Saturday, May 16, 2020

Patience and the Blah

We're in a pandemic. We're also in minimum a recession, perhaps a depression. On top of all that I'm processing a breakup, a pay-cut and turning 34. Thankfully I started therapy back in February.
View from my balcony this morning.
I took vacation this past week, and I spent some of the time basically in a state of "blah" like my mind wasn't really actively working that hard. I just completed my portion of a big project at work that we've spent months working on, and I needed a break. But a break can be uncomfortable.

Meaning, when I go to sleep at night I am alone, and when I wake up I am alone. I spent four days this week in the mountains, attempted four mountains and summitted three, all alone. When I think about work, I know I'm at a startup, and I'm super happy we've made it as far as we have. The progress we have made in the last year is tremendous! Yet when we have a pay-cut because there is uncertainty about having enough money to support operations, I'm worried about the next hard conversation, will there be layoffs or even worse? Most likely not, we have such great talent that getting aquihired seems to me the worst case scenario. Of course, that doesn't include any effects from the pandemic. And on the dating side we've now been broken up longer than we actually dated. The whole relationship kind of blindsided me. Yes it was mostly what I was looking for but now that it ended, I again ask God, "What are you trying to teach me?! What is your plan for my life?! I'm 34!"

Point being, this is a time, in my life, and many other's I suppose, where I'm being required to have patience, more that I care to have. With all of the restrictions, I can't just go out to a bar with a friend and hang out and talk and empathize, so I'm spending time in a blah state of mind, not processing things as quickly as I used to pre-pandemic. But it's 57F and sunny with no wind right now and I'm very thankful to live in this expensive apartment with a great view and plenty of space as I spend so much time home alone. It will be very interesting to see how the world is in a few years, will we all be more patient and caring towards each other, or fearful and mistrusting? I suppose some will go one way and others the other way. Years ago my dad talking about people that lived through the Great Depression tended to fall into two groups financially speaking, those with lots of fear for the future who pinched pennies, and those that lived for today. I think we'll see the same, financial independence will probably become more popular, and so will partying like it's the last party you will ever get to go to. I don't know. But those that survive the pandemic will get to find out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What's the value in one ounce?

I'm in the market for a set of hiking poles. I have adjustable ski poles, which work great, but they aren't super light or very compact, measuring about 2.5 feet long when collapsed. Comparing non-adjustable poles there is a set of the aluminum poles at 12.5 ounces for $75, and essentially the same pair in carbon fiber at 10 ounces for $128. Over $50 to save 2.5 ounces!? There is a saying in bicycling that the cheapest pound to save is the pound around your midsection. Meaning, most of us could put in a few weeks of moderate workouts and eat a few salads to lose a single pound instead of spend another $1000 on carbon fiber bicycle accessories.

Back to the trekking pole discussion, the vast majority of the time, I don't see a need for trekking poles. In general I do for heavy packs or long easy snow stretches, where the slope is too low for an ice axe but you want something to keep balance and distribute the weight. However, in my ankle recovery, I've found I'm a bit more wobbly in some other scenarios too, in particular crossing logs over creeks. I've seen people fall in before and the past year I've had a few missteps and gotten a foot full of water more than once. As I learned on my recently little trek into the Chicago basin, especially with early season conditions, where you are wearing running or approach shoes, but spending a lot of time on snow, having some poles can be very nice.

I ended up buying the aluminum ones. You'll probably see them in a picture eventually. They haven't shipped yet.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

How to Cope when Life Feels Hopeless

Well, one friend had a bit of a suicidal moment a few weeks ago, many have been laid off or furloughed and many, like myself now, have had pay cuts. Strangely I don't personally know anyone that has the Covid-19 coronavirus, but friends of friends do, and even some people that have some say over me financially.  So I was asked not long ago how do I cope, how have I coped with difficult times. Let me tell you, my life hasn't been all roses, but I have lots of strategies, although not all are available to everyone.
  • Take a walk. It's simple and even in this pandemic you can probably find a place to do it while avoiding other people. I recommend finding the most expensive neighborhood you can around you and walking around their streets or sidewalks. The houses are usually so spaced out, and police often cruise through those neighborhoods that you're likely to be alone.
  • Go for a run or a bicycle ride. When I hit the lowest point in October 2010, living in my parents basement, on a $500 a month bail out fund, massively in debt, exercise was one of the main ways that I kept myself motivated. It paid off as I had a good spring racing season in 2011.
  • Talk about it with someone. I currently am seeing a therapist weekly for video chats. Also, family and friends works too. It's nice to articulate your particular stresses with others, misery loves company, and no one is alone in this.
  • Don't talk about it. To be honest, sometimes you just won't want to talk about it or think about it, and that's okay too. Moderation is good.
  • Play some video games. I have an old Play Station 1 from like 1996, I won it in a contest and I didn't even know what it was at the time. In the fall of 2010 I spent dozens of hours playing Command and Conquer. In the winter of 2010 when I lived with some friends I played Call of Duty and Forza while my three roommates worked and after I had applied for all of the new jobs every morning.
  • Watch some movies. For me Forrest Gump is my go to cry movie, and sometimes you just need a good cry. Or maybe Star Wars or Indian Jones or Back to the Future are the kind of out there adventures you need to transport you away from not knowing if you will be able to pay all of your bills in June. 
  • Apply for a job. When I was unemployed, simply applying for a job, any job, gave me a little boost of energy that maybe this would be the one. Maybe this would be what got me back on my feet financially, and give me a purpose. 
  • Read about the Great Depression or the Plague in the 1300s or other terrible historical event. For all of those difficult times, your ancestors survived and you are here now. Both Kohler and Railway Motors during the Great Depression had so little work but such commitment to their employees that they reduced the assembly line workers down to one day a week, that's a 80% pay cut from working a standard five days a week, let alone overtime on weekends. Yet, for many people or families that might be enough to keep a roof over their heads or some food on the table. Speaking for myself, I could survive on an 80% pay cut. I'd definitely need to find a cheaper place to live, and cut out lots of spending and saving, but it's possible. I just ran the numbers, I could take about a 50% pay cut and still live where I live. But when you think about a 50% pay cut, you can save a lot of jobs with that kind of drastic cut. Plus, some people might go find work elsewhere to return to their normal salaries, which further reduces a company's expenses.
  • Save money like next month you will end up out of work for a year. If you haven't been doing this the last ten years then you kind of missed the boat, but assuming you survive the pandemic, you'll get another shot at it. For myself, the last nine years I've saved a lot of money. Not as much as I could have, because I went to Mt. Everest twice, just bought a BMW, have gone skiing plenty, have a carbon fiber road bicycle, and spent plenty on smaller climbing trips. However, as I wrote in my recent Emergency Fund (Advanced Edition) I've been building up little pockets of financial resources for the scenario that I get laid off next week, every week for the last nine years. I think this whole pandemic is going to drive my generation to try and achieve financial independence even faster than the Great Recession did. I'm definitely not financially independent, but I'm in such a strong position compared to 2010 that if my life would revert to 2010, things got really bad in this country.
  • Get a $4 coffee. For me coffee shops are one of the luxuries in my life. It used to be going to the coffee shop and doing something on my laptop for an hour or two, but now it's just to pick up the coffee (and maybe sit in one of the outside chairs actually). This process or act did a number of things for me. It tastes good! And it costs a fraction of the cost of going to a fancy restaurant. It gave me a place to blog or apply for jobs, where as sometimes at home I can get distracted by TV or movies. Paying that little bit of money helps me feel like a contributing member of society. I'm helping keep that barista employed. Finally it's a little routine out of the house. When I was unemployed, just like during stay at home orders in this pandemic, I had nowhere to go, and going out for a $4 coffee gave me a little place to go that I could mostly afford. 
  • Work on a side project. You know what I'm talking about, that business idea that will probably never go anywhere, or that home improvement project or car repair you've been delaying. It will give you something productive to work on, and you'll feel better about making progress after it's done. In fact, I was doing a little mentoring, and Janzen Gear might not be dead after all...
Okay, that's all I have for today, I'm going to go bicycle a bit.

Monday, May 4, 2020

How Bad Will the Pandemic get in the USA?

Apparently you can publish papers based on statistical models of how bad you think a pandemic is going to be. That's just plain stupid. So I'm going to do a little of my own math and predictions for the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.

100,000 USA deaths by May 19th. 

I arrived at that on May 1st by estimating about 1900 Covid-19 deaths a day until we reach 100,000, and that's 19 more days from the 1st. I estimated 1900 deaths a day based on recent deaths of 2200-2400, and a general down trend in cases and deaths over the last two weeks, but a very minor one. I think deaths could be under 1000 per day by May 19th, but as long as we're seeing 25,000+ new cases per day, we're going to keep seeing a lot of deaths.

Second point, the University of Washington IHME predictions are terrible! Why? Because they've been screwing up Colorado Covid-19 deaths since March. We haven't had any zero death days since mid-March, but there are four days with zeros. This is simple data entry to feed the models. How are they getting this wrong? In short, their models are so broken they have basically no validity.
https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/colorado
Example 2 for IHME: We're going to have over 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States, but the upper bound of the model is 115,000 or so, with a median prediction that we are going to pass this week.

