Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Future

No one knows what the future holds. Just ask Wall Street. It can be easy to let analysis paralysis set in and keep you from doing much of anything, because the fear of "what if...?" makes it sound dangerous and scary.

You know what, the future is scary at times, just like the past was scary at times. The future is rosy at times too, just like the past was rosy at times. You can't let it stop you from doing great work. I'm editing the video from Mt. Rainier, trying to condense it down to 10 minutes, and wow what a beautiful day that was! If we let fear seep in and overwhelm us, we will never be able to experience things like that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Movie Review: Everest

For starters, Everest was way better than I expected. In the trailer there were a couple things that were  very dramatic, which I will get to, but on the whole, it was quite accurate. There were no explosions, the visuals were stunning, and some of the harder aspects were covered. So, I will dive into the various aspects that were especially good or bad.
Everest from Kalla Patar, 18,500 feet, April 21st, 2014

  • The movie really hit on the mental and emotional side of Everest. All mountains are a mental challenge. All mountains provide an emotional experience. But, Everest... Everest is different. It is the tallest. People don't get summit fever, at least not very hard, on most mountains. On Everest, people will walk uphill to their death. The movie moves a little slow at times to give the mental and emotional side of the story, but that is really the story I appreciate.
    • There is a scene where Krakauer asks, "Why do you do it?" and the responses are given in the same silent, uncomfortable (or bravado...) manner than real mountaineers answer the question.
    • At a different time one of the climbers says roughly, "When I am back in the world I feel a black cloud over me all the time. But when I am out here, on a mountain, any mountain, it doesn't exist." I get depression, I have had some mild depression in the past, at least that's all I will admit to publicly, and I don't have it in the mountains, even when I turn around low on the mountain.
  • The dramatic parts on the ladders and the fall on the Lhotse face were ridiculous. Yes, it is possible they could have all happened, but unlikely to have happened like that. Actors often make things look dramatic to get the feeling out there, but just wait until I have a video of our Mt. Rainier climb done, my partner takes a fall, not too dramatic. If you fall on a fixed line, your ascender stops you after like three feet. 
  • The series of bad choices that lead up to accidents are well portrayed. Typically things happen slowly and usually a series of bad choices leads to people dying. Also, a movie visually explains the bad choices in a way that books do not. When Rob heads back up, with Doug... you need to see it!
    • First, the weather is intermittent, which is a small issue and typical in the days before good weather forecasting, but definitely a contributing factor.
    • Second, the missing oxygen bottles at the south summit. Someone could have perhaps carried up a few bottles from the south col, or told everyone to go to a lower oxygen flow rate. This actually only encourages me to climb without bottled oxygen.
    • The route was not fixed, they seemed to be surprised about that, and they had to wait while someone with rope got to the traverse before the Hillary step to fix the route. All of these contributed to people being tired and slow. It's amazing what you can do with 20 meters of rope.
    • After that the reasons that individual people died had to do with a variety of decisions, a little different for every person. For example, Rob helping Doug to the summit at 3:15 PM... bad decision. Andy Harris heading back up to Rob when he knew there was no oxygen and the weather was getting terrible, more difficult decision because it was a rescue at that point, but he died.
  • Anatoli was portrayed very well. Not only did he help rescue a few people from the other side of the south col, he went back up to Scott Fisher, and fixed the route up the Hillary step, all without using bottled oxygen. It's not dramatized either, he actually did that stuff.
  • The visuals and graphics were great! They were incredibly accurate. The trek in through the villages was accurate and the mountain scenes were accurate. Vertical Limit apparently took place on K2, but none of the shots are from K2. Cliffhanger supposedly took place in the US, but it was filmed in Europe. The Eiger Sanction is fairly accurate though. (And if anyone wants to buy me those DVDs or Bluerays for Christmas that would be great!)
Again, Everest quite exceeded my expectations. It was more accurate on the important points that I expected. My biggest fear is that it will motivate 100 ignorant people with no experience to get themselves up on Everest and their stupid mistakes might affect me up there someday.
Everest from Pumori Camp 1, 18,500 feet, April 16th, 2014

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 223

Another week, living the dream! I like that saying because after one says it, one has to wonder, 'am I living the dream? Because I just said I was, and while my life is not perfect, it could be worse.'

