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miscellaneous

Knowing when to give up when doing stupid things.

The stupid thing we were going to do got stupider with 3-4 inches of packed snow on the trail so I pulled the rip cord about 12 miles in. I was way off my min pace (glad I had that sheet calculated ahead of time and with me). And the snow was not melting off. Based on the sections we did, I am pretty confident that we could have done it in a reasonable amount of time if it weren’t for the snow pack.

Discretion is the better part of valor.

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miscellaneous

Added a hitch to the skoolie this weekend

Picked up a 15,000 lb weld on curt hitch a few weeks ago. Spent a few hours on Saturday and Sunday getting it installed. A little more difficult than I thought, but really happy with how it turned out. Just have to get it welded up and then get the wiring setup and I’ll be ready to tow.

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miscellaneous

Quarter million

Picked up my 2008 MB E320 Bluetech in May of 2011 with about 32k miles. Just crossed a quarter million.

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miscellaneous

Navigating the new rules of social interaction

It’s been more than a year since I’ve been on a plane. Nearly a year since I’ve been in an office. No clear timeline for when that might change.

Last year was a year of constant adjustment and regular disappointment. Trips cancelled. Concerts “postponed”. Restaurants closed. I fell into the trap of thinking that reality cares about our president or even about our calendar which has led to some new disappointments. 

The reality of 2021 is setting in: not too much is going to change from 2020.With that knowledge comes some power. Having had Covid to start the year comes with some added freedom or at least lower anxiety. Especially with reports like this.  I am using this knowledge and freedom to try to make 2021 different than 2020, for us at least.

So what does that look like?  We’ve already been out to eat, although we did that a bit in 2020. I’m going to the gym for small group work outs.  We went to a concert – the first since late 2019. We’ve got plans for dinner groups and trips in the skoolie. I’ve signed up for a few major IDPA matches and have a few hikes in the works (something that I also was able to do in 2020, but am trying to be more intentional this year about where I go and am adding pack rafting to the tool kit).

These changes will definitely improve my mental health.  I am best when I have a few things to look forward to and plan for.  2020 was hard that way, since nearly everything I was looking forward to got cancelled or “postponed”.  There was a silver lining in that though, it did give me nothing else to focus on except the present. I will try to keep that with me moving into 2021.

But I am also worried about the potential consequences of how I choose to navigate my social interactions in 2021.  I am not worried about the things I will do essentially on my own or with my family.  I am thinking about how to negotiate larger group interactions. 

On one hand, I am all about disclosure – the people I might be with should know what else I am doing, where else I have been, who else I have been hanging out with and that I have had and recovered from Covid and then should be able to make their own decisions. 

On the other hand, I know some significant portion of my social circle will react to that disclosure in a either / both of the following ways. 

(1) They will overreact and choose to not do something that they otherwise might.  Honestly, I can accept this one since I know it is just my perception of an overreaction.  I may have it all wrong and they are entitled to what bits of reality they want to let in and which they choose to block out.  None of us has a monopoly on the truth and none of us can see the whole truth at any one time.

(2) They will extrapolate what I am doing / how I am behaving in the midst of a pandemic to make assumptions about what I believe about everything from vaccines to climate change to gun control.  They will suspect me of having been in DC on the 6th of Jan (for the record I was flat on my back with Covid).  This seems a direct consequence of both polarization (there are only two places to stand on any issue) and of the abbreviated content / lack of context and speed of most “conversations” today (I will take one thing I know about you and quickly put you in one of the two buckets I have and from there assume I know you fully).

The second reaction is the one that bothers me and has me struggling with what, how and who to disclose.  To be clear this is not the claim that I am “unknowable” while at the same time demanding to be known.  Quite the opposite – I think I am like everyone else: somewhat knowable, yet full of (hopefully interesting) contradictions IF you take the time.  One part of my worry about this reaction is that I know I do this too.  It’s just such an easy trap to fall into.

To get over the bother and on with an amazing 2021 I will start with trying to be the change I want to see.  That means noticing when I am making broad assumptions about who someone is based on a singular belief or observation.  When I notice, I will try to be more curious to actually learn about them.  I am also going to accept when people don’t want to take the time to do that with me and not worry about what assumptions they might be making.

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2021!

 

 

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miscellaneous

Resetting the clock

Added 165 days to the clock today. Been considering it for a bit and I think it makes sense to tack on a bit more time to move on at a natural transition. Makes the math a bit easier although I won’t get to brag that “I retired in my 40s” ;-).

