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. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture-exploration/2018/09/alex-honnold-jimmy-chin-free-solo-yosemite-el-capitan-explore-through-the-lens/ 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.