Monday, February 28, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 5

In the working world, I did not get everything accomplished I wanted to. I did however find a new resource for software help, within the company, and that is proving to be a very successful relationship. I have been working on this one project for several weeks and I am not done with it. It is a simulation that seems to continually be more complex than I expected. It could easily be done by now had a more experienced person attacked the problem. Which means, I am beating myself up for not being awesome. I set high goals for myself spend a decent amount of time unhappy with my performance, because I fail to achieve those goals.

My running ground to a halt because I injured my hip. I believe it is a chronic muscle tear (knot) deep in my hamstring and hip. I found it, and I massaged it, and it feels broken up. That means that the knot split into several smaller knots and simply needs to be ground out a little finer and I will be as good as new. I ran a total of 43 miles for the week with 20 of that being on Sunday during my long run. It was a nice run at 6:56 pace, but the last 12 miles were with hip pain. 160 miles in nine days I am pretty sure is a nine day personal record. Yes, I know I should have stopped the run early and started resting and recovering. Unfortunately, I have a thick head sometimes and push to finish something after it is clear that the result is not worth the effort.

Socially I had a nice week. I went out to eat with a friend and I had coffee with a new friend. What does it take for me to commit to a friend? A friend who responds to my messages. I have had a number of people in the recent past not return my calls or messages. That being said I have not really checked my email in about three days or voicemail for that matter and I know there are people I want to reply to. I am being a hypocrite and a flake right now, great. Instead I'm blogging, some friend I am. Patience with me please I will call Monday or Tuesday.

I crested 40,000 words on my book. Seeing as how it is kind of a self-help book with a very specific audience, I brainstormed some speaking engagements. I haven't done anything about that yet, but once I work up the courage I'll approach the right people and show them awesomeness. Then once you get the ball rolling all you have to do is make sure that it goes the right direction.

I had a good week, really! Unfortunately, as I write this I feel useless. My project at work is going horrendously slow, my running consists of 3-4 miles per day, all the money that I "make" gets taken by people that want my money, I'm almost 25 and living at home, and my social network in Sheboygan County consists of four people near my age (one is gone every weekend, two I hardly know, and the other I hardly know plus she is pregnant). I am so happy to have all of the things that I have, like a job, the ability to run, any positive amount of money, parents with a house, and any friends, yet I naively expected more. Failing to meet expectations is failing to meet expectations no matter what the situation.

Life is, for lack of a better term, boring. The entire world is similar in that respect. Every neighborhood to somebody is their boring home neighborhood. Writing is post has made me feel better. Just writing all of this down in the last half hour has made me feel more successful and content. This is why I write this stuff down, because putting it in writing makes it a solvable or at least analyzable problem. Had I not spent the time to write this Sunday night I would have gone to bed unhappy. It is strange how my mood can change that fast. Simply thinking about the facts instead of the feelings has fostered a positive attitude in my head since I started writing tonight. Crazy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I Am Excited to See YOU

I never really conceptualized this until post Pakistan. In fact I have only been able to clarify this thought using those words in the last few weeks. My social scene is a little lacking. I miss my friends.

Talking in person to a person I met a few years ago I was able to have a short conversation Friday night about life and what is happening. Despite the fact that he is at least 30 years older than I am I was excited to see someone I know. He was also excited to see me. That's also part of the allure. Often when I am excited to see someone that person is excited to see me. I can never remember saying it or hearing it exactly that way "I am excited to see you." More often we say things like "I'm glad you're here" or "I'm glad you came" or "It's nice to talk to you". We rarely tell people that we are excited to be in their presence. I suppose it is similar to love, but love is patient and persistent and forgiving. Excitement is temporary. Excitement will not always describe how we feel about seeing the people we love. In that respect excitement is unique.

