Saturday, December 29, 2018

What do I want?

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Crested Butte, Colorado. It's actually my first time here. I tried to do San Luis Peak this morning, but I didn't even get within 10 miles of the trailhead as the road was so snowed over that the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro that I borrowed from a coworker in 4 Low with a locked differential wasn't making it a quarter of the way through a large snow drift. More than an hour on snowed over dirt roads in four wheel drive and for what?! Sure it was cool to go through a snow drift maybe 10 inches deep, but I didn't come out here to drive around.

I spent something like $6000 in December between rent, medial bills, travel expenses, a ski pass, new climbing gear, and lots of food and drink. I'm very much cash flow negative for the month, as I have been a couple other months since moving. I took a rather significant base pay raise (and long term benefit cut) moving out to Colorado, and I thought that I would be able to save money for other goals, like buying a new vehicle or a house. Unfortunately running the numbers the other day it seems I'll be 40 by the time I can afford much of anything at the rate I'm saving. Now, that's an awfully pessimistic view of my financial situation, getting a pulmonary embolism is not on the to do list for every month or year.

Yesterday I basically laid on my couch watching TV most of the day. It was pretty great and I'm considering driving back to Longmont to do more of that, instead of going to freeze in the cold and wind the next few days.

Midlife crisis's are often precipitated by a health scare. I'm not saying I'm having a mid life crisis, but for so long I was focused on climbing Mt. Everest, on paying off my student loans, on getting on team USA, on getting into a career that I felt very inspired by. I've done all that. So what's next?

I'd like to climb all the 14ers in winter. But given that I have roughly a 33% success rate for each attempt, that means a lot of days where I do a lot of driving and end up sitting in a coffee shop or in my idling vehicle. It's a bit depressing ( in depressing this afternoon). As I think about the other things I would like to do such as, finally get my pilot's license, go back to Pakistan to climb something, and run fast again, they all seem so far away from where I am. You can't have everything, maybe you can have anything, but you can't have everything.

It feels so lazy to want to sit on the couch and skip running for the day or going into the mountains and just watch TV. Is it a phase? Is it the winter blues? Is this was happens in your 30s? Maybe my body and mind just need a rest from 2018, it was a pretty eventful year for me.

The other day I watched the movie Generation Wealth. It scared me because in part it's about me and the materialism that seems to creep into almost every aspect of life. I've said the purpose of life is relationships for years, yet here I am driving around Colorado alone, and pursuing material things and solo adventures. I want a romantic relationship, yet in some ways I feel like I sabotage my own chances by not pursuing leads hard enough. There are so many amazing women in the world, I just need to pick one... right?

We're looking for purpose and validation, and I struggle with both of those. I bet most people do at one time or another. On the purpose side, I'm here to do God's will, although I rarely feel like I do much good there. So I carve out other purposes for myself like climbing mountains, engineering, or running, because frankly God hasn't given me a step by step how to guide for my life. Similarly on the validation and approval side winning a race or climbing a mountain doesn't change who you are. It may validate and approve of what you did and how you prepared, but it doesn't validate who you are. The only validation I need is from Jesus who died on the cross to validate me. Getting back to the title, it's really not about what I want, it's what God wants for me. Yet, again, there is no path written out for me to read to know what decisions to make. Should I drive back to Longmont right now or stay up here in the mountains? How can I answer that question? Driving back to Longmont is "giving up" on climbing and skiing more in the next few days, but staying out here is seeking some sort of external purpose and validation.

I don't know.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 13 and 14

Sorry for the delayed updates on my life, I've been busy living my life. For starters, life is good. Everything I am about to complain about is luxury living. What I mean by that is, I support Give Directly, every pay check. I donate a little money every two weeks toward a basic income  experiment. They give $22 a month to people in rural parts of Kenya, and are studying how that basic income is changing peoples lives. Initial results are positive. Everyones lives seem to be changing for the better, they aren't all doing drugs and getting drunk every day. I blow through $22 like it is nothing, yet for many people it can change their month.

The last two weeks at work I really struggled with a little mechanical problem. Finally, about five days before Christmas on Thursday morning, after multiple people with seniority to me recommended a change, I decided to model a whole new system from scratch. About ten work hours later, there was an initial model out there. I didn't want to admit that the previous design didn't work when all I had was mediocre ANSYS results to say that. I'm pretty bad at ANSYS. I can do it, and the results can be acceptable, but they aren't elegant, which is the state I aim for in my work. Let me tell you, working on a design that ends up being a failure is disappointing. I put, and most engineers put, emotion into their work, and want to see it get into production, and there are times when the design is simply a failure and is rejected, and that's okay. Yet it is always hard. Several times I have spent weeks and a few months on something just to see it canceled or started over from scratch. As I get older I am more okay with the idea of a failed design. In fact, it's very much okay. Some might even say if you have not designed a failed design you haven't engineered long enough. Still, it's emotional.

Running has been going better and better all the time! I think I ran an 18 mile week and a 22 mile week, but I'm not totally sure. I still feel like part of my lungs is not usable. I am breathing harder than I "should" be for 8:30 pace. Yet I am also 15 pounds heavier than desired (145 lbs. vs 130 lbs.), 32 years old, and didn't have a single month over 165 miles this year. So I'm pretty out of shape. Yet I still have running goals, and I'm going to work to put myself out there to accomplish them. I am closing in on a 40 mile week, which for me is where the detraining ends and training begins.

Otherwise... I started a new dating app, Coffee Meets Bagel, and so far I'm pleased with it, the women seem to generally be even higher quality than Bumble.

I also spent a few evenings and part of Sunday rock climbing, and while again I don't feel in good shape at all, I think 2019 is going to be a good year for my climbing. Hopefully I will finish the 14ers and be able to lead a few interesting routes, like the Casual Route on the Diamond or Sykes Sickle on Spearhead.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

I Need a Mountain Vehicle

When I moved to Colorado I told myself I would not get a new vehicle until I got stuck twice. Then I said not until I max out my IRA in whatever year it happened to be. Then I said not until I get my pilot’s license. Then I said not until I can pay for the car in cash, because I have never had an auto loan and I don’t want to have one. Then I said not until my startup closes a round B of funding. The point is, there is a never ending list of other financial priorities that are important. Vehicles are depreciating assets. The money put into them is not returned, unless you drive for Uber or Lyft or plow snow or something like that. However, a vehicle, like a plane, is a time machine. It can transport you and your stuff from one place to another in a much shorter time than if you bicycled or walked. 

Saturday I got my car stuck, and then seven hours later driving through a snow drift on a dirt road I tore two plastic under body panels.  In both situations the most modest four wheel drive SUV would not have had a problem. On my drive out of the mountains my brakes started really squealing, which was nearly a $700 repair at the local Honda dealership (I wanted to get the right parts for my somewhat unusual car). 
New duct tape on this side and a bent panel on other side.
My opinion is you should buy a vehicle for the 98% of normal driving that you do, and then rent or carpool for that 2% of driving that is different from your normal routine. I’m not sure how best to define the 2%, is it 2% of days that you encounter a particular situation, or is it 2% of miles driven? Either way, I drove about 250 miles this weekend and 12 of those (about 5%) were on dirt with snow on top, and another 10 (4%) were on very snow covered paved roads where I slid around more that I would prefer. Also, this is the second day in December I have encountered these kind of conditions, and going by the 2% of days I only get seven days a year to encounter these conditions. And there are essentially five months of winter road weather ahead, meaning probably 15 days I encounter snowy dirt roads and another 15 days of simply snowy paved roads, and that’s not counting the dirt roads I drive on in the summer. 