Work was good. Oh being a drivetrain engineer is so different than being a structures engineer! In the world of axles and transmissions change happens slowly with much testing, where as a structural change can be implemented in days with maybe a little FEA or a hand calculation. My particular job is a little slow right now. We are just starting the next project, while solving continuing problems on the last project, but not fully into the next project... So it's a little light right now. Time to make sure I do the details and learn about the decisions made to get us to where we are so that I can ask the hard questions on the next project.

I ran 73 miles... what?! I haven't ran that many miles in a training week since last October, 11 months! Perhaps having a coach has helped, and perhaps I am over this bout of injuries. A 20 mile run on Sunday at 6:48 pace and then an 18 mile run on Saturday at 6:36 pace make for two long runs, and then one little fartlek during the week. No wonder I am tired.

My sister came to town Friday afternoon and was here for the weekend. It was good, we did a small amount of touring, a winery, tried to see eagles, went out to eat with some friends of mine, and the big event, we went to the movie Everest. Wow, I will publish my review of Everest Tuesday, it was good!

Well, short update this week. I hope you have a good week this week!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mount Hood

Mount Hood is an interesting place. You Drive up the first mile, then there is a ski lift the next 3,000 feet, and finally a nice little technical hike to the top. Also, unlike most other mountains, it's an extremely small alpine area. What I mean is, most animals that live in the mountains have the easy ability to go down a valley and then back up the next mountain. Mount Hood is isolated, an animal would have difficulty traversing to the next mountain.

We woke up in East Portland at 4 AM. This was our third day with not much sleep. We packed, had bad coffee, and quickly left the hotel. Continuing the process of introducing Steve to unique experiences like espresso shots this summer, or Olive Garden the night before, we had breakfast at Starbucks, another first. The roads were empty and we cruised to the nearly empty parking lot at 5,800 feet. 
Parking Lot in the Morning
The vast majority of the route is a simple hike. I wore running shorts and running shoes until 10,300 feet. Not that it was easy. There was almost no vegetation. The mountain is dry, like a desert, complete with volcanic sand. I wore my buff to keep the dust out more than the sun off of me. If you look closely you can see the ski runs below the treeline in the photo below.
The Haze from about 10,000 Feet
It really was quite uneventful most of the way up. It did get quite steep after 10,000 feet, and the unconsolidated sand, dirt and scree made for very slow progress. Not to mention we did climb Mt. Rainier the day before and had maybe six hours of sleep leading up to this.
About 10,300 Feet
We made it to the snow, finally, in the photo above and put our boots and crampons on. However, we encountered some objective danger at the top of the hogsback snow ridge. I don't have video because my camera filled up. There were multiple rock falls in the 15 minutes we spent there, and also a perilous crevasse/snow bridge crossing that we did not feel comfortable crossing. It is worth mentioning on this day with beautiful weather that we appeared to be the only people with equipment to climb the mountain. I found that surprising, but then again I assume most locals can be picky about weather and snow conditions for their climbs.
Sulfur Steam and Green Colored Rocks
Many times on the hike we would smell sulfur and near the top there were steam vents and green colored rocks. Certainly not the sweet smelling alpine meadows people envision on mountains.

The video below shows the highest point that we reached and what I would call very typical mountaineering.
The hike down was uneventful, which was always good. Certainly tedious, dry and dusty, but not dramatic.
Back at the Parking Lot Safe and Sound!
We then drove back to Portland, had supper and fell asleep before waking at 3:30 to catch our very early morning flight back to Iowa.

