Friday, April 30, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 23

The Successful Innovative Company of the Week is: IKEA!
What they do right: IKEA changed furniture shopping into a schedule-able event. I have only been to an IKEA once. However, it occupied most of my afternoon. My friend was intent on buying a table and chairs for her apartment. We left in the morning for the hour long drive there. Then we ate a four dollar filling lunch. If cafeterias like that were more accessible I would go more often. A similar meal at a typical college will run two or three times as expensive.

As we journeyed from the start to finish line through IKEA visiting each room with a different theme I was amazed by the selection. I was even more impressed by the people. Yes it was August a traditional moving month for both college kids and others yet there were hundreds of people there at the same time. August 2009 the economy was not great at that time yet there were hundreds of people out buying new furniture. Furniture is the kind of purchase that is made every decade or so and most college kids would be content with used sofas from Goodwill so this was a rather surprising experience.

Their organization is second to none. They have one of everything displayed nicely on one level. On the lower level they have stacks of boxed filled with disassembled furniture in the same layout as the display level. That is to say that on the display level there will be a dresser in the far corner of the store. On the warehouse floor in the same far corner will be a stack of disassembled dressers in cardboard boxes. By taking a tag from the display piece you like you will be able to find the stack of boxes on the warehouse level containing that piece of furniture.

As far as style, most of what they offer is modern with simple lines and shapes designed to be assembled by normal people. Which is really nice. I like the whole modern thing. Hey, I like Piet Mondrian. However, I also like solid-wood-construction, too-heavy-on-moving-day, no-it-doesn't-come-apart, could-probably-take-a-bullet-for-me furniture as well. I've built this kind of thing and it lasts a long time. I think there is a place in a room for both types of furniture.

What they could improve: The sales representatives, as I remember, were not the most informed about their products. When asking about alternative colors or mixing tables, legs and chairs to get the perfect combination they were not very helpful. When a sales representative says he or she is not sure then reads the sales tag, that you have already read, before admitting that they don't know, I wonder what he or she is getting paid to do. Can the table and chairs be bought separately or do they have to be bought together?

There was also a general lack of sales people, a fact that some people may actually like. I however on the other hand like to talk to someone that knows their product. When I go into a running store to buy shoes I usually have to spend 15-30 minutes trying shoes, jogging, trying some more, jogging and talking with the sales person about my feet and running. I have tried on dozens of shoes because of a sales person's recommendation that I would have never given a chance.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I was alerted to this concept by some reading that a friend recommended. The author, who I will leave nameless for the time because he is very controversial and hated in fact, suggests that having dreams or goals of things is not good enough. You have to set a timeline. By setting a timeline you can set steps between now and then. Dreamlining breaks down big goals into a series of smaller steps.

I've been doing this for years before I even read about it. I first did this with my career, in high school, although 2009 and 2010 has not been going as well as the plan from seven years ago predicted. I am doing this with my tens years or less until Everest, which is very much on track. It also plays a large role in my running.

This is the same author that posed the question, "what if retirement was not an option?" However, the significance is that dreamlining helps prioritize life, and thus money use, so that "dreams" are possible. So while Fidelity says that I will need 3.8 million dollars to retire at 65 with a slightly better lifestyle than I have now, by putting a little away every paycheck I might reach that. That being said my paychecks are going strait to my debt right now.

What I suggest, is considering where you want to go, both figuratively and in reality, and set a due date. Instead of the list, "Thing do do before you Die." How about, "Things to do before you are 30" or  "Things to do before you Retire." Then by looking at the list, decide one can you knock out this weekend.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," (- Lao Tzu) "and the first ten steps are the hardest." (- Isaiah Janzen)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Biography Building

Long ago "resume building" kind of went out the window for me. Hundreds of hours of volunteer work, short term work, organization affiliations, club officer positions, and the like were just too small in scope to include on my resume. Even with a two page resume there is so much that is left off.

I also considered the term "character building" to describe activities that did not qualify for my resume. Unfortunately, much of my character building did not come from even mildly significant stuff I have done professionally but from recreationally like going to Pakistan or Mezcal or running Extended Lost Boys.

