Sometimes things go wrong

I recently reflected on my article about Panic, Luck, and Control. It was good to remind myself of those experiences and to consider the continuing impact of those events. The lessons of mindfulness and awareness of perspective extend beyond life-threatening situations. Today, I had the opportunity to exercise a bit of perspective while experiencing a series of mishaps.

Image source: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst [Goodreads]

Let me begin by saying that this post is not a rant. To put it crudely: shit happens. The mishaps I experienced today were simple and non-threatening. As you'll see, I kept that in mind throughout the day.

I started the day with a vehicle that wouldn't start, probably due to the very cold temperatures in Colorado currently. A minor inconvenience easily remedied with preparedness. So, I grabbed my portable jump-starter (which I own for just such occasions), hooked it up, and got the vehicle started. The primary use of my vehicles is transporting my kids and that's exactly what I needed it for today. So, after picking them up, we were off to get some groceries and necessities.

Shopping with my kids is always very easy; we have a list, we plan meals beforehand, they know how I shop (by value not by brand), and we happily disregard marketing distractions so that we get only what we came for. So, we completed our list, bought what we needed, and went back to the car. Unfortunately, it wouldn't start again.

At this point, I suspect that the issue is worse than the cold, but -- as I have groceries and my children with me -- I need to find a quick solution now and tinker later. I grab the jump starter (which I'd had the forethought to keep with me in the vehicle for this trip), hook it up, and start the car. Yay! Problem solved and time to go home, right? Nope. I got out of the car, flip the switch off for the jump starter, and the vehicle sputters and dies. Weird. Maybe it just needs a little gas to get the engine warm? I jump it again, start the engine successfully, but get the same sputtering death when I flip off the jump starter.

With the vehicle inoperable, my daughter starts to voice a bit of concern and worry. This is where those lessons I mentioned at the start kicked in for me and I now had an opportunity to pass on similar perspective to her. I told her that this kind of things happen. Things break, plans get messed up, money gets spent, and time passes. Change and chaos are a fact of life, a fact of existence in the universe. The thing which we have control over is how we view those stressors. I explained to her that I could easily be frustrated about the car problems, I could be annoyed that our day was getting "ruined", but that frustration and anger wouldn't fix the car nor magically transport us home with the groceries and on with our day. What that frustration and anger could do is destroy whatever is make the experience that much worse.

We discussed an intentional positive focus in our perspective. What was the good news? Well, we were in the parking lot of a place that sold basic car necessities (batteries, tools, cables, etc.) and we were less than a block from an automotive store from which I could even buy engine replacement parts if necessary. My son chimed in that we could even spend more time looking at the toys and games, insisting that there's no way we could get bored.

I proceeded to deal with the car issues, we were in and out of the store multiple times. I borrowed tools, I pulled the battery, and got it tested. Meanwhile, my kids and I had a bite to eat and spent more time together. Coincidentally, while we were wandering the store, we ran into many people we knew and even got acquainted with a few of the associates. It became kind of fun. I got to see multiple friends, meet new people, catch up on news of their holidays, and shared a shrug and a laugh with a friend who was there swapping out his dead-in-the-cold car battery as well.

At one point, when we were back outside, I accidentally dropped one of the borrowed tools into my engine. My daughter's mouth dropped open with surprise and my sons eyes were the size of saucers. I just started laughing and said, "Really?! Really, Indy?! You haven't had enough yet?" I looked over at my kids with a smile, shook my head, and said, "Guess I needed to make things more interesting." They starting cracking up, the worry disappeared from their faces. I struggled and managed to free the tool from the engine compartment and finished what I was doing.

What could have been "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" had turned into a challenging adventure, not of adrenaline and life-or-death circumstance, but of everyday stress. When it was all over, I had less money in the bank than I'd planned to end the day with, but I still had two happy kids and another bad-day-gone-good memory. Sure, I'll have a bit more cleaning up to do after this, financially and vehicularly, but it's just like sweeping up broken glass when you drop a vase. Sometimes things go wrong, but nothing is really bad until the people involved give up and let that brokenness of circumstance enter their minds and hearts.


Who are your VIPs?