In other words, my super efficient car, just isn’t cutting it 98% of the time. It’s just so efficient in every manner, insurance, fuel mileage, oil changes, spare parts, and parking that getting something else is definitely going to up my spending on transportation, which I don’t want to do. Plus, I’m a bit of an environmentalist and in part for me that means driving a vehicle into the ground and getting the full value out of it. While there does need to be a demand for new vehicles and things in general to have an economy, we can help reduce our environmental impact by using things longer instead of simply throwing them out at the first sign of wear. There is a finite supply of iron, chromium, lithium, and every element on this planet. They are all big supplies, but they are not unlimited. We can’t consume large quantities forever. (I realize I just addressed reduce and reuse, but didn’t mention recycle, even though recycling is a dramatic improvement to the exploitation of land for mining. In particular lead, aluminum, steel, copper, nickel, and zinc are all recycled at a rate greater than 50%.)

There are two general ways to approach getting a new vehicle, as a replacement all around vehicle, or as a second vehicle that is only used for the special occasions, which in this case would be going to the mountains or driving through snow storms. I’m open to either. Since insurance is so cheap on my insight, and it gets great mileage, I’ll probably keep it as a commuter car for during the week. The thing is, if I get a nice vehicle, something I like a lot more, then I’ll get rid of the Insight and just drive the one vehicle all the time. 

So, recommend a vehicle for me. 

Vehicle requirements:
  • All wheel drive (four wheel drive with locking differentials is a plus)
  • Minimum 6 inches of ground clearance (more is generally good)
  • At least 10 mpg
  • Minimum top speed of 55 mph
  • Cash budget of $5,000 (credit budget of $30,000, but you need to really sell me on it because a Vans RV-4 airplane is only $45,000)
  • Road legal

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 12

Super late this week... because I've been lazy, but week 12 was good. I ran and exercised 22.7 miles, if you count my alpine touring skiing and hiking miles as running, 14 if you don't.  I'm struggling with the darkness. Multiple times now I have driven home from work, with 15 minutes of twilight remaining and instead of quick changing and getting out the door for a little running in the light, I lay down on my floor and open up my phone to see what happened today. Next thing you know, I'm hungry and decide to make supper instead of exercise first. After that there is a low possibility that I exercise. I still might, and have a number of evenings, but it's not likely.

Work is going well. I'm responsible for a variety of things, among them a small joint, which unfortunately grew larger. I was under constraining the FEA model and when I constrained it a little more, it needed to get bigger. The problem is this is aerospace and weight matters. Plus, the old size was the maximum that was available from several vendors and when I made it bigger, suddenly I was into a custom size joint, which is of course more expensive. Costs are so radically different than I am used to. Some of our parts we estimate at $100 per ounce. I'm used to $2-4 per pound.

I finished the week taking a ski trip up to Breckenridge. I reattempted and successfully climbed Mt. Sherman!
About 13,850 descending Mt. Sherman
About nine miles round trip and a little over six hours. I did get to ski maybe three miles, but quite a bit was too thin to ski. Only 26 14ers to go!

Saturday night as we hung out in Breckenridge two things happened which had not happened before. First, some of you will laugh. My friends have a soon to be four year old and a six month old that stayed with us, and at one point I had to leave the condo and scan in the two people that went to get dinner. As I'm putting my shoes on to go the four year old walks over and wants me to carry her down. I'm pretty sure there was a look of terror on my face. I hesitated and said we should probably ask her mom, who walked out of the room seriously five seconds before. At which point she gives me the look of 'if-you'don't-pick-me-up-I'll-cry' so I looked at my other friend, who thought it was funny, and I carried her around for the next few minutes. It's actually pretty tiring, my arm was tired for a good half hour after maybe five minutes of carrying her around.

The second thing that happened was really cool! My good friends T and L got engaged!!! We're all kind of walking around the Christmas lights around Breckenridge and suddenly he's down on one knee! They've been together for six years, and have seen each other through some rough times. I've been giving him a hard time for a year and a half about marrying her. They are so right for each other. That doesn't mean they won't fight, they have their differences. I had never seen any of my friend's proposals so that was fun. It was also interesting because I had talked to both of them about getting married and their reservations in the past. It's hard to be patient sometimes, but looking at T and L's relationship, I think it needed to progress this slow.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 11

The week started off in Wisconsin at my parents, with me still essentially sick from a cold. A cold that managed to last almost two weeks. It started in the afternoon of my best run yet (4 miles at sub 8 pace) and continued until the middle of this week.

After going to church with my parents we went down to Milwaukee, had a late lunch and then I flew out back to Denver. Both times I have flown out I have parked in the economy lot, which is a little bit of a misnomer, it's $16 per day. The problem is both times I have missed the signs for the $8 shuttle bus lot. However, the nice thing about the economy lot is it's more than 1000 steps from the terminal to the back of the economy lot, which is actually really nice after getting off a plane. Plus I don't have to wait for a shuttle, I can walk out of the terminal directly to my car, just like in Tulsa, Moline, Wichita, Dubuque, Eugene, or Madison, which are all much smaller airports than Denver.

The week started off slow. I still had a cold, and was feeling down at work about my little area of responsibility. However, with copious amount of green tea and ginger tea, and allowing my body some time to rest, I finally recovered. Then I also had a few discussions at work, about work, and my positivity about my performance returned. It may sound simple, but when I'm doing a good job, it's really nice to hear it from someone else. Just a single sentence complement goes a long way.

I ran twice for a total of 7.6 miles, went rock climbing twice at Evo, where I have a gym membership, and tried to climb Mt. Sherman on Saturday, which involved hiking up and then skiing down. Mt. Sherman and Pikes Peak are the two closest 14ers I have not done. I think they are the only two within three hours of driving I have not done. The next closest is Tabaguche, which I looked at last summer from the top of Shavano, but weather conditions were bad and I didn't want to risk it.
12,700 feet on Mt. Sherman, my turnaround point.
For the first time in my life I have a climbing gym membership. Not only that, my apartment complex has a gym, and my office has a gym. I have access to three gyms! I've never actually paid for any gym in the past, mostly because I had access to the University of Dubuque for three years, then after that ended sometimes I would get into my employer's gym with friends on the weekends. Now I have a full choice of gyms. Do I want to work out at my apartment before work, or over lunch at work, or after work and a climbing session, or when I get back to my apartment in the evening? It's kind of overwhelming. I mean, this is what wealth is right, having access to three gyms?

I went on another first date this week. There are so many wonderful women in the world! I mean, there are a lot of women who are independent, passionate, attractive, and thoughtful. The biggest struggle in my dating life so far is that I'm a Christian, and many interesting women are not. The second biggest struggle, which is something I debate in my head whether it is important or not, is how much we have in common as far as activities. Fun fact, I'm looking for at least five hours a week of one on one couple's time, and there exist people in the world who don't even have that kind of time to dedicate to a relationship.

Finally, one of the investors in my company, whom I met this week, also drives a first generation Honda Insight. I need help talking myself out of buying a luxury SUV. That's another topic that deserves it's own post. My Insight can blast through snow drifts on dirt roads just fine, I did it Saturday. In other words, when I talk about getting this or that expensive vehicle, try to talk me out of it by reminding me how awesome my little 16 year old 218,000 miles of experience car is.
My $2,000 Car, Not My $600,000 Cabin

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 10

Super delayed this week, that's what happens when you are having fun. The week of Thanksgiving was not a great week. For starters, I was sick the whole week. On Tuesday I even went home sick from work. I thought back to the four sick days I can remember in the eight working years I have, and realized I've never actually called in sick before going to work. Every time I have gone home sick from work, I did get up and go to work in the first place. Honestly, that's probably not the best. I should really just call in sick the next time I'm feeling under the weather. Plus, seeing the runny nose and congestion go around the office, I wasn't the first to have it, and not the last either. Plus, since most of us are from out of state, we did a lot of traveling over Thanksgiving, and getting on a plane is like getting into a test tube full of bacteria that is foreign to each of our bodies.

