Friday, December 16, 2016

Taking the Time to Listen

I know I haven't blogged much lately. Partly, I blame the Google Blogger iPhone app for not working so well. Partly, I haven't felt like I have been having the development in my life that I have had in the past. Of course, feelings are not fact, and in fact I have been developing, but not the standard ways I expect based on past experience, like my running or mountain climbing. While I can't say I am much good at it, I think I have spent more time listening the last couple months than usual. I have a tendency to do my own thing, and actively try not to pay attention to the noise.

In other words, I have spent so much time in my life hearing from haters and doubters who say you can't swim across the Mississippi River, you can't climb Mt. Everest because you will die, you can't move to Kansas because it's the middle of nowhere, or you can't run six marathons in one day... and I've done all of those things!

However, people hate and doubt for a reason, or multiple reasons. Many people, probably most Americans, physically cannot climb Mt. Everest. They could if they wanted to, but in their present condition they can't. So from the perspective of their life it is not possible to climb the mountain without dying. As I get older I guess I am becoming more aware of the realities that other people live in, and the filters we all use to communicate. I have a thought, I express it with some sort of filter, you hear it with some sort of filter, and then you have the resulting thought in your head.

Recently my dad was talking with some people about about trusting God enough to do risky things, and one of them told him something like, "we expect your family to do risky things". Point being, it's been a long long road to get to where I am, and where my family is, and it would be good for me to relate to others (people who haven't climbed Mt. Everest) better, which is only going to happen by listening. I suppose it sounds a little ridiculous, and I have no intentions to change anyone, in fact that scares me a little, but I realize that my reality is not most people's reality.

Life is full of challenges and road blocks, but they are definitely not applied equally to all people. By understanding what those road blocks are, by listening to each other, hopefully we can dismantle them.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Never Ending Lesson of Patience

I haven't blogged much recently, and that's because there isn't a whole lot to say. There are of course things to say, I had a trip to Canada, I never said much about my trip to Brazil, I'm taking pilot lessons on an airplane, I've run every day for like five weeks, and met my Garmin automatic adjusting step goal for 51 consecutive days, but it's really not about me. Writing about myself seems empty often. Plus, after climbing Mt. Everest, climbing Mt. Huron just doesn't have the luster, despite the fact it threw some curve balls at me that Everest didn't.

Point being, patience is a lesson that takes longer to learn as we get older. When I was younger patience was not running too fast the first half of a two mile race. Now that I'm older, patience is showing up at a 24 hour run in really good shape from four months of solid training. And running is an easy example. When I look at my career or mountaineering the picture is even harder to understand. The next really big mountaineering objective I have in mind might happen in the summer of 2018, and I don't yet have the skills to pull it off as easily as I want.

Especially in today's world, with it's constant barrage of media of all forms it is easy to agonize over the events of today or this week, and forget the long term. It's a challenge for me to stay focused, or worded better, remain aware of something that will happen so far in the future, provided it happens at all. Patience is a never ending lesson.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Metaphor of the Jack Russel Terrier

I'm writing this Saturday afternoon December 5th, 2015 after the most bizarre experience. I was doing my long run on heritage trail and as I passed through Durango, Iowa I almost stepped on a little Jack Russel Terrier guarding the bridge, at least I think that's what it was. I dodged it at the last second and it proceeded to run with me. Not barking at all, no collar, just running beside me. That's not unusual. I've had a golden retriever run seven miles with us once in college and two other dogs go about a mile and a half with me. However this little thing just kept going. At the ten mile turn around I proceeded to do a workout of some 6:05 per mile pace running and gapped the dog, but on the rests it would catch back up. In total it ran 11 miles with me around a 6:40 pace! Unbelievable.

As I was thinking about it I can't help but draw parallels to life. I was not expecting or even looking for company on my 20 mile run today, yet I certainly welcomed it. As I think about how some of my closest relationships have started over the years, it was certainly with little warning, no expectations, and with satisfaction to be companions on the journey of life.

Getting to November 2016, as I finish writing this, it's been an eventful year for me. What does it all mean? For a long time I have viewed life through the lens of accomplishments, getting a degree, climbing a mountain, running a race, etc. The thing is, after you do all of those "things" you are still sitting there on the other side of accomplishment, just another human. That's really the point, life is about relationships, our relationships to other people, to God, to the planet. Not all relationships are equal, but they do all have value, even if it is only for 11 miles on a rail trail one day.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The End of the Truth

The Pope did not endorse Donald Trump for US President. On the contrary, after a trip to Mexico he questioned the Christianity of a person who would prefer to build walls rather than bridges. 

A part of me wants to check out. After Everest I looked at my pictures and videos and GPS tracking points, evidence I was there, and realized a skilled high school kid could fake it all. It's depressing. I know quite a few people who doubt that humans contribute anything to climate change, yet they understand you can die from carbon monoxide poisoning in your garage. They are pretty similar concepts, but a report in the journal Science as a link has essentially the same weight as a bogus article by a group of programmers in Yugoslavia. In the past getting published was a privilege, something that gave credibility to the ideas. And to be fair most books, scientific magazines and  newspapers still have very high editorial and fact checking standards. But on the internet that doesn't matter. After all, I could write pretty much anything and someone might take it as fact. 

Working in engineering we spend a lot of time getting to facts, and not making decisions based on opinions. Readers don't take the same credibility standards to journalism that they do vehicle warranties. We live in echo chambers that reiterate what we "like" while keeping us from those ideas we disagree with. 

I want to write a book about Everest, but I wonder, what is the point? The idea is to say, 'this is how I did it, this is how I would recommend you doing it.' But I am struggling to see the value because while I hope everything I write is the truth, I know it is only my perspective. Based on the perspectives of people I know, which seem detached from reality I have to wonder, 'how detached from reality am I?'

As long as I keep asking myself these questions, I'm fairly sure I'm living in reality. It's when you are sure you understand everything and don't question your view that you probably are not living in reality. Still... I feel like none of it matters. I dread retirement. What happens when you quit? When you toss in the towel, how do you define your life's work?

It's nearly impossible to have a conversation with people who don't acknowledge the facts. Yet we are all obstinate in our own way, so it's a two way street.

Should I write a book? Would anyone buy it?