Having climbed to within 500 vertical feet of the summit, I would like to go back and actually summit. In fact, Mt. Hood is so accessible that I would like to try and do laps on it. I think you could do it twice in one day, on skis in April when it is snow covered and there is good weather, between breakfast and supper. The key is snow conditions. From the top of the hogsback snow ridge through the gully leading to the summit you need solid snow conditions, and I would need a set of alpine touring boots and bindings. Next time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Little Core Work

I get so lazy. When I should spend five little minutes after a run doing planks and sit ups and bicycles... I don't. Just a minute a day would help keep me away from injuries. Every month, even week there is a new article with this exercise or that exercise to keep this injury or that injury from affecting you.

The last few days I've been on top of doing a few minutes after every run. Well, except for my 20 mile long run, but just recovering is enough after 20 miles at this point for me. I just realized, as I was thinking about this, the general public does not do core workouts! They don't carry around the guilt of not doing two minutes of planks five days a week. I realized, that we have failed. Oh sure there are a variety of "work" movements that use your core, like moving around bags of dirt, simply standing, or not leaning against anything. However, a growing number of people seem to sit in chairs professionally, and your muscles just decay if you don't use them. (Decay is a strong word, weaken is probably a better one.)

I'm not saying you need to go do 100 sit-ups. I would struggle to do 100 sit-ups! But how about 10? Maybe even just five for starters? Make it five crunches, they are a little easier than full sit-ups. You can't do a plank for a minute? I can't sometimes either. But even doing 10 or 20 little seconds is way better than continuing to sit there, and saying you will start tomorrow. You won't even get sweaty in the fraction of a minute it takes to do three pushups.

Do a little core work, trust me, you'll feel better afterward, provided you don't get hurt in the process. Break it into the smallest possible exercise, do six inches for all of a few seconds, when no one is looking. Your body will thank you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 222

It was a nice week, a little quiet, which is nice sometimes. 

Work was not too eventful, which believe me, is a good thing. We even had an off site lessons learned meeting for the last five years of stuff that we have worked on. Off site meetings are rare. They are a treat! We had lunch, we even received little wooden plaques from the leaders for our work!

Running was good, I ran every day for 43 miles I think, no workouts. Getting back into it. I was sore the first few days of the week from all of the hiking last weekend. 

Obviously getting back to Dubuque after summering Mt. Rainier and almost Mt. Hood in three mountain days is great! It doesn't get much better. This coming weekend I am excited to go see the movie Everest!

In the magnesium chronicles I took my first Epsom salt bath Thursday night, and then slept from 8 PM to 8 AM. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate, and again, magnesium relaxes your muscles. 

In other news, at the 24 hour national championship Harvey ran a course record 157 miles, Olivier ran 153 and Jenny on the women's side ran 137 miles! A strong race! Way to go friends! On the other side of the country Kelsey, who I helped bicycle across Wisconsin, rode 510 miles in the Silver State 508 in something like 46 hours including sleep without a crew!

Friday, September 18, 2015

National Champion...

Tomorrow starts the 2015 USATF 24 hour national championships in Cleveland, and I will not be racing, unlike last year. Thus, my year as reigning national champ comes to an end. In a way it's sad, I've been plagued by injuries and setbacks the last year, but it's also great because two of the most emotional and amazing races of my life were my two 24 hour runs and I am hooked! There is a whole world of long ultra running I have only begun to explore! 

Whoever wins Sunday, I will be cheering and send congratulations. I am excited to check the live results all weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mt. Rainier 2015 2.0 Summit Report

We did it! I've wanted to climb Mt. Rainier for seriously a decade. The three previous times I have been out to Washington in the last nine years there was not time, resources, or good weather to summit. This time everything fell into place! It's only my second actual attempt on the mountain and you all probably read about the first attempt back in May.

Well, we left work early on Wednesday, drove to Cedar Rapids, flew to Portland, and drove to Morton where we slept on really comfortable beds at the Seasons Motel! I'm serious, hotel beds aren't usually that comfortable, just the right firmness.