I am my own harshest critic. So while I was frustrated with my design review and then all of the work I had to redo, I talked to my boss and he wasn't really frustrated. It's all part of the learning curve. I had hoped that a couple months in I would be totally up to speed, but the reality is different. The reality is half of the company started there in 2018, our second project is being analyzed, or at least documented, much better than the first project, and as we continue to learn things on the first project, the since project has changes.

In other words, it's all good, but as my scoutmaster once told me, "anything you want to be good at will be stressful sometimes."

I only ran once for 3.5 miles. Being sick is no fun.

I did fly home for the holiday. It would have been a 15 hour drive, but it's only a two hour flight with 45 minutes to the airport on my end and an hour to the airport on my parents end. Seeing family is always nice! The most unique thing I think we did while I was home was play some board games, which I think warrants it's own separate post. On that note, goodbye for today.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 9

Ugh, I'm sick. That about sums it up.

Work was the most difficult, and humbling week I have had. When there are only 30 people in the company, and more than half of those started in 2018, there isn't much established structure. I hope that I can help contribute to the structure of our processes, but it's been nine weeks and I haven't done a whole lot of process optimization yet. I had my first design review on Thursday this week, and honestly, it did not go well for me. It was okay, but not good. It was humbling, and frankly I wasn't looking to be humbled. It is to be expected that on boarding at a company that doesn't really have an on boarding process will be difficult.

Wednesday I came down with a sore throat in the afternoon. I blamed it at the time on the amazing 4 mile run at 7:53 minutes per mile pace that I did on my lunch break, because we have a shower and a gym at work! However, it's been a roller coaster ride of tiredness, sore throat, and feeling okay ever since then. It's the mono I never remember having attacking me! Haha, but maybe...

Some super positive upside to my negativity. We went up to a new power level this week. The same day I was fumbling though a design review, we hit 70% power for the first time! Later that day we hit 80% power! Well, we got full power fever and went for 100% the next day (after being stuck at roughly 60% for months), but unfortunately had an unexpected thermal event before we reached it. Point being, this is a huge milestone for our company, and reaching 100% essentially guarantees we don't go out of business in 2019.

I ran 13.3 mile for the week, which I'm happy with considering I was down for the count most of the week. Also, I'm super excited that I had that sub 8 minute pace run! That's a big mental barrier, and it's nice to be under it again, even if only for four miles.

Monday I went to the Evo rock climbing gym in Louisville and signed for a membership! We get a discount group rate for my company and I only need to go once a week to make it worth it. That being said as I write this I will only have gone once in two weeks.

Saturday I met a friend and we climbed at EarthTreks in Denver for a whopping four hours. I'm still sore four days later! I need to go climbing and build on this strength, but I don't want my compromised immune system exposed to all of the holds right now. I mean, climbing is putting your hands on holds that other people touch, germs are bound to spread.

The weather was pretty terrible on Saturday too. It was that 30 degree rain where it freezes on your windshield because the wiper spreads it just that thin, so driving around was a bit of a sport. Funny story, I saw at least three pickup trucks in the ditch on my drive back from the climbing gym, but no cars. My theory is that pickups typically use rear wheel drive and they hit a patch of ice and swung into it. I once did a 720 degree turn in my rear wheel drive Toyota Previa in Estes Park on ice way back in 2011. Front wheel drive, or all wheel drive is the way to go. I mention the weather because as I write this I'm in the Denver International Airport on a 59F and sunny and no wind day, which is more common than bad weather days.

I hope you had a good week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sick Day

Yesterday I left work after about three and a half hours. I went home and sat on the couch the rest of the day. I always feels guilty leaving work sick. The problem is, of the four sick days I remember in the last eight years, I was never "that" sick. It's not like I am throwing up or anything, just the usual cold symptoms, sore throat, runny nose, exhausted, sweating a little awkwardly.

Why do we have a problem taking a sick day? It's worst among restaurant workers. I mean, they make food for other people!

It's okay to go home sick! I've mentioned tiny bits here and there, about financial independence for myself, and I think that is part of the reason we stay at work, we're afraid that going home will in some way diminish our income or job security. It's not a crazy thought. I was talking to a man in Kansas about a year ago and his daughter got the flu when she worked at War-Mart and after four days missing work she was automatically fired. I don't know the rest of the story, like perhaps she never called her supervisor or brought in a doctor's note. I'm sure others have heard similar stories, and it keeps us afraid.

As I sat at my desk searching "when to go home sick from work" on the Internet, I thought of the fear, that I'll get a bad performance review or that I'll get fired. When you are doing an Internet search for "when to go home sick from work" it's already too late by the way, you should go home. However, I've been reading too much about financial independence, and I thought, 'I could last years without a job' and that's kind of what encouraged me to just go home, to have the "courage" to go home.

In the afternoon on my couch I thought about that "courage". If you're sick, you should just go home and get well! Don't get others sick. Don't try to muscle through some mediocre productivity and be a hero. Admit you are an imperfect human and go home. It should not be something that takes courage.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

There will be more suicides;

I originally wrote this article in June, and like many articles I write, didn't publish it at the time. Recently I had a conversation with a friend and his 11 year old daughter about how their friend killed himself in April, and the suicide rate of children and young adults had increased, possibly due to social media. I was very unprepared for the conversation, but considering I wrote this five months ago, I should not have been surprised. It won’t be the last time I have this conversation.

After Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain both died within a week, a lot of people are talking about suicide. So I thought I would write an article about it too.

There are about 45,000 suicides a year in the USA, which is more than there used to be, although there are more Americans than there used to be too. Also, about half of those are completed using guns. If guns weren’t a thing, there wouldn't be as many successful suicides. It’s more men than women who do it. And farmers, construction workers, and extraction workers (mining, forestry) have the high rates as professions

Having lived a large portion of my life in rural areas, yet not really being a rural person, I have perspective on this that many of my city only friends probably do not. There will be more people that FEEL that ending their lives is the best option. FEELINGS ARE NOT FACTS. You may feel hopeless, but you are not hopeless. You may feel you life has no upside, but your life does have upside. While these words might not comfort the person with a gun in his mouth, because in the moment, those feelings are his truth and his existence, for a person a step away from the act it’s a huge realization that feelings are not facts. 

I can’t imagine what it FEELS like to be with the same person for 33 years and then be separated for ten months, plus have depression (as Kate Spade was). (I haven’t had a girlfriend for six months yet…) I can’t imagine what it FEELS like to blow $50,000 on a poker streak. I can’t imagine what it FEELS like when you are a half million dollars underwater on your farm, and the price of corn drops two dollars a bushel the week before harvest. I do know what it feels like when you do not live up to your own expectations, and that’s all I want to say about that today. 

Rural areas are declining. Montgomery county, Kansas has declined from 51,000 in the 1930 census to around 33,000 now, while the population of the USA has gone from 123 million to 325 million. There just isn’t the promise of more wealthy life than your parents and opportunity for good paying jobs in rural areas that there was for their parents or especially grandparents. Most will make do. Many will move closer to a city. The world will keep spinning. But there will be more suicides. 

Japan and Europe are examples of what the USA will become. With declining birthrates (and thus declining growth, because more people = more growth) rural areas are most effected but the nation as a whole is so we will likely legalize assisted suicide in maybe 20 years or so. I’m strongly against it, but then again I say that with the assumption that people have things worth living for. There are those willing to believe people have nothing to live for.

I ended the title with a semicolon; because there will be some that hold the knife to their chest and cry and don’t follow through when they could have ended their sentence. It may feel like the end, but it is not the end. There is life after depression. There is hope after hopelessness. Feelings are not fact; regardless of how strong they are. 

