Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sometimes One Needs Rest

I am not very good at sitting still. I realized that when I was unemployed. Yet, setbacks are one of the great opportunities in life to recharge and reinvigorate your intentions.

I ran one mile this morning and one mile yesterday morning. It's going to be a slower comeback than I would like, but it's pain free.

The same can be said for mental stress as for physical stress. One must take it easy for the connections to repair. One must take it easy for the hormones to rebounds so that they can pump harder on the next go around. A very difficult aspect of long term goals happens to be long term setbacks. The larger the goal, the larger the dip. You get to become CEO by 25 or 35 years of awfully hard work.   A Ph.D. takes years and likely months are spent seemingly chasing your tail with no apparent progress. Whatever it is you are doing, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's About Time Colorado Burned

Forests are burning in Colorado this summer. That should not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent much time in the forests and learning about the forests the last ten years. In fact, I'm surprised it has taken so long. Two things in the past have reached peak levels and I would expect more fires over the course of the next decade because of those things.

  1. Smokey the Bear (see the "Fire Ecology" section near the bottom) told us we could prevent forest fires. That is not true. We are good at postponing them, but prevention is a myth. For the last hundred years we have cherished our forests and watched them grow slower than paint dries. Now we have a lot of wood sitting around. More wood means when a crown fire (see "Fuel Type" section) starts there is more fuel to keep it going and resist efforts to stop it. Fires happen, wether it's every 20 years or 300 years, they happen. Forests often have an optimum density range beyond that most Western US forests dry up fast.
  2. As a consequence of the first reason the forests became very crowded. The Bark Pine Beetle (a native species, not introduced) infested millions of trees and killed most of them. In other words, if they trees are not cut down or burned, beetles will kill them. 
When you add those two contributing factors together you have the highest density of dead trees that has ever existed in the Western US in modern history. It's a bomb waiting to go off. 

This did not happen overnight either. Philmont Scout Ranch where I worked in 2005 and 2006 has been doing TSI, Timber Stand Improvement, and meadow encroaching since I started working there in 2005. For at least the last seven years they have been doing something to mitigate the risk of tragic losses. 

It is an interesting time, because I feel that we have the opportunity for a more positive forest management strategy going forward. It is also, hopefully, a one time opportunity for large amounts of bark pine beetle wood, which I think looks classy. Additionally, for people that have never visited a forest a few years after it burns, I highly encourage it. You will appreciate a mature forest more after the experience.

The next few decades promise to be interesting ones for the forests of the Western half of this country.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to School

I have not taken a formal class longer than three days since the spring of 2009. Everything since then has been a short one to three day seminar or independent learning (research). Until now.

Inspired by a MacRumors article last week I signed up for the Stanford iPhone and iPad App Development Course. Why? I have been thinking about writing an iPhone app since 2010 when I was unemployed. With the proliferation of development resources (the lecture videos on iTunes), as well as a lingering foot injury, now seemed like the perfect time to expand my third rate programming skills. Since I have not taken a formal programming class since high school, I was blown away in the first lecture how well the professor explained everything!

I have ideas for three different apps. While I originally intended them solely for the iPhone, perhaps the iPad and even the Mac as well as other platforms may be possible. I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't even done the first assignment yet. Point being: I'm excited.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thank You! I'm Sorry. You're Welcome.

I think I could start every blog post with the sentence "Life is nonlinear." and it would be appropriate.

I give so much of myself in words to the often nameless and generally unresponsive public that a disconnect exists. Yesterday after work I was stressed out because work was not going as smoothly as I desired so I turned my phone off and went on a 40 mile bicycle ride. For the first time I can remember a workout over two hours did not clear my head. (Typically in longer runs and bicycle rides I have time to think about my life and come to conclusions about past events and future needed actions.) It may have taken longer than I desire to have something to say worth saying today and yesterday, but here it is.

Thank you for caring, for reading, for listening, for not interrupting me as I trail off into mumbling about something you find boring. Additionally, I'm sorry that I have failed you. I'm sorry I did not do what you expected. Unfortunately, I have failed so many times that I realize I will fail again. I have enough problems to fill a village. Also, you are welcome. I know how much I have helped you and given you a little bit of an advantage or a bit of education that you did not have before. I have communicated things that no one else did.

So where does that leave us? We laughed, we cried and now are one day closer to the grave. You know me a little more intimately and I spent another evening alone. However, since I like ending on a positive note, do you have any idea how much of a difference a 250 mm diameter torque tube versus a 200 mm diameter torque tube makes in reducing the stress on joined arms under asymmetrical loading? Probably not, but the difference is astounding!

Thank you!
I'm sorry.
You're welcome.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Dip

The Dip is a really good book. It's really short. After reading it you want to quit something. Here is the thing: to be really good at something you can't be somewhat good at everything. I knew this already, but now, there is a book about it.

I quit swimming lessons, baseball, soccer, basketball, summer camp jobs, running (well I tried once), acting, the trumpet, speech and drama competition, eventually the social committee, emergency medical services, and those are just some of the things I did long enough to say that I did them. The list of activities, and even relationships, that I never put any significant effort into because they were not going to go anywhere is much much longer.

There will be hard times. That will never escape us. Yet the hard times are far more defining than the triumph and glory on the other side. They also make the triumph and glory more rewarding. My friends, quit. Quit more things than you intended so that you can narrow your focus and get the best possible results out of yourself. The rewards are greater.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 62

Life is nonlinear. (On a tangent, nonlinear is well described by the theories of general relativity. Basically, the faster you are going relative to the speed of light the slower time will be for you. The best evidence of this is from particle accelerators.) This week was not a clear step forward professionally, athletically, and I don't feel socially, although that probably had the greatest increase.

Some weeks at work I work through more difficult problems. Well, I'm stuck at the end of one difficult problem, the middle of a second difficult problem and the start of a third problem, which is already showing significant hurdles. I like hard work. What is the point if it is not challenging? Yet, complexities with finite element analysis seem to multiply rather than add sometimes. In other words, I spent quite a bit of time getting a three body simulation to run accurately, the nine body simulation I am working on requires depth that the three body project did not.

It is actually a really good situation. I am learning about several features that I have never used before. I am well on my way to becoming a satisfactory (by my view) analyst. The problem is that progress is harder to see on larger projects.