Final question, how many deaths will we see in the United States and world wide before this is over? I'm not sure, I think it will be on the scale of World War 2, but I'll leave that for another post.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Emergency Fund (Advanced Edition)

If you read the experts they will talk about saving $1,000 first and then saving 3-6+ months of expenses in a savings account in case you are unemployed or have a medical emergency or maybe pandemic emergency. That's nice. It's simple and easy to understand, but there are probably many more tools at your disposal if you are facing a long stretch without income. So, I thought I might as well run through my personal list of ways you can survive in a financial emergency.
  1. First the savings account emergency fund itself. I only have about two months of expenses in mine at the moment. I had about four months but I dumped a bunch of money into the stock market in March. I really do think three months of expenses is a good baseline for most people. That's enough time to figure out things in an emergency. You can pay the next month of rent and bills without a worry, and figure out unemployment or usually find a new job.
  2. Introductory 0% interest rate credit cards, might not be high on anyone's list, but most have 12-15 month time frames where you only have to pay something like $30 a month, and if you are confident that in 12 months you will be back on your feet, it's a great way to save actual cash. I speak from experience here, I maxed out three credit cards in 2010. While I got killed on the interest later in 2010 and 2011, I paid two of them off in 2011 within months of starting working. Although I did live in my parents basement the first three months of work, so my expenses were super low. This essentially allows you to cut your cash flow expenses temporarily to basically just rent, health insurance, and various cell phone and utility bills. You have to pay it all back eventually, but it might save you from getting evicted, and it can definitely put food on the table and gas in the tank.
  3. Brokerage investment account is where I would turn next. Mine is not so big, about three months of expenses, but I could sell those stocks and again be able to pay rent. I realize that relatively few of my friends have brokerage accounts or know how to use them, but again, this is the advanced emergency fund blog post.
  4. Sell a car. I have two cars, one worth about one month and the other about two months of expenses. If things got bad, simply sell one. In fact, I'm actually thinking about selling one anyway.
  5. Take out cash from my whole life insurance policy. I know I know, whole life insurance is a terrible "product" but I have a policy anyway. I bought it because I had student loans at the time and it always pays out, whether I died the month after I started, today, or in 60 years, it will pay out more nominally than I put in. Plus, with my expeditions and flying airplanes, seems like a reasonable thing to have. Not everything does that. It has a small cash value, again about two months of expenses if I took it all out. 
  6. Take out my Roth IRA contributions. This is a tough one, only for dire emergencies. I used to contribute quite a bit to my Roth 401k at my old job and rolled it into my Roth IRA, plus I make regular Roth IRA contributions. I don't actually know how much I have in contributions, but it's somewhere over a year of expenses I believe. 
For me that's it. There are many smaller things like bicycles and climbing and skiing equipment I could sell too, but all of those together are maybe a little more than a month of expenses. Frankly, if it came to withdrawing from my Roth IRA, things are pretty bad, but that's part of the beauty of the Roth IRA, it's perfect as a backup emergency fund for when things get really bad. Similarly, a whole life insurance policy is stupid financially, but in a financial emergency it might be able to keep me afloat.

I realize that all of these options might not be available to many people and that I am fortunate to have these six levers to pull. Because of what I went through in 2010, I have offensively invested and saved and defensively built up my financial options so that when I am presented with that kind of financial difficulty like I went through in 2010, I'll be able to handle it without overdrawing checking accounts, like I did in 2010. Hopefully you are employed during this difficult time, but if you aren't, hopefully you can exercise some of these options to keep yourself afloat.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Individually, how do we return to physical socializing?

I'm not talking states, nations, counties or cities and the laws and restrictions they are imposing to stop the spread of the coronavirus, I'm talking about each one of us as individual humans. There are weekend days where I eat out for all three meals. It's not common, but it happens. I think the most takeout meals I've had in a week recently is three times. Other previously normal things, going into an office with 40 people. Going to church with 100 people. Going to a ski resort with who knows how many people, 1000? Sometimes I go to densely packed concerts or bars. Or at least I used to.

So what do we do individually to open up and return to socializing?

This weekend, I had dinner with two friends, who are both younger and in good health. It's the first time in over a month any of us has had dinner with anyone. We explicitly said we weren't sick, or hadn't been sick, as far as we knew. It wasn't an implicit agreement that there was a risk to seeing each other, we said it out loud. So for me, I think that's how I'm personally going to open up. Part of opening up will be going back into work, like sheep to the slaughter. But the part where it's my choice, those will be hikes and climbs and dinner with friends. No, I doubt I will go to restaurants when they open. I doubt I will be the first to go sing at church. I'm afraid to be too close to people or around large groups of any size.

In addition to my little social outings, I plan to space them out. In other words, while I could possibly hang out with four different little groups of one or two people over a weekend, I'm not going to do that. I may be contagious as I write this. That's the challenge, we just don't know, and you can't really get a test until you are sick and it's too late you've already spread it. So basically it's like hang out with A1, then hang out with J and K, and then wait a week before any more socializing. It's going to be that way for awhile. Church in particular scares me. Why? Everyone is over 50! They're just more likely to get really sick and die. When I see that 31% of people over 80 in Colorado who test positive die, that's a huge number!

We have to strike a balance. The world is not risk free. I don't think we can ask everyone to stay home except for going to the grocery store once a week, for six months without causing a host of other mental health problems, or even delayed care for other physical health issues that scares people away from going to the doctor. And, frankly, with 3 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide, we're not going to stamp it out this year. It will continue circulating, somewhere in the world until we reach herd immunity either through lots of sickness and death or a vaccine or most likely both. We need to be safe and keep our distance, but also let our loved ones know we love them. Finally, we need to be responsible and not put anyone at undue risk, and when we inevitably do get sick, be as clear as possible about others that might be sick too.

Monday, April 20, 2020

We are Living at the Perfect Time

When I was younger, I often wondered why I was alive now? I mean, it feels like I have a diverse set of skills, and I could have thrived at many periods earlier in history. The whole lifetime scientific progress of Ben Franklin or Leonardo Di Vinci can be understood by most graduate students these days. Of course, to a physics graduate student the majority of what Einstein did is understandable too, and we still haven't proven or disproven a fair portion of his work. However, it's always hardest to be first, or to push the limit in some way.

In the book "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" Earth is destroyed to make way for a super highway on the day that someone woke up with the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?". Up until that point Earth was basically just an experimental computer to answer that question. A human, living experiment. In a similar way, each one of us is pushing the collective world forward, in some tiny little way. We all have a purpose, even though it doesn't feel like it all the time.

In other words, for my peers, I know we suffered at the start of our careers in the Great Recession, and now as many of us were just getting established we're having the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to deal with. Not to mention the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that many fought in. Then assuming we survive all of this, we still have climate change, automation, and inequality to deal with. Any one of those three could lead to wars and famines if we aren't a little more generous and equitable with the wealth of the world.

The point is, I believe we are all here at this point in time because it's when we were meant to be. You weren't born in 2090 or 1890, you were born in 1990. That doesn't mean it's easy. That doesn't even mean you will survive the pandemic. But to me, it's like a fun puzzle, like a very interesting game, where you want to keep playing to see what happens. Along those lines, people are freaking out over the cover-19 coronavirus and the resulting recession we have entered, justifiably so, both are pretty serious, but I'm hoping we're going to have some roaring 20s, so please try and be patient as we get through this.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 84

Another week, being employed, working semi-hard. I worked six days, all but Easter, and it was like drinking from a firehose most of the time. Requests came in from all directions and while trying to address them all, I made a mistake.

I'm not actually upset about it. Usually I beat myself up when I make a mistake. However, I'm in therapy trying to look at the bigger picture. Frankly, I was rushed, and made a relatively simple error at 5:30 pm on Friday, on a project where I see a limited amount of value added. I didn't even know about it until Saturday morning. Sigh... It's just one of those errors where I'm like, 'eh, on to the next one.'

I ran 30.5 miles, didn't get a long run in this week because my ankle started acting up, specifically a tendon on the outside of my ankle.

We're going to get there, we're going to be okay, even it takes two years of this kind of shutdown. Here is the best article of the last couple days I have read about how we will open up from this shutdown/lockdown.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

India, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan Covid-19 Pandemic

India, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan are four of the world's six most populous countries, with the USA and China being the other two. I've been to all four of those, and let me tell you, you think the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is bad in the USA? It's going to be worse in all of those countries. Brazil has a strong fighting chance, but the other three, have some big challenges. Why am I so pessimistic?
  1. Large populations, it's no secret larger populations have more people who might be infected with Covid-19.
  2. Dense urban centers. Sal Paulo, Islamabad, Pekanbaru, Mumbai... these are cities I've been to in those countries where people live in close quarters, and not all have electricity and clean running water, in any of those cities. It's a recipe for a virus to spread.
  3. General wealth of the country. This is a stand in for all things medical, because in short, a more wealthy country is going to be able to mobilize doctors, nurses, ventilators, medications, etc. better than a poorer country. Again, Brazil has a strong chance here, and frankly India and Indonesia do too, but not like the USA has.
The big upside those four countries do have is younger populations. Covid-19 is affecting older people far worse overall than younger people. Sure, it's still killing people in their 20s and 30s, but it's far more deadly to people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. An upside for Indonesia and parts of Pakistan and Brazil are that islands and very remote areas make frequently contact with urban centers not too common. In other words, being a little remote in 2020 will turn out to be a good thing. 