Monday, November 14, 2016

r > g

Two years ago I was getting so much out of reading the 577 dense pages of Capital in the Twenty-First Century that part way though I started publsihing review summaries of each chapter. If you are into economics it’s an essential read. As I reel from the election and try to make sense of the world around me I had a breakthrough. An ardent Republican and Trump supporter, explained his idea for a grocery store that instead of prioritizing profits tried to do well by customers by charging low prices, and by it’s employees by paying a high wage, making just enough money in profits, “Say $1000 a year” he said, to stay in business. And in that moment I realized the issue from a perspective I had forgot. When r > g after g > r for any length of time, it feels very unfair. 

The rate of return on capital, r, is basically how much money you can make on investments. The growth rate of the economy, g, is how fast the economy grows, roughly equivalent to income. When economic growth is high, the benefits go to workers. When economic growth is slow, the financial benefits go to people that already have money, from loans, rents, profits, etc. When the ratio of capital to income gets over about 5, it starts to feel unfair. Of course, this statistic isn’t published anywhere because defining capital and income are very difficult and vary by country. 

For most of history, r was greater than g. Then 1914-1945, a huge portion of the wealth of the world was destroyed. Then from 1945 to about the 1990s the world population exploded. The world order was reversed. There was growth, there was opportunity, and no one really had much money to sit back and live on their savings the way there was a wealthy class in the 1800s and before.

This is the whole point of the rural populist movement in 2016. People realize that r > g, in different words of course, and it’s upsetting. Anyone providing any solution is going to be very popular. Bernie Sanders and Trump spoke to the same disenfranchised people who are not used to being disenfranchised in their lifetimes. America wasn’t ready for a socialist in 2016 to fix the issue, but they could rally behind a person that simply offered to make the country great again.

I realize this is total babble to most people, but it’s crystal clear to me and I agree. I didn’t think about r > g this whole election year and a half, at all. It’s like I read Capital in the Twenty-First Century and forgot it. But as my friend reminded me, unintentionally on his part, when inequality gets too high people get really mad [at the establishment]. 

I’ve had too much coffee as I write this, but wow! I am excited! Frankly I didn’t realize we were as close to my own “radical” economic views being mainstream. People aren’t articulating our economic woes the same way I do, and certainly not seeing the same solutions as I do (like a global annual tax of 1% on wealth above $10 million per person, or a universal minimum income of like $700 per adult per month), but their economic frustrations are in the same place. I’m starting to sleep better. 

Final thought, was Jesus an economic capitalist or communist (or something else)? Why or why not? Include Luke 6:34-35, Luke 19:11-27 and Leviticus 25 in your answer. It's a question just for you to think about, I'm not planning to debate it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” - Donald J. Trump 2005

The grab them quote, and video is something I find disturbing because it happened when he did not think he was being recorded. Which is to say, it is the best glimpse an outsider like me has to his true character, not his stage presence character, and I don’t know what to tell women about our next leader. To be fair though, he was just a 59 year old, and I do think he has matured, at least in the last few days. Another good more recent Trump quote, “I could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t loose any voters.” Or how about this one, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” Where do I begin?

I am scared. 
Elk City Lake State Park Trail Crossing, Kansas, November 4th, 2016
There you have it. Probably high school kids, but the swastika was still there on November, 10th. Less than six months ago I was standing on the top of Mt. Everest in very cold conditions, with an awareness of the risk, a fear of the danger, but I was not scared. I’m thinking of leaving the country. New Zealand maybe? I’ve never been. My company has an office there. In the time I’ve been writing this, two friends sent me links to New Zealand resources and several for Canadian immigration information. The only two other countries I really have felt like I could live were Germany and Brazil. Although, I really should explore Central and South America more. Even Rwanda though would have great start up business costs, and I already have connections there. I don’t mind a little corruption, I believe everyone is evil (you might call them sinners), and I realize that politics is frequently ugly… but this is the most dramatic I have ever seen.

I understand working people and Christians are mad at the establishment. Gay marriage and abortion seem to be thrust upon us, and it’s hard to find support in the Bible for those things. As Christian congregations shrink and the media celebrates sin, it is easy to feel like our country has “left God”, regardless of whether it ever actually followed God. While I don’t think that Christian would be the best way to describe our country throughout history, I am a Christian, and I feel Christians build bridges of love, not walls of war. I have been comforted recently by the Bible story of Jesus being asked which are the greatest commandments, and him answering that first is to love God, and second to love your neighbor, and the entire law hangs on those two. That story is recorded in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 10. Loving God is something that cannot be measured by other humans, however, loving your neighbor is something that often is visible. I am struggling to see the love in our new President Elect. I really struggled to see Obama as a Christian, with his liberal interpretations of love, and I never voted for him, yet I did vote for Hillary. However, I do feel in part like the pharisee, the hipocrite with my own problems, the one who doesn’t share God’s love with others nearly often enough. All Christians need to take this opportunity to share God's love with others rather than deepening the hate. I'm seeing Christian Trump supporters on Facebook demeaning people and spouting vitriol. Christ didn't rub his authority in the Romans or the Jews faces, he sometimes said nothing.

I understand why people voted for him. It’s about change. It’s about wiping away abortion, which is something I am passionate about getting rid of too. I was a one issue abortion voter less than a decade ago, but I realize now you really do have to answer the question: what do you do when it’s illegal? Do you jail the women, the doctors at the inevitable black market clinics, what about women that go to Canada for “vacation”? How do you deal with the coat hanger self abortions?

A common theme I have heard from Trump supporters is that he will bring back jobs, and they mean those high paying, not college educated jobs, like in a factory at $25+ an hour. THOSE JOBS AREN’T COMING BACK. For two reasons, automation, in the not too distant future, many factories will be “lights out” factories, and second, in textiles you can’t compete with people making $0.21 per hour. Taxes on clothing in the United States just will not get high enough to offset the cost of people getting paid a quarter of a dollar an hour. As a concrete example, I spent the last five year in Dubuque, Iowa. At that factory’s peak in the 1970s they employed over 7,000 people. Today they employ around 2,500, and produce just as many machines. Those 4,500 factory jobs aren’t coming back to Dubuque, Iowa. Now I live in Montgomery County, Kansas, which in the last few years has seen the closure on an Amazon distribution center that I drive past every day, and a local hospital, not to mention the closest liquor store. The county population has declined from over 51,000 in 1930, to a little over 35,000 in 2010 while the USA total population has gone from 123 million to 308 million in those same 80 years.