Last Spring, I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Brian Callahan, the Director of Fun at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. Amidst a number of entertaining and enlightening anecdotes about the company and its history, Brian made an insightful statement that struck me as applicable beyond business. He had been asked by another member of the audience to define what makes a person a VIP for New Belgium. Brian replied, "[A VIP] would be someone who can influence sales." He elaborated on what that meant, as far as business, but that initial sentence resonated with me and I considered its implications.

Image source: eventwristbands.com

We, as individuals, are each the product of our life’s manufacture. We build and advance ourselves as we strive to reach for goals and connect with people. Considering that perspective, one might say that many of our interactions in life are opportunities to market who we are. I don’t mean that to say that we are selfishly promoting our “product” (self) in competition with other “products” (other individuals). What I mean is that each new interaction is our way of presenting our product and how it might integrate with the current scenario or individual.

If who we are is our life’s product and new scenarios are our opportunities to utilize -- or at least better understand -- our product, then I posit that our personal VIPs are those individuals who can influence those sales opportunities. VIPs help us by providing feedback about our product. VIPs tell us about features we may have overlooked or that we underestimate. VIPs communicate with others about our utility and, as a result, provide new markets in which to promote and understand our product.

We share a bit of ourselves with every person in our life. The individuals we meet in life each have a different perspective on who we are. Some individuals have earned titles of trust: “friend”, “lover”, “companion”. The individuals who help you find new opportunities to understand and improve who you are “very important people”. Some people come into your life simply to make a transaction; to receive some specific use from your product or service in exchange for some specific use of their own product or service. Those people are merely customers and consumers. The people who form lasting relationships with you, bond with you, and feature you as a valued part of their life are “very important people”.

So, who are your VIPs?

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America. A day when many people spend some time with -- or at least thinking of -- the people they care about most in life. As you consider the influences and significance of the people in your life today, pay special attention to your “very important people”. Who is it that has special understanding and access to the true nature of who you are? Who promotes you, uplifts you, and encourages you to explore new possibilities? Who gives you goals to aim for and benchmarks of growth? Who values you more than just a transaction of interaction and utility? Who wears your brand, talks about your achievements, and visits your events as if they were their own? Who provides constructive feedback to you, about both your successes and about your opportunities for growth?

VIPs can influence your sales. Therefore, put special attention into the people who will improve and build up who you are. Recognize and acknowledge your VIPs. Connect with them and tell them “thank you” for being very important people in your life and for helping you to discover, explore, investigate, and promote who you are as a person and connecting you with opportunities in life.


Role Models of Defiance

Today, it is again the fifth of November. A day during which I like to consider my place in society and society's place within myself. In previous years, I've used this day to prompt discussions regarding privacy, surveillance, control, and even a bit about setting boundaries. This year, I'd like to discuss the importance of questioning established systems.

I've written before about the costs and concepts of tradition and complacency before, emphasizing the benefits of critical thinking and asking "Why?".
You would not devour a meal before minimally evaluating its edibility, therefore I also encourage you to carefully consider what intellectually digest before you risk poisoning your reason and wisdom.
The same sentiments can be applied toward establishments of authority and organization. In fact, a number of psychological studies imply the challenges encountered when one does not have a healthy counter-balance for authority. One particularly famous (or infamous) study is the Milgram experiment [Wikipedia]. In these studies, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram measured an individual's willingness to obey the orders of an external authority and inflict perceived harm upon another person, even as inflicted that harm was contrary to their personal ethic. (Hank Green does a great job of summarizing this experiment in "Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38" [YouTube])

Of the results summarized by Hank, one significantly caught my attention: "Subjects are more likely to comply with orders if they didn't see anyone else disobeying, no role models of defiance." (You'll notice that it was Hank's words within that video which inspired this article's title and prompted its contents.) When I first heard those words a couple years ago, the gears began turning in my mind. What does it mean to be a "role model of defiance"? Do we have any or many in our society which stand in such a role?

(Please read footnote 1 regarding this image.)


Politics haunted by fear

This morning, I was greeted by a post from my friend and frequent collaborator. He sought my opinion on "Scary Politics" [Slate].
Fifteen minutes later, I had written what clearly needed to become a full blog article. So, after a bit of editing, here it is....

