Monday, October 29, 2012


Now it is Monday evening for me, but I realize that most of you in the States are not awake yet. Anyway, I spent Sunday in Singapore. We flew in around 1 AM and left around 8 AM Monday. Thus I had some time to tour.

To be honest, Singapore is a nice place where food, drinks and hotel rooms cost 2-3 times as much as Dubuque, Iowa. It's expensive, and rumor has it (my tour guide said) that people there only make in the 18-24k range per year. I have no idea how that much money would last a year in that city. Anyway I made a video. I didn't set it to music, but the opening sequence is also good if you listen to the first 30 seconds of The Reeling by Passion Pit.


Discombobulated, incoherent, overwhelming, dizzying? That's life and travel. I'm in Pekanbaru Indonesia tonight, but the next two nights will be in the "bush".

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 80

I just spent some time making an 83 second video about my day in Singapore, and honestly, it's more interesting than the rest of the week. However, it will take over 20 minutes to upload an 83 second video and I will probably be asleep by then.

I worked, and I suppose I worked Friday and Saturday although that really involved spending a total of more than 20 hours on planes and another five or so in airports. I slept maybe an hour or two Friday night and about four hours Saturday, although I basically skipped half a day between crossing time zones and the international date line. The first part of the week's work was the standard linear static analysis type of stuff worrying about mesh quality. It is pretty simple, but always important.

I ran five days this week. I was tired about the lackluster, but longer than 13.1 miles, half marathon last Sunday. So I took Tuesday off, and I spent most of Saturday in an airplane. I only had about an hour in Hong Kong, in the airport to stretch my legs. No workouts, but some good injury and soreness progress.

Coaching was climactic. We had the conference meet this week, and I missed it riding on an airplane somewhere over Asia. The results look like we had a good showing with a couple really strong performances. I have to talk it over with everyone before I really know what happened.

Other than that I am in Singapore. In about 11 hours my plane to Indonesia takes off, so I am off to bed. Goodnight!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Positivity Develops Motivation

I just finished reading Charlie Spedding’s book “From Last to First”. I had never heard of him either. The most significant unique achievement that is covered in the book is his run to 3rd place at the 1984 Olympic Marathon. I read more books than the average American, which does not say much, and this book stuck out more to me than most. 

So much of life is mental. I can get an A on this test. I will get an A on this test. I will set a personal record today. Most people define things in terms of “okay”, “not bad”, “pretty good”, and other mediocre, slightly negative, descriptions. Charlie mentions things like giving yourself the opportunity, and focusing on how well you can execute the ideal, the perfect, situation. 

In other words, how was the run today? It was prefect for me. (In fact I did have a perfect for me 11 miler in Singapore this morning.) That is such a huge mental shift from evaluating everything according to the fastest workout or race you have ever had. Sometimes the perfect training is slow and short. 

Obviously the book was about running. But I feel this attitude is probably more applicable toward things like an education and career. I am writing this on a 747 flying from Hong Kong to Singapore. With a measly year and a half with the company and at the young age of 26 I am entrusted with being a good candidate to travel to the other side of the world and spend time in the field. I am the only structures analysis engineer (or I like to think of myself as somewhat of a design engineer) on the trip. There will be  at least four direct Deere employees plus a number of dealer employees and customers/customer employees on this trip. I already wrote about why I have this opportunity, but it still seems strange to me that I am going. Had I been in charge, I would have asked several other engineers if they were interested before I allowed little me to go. Others have more experience. Others work more hours. Others will almost surely still be working for Deere in Dubuque in five or ten years. Honestly, I see myself as a bit of a liability. A liability in terms of the ideal 50+ hours a week quant who works for one company for 40+ years. I have never lived anywhere longer than six years. I don’t know what happens in year seven.

After reading Spedding’s book I have a feeling I am on this trip because I created the situation to give myself this opportunity. That sounds like I did a lot more work than I feel like I actually did. The situation is that engineers travel. How a person in Indonesia uses a machine is almost guaranteed to be different than how a person in North America uses a machine. Thus it helps us create more reliable machines if we can better understand how the customer uses the machine. In other words, Apple realized how much time people spend starring at a 3.5 inch screen and decided a 4 inch screen was a better decision. 