I did run this week, for five minutes. About one kilometer. My foot has been feeling better and better so Saturday morning I figured I would give it a test run. The run went well. I'm not 100% yet, but much much better than two weeks ago when I racked up a DNF. I went to the doctor this week and had a very positive experience. He understood what I was trying to communicate very well and was very amicable. They took new x-rays and low and behold, they found something! There was a little blip of slightly more white than normal flesh on my third metatarsal on the second metatarsal side, exactly where it hurt. Apparently when you get tendonitis by tearing a tendon the body sends extra calcium to the area to heal the tendon. If you could see the x-ray you would understand what I mean. The tendon is just slightly more white than flesh but not nearly as white as actual bone so there is no mistaking it as a bone spur. Plus, It was at an irregular shape roughly the size of half a dime, which is again clearly not a normal shape for a bone in the foot. So I started walking again. Maybe 30-60 minutes per day.

Saturday I went rock climbing at Devil's lake. We climbed a couple routes in the same place. I would tell you what they are, but we didn't have a guidebook and while I bought one after we left, I don't have it in front of me now.

I have been more scared on lead this summer than I have typically been in the past. I think it is a reflex to my perceived failure on El Cap in 2010 that is still ruminating within me. Leading a couple of pitches Saturday was a pleasant joy! Rock climbing goal of the summer: Devil's Tower (yes, the one in Wyoming).

Socially the week was good. I spent some time with friends and new friends. We laughed, we watched the Olympic Trials 10ks. The women's race was great! There was a fall, a huge personal record, college kids getting in the mix, Shalane keeping it honest, and Amy Hastings pulling out the win! The men's race was somewhat more clear cut. The three guys for the United States that are going to the Olympics in the 10,000 meter run Matt Tegenkamp, Galen Rupp, and Dathan Ritzenhein are 12:56, 12:58, and 12:58 5k runners, respectively. In other words, if you can't run a 5k in less than 13 minutes you are too slow to even run the 10k for the US at the Olympics. Kind of like Kenya. A 62 minute half marathoner switches to bicycling because he was too slow to run in Kenya. No American or European bicyclist will (can?) run a 62 minute half marathon. For example, Lance Armstrong's best of three marathons was 2:46, granted it was in retirement off of inconsistent training. I'm just theorizing, if we get some of those second tier African runners on the bicycle, they will win races.

Finally, if you have not visited Dave Ohlson's Kickstarter page for his K2 documentary, go take a look. I feel it is worth your time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

K2 Documentary Film by Dave Ohlson

Back in the summer of 2009 when I was fooling around on Broad Peak two members of our joint expedition were busy filming a documentary on K2 to celebrate the 100th anniversary the Duke of Abruzzi's expedition to climb K2. In particular an Italian photographer, Vittorio Sella, who is often considered the best mountain photographer of all time was along on that expedition and Dave I believe tried to replicate some of his photos.

K2 from 6600 Meters on Broad Peak July 12th, 2009 with My Friend Matt Gardiner in the Foreground
Dave Ohlson, the chief instigator in this endeavor, whom I count amongst my friends and who was also generous enough to house me for nearly two weeks in August and September 2010 as I road tripped around the country, has started a Kickstarter campaign to get his long awaited documentary completed. I encourage you to go and support this effort and pre-purchase the film. I did. I am probably not in the film, but there were a couple of shots from the trailer where I remember being a few feet away behind the camera as I tried to learn more about photography. Everybody in the film I know, I've played cards with, I've dined with, except Gerlinde, she totally starstruck me when we talked.

Broad Peak Basecamp with K2 in the Background July 15th, 2009 and Janzen Gear Ice Axes in Hand
For more video excerpts visit my YouTube page, there are nearly a dozen videos from Broad Peak 2009 posted there. Plus, Matt videotaped us at camp 3, 7000 meters while I boiled water. It's always nice to have a different perspective.

Remember, support Dave as he tries to finish this K2 documentary, which I know is going to be incredible!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No Going Back

Time, wether real or created to more easily define the universe as we know it, goes in one direction. There is no known way to change the past. We must go froward from here. What is done is done. Here we are, let's make the best of it because it is all that we have to work with.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Doubling The Rate of Failure

Ryan Hall had a blog post recently about things he knows about running now that he didn't understand a decade ago. One of those (#4) is that if you want to succeed more you need to put yourself out on a limb and fail more. It's a really interesting to articulate that. People do not like to fail. Yet it is our failures that we learn from.

I took apart my motorcycle down to the carburetor and everything looked like it worked well, yet when I put it back together it leaked again. Fortunately there is a fuel line I can easily switch off. So it looks like I will be remembering to switch off the fuel line every time I park just in case the carburetor decides to leak.

The problem has not been solved, but I know quite a bit more about how my motorcycle works. In the process I learned how carburetors work and I cleaned out my rusty (the guy who sold it lied) gas tank. Not a simple process. It is all progress.

The same thing happened at work. I was progressing through a project the way I always do, which errors on the conservative side. Then I ran into a problem that required more detail. Doing my analysis the way I have done it in the past shall not acquiesce this time.

Hopefully my foot does not really follow along those lines because I do not think that you need to get injured pursuing an endurance sport in order to have success. Most successful athletes will experience significant setbacks, and learn from them, but injury is certainly not a prerequisite to train injury free.

I just restarted a project that has been on hold for just over a year. I will need some help. It will probably fail anyway. This is some good stuff I am working on. Stay tuned. If you want to help send me an email. It will require in the neighborhood of 5-10 hours.

If Edison failed about 3000 times and succeeded only twice in the light bulb endeavor then I can certainly stand to fail more.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 61

Sorry for getting this up later than normal. I was caught up in Duluth, MN and traveling back and forth from there to Dubuque. Then I became caught in tearing my motorcycle apart because of a leaker carburator. It is a pretty common problem that I hear is easily fixable.

Anyway, the week in review. I did not run at all this week. Not a single tenth of a mile. That is the first calender week since July 2009 that I did not run at least once. That was going to be my "thing" running at least once in every calendar week. It ended after not even three years. I'm so lazy.

At work I spent two days in training learning how to better process data with a newish piece of software. Then I spent two days comparing A to B. If it were that simple it would not have consumed two days of my life. In other words my progress was not immediately clear. That is the nature of the beast though. After all, we don't spend four or more years in engineering school to work on problems that only take a half hour of effort.

The weekend, was great! I went up to Duluth to cheer on four of my friends running Grandma's marathon. I was registered for the half marathon, and I picked up my packet, and brought my running shoes and uniform. Alas, my foot was just hurting too much that running on it would just be plain unwise. So I was the crowd for my friends. I was the cheering section. It was, honestly, pretty awesome! No pressure to perform well, no physically and emotionally draining event. I love racing, especially the longer distances, but these races take it out of me.