Image source: "Fear" - Pixar Wiki

Fear is an effective motivator. It's instinctive and requires no higher thought; this is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it can save our skin (literally) when rational decision making would take too long. On the other hand, our innate bodily systems (e.g. the limbic system) override and highjack our rational thought processes. In effect, our mind becomes helpless to the control of fight/flight.

You can see this response reflected in the current conservative base: Fight against perceived threats (terrorism, "lawlessness", drugs that will harm "the children"), run from things which overwhelm your already stressed mind (climate change, social inequality, religion vs reason), prepare for potential problems (tighter budgets, closer to home focus), etc.. Meanwhile, the liberal base is almost blinded by a euphoric abundance of hope and trust. Care for those in need (welfare, healthcare), provide for the future (college loan decrease, better fund education), invite social change and progress (look to the youth, legalize same-sex marriage), etc.. (For initial thoughts on the relationship between fear and trust: "Put your heart into it")

The result of these related but opposite "feelings" is a fundamental clash between ideologies (summarized well recently by Reddit user SnappyCrunch [Reddit]). In my opinion, what's needed is healthy critical thinking on the issues. Sometimes, fear needs to be acknowledged and obeyed. Other times, it needs to be set aside. I try often (and also encourage others) to recognize "The Flinch". Once you recognize that fear response you can engage higher reasoning to determine "Is this something I react to or push through?".

Personally, every time I face a challenge and feel that fear response, that flinch. I would acknowledge it and recognize that -- at that moment -- my body and senses were preparing for what I was going to do. Furthermore, I reassured myself that I had learned and developed the necessary skill to take on what I was about to do at that moment. And then... I proceed with the appropriate action based on those skills and understanding not based on the baser reaction. (If during my honest self-assessment, I felt that I did not have the necessary skill, I would choose not to proceed. Remember, critical thinking is about the decision not the outcome.)

Politically, this means acknowledging the triggers we have as a society and then addressing them on a grander scale with rational thought and respect for those who are struggling to overcome fear and expand their comfort zones. We can do this, but it's going to take effort within the mind of every individual before it will effectively change on a societal scale. As I said in one of my defining blog articles, "Life isn't about panic, luck, and control; it's about love, respect, and trust."


Help me get my PhD

I'm preparing to take a significant academic leap in my life: I intend to get a PhD.
You may have known that this announcement has been building for some time. I had been wrestling with both the intention as well as the timing of this decision. After such consideration, I decided that the Fall of 2015 was the right time to take the first steps.

Over the next few months, I'll be preparing my application, taking the necessary preparatory exams, and meeting with professors I hope will be my mentors in my degree program. My desire is to study and research fear. If you've been a reader of my blog, then you know that I'm fascinated by the psychology of fear and challenge. I would like to hone that fascination and turn my various hypotheses into working theories and models. As with many things, this will take time and money; it is with those two things that I'm asking your help.

This is a big decision, not least ways financially, and I'd like to minimize the amount of debt I go into as a result. I would appreciate any amount you're willing to give me. Within these first months, you'll be helping me to pay for taking the GRE and the study materials to perform well on it. You'll also be helping me pay application fees and order the necessary documents.

To make a donation, of any amount and at any time, click the button below or visit http://donate.indy.cc

Money isn't everything. I want your help keeping my focus and motivation. Ask me about my progress, remind me about my priorities, encourage me to continue forward. Life is all about the connections we make and you have connected with me; I value your input, advice, and encouragement.

Thank you for your support, both financially and motivationally.
I'll keep you informed of my progress as I walk this journey. I hope to hear your cheers along the way.


Remembering Reid

Last week, the world lost a fun and uplifting person and I (and many others) lost a friend.
Reid Levin [reidlevin.net] was a friend of mine from my days in High School. Since that time, I'd been an avid follower of his comedy and regular reader of his blog. Before leukemia ended his life on August 25th, Reid said, "I didn't get to finish my story." Seeing those words on his blog [reidlevin.net] really struck me deeply.

