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.