Friday, April 29, 2011

Shampoo, Cooking Oil, Dishtowel, Lighbulbs, and Hangers

How many things do we, or at least I, take for granted and forget about until after they run out? It seems like every day in my new apartment I am finding a new item that I don't have. It is a little frustrating, but mostly humorous. I have had so many "fiascos" in the mountains that burning some eggs or only having two working lights in my apartment is more funny than irritating.

The other thing is, as I think about growing older and possible future things I wonder how I could ever take care of someone else well when it takes most of my effort to keep me from falling apart.

Industry is a different place than college. There is a lot more money at stake. People are in a slower rhythm that I suppose they intend to maintain for 40 years. Everybody seems to be married and have kids. I feel like 2010 was a bubble year for me. Then and before then very few of my friends were having kids. Now it seems like everyone I know has kids. I feel like I am "supposed" to get married and have kids. This transition kind of happened overnight, at the end of January.

On the other hand, being single leaves so much more time and money in the discretionary category. The moral of the story is I need to go shopping, but at least tonight I'm doing the laundry. Plus, I've run over 150 days in a row. The deeper moral of the story, enjoy every day for what it is and what you have because you never really know which day might be your last. If you have the resources to read this you are fortunate. Not everyone can read. Appreciate (and share) your gifts, that is what I am trying to say.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Cake is Done!

We still have to put the frosting on and maybe some sprinkles, but the cake is done! Of course when I say cake I mean the extensive specific and long workouts associated with training for a marathon. Wednesday night I managed 16 miles on a cinder rail trail in 1:32:44. That means 58:01 through ten miles and 1:15:55 for the half marathon. My second fastest half marathon and a mere two minutes slower than my personal record and it was solo on a dirt trail.

From here on out I have 2-4 workouts in the 5k to 10k range. Noting too tiring or difficult. This is the bulk of it. A few longer tempos and long runs in the bank of my legs and now the goal is to rest and do just enough work to keep my body remembering what marathon pace is. I know I still have more than two weeks, but the workouts and the experience of training for a marathon has been amazing. If I explode on marathon day or have some other setback I will be comforted by all that I have already done. This whole ability and experience of running is a gift that I am able to enjoy now and I don't take that for granted.

All of that being said I already know my preparation was not as good as it could have been. There is always something to tweak and make better when it comes to humans.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recovery days

Last week I had two strong workouts on back to back days. That has been followed by four days of slow and very tiring runs. Sometimes our bodies just need to take it easy. As I get older I feel more and more in tune with my body. I can feel soreness and preinjury pain before I force an overuse injury on myself. I have learned to take it easy on my recovery days. After all as a long distance runner I am training for one massive performance. Several massive workouts do the bulk of specific preparation for any one event. Thus, training hard most days will only limit my training for the big workouts.

It can be hard to be patient as I try to squeeze more workouts into the ever shortening time to marathon day. I simply try to comfort myself with what I have already done and not worry about the final result. No one or two workouts is going to improve my marathon time by five or ten minutes now. As I always say:

1. Stay motivated
2. Stay healthy
3. Train hard

I'm good with one and two now and doing fairly well on three so it would be better if I did not get picky about the details and let recovery take it's natural course.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Month Entirely Wireless

As I was searching for Internet service in Dubuque I was astounded at the prices. With only a one year commitment the price of Internet through the cable company is $55 per month. With cable television (including Starz and Cinemax) it was $100 per month. There is no way I am going to pay that kind of money so that I can sit on my couch and watch reruns. There are several other options I am entertaining. I get 1.5 Mbps 3G at my house, which is incredibly fast, the fastest I have ever measured on my phone. I might get a limited plan so that I can plug in a USB device and get Internet that way. Plus, I would be far more mobile than using a local wireless router. Secondly, there is the chance that one of my neighbors, who has a wireless signal that reaches my apartment (there are four, all encrypted) might be willing to let me use their connection for a small fee every month. Third, I might be able to bundle DSL with my cell phone bill and save money but I might as well get 3G for the speed that DSL has. Fourth, is a rather novel idea that I am going to try for the month of May, not pay for anything more than I already am.

I currently pay $30 a month for unlimited data plan on my iPhone 3G. While I have never used more than 500 Mb in the two and a half years that I have had it, I have kept the unlimited plan because when 4G (and I mean true 4G not HSPA+ or LTE) becomes available in a few years there will be no need for anything beside a phone. Netflix already allows video out connections from an iPhone 4 and iPad to a television. Of course when you can connect a wireless keyboard and monitor to your phone and use the phone processor and Internet connection for everything, there will be little need for average people to have computers, aside from their phones. Of course, while hardware and software people are on the ball, the wireless and cable companies are way behind the ball so the transition to fully wireless will probably involve whole bunch of legal problems.

