about you."

I responded with, "Am I what you expected?"

He said, "I try not to expect anything from people before I meet them because then I usually end up disappointed." Bingo! As soon as he said that I thought 'he is so right'. How often do we expect people to be something they are not? We go crazy and expect the next president to change everything, and when he only changes a few things we are disappointed.

A third and much more recent example. The last year and a half I hung out a lot with these three girls. Going into my relationships with them I expected nothing and they way over delivered! I expected nothing and they brought so many smiles, laughs, and a little bit of needed emotion to my life. The four of us did not have a whole lot in common by normal standards, but for some reason our friendship really worked. I mean they shared things with me that I had never heard before and chances are will never hear again. I just hope that I was as good for them as they were for me. Without going into detail we were/are like the four friends from Sex and the City.

The point of all this is that it is important to realize what expectations you bring to the table. What do you expect from someone else? How much are you willing for someone else to expect from you? Is either one realistic?

I'm more or less saying that sometimes expectations need to be lowered or even thrown away. Humans are not perfect. We are so far from perfect I don't know why we even use that word to describe people.

Personally, I have high goals, and low expectations. Every little step forward in any area of my life is seen as an accomplishment and a gift. I expected college would be really hard and that I would inevitably fail a class. So when I didn't fail any classes I was overjoyed.

I don't expect my friends and family to go out of their way to help me. They have already done so much I can't ask for anything more. If they do, fantastic! If they don't, that's ok because they have already done so much. On the other hand, would I go out of my way to help my family and friends? I like to think that I do. I feel that I have to repay people for what they have given to me. How effective I am at helping anyone, I'm not sure. Based on the little I know, I fail a whole lot more than I succeed. Some people may see this view as pessimistic but I think it is "plan for the best, prepare for the worst" neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

Another example is from Pakistan. Sometimes people ask me if I was disappointed when I had to turnaround without a summit day on Broad Peak. The answer is a resounding "no". It was a horror show up there. People falling down in the snow, people with HACE, a woman dying, people not getting back until 7 PM and add to all of that the people the three weeks before that had been airlifted out. I was tickled pink to feel my toes, I had an appetite, I was thirsty, I was coherent, life was very very good at that point. The whole reason I tried an 8000 meter peak was to give myself the opportunity at a summit. Success? One guy from our expedition never got above basecamp. Another ended up with 3rd degree frostbite. I'm saying that my expectations of what I was going to accomplish changed a lot the more I learned about the process. A year before the trip I thought I would summit. After talking to veterans I decided that getting to 7000 meters would be great. After talking to people on the expedition with me (and living the experience) I was happy to just wake up every day. Basecamp, camp one, camp two, and camp three were all altitude records for me. I mean I had an enormously successful expedition. People that were at Broad Peak basecamp this summer lost toes, got sick, even died. Enough about Pakistan...

How much do you expect?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

8th Grade Basketball

I am five feet and four inches tall. That’s about 163 centimeters for you Euros. Basketball is a tall person’s sport. Sometimes I don’t understand things terribly quick. I used to think I was quick learned, I'm not so sure anymore. For some reason I thought I could make a decent basketball player. So when my basketball coach told our team to quit drinking pop (soda, coke, mountain dew, etc.) for the season I quit drinking pop. I was never a heavy drinker and after the first month I didn’t even miss it.

Since then in the late fall of 1999 I have not drank anything carbonated on purpose. I had a Red Bull once and I had an upset stomach for two days. I have also tired punches and beers since that time but the bubbles are just too much for me to handle. I will have an upset stomach if I drink anything carbonated.

This was a significant event in my diet. Each can of soda has 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. How much sugar I have not drank in the last 10 years I have no idea.

It’s strange how one sentence in a 20 minute speech has altered the course of my life. Obviously I have no proof that I would be any different than I am now if I drank soda or beer but I think I would be different. I am convinced that those are calories that would have just never ended up on my midsection. Perhaps when I took six months off of running my freshman year of college I would have gained more weight and never gotten back into competitive running and then were would I be now?