We woke up well before the sun was up to make coffee, pack our bags, and drive the next 75 minutes to Paradise, where this monster awaited us.
How do you describe 9,000 vertical feet of ascent?
We started hiking around 8 or 8:30 AM and made it to camp Muir around 12:30. That's pretty standard for it to take around 4 hours, I think it was 4:30 hiking time for us Thursday.
Eating and Resting
Then we made food and rested around the cabin. We were surprised it was so empty, back in May there were something like 16 people there, Thursday night there were only four. Steve and I and then D and J, and it was J's first time climbing a mountain like this. That's it, four private climbers when there were probably 15-20 guides and guided people that summited Friday.

Our plan was to wake up at 1:30 AM, make one pot of water (about 1 liter total), and get going. And that is just what we did. It took about an hour to get going in the morning, which is not fast or efficient, but then again the weather was so amazing we weren't in a huge rush, and I wanted to slowly sip my coffee instead of take a whole thermos of the stuff. Around 2:30 AM we started walking.
The picture above really gets me, I took it twice because the Moon and Venus were blurry in the first one. It just strikes me as so raw. It's so perfect. The line between the Earth and the sky stretches across the image without ambiguity. The sun's rays dash into the sky to present all of the colors of the rainbow, yet the darkness of night still remains where the suns rays haven't quite reached yet. The moon and what is most likely Venus shine brilliantly against a background that has lit up enough to hide all of the other stars. You're not going to get this picture from very many places in the world, like you do from 12,000 feet on the side of Mt. Rainier.

View South from the Summit Crater (With Steve)
I tracked via GPS our climb on Friday uploaded it to Strava so you can see the details of how slow or fast we went depending on your point of view. We crossed several ladders in the dark and zig zagged around numerous crevasses. The route seemed significantly easier in these fine weather conditions than it was back in May. The last 1000 vertical feet involved a fair amount of suffering. I would walk for a bit and then stop for 15 seconds and Steve would say, "You don't have to stop for me." I wouldn't say anything at the time but I told him later, "I was stopping for myself!" We went from sea level to the 14,400 ft. summit in only 34 hours, and the last 12,000 feet in 26 hours. Just above 13,000 feet, around 6 AM the guided groups were coming down and we passed each other. It was surprising to me how maybe 80% of the people summiting were guided on September 11th in such great weather. I would have expected more Seattlites to take a day or two vacation.
Summit Selfie looking Northwest with Steve, J and D
We reached the summit crater shortly before 8 AM and then walked the 150 feet uphill, and .2 miles or so to get to the actual summit just after 8 AM. We were generally ahead of D and J on the ascent although we started a little behind them. We took more breaks on the descent and they were faster on the descent.
View of Steve, 11,600 ft. Camp, and Little Tahoma Peak from 12,000 ft. on Disappointment Cleaver
The descent was eventful. Just wait until I get a video edited from this! Oh it's good! One of us, not me, took a fall near the edge of a huge drop off, and I have it on my GoPro. We crossed ladders, we listened to the melting of the glacier go drip drip drip... We stayed safe the whole time, took our time, and now understand why people summit at dawn. The snow was very soft by 10 AM. A short video is to come in the next few weeks with much of the descent.

After a 90 minute stop at Camp Muir to make some hot food and water we trekked 2.5 hours down to the parking lot. Every time I looked back up I was stunned to have stood on top of this huge mountain just hours before. How blessed am I! We drove to Portland, went to the Olive Garden and then passed out before waking up at 4 AM to climb Mt. Hood, which is a story for another day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bad Toilet Handle Design

I've been seeing these water saving toilets recently, and their design is not great. 
A Round Handle?
This handle should be paddle shaped so that it can only move up or down in one dimension, not so that you can still move it in two dimensions up and down or back and forth. Plus, the stickers on the actual toilet don't seem to make sense, does it mean strait up or up towards the back? A paddle design that only goes up or down would be much better. That being said I'm not sure what sort of internal plumbing changes might be required. There is probably a reason they stuck with the old style handles. 

That being said, it's a great intention to try and save water, we Americans waste so much!