In the spirit of experimentation and innovation, I have decided that for the month of May I will not pay for more Internet than on my cell phone, which I planned to pay anyway. In keeping with any value proposition, I am going to track of my Internet usage. AT&T meters my data so that will be easy to track. I typically go to coffee Saturday morning so I do not consider those $4 costs to be directly related to Internet usage, but I will be counting all coffee shop Internet uses. I will be getting a library card so that I can use the Internet there in the evenings, although I have to use their computers. I can also use the Internet at work, and they track usage as well so I will figure out how to check my usage there as well. Since I went to Redbox three times last week I am going to keep track of how many movies I rent or buy that I might have streamed from Netflix or Hulu. The goal is to see what volume of Internet I consume and if that is something I am comfortable with or not. In other words, if I miss Wikipedia, Facebook, and other websites or not.

As I thought about it more and more the thing that is likely to suffer the most is my blogging. Without my computer my ability to edit my posts will probably be a little limited. I will probably not be the most active emailer either, although I can still send and receive everything. Basically, every dollar I manage to save and invest now will be ten dollars by the time I will worry about retiring. So if I can save $100 a month that is like saving $1000 a month that I can use in 45 years. Alternatively I will be saving $100 that I can use to buy something more enjoyable than reruns.

Bear with me. I will still aim for four or five blog posts per week, although central to the entire blog theme is having new content to discuss, so no guarantees.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Chapter 1

After weeks of debate about what to call my new weekly series (with virtually the same content as the old series) I decided on something pretty simple. So here we go, living in Iowa. When will this series end? I figure when I move out of Iowa, go on an extended expedition (and have no home), or die.
Well I started work this week and it is a very different situation than I was in at Kohler. There I was the only person that did finite element analysis while I was there. Now I sit in a honeycomb cubile thing with three others who do exactly what I do, and have all been doing it long than I have. When I have questions I just shout out the problem and whoever is available will answer. It’s a little more formal and tactful than that, but not much.
So far there have been no big surprises at work. They don’t have a coffee machine, so no on-sight lattes. The cafeteria is somewhat large, far smaller than any college, but big enough to have a variety of food. There are windows in the room I am in as well as huge windows in the cafeteria. Of course when I stand up at my desk the room is so big with so much stuff that I can’t see the windows, but that might be due to my height as well.

I only worked four days this week. John Deere had Good Friday off, so I had off as well. I felt guilty about taking time off because that means that I already have a deficit as far as hours worked and hours that I should work. On the other hand, it was nice to have a day off. I considered going in on Friday to do a few hours of work, but I ended up sleeping in two hours and not feeling like working. Instead I went out to coffee and then ran all after noon.

Speaking of running, this was quite the week for me. I started off by doing the 20+ mile tempo that I consider one of my core workouts leading up to Green Bay but it was incredibly windy Sunday afternoon when I tried so after averaging 6:15 pace for 13.6 miles I quit. That’s at least 5 seconds per mile slower than I wanted. As an example, The first two miles were run into the wind in 6:22 and 6:40. Both of those were at what I considered 6:00-6:10 pace. The one mile I measured going with the wind at that same effort was only 5:50. In other words the wind slowed me down maybe 15-20 seconds per mile going into the wind but only gave me 10 seconds per mile going with the wind. It was brutal. Then I moved to Iowa…

After a few days of running up and down the bluffs trying to find a nice place to run I ran a track workout Thursday. I ran an 8k in 27:14, which is really good for me. That’s 20 seconds faster than my 8k cross country personal record. That was one of the five workouts I want to get done before I race the marathon and it went better than expected, which is always a good sign. Still feeling good Friday I decided to take advantage of the afternoon and do a long run. At least, give myself the opportunity to do a long run if I feel good enough a few miles into the run. Well, I discovered (was told about by a coworker and bicycle store employee) the Heritage Trail just north of Dubuque. It is AMAZING!! It is pancake flat, flatter than all the other rail trails I have run on. It is nice and cinder/dirt so a little softer than pavement. The moral of the story is that I went through two miles in 13:38, very surprised to be going that fast, but I never slowed down. I do not think I had even one mile over 7 minutes. I ran 15 miles out in about 1:42 and 15 miles back in about 1:41 which includes approximately a 2:57 marathon. I was pretty exhausted the last few miles, but still managed to maintain the same pace and even kick it in the last mile. Basically, it was the second best long run I have ever had, behind only the 20 miler at 6:20 pace that I ran about 16 months ago. Also, to do it the day after a tempo, is rather surprising.

In other news I watched three Redbox movies and wrote another sonnet. My mom and sister also brought a couch, dresser, television, and my bicycle down so now I have more than a bed in my apartment. All in all, a good week.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Power of One

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

I am a firm believer in the power of one. Making one thing so important that it is the basis for thousands of hours of your time, perhaps even your entire life. Many people have trouble being that committed to something. It makes people nervous when a person is so incredibly committed to something that seemingly no obstacle will get in the way.

Now that I am sitting down to write this I feel that it can all be said in one paragraph. I have spent hours thinking about this while I was running, but there is really not much to say. When you can say, "that one thing is the most important to me" it will blow people away. In the 2008 presidential election I had a moment like that. I was discussing the upcoming election with my friends and I mentioned that one particular issue was so important to me that despite one candidate doing everything else well I could not vote for him. My friends were all a little shocked to see that one issue, and a relatively minor issue by political standards, was so important to me.