An interesting off shoot of this, since I am reading “Makers” by Chris Anderson, is the long tail effect. One size does not fit all. With the ability to customize, a tailored machine is significantly better than a one size fits all machine. Using a few simple constraints in forestry, european machines must be less than a certain width. Many countries and regions have ground compaction limits so weight and footprint matter. Other areas the loading is so repetitive that stronger structures are needed. In other words, engineers travel to understand usage patterns. I would love to go to Africa to study Internet and cell phone usage. I feel they are really in the midst of defining connectivity. 

So given the world inside my head of the opportunity to travel I assumed that at some point I would travel to other countries for my job. Once I knew I was going sooner or later it was simply a matter of letting everyone else know. Is it naive? Arrogant? Confident? I do not know. Is it arrogant to assume I will do something, then actually follow through with it?

The point of all of this is that I had a goal I was sure was going to happen, but it actually happened because I gave myself the opportunity. Well that’s not the whole story, I am incredibly blessed. But that’s another story...

Friday, October 26, 2012

The First Hour

For me the first hour in a new country is always the hardest. Everything is different. Guards carry machine guns. People speak other languages. Taxi drivers want to take me and my money places. It is usually dark outside. My host is usually someone I have never met face to face.

Once I get to the hotel it is easy to calm down and understand the situation. Is it safe to walk around outside? What is the weather like? Where can I find drinking water? Where is the fire escape? (Those are useful not only during a fire but electric outages and other less than desirable situations.)

In less than an hour I walk onto a plane to Singapore by way of Hong Kong. So much new so quick. This is going to be great!

To the athletes I work with racing Saturday: be patient at the start and hammer toward the end. You've done most of the work, now, do the last little part.

(By the way, this was written on my phone from Chicago O'Hare airport.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are We Weak?

Despite the voluminous writing that I do on this website, I rarely expose the darker side of my motivations. However, my 20 mile long run last Saturday has given me opportunity to inveigh my perception of our culture. (How about inveigh for vocabulary? It was not my first choice, I found it in the thesaurus and then had to use the dictionary to figure it out, but it is exactly what I mean.)

That Friday I emailed my two most consistent training partners with the opportunity to accompany me on a 20 mile run Saturday morning. One is injured and the other just ran a marathon so I did not actually except either one to come along for the whole thing. After looking at the forecast neither one was particularly enthusiastic. That is fine, no problem, if I was in either one of their shoes I would probably not have tagged along either.

So I woke up around the late hour of 7 AM Saturday. It was barely sprinkling outside so I dressed and stopped by Starbucks. I had a 12 oz. mocha and a miniature scone. One of the coaches I have gotten marathon advice from suggests not eating anything on marathon day until standing on the starting line in the last five minutes before the start. That way your insulin system does not go crazy before the race even starts. So I tried that.

Around 7:45 AM I pulled into the Sageville entrance to the Heritage Trail and had the parking lot to myself. It was not raining at all. After a couple quick stretches (leg swings) I set off. The first six miles were perfect! 50 degrees Fahrenheit and no rain. Around mile seven it started to rain, but only a sprinkle at first. I was making good time so I did not check my watch on the way out, making the first 10 miles in 66 minutes. On the way out I encountered one person around mile nine. On the way back I encountered another person, perhaps the same guy around mile 11. There is a cluster of houses around that area and I have a feeling that both of them lived very close. Neither one was dressed like the typical rail trail yuppie.

There might have been a lady with a dog on the way back, but I tried to run a progression run and I don't remember clearly.

The rain was light by my definition. It was not very windy, and while it was not warm, it was in the low 50s, which is not cold. Despite these rather moderate conditions I was out there for just over two hours, a third of which was ideal running weather, and I saw only three people at least two of which were wearing jeans and flannel. Normally given those temperatures, this time of year, Saturday morning, I would expect to see about three people per mile. If the trail was in Massachusetts you would see 30 people per mile.

While there could be many reasons, tapering for races, sleeping in, competitive season already ended, I feel as though people were scared away by the weather. We check the weather and become fair weather warriors. I find that attitude disappointing. I have gotten sick running in a cold rain, but it has to be in the low 40s or worse to really weaken me. I feel we have become so sterilized to adversity that we   hide from anything which might be out of our comfort zone.