In short, I fear for, and pray for, my friends and acquaintances in those countries, because their risks are so high. If countries are going to get herd immunity, it's going to be countries like those first before the wealthy countries like the USA. Oh my heart breaks thinking of the people that need to work every day or they starve!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 83

I ran only 27.2 miles last week. It's kind of the upside of the week, despite being a big dip from last week. I purposely took Sunday off after a step up of 12 miles last Saturday, then ran Monday but work was a bit stressful this week so I didn't run Tuesday through Thursday. Friday things eased up a little and I want for a run again. Saturday I went big and did 14.6 miles! That's the longest run post ankle breaking I've had. Oh I'm older now and my ankle was sore after, but I'm okay. I mean... that's training. Building mileage I have always found to be the hardest and as I get older and deal with more significant setbacks that is definitely true.

I went into work on Palm Sunday, and then every normal work day. We made a lot of good progress this week, but it had it's stressful moments. In particular, I sometimes send out a daily update email on our progress when we're nearing a product release. I'm not really a fan because day to day progress can vary widely, and seems to bring up more questions than answers. I'm more a fan of weekly updates because that's how you can see progress or not. These aren't simple engineering tasks we're dealing with and we can't just work harder and do 30% more every day. Sometimes you can, but frequently you can't.

On top of that, this was the fourth week of people working remote. It's an adventure. Everyone is a little more on edge. We all want the same thing, but when we can't "see" people at their desks working on it, it's hard to know that work is getting done. It is getting done, quite a bit too. Frankly, when it comes to hardware companies (not software or services) we have got to be one of the best positioned to weather this crisis. We can build products with 2-5 people in the office (should be two with better communication, but it's more like five at the moment as we figure out communication). We can then test products with four people. That's it. We don't need 200 people on an assembly line to make our product. We're very very engineering intensive and low on the actual number of assembly and test people needed. Honestly, it's a pretty great spot to be as a company in April 2020.

I have mixed feelings on the Covid-19 coronavirus. A part of me thinks, 'we're all, or at least 40% of us are going to get this before we get a vaccine, might as well get it now.' Another part of me thinks, 'if I get this, I will inevitably spread it to someone over 60 who will die.' Another part of me wonders, 'if we value each life at $9 million in the USA, how long can we shut down the discretionary part of the economy before we just give up and try and try to go back to normal?' Reopening the country is going to be interesting. The adventures I'm planning for the coming months are all a little stealthy. Meaning, the only real infrastructure I need for them are gas stations and roads that are still open. Everything else I could possibly carry with me.

The weather is going to be a little bad this week, and I'll be in the office, so fairly bland as far as the blog goes. Although, hopefully we get past my portion of the product release, which is a pretty huge accomplishment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Communicating to Different People

I have a friend, who has been asking on and off for a year or so about how to get set up for retirement. As far as I know she has not opened a Roth IRA yet, because it seems overwhelming to her. In the past month I dumped about $5,000 into various company stocks that were tanking from the pandemic recession. While I'm delighted to tell you I bought Boeing for $101.45 a share and AT&T for $26.28, how do I describe to a person, a very educated person, how to simply open a Roth IRA? It's night and day. A different friend bought puts on a company back in February, and while I've never actually bought or sold and options or puts, I understood it (and he might have made thousands on it). Yet there is this huge gulf where people don't even have investing accounts. Frankly, 48% of Americans 55 and older do not have any money in a 401(k) or IRA.

I work in a role that is highly, highly cross functional. I work with all the departments. Lately I've been stressing out (and I'm in therapy in large part because of it) because I don't know how to communicate with the different groups in ways they understand. My friend who wants to get into a self directed retirement account (she has a 401(k)), but missed out on the recent 23% gain is a great analogy for communication with a person who has very different experiences and ways of communicating.

Here's another example, give me a map, any kind of map, a flight map, a topography map, a road map, and I'll get to where we want to go. But some people need to know the exact distance between each turn. Some people need to see what each intersection looks like before they get to it. Some people can't find themselves on any map.

The point is, communication has to be tailored to the audience to be effective. Each one of us has skills. Sometimes we don't even realize our skills, but we definitely notice when that is not someone else's skill.

When we are entering a critical time at work every 6-12 months around a product release or entering a pandemic I tell people the same thing, "Be patient. Keep Communicating." Yes I came up with it myself. Because impatience often leads to not only yourself getting upset, but others getting upset. And often, communication can mitigate those issues. The problem is, when one person stops communicating well, and starts being impatient, it spreads, other people get impatient and then stop communicating well.

I don't have the answer. I mean, being patient and keeping communicating totally helps, but ultimately it's a two way street. Another way to put it is the best teacher in the world can still have a student fail because the teacher's attempts to communicate in different ways doesn't inspire the student to want to learn.

Where am I going with this? Try. Try to communicate. Try to understand the people you are communicating with. Don't just give up. I've done four 24 hour races and essentially flopped in three of them, but the one that went well, it went quite well, and I look forward to doing that again. So hang in there. Take another step. Keep going. And worst case, if you can't figure out the communication, at least you know you tried.

Monday, April 6, 2020

I Went to Work Today

In my role at my company I'm kind of the liaison between design and manufacturing. We're nearing a big milestone and it was requested I go into the office while we sort out this product build. For the record I offered to go in. So for approximately a week I'll be in the office. I wore a buff over my face most of the day except to eat or drink. Wow, the world has changed.

We have free coffee at work, so I made the first pot this morning, and touched two buttons and three  handles to make it. In the last three weeks I touched approximately five communal handles total in like 22 days. Two at Starbucks, one at the grocery store, and two at FedEx. Going to the bathroom, turning on the sink, going outside to take a walk, handles here, handles there, handles everywhere. Filling up my water bottle, there's one button, I used my elbow.

I know so many people over 60, and people over 60 with health conditions, that I am terrified that I could essentially kill someone I love by inadvertently spreading the virus to them. I go for a run most days, and when I get back and the adrenaline wears off while I'm walking around in the minutes after I often cough a little. Coughing has become taboo. Wearing masks has become very acceptable. We've changed in a month.

The deadline for our little product build is the end of this week, and to be honest, I'm planning to work this week in the office, and then work from home another two or three weeks. I could use a vacation, but it's like, where would I go? I don't want to staycation, and I don't think I really can go anywhere. Assuming we settle down a little this year I'd like to go up to Canada and climb, and go to Hawaii, maybe get my SCUBA license. I won't lie, I feel like one of the old and fragile people amongst my coworkers in this pandemic. Again, I'm sure I would most likely come through fine, but it's those up to two weeks of being contagious and not knowing it where I am afraid to break bread with my older friends.

I've read more than one article that suggests for the next year or two, until we get a vaccine, we are going to self quarantine and isolate, return to a little bit of normal, then self quarantine and isolate again when cases get higher and hospitals get full. A recurring bounce between semi-normal and pandemic life and back and forth, that might last two years. So bizarre. I'm hopeful. I mean, even in the most pessimistic projections I doubt that 50 million world wide will die like did in the 1918 flu pandemic. We have medicine and technology that didn't exist back then. Still, my heart aches for those that die. If that caution means I work from home for two years and don't eat with my parents for two years, well, this is a sacrifice that must be made for the greater good, meaning saving the lives of those susceptible to the covid-19 coronavirus.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 82

The Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020... What a story we are living through. What is the summer and fall going to look like?

Overall it was a good week for me. I was fairly productive at work. Frankly, I'm pleasantly happy with my productivity working from home. It's not that great, but then again I started therapy back in February because I was stressed out that I "wasn't enough" at basically anything. So I'm getting better with being enough.

I ran 41.5 miles! I said back in early March that when we got to working from home, I was basically just going to run and that would be it. No climbing. No mountains, because I don't want to put anyone else in danger if I would get injured and need a rescue. I've never needed a rescue and I've offered more than once to help in a rescue, including being first on the scene of a basejumping accident in Moab in November. Point being, it's just too much of a risk for me to be out doing anything other than very basic mountain sports right now.

My life was super basic. I didn't touch any common door handles with my hand this week, I always use my sleeve now, and always wear long sleeves, like a hoodie, when I go out. Wake up, work, spend too much time reading coronavirus articles, work some more, send a daily update email, call someone, go run, watch a movie, drink too much alcohol and go to bed too late. While that could be perceived as depressing, it's not. This "sacrifice" that I am going through, isolating and cutting off interactions with people, it's minor and temporary. I'm very very fortunate that I have the wealth and the income right now that millions of Americans and probably billions around the world do not have. Meaning, I now pay $80 a month for high speed Internet at home, and I can afford that because I still have a good paying job. Sigh... all of the economically unfortunate people that might go through what I went through in 2010.

The thing that worries me the most about this whole pandemic is not the economic fall out, or the sickness itself, but the deaths. I think the USA will pass 27,000 deaths this coming week, we're at 9,616 as I write this. My heart aches knowing that is coming.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

I'll Buy a new iPhone this Year

I'm a saver. As I continue to work in a lucrative engineering career I am in a far far different financial position than I was in 2010. In 2010, with deferred student loans, I maxed out three credit cards. It was the worst year of my life. I don't like to talk about it. I don't say I'm in a good financial position now to brag, I actually say it as a burden, as an obligation to help restart the economy when the pandemic subsides. The fortunate need to pay it forward. People like myself will most likely be able to jump start the economy better than those who have been laid off from median and lower wage jobs. And frankly, I feel it's our duty to do that, to help our neighbors recover and get back to work.

That being said, I write these things in the moment, based on where I am today. It is entirely possible that I am laid off in the near future and quickly begin looking for a job in a terrible job market.