My running career is along the same lines. I get great joy from it continuously, but the goal is really one race. A race that would probably go unnoticed, even by the running community. It is the same for mountain climbing. I have been after Mt. Everest for years now, and when I do get up it my name will be just one in a list of other names. Yet, when nonclimbers learn of my passion I can tell that they do not know what to make of it. Only a few thousand people in the world are in a similar position to myself regarding Everest.

Finally, when I tell people my career goals, I can tell that they do not know what to make of it. No one has ever done the thing I want to do. Yet I say it and lay it out there as if it will be as simple as a two hour long car drive.

Unemployment, was a huge help to me, because it required that I re-prioritize my life. Not much at the top really changed, but things that were further down on the list, fell off the list. Would you prefer to get second place ten times or first place once? For me it depends on the competition, but to know that I pushed myself to the very peak of what I could accomplish mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually is more rewarding than leaving something in the tank and wondering if I might have done it had I tried harder. One thing, above all the distractions. It is going to happen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Iowa Makes Ten

Iowa is the tenth state that I have lived in. Considering that I signed a lease Monday night it looks like I could be here more than three months. I count California, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin and now Iowa. Wow.

Before I go any farther I have to mention how awesome the Boston Marathon was Monday. I had four friends run and a slew of people who I've met ran it and as far as I know everyone had a fantastic race! (Something about the 16mph tailwind plus the net downhill...)

Anyway, another state, ten states. I'm sitting here in the Dubuque Carnegie-Stout Public Library because I don't have computer Internet access at my apartment yet. It is simply frustrating. Another place to live. More people to meet. Figuring out where the best coffee shop is, figuring out the best running routes, where to order take-out Chinese, going to the DMV to get everything registered in this state, on top of all that I want to spend time with people my own age!

I'm not going to go into how to meet people after college, because I have a number of ideas and I have done things that worked, but it is not as easy as it is in high school and college. At some point people get into a rythum and are not interested in meeting a new person. Perhaps that is one reason people get married, so that they don't have to be alone so often.

I am incredibly thankful for all of the experiences I have had, living in so many different places. I feel that I have a certain point of view on America that few other people have. People are similar everywhere, I mean we are all human. However, the differences, even among Americans can be staggering. A few examples:
  • If you want to strike up a positive conversation in Massachusetts say, "#$%& the Yankees!"
  • In Oklahoma or anywhere around the panhandle, don't wear a cowboy hat unless you have earned it. If you have to wonder if you have earned it, you haven't.
  • In Colorado if you do not do outdoor sports basically all year round you are one of only a few.
  • In Kansas just about no one follows professional sports, they follow college sports.
  • In Wisconsin, there are so many alcoholics. If six drinks are not enough to get you even "buzzed" and you have to go into the double digits to get "drunk" I figure you must be seven feet tall with plenty of muscle or you might have a problem.
  • In Massachusetts, and most of New England, people subconsciously believe that the world drops off somewhere in Pennslyvannia because that is the midwest.
  • In Colorado, no one is origionally from Colorado they all moved there within the last 1-2 generations and have family East of Colorado.
  • In Massachusetts, MIT is just another very good college.
  • In Wisconsin, the heat becomes "unbearable" somewhere around 85 degrees.
  • In New Mexico one summer morning the temperature inside my friend's tent at 8AM was 108 degrees.
  • East of Ohio there are trees everywhere.
  • West of Pennslyvannia there is corn everywhere.
  • Between Colorado and the Pacific Ocean there is mostly dessert. At least, it's land that seems to be trying to become dessert.
  • In Winconsin the cheese and Brats are amazing.
  • On either coast, the seafood is amazing. (Being within like 150 miles of the coast counts as being on the coast in my opinion.)
  • In the middle the steak is simply amazing.
  • Bacon is good everywhere.
  • Iowa has cassinos.
So here I am, without Internet at my apartment, in a new place, lonely, but quite fortunately employed. I suppose this is how life goes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marathon Monday

First of all, yes I had my first day at work in Dubuque and I moved into my new apartment. But considering that this may be for at least a year I will talk about Iowa and engineering in the future. Instead I want to talk about the last three days of marathoning.

Saturday in the history of running there had been only nine marathons run in a total time less than 2:05. Two of those are from Haile Gebreselassie including the current world record of 2:03:59. Then Sunday in the London marathon the winner ran 2:04:40 setting a new course record and bringing the list of 2:03 and 2:04 marathon performances to ten.

Then Monday at the Boston marathon four people ran 2:03 or 2:04 all shattering the previous course record. The winner ran 2:03:02. Now Boston is an overall downhill course and rumor has it it was with the wind yesterday but 2:03:02! Second place ran 2:03:06! And Boston is supposed to be a slow course?! Also, American Ryan Hall ran 2:04:5something which is awesome!