All of my friends had a good race. One of my friends classically went out something like 30 seconds per mile faster than he intended and ended up crawling in the last 1.2 miles at 8:40 pace. Two minutes slower than his average pace! Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. Plus, it is so easy to feel so good the first half of a marathon that you start out at a crazy pace.

My other three friends ran the whole race side by side and finished in just over five hours. I have never gone to a marathon with the intention of cheering for a person who ran slower than three hours. I just don't have many friends that have run four and five hour marathons. Or at least invite me to come along and cheer for them. It was amazing to watch so many people, a continuous stream of people running down the road. Filling up two lanes near the beginning. I clapped and cheered for over 20 minutes strait around the six mile mark. It was inspirational. On the down side, the last few miles of the four and five hour runners was just carnage. People had terribly asymmetric strides, there was blood, there was a lot of walking (which is okay, there was just a lot more at mile 24.5 than mile 6), people just looked incoherent. I seriously thought that at least one of the four would end up in the hospital.

We stayed at my friends' friends' house (now my friends) and they were just amazing hosts! We had pre-race pizza including chicken and wild rice pizza, which was fantastic! We talked and chatted and checked out the race expo and watched the 5k finish. For other activities while in Duluth we ate at Burrito Union and At Sara's Table Chester Creek Cafe. Both of which were just amazing places! Not exactly cheap, but for the value of the food and the quality of the atmosphere both were well worth it. The people were amazing, the weather was great, the race went well, and the food was fantastic. What more could I want.

I do feel like this has given me a skewed view of Duluth though. I hear that most of the year it is cold. Plus, my friends that live there are moving to Denver in three weeks after living there for four years. In other words, I had a great weekend, but it is likely that I will never have a nice weekend like that in Duluth again. It's really the people that make the place and I have been extremely rewarded over the years to be around great people all the time. It was an awesome weekend.

In other news, I bought a Macbook Air. I will of course be writing a tribute article to my old computer which I bought in April 2004 and has lasted until now. It still works but the hard drive is full, applications open slowly, and I have had to plug it in when I want to use it for more than ten minutes since 2006. I'm mobile again.

My friends, I have so much. I am so fortunate. Thank you so much. You didn't have to host me on the couch. You didn't have to provide food for me. You didn't have to listen to me drone on about stuff you could care less about. You didn't have to drive the whole way. You didn't have to call and text when you didn't hear from me. To all of those things, you did. Thank you very much!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting It Done

Words will have to wait.

Update: I changed the size of the picture because the Blogger App I published from did not format it to fit the column.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Enjoying Spectating

I have had a wonderful weekend up here in "Dulute"!! Watching my friends run the marathon was fantastic!! You name it, at least one of them experienced it! Slowing down dramatically, strange cramps, tight calves, hydration issues, the works. In my pervious marathon experience the post race experience wether myself or a friend was predominately solo. One marathoner for the weekend. This time there are four marathoners, a half and 5k runner, and myself. We laughed and joked and cried post race for a couple hours. It was great! It is great to share the experience with others.

Laying around I am now the only one awake. Inspired by a young runner i saw today I did some reading that I recommend:

Read all the related articles too.

The moral is, I get motivated and also constrained by goals. Spectating this weekend was a wonderful exercise in shared enjoyment. I focus on myself far too often and I love the chance to give back to others. Cheering on my friends and clapping for strangers at a marathon is great fun! I had no idea how four and five hour marathoners suffer out there. It's carnage.

Congratulations to all Grandma's Marathon finishers this weekend!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Accepting Setbacks

I was talking to someone concerned by my recent foot injury and the conversation delved into the philosophical. In the past when I have been obstructed from running I would be negative and grouchy in my interactions with others. I don't like to miss a day of planned running. However, this most recent injury initiated feelings of relief and acceptance instead of anger and discontentment. I can clearly see that I did not take enough time off after my track season which ended with lingering injuries. I ramped up my mileage at a rate that was too much given those lingering injuries. Plus, I neglected my core, foot and hip exercises which are critical to staying injury free. I knew better. I know better.

I am on my way to the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota with four friends. Three of them are running their first marathon. I was intending to run the half marathon (and I brought my shoes and uniform) but my participation is doubtful. I simply enjoy the sport. Watching is less stressful than competing. When I race I push myself to do well, that's the point of racing. Watching others, I hope they do well, but if they do not I will be at the finish line welcoming them anyway.

The past cannot be changed. The only option is to go forward from the present.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Reasons I do Not Like to go to a Doctor

I have been taking some flack in text messages and comments on DNF for not immediately going to the doctor when my foot started to really hurt. Here, in long, is why.

First of all, the three responses to injuries, in my opinion.
  1. Ignore it.
  2. Address and deal with it in a manner that allows continuous progress.
  3. Give in to the injury and let it over take you. 
In the course of this I will get around to giving examples of all of those and explaining them in greater detail.

Here goes the history of injuries that I can remember seeing doctors for related to my physical activity.

First we start with middle school. I went to the doctor before that and have for physicals many times since, which turned out well, but we are focusing on unplanned trips to see a medical professional. Once during the summer while I was in middle school I was swinging on a swing and jumping out just when it reached the top. Something that just about every little boy figures out at some point. It’s way more fun than just swinging back and forth. Anyway I was doing that and once my arm got twisted around the chain on the swing as I jumped. The chain and I yanked on each other and I fell to the ground with a very very sore arm. I had never had a pain quite like that and I wasn’t sure what was going on. So my mom set up an appointment with the doctor for later that day. Fast forward a few hours of nervous sedentary anticipation and after looking and taking an x-ray the doctor determined that it wasn’t broken but just severely bruised. In other words, it was going to hurt for a few days and there was more or less nothing that they could do for it. That is a score for the doctor because he was spot on, but I wasted a precious summer afternoon sitting around and ended up in just as much pain as before the doctor’s visit.

Second we go to early high school, maybe even 8th grade. I was growing I suppose. My legs were hurting just below the knees and I was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter's which is basically growing pains. Again the doctor was spot on, but there was nothing he could do and the pain came and went now and then over the next few years. I still get it occasionally. I had it for a couple of days a few months ago for the first time in maybe two years. Nothing that slows me down anymore, certainly something I ignore now and did ignore most of the time.