There are jobs available, but you aren’t going to want to hear this, they are lower paying, and more labor intensive. My first job out of college, with a masters and bachelors degree in engineering, was working for $7.25 an hour for my uncle in Minnesota and living in my grandparents basement. It was depressing, but more importantly, it was the humbling I needed. I like to think highly of myself. Sometimes I joke I have trouble fitting my big head through doors. It’s a problem of mine, and while I now might think higher of myself for starting at $7.25 an hour with two engineering degrees, I don’t take my success for granted because I have been humbled. Which is to say, if you want a better job, get an engineering degree, even if it takes you seven years because you ain’t so good at school. The more skills you have the more employable you are. Life is hard. Now, I’m closing in on making $100k a year, I’ve climbed Mt. Everest, I’ve traveled around the world, I’m starting my private pilot’s lessons, I’m a USATF national champion and ran on Team USA at the world championships. What have you done to improve your situation? Do you want a better life? Do you want to make America great again? YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR IT! No politician is going to hand you a great job.

Many Trump supporters say they voted against Hillary. Yes, she certainly had some issues. Her email server at her house was a bad idea, and there were some donations to the Clinton foundation that were shady, but they are disclosed. Trump hasn’t disclosed any of his taxes. Trump is due in court in California for a fraud case against Trump University, in late November. I believe that’s the first time a president elect has had a court date between being elected and taking office. Since his kids will be taking over the family business, there will obviously be discussion of travel plans and why people are traveling and what they are up to, probably causing a conflict of interest, is that illegal for a US President? I know my company would fire me if I didn’t disclose a conflict of interest, but then again, I’m not the guy that appoints the guy to investigate me. Maybe conflicts of interest, and double dipping, really isn’t that bad?

Bullies… I have been on both sides of bullying. I have stood there as the short one, the derogatory “smart” kid, the last one picked, and told I have a funny face, daily for weeks. When you get to the other side of bullying, where you aren’t the one being bullied, it’s so easy to stand on the side line and laugh at the victim, instead of standing up for the underdog, and that’s where my fear comes from. I’ve been bullied, and I’m a runner, not a fighter. When the situation gets bad, I run, I don’t fight, and I think a lot of females and minorities feel similar to how short little Isaiah does. Which is to say, for all of the white males, and handful of white females, I have seen on social media calling for people to calm down, just be patient yourself, people will calm down. 

Here is where I am asking for your help. Please pray for our President and President-Elect, and pray for the people of our country, that we would have peace, because I don’t feel safe. I feel like our country just said that racism, bigotry, and sexism are okay. I know that that is not actually what happened in this vote, but it FEELS like it is. For those of you that are around me, please encourage me and tell me of the many ways that he is not authoritarian. Please tell me of the actual specific ways he is going to make the USA great. Beyond my own fear, encourage women and minorities to not be afraid. Rape culture took a big step out of the shadows this past week, at least in the eyes of many women, who are the people it matter most to. If I was a Muslim woman in the USA right now, I would be terrified.

As a note to Trump supporters, people do change their minds and their habits… but it takes about 18 months or so. Which is to say, there are millions of antagonistic liberals right now, but when America is great about this time next year, you can call them on their negative skepticism, and hopefully most will admit at that point, yes, they were wrong. Mike Rowe had a worthwhile read on the election, there are jobs out there, people want better jobs, they are going to need different skills than they have 
I am afraid. I am afraid that a president, congress and supreme court of all the same party will create ideological policies that don’t work. I am afraid that a guy who can’t be trusted with a Twitter account by his own campaign will be given the nuclear codes and authority over our military, including drones and surveillance. I am afraid that an isolationist attitude will (or has already) sweep over our country and send us into a recession larger than the 2008/2009 crisis. Plus, how can he be friendly to Russia, and tough on China? They share a border, they are huge trading partners, it’s either both or neither, not either/or. I'm not sure he understands that. I am afraid that he will energize the people he wants to be tough on in a negative way.

People have been bashing the “losers” who have mentioned moving to Canada or New Zealand on social media. First of all, as I mentioned above, people are legitimately afraid, myself included. Second, the vast majority of people in the USA immigrated here or their ancestors did in the last 400 years. The world has reached a level of development where you can move to a country that is not the biggest economy in the world, and still have a high standard of living. It is only natural that people will move out of the USA. In fact, net migration between Mexico and the USA was 140,000 people that left the USA and went to Mexico between 2009 and 2014. In the years 1995-2000 we had 2.27 million Mexican come to the USA, and already 2005-2010 there was a net loss of 20,000 people to Mexico. Which is to say, Mexicans aren’t streaming over the borders any faster than Mexican-Americans are going to Mexico to reunite with family. 

In a way it all makes sense. The United States has always been great for me, but over the past decade I’ve felt less and less normal. I mean, I run a lot, I climb, I travel, I was vegan for 10 weeks once, and while the parking lots are often full at the trailhead, anywhere else the people are sedentary and think the USA is the greatest. I do think it is the greatest… but I don’t know any more like I used to know. So I’m thinking of leaving. Oh I probably won’t leave, that would be crazy. But seriously… The USA is headed for a recession, and who knows, maybe a revolution. At Everest this year, while blogging from Gorak Shep I met an American who had lived abroad for 8 years, the last five in Australia and he had no plans to go back, or ever date another American woman. I was somewhat surprised by his opinions. It was a new idea to me. I wrote him off as an outlier, but I have thought about that many times over the last five months and I’m starting to wonder. I don’t want to grab women by the pussy. I don’t want to shoot anyone. I like diversity, whatever diversity actually means. I don’t want to stop peaceful people from crossing boarders, especially peaceful people with money who help our economy.