So the new term is "biography building". I have worked the past three weeks for my uncle at Janzen's Greenhouse a 56 year old business. A few more weeks will be all that I am here. It's too short for a resume, it's not really building any character. Everything I've learned socially (character) I've known so I haven't changed at all. I also used biography instead of autobiography because it's more general, and I'm a dreamer...

Everybody that I know has biography building experiences. Times when you are out of your preferred element, but not so far out of your element that your character changes. Things that are significant, but only significant to people who know and care about you. Biography building is doing those things you enjoy to make your life more interesting and are not profitable. Things you do with your menugas. Although those may be character building as much as they are biography building.

A relative said to me last week "I'll be curious to read your biography to know what it was like to live with two deaf people." A short preview of living with two nearly deaf people, it's loud. The other inspiration he gave me was the idea of having a biography. A way to pass of stories and information to future generations. The point being, write it down, tell someone, keep a journal, strive to pass on something that might help people in the future. I heard a line in a movie once, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot." I think that we make many mistakes similar to mistakes others have made. We can learn from others mistakes and make wise decisions in our life. If 16 and Pregnant on MTV isn't a lesson in safe sex or abstinence then I don't know what is.

So pass on your knowledge and experience. Even if it's not interesting now, in 50 or 100 years just about everything from today will seem interesting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 3

I'll say I had a good week. I was paid on Monday. While it doesn't cover much it is a start. I will be able to pay a little less than 2% of my total debt with the money from the last two weeks. If I could maintain paying 1% of the debt I have now every two weeks then in four years I would be debt free! If I get an engineering job and start making three or four times as much I will be able to pay back my debt much faster. I honestly believe that with the right job I could be debt free in 18 months. Of course that means living like I have the last few years and putting off buying a $4,000 road bicycle, new clothes, a 16 ounce mocha every morning, cable tv, and a nice apartment. Luxories that I have more or less been hoping that I would be able to afford while I was still in my 20s. Of course if the economy dives one more time in the next five or ten years (like many think it will) then I won't be the only one with financial problems.

I only applied for one job this week. However, it would be an awesome job. I won't go into detail but instead of being like Scaled Composites or Black Diamond it would closer to Myth Busters. Part of that was due to not getting my resume changed until the middle of the week. Early reviews are good. I went to two pages. I've thought about it in the past but I just never felt that I was worth a two page resume. I came to the conclusion that my experience was all over the board and to get most of my significant accomplishments listed I needed two pages. The new version is posted under Resume at the top of this web page. I did add a little for the online version. Check it out and let me know what you think.

I worked every day last week for a total of 44 hours thats 20 of the last 21 days that I have worked at least a few hours. The seasonal service industry can be a brutal one. On the other hand, it's easier than WPI. Far easier than a thesis. When I go home at 5 PM I actually go home and do not have five hours of homework. I have no thesis hanging over my head. Working by the hour on such short projects is not stressful. It's strange, the incentive to do well when I am getting paid by the hour is low. Right now there is incentive because of respect and the family aspect, but in graduate school graduation is the goal. The only situation I can think of with more at stake is owning a business. If it fails you are left with debt. I've said this before and I'll say it again, I would like to be paid according to how well I perform at my work. Performance evaluations are often difficult for both the employer and employee, but I look forward to them.

Career goal for the time being: pay off my debt. 

Speaking of owning a company. Janzen Gear is at a standstill right now. Most of my ideas involve safety equipment and that means paying for UIAA testing before selling anything. Money I don't have. I have a few other clothing ideas that I plan to pursue in the meantime. However, nothing is going to get done while I'm in Minnesota. I'll hopefully be able to pop out a prototype in May.

I ran 57 miles and had two B quality workouts. I have lost fitness the last 6 weeks. Sickness just took it out of me. I'm still working out well but not as well as early March or even December. About as good as I was in October or November.

I don't know that I will ever be able to retire so I am enjoying life in my 20s while I am still physically capable of doing so much. That is to say I want to run twice a day for a total of 14 hours a week, every week. I don't think that would get in the way of working 50 hours a week. I don't really party. Running is most of my social life. The idea of working until I am 73 and then enjoying the fruits of my labor when I can't hear, taste or walk very well is not the most appealing. I might as well keep working at that point and just take two months of vacation each year.