Now I'm not saying we need to beat our heads against the wall and share drinks so that everyone gets everyone else's diseases. I am a germophobe more than most. I am also not saying that we need to go out and run 14 miles in 50 degree rain.  I am simply stating that we have this wonderful resource called the Heritage Trail in a county of 100,000 people and when it rains there are maybe 10% of the normal load of people out on it. A similar lack-of-people-on-the-trail-in-the-rain happened last year when I did my special block before CIM. I fear that our fear of suffering might inhibit us from greater tasks. Astronauts will die. People will die near the equipment that I help improve. Runners pursuing their peak will get injured. I fail all the time. You will fail sometime too. Suffering often accompanies failure. We cannot hope to progress and learn and do new things without failing along the way.

In other words, we cannot be strong without exposing ourselves to weakness. This is as true for running on a trail in the rain as it is for asking a question in science class when you do not understand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

If I Was to Start a Blog Again

I have been thinking about this a little recently. The reason being that once you start something, changing direction can be difficult. For example, I started my blog under the premise of starting a company. Then when I started the company I started a new blog directly for that. For some reason, probably because people were still reading it, I kept this blog moving. In other words, this is it. I will have this blog indefinitely. The graphics and layout will change and the content that I add will change. One day in the future I could quite possibly be talking about what to do about a daughter’s boyfriends. That however, is not in the foreseeable future. 

There are a few concrete things I would do differently if I was to start over again.
  1. Set a mild to moderately focused theme. Talking about engineering, then running, then socializing, while very descriptive of my life, does not convey a clear sense of purpose. It would be better for the blog if the scope of topics was smaller and the depth great. 
  2. A couple weeks of content ready to go. I would not publish it all at the same time. Simply one post the first day, another on the second and so on at a frequency that is what you plan to maintain or slightly higher than you plan to maintain for the life of the blog. For example, I typically post 4-5 times per week. The first two weeks I might do 5-6 articles to get people interested and have some content for the search engines to start combing through.
  3. Generate some buzz with the first few articles. Tell your Facebook friends, Twitter friends, and even people in person about this awesome thing you started. Nearly a dozen of my friends have started blogs, but so often after a couple weeks or months it fades away. Or there is only one new article a month, which is okay, but kind of depends on the scope of the blog as to it’s impact.
  4. Design it to look great and have all relevant information accessible. I really like the design of my blog now. However it went through a couple cumbersome renditions. Overall it is quite simple to navigate. I especially like the labels and blog archive features. They seem to link to relevant articles or different times in my life which give context to the other articles.
There are also a few suggestions I have for people setting out on the path to self publishing.
  1. Once you start, keep going! It is not always easy to write about your topic or topics, but for the sake of the whole truth please write during the hard times as well. 
  2. Develop a style. The Internet is a strange place and really there are few rules. You could start a blog about your college experience, or quest to run the Boston Marathon, and when the goal was accomplished and you wrote a couple epilogue articles, end contributing to the blog. I suppose what I am suggesting is that the blog have a plot line that builds over time with some sort of climax. Although, Seth Godin, from what I can tell, has no long running theme aside from marketing/sales/business to his blog and it’s the most popular in the world. In other words you do not need to read any of his posts to understand any of his other posts. I prefer on the other hand stories that build and continue that take a long time to tell. I know that some of my posts if read alone would not make much sense, but as a whole, the message is more complete. In other words, decide on the way you will tell the story or types of stories that you would like to tell. 
  3. Include pictures, graphics and videos when possible. I realize that I publish words in far more abundance than I do pictures, charts and videos. Yet visual images convey strong messages. 
There you have it, four suggestions to do when you start a blog or website and three as you build and maintain it. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What A Poor Performance Teaches About Long Term Development

While I will be specifically discussing my most recent half marathon, I will try to generalize this because it does apply to things like a career or our relationships. So... a 1:14:20 half marathon on a flat course after a light week is not encouraging. That's over 150 second slower than I was last year over almost the same course. One of the biggest, or best, indicators of development year to year is performance in the same race every year. For example, if a person is 50th at the conference cross country race one year and 25th the next year, that is great development. If a person runs a 5:10 mile one year and at the same race the next year runs 4:50, something is being done right.

However, progression is not linear. Some days, 2:14 marathoners run slower than 8:00 minute miles.

Speaking directly about my race, I have not had the mileage or the workouts that I had last year in the two months leading up to this race. Plus, I have been training around this ankle-shin-calf pain so I have been avoiding the quality work. Perhaps, given the work that I have put in, I had a good race. Also, we ran about 200 meters longer than we ran last year. Instead of one 100 meter out and back at mile 12, we ran one just before mile 12 and one after mile 12. Take a right turn, take a U turn, take another right turn. Not a great way to run fast for a minute. Now do that twice within a mile.