When I was at Everest this spring I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 1930s who stayed and tried to change Germany from the inside. He was hanged by special order of Nazi high command in April 1945, only a few weeks before the end of the war. He stayed in Germany because it was his country and as he wrote in a letter, “to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will face terrible alternative of either willing defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization will survive, or willing the victory of their nation, and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security.” I had trouble relating to him. While I was away at Everest, Trump went from one of several Republican candidates, to the only candidate, I was stunned. I didn’t actually expect him to win. I told my foreign friends he wouldn’t win, that was ridiculous. I don’t think he’s a Christian, which is of course not necessary in a leader, but it is something I like in a leader. Of course, related to Jesus’s first law above, no one can know who is a Christian or not, yet the Pope did say people who talk of building walls instead of bridges are not Christian. For example, Trump quoted from “Two Corinthians” not “Second Corinthians”, he’s been married three times, and by his many statements I just don’t see much love for his neighbor, let alone the poor. It is said, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” 

As far as the New Zealand talk… I’ve actually thought about it for years, taking an expatriate assignment, and why not now? I’ve spent about six months of my life in Asia, and two months in Central America, and I’ve lived in 10 states. Not to say that I’m getting bored with the States, but I would enjoy seeing another part of the world. I'm not in a rush to leave, but as this excellent article points out, we're probably due for some conflict. Get busy living or get busy dying they say.

There are a handful of things to hope for, in his first interview as president-elect he has already walked back on talk of getting rid of the whole Affordable Care Act. I don’t really think Democrats are that divided, yes there are some different opinions, but behind a stronger [male] candidate with less baggage, and maybe a little less socially progressive, they would have won the electoral college vote too, not just the popular vote. Further more, while no one knows who Donald Trump really is, including himself, perhaps this is the whole purpose of his life, to be in office here at this moment in time. Maybe he will do well? I've prayed more for him in the last four days than all US Presidents combined in my life.

As the Black Eyed Peas said over a decade ago, “Where is the Love?” I stayed out of political talk on social media this election season, because frankly, I didn’t think Trump would win and I wanted to build bridges between different view points instead of deepening divisions. I limited my view to building bridges between existing groups, but as Adolf Hitler once said, “Words build bridges into unexplored places.” We are now in that unexplored place. I was wrong, I didn’t expect this, and I have no idea what comes next. How can we cut taxes and increase spending?

Friends, pray for us, pray for our country. Men, be the role models we want our children to see. Show love to the unloved. "Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Garmin FR235 Watch Changed Me

A good title goes a long way in a blog post. How do you describe something in a sentence or less that tells the truth and yet is outlandish enough to get people to click on it? So I just said a watch changed me, and while it may not be a big change, read on to learn the details of how I have changed. 
FR235 on my wrist after breaking my hand August 20th.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 10,000 steps a day (or whatever an appropriate goal might be for you at the current time, maybe 5000 or 15,000 steps a day) is the best total fitness program I know of in my 15 years of thinking about fitness. Here are the reasons why a step goal is so great:
You can do it anywhere. No gym membership, workout clothes, or equipment of any type required.
You can break it up into very small chunks, like 100 steps at a time. I’ll revisit this later.
That comes to around 4-5 miles of walking, which is about twice the approximately 5000 steps per day the average sedentary American walks, which would mean a significant increase in activity for sedentary people. (Disclaimer, once people start wearing a step tracker with a number they can read, they walk more, so studdies of how much people walk are often biased by people wearing step trackers that display the number of steps.) Also, it’s low impact, you’re probably not going to get an injury from walking. 

I had no idea how many steps I took before I started wearing my FR235. Turns out 4000-5000 steps, not including running was pretty standard for me. While that is perfectly acceptable when I go out and run 8000-18,000 steps in the same day, when I take a day off running, my step count plummets. 

Finally getting to the topic, the first way the watch changed me was though an inactivity bar. After not walking or moving much for one hour, the watch will beep and vibrate at me, encouraging me to do about 100 steps to reset it. This is great! It’s a simple reminder that I need to take little breaks during my workday to stretch my legs. It takes about two minutes of walking to reset the inactivity bar. People say sitting is the new smoking, and I won’t argue. Humans aren’t meant to sit at desks for 8-10 hours a day… before going home to sit on a couch for a few more hours. If a little beep and buzz reminds me to spend two minutes moving around, it’s well worth the awkwardness in meetings when during a moment of silence my watch beeps. While the inactivity bar probably only added about 500-1000 steps to my average day, it was the first and most significant change in my routine.

The second way the watch changed me was the heart rate monitoring. When I keep saying I struggled to run in the heat this summer, I have heart rate data to back it up. My heart rate would climb into the 160s and 170s while I was running slower than 8 minutes per mile pace on flat ground, which is ridiculous! That means my body was working really hard to perform a task that under cooler conditions would result in a heart rate in the 130s. While I don’t like the Garmin recovery estimation after a workout because after just about every longer run I do it tells me I need 3-4 days of rest, the constant heart rate monitoring has helped me understand my perceived effort better. In other words, often in running you really need to do workouts at a perceived effort, not a concrete pace, and it’s hard to describe that without using heart rate. I ran with a heart rate monitor a number of times in the past, but not for every run, and especially not for most recovery runs. However, those recovery runs are probably the best time to use the heart rate monitor so that you really do take it as easy as you need.

The third way the watch changed me was through the step counter, by wanting to get in my goal number of steps per day. Typically when I run this isn’t an issue, but some days when I only do a few miles, it is, and I have to take an evening walk to reach my goal. While I have always enjoyed walks, this has given me some extra motivation to actually go out and put in 2000 steps after supper. 

The final way the watch has affected me, although I would not say it has changed me like the first three, is health metrics like sleep tracking and resting heart rate tracking. I don’t really do anything with the information, other than use it for confirmation bias that yes when I am averaging 7 hours of sleep over the past week I might need more rest, or when my resting heart rate dips below 45 yes I am indeed in okay shape.

I realize that the three benefits that I mention can be had on a watch without GPS and bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone, so you don’t need to go out and spend this kind of money on a activity tracker, in fact, it’s overkill if you don’t plan to use the GPS or the continuous heart rate monitoring. After all, I did use the thing to the top of Mt. Everest, and I’m pretty sure that of the tens of thousands of people that have bought the watch so far, I was the only one to really put it through it’s paces on top of the world. 