I took this blog/website off of search engine searching. It was highly highly suggested to me by a trusted source to take this blog off the internet or make it entirely password protected. The problem is I feel that I am helping people. I've helped a dozen people mesh better in Abaqus. I've had multiple fan emails from people who I have helped motivate through the unemployment thing. I've started coaching, and getting paid for it. So vote for the future of this blog. If you don't vote you aren't taking a stand and do not care if it disappears.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 22

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: The Gillette Company!
What they do right: They invented the razors and blades business model (also known as the bait and hook). Gillette is very good about sending new 18 year olds the handle to a razor and a few blades. They motivated me to buy many blades and even a new handle after I lost my first one. Now I've lost that one and a third that my dad gave me...

In the jet engine industry they say they could give away the engines and make money just selling the blades. In the razor industry they actually do it. As far as making the best razor blades I really have not tired other companies (except for disposable 1-2 blade razors) so I can not say. I can say that I have always been pleased with Gillette razors.

If a business model can be traced to one person or one company they get a nod for innovation. There are only a handful of business models, maybe 25. That's about how many people have climbed the 14 highest mountains in the world. About twice as many people as have walked on the moon. Far more people have been president of the US (a young country).

What they could improve: targeted marketing. Sending out razors I will not complain about at all. However, commercials and advertising in mature men's magazines may not be the most effective. Companies have known for a long time that targeting the young people to build customer loyalty is a winning strategy. Cigarette companies have kind of had a bad rap on that. McDonalds hasn't had such a nice reputation either for feeding calories to kids. Shaving on the other hand, I say target the teens! Get the boys while they are young like Gillette did with me so that I inevitably ended up buying $30 of their stuff. So they aren't bad, but I think they could do better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Good Job

I had two instances Wednesday where another person referred to something I was doing as either good or bad. First I was using a wire brush to scrape old paint off of a cinder block wall before we painted it. I was sitting on an upright cinder block scraping back and forth for over an hour and a customer walked in and said, "You must be on somebody's sh*! list." I didn't reply. I thought it was a pretty nice job. I could sit down and it wasn't very physical.

In the greenhouse I work in walking is kind of a big thing. The greenhouse was started by my grandpa and he once wore a pedometer to get an estimate of how much he walked each day. At 2 PM he took it off when it read 12.5 miles. He reportedly said, "I don't need to know how much I walk." He died when I was six so I have very few memories of him. In the greenhouse, jobs that involve sitting or just standing instead of carrying 15 pounds with extended arms are the good jobs.

The second instance was helping a customer carry hanging baskets to her car. Normally carrying plants out for customers is one of those good jobs because the loads are light and the trip is short (30 ft instead of 200ft). This time I was carrying freshly watered baskets that were very full of flowers so I had to have my arms extended and up so that my legs did not break any flowers. It was the hardest carry of the day. Yet, one of my coworkers told me that I just had the good job.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Make Money from Space

This is kind of a vague area. Most people think space is cool and it's nice to hear about the most recent Mars rover but at the end of the day all we hear is how much it costs and not how much was made. So being a rocket scientist I will try to explain through several past examples and possible future scenarios. This post is inspired by the most recent state of the union address and some new goals the president gave to NASA.

First a story that was told to me in my aerospace avionics class by an 80+ year old retired guy. I forget the name of the company or the person but it was my professor's friend. Anyway for the Apollo program they had to use circuit boards and resistors and transistors. At the time the average useful life of the best stuff available was like three days. Apollo missions were up to 12 days. I believe my professor's friend owned a transistor factory. Anyway he was the head of the company and got the contract for the transistors and did those batches by hand. Apparently he had trouble sleeping during the missions because the chance that all of the parts he had cooked in the furnace worked for the whole mission was very low. Fortunately, there was never a problem. So the space program forced engineers to make more reliable components that benefit us today in every electronic device we use.

Nasa has required things that are smaller and lighter, mostly electronic things. They have not always come up with the innovation itself but required that some innovative piece be used. For example, the shuttle landing strip and shuttle tires. The landing strip is, I believe, the flattest landing strip in the world. It is also made of a very rough surface so that it can move water off of it faster than any other "road" in the world. This creates an issue when you have a spacecraft landing at very high speeds on only a handful of tires. The tires for the shuttle had to be very advanced. Things we take for granted in our tires in the teens (2010s) were not really existent 35 years ago when the shuttle was being designed. Now we have wires and many layers and tires that just keep going.