In normal times, talking about financial independence (and retiring early) is this fun thing where we all have jobs, salaries are increasing, and there is a little thrill in saving money and seeing your 401(k) and saving account increase a little every month. However, in a recession it's entitled. Oh I know, I applied for over 400 jobs in 2010 and was pretty angry at anyone with money and a job at the time. I have not forgotten that experience or those feelings.

The point is, we with jobs and wealth can hole up, stop spending, and not come out of our caves until the vaccine arrives likely sometime in 2021, or we can get out there. I bought two 3D printed facemarks at Shapeways to donate to medical workers today. It keeps Shapeways in business, who I use from time to time, and gets some medical equipment to hospitals in New York City that need them.

I realize that my going out for take out food right now isn't going to keep a restaurant in business by itself. I realize that buying some piece of outdoor gear 40% off isn't going to keep that company in business either. But I also realize than an economy is the flow of money. If the money stops flowing between people, the economy stops. During the Great Depression the stock market dropped 86% from it's high to it's low. If we allow the economy to drop 86%, we're so screwed. (Of course the stock market does not equal the economy, but they are related.)

Point being, I basically unintentionally shut down the spending the last three weeks living and working from home, and seeing now that I am not sick, my company is stable, and even somewhat productive, it's time for me to not only think about my financial defensive strategy to worry about myself, but offense too, how I can help out those that are clearly in need.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Reason the World will Pull Through The Coronavirus Pandemic

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-transmission.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

That's a great little article, the best I've read yet about why this is spreading so rapidly, and why every single day that we all stay home reduces the spread of this coronavirus pandemic, by allowing those infected to get sick and those asymptomatic to pass through their contagiousness into being not contagious or less contagious.

Secondly, the Colorado Department of Public Health has a great website they update every afternoon with data on the Covid-19 cases. You should check it out here: https://covid19.colorado.gov/case-data This graph is the most hopeful to me, as a younger person.
Image from: https://covid19.colorado.gov/case-data on March 31st, 2020
No one under 40 has died in Colorado yet. Plus, as you go down the age spectrum younger people are being hospitalized at much lower rates. Granted, if you are 70+ it's about as terrifying as playing Russian Roulette. And again, since I know so many older people I am sure that I will know someone that passes away from this virus and I definitely don't want it to be because I passed it on.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 81

March 22 to 28. I'm optimistic, because I have to be. I think about death and injuries a lot. This was the second week I spent working from home. Unfortunately I don't think my productivity was as good as last week. It's harder to know what's going on. Where as normally when two people talk in the office, another two might be nearby and join in the conversation and then each person goes off and tell another person what's happening, so now eight people know. However, when everything is being forced to happen remote, two people talk and make a plan, and that's kind of it. Those incidental conversations aren't really happening as much. So if you want to know what's going on, you have to dig and pry a little more than normal.

On the flip side, wow am I in a fortunate situation! We're set up to work from home quite well. Because of a couple government contracts we count as essential, and I'm excited about that for probably different reasons than you might expect. It's not about the revenue that is coming in or the fact that we're still testing our product, it's that I have something to do right now that gives me purpose. I'm spending plenty of time reading news articles about the Covid-19 pandemic, plenty of time watching The Office, and it's nice to be able to sink my brain into a cool project right now that still adds value. I told my boss this past week, even if we do get shut down, I want to keep working on this stuff because it gives me something to do. I've even offered to take a pay cut or forgo my salary for awhile. I'm confident that if my company survives the next five years, I won't have any basic financial worries.

If you haven't read the book "Drive" by Daniel Pink I recommend it. In fact, I might reread it while I'm homebound. So often in life the focus is on more money, but he points out that after our basic needs are satisfied, we are looking for autonomy to do our jobs as we see fit, mastery of our profession, and purpose to make the world better in some way. I'm in a good spot financially being a saver and working for the last ten years, and so I really don't want to lose the purpose aspect of my career right now. I have plenty of autonomy and mastery, but if we had to shut down and I was not allowed to work, oh that would be tough for me now.

Running was good, 43 miles I think? I ended on Saturday with an 11 mile long run, my longest pure run in over a year. My ankle is sore right now as I write this. The 22nd, Sunday, I spent 8 hours and did 14.5 miles on skis with M for this 25th birthday. Conditions were not great so we turned around at 11,100 feet of elevation. I think I'm going to try and hover around the 40-45 miles per week mark for the next month or so and hopefully my ankle will rise to the challenge and not be sore as frequently as it was this week.

Predictions for the coming week: The USA passes 250,000 Covid-19 cases on Friday, and 5,000 deaths on Thursday. But honestly my predictions have been too optimistic and so there is a good chance we pass those milestones before then.

Tears for my Friends

I write this as tears stream down my face. I went on Facebook for the first time in March (it's the 28th) and asked how my friends were affected by this pandemic. People are laid off, people have babies due, small businesses are shut down. I cried. I'm so fortunate. I've been working from home the last two weeks, and we're basically productive. We're an essential business due to some government contracts, and our IT department (two guys) saw this coming weeks ago and prepared us to work from home. It's been rather smooth for a transition. Of course I want to get back in the office, but we're managing.

For those that don't really know me, I've broken or fractured seven bones. I've had a pulmonary embolism. I'm currently in mental heath therapy, for the second time in my life. I've almost died on mountains three times. I'm thankful to be alive, every day. Today I ran 11 miles for the first time in over a year, since I broke my ankle, and my ankle is very sore, but bearable. Plus, I've had a pulse oxygen level of 59% and been coherent and felt fine (at 23,400 feet on Mt. Everest). I'm going to survive this pandemic because I'm kind of hard to kill... but I'm not sure everyone I know will.

Love is a strong word, and it might have burned me today (long story), so I'll say care. My friends, I care for you. Even if we haven't talked in years (HS friends especially) I still think about you. I have the best life in the world, seriously. I hope you think the same about your life, but honestly mine is better. God loves me so much. The stock market has been crashing and I bought both GM and FedEx on their lowest price days in over five years. I'm going to be fine. I don't know how I can help, but if I can, let me know.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 79 and 80

Wow! has the wold changed in the last two weeks?! If you haven't seen the 2011 movie Contagion, go watch it, because we're heading in that direction, albeit with a virus that is fortunately only 10% as deadly as the one in the movie (3% vs 30%).

Week 79, March 8th to 14th, was pretty good. We basically shipped our fourth product to a customer. Our products are expensive and complex, so the fact that we've shipped four is pretty good. Although, the highlight of the week was taking Wednesday off to climb Mt. Antero with the woman who will be known as A1. She's a nurse and so has a crazy schedule, so we were the only two people at all on Mt. Antero Wednesday the 18th. We made the summit, and it was a very good 13 hour mountain day.

Friday the 13th was basically my last day in the office for some time. This whole Covid-19 thing has upended the world, as it should. 90% of my company is working from home now, we need a few people to build products and a few people to test them, otherwise, everyone else is at home.

Week 80, March 15th to 21st, my first week working fully from home was an adventure. For starters, I'm still working on developing a routine. Instead of wake up, get dressed, head to work, maybe via Starbucks, and then eat breakfast at work and get into the day, suddenly, there's no 7:30 AM morning meeting to try to make it to the office to hear. Starbucks seems like a risk (even though I went twice this week, and bought some stock). Our formal office hours are 9-4... and typically I'm in the office well before 9, although, when working from home by myself, in a pandemic, it's easy to read all of the European updates from overnight, and not get into my work computer until 9. On the other hand, one day I did have the work computer open at 6 AM because I couldn't sleep, and work is a great distraction from the ever rising death count. I'm getting better at working from home. Honestly, it wasn't an unproductive week. I didn't get as much done as maybe my average week, but I have definitely had less productive weeks. In short, I'm still figuring it out.

In big news, I ran, hiked and backcountry skied 41 miles this week! That's my biggest week in a long time. Plus it was fairly consistent. Being shut in all day makes me so look forward to getting out and running. It's a risk, running through a tunnel with low airflow or within four feet of another person, and I'm very aware that going on a run might be how I catch Covid-19.

I'll try saying this more, but to be clear, I'm trying hard to be optimistic about any aspect of this pandemic I can. Why? Because it's bad. This will definitely kill more Americans than September 11th, and most likely kill more than the resulting wars did too. We're at 414 deaths as I write this but by the end of this week I would be surprised if it's less than 2,000.When I think of at risk groups, people with lung issues, general health issues, etc. I am 99% sure that I will know someone that dies from this. Who will that person be? I don't know. I think of the last five churches I attended in Clinton, Sheboygan Falls, Dubuque, Independence, and now Longmont, and there are so many people that have health issues. I only touched four door handles this week (yes the whole seven days) other than my own door and car, Starbucks twice, and two at Fedex. I'm not taking this thing as no big deal. I like to think I have a healthy level of paranoia. Boulder County where I live has 37 confirmed cases, up from 11 on Friday. Many more people will die, because we aren't really testing everyone to know who is carrying it. And ultimately that's why I'm staying home so much. I don't want to be an "innocent" carrier of this thing to the many at risk people I know. Considering my pulmonary embolism in 2018, who knows, this thing could kill me. If that happens don't let my sister spend more than 20% of the money she gets on a new car.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Ahead of the Curve (Flattening it)

For the last 6 days Colorado steadily reported 23-38 new Covid-19 coronavirus cases per day. Today there were 61 new cases, a big jump.