I'm pointing this out because is it design, is it engineering? Certainly it's a cross functional team, and I think they can do better. Sometimes you don't know the best way to do something until it gets out in the field, and this is a nice simple example that can help convey the kind of decisions that engineers and design people make about form and function every day. Don't get me started on faucets... they's generally horrible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Live Paycheck to Paycheck, On Purpose

That title may sound a little misleading, and certainly some people are probably thinking I don't save money, when in reality I save a lot. Rather, after every paycheck I save some money, I put a lot of money toward my loans, and then in parallel I contribute quite a bit to my 401(k) at work.  The point is I don't leave all of my money in my checking account burning a hole in my pocket. When I look at my checking account a week before pay day and see only $300 there, I feel the need to save a little money.

There is a lifestyle creep that happens to many people, maybe most people, when they enter the working world. First everyone lives like a poor person, using free furniture, living in a small space and going without big luxuries. Then as the bank accounts grow people start spending more money. In other words, wealth determines spending more than income. Of course you can view income as microwealth payments.

In my mind the money in my checking account is my disposable income, and my income for my bills. Every other account has some long term purpose from a house to vacation (my next mountaineering expedition) to retirement. By keeping my checking account value relatively small I feel like going out to eat is a big treat, but buying a new car is unaffordable, even though it isn't. Instead of the American "more, More, MORE!" I aim for an attitude of being content with what I have, and happy for the many small luxuries I do enjoy that people in poor countries do not enjoy. I still get thrilled to have a $4 coffee.

I'm not entirely sure how to cultivate this sort of attitude. I think being exposed to poverty helps. I think being unemployed was a huge benefit to me for financial training. Growing up in a family with below average income helped. Graduate school helped because for 18 months I was making money, but very little money, so I learned to budget and save. Again, the purpose is to be comfortable and content with what you and I have, because the longing for more will never fulfill you.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 221

What a week! It had highs and lows, and you know what? I like the drama of suffering and elation. How wonderful the wide range of feelings we have!

Work was short, I only worked two days, and they were short days too. However I did get some things promoted in the design world so it was a good thing to be in the office. 

Sunday I was home visiting my parents in Wisconsin including going to church with them. I needed advice, so I went home to find it, and they didn't offer much help. I'm kind of kidding, but at the same time we can't live others' lives so there is only so much advice we can glean from others. 

Monday I ran the Dubuque benefit classic half marathon and had my worst finish in five years and my slowest half marathon since 2004. Frankly, it takes time to get in shape and I've had so many setbacks this year, I'm thrilled to finish a race healthy! I was pretty sore after the race because my mileage has been low so I am not recovering as fast as I might otherwise. 

Wednesday night I flew out to Portland to climb Mt. Rainier. And we did climb Mt. Rainier! It was almost easy. Obviously I will write a trip report about it. Sunset from Camp Muir Thursday:
Sunset from Camp Muir Thursday
Saturday we felt good enough to attempt Mt. Hood, and hike 5,000 feet up and down... Oh I am tired! Not to mention today was the first time in five days I've slept in past 5 AM or had more than six hours of sleep. Sunrise Friday:
Sunrise Friday

Friday, September 11, 2015

Summit Mt. Rainier!

We did it at 8:10 AM this morning! Trip report to come of course in a few days. To make the most of our west coast trip we are probably attempting Mt. Hood tomorrow.

Summit photo:
Summit Mt. Rainier Friday

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Problems with the Everest Trailer

I will be going to see the movie Everest with my sister, and others, whoever wants to come in a few weeks. From the trailer I can already tell it is ridiculous and over the top.

1. Falling off ladders, or into crevasses, or blown away by avalanches don't look that cool, they happen even slower. This is the hard one to explain. It's like the actors were trying to dramatize their motions when one of the fast events was happening. 

2. The lighting is wrong. Rarely can you see 400 feet down a crevasse. The snow is blindingly bright and the crevasse is very dark, it all fades well before 400 feet, and besides, it only takes 30 feet to be fatal.