Finally, a shout out to three of my friends who ran college track and cross country with me and ran 2:25, 2:39, and 2:41 Monday! Personal records for everyone! I hope I didn't miss anyone, but I haven't found the scrollable results yet so that I can read the extensive list of finishers. For marathoning it was a good and fast weekend.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 12 ...The End

This was my last week at Kohler. It was bittersweet. I am very excited for my new job and all of the new experiences that I will have yet I already miss the friends I made living and working around Sheboygan.

All things considered I had a productive week. I was doing project faster than I had even two weeks ago. I am spent time teaching software to a person more senior than I. While that is not the first time I have been in that situation it was the first time I was getting paid as much as I do and he as much as he does. In other words, there was more money at stake.

I learned to weld this week! I MIG welded about two feet and by that point I was half decent. Now I had two welding experts standing over my shoulder so after every two inches they would tell me three things to change and after a mere 15 minutes I was getting the hang of it. A few things to clarify. MIG welding uses a thing that they call a squirt gun because all that is necessary is to hold it at the right angle, move it at the right speed, keep it at the best distance, and pull the trigger. They even offered me a welding job! ...for three dollars an hour in China.

Running was a recovery week. After the half marathon I did most jogging this week. I did have a track workout 10x300 meters with 100 meters recovery jog. The high school kids were stretching on the infield and I got a complement, "wow, you're really good." I smiled and they all laughed. I am such a different runner now than when I was in high school.

I went out for food and drinks multiple times this week with coworkers and family. One meal even ended in a three and a half mile jog along Lake Michigan. Good times. I might say more about my week but my thumbs are getting tired from typing on my phone.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Last Day at Work

Today is my last day working at Kohler Power Systems, Generators for the foreseeable future. It was a great ride! I am so thankful to the people that gave me this opportunity. I learned how to use two new peices of software, HyperMesh and ANSYS. I had the chance to work on cost savings projects and with International Building Code requirements. I also got to spend a little time reading technical papers about finite element simulation of welds and structural properties of welds. Basically, it was pretty awesome.

I mean after nearly 12 weeks I am still excited to go to work. I worked with a great group of people. I worked on problems that managed to challenge me and present a new set of skills for me to learn. The materials aspect of it all was rather slim, but I really enjoy structural analysis and design. Honestly, I think that my materials experience along with my finite element experience and structural experience make me a rather potent engineer. While being a contract engineer and moving from place to place is not what I am looking for, my experience thus far has provided me with a rather varied experience which I feel can only benefit me.

Most of all I will miss the people. It is always the people that I miss when I move. The land can be replaced and will continually offer unique aspects that appeal to me. The physical things are replaceable but no two people are the same. Every time I move I miss my friends. Since I know a number of my friends will read this know that I care about you and miss you. I like experiencing new things, but not nearly as much as I like enjoying experiences with my friends.

In many ways this three month long work experience was the best career thing that ever happened to me. After 57 weeks out of engineering I am back in the thick of it! I have experience at another company that is renowned for a high quality product (or at least most expensive in it's market). I can list NASA, Sikorsky, MIT, and now Kohler as places that have paid me for my work. Not bad for a 24 year old. I have heard that many first jobs are not fun for the employee. My experience was the opposite. I had a great time. Additionally, I feel that the things I I learned and the programs that I used while at Kohler were instrumental in getting me the job at John Deere. This experience has been so valuable because of the new skills that I have and the fact that it helped me get a job indefinitely that it would have been worth it to do this job for a whole lot less money than I was paid.

I believe we can never fully appreciate a situation until some amount of time after it is over. This working experience was no different. There are things that I have started to learn from this process that will not sink in for some time. That is part of the fun of life. Learning things about our past that we did not learn in real time.

It was just a great experience. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to experience it. I do not deserve to have this much success, but I guarantee you that I appreciate it. Hopefully you, my readers, read some of the things I wrote while I was unemployed or have been unemployed yourself. No success, in terms of a paycheck or really anything on Earth, is guaranteed. The world is full of gifts. Often the gifts go to those that work really hard, but not necessarily.

Compared to 2010, 2011 is going incredibly well. I have made somewhat more money already than I made in all of 2010. I recently ran a 1:12 half marathon. I have friends. I have family. I have a job, indefinitely. My life is awesome. I hope that in some way you can share in my joy. Sometimes I feel like I am simply bragging about my life to the world, and that is not the point. The point is to demonstrate the things I am learning to do so that you can learn from both my mistakes and my successes and enhance your own life. The problem is that so often the outcome is out of your control or my control and it is harder to learn from something out of your control than some result that you influence. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cultivating Motivation

This article is inspired by Ryan Hall's blog post Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing.

Additionally, motivation is included in my three principles of athletic training are:

  1. Stay Motivated
  2. Stay Healthy
  3. Train Hard
These can apply to other aspects of life outside of athletics, but often in that realm staying motivated and staying healthy become the same thing with mental training being similar to those two. That is a whole other topic for another day.