This is my preferred webpage for tracking cases in Colorado: https://covid19.colorado.gov/state-recovery-assistance 

So far only about 10% of people tested for the virus in Colorado are showing up positive. This is a win, people are being cautious, getting tested, and we're getting lots of negative tests. The median time to onset of new symptoms is five days, with 97.5% of all cases showing symptoms in 11.5 days. The test takes three days to show positive or negative.

Colorado went into mild lockdown on Monday, so really, it will be Tuesday, March, 24th before we know if we've gotten a hold of this thing in Colorado, meaning slowed the exponential growth of infected people.

I'm optimistic. Colorado's first case was an out of state skier who had recently traveled to Italy. So we were close behind the big hubs like Seattle and San Francisco and New York to start the social distancing, but fortunately we have a more spaced out population, so it appears to have not infected thousands, like it has in New York. Because we are a tourist hub, it makes sense that we would be quickly infected.

As a quick anecdote, I went to Fedex today to pick up a package, and aside from the door handle, I only touched the box I was picking up. I didn't sign myself, or share the driver's license, and I stayed well away from most people. The woman who helped me was cautious as well as we talked about the pandemic.

Maybe it's just my little corner of Colorado, but people seem to be appropriately cautious. I stepped off the sidewalk to pass someone today and she said, "thank you". I think we're ahead of the curve. Yes our growth is exponential still, but barely. We need to lock down even tighter the next two weeks to really confirm that we're there, but I do think that is happening.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Worst Case Scenario (Covid-19)

I have Internet access at home on my computer, for the first time since April 2011. After experimenting with no Internet at home in April and May 2011 when I moved to Iowa, I realized that the lifestyle is for me. Using my cell phone is enough access. However, blogging is something I really prefer to do on a keyboard, not a cell phone. So, for the next few weeks, and let's be honest, months probably, I'm probably going to blog a lot more than I have the last few years. In large part because the world is not ending, but it feels a bit like it is ending.

Before we get into how bad it might get, let's talk about best case scenarios. Let's say that no one has any contact with anyone outside of their immediate family for the next two weeks. That means that asymptomatic infected people will become symptomatic and go to the hospital if needed, there will be very few new infections, and we will have peaked in maybe three weeks from now. Hospitals will probably manage with the staff and equipment they have, thousands will die, but mostly older patients with co-morbidity. Shortly after peaking testing will catch up and infected people will be quarantined more specifically, instead of 80+% of people as we are today. We'll get a good idea of really how widespread and contagious the disease is, and then we will have nice summer.

Ok, now let's walk through how bad it might get. If people don't quit interacting with others, more people are going to be affected. A contagious person can infect others for up to 14 days before showing symptoms. 14 days! That means everyone I've interacted with, even shared a door handle with in the last 14 days might have infected me. Fortunately, I'm not one for a lot of contact with others in general and as I retrace my steps the last few weeks I've only sat in a restaurant twice, a week ago and four days ago. Although I have been to Starbucks twice this week. To add more to the story, the median incubation period before showing symptoms is 5-5.2 days, and 97.5% of infected,  people show symptoms within 11-11.5 days, depending on the study you read. (Both published in the last four days.)

What that means... Colorado essentially went into mild lock down on Monday, it's going to be two weeks before we know if we made a dent in this pandemic or not. Moderate lock down is next, and I think severe lock down is a real possibility. Fortunately, Colorado cases have been increasing at a linear rate, not exponential, so there is hope we have already gotten ahead of the curve.  https://covid19.colorado.gov/state-recovery-assistance

Jumping two steps ahead, based on the 2011 movie Contagion, and what is happening in Italy now, I think it is entirely possible that the National Guard or Reserves (or plain regular Army) will be  stationed outside of grocery stores to take temperatures and limit the number of people inside. While restaurants are open now, I'm guessing they will be called on to close. I don't think there will be widespread looting, or riots, because it's not "that" deadly. Which brings my next point.

I know many people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and a few in their 90s. This virus is killing something like 3% up to 10+% of people in those age ranges. I am 99% sure t hat before this thing is over, someone I know will die from it. The last three church congregations I have been a part of have all been older, with lots of people over 60. It's a statistics problem. If enough people get sick, and enough older people, someone I know will die.

So let's say that this virus kills 4% of everyone it affects. Let's also say that when the hospitals get overwhelmed, the death rate will double, like it has already in Italy, because of a lack of ventilators. So let's say that 8% of the USA dies, and everyone gets infected, that's about 26 million Americans that might die. That's how bad it could get. Let's say it takes a year for that to happen, that's huge absolutely huge, but not the end of the world. Sure, it's very possibly the end of the world if you are over 60.

Point being, Jesus loves you. Hang in there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Covid-19 Coronavirus is bad.

We need to practice extreme social distancing, now! Estimates keep saying the death tole is going to be around 1%, but we're still seeing 3-4% in most of the surveyed populations. I read today that it can stay in the air as an aerosol for up to half an hour, like seeing your breathe on a cold day. Another thing that concerns me is that you can have it and be contagious for up to 10-14 days without showing any symptoms, while spreading it to other people. All of those numbers, two weeks of asymptomatic contagiousness, a 3% death rate, possible airborne transmission... 3% of the world is approximately 220 million people.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 78

Another good week. I'd be lying if I said it was great, maybe more of an average week, but it was good. Where to start...

So I'm in therapy, the counseling kind, and I'm telling lots of people because we're pretty terrible not only in the USA, but most of the world to admit when we're mentally struggling. It's already helped a lot. It's nice to have an outside perspective to frame things in my life differently than anyone in my life frames them. I can be super hard on myself, and while others see that and try to comfort me, it's just not the same as someone totally removed from all of the situations to more objectively give a perspective.

Work was good. It was the first week without the coworker I used to work closely with. So I took on some of her tasks. While I do enjoy them, especially as something new and different to do, instead of designing yet another little bracket, it's stressful because I don't really like feeling indispensable. I like feeling valuable for sure, but at the moment I feel like I'm holding a few pieces together and I'd really like to implement some processes to clarify communication without a step that just says "Isaiah"... so I can take more vacation. Of course, my feelings are not the facts, and if I get hit by a bus today my coworkers will all very quickly figure out how to fill my shoes. I'm pretty sure actually that I've documented things fairly well. Of course understanding feelings versus reality is a big part of the reason I'm in therapy, and I've got a fair amount left to work on.

I only ran once, for eight miles. I spent a lot of time recovering from the 31 mile 10,500 feet of elevation double Boulder skyline traverse last weekend.

Saturday I skied with A and R who I met way back in 2015 in Italy at an ultramarathon, and we all reconnected and are living out here now and all have ski passes to Arapahoe Basin. We had a lot of good conversation, I may have a little bit of a vulnerability hangover from all the conversation.

I hope you had a good week too. Also, if you haven't seen the 2011 movie "Contagion" I highly recommend it. It puts this little Covid-19 corona virus in perspective.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Speaking a Love Language

Yesterday, I had a realization. A, R and I were driving back from Arapahoe Basin and discussing love languages and R mentioned a scenario that I had not thought of, but resonated with me.  I realized that instead of a binary wanted action or unwanted action, it's more of a four choice system.
Speaking Someone's Love Language
It's not just feeling loved or neglected, it's also feeling heard or ignored. In other words, relationships require even more communication.

My main love language is acts of service, which I've been thinking about a lot lately, mostly in regards to work. Anyway, an act of service was recently done for me and while it needed to be done, and I had no plans to do it, it's actually stressed me out a lot because I don't have all the answers to wrap it up and really finish it. This it outside of work by the way. In other words, it was the right language for me, but it was something I am not ready to deal with, even if it's only 30 minutes of work, it's a hassle. Feeling ignored might not be the best word, but it's close to how I feel.

Another personal example, words of affirmation and gifts are so low on my desired languages that honestly just don't spend your time on those if you want to show me you care. Those are things I don't want, and by not spending your time on those things I feel heard.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Week 77

What an incredible week! I have the best life in the world. I hope that you think that about your own life, but mine is really great. And honestly, I think it will simply get better.

I ran and backcountry skied I think 42 miles or so over the week, with 31 of them being a double traverse of the Boulder Skyline Saturday with my friend M, and also J and T joined for a single traverse each and W was so generous to crew for us for 12 hours. We started at the Mt. Sanitas trailhead, did that, then went up Flagstaff, then up over Green, Bear and South Boulder peak and down to the Mesa Trailhead. After 25 minutes of eating chips and guacamole, we headed back up the not easy Shadow Canyon trail. My GPS died at 28.5 miles in 10:23 total time and 10,500 feet of vertical ascent.

My quads are shot today. I'm walking around stiff and sore... but no pain! At one point running down the snow on the northwest side of Green Mountain I rolled my left ankle, and instead of it being a two week setback as it was in 2019 every time I rolled it, it was almost no problem. Today, my left ankle is barely any more sore than my right, and not nearly as sore as my quads, which is a huge step forward in the ski injury recovery!

On the work front a coworker I worked closely with had her last day on Friday, and I will be taking up part of her role, which is a stressful. However, on Monday I had my first therapy session. I frequently blame myself for group problems that I feel I may have been able to change and improve. My therapist had an exercise for this sort of thing. Basically, I'm lying to myself that I "control" the situation. (For those that are new to my blog, I despise the word control, we rarely have control of anything, more accurately we have varying degrees of influence, so I much prefer the word influence.) So I was asked to identify the lie that I was telling myself, which is that I could have changed the situation. I'm just one small part of the puzzle, the organization. It's not all up to me. Very little is up to me really. We have many different people involved in different aspects of this particular situation, and I certainly don't "control" it. Which has already helped me feel better.