3. 99% of the time when the sun is out everyone is wearing glasses or goggles, of course that doesn't make for good images of the actors emotions, but it's a big deal to a mountaineering nut like me. You would be blind so quick!

4. It's not the most dangerous place in the world, look up Annapurna or Nanga Parbat, or Devils Thumb for mountains. See Faluja, Dresden, Hiroshima, Iwo Jima, etc. for battles. Deep sea diving anyone? Free divers die all the time. BASE jumping anyone?

5. Falls along fixed ropes usually affect one person, who is an idiot and not clipped in. You don't fall 50 feet into a second person, who falls another 50 feet with you before stopping. It's usually either, you fall while unroped on steep terrain, and that's it, or you fall while attached to the fixed rope, and fall four feet. The middle ground only exists on low angle slopes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 220

Sorry for getting this up so late. I was busy living in the physical world, and let me tell you, it sure beats the virtual world!

Work was good, uneventful, which after spending time in the factory and Korea is a nice welcome change of pace. It gave me an opportunity to actually spend time designing... strange for a design engineer.

Running was good, 43 miles I think, and two workouts! These are the first two workouts I've done since I sprained my ankle four weeks ago at the Mines of Spain half marathon. They led me to think I could race a road half marathon at the Dubuque Benefit Classic, which ended up being the slowest road half marathon I have ran since high school! However, I am healthy! I will take a slow half marathon and being healthy over being injured and not running at all any day.

Saturday I went home and spent time with my parents. The older I get the more I try to pick their brains for wisdom and advice, and the older I get the less advice they seem to want to offer. Sometimes I suppose we all have to make our own mistakes.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Almost Forgot

I almost forgot to blog today, I was too busy living my life. It might actually be a thin week for blog posts, I am flying to Portland Wednesday night and attempting Mt. Rainier Thursday through Saturday. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Ice Bath

I've been icing my ankle a lot lately, probably five nights a week. My advice on icing:
 - The first time you do it, it hurts the most. It gets easier.
 - The first three minutes are the hardest every time.
 - Keep the temperature 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. You are trying to constrict blood vessels not get frostbite or prove how tough you are. 
 - 10-15 minutes is all you need in the ice.
 - Ideally cold - warm - cold baths are the best way to flush out the muscle toxins. So if you ever have 45 minutes and two tubs...
 - Long term your body's natural acute inflammation actually rebuilds better, stronger, muscles than icing after every workout. So save the ice baths for injuries, multi day competitions, and the very hardest training blocks. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Violence Against Women Breaks My Heart

Tuesday morning in Dubuque, about the time the runners were getting out and about, a teenage male killed a woman. This started in an intersection I drive through most days on my commute, 17th and Central. Here is another link to the story. I've ran through that intersection many times, and I've run at that hour of the day many times too, although never through that intersection at that hour.

This morning I ran a typical five miles on the roads between 5 and 6 AM. It was dark out and I scared two women as I passed them, even though I was running on the road and they were on the sidewalk. I can't blame them when suddenly a shadow and footsteps appear right behind them. Women shouldn't have that fear. Yet in our sinful world, who can blame anyone for locking the doors and being afraid?

It breaks my heart because I know what it is like to be a man and from the little I understand of women, it's not the same, it's not as easy to do all the things men do. It breaks my heart because this violence proves nothing, it solves nothing, and it spreads a culture of fear, and not a culture of love. We need more love in this world, specifically more men showing love, in whatever role that generosity may be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scared of Turning 30: Part 1

Four months ago when I turned 29 the realization that I have one year left in my 20s hit me. And it scares me. I have the tendency to focus on the problems and the negative more than the positive. Not that I am unusual in that regard, most people can hear nine complements and one complaint and most of us seem to focus on the one complaint. So I'm starting a series, that I will only publish after I have moments of reflection, or fear, or elation, related to turning 30 in nine months, in other words, randomly. For starters, this post is prompted by listening to Talk by Coldplay, from the album X&Y. I bought that CD in Taos, New Mexico in late summer 2005 on a day off from Philmont with my friend Scott. He bought the Gorillaz CD that day and I also bought Kelly Clarkson's debut CD that day. I remember listening to them on the rainy 75 minute drive back to camp that afternoon. That was ten years ago.