Complaining and sulking aside, the result is worse than the prior year. How does this help me progress toward my goals? First, experience is cumulative. It does not go away unless one has dementia. I do not think I could have gone out and run a 1:14 half marathon on heritage trail this weekend alone. It is a great training stimulus. After all, everything is training that is not the goal. Look at Lasse Viren in the 72 and 76 Olympics. If he could win one race every four years what would it be? The Olympics. Look at Steve Jobs, one could say that the iPhone and iPad were the only two really significant contributions in a lifetime of product design. Sure he had many successes, and we must not forget Apple's vertical closed-system integration, but he had failures too, at least as measured by sales.

Experience teaches us how we went wrong. Trying to train though a rather minor injury, which ends up keeping me from doing workouts I need, is counterproductive. I knew that, but this reminds and reinforces me.

When a young person asks an older more experienced person a question the older person will often pause, hesitate or sigh before giving an answer. Rest assured in that time multiple incidents from the past are going through the old person's head. The answer to a question is not always the same.

Plus, despite the cumulative result being unsatisfactory, there were some bright spots. After two miles the Kenyans marathoners were not pulling away so I ran up to them and passed them. I've never passed the lead pack of Kenyans before. Sure they ran twice as far as I, still two miles in they were only doing mid 5:30s. I felt as though I belonged. Like I had done the work to be up there too. Often an endeavor is more mental than physical.

In conclusion, I am more fit now than I was a week ago. I worked on my ankle so hard last night I could barely walk this morning. Strangely that is one way to know massage is effective. This injury will heal. I was able to celebrate the weekend with a number of friends both new and not as new. I realize my poor preparation contributed to my poor performance and I will do what I can in the future to avoid a similar result.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 79

Another week, getting it done. Thus is life. This weekly summary has added an unusual aspect to my life. Now, for maybe 20 minutes, maybe an hour every week I write about my life and wether I am progressing or not. Just thinking about developing and progressing helps me to realize how I am developing and how I can develop better. It is an unintended consequence that, while frustrating week to week, I enjoy on the whole.

Engineering progressed well. I wrapped up a couple projects. That is always a good feeling when I have worked on a project for weeks or months and I submit the final report that we solved a problem. The business of Indonesia is also progressing. So, I leave in like three and a half days. That sounds soon.

Running went well. I took a day off. Something that I am typically reluctant to do, yet necessary for long term development. I have been battling this lower right leg ankle-shin-calf pain. I decided to take more initiative this week. I applied lemon grass oil nightly. I massaged it every night. Foam rolled it. Also, started several band exercises to strengthen my lower legs in general. I have found that often times an injury happens because the muscle is weak and strengthening that muscle through exercises, yes the injured muscle, makes it stronger and the pain go away. I ran one solid workout four miles total quality in around 21:40. Nothing great, but a good workout. Total mileage was 54.

Coaching went well. Every so often during a workout when I don't run with the athletes I stand there at the start and finish line with the stop watch, and it is great! I get to see how everyone is running not just a few people. Plus, I have more opportunity to cheer on everyone. Surprisingly, cheering for others is very rewarding. As rewarding as being cheered on? Tough question. It can go either way depending on the situation.

What else? Well, more about coaching. I did two 10-11 mile runs with two athletes (one each day). Both were on trails for at least part of the run. When there are only two people on a run the conversation usually goes deeper than runs with larger groups. It is nice for me to get to know the runners better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why I was Chosen to Go to Indonesia

Quite a few people have reacted with some surprise that I am going to Indonesia. After all, the more exotic trips are typically reserved for those people with more than two years of experience. Plus, I don't feel like the hardest worker or the most effective employee. However, there are a few things about me that do stand out.

  1. I volunteered for the last five trips and was rejected. There is something significant to be said for persistence.
  2. I did analysis work related to four problems/improvements of this specific customer. No one else (in the world) has as much failure analysis experience with this customer's issues as I do. That sounds more impressive than it is. In two days someone could be brought up to speed.
  3. Pakistan and Costa Rica are not two places that most of my coworkers have spent time. I have experience traveling in the developing world. That is a rare skill in Iowa, and the United States to be honest.
  4. Strangely enough, I am one of the more experienced people involved in this product line. There are quite a few 2011 and 2012 graduates with only a bachelors degree in this product line. Once they have more experience, I might not get this chance again.
  5. The least tangible reason, employee engagement. This does not stand out about me, but applies to me. What employee engagement means is that the employees are excited to go to work. One rather simple way to keep people excited is change the task, even just temporarily. Doing nearly the same thing every weekday for several years may lead to the feeling that no development is happening. This topic is worthy of it's own article.
Lest this exciting situation seem out of the blue there are the reasons. When one goes through the list it actually makes a lot of sense. I am actually the perfect person to go. I can honestly say that no one has my particular skill set. Similarly, I really do not do much with engines so I will not get the chance to do altitude testing anytime soon. 