Excitement is fun. For years I was taught to use descriptive words, not words like fun and exciting, but exciting gets the point across a little more clearly than passionately positive or enthusiastically motivated. You are unique. I want to spend time with you. I want to look you in the face, although I must admit when I talk I'll probably stare at the ground because I am shy. Obviously I can't spend time with everyone and make connections with everyone, but to my friends, I am excited to see YOU!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Loan Payoff Parties

One of the questions that people ask when someone gets that first "adult" job is what you plan to buy with all of your newfound money. Aside from three books on Amazon, a rain jacket from REI, and a new pair of Saucony Fastwitch shoes I haven't really bought anything. The nice thing is I make enough money in a day and a half to afford all of that stuff yet I am on my fifth week.

I have obviously thought about all the stuff I want, or would at least enjoy having. However, after thinking about all that I might want and all of the debt that I already have for my education and vacations and patents that I have decided that I will reward myself with something every time I pay off a loan. I have 11 loans. I hope to pay the first one off by the end of March. The advantage of paying off a loan is that then my required minimum monthly payments will be much lower. So I will be able to pay off subsequent loans at a faster rate than I pay off the first loans. As of now just the interest on my loans is about what I earn after taxes in a month. That's 1/12 of my year spent paying interest! What about food, insurance, housing, gas, and the principle on that loan!

There is no guarantee that I will actually have a party every time I pay off a loan, but I am sure there will be a few along the way. I mean what better thing to celebrate that not being in debt? Of course it will probably take an entire week of work to pay for the final get out of debt party...

I am massively in debt. I would rather have $100 and no debt than to have $10,000 with $50,000 in debt. Alas, I am learning from this experience. I will forever view debt in a different light. Not as an entirely terrible thing, but I will view it with restraint in terms of what it allows me to afford immediately.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hurt by My Ambition and Ignorance

I did it again. I forgot history and pushed ahead spurred on my ambition and I hurt myself. Yep, another running overuse injury. My right hip has some sort of problem. It hurts to run. It is going to require taking it easy and all sorts of less than extremely fun exercises in my basement and probably at a gym strengthening my weak non-dominant muscles.

Our bodies are full of muscles and many of then are relatively small and weak yet very important to maintain things like knee cap orientation. I am biomechanically very very durable. I have only broken one bone in my body ever, a sesamoid bone on my right foot. I am able to tolerate huge amounts of running mileage. Yet, despite the fact that my running stride is fairly nice, it is not perfect, nor will it ever be. A fraction of a degree out of alignment in the way that I push off of the ground will add up to thousands of pounds of imbalance over the course of several weeks. That will lead to some muscles getting stronger and other getting weaker. Eventually one or more of those weak muscles will break, in some manner of speaking, and I will be in pain or at least unable to run the way I want to.

I did not really do any weight lifting or core exercises for about seven weeks. During that time I averaged over 100 miles a week. In an effort to be "awesome" or achieve some other random goal I bumped up my mileage and ran 160 miles in nine days. It was too much and my body broke.

This is hardly a new learning experience. It is just another reminder of what I have already learned, and promptly ignored. I feel like an idiot. It takes half an hour a week to maintain strong weak muscles and despite running over 15 hours last week I didn't take the time to do 30 minutes of work to prevent this. Now I am reduced to a few miles a day fairly slow until I am strong enough to handle more. Awesome.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 4

I worked my 40 hours this week. I enjoy going to work so much. I work with a good group of people. That makes a huge difference. I am learning new software and doing computer simulations, and I like that stuff and I'm half decent at it.

Communication at work can be interesting sometimes. I had a problem this week and the fifth person I went to had the time and was actually able to solve it in 30 seconds despite the fact that we spent five minutes debating what the actual problem was. That was after approaching the first four people who could not help. Slightly amusing and rather frustrating. Educational though, it is nice to be reminded once again how critical communication is.

One of my friends works at Intel, or perhaps it's IBM. Anyway, one of the things he likes about his job is that he can point to the little icon on the front of the computer and tell a six year old that he helps make that. My job is fairly similar. I ask if people have seen those car commercials where they have  a computer model they crash. Then I tell then that I do the same thing, except on giant rectangular pieces of sheet metal. Not quite as interesting but still exciting. I get to sit at a desk and make colorful pictures all day long and socialize with a nice group of people. Colorful pictures, nice people, an engineering salary, what more could I want?