Third we have mid-high school maybe the fall of 2002. I am the first one to be a runner in all of my extended family so no one really knew what to expect. So no one know what it meant when I had trouble breathing while I ran. Again I went to the doctor and told him about it. The diagnosis was exercise-induced asthma. He wrote me a prescription for an Albuterol inhaler, that I used with the aereator as directed, three puffs before I ran. I did that right on schedule for a week, and it didn’t make a difference. No one told me, and no one has,  I figured this out on my own, there is a break in period to running. For most people 1000-3000 miles or 100-500 hours of running are needed before you “figure out” how to breathe. So I quit asthma after a week. Maybe I actually have it, maybe I don’t, the point is I don’t care because I’m not letting it slow me down.

Fourth, athlete’s foot. This had to be one of the best medical experiences I have ever had. It was the summer of 2005 at Philmont and I wore boots from about 6:30 AM to 9:30 PM every day for six weeks. That’s a recipe for athletes foot. I ended up getting athletes foot all around my foot, sides heel, top and everything with small “blisters”. The “doctor” was actually a medical student there for the summer who had to go and get a book and look up what I had. He called it moccasin style athletes foot. He gave me some athletes foot stuff, prescription strength as I remember, and told me to air out my feet when possible during the day and take a shower more often. Both of which I did and it cleared up. That was an example of dealing with it but not letting it slow me down.

Fifth, we have runner’s knee which was as bad of an injury as I ever had. It was the winter of 05-06. I had just come off my best cross country season and running my first sub 5 minute mile. I was starting to understand that you need to train year round to be good at anything. So I was running in the winter in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I went to buy running shoes, and the pair that I bought was a women specific shoe with lots of cushioning, whereas I was more of a stability buy back then. I feel that the shoes allowed my knees to bend in and the repetitive mmotion led to runner’s knee. What did the doctor say? “Don’t run for six to eight weeks.” I went back to college having not run since it flared up about two weeks before. I was cross training and spening time in the gym while everyone else ran. I talked to my coach about it and he took me in the weight room and showed me how to so squats and explained that it was due to a muscle imbalance in my quads. Doing squats would correct that. He was right!! This was the fastest recovery from an injury I have ever had. I went from running two and three days a week to running five and six days a week inside of a month. That was near the beginning of my 15 consecutive personal records. I remember running a 4:52 mile, nearly an 8 second PR off of three days a week of running, but lots of lifting. That injury started off as a let it consume me and progressed to a deal with it. Now I know that if I skip lifting or hip exercises for two weeks I will be injured guaranteed. To be honest, I think that the lack of respect for my lateral strength and total flexibility is what put me in the hole I am in now.

Next my sesamoid bone breaks, this is a good story. It started on the MIT indoor track running a 5k in February 2007. I was wearing some ridiculous 6.5 size Nike Ventulus shoes and running around the indoor track it just hammers your feet when you normally train in supportive shoes. Anyway, my sesamoid bones hurt quite a bit after that but I didn’t know what it was so I took some time off, I think it was 3-4 weeks then trained for a half marathon (and ran under 1:20 for the first time) while I was in Costa Rica on IQP. When I started my summer training for cross country I was doing strides barefoot on the grass in Institute Park and after a few the balls of my feet started hurting dramatically. This was a great doctor’s visit. I called and set up an appointment with a podiatrist. I figured my foot was hurt so I should go to someone who knows. Well, you aren’t “supposed” to do that. Insurance companies like it when you see a general practioner first and then see a specialist. I didn’t know any of that until later when they were trying to sort out the billing. Why must I waste a doctor's time to see a specialist when I know that the specialist will help me faster? At the doctor's office I describe my symptoms, they take some x-rays, which I think I have somewhere, and tell me I have broken sesmoid bones, but it is not uncommon. They were willing (is that the right word?) to sell me orthotics and recommend that I stop running for six to eight weeks. This was the first time I blatantly told the doctor that I wasn’t going to quit running for six weeks. I also didn’t want the orthotics so they cut some foam out with the adhesive on the backside and put it on the insoles of my shoes. I ran with some form of L shaped cutout in my shoes for nearly every step of the next 3000 miles over the next year. Including new spikes that fit my feet better and had a firmer sole. The next summer I shunned the L pad and had a great summer of running. As far as I know I still have broken sesamoid bones.

Next we have Plantar Fasciitis. This was the worst injury I have ever had bar none. I was having tight calves and tight arches for a few weeks at the end of summer and on the second workout of the year that I intended to get to nationals and run really fast times all of the sudden I felt the bottom of my foot tear. It was on the third interval on the hills by the tennis courts behind that local high school to WPI, Doherty maybe? I ran the fourth interval and then called it a day. I was in severe pain. That was it. I tried to run for a couple more weeks out of desperation because I could run it just hurt, and it hurt the farther and faster that I ran. The last race for me was All New Englands where I went out consistently in 5:20 miles and fell apart after two miles. That was my last season of elegibility. I thougt going into that season that I had a shot at going to nationals and certainly being all new England. It was not to be. Same advice from the doctor, don’t run, get orthotics. I spent the fall bicycling and lifting weights. It was the first time I really came to appreciate the fall in New England. It is beautiful! I mean there are so many back roads that are wooded and so many hills and little old towns. It’s a great place to bicycle. This was an injury I gave in to. I just accepted that I could not run. For 11 weeks and one day I did not run a step, and you know what? It wasn’t really any better when I started running again. However, I learned a number of exercises from the internet and was progressing to more motion control shoes and these things managed to hold off the pain. I was able to run just under 34 minutes in the 10k quite easily and qualify for D3 New Englands, which was a modest vindication to myself that I was a little more consistent than a single 32:58 I had run the year before. In short, not running does not cure plantar fasciitis. Barefoot walking and running as well as exercises like pianos and toe curls do cure the dreaded PF. Motion control shoes can help postpone the intense pain from PF, but eventually you run out of more motion control and need a stronger foot and ankle.

Next is my psychosomatic incident. It’s not related to running except to say that for the most part it felt the best when I was running. The point is I went to two doctors, they both thought I had kidney stones even though neither one had any proof except that I was complaining of lower back pain. The thing is neither doctor asked if I was stressed out or any psychological questions. Had they asked they would probably easily realize that I was the most stressed out I had ever been. I feel we try to separate the physical and mental, but we must remember that the brain is physical and can do big things too. The fact that two general practice doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me when I now realize the problem was simply stress. How many other stress related problems are misdiagnosed every year?