Other inventions they have at least helped create are water filters, cordless tools, and memory foam. NASA has contributed to over 6,300 patents, and you can bet most of them are the useful kind of patents.

We must also remember that communications and weather satellites bring in money directly because of the information that they transmit. Talking on a satellite phone costs around $1.00 per minute, yet tens of thousands of people use satellite phones every year.

Now the future is much more interesting. I can only imagine that the technology innovations will continue to keep coming (unless Apple and Google have a war for the world's technology). However the interesting postulate is about what the future holds. Space tourism? That's a really big question. There are only a few thousand people in the world that can currently afford to go into orbit. There are probably a million or so that can afford to take a flight into "space" at 100km above sea level and enjoy a few uninterrupted minutes of free fall (weightlessness). That is unless we can figure out some way to get to orbit without traditional liquid fuel rockets (yeah... that's not happening this decade) which are very very expensive.

Another possibility is mining. Almost every 90s space video game hinted at mining colonies, as well as Star Wars, Avatar, and other fantasy media content. They were somewhat right. If we can find something (paladium, platinum, uranium, lutetium, and other rare earth elements) on Mars that we run out of on Earth then it may become economical to mine on other celestial bodies.

One somewhat far fetched possibility, yet one that people like me sit around and talk about, is the possibility that Earth by itself is not enough. We have too much waste. What if we could dump it all on Mars for only three times the price of driving it to Michigan? What if all of our mining occurred in space? What if we could terraform Mars (think Dubai meets Army Corp of Engineers) so that it was a giant recycling center. Biodegrading waste and making oxygen, yet still harsh enough that we couldn't live there without spacesuits. How cool would that be to get a three year assignment to Mars? Kind of like the south pole, but it's Mars.

I can't quote a number and say if you pay X you will get Y. Unfortunately, I think that one of the most lucrative aspects of space is the exploration itself. I doubt Columbus, Cortez, Shackelton, Admundsen, or Armstrong will be forgotten soon. So there is always the speaking tours, the book deal, the movie, action figures, conferences and the like. To quote Pawn Stars, "the problem with one of a kind items is that you can't compare it to the last one you sold." I'll translate that to mean you just do not know the end result and the profitable tangents when you try something new.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

wuuuuuuhhh... and... done.

That sound when I am totally out of breath after running hard or doing something physical and gasping for breath. When the workout is done an important part is recovery. Not just physical but mental recovery. There is that wuuuhh of the mind that says 'I am done. Okay, what did that mean? Was it satisfying? It feels good to be done. I feel safer now. Life is good.'

I had a realization last week. I have a very good formal education. I feel that education is the foundation of productive work. Before you can do something with any sort of economical productiveness you need to learn how to do it. I now have that. I have two engineering degrees. I will have those the rest of my life. I will always be able to say, "I have an MS in materials science and engineering and a BS in aerospace engineering." The last week has been a bit a a wuuuhh for me mentally. I've been stressing myself out about a job and money for more than a month. Now that I'm working and spending time around middle aged and older people I realize the hole I'm in is really not that bad.

One of my favorite things to do, which I intend to do a lot this summer, is flop on my back after a hard run while I'm still breathing hard. People always try to get me up so I don't cramp or something but I very rarely cramp. No one has really figured out recovery "workouts" yet. Should you finish the last half mile of every run in a sprint finish or a slow jog? Should you run a cool-down 2 minutes after your race or can it wait 20 minutes like most people eventually do? After 20 minutes does it do much good? There a a lot of things that most really good international running coaches agree on such as working out around anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold pace. The cool-down is somewhat more subjective.

Under a stress (running a race, worrying about a job, whatever) the focus is on the stress. The importance of things are taken way out of proportion. It's a good thing to have that focus so that the task is accomplished well. However, it is also important to evaluate how that task fits into the big picture of one's life. In many cases this may take years after the fact. Many of the lessons I learned in the past took years after the lesson for me to actually get the message.

Sometimes we just need to breathe.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 2

Am I learning that I want to do something other than physical labor. No, I want to be happy and enjoy what I am doing. Sure I want to make more money so that I can pay my bills, but I want to do what I enjoy. I refuse to wallow in self pity about life not being as easy as I thought it would be. I am continually amazed that one of the most educated 23 year olds in this country (and the world) is having trouble finding an engineering job.