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miscellaneous

Q: WTF is Wrong with Me? A: Perfect as enemy of good.

I broke quarantine last week by taking a walk in the woods with my daughter and 7 trusted friends.  We spent 4 days / 3 nights walking along the Sheltowee Trace in the south of Kentucky, mostly at social distance.  There are many things that I love about long distance backpacking.  One of them is that I am often out of cell range so have no choice but to be completely offline.

As I emerged from the woods on Thursday and started to reconnect, I learned about George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests (and looting and rioting…all different things).  Welcome back to reality.  I wanted to restock, turn around and head back into the woods.

For the last few days I felt myself falling back into the same pattern as I followed in March, when Covid first entered my reality.  I was on twitter and reddit for hours a day.  Trying to both get a handle on what was happening…and (shamefully) somehow enjoying the images and videos of protests, police retaliation and looting.  Not enjoying it becasue I like what I saw, but because of some detached, self important sense that I was “living through history”.  WTF is wrong with me?

Last night, as I weeded our garden, I listened to the President address the nation.  I didn’t have high expectations, but the staged photo opp after the press conference took me by suprise…and got me really angry.  I am a cradle Episcopalean.  St. John’s, place of the staged photo opp, is an Episcopal church.  I unexplanably found myself getting extremely worked up that the symbols / location of my faith was being used as a backdrop to make some ridiculous political point (Side note: I am not really sure what the point was.  While he might have been playing to his evagelical base…but surely he knows that they are no fans of Episcopaleans with our pro-gay stance?).

Upon further reflection something else, even more disturbing occured to me: George Floyd was murdered by someone charged with protecting him and while that bothered me, it wasn’t the same intesnsty of feeling as I had about where a picture was taken.  Why do I feel more strongly about the symbols of my faith than the basic right to exist of every human being? WTF is wrong with me?

Some of my reaction can be reasoned away because the photo opp was relevant to me – it gave me a place to stand in opposition.  But that’s not enough.  I am white.  I have never been subject to any sort of harrasment or ill treatment from anyone in a position of legal authority.  So at the surface it is easy for me to find no place to stand to oppose where I feel anything in common with George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and many others before and since.  Where do I get off protesting something I have never experienced?  Something that I (not anyone else) can know the whole truth of?

Bu that’s bullshit.  I was missing our shared hummanity.  Before being white or black or brown or purple; before being Episcopalean or Catholic or Jewish or Pastafarian, we are all human.  We are all perfectly imperfect humans with hopes, dreams, ideas, experiences and relationships.  That is my place to stand.  So stand there I will.

And now a final realization that came to me while I was writing this post.  Writing is not doing something.  Or at least not doing enough.  This blog has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts, with the (sometimes imagined) reader acting as a force directing me to be as clear and coherent as possible.  So writing this post has served to help me get my thoughts in order, but thoughts without action are pissing into the wind.  Far too often, I write something here (or worse post something on social media and feel like I did something.  WTF is wrong with me?

I am ashamed of my initial insticnt to slink back into the woods and wish it would all go away, or at least all go away for me.  If everyone like me, who thinks we can and should do better does that, where do we end up?  No place good.  At the same time, I am trying to have compassion for myself because it is really hard to know what’s true, to know what’s really going on.  I really enjoy certainty.  Knowing, for sure, that what I am doing is right and my motivations are well ordered and intentioned.  What would it feel like to not have to know?

This deadly combination of feeling like I didn’t have a place to stand in opposition and not being sure of the “right” thing to do has been paralyzing.  But no more.  I can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  Here’s my plan:

  • I am not quite sure I am ready to join the protests, but I am supporting those that are by donating to bail funds.  I gave to the Cincinnati, Lexiginton and Louisville funds listed here.   I recognize there is a chance that I might be bailing out someone who might be guilty of more than nonviolent protest, but from what I have seen in my local area, the number of protestors being arrested for vilating curfew is far outnumbering the number of looters that have been apprehended, so I am willing to take that risk.
  • I am going to start voting again.  My politics are complicated, confused and ever changing.  I haven’t stood in a voting booth (or otherwise cast my ballot since 2004 other than one single issue vote a few years back (whether or not the county I live in should be wet or not = sell alcohol) and this past KY Guberbatorial election so I could vote for the Libertarian candidate.  I dropped out of voting based on the extreme position that “all voting is violence”.  I still believe that, but I now believe even more in the idea expressed so well in the quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  This does mean that I will have to spend more time researching candidates, their positions and their records.  I am still not 100% confident that voting is entirely moral, but that seems rather esoteric.
  • I am going to start showing up at meetings.  I loathe adding this one to my plan given my brief experience going to shcool board meetings in what seems like a lifetime ago, but I am adding it because it represents another form of involvement and learning.  I am sure there will be some wastes of time, I know I won’t make all of them, and I am not even sure what meetings I should start attending.  Doesn’t matter.  Google works and I have some time to spend.  What else is more important than getting actively engaged in making things better.