As a footnote, I’m writing this now because Apple Watch Series 2 came out not too long ago and now that GPS is internal, it can do all of the same that my Garmin FR235 watch does, and more, although the GPS time seems to max out at 5 hours, versus 11 for my FR235, which is a big difference for a person like me. I like getting text messages to my watch, and notifications for flights or weather. While I never used to wear a watch, now seems to be the time when having a smart watch seems reasonable. I imagine in about two years when the next generation of Garmins and Apple Watch are released, I will be totally sold on wearing a watch all the time the rest of my life, which is just not something I did the first 29 years. A watch was a tool for my running and mountaineering, but wasn’t incorporated into my life the way it is now. Of course... this could change as I grow and change.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Benefit of Starting Over

After six weeks off, which is a much longer blog post in the works, I am now starting my running over again. I FEEL slow and fat and stiff, and already I started to wonder, 'do I really want to put myself through this?' And the answer is 'yes'. The answer is yes because so many times I have gotten out of shape due to summer or an injury and it is ALWAYS hard to start back up. That is the lesson to be learned from starting over on something you previously had success: it always takes work, but you know that the results are worth the effort.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Moving Farther Away from Family

I did not realize how I appreciate living "close" to family until I moved "away". The median person in the United States lives 18 miles away from mom. In college I was about 1000 miles from home, but spent 3-5 weeks a year at home full time in May and August, then around Christmas and New Years. I briefly lived in Colorado after college, again about 1000 miles. Then I lived at home for about six months. Then I lived in Iowa, about 200 miles from home. I realized at the time that I definitely lived farther away from family than most of my coworkers, there were many who had moved from different time zones, even other countries. Seeing the numbers in the article linked above were interesting. Now that I am over 700 miles away it is a little harder to see my family and I have moved from the 75th percentile to the 85th percentile in terms of living away from home. 200 miles is a convenient distance, you can meet in the middle for lunch or dinner. I suppose being even closer would be even more convenient.

As you read through the article it seems to me that the ability to move is an economic privilege. I think we view moving as a economic hardship, something undesired certainly, and for many people the benefits of moving for a new job are much less than the negatives of losing the existing social network. So for me, taking a job 550 miles away, that comes with a raise, a lower cost of living, and very interesting work outweighed the social network that I had built in my life in Iowa, and that's a huge privilege.

People ask me about the risks of climbing Mt. Everest, and sometimes I respond with my opinion that to me the risk of not climbing Mt. Everest is greater than the risk from climbing Mt. Everest. That is an opportunity cost that motivates people to make a change. When not doing something is seen as the greater risk than doing that thing, new experiences will happen and you will learn.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

If I wrote a book about mountaineering, would you be interested enough to buy it?

The question is in the title. "If I wrote a book about mountaineering, would you be interested enough to buy it?"

It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, but I haven't because I've written books before and while one had over 100 reads, nobody paid for it. So I spend all this time writing and what I have to show for it might as well be a blog post when I am done. In other words, good editing costs money, and so does good formatting. I'm okay at both but certainly not good at either. Aside from editing and formatting, I don't want to write it if no one is going to read it. Blogging is one thing, I just jot down my thoughts, have the time to organize them a little and hit "publish" and I'm done. A book has to flow and you can't just simplify it into a series of 700 word segments, which strangely is something I am finding in many of the newer books I am reading. I mean, it's fine you can do that, but it's the easy way out and some issues don't lend themselves to simply a series of blog posts.

Khumbu Icefall and I
For those people that don't know me well enough to make a recommendation here is some background. I grew up in the relatively flat midwest, got started backpacking in high school and progressed to rock and ice climbing and mountaineering in college. From there I went to Pakistan, Yosemite Valley, and just about everything else in the lower 48 States you've heard of, and then Nepal twice, culminating with my summit of Everest in May. However, about 5000 people have done the same, so why is my story any different? Well, I more or less taught myself, and prepared very well for my Everest expeditions. You can ask anyone on my Everest expeditions and I am relatively confident they would all say that I was well prepared. In other words, if everyone prepared and climbed like I do there would be significantly fewer deaths on Everest and other 8000 meter peaks. And the best way I know of to share that is through a book.
Camp 3 on Everest South Side

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nolan's 14 2016 Trip Report

At 4:17 AM on Sunday, July 3rd I was shivering in a moderate snow storm on the top of Mount Huron. It was my fourth 14,000 foot mountain in 20 hours, and fourth time I had precipitation above 14,000 feet in the last 20 hours. I think I am going to take up scuba diving in the Caribbean.
Summit of Mount Huron
The story on my Nolan's 14 attempt this year starts well before 4:17 AM July 3rd. For starters, I ran part of the route back in 2014 as a reconnaissance for an attempt. Unfortunately a key bridge was out, and I ended up with a very different route than I intended. Still, it was a really good experience and I made three summits I had not done prior.

Fast forward two years, to the completion of my second Everest expedition, and summiting Everest. Hiking from 10,000 feet up to 14,000 and running back down just to repeat it all, requires that a person is acclimated. Hence, not living at altitude the best time for me to attempt this route is in the two months after an 8000 meter expedition, while I still have some of the extra red blood cells in my body. Another consideration is that I have very little vacation until March of 2017, thanks again to using 10 of my 13 days on Everest. (And six weeks of unpaid leave of absence...) So the long July 4th weekend in 2014 and 2016 have been prime time to go. Plus, being so near to the summer solstice means having a lot of light and not as much dark, which is a huge plus when tackling off trail routes.

I mentioned attempting this a few times to my sister and parents. After my last attempt, I learned carrying all of my food and equipment for two days was very heavy and slowed me down. Being required to purify all of my water was inconvenient too. Having a support crew would solve many of my challenges. It would allow me to change clothing if (when) I got wet, take only the equipment and food I would need until the next "aid station", and not have to purify water most of the time. Plus, a crew allows for the X-factor. For example, I was hungry for some hot food and ordered Chinese food Saturday night for when I arrived at Winfield. Which is a long way of saying, this is now the third time my sister has crewed at an ultra for me and the second time my mom has crewed at an ultra, although my mom has taken care of me before and after a number of road races and track races in the past. My family is awesome! They may not think they are a great crew, and we all certainly have more to learn about ultra running, but I would say they are excellent support crew!

So I suppose I need to actually talk about the attempt. I left work just after 3 PM on Thursday and drove to Denver. Note: not a whole lot of coffee shops are open between here and Denver after 5 PM on a Thursday, but Wichita and Salina do have Starbucks open until at least 6 PM. The drive was uneventful. It was really nice, under 9 hours of driving, but closer to 10 hours with stops. That's a welcome change from the 13-14+ hours from Dubuque to Denver. I arrived after midnight to my dad's cousin's condo and after some short greetings and some conversation, fell asleep.