I ran 121 miles this week. That's the most I have run in one week in more than a year. I've only had four weeks in my life that I ran 120 miles or more. Included in that total was a 12.1 mile tempo at 5:58 pace, the only tempo longer than 10 miles I have ever done. I also did some short hill repeats and the usual 20 mile long run. I have also started doubling on long run days and I like that trend. On the very negative side the week ended with a possible piriformis problem or glute problem or chronic muscle tear on my right side.

Why am I possibly injured? Running at a high level requires a lot of running, to run a lot you have to do all sorts of additional work to strengthen your weaker muscles. I have been neglecting those exercises the last few weeks. Actually I have been neglecting those exercises most of 2011. I deserve to get injured. I also have not had a massage in over a year! To be a good runner you have to do A, B, and C. I am decent at doing A (running a whole lot), but I can be lazy about the B (supplementary work) and C (rest and recovery) all too often.

In other news I passed 30,000 words (70 pages in MS Word single spaced) on my book about unemployment. I also bought a domain name and started another website. I am still working on the details, but I will probably unveil it in the next 10 days. I want to do some work on Janzen Gear before I flip modes and start another tribe.

I also had a rather interesting social experience Friday night. The local FFA (Future Farmers of America) puts on a wine and cheese show every year and I went with my parents this year. I tried all sorts of wines and cheese, and I talked to a few people that were at least a little excited to talk to me. I'm going to blog about excitement to see people in the upcoming weeks. Anyway, Sargento and Sartori and a few other cheese factories are within five miles of my house and I have to say that Sartori's Aged Asiago cheese is amazing. I guess it is so rare they don't even have it on their website.

I had a good week. I hope you had a good week too. It was a week were I am not sure I "went anywhere" but I progressed in several areas that I think I might be close to making a breakthrough. Life is good.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Finding Your Motivation

What do I think about those 12+ hours a week when I am out running alone? Part of it is finding my motivation. This article may be somewhat haphazardly organized because I thought of most of it while I was running.

Some people get their motivation from "things". From physical things such as owning a really nice car, a house, land, a big bank account, a "man's" room (like a garage or shed or something), and other physical things. Some people get their motivation from the experience. I am in the motivated-by-experience group. I can not think of any "thing" that I would like to have so much that I would quit working for any of my goals. No matter how much you pay me or what I have, if I can't run at the olympic marathon trials or work toward any of my other running goals I won't be satisfied in that area. There will come a day when I am physically getting slower and I have thought about the possibility that I do not accomplish any of my three running goals. The truth is, if my running ended today, I would be fine with that. I have done so much that I consider that aspect of my life a success already. However, since I can still run there is quite a bit more I want to do.

This relates to the question, "why do people do what they do?" "Why?" is a terrible question. There is nothing as ambiguous as the question, "why?"A better way to investigate someone's motivation is a question like, "What is the purpose of that?" or "How is that process and/or that accomplishment going to make your life better?" or "When do you plan to do that?" or "Who is involved in that plan of yours?"

I think I am a little different than most people. I know what I want to do. I wrote down a list and it was in the single digits of things I really want to do. I think most people have trouble condensing their life ambitions into a short list or even knowing what their life ambitions are!

Another way to look at the motivation question is to ask yourself, "who do I want to be?" That verb, be or is, has an enormous amount of power. I am _____. He is _____. She will be _____.

I'm not sure this post was helpful in any way, but I spend a lot of time running thinking about myself and things that motivate me, and I am happy to share that with others. As for the question you might be thinking, because I sure thought this, "why does he spend so much time thinking about himself?" Simple, after years of being single I don't have a girlfriend to think about, my relationships are generally pretty simple, I don't listen to music when I run, and it is a great time to dream of greatness as I am out there chasing greatness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Financially Unfair

Life is financially unfair because the capital gains tax is so low and income taxes and social security taxes are relatively high. Warren buffet pays less than 18% in tax while I pay over a quarter. Not only is income tax where those without investments are hurt, and let's be serious no one has investments unless they make a decent living, but other taxes like gas and food taxes require a greater portion of poorer people's money.