This plan of action isn’t perfect.  It might not do much of anything.  I am sure there is still some ego in there.  Some privelage that I am neither sensative too nor understand.  But I can’t just think and write anymore.  I just can’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially when there is so much that could be better.

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miscellaneous

A gift from my past self to my present self

This blogging thing is finally paying some dividends. Today comes a bit of perspective. Almost exactly 10 years ago today I was “trapped” in Europe due to an ash cloud that made it unsafe to fly. Reading the post I wrote after I got home brings back a flood of memories. At the time I could sense that it was something I would always remember. I was gald to have John along with me to share the experience. But most of all was the overwhelming desire I had to get back home, specifically to celebrate my birthday.

Let’s think about this for a bit. There I was, at first in Frankfort then in Barcelona, on a company expense account with a free pass to spend whatever was needed. The streets in Barcelona were full night and day with both locals Brits that had taken the one flight back from the US to somewhere in Europe that was still operating. There was plenty to eat and drink. We stayed in a 5 star hotel our first night in Barcelona and then moved to something more affordable…right on the Ramblas! The weather was perfect and John and I even had a local guide from our business that was more than happy to show us around. Yet, every few hours I was calling in to Delta and getting on their website to get home as soon as I could. WTF was wrong with me?!?

Flash forward 10 years and here I am at home on my birthday. I got exactly what I wanted so desperately 10 years ago. Yet I had been dreading today a bit. Not because of the number I’ll hang around my neck for the next year, but rather because I am stuck at home like everyone else. My pre-COVID plans for this weekend were as follows:

  • Friday: Symphony (Mahler) and dinner / drinks with some friends
  • Saturday: Shakespeare (Hamlet) and dinner / drinks with some other friends
  • Sunday: Keenland and lunch and ponies with lots of friends.
  • Monday: Day off from work to recover.

10 years ago I was in an amazing place and desperately wanted to be somewhere else. Today my 37 year old self gave my 47 year old self a present: the ability to see that although I would prefer to be somewhere other than home, it is in fact an amazing place if I would just settle in and enjoy it.

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miscellaneous

This is not the new normal…yet

Since there seems to be plenty of expert opinion out there on what happened, what is happening and what will happen with COVID-19, I am going to attempt to limit myself to my own experience. What I am thinking about, going through and doing as I live through this once in a lifetime experience.

I am having trouble keeping track of what’s changing. I think it was only last Monday that Kentucky and Ohio closed all of their restaurants. While that may be chronologically true, my sense of the amount of time that passed since then makes it seem a month ago or so. My experience of time passing is directly tied to how much of what goes on I have experienced before. None of this has happened to me before, so it seems to pass much more slowly, with more packed in to each day.

I am noticing that the thin veneer has started to wear off at work. Some of the things that were important a few weeks ago don’t seem so now. I notice this in my own ability to pay attention and in the focus, energy and effort that others are bringing to the endless zoom meetings that we are having. I have decided to view this as a good thing – this can be a chance to “burn off” some of the project chaff and focus on what really matters.

I am thankful for the technology that I have access too. I can’t imagine going through this 20 or even 10 years ago. It’s true that I wouldn’t be so agitated/distracted/consumed by media, but I also wouldn’t be able to maintain some sense of normal through virtual happy hours, meeting up with the folks from my gym for a workout from home, and something to watch that the whole family can get into.

I am also thankful for the wake up this has provided me and those around me. While it’s uncomfortable to think about, which is why we don’t, the fact is that living is inherently a risky adventure. Every time I used to leave the house in my car, dine out, or get on a plane, it might be the last time I do that. Those are all risks I’ve accepted and so don’t think about too much, which helps my psyche, but doesn’t really force me to live in the moment with any urgency. This is all a great reminder that now is really all I have so I best make the best of it.