That all being said, I do actually think it's for the best, my coworker leaving at this time. It has already forced me to grow and learn exactly what she did. Several weeks ago I had a fear that it was all in her head, and that we had terrible records, but as I have dove into the documentation (her documentation), we're going to be alright. As her leaving has already forced me to grow, I am confident that it will force others to step up and grow and take on additional responsibility as well. Specifically, understanding the details of how we get from A to B, so that we can then teach new people how we do that, and fewer things will fall through the cracks. That is for the best, because in different ways, we all leaned on her, not exactly understanding 100% what she did. Frankly, she wasn't very good at describing what she did, so it was hard for the rest of us to understand what she did. Now that I've learned more about her role, I'll sum up her role in one word: communication. In other words, while I viewed it all being in her head, that's simply because she communicated with the largest number of people about our product, at least of the people in her department. You see, while we may have only a short description of a product that seems poorly documented, the details are documented in 15 different locations, and the communication happened in person, so there wasn't a clear (but complex) digital trail all of the time.

Going forward, I expect more documentation, or more specifically, links to the documentation and clarification of that communication and documentation process. In short, when a company is 25 people, it's easy to talk to everyone and know what's going on. When it's 65 people it's not automatic, and if people aren't trying to pay attention they will feel, and be, out of the loop. Again, we're going to learn and grow from this, and ultimately I do feel it is for the best, but bare with me if I am stressed in the coming weeks as I take on parts of her role, because I will have to drop parts of what I used to do the last 17 months. I joined a startup knowing it would have difficult times like this, and while it stresses me out, it's fascinating! There is so much learning to be had here. Learning that might possibly have never happened for me at a big company.

In other news, I've said before and I'll say again, I think the meaning of life is relationships. I'm in the process of developing or deepening a number of relationships. Some are directly related to the work stress above, where we are getting to know each other due to the challenges we are facing. Some are in parallel to the work stress where the relationship is separate but influenced by those events, even if we never discuss those challenges. Still a third group is entirely outside of anything work related, but I'm allowing those people to see me in a vulnerable light, and that builds trust. I'm quite excited for 2020!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 75 and 76

February 9th to 22nd. Life... am I right? Is everyone stressed out? Just when you think another person is doing just fine, no he's stressed out and she's stressed out too.

For the first time in a long time, let's start with running mileage! Week 75 was 25 miles, and week 76 was a whopping 35 miles! (Part of those 35 miles are skiing downhill after skinning uphill, so I'm keeping them. Some miles of skiing are just a tiring as running a mile. Most are harder than walking a mile. Friday night I ran eight miles, it's the longest run I have done yet in my 11 month long ankle recovery, just a few weeks after doing seven miles for the first time. It was amazing! The way my body has recovered in 2020 so far looks like this might be a really exciting year!

Work has been stressful. Outside of work has been stressful. So I'm going to do something I haven't done in 15 years (to the month actually) go to therapy, like the mental health counseling kind. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to talk about this publicly, because not many people do. It's still a bit of a taboo, people will admit to going (admit being an emotional word there indicating failure) and talk about it in private, but there is more talk about the dentist or how you do your taxes than your mental health.

What else? I did backcountry skiing the last two weekends, first from A-Basin up to Loveland Pass on the 15th, and second on Mt. Elbert February 22nd. Mt. Elbert was hard enough that my friend, who had his first time skinning uphill on skis said it was the physically hardest thing he had ever done. I love pushing people to new limits! That puts me at seven successful calendar winter 14er summits for 21 attempts. Since getting alpine touring skis I'm probably getting over 50% success, before that I wallowed in deep snow frequently.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Compassion Fatigue?

The other day I called my parents, and after saying "hello" they talked for ten minutes about some little hike they took. After a few minutes I started to tune them out. I debated telling them “nice talk” and hanging up. I’m feeling a little lonely, a little depressed, and like I don’t have much influence over my life at the moment... and no one is listening.

I love helping people. I love introducing people to new things and pushing them further than they have done before. However, it can turn into an obligation, especially at work when someone has yet another Creo question. I read most of the Five Love Languages by Gary Champman this weekend. Despite being a fan, and reading the workplace book he wrote, I had never actually read the original. He mentions babbling brooks and dead seas, as talkers and listeners. I think I’m a listener. I feel like I talk all the time, but I don’t really. I’ve been considering some of my relationships lately, looking for the person to tell all of these recent inner struggles to, but no one person seems to fit the bill. I don’t mean that negatively against any of my good friends, more so against myself. I trust most of these people with my life, why can’t I trust them with my ridiculous emotions? Why the reservations?

There are so many people in the world struggling. I have the best life in the world, it is objectively awesome. Yet I still feel like I’m searching for something to fill a void. I’ve prayed about it a lot. I feel in a way that no one knows me. And yes, I realize that blogging about this will be seen as radical transparency by some people and a deep emotional revelation, but it’s really just talking about talking, not the actual conversation. Sure blogging and writing is a good way to work out my feelings, but it’s not the really deep stuff. 

I was asked recently what the most emotional or memorable moment on Everest was for me, and my answer wasn’t totally truthful. There was a moment my mind flashed to that was quite emotional for me, and I don’t actually think I have told anyone about it, almost four years later. But like the movie “Inside Out” it’s a complex emotional memory. I could tell the facts, and that moment would seem insignificant, even to the people that witnessed it, but in the context that it happened, it was totally unique for me. It was the kind of moment I want more of. While not a word was said, the message was clear.

So I don’t know. I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm this Monday because I haven’t been sleeping great lately. Please pray for me. Pry at me, try to get me to talk, and then actually listen. I’ll surely push back, because I can sit in silence with the best of them. I’ll even try to get the conversation back to you, despite the fact I do want to talk. 


While this post is about me, it’s also not about me. There are many others like me, with the same thoughts and reservations. Maybe I just plain won’t talk to you, but that other person in your life will. That other person needs you to listen. For me being in silence with another person is totally okay. It’s a way of bonding and building trust. When the words do come, there is a trust there that I won’t be humiliated by your reaction, but that my words will be listened to and thought about, not just reacted to. Again, I’m not the only person like this. I realize it can be hard for people to have a silence, but I think sometimes that’s what’s needed to build trust. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Comfort to the Disenchanted

Friday night I went climbing and out to dinner with a good climbing partner. Saturday I went backcountry skiing with another one of my good climbing partners. In both interactions, politics came up and the conversations were similar. 

We are living in a strange world, where asking a foreign government to dig up dirt on your political opponent is okay. Why don’t we just ask the foreign governments to run political adds for the candidate they support? (That is in fact what Russia actually did on Facebook in 2016.Among my peers, which is relatively rich, white males in their 30s and 40s, there is despair about the state of our country. We aren’t up in arms or building fall out shelters, but we all seem to have relatives that are. 

Both of my climbing partners had different issues with both parties. And I totally get it. We can't combat extremism with extremism. 

I told both people essentially the same thing, hey it's not that bad. And your relatives that seem to think the world is ending, maybe it is, but just look at history, it's been way worse before now. This isn't Germany in the 1930s or 1940s. This isn't Rwanda in 1994. People in the USA aren't being "disappeared" now. Sure, the news is crazy, and yes people are probably dying from not getting healthcare, but when you really look at the statistics of poverty and disease, the world is getting better. It's going to be okay. And regardless of what happens, Jesus still loves you. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 60-74

October 27th, 2019 to February 8th, 2020. I haven’t blogged much in the past few months, for a few different reasons. Fear, insecurity, depression, the usual suspects. Okay that’s not very specific at all… Let’s put some numbers to it. Since step count is a great measure of activity, and since my physical activity can sometimes be a microcosm for my whole life, here are my monthly step count totals for the last year (rounded to the nearest thousand):

March: 117,000
April: 164,000
May: 330,000
June: 394,000
July: 413,000
August: 464,000
September: 477,000
October: 338,000
November: 347,000
December: 353,000
January: 355,000

My ankle recovery kept going better and better, after all I did 20 14ers in 2019. However when October hit and it started snowing, but my ankle still wasn’t good enough to run on consistently yet, so overall I took a big step back in the amount of physical activity I was doing. Frequently, when running is going well, everything else is going well, and running wasn’t going well. I would run or climb and tweak my ankle. That happened frequently in the summer, but I could simply take an easy day or two and then go hike a mountain and get 30,000 steps, but in the winter it’s much harder simply to walk outside. Each step takes more effort.

Other things, my parents lived with me for three and a half weeks back in November. I love my parents, but it was cramped in my 950 sq. ft. apartment and I wanted some alone time, and going out to a coffee shop to blog doesn’t really count as alone time for me at this point in my life, it's like semi-social. Plus, this blog started way back in 2009 as a way to express myself and tell stories once instead of seven times to seven different people. Being in such close proximity to people that were curious about my every day made it less relevant to blog about my week, when I had already discussed it. 