I pray that you, my friends, will never have these demons, and that you might be there for your friends when they have these awful feelings so that you can share the hope that exists. For me that is the hope in Jesus Christ, and it is also the hope in the future of my life and everyone's life that our relationships would blossom, our pain would decrease, and there would be more love in the world. That may not be the case for any of us in this world, but it would certainly be nice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 8

What a long and eventful week! On Sunday I went to church than my friend from Colorado C and I hiked Green Mountain in Chautauqua Park in Boulder. 8,100 feet was the highest he had been at the time! It's funny because he's a 4:16 or so miler and clearly aerobically quite capable.
Green Mountain, Boulder November 4th, 2018
Monday night after I worked a full day, we went to the Nuggets vs. Celtics game in Denver. I had never been to a professional NBA (or NFL) game before and it was great! Unlike hockey, there is basically no fighting. Unlike football there were no concussions or serious injuries. Unlike baseball there is a lot of action. Unlike track and field the whole thing takes a little over 2 hours. I could be an NBA fan. My friend, a die hard Celtics fan, was a little disappointed because after a big lead in the first quarter the Nuggets came back (no doubt helped by the high altitude) and won the game.
Nuggets/Celtics Game November 5th, 2018
Tuesday was election day, so I stayed up too late watching the results come in. Is it good or bad to care about politics? Is it possible to care, and have opinions, without getting emotional about politics? I'm not sure.

Wednesday after work I picked up a friend at the airport and introduced her to my neighborhood around Longmont. I rent a two bedroom apartment, and while I don't have a bed in the second bedroom, I do like hosting guests.

Thursday we moved offices at work! We went from Loveland area down to Lafayette. The new office is quite nice, and ready for us to expand, maybe double in size, which would be a huge growth of the company, meaning I'm not sure we need to double, or are ready to double just yet. Probably next year though.

On that note, I mentioned last week we have a technology issue. So we are a venture capital backed company. Which is to say we are spending more money than we are earning, by design, so that we can grow faster than we could organically. However, the risk is that we spend ourselves out of money before we have the income to justify our spending rate, according to standard established business models. With all engineering, development takes time. The science may be a simple equation on a board that shows it's possible, but the engineering of that equation into real life is often very difficult. Werner Von Braun gets a lot of credit for rockets and spacecraft design, but it took thousands of engineers tens of thousands of hours each to make Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle a successful reality.

In other words, we have a very typical technology issue, that is a standard part of product engineering development, but given we are a startup, if we don't figure it out, it could be the end of the company. That's probably hyperbole, I do like to exaggerate sometimes, it helps me prioritize. There are dozens of things that could be done to solve this particular issue, and frankly since I'm not directly contributing to solving this particular issue, I could be laid off to provide the company a little extra time to solve the issue. All of that being said, I love it! Previously, working at a big corporation, a six month or 18 month delay to a program was a depressing day, week or month, and then you just move on with life. At a startup, looking at a potential delay and how that might affect future funding and product development helps the priorities to become very clear. We need to figure this out or the product lineup in 2020 doesn't matter. Lest someone thinks I'm writing my own resignation letter, we have hardware in process and in the next couple months, possibly weeks, we will probably be able to say we (and honestly not me) solved the problem.

My guest on Thursday went to Denver to hang out with other friends and on Friday two more of my friends from Kansas and Oklahoma came to town. The four of us went to a Dermot Kennedy concert in Denver. He's somewhere between an Irish independent singer/songwriter and as I like to think an emo (short for emotional) folk rock artist. Once again I wasn't sure what to expect. Similar to the Jason Derulo concert in Dubuque in 2015 it was a mostly female attended concert. He sang love songs more or less. Not the standard music I listen to. The most dramatic part of the concert for me was a little over halfway through when people around me started smoking and I started coughing in reaction to the smoke and suddenly felt a little paranoid and I had to get to the back of the venue where the doors were open and fresh air was coming in. When you can't breathe, nothing else seems to matter.
Dermot Kennedy in Denver November 9th, 2018
Saturday after breakfast my friends left for Oklahoma, I went for an 8 mile run, and ran 19.9 miles for the whole week! In the afternoon I went rock climbing at Earthtreks in Golden with some friends and after we went out for Mexican food. It was a good day!

For me it was a wild week! Two different friend group guests! An NBA game, a concert, rock climbing, a mountain hike, moving offices, an election... whew! I didn't even call my parents this week. When people wonder, and I know many do, why young people prefer to live in big cities where housing is so expensive, instead of in rural areas, everything I did this week is evidence of why. The concert was $31 including tax. Rock climbing was $20. Not sure on the NBA tickets, my friend paid since he slept at my place for four nights for free. Hiking the mountain was free. But these things are just not weekday options in places like Independence, KS. 

I hope you had a good week too. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Election Results Thoughts 2018

I'm actually not going to opine on some of the larger races and issues. Frankly, there's enough bluster in the media that you don't need to hear one more talking head about this or that being a big deal or a small deal. Instead, I'm going to focus on some things that stood out to me as very interesting.

For starters, I have voted in four states (Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Colorado) and Colorado is clearly the best to vote in! Weeks before the election they send out an 80+ page book (that thin 8.5"x11" brown paper like you might get from an investment once a year) that describes the issues with a short 1/3 page summary, several pages in more detail, and finally a brief "for" and "against" section with opinions on the measure. Then they send out the actual ballot before election day. I filled out my 2.5 pages of ballot sitting at my coffee table and it took 2.5 hours to research all of the issues and candidates that I voted for. It was great! Every time in the past I have walked into the voting booth to see those 1-3 pages of ballot with minuscule descriptions of ballot measures, with the pressure of people waiting to get into the voting booth, I wasn't that educated of a voter. There would always be some issue where I would read the two sentence description and vote based on that alone, not sure what it really meant. With the Colorado book guide to the measures I had pages to read to determine what I thought about each measure.

Funny story, on Tuesday Colorado as a state voted not to restrict oil rig locations any more than they are currently. (The measure was more or less to push back oil rigs from 500 feet to 2500 feet from houses and other developments, which would greatly cut down on oil drilling along the front range.) Ironically, on Wednesday an oil rig about 20 miles east of my apartment caught fire.

We in Colorado, by a vote of 65.4% to 34.6% voted to end unpaid labor for criminals serving time in prison. In other words, we voted to end slavery. It's worth mentioning, more than a third of voters did not vote to end slavery.

The second biggest landslide in the state was more than 70% of voters voting in favor of an independent commission to handle redistricting. That's great because competitive districts are fun and gerrymandered ones are not.

The biggest landslide was more than three quarters of voters voting to restrict payday loan interest rates to a max of 36% annually. If a company can't make money lending at a 36% interest rate (which is what the against argument was opining) it is doing something wrong.

Nationwide I am encouraged by two more things. Arkansas and Missouri by votes of more than 62% voted to raise minimum wage. I'm not sure that $15 an hour is the right number, and there is a argument to be made that a lower minimum wage is good because it will allow for some jobs to be economically viable and thus more people employed, but I like the fact that we the people are saying, it takes more than 40 hours a week of $7.25 an hour to afford rent, bills, and food. Finally Nebraska, Idaho, and Utah voted to expand Medicaid. I'm a fan of some sort of universal basic healthcare. I think as a wealthy country this is something that we can say, yes, our people, as a whole, have reached the point where these 187 procedures and conditions (I made that number up) are covered for everyone. I think there is still a place for private insurance and elective medical care. Perhaps my symptoms that led to my pulmonary embolism diagnosis and subsequent medication would fall into that private insurance and elective medical care, and that's okay. Maybe the criteria for conditions to be covered would be conditions that restrict people from working, I don't know. Medical debt is the number one reason people file for bankruptcy, and I think we can do better.