For example, regarding food and gas take three people: A makes $2,000 a month, B makes $5,000 a month and C makes $20,000 a month. Each one drives the same number of miles each month but their cars are not as fuel efficient as each other's. A gets 30 mpg, B gets 25 mpg, and C gets 15 mpg. Assuming each one drives 1000 miles per month with a national gas tax rate of $0.184 per gallon and Wisconsin tax rate of $0.321 per gallon for a total of $0.505 per gallon then A pays $16.83, B pays $20.20, C pays $33.67 in gas tax each month. Percentage wise A pays 0.84%, B pays 0.40%, and C pays 0.17% of their monthly income to the gas tax.

Okay, I know there are problems with that example. No one has to drive. I am not figuring in the price of the gas or the car or any other factors. The point is that at the end of the month person A after paying for taxes, social security, gas, gas tax, food, food tax, electricity, gas, and water, is out a much larger percentage of the initial income than person B or C while having a more fuel efficient car.

You can only eat so much food. You can only drive so many miles. You can only take so many showers. As those daily costs become a smaller percentage of income increasing income tax rates do not really keep up. Even if they do keep the overall tax rate the same once a person becomes affluent enough and starts to make significant money from investments the capital gains tax takes over and the overall tax rate goes down again.

What does this mean? It means that you can make a whole lot of money. It also means that it is harder to save money when you start from the financial bottom. What advice do I have? Get 2-3 degrees in investment banking and go live on Manhattan for a decade.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours

I went to see the movie 127 Hours about Aaron Ralston on Saturday. He is famous for spending over five days pinned in a slot canyon and eventually cutting his arm off so that he could escape. That happened in April 2003 when I was getting into backpacking and mountain climbing. His story is nothing new to me, but it is very interesting.

Play the mountain game long enough and you will probably spend time soloing and know people that die while in the mountains. It might start off as class one or two terrain (not technical, running shoes preferred).  However, at some point for a select few "heros" it becomes a technical ordeal requiring ropes, equipment and much more risk.

Why do people do technical things like climbing and rappelling solo? That answer is too long for this movie review but it boils down to the challenge and lack of qualified partners. Aaron has a degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon and was Tau Beta Pi (so his GPA was higher than mine). Yet another way I can relate to him: go east and get a degree then head west and have fun!

One of the themes and in my opinion the main theme of the movie was that of relationships. I have said before that relationships are the reason we exist, in my opinion. The movie starts off with scenes of cities and crowds and portrays all sorts of people. Aaron lived in Aspen, I believe, in the spring of 2003 which is a relatively small town. I don't think that anyone else in the theatre got the allusion to the crowds, that here was a person that did not want to ask for help or depend on other people. (Yet another way I relate.)

Accidents happen in the wilderness. That is part of the draw to extreme sports. Yet he made one mistake on this particular trip that I am sure he has never made after that or will never make, not telling anyone where he is going. I have done more than a dozen solo excursions, actually probably around 50 or 60 if you count trail running and nontechnical hiking. The difference is, I always tell someone where I am going and in the case that I don't fully trust those people to report me missing I leave a note in the window of my rather visible van or post on Facebook or email my parents. Had Aaron told someone he would have likely been found on Monday instead of cutting his arm off on Thursday. He would probably still have lost his arm but it would not have been as dramatic.

There has been a lot of mainstream media attention to his incident, and I can tell from the way that the reporters ask the questions that they do not know what to think. For me the experience hits close to home. He is a little more than 10 years older than I am. I had no idea in 2003 that my life might parallel his so much, but I am happy that he went through that experience so that I could learn vicariously from his mistake of not telling anyone. More than once I burned rubber up to New Hampshire to climb Mt. Washington or something only telling a small number of people at the last minute. I honestly thought of him every time I told someone where I was going. I know that had anything happened I would have been reported. Thanks Russ!

I don't tell my parents much anymore when I am going on day trips. They worry about me and don't always understand the specifics like some of my other friends.