As I was running earlier this week I was trying to come up with an analogy for motivation. I have plenty of motivation and I notice that others do not always have the motivation that I have. So I asked myself the question, 'how did I get so much motivation?' Which precipitated another question, 'who or what conspired to produce so much motivation for me?' In this instance I will talk solely about running because spending an hour and a half every day running I have plenty of time to think about my running goals and my progress, which are parts of my motivation.

I came to the conclusion that motivation is like a plant. A tree that starts out as a tiny seed or a flower that starts out as a seed both take time to grow and develop into a fully functional plant. Motivation is exactly the same way. You can not directly give someone motivation the same way that you can not make a plant grow. You can provide all of the necessary resources for a plant to grow and I believe that you can do the same for motivation. 

Addressing my own running career, I started with very little motivation. I ran because I wanted to be in some sort of shape and have a healthy lifestyle. I suppose that is a pretty mature concept for the average 13 year old, but that is why I ran. Then my motivation developed into training for mountain climbing and backpacking early in high school. Later in high school it became a combination of seeing how well I do, as well as the previous factors. I would be lying if I didn't at least mention that girls run, and there is some motivation to that for me.

When I took six months off of running my freshman year of college I returned to running both for fitness but also for the mental aspect. I feel better after more than 99% of my runs. I dare any drug to be more than 99% effective at making me feel better. I would not take it anyway because I have found running and that is my 99% drug. I also missed the competitive aspect of running, which is funny because my freshman year of college I ran four races and was last place in every one.

Later in college the year 2007 happened and that was really the year that formed most of my current goals. Ryan Hall and Peter Gilmore blogged for their upcoming marathons while I was in Costa Rica. That summer Flotrack got off to a great start and consumed hours of my time as I watched professional runners run amazing races. That fall the build up to the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials in New York was amazing with the Chasing Glory series from the New York Road Runners that I checked into every day and a slew of Flotrack videos as well as Runner's World Racing News which I began to check regularly. That November I went to watch the trials with a few friends and I was motivated to run there eventually.

That is the short story of my running motivation. But, there are so many other factors that got me to that point. Had I had the chance to play soccer in Oklahoma or Kansas I might not have taken up running. If I was taller I might have played basketball. If I was bigger I might have played football. If my dad did not take cholesterol medication and my mom did not have diabetes perhaps I would not be motivated to eat well and exercise. If my high school biology teacher had been able to walk perhaps I would not feel a desire to run for those that can not run. Had any one of several coaches told me to go home because I was too slow, that would have been it.

Using the plant analogy I needed my carbon dioxide, sunlight, soil, nitrogen, and water, and all in the proper proportions. Too much or too little of anything and I would have quit. What does cultivating motivation have to do with my life now that I have it? I want to know how I can create that kind of environment for others. Not an environment of dreamers who get nothing done, but highly motivated people with a strong work ethic. As of Wednesday I have run 141 days in a row. I don't know if that counts as a strong work ethic because many of those runs have been slow or short and I was unemployed for part of that. The point is, no one runs 141 days in a row and well over 1,000 miles on a total whim. There has to be some motivation.

I intend to coach a team of high school or college runners some day and I know that if I could put my mentality in each of their heads, we would be incredibly successful, but that is ridiculous because everyone is different I would go insane if most people were like me. So I wonder what sort of general situations can cultivate motivation in a person. I know what worked for me, but I have a feeling that that exact set of circumstances will only present itself to me alone. Everyone has a different history and different cultivating requirements. 

I do not have the answer to the question, 'how does one cultivate motivation in another?' But I feel that just using the verb cultivate instead of create or give or even motivate is a huge step in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My 7 Year Old PowerBook G4 Computer

April marks seven years that I have owned my nice little laptop. In April 2004 I bought it as a graduation/college gift to myself. It was a good investment. For about $1,600 I have managed to get 84 months of use out of it, minus a few months I was away from electricity in the mountains. That comes to less than $20 a month. Considering that this little machine helped get me two engineering degrees including a master's degree, I think it did alright.

Seven Years Strong! (...and vainly checking my website stats)
The world has accelerated in that time so that programs are larger and my 768 megabytes of RAM is no longer able to speed through applications. The 1.33 gigahertz single core processor is quite slow and a 1x DVD burner leaves something to be desired. The little 12.1 inch screen reminds my back every so often that leaning over a tiny screen is not ideal.
Seven years and hardly any scratches!
I have gone through two hard drives as I toted my computer around campus in sleep mode. A mistake that I will never make again, fortunately we have flash memory available with no moving parts so we can bounce and twist without damaging new computers. I've taken this thing with me everywhere. In the fall of 2007 the battery kind of gave up and I have been limited to about 10 minutes since then, which is usually enough to find an outlet.

A year ago I was planning on getting rid of it, selling it to a friend. However, as I near it's end, I am having some trouble thinking about letting it totally go. I still have the box. I mean such a large portion of my life has been spent behind this thing. It is strange to think of not being able to open it and find a file of mine from four years ago that suddenly seems important. There is also the matter of computer software that I have that might not be transferable, thanks to engineering school.