I am thinking about William Bridges transitions model. I have read a lot about “the new normal”, but I think that is misleading. What I am experiencing now is not sustainable, so by definition it can’t last = be the new normal. What I think we are in now is the luminal stage between an old normal and a new normal. I have experienced the grief and pain of letting go. Not going out to eat on Friday’s with the family. Cancelled plays, symphonies and summer music festivals. Putting another trip to Europe on indefinite hold. Now I am in between. A place where I know that the old is gone, but that the new hasn’t quite taken shape. Bridges points out that there is great power and opportunity in this in between space. It’s a time for questioning old assumptions and trying on new ways of being. It’s a time for patience and not rushing to the new normal. If I take my time and sit comfortably with “not knowing” I can use this time to explore many options for what a new normal could look like before settling into one that I prefer. I am slowly settling in to not having to know.

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miscellaneous

Happy 21st and 19th

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miscellaneous

COVID-19: what I’ve learned and what I’m doing / not doing

What a difference a week can make.  In the last week, COVID-19 has gone from somewhere in my top 10 list to a solid number 1, both in terms of wat I spend time thinking about and in terms of what I spend time doing (and not doing).  Here’s a rundown of what it’s taught me, about myself and people in general as well as what I am doing…and not doing (or at least attempting not to do).

What I’ve learned about myself specificall

  1. As much progress as I feel I’ve made through mindfulness practice (journaling, meditation, etc) I still get caught up in my thoughts far to easily when under stress.  I did “catch myself” clicking into that next news article, staying up later than I should have reading / watching, and waking up earlier than I needed to with my mind immediately “spinning”.  Everything is a teacher and the next few weeks is a great time for me to test and improve my practice, holding myself with compassion when I fail (which will undoubtedly happen).
  2. I noticed some feeling and reactions I’m not so proud of.  For example, I was elated when the market dropped 10% on Thursday.  I felt excited and self satisfied for being on the side lines.  Another example: my kids college’s both went to at least tempory remote instruction within a few hours of each other this past week.  While I am glad to have them home, I was also immediateley worried about them bringing the virus along with them.  Perhaps I have more shadenfreude and disgust reflex than I would like to admit.
  3. My first reaction is still to do something.  At first it was read all I could.  Then it was stock up on a few things (thankfully for me this was Monday).  Then it was tell everyone I cared about how bad it might be and that they should limit travel and prepare.  Then it was to help keep things moving at work and with my church.  I still haven’t been able to make myself sit with this and just let it be.
  4. I’m actually a little more “socialist” than I thought I might be.  COVID-19 hasn’t caused me to sudenly support massive government interventions since I still believe that the only real power that we give to a government stems from a monoploy on violence.  However, I do actually care about the health and wellbeing of others, even those I don’t know far more than I might let on sometimes.  I’m doing / not doing most of the things listed below not because I think I am in any real danger, but because I think it’s the best thing I can do to slow the spread.  As I read somewhere in the last few days (it all runs together so sorry for lack or attribution): going out in crowds because you’re not worried you will get sick is like driving on the sidewalks since you know you won’t get hurt.  Sometimes its not about you.
  5. I still don’t like “not knowing”.  I really liked the question “what would it feel like to not have to know” since I first read it in Reboot a few months ago.  However I recognize I am still not good at being comfortable in a place of not nowing.  I want testing availalable for everyone now so I can know the real numbers.  I want a complete decontamination procedure so I can know I am safe in my own home.  I want leadership that seems in touch with reality and has a clear idea what we should do so that I can know what the next few months will be like.  These things are just not for me to know right now.

What I’ve learned about people (including me)