One week to go!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Positive Mantra

I am not 100% positive about working for a large publicly traded company, but there are certainly benefits. One of those benefits is a free meditation class on Fridays. I went to my first one two weeks ago. The instructor told us to come up with a positive mantra and then we sat in silence in the dark for 12 minutes saying it in our heads. 

Fortunately I was able to come up with a saying in seconds. However, I did not invent this combination of words, for that we must go into history. In April 2008 I volunteered at the 5k elite water stop on the Boston Marathon. You can actually see me in the video, I'm the guy in the black hoodie (not facing the camera) on the right side of the road holding a yellow sign around the 5k water stop. One of the perks of running really fast is that big races will give you a separate table that you can put your own individual water bottles on. At the Boston Marathon there are maybe 30-50 people that get this perk. One of them in 2008 was Stephanie Hood. She wrote phrases on her bottle, something that seems like a great idea. One of the phrases was, "Today is a blessing." Well, that particular day was because she went on to finish 10th apparently a big breakthrough and the top American.

That is just another thing that I remember. No particular significance in my life during the last four years. However, once I was told to come up with a positive mantra, I could think of no better phrase. Now, less than two weeks later I can not say it without feeling better. It is true, today is a blessing. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Am Going to Indonesia!

Not only am I going, it is for business! Yes, that is right, my first overnight business trip is to Indonesia! After a year and a half working here and missed trips to Mississippi, Georgia, Wisconsin, Canada, and Brazil I get to go to Indonesia! Specifically, I will be going to the island of Sumatra. Not only do I get to spend most of a week on Sumatra out in the woods solving problems, due to the schedule of work and flights I will be spending about 30 hours in Singapore on the way there and 16 hours in Hong Kong on the way back!

Lest this is a vacation, they don't send engineers to the other side of the world unless there are problems. A couple of projects that I have worked on are directly applicable to this operation. Since this is my first opportunity like this I am especially concerned about performing well. I feel one benefit in my favor is that I have more travel experience in countries with relatively low infrastructure development than most Americans.

I leave on Friday, October 26th and return on Saturday November 3rd. That means I will miss the conference cross country meet for the team I coach and a half marathon I was planning to run. Those are the unfortunate opportunity costs of big opportunities.

I will of course share my experiences here, videos too. Although, as details of this trip are business related there are many things, significant to me professionally, that I will inevitably not share. Regardless, this is extraordinarly exciting! Let us hope I don't get eaten by a tiger while running!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 78

Well, this was an interesting week on several fronts. One big event has been brewing for some time now and I will have a big announcement on Tuesday. I still need to discuss it with a few people in person.

Work was good. Probably above average. I don't feel that my productivity was that great, but sometimes a few minutes of exceptional performance can make up for hours of triple bogey performance. (In golf that means you are not doing very well.) In other words, a hole in one is pretty cool. Not that anything I did this week remotely resembles a hole in one. We are simply solving problems and I am very excited for the future.

My running went very well. I ran 85 miles, although I feel like I cheated a little. I ran a 20 mile long run on Sunday then another one on Saturday. Two long runs in one week is a quick and easy way to pump up my mileage. I did not have any good workouts, but a few attempts or mediocre workouts is better than nothing. My next race is the Des Moines Half Marathon next Sunday, and I do not feel great going into it. My A goal is to run 1:09, my B goal is to PR. However, I have not had a workout that indicates that I am ready to run a 1:09 kind of race. Cumulatively my training has been going well and I have set personal records at 800 m, 5k, 10k, and the marathon since I last PR'd in the half, so it is hard for me to really say how good or bad of shape I am in. I could manage a 1:09 or perhaps a 1:12. I suppose we will find out next weekend. Although, I have run 1:12 several times and honestly, it seems pretty slow and easy to me.