Next is my stress reaction, that was a pretty clear cut event. They took an x-ray, it showed up clearly and the advice was not to stress it out much. He didn’t tell me not to run so I just ran less. Like 10-20 miles a week for two months. It’s a level of running that while not great for training goes a long way toward mental health and even physical fitness. The hard part about this was that I left my job for half a day and I went outside of the chain of command to get it done, and that isn't the most respected way to get things done.

This most recent event the doctor walks in with the results of the most recent physical I had, which he never reviewed with and says, “you don’t need a physical.” I realize that people are thinking I’m an idiot for not taking the crutches and 800mg ibuprofen three times a day and wood shoe. But how many times in the past have I been told not to do something, and that only cured the symptoms not the cause. 

There have been times in the past when medical attention was not afford to me easily. I was without insurance at times in 2009, 2010 and 2011 all for different lengths of time. When I was up on Broad peak, no one was going to carry me to the ambulance. Helicopters don’t fly at 23,000 feet. I foresee a time in my future when I will be in a similar situation and have to deal with a number of possible traumatic injuries. I feel we have become weak as a culture. If you are hurt, just go to the hospital. Well, that is not always an accessible option. I really feel that there will come an event or multiple events in my future where I am the human to get things done. How do I train for that possibility? Do I flinch at every ache and pain? No, that is not an option! Besides with questions like retirement and the stability of the global economy in question can you really assume that your every ache will be taken care of? A famous dead runner once said, “I don’t run races to see who is the fastest, I run to see who has the most guts.” Extrapolitating that microcosm to the rest of life it gives life a different perspective. Put another way, what is possible? Can I ramp up my mileage, get hurt and recover? All without a team of doctors and support personnel? I would love to have that team, but no one cares about my physical wellbeing. Healthcare professionals want their money, and I can’t blame them.

Next we have grad school. I sat through a couple of PhD presentations, all about as long as my master’s thesis defense. It was interesting to see that four or five or six years of study led to a presentation less than an hour. After seeing all that they did I learned that they are human too. Their subject matter may have been complicated, but it was certainly not incomprehensible. Additionally, I stumped professors a number of times in grad school, before the teacher always had the answer, but now I knew that there were so many holes in what we know. Plus! I was learning about heat treating steel, something we have been doing for hundreds of years and doing well and effectively. The human body? Forget it! There is so much going on and so many possible loading cases both mechanical, chemical and biological that trying to understand even a simple foot seems ridiculous! In other words, I have an idea of what it takes to become a doctor, and while it is very strenuous, it is certainly not impossible and does not make a doctor more informed about your body than you are.

Finally, what about patient care? How often does a doctor look someone in the eye? How often does the doctor ask, "how are you feeling?" It seems like we are trying to treat progressively smaller problems and forgetting about the bigger picture. In other words, the classic advice, 'when you get hurt from running too much, stop running until it doesn't hurt to run again,' does not really cure whatever caused the injury, unless you believe that running causes injuries. I submit that running incorrectly, which just about everyone does, leads to injuries, not the excessive volume of running.

What more is there to say? I feel our medical system is built about what you can see, broken and bleeding things, rather than overuse injuries and mental or emotional influences with their tiny abnormalities just do not fit the A+B=C model. 

Doctors, I want you to help me get better, but I just gave eight examples where a doctor was not able to do anything or give me anything to help me get better. Twice they didn't even know what was wrong with me. Twice they knew what was wrong but did not know how to fix it where as one my coach fixed and the other was fixed by a combination of shoe store employees and my own education. So doctors win the sesamoid bone thing and athletes foot by correctly diagnosing the problem and helping me overcome the root cause. That's two out of ten visits. (That does not count my most recent visit because the result is not yet known.)

I really enjoyed the comments on DNF, keep them coming. 

(If you did not understand the underlying theme of the article, I hope to convey my idea that healthcare, in this country at least, is not very effective. Since I feel it is inappropriate to complain about something without suggesting an alternative, here it is: preventative medicine. We need to get people up and moving around doing aerobic things using their body, not the way that I hammer my body, but certainly not solely atrophying in front of a desk during the day and in front of a television in the evening. We need to get everybody a physical every year and a blood test every few years. Additionally, I think it is worth answering the questions about how we as a society value return on medical investment in terms of length of additional life and quality of life. The rest home my grandmother stayed in before she died cost $300 a day. Currently that is a right in our society that is paid by Medicaid. Is that truly a right or a privilege?)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 60

It is so easy to dwell on pain and suffering and not the highlights. So I'll start with the pain, because it's easy but rest assured there were other events I'll get to as well. Well, my foot is old news by now but we might as well beat a dead horse just to make sure everybody knows.
Left Foot Between the 2nd and 4th Toes Over the Forefoot
Like the picture? See that lump on the left foot around the 2nd to 4th toes? It's starting to turn colors, like purple and green. It is also clearly locally swollen. Waking up in the morning is always an anticipated event with an injury wondering if it will feel better or worse. A few seconds later you know. Then it more or less means an entire day in that state.

Work was work. I finished one project and got handed two more. The highlight of the week had to be when an engineer from another division came to Dubuque to see how we do things. For about two hours he and another engineer I work with talked and talked about testing procedures and common design suggestions. It was great! Sometimes I feel organizations get so big that there is very little if any communication between groups sharing lessons learned and best practices. Instances like this are great for our productivity and alignment.

Another thing happened at work. I volunteered to be part of a test group a few weeks ago, or maybe last week. We were having a meeting with everyone both test users, and general users, and the developers who were working on the back end of the implementation. Anyway, I figure this meeting was costing $15-20 a minute, which is on the expensive side for meetings I attend, so I didn't say anything until the end after probably 45 minutes. Then I explained a feature that I found that would solve a number of requests we had for the developers. In other words, in a minute I was able to teach a score of other people about a feature that none of the users or developers knew about. I realize it's a tiny little percentage of my week, but it was one of those validations of my effectiveness. I mean, if you are going to shoot the gun then you had better hit the bulls eye.

Running, I don't feel like talking about it. After a slow, and ultimately crippling 18 mile run that broke me, I only ran seven miles the rest of the week and that was two miles too far and too fast.

No formal coaching this week although I did spread the usual advice around to anyone who will ask and listen. As I write this I wonder, 'who am I to give advice?' I probably gave myself a stress fracture this week.