The question comes up sometimes: if you were in his place would you cut your arm off? I think about that and first of all, I'm not really into canyoneering. On a mountain ridge there are generally less things to fall on you. Plus the view is better. Secondly, that's not a question I have to answer. I am not in that situation so I do not have to make that choice. I will say, I think I am a pretty tough person. I have limped back to my car from injuries sustained soloing more than once. Nothing that lasted very long but enough to get my attention. I will fight to stay alive. Who else do you know that ran 93 miles alone around a mountain with over 22,000 feet of vertical gain and loss in less than 32 hours for fun?

What about the actual movie? Is it any good. Yeah, it is worth the time. To a person like me who can relate, who will likely run into Aaron on a mountain some day, the movie is good. It is always good to have a reminder that relationships are important. A lot of you readers know me personally and I don't say this enough: I love you. I could die mountain climbing. I don't want to and I will try awfully hard to keep living, but it could happen. Watching 127 Hours and knowing about Aaron's story over the last eight years has helped me express how much I care just a little more. Sure I still don't do it enough, but I'm working on that. Give me a call sometime if you want to hear it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Purpose of Hard Shell Jackets

I finally bought a hard shell jacket. I've been in the market for about six years and I finally found a jacket that fits, is in my price range (less than $100 for actual quality), is light enough, has features I like and none that I don't.

For those that don't know, a hard shell is a dense fabric or coating such as Gor-Tex that is designed to be water proof. In the last 30 years as "breathable" fabrics and coatings have emerged this now typically means waterproof and breathable. In other words, expensive, barely breathable and and uninsulated. I took a pictures of myself in my new jacket below.

As I contemplated my purchase on the hour long drive home I thought, 'after everything I have done the last six years why am I buying a hard shell at all? I got along just fine without it.'

So I came up with a list of reasons to own a hard shell.
  1. Ice climbing in the rain
  2. Rock climbing in the snow
  3. When you are no longer having fun outside because of the weather but are still hours away from lattes and heaters
That is about it. In total that accounts for about 10% of the time that I spend playing in the outdoors. Typically when any of those scenarios happens the trips is nearing completion but it will be nice to stay dry a little longer than I do with my three ounce wind shells. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 3

It is so exciting to wake up and have somewhere to be. Even more exciting after getting my first paycheck! That is about the highlight of the working week, getting paid for the first time. I spent most of my time trying to do a new simulation in ANSYS (a finite element program). It is still very much a learning process for me and with any learning process there are many hurdles that need to be overcome. Fortunately, hurdles can be interesting and I am certainly learning more about ANSYS.

We had a two and a half hour long meeting about some new software that we will be using, specifically I will be using. Wow, I will not tell you the name until I get to actually use it, but the demonstration was pretty powerful. It is amazing what some software is able to do. When I think about what one software is doing I suddenly realize, why isn't everyone else doing that? Curious...

I would say more about work, but to be honest many of the things I am working on are proprietary. The end result of most of my projects will be technical publications that are available to sales people so that they can certify that according to this computer model, the structures are capable of withstanding 150 MPH winds.

By the way today is Valentines Day gentlemen. That might possibly apply to you.

I ran this week. Big surprise right? In total 100 miles because I ran about 20 the last day of the week because I was just not going to be happy with 90. It's a mental game, I know, but it does help. I ran one race, two moderate workouts and one good long run.

Speaking of running a race it was... not quite as good as I hoped. That being said I was still leading at about halfway but due to about two miles of mostly snow covered trails I went sliding around and was summarily passed and beaten. I was also hoping for a personal record and the snow plus two hills put the brakes on that plan. Overall I am happy because it was a hard effort with some lactic acid build up. I feel confident in my training, but it was not the day.

What else did I do? I wrote more on my unemployment book and I am up over 25,000 words. It is going to be good. I ate supper with two of my cousins. I have am amazing family! I went out to eat with my family and paid for the meal. That is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I am always getting taken out to eat by my elders or splitting the bill with my friends and most of the time I would prefer that I could pay myself. Finally, I took my family out to eat. I also spent most of the week recovering from my trip to St. Louis. It was a great trip but tiring.