Coaching was a mixed bag. I suppose it usually is, and it does make the good times sweeter. Although it is hard sometimes to look beyond the here and now to something even just a few weeks away. It is even harder to think about goals that are years away from happening. In short, our team is tripping over itself learning new things or discovering previously unknown things. I know for a fact that one of our athlete's injury has permanently had a positive effect on a number of the athletes.

What else happened this week? The Vice-Presidential debate, more cycling doping scandals were exposed, it was cold and rained a little.

Speaking of other things, have you forgot about DHT? Sometimes forgetting about owning stock in a company is the best way to make long term gains. Earning are scheduled to be released October 23rd. I am still very positive about it's medium term (1-5 year) prospects. Although, the price of crude oil has dropped in the last few weeks which could signal a slowdown in the tanker industry. (That also suggests that gas prices will come down in the next few weeks. Although dropping a few cents per gallon at the pump is not always perceptible.)

Reminder, I have a big announcement Tuesday!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Post Race Coaching

One of the most difficult times for me as a coach is after a race when the race was not clearly great. When someone sets a 20 second personal record in the 5k, it's easy to celebrate and discuss how awesome the race was. When someone is nearly a minute slower than his personal record in an 8k, despite a tough course and lifting the day before, it is not as clear to me what to say afterward.

Looking at the broader picture of my own personal experience I remember several races where the coach congratulated me after a race. First, the first time I broke five minutes in the mile, I remember the look on my coach's face when he congratulated me. He was grinning from ear to ear. Another time, after I broke 33 for the first time in the 10k, an hour or so later I was standing around with the coaches talking and it was an exciting time. Breaking 33 had been my goal for the year, and actually accomplishing it, after so much doubt, was a great feeling. I suppose accomplishing a goal is one of the feelings we chase as runners. Another time, conference my senior year, I went out hard and finished a minute slower than my PR in the 8k. I remember talking to coach after. I was sad because I tried to do something big, have a breakthrough or set a PR, but instead I faded and struggled to the finish the last couple miles.

On the other hand, there were many races that my interaction with the coach after was forgettable. Maybe I set a personal record, maybe I was a little slow, maybe I was very slow. I feel discussing races is an important part of training. After all, we are training to race well. We should learn from our mistakes. In college we would usually go out to eat after the meet back in Worcester, socially, not as an entire team. We talked about the race then. We also talked about the races on Sundays when we did our long runs. Of course that is between teammates not coach and athlete.

I might have just figured it out! I can ask, "tell me one thing you did wrong in the race?" Of course, my first question is usually, "how did it feel?" Ultimately, if the athlete feels satisfied with the performance I should be too. I cannot want more for the athlete than the athlete wants. Living vicariously though another is a dangerous path. Of course, the parallel question is, "tell me one thing you did great in the race?"

Personally I am not a participation award type of person. At least when you are running for a college team. You do not get an award for simply finishing the race. In other words, I cannot always say, "nice job!" Sometimes the result is not nice. That being said, when a runner breaks 38 minutes in the 8k (yes 38 minutes is what I mean) for the first time after a couple months of training, that's great! This sport is incredibly individual. You are really competing against yourself. In other words, last place out of 400 people may be a success.

Getting back to the specifics of last night, it is easy to focus my thoughts on the areas for improvement instead of the areas that we have already done well. For example, an athlete slept only two hours the night before the race studying for an important test. That is something that concerns me. After discussions with the runner, this is probably a one or two time thing, yet I look out for the health of those I work with. Also concerning was that four of our (former) top seven men are out with some kind of injury and two of our top five women. The injuries are varied: stress fracture, concussion (teenage boys... don't ask), IT-Band, Achilles Tendonitis, among others.

Once again writing down my thoughts has exposed a solution, ask about one thing that went right and one thing that went wrong. If we can discretize the elements that go into a race we can make sure that our bases are covered. By that I mean, triple knot your shoes so they do not come untied, sleep eight hours or more for both of the two nights preceding a race, do not eat a meal between three hours to thirty minutes before the race, preferably the entire four hours leading up to a race. Those are just a few, other factors have to do with the training that we do. There are dozens of discrete elements that go into a race.

If you have any suggestions, please share them below.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Election 2012: What Can Government Do for the Economy?

When I came up with the topic for this article, the thought in my head was that no matter who is president nothing will actually change in my daily life. As I thought about it more and more over the last three weeks, the answer is much more complicated. Not so complicated that it is hard to understand, simply that this issue has many more possible responses than an issue such as the death penalty. That is a yes or no, but what the government can do for the economy ranges from nothing to everything.