For those of you that voted, thank you for contributing to this democracy that we live in!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 7

The week began in Wisconsin. I went to church with my mom, while my dad was doing a class for new church members. Everyone's aging. There is no denying it. My family is 10 years older than it was ten years ago. That also brings wisdom with it. My parents walk regularly, and ten years ago they didn't really do much exercise. Walking is such a great exercise. Sometimes I think a daily step count is the best measure of exercise, better than miles or minutes ran or walked.

Along those lines with my pulmonary embolism healing I've been trying to exercise, and some days that means I've only barely managed to achieve my step goal for the day, which was as low as 7000 steps just two weeks ago. My recovery is going in steps and plateaus. I'll have a breakthrough, and then be stuck at that aerobic level for most of a week. I ran twice for 7 miles this week.

Monday, before I left Wisconsin I went with my parents for my mom to get an infusion of saline at the hospital in Milwaukee because she has cancer. When a person has cancer it's common to get infusions of saline and sometimes some drugs, to stay hydrated. So my mom has been somewhat alternating a chemo treatment with a saline infusion. When people have the more difficult cancers they might get an infusion of saline every day, but only get the chemo once a week or something like that.

Tuesday I returned to work and had a funny moment. I drove to work, arrived at 7:19 AM, and the gate was locked. I hadn't checked my email since Friday, so I did. Turns out we were having an all employee meeting at 9 AM at our new office 40 minutes away. So I drove home, grabbed my personal laptop, and went to the new office. We had a somewhat highly hyped building meeting about a new project with a very big name company. It was exciting! When I started here, as employee 27 (or so) I thought that I missed all of the cool projects and real ground up design. I kind of thought we were "done" and I just had to work on some brackets and tube routings. Well, that is not at all the case, which is incredibly exciting for me!

The rest of the work week went really well too. For the first six weeks I had been feeling a bit underutilized. However, as part of our hyped Tuesday meeting, we took a bit of turn (a very small one, but a direction change none the less) and I was handed some responsibility that I had been expecting, and looking forward to. I'm excited to deliver on my little aspect of our project!

To leave a little cliff hanger for next week, we have a technology problem...

On Friday my friend C from WPI flew in and we went for a run. We're the same age, and he's one of the people I can really relate to because we've shared so much life experience. In fact, we talked dating for maybe the first time and it was pretty funny how similar our experiences have been. Ladies, if you're going to spend five hours with a man, on a second or third date, and let him pay for everything, don't break it off a few days later because he will be out of town for two weeks. Please end the night earlier, say you want to get to bed early, or call a family member.

Saturday was nice too. After morning coffee at OZO and a little walk while my runner friend without a pulmonary embolism went for a run I went for a walk. Then we went to prethanksgiving afternoon get together in downtown Denver with a friend of mine. I am so blessed to have the friends that I do! Really, I have friends all over this country, and the world, and there are so many of them I could sit down with and share a two hour meal with and laugh, cry, and think. It's a full life.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

I’m Voting in 2018 and You Should Too, Because We Need More Love in the World.

The future of the country matters to me. The world has taken steps backward before, and it will again, but I’d like for it to head in the direction of loving your neighbor. Laws exist, in my mind, because of the hard heartedness of humans, and the lack of love that we show each other. If people always forgave other people, there might not be any murders. If people didn’t covet other people’s bodies, there might not be any rapes. In other words, I vote so that there might be less hate in the world, more working together, and better long term solutions. 

Some history, in 2004 I voted straight party ticket Republican. In 2006 and 2008 I didn't vote. In 2010 and since then I have voted a mixed ticket, mostly Democrat, but with Republicans and independents or third parties too. I won’t go into the past today, but simply talk about the future. I am registered as an unaffiliated voter, and I like it that way because I don’t want to be told by some group of people how I should vote or what I should support. Additionally, I’m a Christian and I try to let my values guide my votes. Plus, I can compromise, and both sides seem unwilling to do that in 2018. I even went through a phase where I trusted God so much that I didn't feel the need to vote because God will do what we need regardless of how I vote. I could very well go through that phase again in the future, who knows. I've changed since then and so, in 2018 I can’t vote for any Republican.

Why can’t I vote for any Republicans in 2018?
  1. Poverty, Republicans do not seem to care about the lower 90% of the country or anyone in the rest of the world. To go into more detail:
  1. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was an insult to anyone making less than $75,000 a year and indifferent to people making less than $150,000 a year. To big businesses and people that own big businesses (i.e. have large amounts of stock), it was great! It does almost nothing for people making the median income in this country or less than the median while enriching corporations and those with millions of dollars. I got a raise out of the law, but people like me don’t need a raise! At a time when the economy has around 4% unemployment, raising the deficit just does not make sense! I’m all for economic stimuli, but I’m also very much a budget conscious person, and it would be great, at least once every decade to have a balanced budget or even a surplus. We haven’t had one since 2000, and the only way ours is going to go down is with a surplus, or high inflation.
  2. Immigration is a good thing. The birth rate for Hispanic women in the United States recently dropped below 2.1 births per woman for the first time. For non-Hispanic women it’s even lower, at 1.7. Immigrants typically work hard, and their children often work very hard too, having grown up with stories of how difficult it was in the old country. By the third generation the kids are quite assimilated and the guilt of the first generation’s sacrifices or the experience in the old country have diminished. In short, the grandkids are lazy. For example, I only work one job and I rarely work overtime. Instead I think about retiring in my 30s, at a time when engineers are in high demand.
  3. Guaranteed if the Republicans are still the majority in both houses of congress they will cut benefits like health care and other social programs that help the least fortunate in the country, like the people renting my house in Kansas right now. I don’t want my renters to get a benefit cut, because that could mean they might not be able to afford rent.
  1. Climate change is real. I had to explain to my recently graduated 22 year old coworker a couple weeks ago that category 3 and 4 and nearly 5 hurricane hitting the USA multiple times per season is not normal. In his short memory, post Katrina 2005, it is normal. Before that storm, before hurricane Sandy, before Houston had three 1 in 500 year floods three years in a row, this type of flooding and wind event was not common. Sure there were hurricanes, they just were not this common or severe. The longer people in power deny climate change, the worse it will be in the long run. 
  1. Equality matters to me. This is a delicate subject and it doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it means to most liberals or conservatives. When I see black men getting shot and killed by police in situations that don’t seem very threatening on video, my heart goes out to them. Yet I’ve been part of the problem before, stepping off the sidewalk as a black man approaches while I don’t commonly do that for white people. Secondly, the Kavanaugh hearing was a spectacle that was an embarrassment. If anyone acted that way in any other job interview, they would not get the job, and would have to “settle” for his previous $200,000 per year job. What I got out of that spectacle was women’s voices, and lives, really don’t matter to Republican senators. What’s next, will we take away the right to vote from women?
There are other issues that I care about. Issues that at one time made me a one issue voter. However as I have matured and seen the world I am struck by Jesus’s words from Matthew 22:39, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So I look for our laws, and the cultures I am part of, to reflect that commandment as much as possible, and more so than the ten commandments. I am against the death penalty because I think we can still extend love to those criminals. I am against abortion because I think we should love those unborn little humans. Similarly, I think we should still love those women who have had abortions because we live in a society where there is so little support and so much fear for many women to have a child. How can we love women and children so much that no woman considers having an abortion? I don’t know, but it’s not by making it illegal. Probably by paying for all medical costs related to having a baby, and subsequent medical expenses the first year of the child's life. Additionally, why don't we just give new mothers a blanket year of paid maternity leave? Say $3,000 per month for a year, just as a thank you for having new little human. That's extending love to expecting mothers.