On the social side it was a good week. I spent some quality time with friends and met a couple new people. Dubuque, and the tri-state area in general is rather nice. There is quite a bit of quality outdoor dining. Probably a couple dozen establishments. I really enjoy being outside. I have been missing Philmont and Tahosa the last few weeks.

A few more things, I had sea bass again. That stuff is amazing!

On the investing side our favorite DHT Holdings is getting a little positive press from someone other than I. This Seeking Alpha article gives a great financial run down of several reasons to buy DHT. I don't advise shorting stocks as the article recommends. It can be profitable just ask John Paulson, but it is very risky and you can lose a lot of money very quickly. I have never tired it for that reason. Disclosure: I am long (I own stock in it) DHT.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Did Not Finish. My first DNF ever. I started the Grandview Gallop about three hours ago with the full intent of giving it a go and seeing how well I could do. This is all a little ridiculous because in the last five days I only ran about 4.5 miles. Monday I woke up with severe pain in my left foot on the top of the foot between the second and fourth toe. My guess is that the ridiculously slow 18 miles that I did last Sunday was too much the day after a speed workout and rock climbing. I'm assuming that during the evening and night my body tightened up and either created a knot in that part of my foot or tore a tendon. It is also possible that I have a stress fracture, but I have to go to the doctor to get an x-ray to figure that out.

My foot was getting better all week. I massaged it, stretched my muscles, which I had neglected the last few weeks, and did some biking and some walking. Tuesday morning I ran a mile, it still hurt. Thursday evening I ran a mile, it still hurt. Friday I ran 2.6 miles and I did it at low 7s pace which I considered relatively fast given my fitness. Today I woke up and it didn't feel great but it felt bearable. I warmed up nearly two miles total and it didn't feel great, but it felt possible to run four miles hard on.

The race started and as usual a few high school kids shot off and I started faster than I would have liked the first quarter mile, then I settled into a rhythm. Nearing mile one it was N, M and myself. I hit the mile a couple seconds behind them in 5:00. My foot was feeling okay at that point, but it quickly went downhill as we trudged up the street. I kept slowing down hitting 2 miles in 5th pace in 5:57. I slowed down even more almost to a jog then I started to walk at about 2.1-2.2 miles.

I can't remember ever walking in a race. Ever. I have been racing the 800 or longer since 5th grade. It was so strange, surreal. People were passing me and the pain in my foot kept getting worse. I think once the adrenaline of the race wore off the pain hit full blast. It hurt. I was limping. It still hurts. I'm still limping.

So I walked for awhile on the sidewalk as people continued to stream past. I took off my shoes thinking that might make it better. No change. But I was able to massage the knot or metatarsal a little which would send even more pain into me, but would die off after a few minutes to a lower level than before touching it. I walked and people offered to help, but being the obstinate proud bull-headed person that I am I graciously refused. Finally about a block before reaching my van the end of the race police cars went past signifying that everyone in the race past me. Had I finished I would have been dead last.

This wasn't a surprise. I wondered before the race if I would be able to finish the race, but I have never DNF'd so I just figured if it went poorly I would jog to the finish and run 22 minutes or something. I guess it's one of those things that if you play the game long enough, everything that can happen to you will happen at some point. It is disturbing to me because I like to imagine that I can tolerate a lot of pain and discomfort. Then this happens and I give up. That being said, this really hurts. This hurts worse than my stress reaction. This hurts worse than racing on plantar fasciitis. This hurts worse than breaking my sesamoid bones. It's right up there with runner's knee, the only injury that ever reduced me to tears on a run. That was six years ago so I can't exactly compare this pain to that. It makes me feel so weak. There are stories of this person and that person doing great things under great pain, and here I drop out of a race for a little foot thing. I feel like I'm failing. I don't feel like a failure because I've set some PRs this year yet I feel that I just earned an F on my summer running.

I didn't go to any of the post race stuff. That's part of the fun of road racing. Meeting a few new people, talking with friends, being around a bunch of fit healthy people. There aren't a whole lot of opportunities in Dubuque like this, and I wasted it by just driving home. It's humiliating, embarrassing to DNF! I mean I like the atmosphere of the post race parties, I just felt like DNF means that I am not worthy to drink the juice and eat the bananas. Even with less than three hours of hindsight I realize that is ridiculous, of course one who DNFs is welcome at the post race food table. I mean, I can barely walk, no one will get turned away under those circumstances.

I feel so weak. Mentally I feel so lazy for giving up. On the positive side, it was getting worse with every step, stopping was probably a really good decision. Hopefully I can go to a doctor Monday and find out that I have a bone split in two. Everything that I do I do all the way. If I'm going to get injured, I will make it significant. (I'm kind of kidding, I hope I can heal in a week or two, but a break would be justification that I am not quite as weak as I feel. There is certainly a huge mental aspect to athletics and knowing that I have the ability to run a little past breaking my foot would give me more confidence. I know. I'm not normal.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Patience and Excitement

Patience and excitement often go hand in hand. It is easy to be patient if you are not excited. Think of a time when you or someone you know has gotten frustrated with the "failure" of another person because of the slow speed that person was meeting your requests. WE are excited for the finished product, the glichless performance, the efficient machine, the optimized process. Yet, it takes time to get it right.

Sometimes I feel like the whole purpose of certain things in my life is to teach me patience. For example, the current foot/leg injury that I have. I will be fine in a week, but miss some training I would have liked to do. Getting injured this close to two races that I would like to do well in makes me nervous that I will even be able to finish them. Perhaps that is the point, for me to relax and take confidence in the years of work I have put in and be patient as I heal.

How often do we impatiently check the weather on our smart phone instead of stepping outside for a few seconds? Commentators sometimes lament the perceived growing impatience of the world and with good reason. A lack of patience usually doesn't help things. However, there is so much to be excited about today that being patient can be very difficult. Apple will probably be introducing new computers next week, the stock market was up more than 2% yesterday, the olympic track and field trials are in a few weeks, Greece (seriously, you don't even have to mention anything else because the situation seems to be changing so fast), recall elections, healthcare, and mortgages are just a few of the daily things that perk my ears up.