Along the lines of the step count, there is an interesting article on inc.com about Hubspot and the dip that employees between 1 and 2 years there were facing. I had never heard of such a dip, yet as I passed a full year and entered my second at work, I felt (and maybe am feeling) a bit of a dip too. If I look back I think that I had these dips in previous jobs too. I’ve never actually held the same role for three years. I’ve passed two years in two different roles, but I wonder if the seeds of my moving to a new role after two years were set in that one to two year motivation dip. I don’t know. Also, since mid 2011, I have held every role (and I’m in my fifth since then) for at least a year, perhaps suggested I entered the dip in all five roles. Again, I don’t know. 

Another work related issue that has frustrated me the past few months is my own ego. We are a company of young people, which is to say we’re still figuring things out, our processes and our communication and even our decision making. I come from a very different industry at a super established company where we had processes for everything, including our decision making, and communication was generally very clear. I get frustrated when I see things being done in a very different way than I am used to, or things that are simply not being done at all. Yet I honestly don’t know if the way I am used to is better, or that I was simply used to it and change is hard? Also, things that I perceive as not being done might not need to be done, or just aren’t communicated to me that they are being done. On top of all that, I feel as an individual contributor, new to this industry, that my voice has almost no weight, so I don’t always speak up. But! Feelings are not fact. As I look around at our company where I will shortly have more seniority than two thirds of the people in the company, if I am afraid to speak up, there is no hope that the younger people, with less experience and less confidence will speak up. …which also stresses me out because frankly I don’t want to be the grown up in the room who is obligated to speak up, like Conrad Anchor deciding to turn his younger partners around on Meru. I couldn't finish one of Dietrich Bonhafer’s books because he speaks quite a bit about speaking up, and the guy was killed by the Nazis in April 1945 because of his speaking up. 

Where I was trying to go with that paragraph is to say that speaking up requires a certain amount of confidence, and I can have the unfortunate result of coming off arrogant and not humble when speaking up, and how do you thread that needle? As I’ve said before about running, and it applies to mountain climbing and also business, confidence can be mistaken for arrogance, even within myself. I might think it’s just my confidence but maybe it’s arrogance and ego thinking I am better than I am. In other words, speaking up carries the risk of being labeled an egotistical trouble maker, but not speaking up carries the risk that the people at the top are blindsided by the happenings on the floor.

The difference between my life now and in the past at work is that there is an urgency about our business, a feast or famine possibility for us. As in, we (and that definitely includes me) have to succeed or we’ll get acquired by a giant company and our dreams dashed. I want to help, but I’m not sure how, and frankly as a very sinful human it’s entirely possible I’m hurting more than I’m helping. #depressiontalking

Sigh…

So, in other news I’ve been out ice climbing seven days and skiing eight days this winter. I checked off Culebra Peak leaving me with eight 14ers in Colorado to go. I led a ten person trip to Ouray, and had a great time! Everyone there had quite a bit less ice climbing experience than me. It was interesting, I went with friends and coworkers, and we grew to know each other better, which to be honest was a little intimidating. For example, I bought a 2008 BMW X5 in December for $6,000 and unfortunately on the drive back it was low on coolant, but we couldn’t open the hood to add more. So on Sunday afternoon in Grand Junction we took it to a mechanic, and he spent an hour taking some panels off and told us that based on the size of the leak, he really really didn’t recommend driving it back to Denver. So I rented a car and we drove back. It was somewhat humiliating. My friends had the opportunity to see how I handled a stressful situation like that, and I got to see their reactions as well, and while it was overall a very positive and relatively minor travel delay, getting seen in that way, being a little more vulnerable is hard. My friends are amazing! I just didn't want them to see that side of me. I keep lot of people at arms length emotionally, especially coworkers, because again it’s hard to open up and be vulnerable and admit how imperfect our lives are. I’ve cried a lot recently. I have the best life in the world. I’m sitting on my couch now looking at my other couch with six different jackets draped over it, all for slightly different things, what great wealth I have! Why me?

I went to Minnesota and saw many relatives at a funeral. Don’t feel bad about it, she was 91, a Christian, a widow, and had severe Alzheimers the last three years so it was very expected. I took a trip to Canada to ice climb in November, the highlight being climbing Murchison Falls. I went to Moab in November and did some rock climbing, which included me taking a 30 foot lead fall on the first pitch of the North Chimney on Castleton tower when my .75 green Camalot which was only retracted 20-30% pull out of the rock. That day Brad Gobright was doing a 5.13 right beside with his posse and filming drone, and three weeks later he died in a rappelling accident. 

In December I took a short trip to Red Rocks, but it rained so we drove 3.5 hours to Joshua Tree and climbed two days there, where my climbing partner took a 20+ foot fall on a “5.5” slab… which was more like 5.8 or even 5.9 slab if you ask me, it was hard! For Thanksgiving my parents rented a condo at Copper Mountain and I skied three days and we hung out with my sister’s now husband. It was really nice to spend that time together. We even tried ice climbing at Vail one day, but didn’t make it up the approach.

That’s all out of order, there is a variety of Facebook evidence out there if you want to know actual dates. 

I’m blogging now because of the week I had. About two weeks ago I bottomed out emotionally, cried a lot. I’m on the upswing now, which still involves a fair amount of crying. However I had some moments this week that were really really good. A coworker of mine, a new program manager was vulnerable with me and admitted his inexperience in one small particular matter, and it was something we frequently did at my old job. So I spent a couple hours quantifying a process (just one tool, not the ultimate one, but another tool) and gave it to him. Two different coworkers pulled me aside and asked in short “how’s it going?” I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I’m not the best in the world at hiding my emotions. Plus, a number of my friends lately have been struggling with different issues, and as I try to empathize with them, I take on a little of their struggle, and that combined with a $2,700 BMW repair bill, a funeral, and everything I’ve mentioned in the last 1800 words, whew, I’ve been better. But those gestures by my coworkers made me feel better. Then Friday night I did some indoor climbing and had dinner with a close climbing partner friend of mine, and we had good conversation. Saturday I went skiing with another close climbing partner friend of mine who I had not seen in years, and I’m pretty sure I committed to doing Denali in May of 2021 (and maybe actually leading the expedition). Which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now, but I’m guessing I could get six, maybe even eight people together to do it, we’re already at three. If you want to go, contact me and if you’re qualified and I am ready to spend three weeks on a glacier with you, you can come. Only requirement is that I’m skiing, I’m not snowshoeing. 

Point being, all that vulnerability in the past week refilled my well of motivation to blog and it off loaded some of my stress. And confirmed, again, that being vulnerable is a good thing, it leads to deeper stronger relationships. I am not alone. And it’s encouraged me to seek out a little more vulnerability, even if that means more stressful empathizing again in the future.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Year in Review

I haven’t blogged much the last few months because it’s not as easy to see progress as it used to be in my life. Running 18 miles in a week doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, despite the fact that it is for me now. Similarly, having a part I design work the first time we physically assemble it isn’t as exciting as the first 500 parts I’ve worked on. However, I have been doing these for nearly a decade so a year end review seems like a really good way to update the world.

Work

This was a fascinating year for me. I am at a startup that has gone through several phases just this year. Phases that I would not have guessed a year ago, but are actually common to startups. We started 2019 on a high note achieving a number of milestones, but near the end of the winter we had a set back and morale started to deteriorate. There were a few moments where we had minor victories but in general there was a slow grind down in motivation among the more experienced employees who had been at other companies. The people new out of college might have been a little oblivious, and frankly, at the time I tried to keep it that way. There is a positivity spiral and a negativity spiral. Once you get on either one it’s a lot easier to keep going in that direction than it is to stop and change course. 

This summer we changed course. We had some management turnover, and some public fighting. I questioned wether this was the place for me long term. Maybe the company wasn’t headed in the direction I wanted to be a part of. Some actions are not okay. As I told a coworker on a walk at work one day, we have the opportunity every day to burn the bridges of our relationships. It can take a very long time to build a bridge, brick by brick or casting the concrete, but burning one down, destroying it, it just takes a few hours, maybe even minutes. In short, we had some emotional moments this summer. Moments that no one really likes discussing, but they are lessons we shouldn’t forget. A few people had to take apology tours to rebuild relationships. It was rough. I think it was a very definitive year for the company. 

After the drama settled down we reorganized for the second time of the year and had the chaos of trying to certify our product at the same time in the late summer. When I lit out and spent that week in September climbing mountains we essentially did it, certified our product (to our own internal standards) and shipped one to a customer. Whew that was not easy. But! It actually went pretty well. I’m quite happy with the amount of documentation that we put into it, and while we have a long way to go, we’re not in a bad place. 

The fall we settled back into fewer weekend work and just one shift instead of two. However, for our second product, or product line you could say, we are building a new test facility, and we designed the whole thing in house. It’s roughly three times as many parts (thus three times as complicated) as our product, so needless to say it’s a big project. And to be honest, we are almost done and we basically did the whole thing in just over a year from just one guy working on initial design and sizing to a team of over a dozen people at times bolting stuff together, and more people ordering parts, kitting stuff, and designing random stuff. It’s interesting how as a project gets more complicated you need to spend more time communicating the designs and assembly. In other words, when the entire team can sit in one room and just turn around in their chairs and talk about it, you can move super quick, however, somewhere between 10 and 20 people working on the same thing and that’s just not possible any more. I’m employee 27, four of the people who started before me have left, and still we are up to 59 full time employees and we have two different locations 30 minutes apart, so it’s harder to communicate than it used to be. 