I applied for zero jobs this week. Mixture of reasons. Failing to please people... like usual.

I worked six days and another 46 hours. I quit checking my email Tuesday. If someone wants to get to me I have a phone. If it's that important someone will show up in person. I haven't been paid yet so I really have nothing to give to most of the people and companies that want to talk to me.

I ran a bunch. Not sure on the mileage. My watch's 50 laps are full plus both timers. I'm having trouble inputting splits on my phone (its like 97% of the Internet). I had a nice 18 miler long run and two B quality workouts including three sub 5:20 miles. I would have liked to do more but sub 5:20s is always good. I don't think I'm going to take two weeks completely off after this cycle.

Life is about the people, and some are more pleasant than others. I'm around some pleasant people now and will be this summer. If I truly believe that life is about relationships and not money then living with an income below the poverty line is a good way to demonstrate that.

Friday, April 16, 2010

You do not understand my running, do you?

I just went on a run that started after 9 PM. Once again a person tried to lament with me that my run would have to wait until tomorrow. No. I will not wait. I've run at every hour of the day and many hours after dark. I've ran in snowstorm state of emergencies. I've run in tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings. I've run in rain and sleet. I've run in hail. I've fallen on ice while running. I've gotten so dehydrated that I had trouble walking half a mile to my apartment. I've run above 16,000 feet. I've run wearing crampons.

You see, at some point it does not matter what the conditions are, I will run. There are no shortcuts to a 2:18 marathon. Nobody gets faster by taking more days off. Sure it's an addiction. For the sake of your relationship with me don't try to get me to skip a day of running. You don't even have to try to accomodate me, I'll figure out when I have a free hour.

Why? Because I see results quickly. Science and engineering can require much patience and frustration. Running is far more strait forward. It's healthy and with good form my knees will not need replacing despite what all sorts of nonrunners tell me. I've got heart dissease and diabetes and cancer coming at me. I can't afford to sit around.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five Most Significant Sporting Goods Aquisitions

I spent some time mountain biking Sunday evening and after thought started thinking about the significant pieces of sporting equipment in my life. So here is the list in chronological order:

1. My first pair of roller blades. I was about six years old and finding rollers blades small enough was nearly impossible. Roller blading was all the rage and my parents took me around to several different stores before we found a pair that fit. Finally it was after dark and we were the only people at the store and we found a pair of three wheel rollerblades. They had black boots and orange wheels. I wore them obscessively until I grew out of them.

2. A 1980s Miyata professional bicycle. My dad traded a car for two bikes in 1995 and we thought he was crazy. Six years later I rode it for the first time and was simply blown away. It has Dura Ace cranks Campy shifters. It's top of the line 25 years ago. It still rides amazingly well. I've probably rode 2000 miles on it.

3. My bb gun. While shooting is not a terribly physical sport it was the precursor to walking dozens of miles at odd hours of the day in cold weather hunting stuff. In fact I even had a bb gun range set up in my basement for several years. I shot so many bbs. I tried every style of shooting I had ever heard of including using mirrors and laying on my back.

4. My first backpacking backpack. The year was about 1998 and I was asked what I wanted for Christmas and at the age of 13 I knew that I wanted this particular backpack. More than 100 nights of backpacking later it is still going strong. I did upgrade in 2009 to a pack two pounds lighter but my original is still going strong. It weighs only four pounds, which is still considered light a decade later. Who knew that a Camp Trails Shasta backpack would help me cover hundreds of miles, ferry loads of up to 70 pounds, and even be useful as an elephants foot (bivy sack).

5. A pair of Five Ten Hueco rock climbing shoes. In 2002 in Albequerque on the way to Arizona I bought my first piece of climbing equipment for 130 dollars and I still climb in them from time to time. I have spent a lot of money on a very wide range of stuff designed to take me farther, but first is first. Before that purchase I was a backpacker and hiker. After that I officially started my climbing career.