So how can we grow our patience? I feel it takes time. Life experiences that take time to develop to fruition teach us patience. But how can we follow an accelerated path to patience? I am not sure that we can. I think that might be the point.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Ran Myself into the Ground, Again

Hopefully it's the last time but it certainly isn't the first. I had a long day Saturday on the track than at the craig. Then Sunday I did 18 miles, very slowly. My feet hurt from minute one yet I kept on for over two hours. Sunday night I couldn't sleep because my legs were sore. A bad sign. Monday my left foot was in pain and I was limping around. Today was much better. The problem is soft tissue not bone I shall heal soon. Still I did this to myself. It should not have been a surprise.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 59

The week that was that will be no more. Never to be repeated. Let us start with the previous weekend. At my relatives in Minnesota, my sister and I tried to go to church, but had the wrong time and showed up half an hour after it ended. Typical miscommunication. Then we drove up to Mountain Lake because my sister had never seen our relatives graves or the old farm, which was sold in the 70s or something. It is as stereotypical as a farm in rural Minnesota comes. Except that they put out a bicycle path recently that goes from town past the farm to the nearby lake, pretty cool.

I spent some more time in the greenhouse getting dirty. The picture doesn't do the dirt justice. I already mentioned the story about the Japanese couple. Then my sister and I drove home, and enjoyed hours of talking of sometimes painful talking with each other. By the way, those awesome $70 Prana pants that I am wearing covered with dirt in this picture I wore up on the Diamond in 2010 and I wear to work and church all the time. Plus, they hem the pants for free at the Boulder store on Pearl Street.
Keepin' It Real
The work week was more or less uneventful, well not exactly. Actually we had a really good example of hesitation to change. One particular aspect of my job will be changing so that it takes perhaps 50-75 seconds to do a task versus the previous 20-30 seconds. However, that  increase in time is offset by a 40-65% decrease in time to do another task. In other words, instead of eight and a half minutes to do the other task now it takes around three minutes. That's huge, and the time savings for the second task scale depending on the size of the task. In other words, I feel the increase in time to do task one is more than offset by the time savings to do task two and thus not really a problem. However, there is some hesitation to change to the task that will increase in time. Also, the hesitation is not from people under 30. Hopefully this will work out so that both task one can remain 20-30 seconds and we retain the 40-65% time savings on task two. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

On the running side I ran 100.4 miles, as I said I would do over 100 so I did. Most of that was pretty slow but I did a workout on Saturday morning that was just humbling. My workout partner M could have been a sprinter. We did 4x200, 4x400, 4x200. We were running 31-32 for the 200s and I felt okay. Then we get to the 400s. We take off through something like 32 at the 200 and I fall way back and run a 67. That's still good in my book. M ran a 63. We get ready for the second one and in 40 meters he's out two steps ahead of me. I just run as well as I can and run a 69... to his 61. At that point I just did 200s and let him run the 400s. Still we were getting out in 30-31, and he is finishing at that pace. 

So I bring up the question, "Did you ever think about breaking four in the mile?"

M, "Yeah, I ran my 1500 PR, 3:51, on a windy day at Augustana pretty much alone. I ran the last lap in under 60. That was my senior year. I was just never in the right race." There is probably a lot of misquoting in there, but that's what was conveyed. I mean, the guy hasn't done any speed work in a month and he shows up at the track and runs 400s in 61s. Who does that?

Getting around to Saturday afternoon, I went rock climbing! For the second time this year! There were five of us. We went to the Palisades State Park just north of Savanna, IL. We climbed on Sentinel Rock, which is pretty cool. I had no idea that there were towers in this part of the country. Then we went to Galena for supper. It was great! I rarely get an hour of uninterrupted comedy when I'm out but between the five of us it was just joke after joke. For example, we ordered a plate of appetizers then two medium pan pizzas at Gobbies. Reasonable for five guys in their middle 20s? Ha! We each only ate one piece of pizza! The slices were seriously two inches high with dense dough! We each took home two pieces of pizza. Seriously, when would five guys in their 20s tired from a day of rock climbing order one medium pan pizza? Nevah happ'n!

There is a lot to organize this week, the next couple weekends I think I will be traveling. Plus, there is demand for more climbing, we might organize some more stuff in advance. It is going to be good. In case anyone is in Dubuque Saturday morning June 9th, come to the Grandview Gallop! It is the highlight of the Dubuque summer racing season and I know that the top competition is in better shape than last year so it should be a good race. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nominate a Website!

I'm planning to redo the layout of my website. I want something a little less involved, that will load faster on a smartphone. I plan on removing a few of the tabs along the top, getting rid of a few along the side, making the top image a little shorter so that I don't have to scroll down to read the first article, and putting in a vector layout so that on wide screens you do not have a foot of empty real-estate on the screen. I'm thinking something a little more aesthetically pleasing and interesting than Seth's blog, but not a mess like the New York Times.

In my quest for something a little better, more smartphone friendly, I am seeking recommendations. I am contemplating something with a Twitter Blue theme. Blue is the new old green. (It was in a year or a few years ago, I am not sure what is in now, maybe red, but that's not really blog appropriate.) If you would please post a link to a website or multiple websites below that you admire for their quality I would much appreciate it in my endeavor for a better reader experience. Also comments about things that you think are good or bad for a website would be great!

Thank you for contributing!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

We have Recruitment, Retention, Retirement, and Education Wrong

I should have called this blog "DOing" so that I could just brag about my accomplishments. Alas, I must discuss the things that I learn, and my failures. There are more similar articles in the pipe along the lines of my personal failure the next few weeks. Okay, here we go with this topic.

I always thought that one goes to school, gets an education, gets a job based on that education, I suppose gets promoted several times, and if one lives long enough, retires. Ah, the simplicity of childhood! Now that I have a few years in the post-formal-education ("real") world I see it is not like that, it's all over the place! If you want to make billions drop of out college and start a company. If you want to make millions go into investment banking, no particular degree required.

First of all, an education is not a guarantee of economic employment. That's a big issue to wrap your head around. It took a fair bit of unemployment for me to understand that. What does that really mean? Employers are not looking for you. The people who stand to economically benefit from your skills aren't searching for you. Day to day business continues and the business is not getting new people to fill new roles, it is producing a product or a service. Instead of education and recruitment being related as it seems wise, they are mostly unrelated. It is ludicrous, that the ability to have a job once you graduate is not based on your education. I mean, what's the point?

In other words, companies rely on resumes of people who have been self-developed and self-motivated coming to a website or the human resources department. That way they can be screened and some of the best ones can be offered an interview. I say self-developed and self-motivated because that is how you get an advanced education. You have to be motivated to struggle for the standard four years in college. Up until about age 22 or 23 the model in society is to, seriously, do what you want. What one does during that time does say something about one's motivation.