Photo source: Wikipedia

I've written before about life's story and the importance of appreciating the adventure of life. This year has been filled with change and challenge for me. Losing my friend Chris to a hiking accident was unexpected, but felt somewhat pallatable, as I make conscious choices to take risks as he often did. Losing Reid affected me in a different way entirely; he didn't choose the path of life with cancer, but he accepted it as best he could. Furthermore, he did all he could to bring happiness to the people in his life no matter how distant from him we were.

I've learned a lot this year, through the examples of both my friends and many others. I am so grateful for the people in my life who have helped me along in my adventure. Reid, I'm so grateful for the smiles you brought me and many others. You may not have had a chance to finish your story, but I hope and think it's still being written in the hearts and minds of the people who know and miss you.


Review: Beyond

It’s not often you find depth in brevity, yet here I am in awe of Joe Penna’s short film "Beyond".

URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heCXjUIvw24

The story, the music, the emotion, the meaning, all amazing. Beyond is a beautifully made film involving time-travel, technology, intrigue, and philosophy, but most significantly it is a story that depicts the search for meaning and purpose in life.

At only 40 minutes long, this film is well worth watching. And, I hope, it resonates with you on a personal level, reminding you to seek peace and happiness in your journey through time.


Review: Solarversia

SolarversiaSolarversia by Toby Downton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was contacted by the author, Toby Downton, to read and review an advanced copy of Solarversia. I have every bit of encouragement for him as an author and hope publishing this book, his first novel, will propel him to transform more of his ideas and imagination into written word. Having said all that, I'm going to turn my attention and my "critic's eye" toward Solarversia.

Solarversia is story that attempts to take readers on a thrilling ride through real world and digital crime and puzzle solving. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I didn't care about the outcome of either storyline. The first third of the book introduced far too much superfluous information about the dynamics of the virtual world; feeling less like the painting of a picture and more like the iteration of every chemical contained in paint. I found myself unable to identify with the characters, nor to care about their struggles. The story picked up pace about midway through the book, but quickly slowed back down again. The wizkid of the story was more kid than wiz and definitely didn't seem like a statistically exceptional individual when it came to puzzles. The antagonists of the story had confusing and unexplained motivations. Worse still, I was underwhelmed by the lack of real world consequences for their real world crimes; it became impossible for me to suspend disbelief and pick a side.

In the end, the story captured my attention only as much as a made-for-TV movie. Having had my opinion solicited for this book, I wrestled with being so candid in my review. However, I think it's only fair that I remain honest with my opinion, even when I can feel the burn of the author's eyes on my words. I think Toby has great potential as a writer, it's impossible to ignore the depth of story and creativity he would like to share with the world. This book tried to put a lot of content into a small space, perhaps this is the result of the author feeling the pressure of his own words: "There can be only one". That doesn't need to be the case here, many more stories can and should be made of this creatively imagined universe. And I promise I'll keep an open mind about reading more in the future.

View all my reviews


Tau and equality

Periodically, on June 28th, I draw attention to Tau Day, a concept in math which helps "round" out learning angles and waves. Only two days ago on June 26th, another date worth remembering occured: the Supreme Court of the United States of America has "held that state recognition of same-sex marriage is a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment" [Wikipedia: "Obergefell v. Hodges"]. While I, personally, am unaffected by this decision, I do think it's an important advance in equality in the USA and I'm glad this country has chosen to see the LGBT community as I always have: equal and able to pursue what they love.

Coupled with this landmark court decision, I think we should recognize the mathematical unity of the circle of hands being joined around the United States of America these last few days. Earlier this year the "Ultimate [Half Tau] Day" (aka Pi Day) occurred and in my writing I drew attention again to how using Tau can help people understand circles, angles, and waves with ease.

Here's an entertaining overview of Tau by DNews:

URL: https://youtu.be/kmnogV9S7b8

Additionally, I invite you to watch the long version of the Tau Manifesto talk below or you can take a smaller slice of the pie by jumping back to the Half Tau article to watch the short version. Either way, let's remember the significance of June 26th as we move forward as a country and the significance of June 28th as we attempt new mathematical understanding. Through both politics and math we will find new ways to overcome obstacles and inequality both in human rights and in math education.