I am against child marriage, because the outcomes are statistically so bad, especially for women. How is this still legal in the United States!? I am against speed limits on interstates outside of cities, because after driving 142 mph on the Autobahn, it would be so much fun to do that here! I am for net neutrality, because without it we could much more easily slip into fascism. I am for legalizing psilocybin (magic mushrooms) because the data on addiction, overdose, and treating depression are way way better than alcohol or tobacco. Full disclaimer, I’ve never tried them, because I don’t like breaking laws, even when laws make no statistical sense. I am fine with firearms, but I would like universal background checks, red flag laws, and mandatory national insurance for every firearm that would vary according to the likelihood and severity of that being used in a violent crime. In other words, a .410 shotgun would cost maybe $5 a year, and an AR-15 would cost maybe $150 a year, and when someone was a gunshot victim, they would get a payout from the insurance fund. Own as many guns as you want, you just have to afford the annual insurance for each one, and pass the background checks. Insurance is a requirement for a car in most places, why not for a gun?

I hope in the future the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower can show love and draw me back to their platform. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 6

Full disclosure, next week's review will be more interesting.

Work went well overall. I struggled a couple times to do some things and communicate well, feeling like an idiot. Then I had another couple moments when I came through and really delivered.

It is common in startups for there to be a little chaos. It's something I've struggled with a bit so far, because I am feeling several different priorities and I'm not sure what is most important. In other words, several times I've been working on step 37 when we are only on step 16. The problem is, I've got responsibility for step 37 on one project and step 42 on a second project, so what else am I supposed to do? I've actually felt a little underutilized. I came in ready to work nights and weekends and have not done that at all yet. That being said... stay tuned for next week :)!

Running went well. I ran 6.5 miles in two runs. On Monday I averaged 9:15 pace, and on Friday I averaged 8:30 pace! The anticoagulant medication is kicking in and I am getting more oxygen to my blood all the time. I will admit, on Monday after my poor run I took an extra dose of the medication. I had an extra dose to start with, so I went ahead and took it for a total of 45 mg for the day instead of only 30 mg. Pulmonary embolisms kill people?!

Tuesday I went on a first date from Bumble. It lasted 2.5 hours! Whew, that's too long for a first date. But I would probably do it again. After the very good time we had at the bar, we actually both agreed that we weren't right for each other, and could probably do the friends things. Don't feel bad for anyone, I list on my profile that I'd like to start as friends and go from there. In other words, it's pretty great being out around such a large dating pool.

Saturday I flew back to Wisconsin to visit my parents, for the first time in 2018! We had seen each other earlier in the year in Minnesota, but I had not been to their house in Wisconsin.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 5

Obviously the highlight of the week was my Thursday CT scan and the following trip to the emergency room. I'll give a write up of the whole pulmonary embolism process of nine doctor's visits eventually, starting from March. In short, My CT scan was at about 8:30 AM and by about 8:45 I was in the emergency room and told that I might have to stay the night. They let me go around 10:30 AM and I'm now taking Xarelto. It's funny, when I left the ER doctor said to me based on a blood test and my vitals, "You're in really good health!" Thanks, I haven't heard that one before, NOT!
10 Minutes before my Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis
Work was good. It's fascinating learning about organization, and disorganization. In every engineering program, that I have been a part of, that is ground up, at the outset everything can be changed when two or three people agree, sometimes even just when one person decides something needs to change. However, as a program matures it gets to point where a little change needs to be documented and agreed to by a large group of people, before the engineering on the change is done. What is the ideal balance? I don't know. And I'm not sure anyone knows the ideal balance. So we're learning.

As for the weekends, Sunday I was a couch potato, and Saturday it warmed up to 71F so I went for a 30 mile bicycle ride almost up Left Hand Canyon to Jamestown. (Yes, the Left Hand Canyon of Left Hand Brewing fame, it's just 10 miles from my apartment.)

Ever since Thursday morning, I've been laughing and giggling and smiling because I'm alive! How fortunate I am to be alive?! When my family visited New York in 2001 David Bloom was hosting the Today Show, and we went, and he walked right past us after the show as we sat on the plaza. When he died at age 39 in Iraq two years later from a pulmonary embolism it was a surprise to everyone because he was so young. I'm in my 30s! What does this mean?

I hope you had a good week, and are in good health!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A 2% chance of Dying (Pulmonary Embolism Edition)

Reference #1, Reference #2Reference #3, and Reference #4 for mortality after diagnosis with a pulmonary embolism in the range of about 2% at 90 days.

I've almost died three times in the mountains. Rockfall on Longs Peak in 2004, lightening on Humbolt Peak in 2006, and a 40 foot aid climbing fall in New Hampshire in 2008. And on all three of my 8000 meter expeditions, people have died. On Broad Peak they were more experienced than me, on Everest, not so much. Either way, every time I survive something, I come away with this huge renewed desire to live my life to 100%.

Don't get me wrong, I've lived a pretty full life. Similarly, I'm a Christian, so I'm okay dying. Yet, I'm pretty sure I'm not done yet. I haven't told enough people Jesus loves them. I haven't done those things I am capable of, both physically (athletically), and mentally (career). If God has other ideas, well, I pray all the time for Him to direct my life.

So while I'm alive, I want to live this life as much as I can. It's gotten me revisiting that age old question, 'where do I want to be on the preparing for tomorrow versus living for today spectrum?' YOLO! You see, when I risk an accident in the mountains, I've put myself there. I don't have to be there, if I want to reduce the risk, I simply won't go into those places. I'll never try Annapurna, it's too dangerous. While I spend a lot of time in the mountains, it's a level of risk I am very comfortable with. When my own body throws a normal person health issue at me, well, I didn't accept this risk! I didn't have time to think about it and decide I was comfortable with it! Throughout this process that started with a visit to urgent care on March 29th, I've come to learn a lot about my family health history. I had a grandfather die when he was 40 years old, from diabetes, pneumonia, and a heart attack. That could be me!

I'm really good at delayed gratification. Have you seen the car I drive? So for me, waiting for an 8000 meter expedition, and going into that dangerous place, I like to pretend I can minimize the risk in other areas of my life both before and after that. In other words, let's say you have a 1-2% chance of dying on summit day on Mt. Everest. You had better be on your game that day, not sidelined by anything with a 0.1-0.2% chance of death leading up to it, like going through the Khumbu Icefall. You need to be hydrated, understand the oxygen system, understand your crampons and boots. Be efficient on the fixed ropes. Point being, the risk is compartmentalized. The highest risk is on summit day. The second highest risk is the Khumbu Icefall. With my current pulmonary embolism, it's not compartmentalized at all. It's all day every day.

If you're Christian, pray that God would direct my life. For everyone, it's kind of a fun question to think about, should I be living... um... harder? Should I buy the Porsche or the Cirrus? Should I be traveling to visit family and friends more? Feel free to tell me your suggestions. Most things are on the table, except I'm not quitting my job anytime soon, I'm having a lot of fun there!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I have a Pulmonary Embolism!

Ah ha!! I had a CT scan with iodine contrast about an hour ago and the blood clots showed up immediately. I have a pulmonary embolism, which is only fatal 1/3 the time when undiagnosed, and is very treatable. So I'm currently sitting in the ER waiting for more tests. Certainly more information to come later.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, October 15, 2018

Movie Reflection: First Man

I am not at all Neil Armstrong. Of course, to everyone reading this that knows me, that is obvious. But to me, in many ways I looked up to him and his career as a bit of what I would like to do with my life. After seeing the movie on Saturday night, which really just put together many facts that were already known to me, I realized I am not at all that person, and that's not what I want my life to be.