Now that I am gainfully employed I am saving a little bit of money from each paycheck so that in four to six months I will be able to afford a new computer. I have already decided on the Macbook Air. Although, the processor is too slow now to last another seven years I am hoping that in the next few months they will come out with a refresh, which is likely considering that Intel recently released a new 17 watt sandy-bridge processor.

Seven years! When I say it like that I am astonished that I have been out of high school that long. High school was so influential on my personality. As I think about the future I think, where will I be when I am close to turning 32? Will I live that long? I must say, the last seven years have been amazing! If the next seven increase in excitement, as I feel they will, I can only dream of how well they will go.

One piece of advice for everyone, there is a reason I am using a seven year old computer and most people are not. I bought high quality with the goal of this computer lasting at least five years. Generally speaking, when you go with quality, you only have to shop once. That might apply to other aspects of life as well... Anyway, I am big on quality. I like things that last because I am unfortunately hard on most of my stuff. Plus, much of the energy cost of a computer is in the initial construction so a computer that lasts longer is more energy efficient and less damaging to the environment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 11

As weeks go this was a good as any. I worked a nice 40 hours. Although, one day they did not have enough computer simulation work for me so I spent the day in the "lab". We were working on competitive tear-downs, which involve hundreds of pounds of steel and copper. I had the chance to wear my lab coat which was fun for the first two hours then I got tired and slowed down. Eventually my attitude eroded a little because I felt that my talents were not being sufficiently harnessed. That being said, feelings are not fact. The most important task is often the one at hand. It was nice to see a different aspect of the factory and work with an A-frame and a chop saw, but I enjoy my desk.

The engineer who I was replacing is back and I am quite happy that he is. Several times every day I consulted him about the modeling that I was working on. He has more experience than I do and always offers valuable input. Before he came back I was an island making guesses about the accuracy of my models. Now that he is back I have someone who understands modeling well and can very accurately critique me.

Regarding my move to Dubuque, Iowa, I had an apartment picked out but someone else picked the same thing and had the deposit check in before me and thus rented the apartment before I could. So Monday April 18th, I'm starting work, but I don't have a place to live yet.

While I was unemployed I spent hundreds of hours applying value to aspects of my life outside of work. That is an important outlook to have on life. Without those things outside of work I guarantee I would be a workaholic. This brings us to the subject of running! I had a week that started on a good note, went through a bad section, and ended on a good note.

I had a nice 24 mile run Sunday, the longest training run I have had in a year and a half. Plus it was at a half decent pace. Then Tuesday a knot in my upper calf tore something in my lower calf/achilles area and I was more or less out of commission until I could massage it apart. It hurt so much! Fortunately, I did exactly the right thing and recovered soon enough to run a half marathon I paid for a few weeks ago. That race went very well. I started out with the leaders but going up a slight hill after two miles they broke away and I spent about the next nine miles running my own race. Then they were slowing down and I dropped a couple of 5:19 pace miles to move into second from third and come within nine seconds of the leader. I finished in 1:12:48 an official personal record by more than four minutes. I split 56:01 at ten miles (5:36 mile pace) and finished the last 5k in 16:47 (5:25 mile pace). I am really happy to negative split that much. I was holding back most of the race because I was afraid of going anaerobic and it was nice to let my legs turn over like that after the ten mile warmup.

I went over 53,000 words on my book and I reorganized it so that the chapters are more equal and related in terms of content. All I have left to do before submitting it to agents is edit it and add some more stuff about Reaganomics. It is a good book. I am excited. I have so much information that I consider useful from interview tips to "the exercises" to economic history. I feel it is a rather comprehensive resource for people like me in January of last year, which really could be anyone unemployed ages 16-30.

I am heavily considering buying a motorcycle. The problem is they don't sell the Honda CBR125R in the USA so I'm having a hard time finding something I am really motivated to own. I mean who needs to go over 75 miles per hour and who wants to get less than 90 miles per gallon? If you have any suggestions email me. I'm looking at used bikes exclusively and there are a number of sub 200cc starter bikes available for a 130 pound lightweight like myself. I mean Ducati starts at 700ccs! I would surely hurt myself on that without some experience.

I ended the week watching Morning Glory, which is a good movie, and writing a three sonnet series. The more sonnets I write (I'm up to five) the easier it gets. Sometimes I can even think out a ten syllable line that rhymes on the first try. It's fun to write poetry because it is an even better way to express emotions than simple writing in plain english. Who knows, maybe I will write an entire book of sonnets eventually. If you are curious to read them, sorry, they are on the romantic and emotional side and you have not earned that privilege from me. You can read my first sonnet if you want. The rest of them are similar, but I'm not the kind of guy that runs around talking about that stuff in public.

I am tired. 40 hours of work is like vacation, but when you add in the running and social events it adds up to quite a few hours.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Everest vs. Lohtse

Well, the votes are in. The better value between Mt. Everest at $44k and Lohtse at $20k is Everest. It was a close vote seven to six. Interestingly that result mirrors my own feelings at this point very well.