On the one hand, we start with communism, where the government (and ideally the people) owns and controls everything. In other words, in a communist government if they say that every family will live in a house and own a domestically manufactured car, they own the means of production to create that prosperity. In other words, the government can do it all. You are probably not thinking extreme enough. What if the government did not pay anyone with money? Instead it gave them food stamps and other credits for amenities. The logic is that the ideal person for the economy is someone who does not save any money, but spends all that he or she has, no more. In an economy of consumption that is the ideal participant. It is sustainable, neglecting retirement. However, the only way to get people to spend all of their income is through a communist government, even more communist than China. Once people start saving the economy as a whole contracts.

On the other hand, a government can do about nothing. The best example would be most new countries. Take a look at Iraq or Afghanistan right now. They have problems just keeping people safe and following a few laws, forget the economy.

Along those lines, Herbert Hoover, the last President to have a balanced budget and be from Iowa, basically enacted a fiscal cliff by raising taxes especially on the wealthy from 25 to 63% to pay for the programs that morphed into the New Deal.

Another example is debt relief throughout history. Unfortunately, my four minutes of Internet searching are failing to find a good source, but I understand, from a credible source, and have the report somewhere, probably in Wisconsin, that throughout ancient history a king would celebrate his wealth and success by forgiving huge swaths of debt. Boom! There we go, a source regarding debt forgiveness.

So there you have it, the government can do a huge variety and volume of programs for the economy. I know I didn't mention this particular election or the issues that we face in 2012, but this topic is bigger than us or this year. And I suppose that from my limited point of view this nation is so on edge and there are so many educated people worried about this issue that no matter who is President economically he will not run us into the ground. In other words, if taxes are lowered on the wealthy more than the middle class, roads are not repaired, and our education system goes down the tubes, among other economic decisions the government can make, the Occupy movement will seem like a spring pick nick. I am currently watching the vice-presidential debate and they are arguing over how different they are, and instead I hear how this country is on a slowish trend in the same general direction. That direction is healthcare reform, what that means... who knows, and tax reform and again who knows what that means.

Lastly, over at Planet Money they have created an economic platform that economists agree on. Before you click on the link know that it is so radical that I would not expect any of it to get implemented any time soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Definitely Below the Average and the Median

No, this is not an article about politics or economics, it's about productivity and development. Both happen in nonlinear fashion. For the sake of simplicity I will use running as an example. Let us assume that only five different race distances matter the mile (or 1500), 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon. Despite being involved in the sport and active and doing workouts through all of 2010, I did not set a personal record at a single one of those distances. Over the last 12 months I have set a personal record at all of the four longer distances.

This is part of a larger idea, that productivity has moments of significant accomplishment as well as periods of drought. That is not to say that things are not getting accomplished, it simply means that there is nothing final to show. This happens. It can not be avoided.

I bring this up because at work we took a survey about employee engagement, and the results were not 100% positive. As one of the people on the bottom I wonder, "what does it take to get people engaged? What does it take to keep me engaged?" It is a strange question for me personally because I feel that the things I want to keep me excited about my work more than I am now really have nothing to do with my work. In other words, free bagels or doughnuts once a week would be nice. Free coffee would be great.   A free polo or something would be great. I have two hats with the company logo, but after working there a year and a half, nothing more. That is fine, I don't need a shirt or a doughnut to enjoy my job. The work is already interesting, that's why we do it. If we could find something better we would be there, but obviously we are here.

Another subject behind this topic would be the dating world. I am definitely below the average and the median! Just to call out my sister, because she called me out yesterday, we have drastically different relationship experiences! And our parents are always interested to see how the two are so different.

Circling back to productivity, sometimes, too frequently if you ask me, I look at what I accomplished in a given time and am severely disappointed. Other times, I wonder how I was so brilliant. But most of the time I feel like the lazy person not living up to my potential. I've been out of college nearly three years, and my race times have not improved nearly as much as I would have liked them too. Professionally I think I am progressing just fine. In fact, I have some news in the next few days...

In summary, life is non-linear.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Don't Make the Situation Worse

Social media is a wonderful thing. It allows us to connect with people nearly anywhere in the world and with nearly anything in common. However, it also has the ability to construct permanent obstacles to relationships.  A harsh written comment for the world to see can last very long compared to the transient nature of spoken words.