I read a little of Malcom Gladwell’s Tipping Point book where he suggests that small actions can have huge consequences if they come at the right time. Well, an eighth grade basketball coach telling the team to quit drinking pop for the season seems to have lasting consequences for me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 10

This series ends when my current and projected income is enough to make more than the minimum payments on all of my bills and expenses.

In the world of job hunting: I heard back from several employers, mostly for the free lance writing jobs. As far as networking and applying for more engineering jobs this week was a wash. I think that engineering companies generally take a long time to make decisions and hire from "within" that is to say interns or relatives or friends. It's who you know so often that makes a difference.

I started Janzen Gear. It has a website and I registered as a sole proprietor in Colorado. So it's real. No more deliberating about doing it or not. Now it's a thing. I have a job? Well, I have a company, wether that counts as a job or not we'll see. In Janzen Gear news I'm talking with several machine shops about ice axe production and I plan on placing an order this week (with my credit card, woohoo more debt). Then I haven't figured out how to sell them exactly but I'll figure it out and start selling and advertising and making tiny bits of money. The harness has been stagnant because I do not have access to a sewing machine to make a prototype, yet. I'm also going to make Janzen Gear t-shirts. If you want to be part of the revolution stay tuned for details. They will be much cheaper than the ice axe and socially acceptable to wear around town, unlike an ice axe or climbing harness.

If anybody has an urge to invest in a start-up company, I'll take your money. We can make it formal (written on paper) and you can have input into what I do.

It was very anticlimactic actually starting Janzen Gear. It took 15 minutes on the Colorado Secretary of State website and cost only 20 dollars. The website was free and took another 15 minutes. I had always envisioned starting a company with thousands or millions of dollars and rich investors in suits at a board room signing papers and everybody smiling shaking hands. Then bells and whistles and trumpets and maybe fireworks. At which point I would take the afternoon off and buy something expensive like a new computer. Instead it took less effort than this post. It took far less effort than applying for a job.

I am really excited to see what I can do with Janzen Gear. I have known for almost a decade that I wanted to start a company and do my own thing. Now I am doing that. So the question now is: will I make succeed?

On the not stressing out about income portion of my life: I spent most of the week in uptown Sedona, Arizona. My grandparents are owners at a condo there and spend part of the winter down there where cold is below 45 degrees. It was fantastic. To answer the question in everyone's mind, "do you feel relaxed and refreshed to start working hard doing whatever it is you do?" The answer is no. 2009 was such a stressful year in my life between my thesis and Pakistan that 2010 has been a piece of cake comparatively. (That's half of cathedral rock below, it's a few hundred feet high.)
For those of you that are not familiar with Arizona it's usually pretty dry. Much of the state is a desert or very arid. Sedona is famous for it's red rocks. They are these steep (easiest routes 5.9+) towers of sandstone shades of red and orange. They have been featured in dozens of old western movies. Now the town is something of a tourist/retirement place. Which is fortunate for me because we went to several truly amazing restaurants. I had the best steak that I have ever had. I had scallops, twice.

As far as running goes it was my lowest mileage week in two months. Only a paltry 71 miles. I took a day off after I think a 46 day running streak. I only doubled once the entire week. On the other hand I PR'd at 15 miles at I think 1:36:something on a treadmill at 4500 feet. I also ran my fastest 5k in practice at 16:50 on a track at 4500 feet. Then I had a nice fartlek session. My right knee has been hurting most of the week I think a combination of hitting it mixed climbing and running three strait days on a treadmill. I don't think it is an overuse injury from bad form or bad shoes because it has been getting better every day.

Motivational quote of the week: "Everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you gonna' get up?" - The Hours, Ali in the Jungle (as seen on the newest Nike commercial). By the way Simpson on the mountain refers to Joe Simpson crawling down the mountain after Simon Yates cut the rope and he fell into a crevasse. Simon Yates still climbs extensively these days. He is rumored to even party in Katmandu from time to time.