The tallest is the tallest. Is that simple fact worth an extra $24,000? I happen to think so. That being said, I don't have the kind of money right now so perhaps my opinion will be different when I do have that kind of money. Everest and Lohtse share the same basecamp and camps 1, 2, and 3 along the route, at least on the Nepal side. In other words, for a 60 day expedition the difference between the two is probably about 30 hours.

The reason I ask is that when I was a little 18 year old I decided that I liked climbing mountains. I  had more or less taught myself how to use crampons and an ice axe. I had started reading climbing lore through some of the classics, such as Into Thin Air. One of the questions that often came up during my formative high school summers in the mountains was, "would you climb Mt. Everest?" I decided in the summer after I graduated high school 'yes, I would like to climb Mt. Everest.' Being a goal-orientated person who likes timelines because it allows me to break the project into smaller pieces I set the arbitrary date of ten years from then for me to go to Everest. That is 2014. This is 2011 and I have already missed out on the spring season this year, that leaves three chances for the spring season on Everest to meet my goal.

What is stopping me from doing it as low budget as possible, go-into-more-debt, and used climbing equipment? I want to give myself all reasonable safety advantages. I'm not planning on getting any frostbite and I will gladly pay another $160 for another pair of mittens if it means I get to keep my fingers. Additionally, mountaineering is a hobby of mine. I am an engineer. As long as my brain is intact I can do that. Mountaineering is dependent on my body as much as my mind. In other words, I want to engineer now. I also want to run because I can only run to my potential for about the next ten years in distances of a marathon or less while I can climb mountains well into my 50s and be competitive in ultra races into my 40s.

I do not think I have been quite as bold with my plans on the blog before, but this has been in my mind for some time and well, I'm shopping around right now. If I live that long (age 28) you can be assured that I will show up at Everest basecamp with my gear sometime between now and then.

To the question about oxygen some of you might be wondering. I plan to go without. I have a huge aerobic capacity and an incredibly efficient metabolism which should greatly help my ability at altitudes from 23,050-29,035 ft. Up to 23,050 ft. I know that I operate decently well. That being said, after spending more than 40 grand I will spend the extra 1-2 grand to ensure that high altitude porters (typically Sherpas) carry a few bottles high on the mountain so that if I hit the wall on summit day or even the day before I can start sucking Os from a bottle. Honestly, above 23,100 ft I am not sure what to expect. At 23,500 ft would I be a useless pile of bones, muscles, water, and down feathers? I don't think so, but I don't know for sure.

To the other question that some of you might be wondering, 'am I qualified?' Yes I totally am. I am relatively light on time spent at high altitude, but I have a night spent above 23,000 ft, which is more than is required by most outfitters. I also have more technical experience than many commercial climbers.

Finally, to the question a few of you might be thinking, 'how am I going to willfully take two months of work off and re-enter unemployment?' I have a few ideas, like leave of absence, going back to school, contract work, a second book, a speaking tour, or a new job. In other words, I'm not going until I am confident that I have an income source lined up for my return or at least half a year after my return.

I can read about what others have done, but I want to do it! Reading is not the same as doing it. Do you want to know what it is like to run the Wonderland Trail? Go run it! Go be adventurous! Yes, it will hurt sometimes, but you can handle it because you had what it takes to take the first step.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reasons I am Excited to Move to Iowa

I am excited to move to Iowa, for a number of reasons. I thought that I would share those with all of you.

  1. The job! I will be an Engineer II, doing finite element simulations, which I really enjoy. Of the people that I have met so far and the layout of the offices and manufacturing floor, it looks like an enjoyable place to work. Additionally, I will have the occasional opportunity to opperate the equipment that I am engineering! Yep, that means I will probably get to drive a backhoe, feller buncher, and knuckleboom loader. Basically, really big equipment and I'll get paid for it.
  2. Iowa is three hours closer to Colorado. Now I will only be about 13 hours away, which is a much more bearable drive than 16+ hours. 
  3. It seems that culturally Dubuque is ahead of the curve because it has won a whole bunch of awards for everything from a great small city for young people and best place to raise a family to shortest commute in the country and having a whole bunch of parks.
  4. Dubuque is full of colleges. Not that I'm looking to go back so soon, but with college students comes coffee shops, entertainment, runners, and other young people. All of those are positives.
  5. Both my probable apartment as well as where I will work have strong 3G AT&T service. That's better than the one to three out of five bars of 2G that I get now.
  6. I will be in a stable job, out on my own. I have greatly enjoyed living at home with my parents the last six months, but I am ready to move on. I would like to get into a rhythm of my own, similar to college but more structured and far better funded.
  7. The weather seems a little bit warmer during most of the year than here in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which means more running in shorts or bicycle commuting!
  8. I will still be somewhat close to a number of my family members. Everyone only gets one family and some people have theirs taken away at a young age. I try not to take my family for granted.
  9. With all due respect to a social life that I desire, at least in the beginning I will get a lot of running and writing/editing done which is a good thing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Life of a Contract Engineer: Week 10

Wow, ten weeks as a real engineer! This past week was once again exciting. I made more arrangements for my new life to begin in Dubuque, Iowa. I also managed to have a productive week at Kohler.