  1. We are really bad at math, science, logic and pretty much everything else that the Enlightment gave us. I’ve seen so many posts about how few people this has killed compared to the flu which proves we are bad at understanding exponentials. I’ve seen an equal number of posts claiming that drinking hot water (or worse bleach) are a cure which proves we are bad at science. Reason and logic are not everything, but they are a tool that can help understand and even solve some things. Viral pandemics happen to be one of those things.
  2. We have made a mess of our sense making apparatus. It’s a strange twist of fate that a technology that was supposed to bring us together has seperated us so deeply. We seem to have lost any way to come to a common idea of what is real. We used to have institutions, norms and trust in expertise that could help tease out, hopefully in public, what was real, at least a local / operational sense. All that seems to have evaoprated and as a result we can’t seem to make any effective collective decisions. Democracy is a reasonable (least bad?) way to make decisions, but it requires something that is outside of it to come to consensus reality. One reason that China seems to be “beating us” in their response to this threat is that our political mechanisms are no longer based on any common sense making aparatus.
  3. We will do anything to feel in control. Why else would TP be sold out everywhere?
  4. We are less “socialist” than I thought. Despite the seeming popularity of socialist ideas and leaders, when push comes to shove it seems we are all much more about the one than the many. I expected this from the Me generation (Boomers), but must say I am suprised seeing this in Millenials. I know its a lot to process, but I would have thought they would be rather ready stop going out for a few weeks to save us all. Us in Gen Z are just going to sit in the back with our anxiety and let those two generations kill each other I guess.
  5. We really are bad at recognizing new situations. I can’t help but connect this to System 1 / System 2 errors from Thining Fast and Slow. The basic idea is that System 1 operates most of the time. It is the “real time” system and given out limited capacity to take in everything, it operates on assumptions, stereotypes and hueristics. It’s fine when things are “normal”, but it can lead us astray when they are not. Another part of the work talks about these heuristics, or biases and how they can lead us astray. One bias that seems obvious in the last week is normalcy bias, which keeps us from noticing when things are not normal…and causes us to over react when we notice that they aren’t. Another is recall bias, which substitutes the likihood of something happening by the eas at which we can recall something happening. It’s been interesting to see this one in action on those that are on opposing sides of the reaction spectrum. Those that are in the “it’s just the flu” camp can’t ever recall a global pandemic killing 2% of the population, so they default to the closest thing they can recall. Those that are buying all the TP are deep into some sub-reddits that allow them to easily recall the death rates from the 1918 spanish flu for 10 major metropolitan areas as well as which one had the worst time of it in the second and third wave…so they buy all the TP. Even when we do recognize something new, we seem to react in the old way. Preparing for this like we would a bad snow storm.

What I’m doing

  1. Staying put mostly.  This is the big one.  Since Sunday I have left the house twice.  It’s the intersection of wanting to have control and trying to do what I can for others.  I had a slight concern that I might have had it – I attended a conference a few weeks before it was a thing that several other people that were in attendance have since tested positive.  That’s nearly 3 weeks in the past now, so it seems I would be showing some symptoms by now.  So staying put now is mostly about doing what I can to slow the spread and being a good example to others.
  2. Reading.  I’ve got a huse stack of books that I’ve been looking for an excuse to read.  Excuse delivered (although I would have much prefered to have won the lottery or even to have been fired as the excuse).
  3. Cooking.  Since we’re not going out much, we’re cooking a lot more.  This is a good thing, mainly since we already know how to cook (I can imagine it would be less so if that weren’t the case).  Of course cooking means that we get to eat, but its also something for us to do together and gives us something to do that we know is taking care of us and others.  Another way I am taking care of myself (since I am eating what we are cooking) is exercising ;-).
  4. Helping.  I’m mostly trying to help my church stay conected through the next few weeks, but also helping local businesses by buying gift cards through their websites as a way to get them cash as their business drops.  I’d donate if they’d let me.  Our church is closed to gatherings for the next few weeks, so I am helping out there by getting them setup to live stream a service and putting together tech guides and support for lay leadership to continue to do their work while we are practicing social distancing.
  5. Working.  While my backlog of to do items is getting a little thin, I am “going” to work each day (translation: chaning from PJs into clothes and going to my home office in the basement).  I do understand that it’s a tremendous privelage to be able to continue working AND to stay at home that not everyone has.  I am grateful for it but don’t feel guilty.

What I’m not doing

  1. Hoarding.  I am enough and I have enough.  My last trip out on Monday was for enough to let us stay put for a couple weeks (and included no TP…we already had enough of that…and there wasn’t any).
  2. Panicing.  I am finding a way to be vigilent without being anxious.  I am finding a way to pay attention to what’s going on without obsessing.  I am finding a way to notice what is new without assuming that everything “normal” is out the window.
  3. Wallowing.  I don’t think this is the end of the world.  I do think this is a time we will talk about as “before” and “after”, but we’ve had those before (9/11, financial crisis) and made adjustments and moved on.
  4. Watching sports.  Since there isn’t any.  While I support the decision 100%, a small tragedy in all of this is that we won’t get to spend our time watching March Madness.  I do think there is a huge opportunity for EA Games to do a massive e-sports basketball event, having the teams play each other online. I’d watch.
  5. Going out.  This may seem obvious since I am mostly staying put, but it is one that I have to keep in mind since I do really enjoy going out (to dinner, to a show, to a bar, etc) and honestly its the one that makes me feel most like I am over reacting. I am refraining from judging others that are going out in the hopes that they will respect my choice as well.

This is where I am today.  I used to write here in search of some ineffible truth.  Now I recognize that all I can do is capture the state of my mind as it is.  My hope is that I will read this in a few months and laugh at most of it as serious over reaction.  Time will tell.