URL: http://youtu.be/H69YH5TnNXI

Read more about Tau here: http://www.tauday.com/


Friendship and the adventure of life

Earlier this evening, I spent some time with a pair of long-time friends who will soon be off on a new adventure in life. Last year, when writing A chapter ends, the story continues, I said that "Life is nothing without the people in it, the experiences we have, and the relationships we form through each chapter."

With that perspective always in mind, it was easy not to spend my time saying goodbye to my friends with sadness. We looked ahead with eagerness on the opportunities we can create with eachother in the future and the memories we’ve shared together in our past.

The words of my character are shown right on the front page of my website:
Life is a journey through exciting challenges and breath-taking experiences. I try to embrace the fun and adventure of each day and strive not to take things too seriously.
There will be significant transitions in my life this month. So many chapters will be ending, but -- as I said in that article last Spring -- the story will continue. I welcome both the celebrations and the hardships which are ahead because each will bring value and enrichment to the adventure of life.

Yes, it will be painful to say goodbye to people who have meant so much to me. Yes, it will ache every time I'm reminded what was, but is no more. However, that pain and those aches will stand as monuments to adventures and people well-remembered.

We remember best the things we feel the most. My greatest adventures are the ones that I experienced with significance. Whether that significance comes from suffering, elation, or even repetition, those memories are truly felt when reflected upon. If there’s advice I can emphasize while I stand at the bow of my metaphorical ship, staring into the storm ahead, it’s this: Trust your instincts and skills. Respect and embrace your challenges. Love with all your heart. And, most of all, live. Really LIVE. Every moment of this life is your adventure.

Photo by Indy. The fedora after a unforgettably cold and challenging adventure.


Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last week I read a book that quickly became one of my favorite novels. Ernest Cline's Ready Player One was a thrilling journey of nostalgia mixed with imagination. Cline does a great job of weaving a story that draws the interest of every type of geek imaginable. Whether you're a fan of 80s trends, arcade games, fantasy stories, sci-fi TV, MMORPGs, dystopian futures, political activism, corporate intrigue, or simply the thrill of a treasure hunt, you'll enjoy this novel. I was glued to this book from start to finish.

Adding to my excitement about this story, I've come to understand that this entertaining novel will be made into a film [IMDB]. I sincerely hope that they'll acquire all the necessary intellectual property permissions to do this story justice. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Ernest Cline's novel and...

View all my reviews


Everest shaken

A week ago, I wrote an article reflecting on the Everest tragedy of 2014. Today, another tragedy has struck that region. At 11:56 local time, a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal and the surrounding region. At this time, over 1800 people have been confirmed as dead.

Photo source: India Times

An avalanche was triggered on Everest, killing 13 people at the South Base Camp. Many others were injured and stranded elsewhere on the mountain. In last week's article, I mentioned that two fellow mountain enthusiasts out of Colorado are on the mountain: Alan Arnette [alanarnette.com] and Jon Kedrowski [jonkeverest.org]. Both Alan and Jon were near when the earthquake and avalanche occurred. They (and another Colorado climber, as well) are OK, but stranded. I'm confident that they'll soon find a safe route down the mountain. Should it be necessary I'll update this blog article.

For now, I simply wanted to take this moment to acknowledge this recent event in the region and address the information so fresh after the last article. Climbing comes with inherent risk, some can be planned and managed, others are complete unpredictable and sometimes unknown. As I said in the article written for my friend Chris: Those of us that love and seek out the beauty of this wonderful universe know in our hearts that there is both risk and reward when we set out on the adventures that fulfill us.

I'm saddened for the many many people affected by the earthquake today and for those whose friends and family have died today, not only the climbers but throughout the region. I'm glad that Alan and Jon are doing OK, but there are others who are not. I lost my friend Chris a little over a month ago, so many lives of so many friends of others have been lost today.

For more details on the quake itself, I'd like to direct you to the related article on Wikipedia. For more details on the Colorado climbers, start here with a news article.