I spent four wonderful summers at Boy Scout camp in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010. I will probably never work a summer camp job again. I often had a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I did not have an engineering job. I would not say I took those jobs for granted, or that I did not take advantage of the opportunities in the mountains. On the contrary, I climbed so many mountains and routes those four summers! I think part of me just always envisioned that the summer rhythm of days off in the mountains, evenings sitting on the porch or around the fire, the physical satisfaction of a long day, and the simplicity of summer camp in the mountains would continue. That is not how most of the world works.

I've done a lot, but thinking of summer camp and turning 30 there is much I have not done.
  • I have not climbed an 8000 meter peak, despite two attempts.
  • I have not climbed any big wall in Yosemite, despite three attempts.
  • I have not run a sub 2:30 marathon, despite three attempts.
  • Never really had a serious romantic relationship.
  • Only a one time national champion. 
  • I've never owned a house. 
  • I've never owned a car less than 12 years old.
People are going to read this and think it's ridiculous. "Isaiah, you're crazy! You made it to 7000 meters on an 8000 meter peak in a year no one climbed that mountain! You attempted three big walls in Yosemite, and made it 500 feet up El Cap solo! You ran 2:30:20 for a marathon!" Yes, I know all of this, but it doesn't seem like enough. My personality is such that I always seem to want more. I want the absolute best out of myself, and when I do not feel like I am getting that, it's frustrating. 

On top of this, as I get older there creeps in a fear that I will be alone. My dating life has been so nonexistant the vast majority of the time that I don't really even know how to date. Thank you Boy Scout camp, private engineering school, 8000 meter expeditions, and working at an engineering company. I just don't know many women. I'm great at first dates, I just rock them, but after that it seems to fall apart so quickly. I'm picky, she's picky, we're just not right for each other. My fear is I will wake up tomorrow and be 35 or 40 without a prospective life partner. At that age having children can be a challenge. And I want to expose my kids to the world, take them on crazy vacations, climb mountains, teach them all I know so they have the opportunity to be even better than I. Of course, one has to have kids first.

The upside is I can do so much positive in the world as a single person. In other words, instead of focusing on a small number of my own children, and one woman, I can potentially help hundreds or thousands of less fortunate people. I have to look for something positive in this because the fear of being alone is very real fear. In fact, I have a pending meeting with Jordan from South Sudan right now, and helping South Sudan as it continues to go through a civil war is very near and dear to my heart. Starting a country is hard.

Don't let any of this negativity detract from me saying "I have the best life in the world" because I do have the best life in the world. I am blessed. I hope that others think the same thing of their own lives.  God has given me so much that it overwhelms me sometimes when I realize how well I have it. I've accomplished more in my life than many people do in their whole lives. Of course, I've lived over 29 years, which is longer than many people, and I've had a few chances to die.
Everest is the black thing above me.
Turning 30 years old scares me. The relentless march of time never ceases. It's a reminder of what I have not done. Instead of a celebration of the amazing life I have lived it depresses me. It reminds me of my failure. The times I have looked up and decided to turn around instead of pushing on, the times I have gone as hard as I can but not fast enough, the things I have done wrong, and the people I have wronged...

What does the future hold? I don't know. Who knows, I might not make 30. I believe in fate, that what happens to us happens for a reason, although we rarely understand it at the time. It gives me comfort to know that all of this is happening for my benefit, according to the God's perfect plan. While I worry about the future, I don't need to, it's not worth the effort. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

South Korea and Japan

Well, I spent all of 97 hours, including flights, traveling from Chicago to Japan, South Korea, China, and back last week. I'm still recovering from it.