This is something I have noticed over the last seven years that I find unfortunate. We can be quick to attack someone publicly over the Internet, and even say things we would not say face to face. All of that negativity, and for what? The person who said the mean comments looks bad, someone else was hurt, friends of those involved don't want to get involved. I had a saying in high school, "throw away the hate." It is probably more applicable now than it was in the pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter era.

So before you start flaming someone and tearing her or him apart, just take a minute to think it over. Don't make the situation worse. No one comes out on top. When you start slinging mud everyone gets dirty.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Live in Iowa: Week 77

All sorts of stuff happened this week. Unfortunately, I'm not ready to talk about it all yet. I will give you what I can now.

Work was interesting. After working on a project on and off for 11 months I am struggling to come up with creative and acceptable new ideas to apply. This is not terrible, it is just not ideal. It is frustrating in a very fulfilling way. In other words after wearing down four pitchers it turns out the fifth had a great day. If that makes any sense. I mean I must learn something to finish the project, I just have not learned what yet.

Running went decently. I have all of my runs still saved on my watch so I'm not sure if I ran 50 miles or 75. I did have a very nice 6.1 km tempo in 21 minutes. Which was a total surprise because I didn't feel that good at the start or halfway through. I did have a lot of lower right leg pain, but after some massage, an ice bath, and 20+ miles on grass and trails it seems to be 90% healed.

Coaching went well. We had a fantastic workout early in the week with about 800 meters nearly flat and 200 meters up a steep hill. It was tough! We also had a meet in Milwaukee Saturday. That was a mixed bag. There were some good performances. However there was some rather unprofessional preface conduct and less than inspiring races. This is how it goes I suppose. Lows to go with the highs.

Not much else happened this week. In bed around nine most nights. Very little blogging and I failed to do my laundry. It was a good week, I am simply tired out from doing everything I want to do.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Trail Therapy

Last night I ran five miles on the trails at the Mines of Spain. The reason being that I have been having all sorts of lower leg problems. In short, a muscle gets overworked, or underworked compared to it's opposing muscle, and it hurts. Running is very repetitive. Trail running breaks up the monotony. Every step is a twisting uneven adventure of an ankle roll waiting to happen.

The uneven nature is a huge advantage. Because every step is slightly different the muscle fibers used are slightly different on every step. So "little" muscles on the sides and front of your feet are strengthened. It is important to maintain a balance between the muscles in your body. Otherwise injuries will develop, especially with repetitive use activities like sitting at a desk or running.

The other positive advantage, especially during this time of year, is the scenery. The leaves are changing colors. There are no vehicles to dodge. It is quiet. It is surprising how even half an hour out in the woods away from the hustle and bustle of the "to do" list is so relaxing. We still have a week or two left of leaves changing colors! Go get some trail therapy! I know I will.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ladies, There is a Gentleman Present

Perhaps this is a consequence of growing up in a small town. Or perhaps I am not as progressive as I think I am. Perhaps I am just old fashioned. However you slice it, the world is not what I thought it was.

There is a saying in this country: "There is a lady present." It means watch your language, no swearing or vulgarity. The stereotype being that males are more crude and offensive than females. That stereotype might no longer be valid.

I was with a couple of women recently, and both swore several times. Each one apologized immediately afterward and someone else would make a joke about it. When a man swears, someone can respond, "there is a lady present," and that quiets the swearing. Finally after each of the women had sworn I said, "there is a gentleman present." That kind of killed the conversation. I have never heard anyone say that. It signaled a paradigm shift. No longer is it the man who has to demonstrate good manners around the woman, it is the woman who has to demonstrate good manners around the man.

This is part of a larger theme about relationships. It is easier to silently accept the offenses of another than to be assertive about quality standards. In our desire to be part of the group we will do and say things to get a laugh or gain what we perceive is respect. Put another way, the things with the most value are usually the hardest to do. If they were easy, everyone would do them and they would have little value.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Have Trouble Resting

I did not run today.

Resting, taking it easy, embracing unproductivity, those are not things I excel at. Of course, that is kind of the point is it not? To work on our weaknesses.

One of the 1970s or 1980s English speaking Olympic or world record runners said something like, "the thing you like to do the least is what you need most and the thing you like to do the most is what you need least." There is truth to that.

In conclusion, this article tired me out. I think I will go to sleep early.