The next morning we woke up and had breakfast with the relatives, who just insisted on cooking for us. Yeah, I'm definitely staying at their place again! Eventually we made our way to the airport and picked up my sister. Them my mom, my sister and I headed to REI for a huge purchase of gear and food. I bought a new sleeping bag and a pair of rock climbing shoes. Neither of which I used on this trip, although I was prepared to use the sleeping bag if necessary.

After Everest, after actually climbing to the top of Mt. Everest, there is a certain element of not waiting to live my life any more. I delayed purchases, neglected to keep up with the Jones, and lived a spartan life to be able to afford the adventure of Mt. Everest. Now that it's over there is a question of what am I saving for? Thus the hundreds of dollars I spent at REI in less than an hour.

We headed up I-70 around noon, and since none of us were particularly hungry, we ate snacks in the car, stopped at Walmart in Evergreen for water and potato chips, and drove to Leadville. We checked into the Motel 8 and then headed off to check out trailheads. My mom and sister were not the most confident in their navigating skills. Fortunately my dad created a folder with detailed driving instructions from trailhead to trailhead and I circled all of the road crossings, or "aid stations" on a topo map as a back up. I've learned from previous experience that trying to meet up can be a huge challenge as schedules change or there are multiple trailheads, or trailheads are hidden from the road. So we scouted several road aid stations under overcast skies.

View of Mt. Massive from Leadville on Friday.
Dinner at Qunicy's, of course. Seriously, for the price, it's hard to get a meal that good. I had the prime rib... delicious. By the time we finished eating, it had been a long day and we headed to the hotel and went to bed.

5 AM came plenty quick on Saturday morning. Getting ready was pretty standard. Sometimes I am nervous before what is certainly going to be a long day, but I wasn't really. We had coffee and pastries at the only place open at 6 AM in Leadville and then were off to the Fish Hatchery!

Getting started I floundered around getting onto the Highline Trail. There are so many trails around the Fish Hatchery that it can be a bit confusing trying to take the shortest route. Eventually I got onto the right trail, and then the Colorado Trail and then the Mt. Massive trail and I just cruised up it.

My sister asked a great question, "How do you pace for an event this long?" Well, I just try to keep it slow enough, a low enough effort, that I can keep going. If I overexert for a time, then I try and slow down. I think I was pushing a little too hard up Massive, I was breathing pretty hard on the ascent. Certainly that's part caffeine and part adrenaline but a little overconfidence too. I felt so prepared for this attempt, I thought it was going to be a breeze. That's an understatement of course, but I did think it would not be too hard.

Mt. Massive was easy, even though it was raining lightly most of the time I was above 13,000 feet. I even descended the south face really fast despite not trying. Around 13,500 feet I tripped and fell and whacked my left knee and skinned my hands. Tripping while running down a mountain is a huge risk. I was well enough that I returned to running, but my left knee did begin to swell up.

At the halfmoon trailhead I met my mom and sister to restock my food and refill my water bottles. I ended up only eating 100 calories in the 4 hours it took me to go up and over Massive, which is not much, but eating is always hardest at the beginning, and it was cool and rainy, which also doesn't encourage hunger. For example I wore tights and long sleeve the entire first four hours. It was a cloudy, cool and wet day.

After an excellent transition I headed up Elbert, and I nailed it. In 2014 I headed up the ridge on the right, and you need to head up the ridge on the left to avoid a few minutes of back tracking. When I made the top around 1 PM I was the only person on top, with clouds and rain but no lightning. That's the second time I've been on top of that mountain in the afternoon alone in stormy weather. Yet it always works out well for me.

Descending Mt. Elbert
I headed down the ridge and that is distinctly an unpleasant little jaunt at a decent altitude, despite my smile above. Especially when it is misting. However I headed south enough and met up directly with the Golden Fleece Mine, which again saved me some time over my 2014 run. Once picking up the trail it's a solid trail down that is very runable.

My mom and sister were cruising up and down highway 82 because the trail I came out of was branched off a driveway and they didn't find it. So when they came past I handed them my backpack and I jogged to the La Plata trailhead. After a quick restocking I was off again. I was pretty excited at this point because it was still early afternoon and I had done the two highest mountains and I felt good, although my knee was still bothering me a little.

The hike up La Plata was uneventful, until about 13,500 when the clouds rolled in and there was a little mist and light rain, for the third time that day. Fortunately this whole part was on a nice trail. It was my first time summiting La Plata, despite four summits of Elbert just to the north. I was on the top around 7 PM I believe. I headed down the south ridge and again there was a faint trail not well marked but certainly easy to follow. Around 13,000 feet it solidified and was quite clear all the way down to Winfield.
View of La Plata Descent
The down hills were hurting my knee more than the uphills and I was starting to struggle. On the way down La Plata around 12,000 feet you go through a very wet section around a lake, a bog sort of, with chest height bushes. It was draining, it almost sucked my shoes off a couple times, fortunately it did not. Once down into the tree the trail was better, and then it turned into a road and I ran down into Winfield, making it there near the end of twilight, using my iphone as a flashlight. I struggled to find my mom and sister, eventually finding them on the south side of the creek near a campground. I had texted them from La Plata to get me some Lo Mein if possible, and they totally came through! I sat there, shoes covered in mud, knee hurting, tired, and oh it tasted so good.

I had not made concrete plans ahead of time about my schedule, like when to sleep and where. The reason being, it is a hard call, and I still don't know what is best, even writing this three months later. Winfield is the perfect place to camp, because it's accessible by any vehicle. Also, there are seven mountains between it, and the next two wheel drive accessible "aid station". So using a minivan as the support vehicle the options are basically, plush camp at Winfield early in the 14 mountain adventure, plush camping at Avalanche Gulch after 10 mountains, which seems extremely difficult, or hike into Rockdale, which if (or when) I try this again, I think I will push for that. However, while I appreciated my family hiking into the Halfmoon trailhead, but that was during daylight, without camping supplies, and Rockdale would be in the dark with camping supplies, unless you had all wheel drive then you could drive in.