It started off with a three hour delay because the entertainment system on our new 787 was not working. After three hours of working on it, they decided we weren't going to wait and we took off, unfortunately I didn't know they did not fix the system until we were 30 minutes into the flight and I just could not get movies to play, and they announced it did not work. Oh well, I brought two books, my laptop to do some writing, and my iPhone to listen to music. The flight was otherwise uneventful. 

However, once we landed in Japan Tuesday night we had missed our connecting flight to South Korea, so they gave us a hotel room and meal tickets until the next available flight, Wednesday night. A whole free day in Tokyo! You're kidding me right?

Thanks to jet lag I woke up at 4 AM Japan time, spent an hour figuring out what to do, then I went for a five mile run on the back roads and even on a rail trail of sorts near our hotel, the Excel Narita Hotel, 45 miles outside of downtown Tokyo.
Random Street in Downtown Tokyo
I first hopped on a bus to go to the Narita airport, and then on another bus, for $8, to go into Tokyo Central Station and then I walked down to the Tsukiji Nippon Fish Port Market, which was closed for a "regular holiday" so I walked back to the Imperial Palace.
View From the Imperial Palace (Driveway)
Unfortunately you can't really see much but about half of the roof of the Imperial Palace because the Imperial family still lives there. Fortunately it is surrounded by a nicely taken care of garden with many well kept trees. Tokyo isn't actually that dense of a city. After being to Hong Kong in 2012, Tokyo felt kind of empty. For comparison, in Dubuque there might be 1-4 people waiting to cross the street at a downtown intersection, in Tokyo, Boston or New York there might be 5-20 people, in Hong Kong, the one time I was there, there were 40-80 people waiting to cross the street at many intersections, it was overwhelming.
Awesome Sushi!
It is surprisingly hard to actually find sushi in Japan. I wandered around for a good 30 minutes until I found a sushi place that wasn't a standing bar, or had a line 50 people long. Fortunately this place fit the bill. 
Delorme GPS tracks of my Tokyo Travels
Finally we flew to Korea at 6 PM.
I don't understand.
Thursday morning I woke up and went for a run on the single track dirt trails behind our hotel. It was stunning to me to see a recreation area this big in the center of Changwon, a place that is quite densely populated.

Hills Behind Our Hotel
After touring three factories and having a number of meetings we went out to eat with our hosts, the main supplier we were visiting for a traditional Korea dinner. 
Traditional Korea Dinner
The way it works is they bring a variety of raw beef and vegetables and you cook them yourself over the charcoals in the center of the table. There was also a large selection of Kimchi, seaweed, noodles, and "salads" to pick from. To be honest, I would have trouble actually telling you what we actually ate. I did have raw beef. They brought it in thing strips, and it was from a certain part of the cow, and I figured, 'well, I've never tried raw beef, I suppose it's worth a try.' Turns out, whatever that raw beef was, it was really good and I would easily have it again.

Friday morning we had one final meeting. The trip went very well, many of the questions we had about processing, and concerns we had were allayed because their processing was better than many American facilities. Certainly still room for improvement, but overall, not bad at all.

We then quickly toured a traditional wealthy Korean "house" consisting of several different houses, like a Spanish Mission in California. It was interesting, much like you might expect. The most unusual thing was that the men and women used to sleep in separate houses, I have not heard of that in any other culture.

Traditional (Wealthy) Korean "Porch"
Then we climbed onto a plane for Shanghai and did not have hamburgers on the flight.
Kimchi, on an airplane?
It took us two hours to get across the Shanghai airport, it was totally inefficient. I arrived at the gate five minutes before we began boarding and the other two traveling with me arrived just as boarding was beginning. Then a simple 14 hour flight back to Chicago, with a working entertainment system on a 777, landing 97 hours after we originally took off. A short three hour drive back to Dubuque and I was in bed at 10 PM, not to wake up and actually get out of bed until 1 PM!

I feel like this isn't a great description of international travel, but it was a business trip, I had very little time to myself. Also, as I grow older I enjoy living in the moment and not documenting every single little thing. I document enough of my life. If you want to experience it, come with me. I mean actually physically come with me. Yes, I realize that is very impractical.