The week ended by me going to the movie 127 Hours about Aaron Ralston who cut off his own arm in April 2003. I will write a review on that and post it later in the week. I think that of all the people I know I have spent as much or more time soloing in the backcountry than your average outdoorsman so I have a unique perspective on his ordeal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Perfect Engineering

In the book I am writing about new graduates facing unemployment one of the chapters, which might get downgraded to a subchapter, is titled Perfect Engineering. Engineers strive to make the best possible products. They also strive to make products consistently and consistently working products. A variable that can often be a challenge for engineers is human involvement with their product.

Humans are involved in every aspect of a product life cycle. From gathering the raw materials to the manufacturing to incorrectly using the product. That being said, humans are some of the main problem causers in a product life cycle. I read a paper about finite element simulation at work this week that studied a problem that Xerox had. They wanted to test a printer against the worst 12 things that humans would do to it while it was running. There are hundreds of things that humans can do to a printer while it is running so that it will hurt itself or print wrong. To discover what cases were the most damaging the engineers created a finite element simulation of one particular printer and ran it through all sorts of tests to see what would happen. They verified their results against several results in the lab that indicated that all of their wheels were balanced correctly and that the harmonics of their model matched that of the actual printer. Verification of simulation is a big business. Finally the engineers discovered the most damaging 12 things that someone can do to a printer while it is running and they performed physical tests with those 12 cases.

You can see that all of that work and testing would be unnecessary if people never tried to fix the machine while it was running yet we humans like to stick our fingers in places they should not go. As engineers we continually try to make things more fool proof. The extreme end of this would be factories without people inside of them and vehicles without drivers or pilots. From an engineering point of view that is success. A product so good that we can build a factory for that product that people do not have to enter.

We are not there yet. We are heading in that direction. What does work without humans mean for us? I am not sure. It could means that a few people get drastically richer while most people have less, or it could mean that everyone will get to enjoy more time with family and friends. It will probably means something totally different. I like to plan ahead and a large part of that means thinking about the future. Engineering, manufacturing and transportation without people, or at least without as many people, is what I am thinking about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Internal Load

Reading Marathon Training: A Scientific Approach by Enrico Arcelli and Renato Canova for the forth time I finally stumbled upon and understood internal load. You see early in training, and really at any time in training, two runners can run the same workout and get two different things out of it. While the external load for both of them may have been the same the internal load was not.

A perfect example of this was my friend and I in college. For more than two years we ran most workouts together side by side but I was beating him like 85% of the time. The reason is that I was running more mileage and longer long runs than him so when we went to the track for a workout I was already a little tired from the day before. Each workout was harder internally for me. And by the same token, since I was able to complete the workouts those extra miles that I put in on the weekends paid off during the races. Eventually he figured it out and went on to break my 10k school record by almost a minute, which  is good.

I think that the concept of internal load applies to communication and other things as well. The hardest class in my life was just another physics class for a bunch of people. I say something, not meant to be negative or to change a person at all, yet it is taken as negative and derogatory. What is expressed is taken differently by different people. While Mr. Canova doesn't write on this LetsRun thread the person correctly understands the concept. A summary of his LetsRun posts are on this amazing thread, which has stuff copied and pasted from his book.

The concept of internal load is an interesting one. A very valid idea, but something that I really didn't understand enough to name until only a few months ago.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 2

In the working world: I love engineering! It is awesome! Right now I'm still in the honeymoon phase, excited just to have a job, but I'm having a great time. I spent most of this week sorting out a license problem which basically stalled me for a few days. Then we figured thing out and I got to run some simulation and start my first simulation from scratch. Well, I don't build the parts or models in CAD but I build the mesh and simulation in ANSYS. I even worked some overtime working on a cooling problem for some residential generators. In fact, I learned that often companies build in cost reduction targets for a product at intervals after it's initial release. I'll probably write a post about that in the future but I am just stunned at how great of an idea that is. I am amazed that it took me so long to learn that.