Point being, after eating I decided to sleep for a little over 3 hours and wake up at midnight or 12:30 AM. I took an ibuprofen and after a few hours of sleep my knee felt much better. A few minutes after I left my headlamp battery died, because I hadn't changed it from my Everest summit push, so I had to turn around and get new batteries. Then I was off, passing all of the people sleeping in their vehicles on the road to Huron. The ascent of Huron went well, but again, about the time I made it to 13,700 feet it started snowing. I was wearing everything I had with me, and I was shivering. My shoes were slipping a little on the rocks and again, I had never climbed Huron, so route finding took a little longer than it might for someone who had been there. Eventually at 4:17 AM I made it to the summit. After a scant couple minutes I headed down the hardest part of the route so far. A roughly third class descent on either an unmarked trail or extremely poorly marked trail. I don't really know because the fresh snow and darkness was obscuring everything. It was not a fun descent. But, it doesn't have to be fun to be fun!
Summit of Huron
Eventually the sun came up and I made my way across an unstable boulder field (not fun or fast) and then down an old mining or deer trail (again, not fast because the trail kept ending and restarting) and then I made it to the river crossing, which did not have a bridge. I had still not warmed up from the snow storm, and this river was significant enough I didn't want to wade through it, even though that's what I ended up doing. It only came up to my knees, but it was enough I stopped and wrung out my socks after crossing.

I made my way east, wandering through a couple empty campsites before picking up the trail. The trail up the west side of Missouri was really good. After the nightmare adventure of the east descent of Huron I was tickled to have a trail not marked on maps to take me up Missouri. However, at this point I was quite tired. I had been moving slowly for hours due to the technical nature of the last couple miles and as I ascended Missouri the thought of doing six more mountains until the next "aid station" was overwhelming. At the top of Missouri, or perhaps a little before I decided that would be all for me today. It didn't help that it was misting while I was on top of Missouri, making it five precipitation events and five times above 14,000 feet. It wore me down. I did Oxford and Belford in 2014, so I knew that part of the route, doing those two mountains, to say I made it half way was not that interesting.

The sun came out and my mom and sister hiked up to meet me and the three of us hiked back out to the Missouri Gulch trailhead. I changed in the bathroom and we headed back to Leadville for a late lunch, and then down into Denver for the night. Everyone else stayed up to watch fireworks, but I went to bed. I covered right around 50 miles, and that's what it felt like, a 50 mile race. I was very sore, but I could walk.
GPS track of my Nolan's 14 2016 Attempt
What lessons were learned?
  • Weather doesn't need to be great, but it needs to be better than snowing. I had precipitation on every summit, and mentally that was not easy, physically it didn't help shivering either.
  • My family is really good at crewing, better than they think they are. They can also navigate just fine, despite what they think. 
  • I need to do every step of the route before I do it all in one go. I had no idea the descent of Huron would be that hard. Which means, I'm going to have to do a few one or two day runs out there, I can do solo and unsupported for those, to research the route better. I know this route can be done in under 48 hours, there just isn't time to be wasted figuring out a descent.
  • La Plata is easy, except for the muddy patch, the descent on Huron is hard, but the ascent is easy, and Missouri is easy. All three of those mountains were first time summits for me.
  • While I doubt anyone would want to climb a mountain in the dark with me, that's where I could use some company. I rarely run in the dark and that's because I end up hiking a little more defensively, worrying about bumping into a big unhappy animal, rather than the offensive speed which I move with during the daylight. Someone who could simply follow me in the dark would be a huge help. 
  • Hydration and nutrition went just fine. I typically carried two 20 oz. bottles on my chest and a 16 or 20 oz. bottle in my backpack for each mountain. So about 2 liters per 3.5-5 hours and one mountain. 
Selfie between Huron and Missouri (Just kidding, I wasn't feeling that good between Huron and Missouri, this is the South Col on Everest on May 20th, 2016.)
The View Descending into Winfield (Just kidding again, that's Lhotse, Camp 4, and the South Col on Everest May 21st, 2016.)
Thanks for reading! There are some videos too, but I'm not sure when I will take the time to edit those into one video.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sufficiently Bored

Being bored can be a good thing. If a person is always busy, rushing from one event to the next there is no time to contemplate long term goals or what the point is to these activities. I'm not quite there yet, but since moving into my house and taking an indefinite break from running, I'm getting there. I'm almost bored enough to start unpacking, haha.

Seriously though we need rest. I don't know how parents do it. I've been averaging just over nine hours of sleep per night, and I haven't been exercising outside of maybe 8000 steps a day. I come home from work and lay on the couch or in bed until I get up to cook supper. 

This is where the motivation starts. I just took a little walk after supper and the nice cool fall air felt so nice I wanted to break into a run. I wanted to have that feeling of running a good pace in training or a race. There were other things I was considering too, like unpacking, and I didn't do any of them yet because that's part of the secret. When a person is deprived of something or restricted from having it he or she only wants it more. When it comes easily it is not valued. By not running when I have the urge to run when I finally run I will have a fair amount of pent up mental energy to run, which I will need as it will inevitably hurt.

After Everest in 2014 several people assured me I would go back weeks and months before I decided to return. What they understood that I did not is that by being kept from my dream the fire burned hotter. That is also why goals need to be big and difficult. Easy goals are too easily accomplished and the flame is snuffed out. 

Getting back to being bored, I don't have cable or Internet at my house (sorry future visitors). It leaves this hole in my evenings where I might watch some DVDs or read a book or play with my smartphone. All of which are nice, but a little more boring than something like running or blogging. Oddly it is that boredom that helped my blog flourish the last five years. It is especially something that helped my running get to the level it has. And I'm starting to get a little bored, that's why I'm blogging tonight (and not running). It's a good sign for my future productivity. I might even finish unpacking before Thanksgiving...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Contemplating Retirement (From Competitive Running) and the Decision to Quit

Within three weeks of running 100 miles as I embarked on this serious rest of mine someone told me I should at least do some jogging so I don’t get "flabby". Thanks. I spent the last ten years tearing myself apart running and climbing and the first time I take organized down time more than two weeks people tell me to stay active so I don’t get flabby. Great. Way to not understand just how difficult my physical endeavors have been.

Here’s the reason people quit when they quit: when you’ve seen the top of the mountain it’s no fun to hang out only a 1/3 of the way up knowing you won’t make the top again. Sure, it can be a different sort of fun, but it’s not the same. You can't call that competitive. 