The point is not every dollar is spent equally. The other point is to appreciate your health (activity). In 2008 during the five graduation speeches one of my friends quoted our football coach who said "you are a ten million dollar machine. I know many very rich people who would trade their millions to have the ability to do what you take for granted. So take care of your body because you only get one." My parents are geniuses. They got me involved in everything from trumpet to baseball and I think I figured out what I want a lot sooner than most. They bought me bicycles, hockey sticks, and swimming lessons, but no video games. What can I say I have a great technical education yet I value my ability to "just do it" more at this point in my life than I do working for the man who would require me to give up the ability. (Not that I have been fortunate enough to have to make that choice yet. I am just scared to.)

It is very very strange the twists and turns that life takes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science: Week 1

Here is my new series. It will chronicle my challenges to get a job in the field I have gone to college for and the field I would like to work in. I mean no disrespect to other occupations. In fact, in the aerospace community people say "It's isn't rocket science. If it was I would be able to do it." That is to say that people have different skills and that doesn't make one skill necessarily better than another. When a house is flooding because of because of bad plumbing a plumber is going to be the most valuable occupation at the moment.

So, in the world of full time working: I worked 46 hours this week. It is physical labor but not terribly hard or heavy. It's 80% lifting 8-10 pound flats of plants constantly and moving them from one place to another or filling pots with dirt. The rest of the time is spent watering, planting, driving, throwing stuff out, moving 20 pound bags of dirt and the like.

I'll be honest, I was pretty depressed the first few days. Kind of a carry over from the last two weeks of stress hitting the 3 months unemployed. Fortunately, I am once again surrounded by an awesome group of people and soon enough I started having fun. I mean I get to spend time with my extended family. I get to do this physical labor that has to be the perfect cross training for rock climbing. I will probably tear it up this summer in Colorado and climb some hard stuff. Third, it's work, and for that I am thankful. You see many people are out of work. There is work out there but it can be a little competitive for the jobs that are available. Also, companies are realizing this and making jobs less desirable. I heard just Sunday of a woman who had graduated two years ago and finally was offered a job in her field (communications) but the salary was only 22k versus 42k like it had been two years ago. Also, she would be required to work 55 hours a week with no vacation for 18 months. Employers want to see if you really want it. So work is good.

I applied for about 7 jobs this week. I am currently working on my cover letter because I have not submitted a cover letter for each job and I think I really need to do that to give myself a chance.

The financial nitty gritty: About a week and a half ago I reach the bottom of where I ever hope to experience. One checking account over drawn 91 dollars, one account overdrawn 89 dollars, over 14k in credit card debt, 38k in student loans, nearly 1k owed to my former CO roomates and no cash to speak of. However, my athlete paid me twice in the same week bringing both checking accounts back to zero and nibbling at the past due credit card bills. I'm not ready to talk about why it got this bad. However, I will say I only own three pairs of jeans, my tv was acquired free, my laptop is 6 years old, I pay for coffee with cash, Pakistan... that was kind of a financial set back, and I have been employed through my college and summer jobs since 2005 however small those salaries may be I have not sat around.

I ran about 51 miles with two sub par workouts. It could be worse. My lung thing is getting better but it is still there. With a branch of the Mayo Clinic only two miles from where I am living (and across the street from the track I run on sometimes) I am not sure why I am procrastinating. Well, actually I do know. Doctors cost money. I have insurance but still it costs money. I can be quite stingy about money and honestly, it's not like my lung is totally killing me.

I didn't really do anything else. I'm here to work, get some running in, and keep applying for future jobs.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


A few weeks ago I casually mentioned that I had been through the suicide phase. Since then I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. So I will share some of my experience.

I have always put a lot of pressure on myself. I have had trouble when other people point out my numerous failures because I know how often I fail I do not need someone else to point out what I know. I have had some trouble accepting anything less than perfection in my work and that is not a stressfree way to live.

As petty as it may sound I went through several experiences in elementary school where I was not living up to my own expectations. I had mood swings, a bad temper, and depression. All of this combinded to thoughts of suicide. I had done a lot of reading and seen enough dramas on tv to understand the concept. It seems odd to me now that an elementary schooler would contemplate suicide but at the time there was no question to me that I was old enough.

It seems to me that suicide happens because a person does not want to work through his or her problems and thinks that the world would be better off him or her. It occurs because a person has depression and no hope. There seems to be no way to make the situation better.