The movie starts off with one of his X-15 flights. For those that don't know the X-15 was one of the coolest planes ever built. It's also a plane that only ever had 199 flights, three were built, 12 pilots, and killed one of them. Frankly, we know so much about aerodynamics now that a plane designed to do that and look like that will never be built again. The control surfaces were small and it didn't have great aerodynamic braking. Anyway, he almost dies.

The movie then focuses for a short bit on his daughter who died of brain cancer, and throughout the movie how that affected him. It's an interesting look at mental health in the 1960s. In short, men still have this desire to be a rock, to not show emotions. I've said before, in the ultra running community depression runs deep. When you are out there all day and all night running you probably have some deep mental or emotional pain that is worse than the physical pain in the moment. The difference is there is some talking about it in today's world. Not a whole lot, but it does come up. The movie portrayed Neil as a guy that dealt with death frequently and never talked about it, even with his wife or fellow astronauts (people who might understand best), but seemed to take that pain and turn it toward doing the best job he could flying a spacecraft.

The portrayal of his Gemini 8 flight is simply amazing! I'd seen that portrayed in two previous movies but this was clearly the best. What happens in a matter of minutes seems at times to take a full hour and other times to be only seconds as I watched the Gemini spacecraft spin beyond one rotation per second. My biggest criticism of the movie is that the footage of him ejecting from the LLTV isn't as good as the actual footage. Then again, you can't really recreate that with an actual human.

In short, it's quite a good movie. Not good enough for me to see it a second time in the theatre, but enough that I will rent it when it gets to Redbox. Final disclaimer, I'm a space nerd, so I consume this stuff even when it's not that good. It would be cool, for me, if someone made more high budget movies about the early astronauts. We went to the moon!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 4

Another week living the dream! Of course, I've been through so many new experiences in my life that I know this feeling, this euphoria, wears off. Soon enough I'll complain about the high cost of living, traffic, and the snow conditions.

Sunday started off a little different. Instead of going to church, I went to the climbing gym, Earthtreks Englewood. It's huge! I was blown away. Apparently it just opened up about two months ago so it's still pretty new. I think that finally, the climbing gym scene in Denver is built out. I don't think there is a whole lot of demand for another $10 million gym.

Work was good. I am rapidly integrating myself into the team and also I have contributed quite a bit. I spent about a full day this week working on tube routings. I had a great time doing it! That was a bit of a surprise to me because doing routings is typically not thought of as fun work. However, I like doing drawings too, so I suppose I'm a little different. One of the things about routings is that they are typically one of the last things to be designed, so they often look terrible. But when you see a piece of engineering "art" it will typically have really good routings. In the past I did hose routings, which is super tough, because a hose will not do in the model what it does in real life. Tube routings fortunately are a little easier because they are much much more rigid.

A look into different personalities, recently one person was going to be out of the office for basically three weeks, and I found out about it the Friday as he was packing up to go. Kind of a shock. Thinking ahead to my future work there were questions about what he might want for this project or that. On the other side of the spectrum, one coworker was planning and preparing all week for his one week out of the office to get married. There's a balance in there somewhere, and I tend toward the over prepared side of things, because uncertainty is not a good thing. I like to think of myself as a replaceable employee. Not a replaceable person, or human, no one is like me, but yes definitely someone else could do my job. So I strive to have good communication, and I prefer to error on the side of too much communication if possible.

Friday I left work at 2:30 PM... to go play beer pong with bankers. Our little company just took out a loan and the bankers were so excited they offered to pay for pizza, beer and wine in a little space in downtown Denver for us to "celebrate". The company was initially developed by people in their late 20s and mid 30s and the current location is a little away from a city center or where any of us live. So we don't really have a culture of going out and hanging out with each other. That's actually different than my last company where most of the young engineers were from out of town and thus hung out together. That being said, we're moving locations soon to a more urban location, and I am curious to see if that changes, especially since many of the recent hires are younger 20s and single, not 30s with kids.

Friday night after the work event I went to the friend of a friend's house for two hours and we had some good conversation before I headed home. I'm not saying I'm super social, but I am getting out there.

Saturday I tried to bicycle up Pikes Peak again, and failed. I made it from 7,400 feet below the gate up to 11,400 feet at the gift shop when I decided it was not safe to keep going above treeline. I averaged 5.2 miles per hour for those 11+ miles uphill. On a bicycle you can't just stop like you can when you are walking. So I kept taking little breaks, getting my feet out of the bicycle clips, and then back in, and being winded from getting my feet back in the clips. Sigh...

This upcoming week I have two medical tests on Thursday, a CT scan with angio something and I think a pulmonary function test. Point being, after seeing a really good pulmonologist for over an hour I am confident we are going to get this lung or heart thing figured out. On the odd chance any of the four doctors that previously worked with me on my previous seven visits read this, all the tests that were done were the right things in the right order.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 3

Another week living the dream! But seriously, what else would I rather be doing at this point in my life? I'm not sure. I'd like to be running more... and own a plane... and have some all wheel drive high clearance high mileage vehicle (which doesn't exist) but otherwise life is pretty good.

Work, it's the main thing I do. I'm learning a lot! I like learning. Hopefully that's obvious. So I'm going to remain vague for as long as possible about what company I work for or even the product I work on, to protect the company and myself. With that being said, as a product configuration engineer I'm responsible for the configuration of the product. Haha! But I'm not sure how to say it much better. I'll get back to that.

I'm spending most of my time doing standard design/FEA engineering. This week on Tuesday I downloaded Ansys and two hours later had a simulation done! I haven't used Ansys since 2011, and having done FEA solely for over three years I'm always afraid to open an FEA program and do an analysis, because I don't want to mess up a constraint or a load or a contact surface and totally negate the value of the analysis. That being said, I've done it before and my simple Ansys model made a lot of sense. The results were just about exactly what I expected. Woohoo! In three weeks I've designed a gear set and done a simple FEA, things that I never actually did in my old job because there was someone else to do it.

Tuesday I went out to work with two of my coworkers and listened, hard. I work with an amazing group of people! Eventually the conversation got back around to me, and the question was asked, "What do you want to do?" and I replied basically exactly what I am doing. I think this job is perfect for me. Again, I don't have the answer how to configure the product, but I like working to solve this problem. When I got back into the office I was talking to a different person and I said, "I just went to lunch with X and Y and we had a talk about, 'What is my job here?'" and the four people sitting around all laughed. She responded, "I think we've all had that conversation here." That's just a little anecdote, but the point of that tangent story is in a growing company I bet discussions like that are super common. It can feel a little insecure to have a discussion like that, because the role is not super super defined. In fact, a different coworker told me that they were debating this position as a company since January this year, and the only settled on the role in late June!

Getting back to configuring the product. As I get deeper into the company some of the weaknesses begin to show, but there is a lot of awareness about some of those weaknesses. For example, I was not sure why person A and B sat beside each other when person A and C work together so much. However, I learned person A had a weakness that is person B's strength. One challenge for my role is to come up with a solution that works for everyone. Something that manufacturing, supply management, design, and test can all use, with all of the weaknesses that each of us has. When only 20 people in a company will ever use the system (at least this year) having two people, two of the power users that might not like to use the system is a show stopper. In other words, Dale Carnegie (soft skills) set me up for this just as much as Design for Six Sigma (technical skills). I don't know the answer, that's why I'm working on it.

