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.