In my case there was some crying, screaming in pillows, and ultimately a lot of just thinking. In every person that deals with suicide comes a definitive moment. It is the moment holding the knife against your chest or the open bottle of pills in your hand. It is the climax to the story. At that point after everything has been thought about there are two choices. Do it or don't. Obviously I didn't go through with it. As I was sitting there at the culmination I realized that my death would make at least a few people sad for at least a few weeks and I did not want to do that to them.

The importance of going through that moment is that it is an epiphany. One experience was enough so that I will never consider suicide as an option again. Realizing that someone cared about me was a huge change. It was a big step forward understanding the purpose of life. Once I realized that I was cared for it made me responsible to do something with that affection. Since then I have not only worked hard for myself, I work hard to pay back those around me for caring about my welfare. I care about my friends because they care about me. I really do not know how to repay generosity given me.

All of this that I went through, in my head mostly, in elementary school changed my life. Sure I get depressed, but I am happy. I am thankful for what I have. I am thankful that I have made it to 23 years old. I am thankful for my formal education as well as my social one and my outdoor education. My life is really good. As I all to often compare myself to others I realize that my life is still by far one of the easiest and most luxourious in the world. I am so blessed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Create Pomogranate Demand

Create demand for pomogranate so that the prices go up. Why? Well first of all they are good for you with antioxidants and citric acid. It is, according to webmd, the best juice you can drink.

The more important and time sensitive reason, and more important than your health, is that they grow pomogranates in Afghanistan. Why is it important to support Afghanistan pomogranate farmers? Because otherwise they would grow poppies and make heroin.

It is not simply that simple. However the effort has already been started and apparently it is backed by many of the tribal leadership. Afghanistan is still a very tribal run country. In this country we would use words like war lord or head of the family business to describe these people. The truth is they are both the captains of industry and the political leaders of that country. So if they are convinced that growing pomogranates is better than poppies then you can bet that their famlies or tribes will grow pomogranates.

This article is a synopsis of an NPR interview I heard while driving across western Nebraska. For more information visit:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

(Blank) is Your Mission.

One of the most frustrating aspects of my life right now is that, as far as I can tell, nobody has any plans for me. Let me explain.

When children are young their parents try to raise them in the way they should live. In school teachers and professors want to see the students succeed, however randomly that might be measured. When people have a boss, that boss wants something to get done. When people are in the position I am in there is a lack of direction because there is a lack of accountability to anyone. Then again it seems like most people regardless of their employment situation are still figuring out what they want to do with their life.

Oh how easy it is to work for someone else. To be accountable for something you can do. To have someone else set the bar. Of course it isn't always like this working for someone else. I was doing some temporary work once in the early summer and the first few days were very tiring. It was so hard that on the third day I quit just after lunch and went to sleep because I had heat exhaustion. One of the supervisors got pretty angry to say the least. Fortunately I bounced back the next day and the rest of the work was fine.

I am struggling now, knowing what my next step is. My mission in life? I have spent a lot of time thinking in broad strokes and life is a series of small steps instead. I know first hand that life is hard. I've seen the poor in poor countries. I grew up where going out to eat meant McDonalds.

As I work on my mission, and what the next step is in this ultra-marathon I keep in mind that that is the key: the next step. When the going gets rough, just keep going. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Time only goes forward and I think that experiences and my mission are a lot of time. There are lessons to be learned every day, and I intend to learn then so that I might do... something.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 15... The End.

In the world of job hunting: I broke down Wednesday and applied/accepted two jobs. As of Sunday I moved to Fairmont, MN to work in the family greenhouse for my uncle. Thankfully I have this opportunity. Then from the middle of May to the end of July I am working as Rock Climbing Director at Tahosa (in CO), more or less the same job I had in the summer of 08 with a slight pay increase and more days of employment. So for the near future I will be able to pay my bills.

Other than that I applied for about 20 jobs. I've hit them all up, multiple times. Scaled Composites, Black Diamond, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX, Cascade Designs, Ball Aerospace, and Sikorsky among others. I intend to keep applying and occasionally contacting people I know at those companies because that's what I want to do.

This was a depressing week. I might have cried more this week than the last two years combined. At least cried and whimpered. Hoping, hoping, hoping, until the bills come and I realize that I must take a step down. It was so stressful. Believe me I tried to get jobs selling outdoor gear the first two weeks I was in CO but those stores are overflowing with employees.