Saturday I climbed Mount of the Holy Cross. It was super cold! Windchill was probably zero at the top. With my lung issue, my fingers and toes were much much colder than they normally would be in that situation. I was seriously afraid of frostbite the last half hour of the climb. I'll try to get the summit video posted at some point. There was about three inches of snow at the top of the mountain. And keep in mind two weeks ago I was up on Mt. Princeton about 40 miles away and it was probably in the 50s. I wore my approach shoes without any micro spikes or crampons, and that was the right show for the day. However, it's definitely boot season now. Like I've maybe mentioned, I'm basically going to try and finish the 14ers before calendar summer starts in June. I just counted, I have 27 left to go.
Just after sunrise showing the North Ridge of Mt. of the Holy Cross.
About 50 vertical feet below the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross looking Southwest.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Week 2

Well, we haven’t gone out of business yet! HA! That might be a recurring joke, we will see. Life was overall good this week. 

It started off Sunday I went to a new church, were there were four people between 20 and 40 years old, which unfortunately is typical. Then I drove down to Colorado Springs and planned to bicycle up Pikes Peak. When I was airing up my tires I forgot I locked the clamp on the bicycle pump, and used my teeth to pull out the aluminum oxide coated fitting, and chipped a tooth. Pretty bummed about that. I don’t have any pain and I haven’t been to the dentist yet, but my new dental coverage starts October 1st, so it’s time to go I figure. Although, it might be minor enough that they just “polish” it and doing put a filling in, like when I chipped a tooth in March in Mexico biting a salad fork. As an engineer, polish is code for lightly grind. I’m most mad that I forgot the clamp and could have easily pulled the adapter out, instead of struggle with it for five minutes and stupidly chip a tooth. 

The bicycle ride turned out to be miserable as well. Right from the start my heart started pumping and my breathing became rapid. I shifted into my lowest gear, and considering I ride a compact crank, that’s like 6 mph speed, which is depressing, but I was on the edge of going anaerobic. About half way up, in miles, not in vertical feet, I turned around and flew back down the mountain to try another day. I’m not going to destroy myself when my performance is so far below what I used to be capable of. Again, my new insurance starts October 1st, and I went with the top tier so I’m probably going to max that out figuring out what is wrong with my lungs, or whatever it is in my body.

The work week went really well. Of course, I’m in the honeymoon phase. It’s going to be all good for the next six months or so. Part of what attracted me to this company was I felt a sense of urgency, but not stress. Usually when there is a sense of urgency in an organizaiton, there is a sense of stress. A good description of our little company is that on Wednesday probably half the company, maybe two thirds stayed until 5:45 PM because we were doing a test, and people were excited about it. Unfortunately it was not successful. On Thursday with some adjusted parameters it was a success! So on Friday, when there were no active tests, the operations team left just after 3 PM to have beers at the local brewery. Urgency equals staying until almost 6 PM, but no stress equals leaving at 3 PM on Friday.

Thursday I had a date in Denver. We had a glass of wine at a wine bar. That all sounds pretty average to most people probably, but having lived the last 2.5 years in a town of 9000 people, I’m thinking, ‘Wine bar! City! Date!’ It’s pretty amazing. How did the date go? It was good, and I’ll leave it at that.

Friday I broke down and bought a TV. I gave away my 25 inch tube TV when I left Independence. So the last two weeks I have been basically on my phone for everything. Well I like watching DVDs and a movie or two on the weekends. So I went to the store and bought a $320 49 inch flatscreen! It’s huge! It was hard. I’m not fond of spending money on things. As I’m there, I’m thinking, ‘maybe I should wait one more pay check or one more credit card cycle before buying a TV?’ But with my lung issue I was planning to take it easy this weekend, and a TV certainly helps me lay on the couch. 

Saturday I didn’t leave the house until around 3 PM when a friend called and convinced me to take a walk and get out of the house.Saturday night I went to see Free Solo in Denver and I just wrote about that the other day. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Free Solo Movie Review

Saturday night at 6:30 I had a call from my friend and climbing partner T in Denver. “Hey, L got called into work tonight, and I have two tickets to Free Solo at 10 PM in Denver, do you want to go?” 
I replied, “Yes…” and then we talked for ten minutes about possible things to do before 10. 

We get there, go into a packed theatre, and just before the move starts a guy gets up on stage. As he started talking I had the thought, ‘This is really unusual. I’ve never known a theatre owner or manager to say something about above before a showing. This guy seems kind of attached to the project. It couldn’t be Jimmy Chin could it?” And by that time in my thought processHe said he was Jimmy Chin!!! Real and in person standing there on the stage! As he walked out he was shaking a few hands and shook my friend T’s hand! I’m not as starstruck as I might have been years ago, but still, with the movie playing on dozens of theaters, he was at the 10 PM showing at the Mayan in Denver!
Jimmy Chin at the Mayan Denver 10 PM, September 29th, 2018
In summary, Alex Honnold free soloed, which is to say climbed entirely without a rope or rock climbing gear except shoes and chalk on June 3rd, 2017 the climb Free Rider on El Capitan. It was in the news so for my climbing friends this is very old news. The movie is about Alex’s process leading up to such a climb. I really recommend you read that National Geographic article linked above, because if you are only focused on the four hours of him climbing the thing, you’re missing the much larger picture. 

In many ways I related to the film. The comment that struck me hardest was when Alex said maybe he was not the person to do it. He said something like, “Maybe it will be someone in the next generation, or someone that doesn’t have anything to live for.” Most of the theater laughed after that line, but I didn’t because I related to it on a different level. Before every expedition I go on, I prepare myself for the possible outcomes, including death. I don’t want to die, but there is a real possibility it could happen. I imagine it’s something like going into battle. You hope to survive, but there are no guarantees. Some might even say that you will be more effective (in battle) when you give up hope of surviving. I’ve seen that in movies, not sure that successful soldiers really have that attitude. Point being, when I go to these mountains, and dying is a realistic possibility, the desire to climb the thing outweighs my desire to preserve my life. And I don’t know how you tell people that. They didn’t really get into that fatalism in the movie, but after seeing it I am sure that in the decade leading up to the climb Alex spent time thinking, ‘would it be better to free solo El Cap and die immediately after, or live a long life without trying?’ Of course, that’s a hypothetical, and in the years he spent thinking about it he of course realized absolute hypotheticals rarely exist in real life. 

It was interesting to see that his amygdala doesn’t really react to fear like a normal person. I have a lot more fear in my life than I did ten years ago, but I would be curious to see where I stand. Of course, Alex is on another level, like multiple levels beyond anywhere I am, but I think that this movie might help non climbers understand most climbers a bit more. 

Side note, Mark Synott taught me aid climbing back in December 2008 in New Hampshire and it was interesting to see him in the movie. I have been in his house, met his wife and seen his three kids getting ready to go ski. I bring this up to show how small the climbing community is. Also, I think people might watch this movie and try not to relate to it at all, or distance themselves from the characters, but these people have families, and their kids go to public school, and they shop at the same grocery store as you. 

Again, the movie is mostly about Alex’s process leading up to the climb and less about the actual climb. Frankly, Alex was a super professional about the climb. I’ve never prepared for something with the specificity and intensity that he prepared for this climb, it was inspiring! I felt a bit inadequate after watching the movie, and if it wasn’t 50 degrees and misting today I would go out and climb something!

Finally, what’s next? Trango Tower! I mean, it’s obvious to me. However, that is less of a pure athletic feat and much more of an objective risk than climb Yosemite’s dry sunny walls. In other words, in Yosemite the granite is solid and accidents due to the rock falling apart are rare, but Trango Tower is not solid. Other possible options include The Nose on El Cap. It’s a little harder. El Cap, and Yosemite, is unique because the weather is so good and the rock is so good too. The obvious next steps, more alpine, taller, like stuff Ueli Steck did, but more rock climbing have such higher risk factors. So I don’t know what is next for Alex. I hope to run into him at Red Rocks near Las Vegas now that he has a home there. 

It’s a good movie. You should see it. Sure to be one of the best documentaries of the decade.