Point being, we know we need to put in effort (human time, engineering time) into how we communicate to all the necessary people, but we don’t always know who needs to know, or what information those people need. With any communication it’s rare that the person trying to convey the information will give 100% of the story. If it takes me three weeks to come up with a new design, I’ll usually be able to describe it technically, and the work done on it in maybe 10 minutes, but that leaves out all of the design work that I tried that didn’t work or the many little iterations that I had to make to get it all to fit together and pass analysis. 

Also as we grow we run into different problems. We work with mostly young (or perhaps I should say still maturing) people who are exceedingly bright, have great educations, but step on others toes and many are still trying to prove themselves. To boil it down to three general scenarios we have situation one where person A screwed up and person B caught the mistake, situation two where person C thinks that person D screwed up but actually didn't, and situation three where person E and person F simply have different opinions about how to handle a situation, and neither one is clearly better. In situation one, person B should try to handle the situation so that it allows person A to keep his or her dignity, instead of publicly eviscerating person A’s work. In situation two person C would do well to check a fact or two before confronting and accusing person D about the mistake. By the same token, person D could stand to be a little less defensive, because it’s likely that person C doesn’t have all the information (because again we are learning how to communicate as a company). Also, people frequently don’t know if they are in situation one or two at the onset of a confrontation! Finally situation three, if it isn’t super important it can be nice to not make a decision until you have to. Spreadsheets exists to make decisions like this. That’s one of the things I did multiple times at my old company and it helped me get my Six Sigma Greenbelt in 2018. I mean situation three is basically peace in the middle east or nuclear weapons in emerging countries. However, going into situation one, two or three, if you think it might possibly be situation three then going in with humility is a good idea because it could be situation two and you are person C. Both person E and F would do well to go in with the attitude that he or she might be wrong and the other person might have a better idea about how to handle the situation. Unfortunately I see more of these three types of confrontations in the future for us. 

In short, despite the last paragraph, we’re actually in a pretty good place now, as a company overall. However because of a number of issues related to situations one, two and three above, I think we are at risk of several people leaving in 2020. In 2019 a total of six people left the company. Whatever the case, I did exercise my first batch of stock options so now I’m a part owner in the company too, roughly .01% to .02% of the company. I'm bullish for our future, and I expect that while 2019 was a year where we figured out things as a team, as humans who work with each other and about our culture, 2020 will be all about executing and delivering. We'll probably have another fund raising round after we hit a couple milestones, and I'm guessing it will be a big one which will take my stock options from valued at a small vacation in Colorado to a nicer used car.

Running

I don’t want to talk about it. It was pretty bad. After getting over the pulmonary embolism, I broke my ankle and now I have a whole new appreciation for a sprained ankle because the ligaments healing (one is the deltoid ligament I forget the other one) is going so very slowly. I am at 677.7 miles run (and hiked) for the year. Just this month in December have I ran three days in a row and been able to do five mile runs consistently. I’m thinking about making it a 2020 goal to run 1800 miles (and that would including hiking miles too). That’s only five miles a day and I have been over 2000 miles for something like 15 years including a year high of 3640 miles.

Climbing/Mountaineering/Skiing

From my perspective I basically didn’t push my limits at all. But that needs some clarification. I’ve done so much that between my sickness and injury it’s been hard to get to the point where I’m really going for it. I did lead a number of grade 3 ice climbing pitches and mock led a grade 4. In my mind, leading grade 4 ice is the clear next step for me. Also trad leading 5.10 is also on the list, which I have done before. It’s what I need to do to feel ready to go climb K2 or go to the Charakusa valley and do K7. The other skill I need to work on is steep skiing. There is a good argument that skiing is not necessary at all in mountaineering, but it opens up so many opportunities for easy access. I’m reading the biography of Voytek Kurtyka, and up through 1984 it doesn’t mention anything about skiing, but it talks a lot of deep snow, avalanche conditions, and some very slow progress at times when skis might have sped things along.

By the numbers, I climbed 17 Colorado 14ers for the first time and that leaves me only 9 to go, and I added maybe eight 13ers to the ticked list. I did Mt. Rainier in a day again, about 14.5 hours round trip and added on Mt. Hood two days later. I climbed Sharkstooth finally in RMNP, did a bunch of simple crag climbing, and did the third flatiron three times, twice just after work. I went ice climbing in Canada twice this year, and Mt. Murchison Falls is super cool I’d like to go do it again, but lead all of it next time. 

What’s on tap for 2020? Finish the Colorado 14ers, perhaps go climb and ski Mt. Robson in Canada in the spring, another Rainier trip, maybe Liberty Ridge finally, and there is a chance of a Pakistan trip, looks like Charakusa Valley is the most likely to do some technical rock climbing on 6000 meter peaks. (If you are interested let me know, I might be organizing the logistics and we have room for more people.) Plus the usual local weekend trips to places like Ouray.

Dating

Ugh, I’ll put this down because I get asked about it, frequently. I dated seven different women this year. That seems like a pretty big accomplishment for me, but I am confident that there are people who read this who have dated seven different people in one month. It’s a statistics game, looking for the one that can check a few boxes. To be fair to the all of the women I have ever dated, I’ve dated some pretty awesome women! As I think about the relationships that have been the most successful for me there are some themes that make me scratch my head, which I’m not going to put down in writing for the world to judge because my thoughts on them are like 'really?! that can't be a criteria or even a thing.'

Point being, it’s fascinating how I can sit across the table from a woman, an objectively awesome woman, and not really be attracted to her, and then be around a woman who is debatably awesome or perhaps even clearly radically different than me and I am totally enthralled. 

My dating has kind of hit the skids the last few months (I’m just not getting any dates despite a few swipes most days) and there is a part of me thinking that I just need to take more time off the apps and go climb and run more. But to be honest, I'd like to be in a romantic relationship at least for a little bit.

Financially

I had the best year I've ever had in terms of investment increase and net worth increase. Wow, I did so well in the stock market this year. I mean, basically everyone invested in index funds did too, the difference is that unlike in 2013 when we had this kind of massive year, I have a lot more money in the stock market now. In other words, my gains were almost triple my contributions for the year, and I contribute a lot. On that note, I bought a BMW X5 used from 2008 with 148,000 miles in cash. I finally have all wheel drive! And still I've never had a car loan.

This year I reached the point where I could potentially retire in a relatively undeveloped place, like Pakistan or Rwanda. Another way to put it is that I could not save any more for retirement, and at age 65, between the pension from my former employer, social security and my probable investment gains, I would be just fine. Of course, that's 32 years in the future, hard to say what is going to happen between now and then.

With this great increase comes guilt. Financial wealth is complicated, we hate people that have it, and yet we want to have it ourselves. I've dealt with my guilt by donating a little more to charities, like Give Directly, supporting a basic income experiment in Kenya. As I look forward to what my possible career looks like the next 30 years, and subsequent earnings, I feel it's not fair. Sure, I have worked hard, but not especially hard. Sure I have skills, but not especially extreme skills.

I realize talking about my fortunate financial situation makes people uncomfortable, but not talking about it, even in these abstract terms, confers advantages to those that already have wealth. In other words, there is essentially no limit on investment gains. I read a quote recently in the book "Born on Third" that essentially said, 'to turn $100 into $110 takes work and saving, but turning $100 million into $110 million is all but assured.' I've railed in the past that Bill Gates made something like $73 million in dividends from his John Deere stock in one year alone, for doing essentially no work, while the CEO made a mere $20 million. I will probably not make $20 million dollars in my whole life, let alone $73 million, let alone in one year, and my lifetime earnings are likely far higher than millions of Americans.

So, while I have honestly considered taking a vow of poverty for the next decade, moving to Pakistan, specifically the Hushe valley, and climbing mountains while living on a handful of dollars a day and being the only American or Christian within 500 miles nine months of the year, I'm staying and working. I do have some engineering talent, however minor. I'm paranoid that I would lose all of my wealth from a cyber attack (please more two factor authentication!) or an illness or injury. Plus, while I don't really understand how, I want to give back, even more than I am. Right now I essentially fund a small neighborhood, what's next a whole village? Maybe.

In other news…

Two family members died and one was actually a suicide, my sister was married, two of my climbing partners were married, a famous climber who was actually on the route beside me in Utah in November when I took a 30 foot fall died in a rappelling accident a few weeks after I saw him. I renewed my lease for another year. My parents moved in for three weeks with me while their new house was being built (that was rough). I will be losing my silver status on United because I don’t travel much for work any more. 

I’m not sure I will ever have a traditional job again after I leave my current company. Meaning when I do finally leave, hopefully many years in the future, I’ll likely start my own little company, buy a company, work some little part time or seasonal outdoor job, or who knows what. While it's nice to have the stability of being an employee, I'd like to try the adventure of building not just a product, but an organization.

My social circle has expanded a little to include a neighbor (like we actually hang out), a retiree from church who makes home cooked meals for me, and a random climber I met who was dirt bagging it until he ran out of money and moved to Boulder, among others such as new employees at work and my sister's friends. I'm quite happy with the size of my social circle, I get the sense some people aren't, especially after they move to a new place. That being said, I have a spare bedroom (with a bed) and I invite people to visit and stay a couple days so we can catch up in person.

Finally, as we go into 2020, and maybe head toward war with Iran (and I've hung out with Iranians on 8000 meter expeditions, they have always been very nice and generous to me), I'll leave you all with a Bible passage from 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7, that I read at my sister's wedding, because the world could use more love (and patience) and less hate (and self-seeking). 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.