In short, working is awesome, so far.

In the running world I ran 81 miles, a low total after four consecutive weeks of 100+ mileage. Most of that was due to "Snowpocalypse" that made running my normal double digit daily mileage or double runs far more challenging. However, I had a 20 miler at 7:03 per mile pace with a double on long run day. I would like to double every long run day and get 25-30 miles every Sunday, but my body can't hand that just yet. Then I had a tempo just over nine miles long at 5:45 pace, which means I set a personal record in the nine mile.  That was my first official marathon pace tempo. I'm not sure if I am going to run a marathon this spring, but I might. Finally, the plan is for an 8k race this weekend. Hopefully, I'll set a new personal record.

In the social world I had all sorts of fun. In chronological order I went skiing for the first time this season with a co-op student from work. We had a pretty good time. The plan is for a ski trip up to the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan) in a few weeks. Friday I ate supper with a handful of interesting women in Milwaukee.

Finally, Saturday I road tripped seven and a half hours to St. Louis, Missouri to go to the birthday party for my best friend from high school. I hadn't seen her in years and I don't work on the weekends plus I'm actually earning money now, so I drove down. It was amazing to see her. She changed my life, for the better, and helped me to understand mental and emotional things that no one else has ever helped me understand. Which is to say, she helped make me who I am. Without her I wouldn't be nearly as understanding to a number of issues. I am so happy I saw her. That has been on my to do list for a long time.

I love my life. I am so fortunate. I have everything. Well, not everything, but most of it. Why me? Why isn't all of this awesomeness given to someone who is starving or dying or was simply born in a less developed country? I guess this is asking the question: "what is my purpose in life?" I don't know. I don't know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


In the music industry remixes are a popular thing. Sometimes a remix is better than the original song. I feel bad saying that and I was going to give a few examples, but then I decided that music is in large part about personal taste and it is possible that some remix that I like and original song I don't like is the total opposite opinion of everyone who read this. So I'll refrain.

The point is that someone, typically someone who is good with computer programs or turntables is the one who changes the song by speeding it up or adding a beat and occasionally adding in some lyrics. It is essentially taking the work of another artist and adding or changing enough to pass it off as new music.

I realized the other day that engineering is a little like remixes. Just about everything that most engineers do has been done by someone else but it takes a different twist for each new application. I think teaching is especially like a remix. Every teacher brings a different style of teaching to the students and each student brings a different style of learning to the teacher.

Not on the topic of music, which is what inspired my title, by certainly remixing is this video I have watched about four times in the last week and a half. My dad turned me on to it and it pertains to my book. It's worth at least watching the first three minutes. Sometimes we need a little remix.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Am I Doing?!

Sometimes I do things and as I am doing them I wonder, why am I doing this? I was working on a project Tuesday night and as I was working on it I thought, 'this is ridiculous! I'm way over doing it. A much simpler concept would be better.'

Changing topics within the general subject, I spent five and a half years in engineering school, with other scientists and engineers. For most of the last year I have been around "other people". People who don't think in numbers. People who are more laid back and relaxed. People who are "cool" or "normal" whatever that means.  I feel so out of my league. I feel like the awkward turtle. Okay, not all the time, but often enough to mention it.

There is a blizzard outside and I am anxious to drive 12 miles to work. I don't want to stay home, I've done that already. Here I am with a job, staying home. At least for a few hours, I'll get there eventually.

I don't know. I don't know.

What am I doing?

Well, I'm alive and I have a job (WOOHOOO!!!) and I'm healthy and I have some of the best friends and family in the world. And I am giving all of those things my full effort. I work hard, I run hard, I love hard. Can I say that? Probably not.

So I guess that I'm giving. Huh... I've always seen myself as a taker more than a giver, much to my disadvantage. What am I doing? I am giving. Okay.

Please tune in tomorrow for the next episode of "Inside Isaiah's Brain" brought to you by the Isaiah Janzen Honesty Association, attempting to understand and solve Isaiah's problems through vaguely telling the world.