Unfortunately, once you join the post-formal-education world an impersonal business economy directs your monetary success and your most possible opportunities. There is still a disconnect between the education that is provided to the next generation, the opportunites provided to the next generation, and a third factor, future economic opportunities. Part of the reason for the disconnect, I feel, is the lack of recruitment from one generation to the next. For example, I came up with a possible model of corporate recruitment. What if companies would offer prospective high school students something like, 'come work for us over four 10-week summer internships and we'll give you $10,000 per year, then work for us two (or three or four) years after you graduate and we'll pay whatever student loans you have left, contingent on satisfactory performance reviews. No contractual obligation, you can leave early if you want, but if you stay that is what you get.' Kids are so influential that over six or seven or eight years you could develop precisely the set of skills that you would want for a promising 25 year old.

That brings us to another issue, retention. How do you get people to stay? After all, I did jump ship twice in the last 18 months and I am sure that both of my former employers would have liked to keep me. Well, amazing 401(k) matching that doesn't vest for three years is one incentive. It is good to have a certain amount of turnover to get new ideas in. Still the cost of losing an employee and all of the extremely relevant experience is not something that any profitable business would look forward to. In the past I feel that compensation, for the most part pay, was all that was needed to retain most employees. In other words, everyone looked at their neighbors and looked at themselves and decided life was good and everyone lived pretty similar lives and nothing needed to change. Unfortunatly for companies, the Internet came along and people's horizons were expanded. It is not that everyone wants more money to be in the 1% or to travel the world or have three months of vacation, but there is a slew of interests and desires that are unfulfilled in the working population. I realize I just alienated everyone over 40 and you are all thinking that I am a lazy free loader, but take an example of a man in his upper 50s. He is a social worker who works with disadvantaged people. He helps several dozen people every week and does pretty well at it. Unfortunately, you can't sustainably help a couple score of people emotionally every week. Half a century ago he might have muscled through it to the detriment of many, especially those close to him, but now we recognize it's an unsustainable situation. So how does his employer retain this employee? Hire another employee?

I feel that one strong method of retention is recognition. I don't even mean public recognition, I just mean letting employees know that they did well on something. I feel that unfortunately, managers often don't know what their employees are doing. That is the consequence of having subordinates, one person can not do all the work or know everything everyone is doing. I am very fortunate that recently I received a three sentence email from a senior engineer I work with complimenting me on my progress the last year. It feels pretty good. On another note I have been trying to take notice of other people who are doing their jobs well and telling them that when I notice. The results are often surprising. People respond thankfully and very graciously, and a little shocked. It is as though people are waiting for a complement subconsciously, but certainly not expecting one.

Another way that I feel employers can encourage retention is to offer diversity, and I don't mean hire people with different skin colors to fill some quota. If that is solely how our culture judges diversity than how shallow are we? No, I mean exposure to experiences that are alien or uniquely interesting to an employee. For example, I work on forestry equipment, I would love to take a trip to the Southeast or South America to visit a logging operation. The people I would interact with would come from a somewhat different background than myself, I assume. Their perspective on the final result of my work would enable me to make more appropriate recommendations in the future, I assume. Plus, it would show them I care about doing the best work that I can.

Switching subtopics we get to retirement. This modern invention is ridiculous! No one is entitled to live 20+ years golfing, eating at restaurants, taking trips, and doing the things we put off the rest of our life. The entire concept of delayed-life makes me cringe. What are you waiting for! One possible solution to the retirement issue and how to afford pensions is a solution that would likely increase retention as well. For example, a 35 hour work week with a retirement age of 75. There is so much knowledge and experience and capabilities wrapped up in the 55-65 year old crowd that more or less disappears from the economy every year. How many thousands of mistakes could be prevented if those people simply listened to our ideas every week and commented?

What I am trying to convey is that I feel it would be possible for people to contribute to the economy at a younger age similar to an apprentice if companies would recognize that future needs 10, 20, 30 years down the road will require the adolescents of today instead of focusing on the next quarter or next three years. At the same time we could have more time throughout our lives with family and friends and pursuing interests outside of work and continue to meaningfully contribute to a much later age, at least well into our 60s and even 70s. I also feel that with more freedom to pursue those topics most interesting to us including at work it will enable greater productivity and to quote a friend from college "revolutionary innovation". It is all just an idea. Take it and run.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Uncomfortable Stare

I have been reading quite a bit lately about women. How many failures must I have before I know what I am doing? I am trying to understand their motivations and communication strategies better. I am sure to spill generalizations left and right so I apologize if the person that I describe is not any woman that you know. In fact, since I typically abhor generalizations I will guarantee that this does not describe all of the women that you know. Yet I must develop my research using some method to group test subjects.

In my interactions with women the last month or so I have noticed, because I first read about it, that women stare incredibly intensely! Almost all of them do, from teenage girls to middle age engineers to octogenarian women. I knew before the research that I was not the best with eye to eye contact when I am speaking, but as a researcher the last month I have been able to better examine the topic. I am terrible with eye to eye contact! Just about every woman that I talk to regularly would beat me in an unofficial staring contest. (If you make it competitive a different side of me is brought out, the side that wants to win.) Their stares are so powerful!

I feel that when you look into the pupil of another person's eye you are looking into him or her. Since you are actually looking inside of his or her eyeball it is a valid perspective. Anyway, women, in a group of women, will often sit in a tight circle looking into each other's eyes. Men will typically sit in a loose circle looking around the room. No lie, I went to lunch recently with a couple of male coworkers and the conversation (as well as nonverbal communication) was nearly entirely directed away from our table.

I am not sure how men and women reach these two dichotomies of communal communication. My research is still in progress. Yet time and again I see it. In fact, I am watching it right now in a coffee shop, Monks in Dubuque for the record. Both a group of men and a group of women.

The thing about staring, or looking at someone in his or her eyes for any length of time, at least to me, is that there is a vulnerability. When someone stares at me for a length of time I will feel that person knowing that I don't know everything. The longer she or her stares the more flaws in my logic I feel she or he knows. It is uncomfortable because I have many flaws. It is strange, when I am taking the stare of another I feel as time passes that I should admit my various faults, relevant to the topic or not.

Tying this to the theme of the blog, I am learning to maintain eye contact longer in a conversation. Woman, or man, looking into another person's eyes gives the relationship more depth. It makes the conversation more serious. Hopefully I can do a better job in the future so that I can strengthen my relationships. I have known that eye contact is powerful for a long time, yet this little experiment showed me even more how significant a role it is in communication.