One of the most powerful decisions we can make about any activity is to quit... or to engage, to do. Here’s the reason why, when you have the option of quitting, and you decide to do it, to stay, you are deciding to see it through the long haul. You had the option to quit, and you didn’t. One of the reasons youth sports can be uninspiring is because many of the kids don’t want to be there. Their parents put them in the sport and the kids don’t feel they have the option to quit, or it wasn’t their choice to play. Even in college sports some people are there because they feel it’s what is expected of them. There is often less passion. That’s one of the really nice things about post collegiate competitive running, or about 8000 meter mountaineering, by that point the group has so self selected that everyone wants to be there. People will literally die, or shorten their lives to achieve whatever it is they are seeking. 

Almost four weeks into my break from running now and I’m feeling better, not so run down. I’ve had the urge to run and bicycle a few times, but I haven’t acted on them yet. A few simple walks have sufficed. Still my legs have had waves of tiredness, or soreness, and my joints have been a little tired, like they are regenerating. I know that's ridiculous to say I can feel my joints regenerating, but that's what it feels like. On a different note, it’s quite interesting because I don’t feel the fire like I have other times in the past. Of course, I know that the fire feeds on progress, and getting into shape, and having good workouts all perpetuate the motivation. 

In 2004 I quit competitive running. I finished my high school track season, ran a 5k on July 4th, and then didn’t run for six months. I thought my competitive running days were over. But after a nice January and February of jogging, I missed the team atmosphere, and joined for outdoor track at WPI in the spring of 2005. I was dead last in three of the four races I ran. Strangely, the season ended with me having quite a bit of motivation for cross country, and that December, I ended up breaking through with my first sub 5 mile, a 4:59.85. A year before I had no idea that would happen. I probably would not have believed you if you had told me I would run sub 5. 

I am really thinking about calling it a running career. But a part of me knows what is possible, and how close I have been to my limits. A 2:30:20 marathon still stings five years later. Oh how a 2:29:59 would have been so much nicer! Of my ultras, one went well, the other five have been less than I am capable of. God has given me this gift to run long distances and I just have to figure out if my past is all there will be, or if there is more? It’s a question no one can answer for me. You don’t have my body. Really the particularly worrying thing is that I have DNF’d my last two major races with the same complaint, muscle damage. It's like the 2015 24 Hour Wold Championships hurt me so bad when I get to the point in a race where my legs are damaged my brain sends more pain signals than necessary to prevent me going through that experience again. If I try again, and my legs can’t take it, why bother in the first place? I don’t know.

I read Tim Noakes Lore of Running Chapter 7 "Avoiding Overtraining" a few days ago. Wow, it's enlightening. Noakes may give generally mediocre or even poor training advice, but as a doctor his medical analysis is fantastic! He tackles a topic that frankly we don't understand. When I was in college I came to realize that it was really "over living" and not "over training" because it is the sum total of the things happening in your life that determine your burnout and not just how many miles you run or race. It's quite interesting the number of runners, especially ultra runners with especially short careers. There is so much no one still knows about over training or over living. For additional reading material Geoff Roes now four year struggle is illuminating

What I will do in the future I don't know. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I Bought a House for $40,000!!

I bought a house! Does that mean I'm a real grown up now?
I bought a house!
Yes, I did in fact buy a house for less than many of my co-workers buy a car or truck. Now, you're probably thinking, 'it must have be a run down, falling apart house, with terrible crime in the neighborhood, and on wheels.' However, that's because everywhere I have lived the last 12 years has a decent housing market where houses always cost well into six figures if it isn't falling apart, and it's not uncommon for houses to sell for more than the asking price. Rural America is different.

The Dining Room and Living Room
Independence, Kansas had 9483 people in the last census in 2010 and my guess is it will be under 9000 people for the next one in 2020 due to some recent business closures in the last few years. That will be the smallest population in the town since 1910. Montgomery County peaked at over 51,000 people in 1930 and has been on a slow and steady decline since then to an estimated only 33,000 now. A huge driver in housing costs are population growth, or decline. The house that you can get in this county for $300,000 is incredible! On the one hand you can get a nice sized three bed two bath house a little older on 80 acres, or a newer four bed four bath 3000 sq. ft. show home monster on a half acre, or what about this five bed five bath on 20 acres! Did you see the kitchen in that last one? It's incredible. Point being these houses were built and haven't really appreciated in value, many even depreciated, so your dollar goes a lot farther.
Master Bedroom
Point being, you can buy a house in move-in-ready condition for a fraction of what that same house would cost in other parts of the country. That doesn't mean everything is perfect, but it does mean that overall you can save lots of money versus housing in a more aggressive market.

I want to dispel a myth, that houses are investments. Investments are things expected to go up in value, preferably faster than the rate of inflation, such as owning stock in a company or a bond. Expenses on the other hand are the things paid for to sustain your standard of living, such as rent, or car payments. In between investments and expenses are something I like to call hedges, or insurance, and that's where a house falls in my opinion. You can't really look at a house as an investment because it could easily go down in value, and you may have to put a lot of time and effort into the house to keep it in decent shape. On the other hand, if you live in the Bay area, your house's price could double in less than a decade, like a very good investment. The biggest difference between rent and a mortgage is that if you fail to pay your rent you can be kicked out in a month, but in a bad situation you could use the equity in your house to enable you to stay in it longer without paying your mortgage. Certainly an undesirable situation, but owning a house is a nice hedge against that sort of bad situation.

Maybe I should say I Stole a House?
So there you go, my mortgage details. Can you believe I got a 2.5% interest rate? What about a mortgage of only $35,000? Something interesting I discovered, on a mortgage below $50,000 you can't get a fixed rate mortgage. Which initially I was a disapointed about, but my adjustable rate mortgage is so good, fixed rate of 2.5% for five years and max of 7.5%, and it's only a ten year loan. It's the lowest interest rate I've ever heard of someone having in person, although online people have had even lower interest rates

My mom came down to help paint and move my stuff in, which was great! There are some things I have to do, the detached garage is leaning and there is no dishwasher, so those are high on the to do list. It is a small house only 1000 square feet, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a small basement for tornadoes, and with a 1.9 car detached garage. It's a nice little house.