Working at Kohler Power Systems was the best career opportunity I could possibly have had. I was able to live at home for a few more months both saving money and seeing my family. Additionally, the people I worked with and still am working with were simply fantastic! I was able to participate in a contract position for a not yet finished three months, of which I spent about two months learning how to use two new-for-me softwares (ANSYS and HyperMesh). I was basically paid to learn new software and I feel I am leaving now before they really get to use my new skills. That being said, one of the experienced engineers I was sitting next to has repeatedly said that it was worth it for them to hire me. I suppose, but I feel that the amount of work that I did for the salary that I received is out of proportion. Fortunately, feeling are not fact and I'll take the money.

Saturday I went apartment shopping in Dubuque. I found an amazing apartment! It's not finalized yet but I am hopeful that it will work out.

As far as running is concerned, I had an amazing week. After recovering from my breakthrough 14 mile tempo workout last week I managed on Wednesday to run 4 x 1600 meters in an average of 5:18 with 400 meters of rest in about 1:45-50. A nice workout but nothing special. Then Friday, after eight hours of work, and only seven of sleep, I did a 16 mile tempo in a whopping 1:35. That's a 5:57 per mile average, for 16 miles! That is the longest tempo I have had yet. Mentally it wasn't very hard either, physically it was not easy, but the pace was so slow that two minutes after I was done my breathing was back to normal. A total of 90 miles for the week with 20 of those miles in workouts, I think that is the most quality I have ever done in one week.

I am running a half marathon this Saturday which is exciting because I am quite sure that I will set a personal record regardless of how well I feel on the day. Of course the time of my race will determine how my training goes in the next few weeks as I hope to run a marathon in the next two or three months.

Other things of note? I wrote less than a thousand words on my book this week. I think that it is time to edit and rearrange the book. I think that process will add or subtract up to 3000 words from the book as I delete repeated ideas and add supplemental ideals or illustrations. I discussed two parts of the book this week with two different people. I am especially excited about one section that I call, "The Exercises". In short it is a how-to section about how to change your thinking. I feel the most significant lesson that I learned from unemployment was to solidify my priorities and value my gifts. In other words, appreciate relationships more. However, it is far more complicated than that, thus I devote many pages to that aspect.

One more thing, which I will likely blog about separately in the future is that while things seem to be working out for me really well now, I don't deserve this. Suffering through a year of unemployment does not entitle me to all of the privileges that I am beginning to enjoy. However, it does help me to appreciate those privileges more now than I had in the past. I am very happy that I was unemployed for so long after becoming a master of science. I can not think of anything, aside from a death experience in Pakistan, that has helped me appreciate my life as much. I am so fortunate, and based on the people that I know that read my blog I hope that you too realize how fortunate you are and do not take that for granted.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Economics Week: Globalization

It's kind of a big deal. Patagonia, one of the foremost leaders in sustainable production, created a webpage called the Footprint Chronicles, to detail the manufacturing of their products. If a company is open and willing to talk about their production line, what are the other companies that are not open and willing to share their production doing?

It is no secret that people in the United States are paid far more than our counterparts in Asia. Several times more in some cases. While the prices are also greatly elevated in this country, the fact remains the salary is high. Regarding low prices, while I was in Pakistan our High Altitude Porter asked me how much my Old Navy jeans cost and I said, "Not much, about $25." He was appalled because in Skardu nearly identical jeans would sell for $5-6.

With the recent union "event" here in Wisconsin the question has been asked "What direction are we headed?" The unions in this country have made huge strides against child labor, hours of work per week, bathroom breaks, and especially factory safety conditions. While most of those problems are behind us, what future battles are ahead that we do not know or understand? In other countries it is well known that working conditions, wages, hours, and child labor are relatively common. The United States has gotten where it is because about 100 years ago unions wanted to avoid getting killed at work. The unions may be a little more complicated now but the point remains the same, better working conditions and a larger share of the benefits.  Millions of people in Asia and other less developed parts of the world build products for US consumers and do not enjoy the standard of living that we enjoy.

I feel that ultimately, for the better, with the aid of mass instant communication the standard of living across the world will on average increase, although that may mean a decrease for us in the developed world. That being said in recent history the wealth of the richest has increased while the wealth of the "poor" has stayed the same. In short, we are moving closer to serfdom than away from it, but we are doing it with better sanitation, electricity, more education, infrastructure, and the ability to own more than in the past. More than one college drop-out is on the Forbes 400 list that probably employs highly educated doctors. The point of all this is that, now everyone can click on that list and see. There is no doubt about how well a few people are doing. The world can not hide from knowing about the richest and their follies or the poorest and their plight. Communication is not going fast yet, it is only accelerating.

By the way, it's April Fools Day, watch out.