"The real world"... that's going to get it's own post soon.

My health could have been better. I can't get to sleep because when I lay down I get that back and side pain and gurgling and it hurts to breathe. So I take 600 mg ibuprofen and eventually I fall asleep. It hurts to run so I only ran 44 miles this week with no workouts. No days off but it was the worst week I've had in more than 6 months just from a running standpoint.

I'm going to start a new series next week about my career search but as far as income negative I'm hoping to be income neutral.

This week in a word: depressing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 21

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Carbery!
What they do right: they make cheese! That's a good start but I've toured probably half a dozen cheese factories and let me tell you, innovative is not a word used to describe the cheese industry. Not even American cheese. (It hurts me a little inside to call it cheese. Calling it American semi-solid processed oil would be more appropriate.) In the world of cheese the recipes have been around for centuries and changes are few and far between. In the last hundred years most of the actual change has been creating production equipment to mass produce cheese. So when Carbery created a new cheese in 1996 that is simply amazing, they get a nod for being innovative.

Carbery is a company headquartered in Cork, Ireland. They were established in 1965 as a dairy food company. Today they produce everything from alcohol to flavorings.

If you have never had Dubliner cheese, you are missing out. Introduced in 1996 it is tasty. It is similar to cheddar but it is a little bit more sweet and a tiny bit sour. It is aged 1-2 years and has a nice sharp cheese aged taste. There are also little calcium crystals that give it a slightly rough texture. It is my favorite cheese.

What they could improve: I would like to see greater distribution of their other cheese flavors in the US. Dubliner is somewhat easy to find however they have several varieties of Dubliner and other cheeses like Red Leicester that I have not tried.

Other than that I think that offering only the 7 ounce and 5 pound sizes of Dubliner must save money on packaging and production. They also do very little advertising in the US so word spreads by word of mouth. I can only imagine how a little advertising would go a long way for Carbery and Dubliner cheese.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life Without Money

Would life be easier or harder without money? I am not sure. Without money we would have to greatly reduce the complexity of our society so that bartering would work. Taxing would take on a different form. People would not be able to be as rich because one person can manage 10 billion dollars but it takes a lot of people and land to manage 10 billion dollars worth of livestock.

When I tell people I have no money, I am sure they think I am exaggerating. I am not. Rock bottom for me consisted of not having rent when it was due, having a checking account total of $-91, and paying bills late. Well, no more. Wednesday I made some changes to my life and committed to some stuff in the name of paying the bills. I thought 2010 was going to be the year I knocked out more than 50% of my debt by using my engineering to save the world. So far 2010 has been the year that I managed to increase my debt. That is changing.

Now, my financial folly is not the topic of this post. The goal is to explore, even just in thought, a world without money. When I say money I mean universal credit. That is to say that a world without money is a world without any single thing accepted by everybody. So gold exists, what good is it physically to most people?

So the question is how does trade happen? How do you get gas for your car? How do you put food on the table? I think that a community system would work best in this respect. The gas station fills your car and you fix their broken computer. You give the grocer a new pair of shoes in exchange for a month of groceries.

When you really think about it, money is not the goal. Maybe it is for some people but that just doesn't make sense. What most people really want is the lifestyle of having x amount of money. In much of the reading I have done recently there seems to be a theme of valuing time more. We plug ourselves into jobs as soon as we can and studies show that many people are unhappy in their jobs. Well, I am considering taking time this fall to be a professional runner with a post collegiate training group. Pay the bills? Not really. Find enjoyment and meaning in life? Yes, absolutely. I have kind of been planning that in a few years I will end up taking a year away from my engineering career to join a group and run and train even more. Well, seeing as how my engineering career is moving slowly perhaps now is the time.

Another fundamental question to consider, does your money define how you spend your time or does your time define how you spend your money? I plan on being poor for a long time. My 20s are just going to be too much fun and I'll spend money that could be paying down my loans. In the words and Eric Beck and probably other before him, "at either end of the economic spectrum lies a leisure class." Which is to say, it's not all tears and pain at the bottom.

Life without money? I don't see that happening anytime soon, but I do know that there are things more important than money. Money does not compose life. When push comes to shove the verdict is that we need air, water, food and a whole bunch of other things to live our life rather than money.