Life and death on the mountain

Image from NASA. Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85710&src=eorss-iotd

Last year (2014) on the 18th of April, a large piece of a hanging glacier broke off and triggered an avalanche on the south face of Mount Everest. The avalanche overtook a group of guides, killing sixteen. There had never been a day before with that many deaths on the mountain. Now, a year later, climbers are facing the challenge of Mount Everest again. Of the climbers now in the Himalaya, two are fellow Colorado mountain enthusiasts: Alan Arnette [alanarnette.com] and Jon Kedrowski [jonkeverest.org].

Alan and I enjoy hiking in the same areas of Northern Colorado, often unexpectedly running across each other on some local trail. Jon Kedrowski is a resident in the heart of the Colorado mountains. I don't think Jon has an "off season", there is never a shortage of beautiful photos and wild adventures coming from him. I am always guaranteed a healthy dose of inspiration and a yearning for the mountains whenever I see a post from either of these two.

The fact that both Alan and Jon are adventuring in the Himalaya on this dark day for Everest is both unsurprising and unnerving. It's unsurprising because the window of opportunity is open and it's only open a little while. It's unnerving because the reality of potential disaster is more personal than a sobering headline in climbing news. However, tragedy isn't an end-all. My recent review of "Supersurvivors" touched on the concept of "bouncing forward".

Climbers of Everest have bounced forward after the tragedy on Everest last year. Safer routes, more precautions, better planning, and more. (I encourage you to read Alan's article [alanarnette.com] on the events of the tragedy and the Everest community's recovery from it.) I've also made recent adjustments to my adventuring as well. After the death of my friend Chris, I reevaluated my approach to local hikes and have established some extra precautions in the case of an emergency while on any mountain -- not just "the big ones", as I'd thought previously.

Today, I invite you to join my friends Alan and Jon digitally in the Himalaya by reading their words as they take the next steps in their adventures. Additionally, technology has made what was impossible now possible:
- Use Satellite trackers to follow Alan [alanarnette.com] and Jon [findmespot.com] as they climb
- Climb to Everest Base Camp [google.com] with Google Streetview
- Explore the route up Everest itself [everestavalanchetragedy.com] with Discovery's Everest Tragedy explorer

Whatever your adventure and however you pursue it, I hope you appreciate the good experiences and learn from the bad ones. Today, we look back and remember those who have died. Tomorrow, we honor their memory by building a better future.


Review: Supersurvivors

Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and SuccessSupersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success by David B. Feldman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fascinated and impressed with Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success. This book was laid out beautifully, reviewing points when necessary and tying together ideas cohesively. The use of statistics and studies were perfectly balanced; the authors didn't exhaust readers with an abundance of unexplained data nor did they make baseless conjectures. It would have been easy for this book to have become an empty shell of feel-good "you can do it" mumbo-jumbo, but it wasn't. The book is a coherent explanation of the ways that some individuals might "bounce forward" after trauma and tragedy.

I highly recommend this book for anyone curious about a balanced perspective on human perseverance and the adaptation of mind. This is a refreshing look at concrete commonalities seen in individuals that have turned tragedies into triumphs and/or triumphed after tragedies. Touching on cancer, violence, and even genocide, the book covers a wide area of subject matter and specifically looks at how one might model behaviors and perspectives based on the data.

The authors did a wonderful job of summarizing the overall message I got from this book, so I'll leave you with their final words:
"From each, we learn that it is possible to brave life's trials with a deep sense of hope. And that, rooted in the act of confronting the entanglements of life, every one of us has the capacity to be super."

View all my reviews


For Chris

Sometimes the adventure of life comes to an unexpected end. Yesterday, a friend and kindred spirit embarked on the final adventure of life. An unexpected incident brought about an unexpected end while hiking.

Photo by Indy

Those of us that love and seek out the beauty of this wonderful universe know in our hearts that there is both risk and reward when we set out on the adventures that fulfill us. My friend Chris was no novice when it came to adventure. Over the years, he and I would discuss and exchange photos and stories from our adventures. Chris and I both loved solo hiking. We also loved introducing people to new experiences and locations. Often, that meant that he and I would spend more time saying "Ooo! Try this one!" or "Check this out!" than trying to wedge ourselves into a shared undertaking. Even so, we had planned on sharing in our more difficult challenges together. Chris was going to partner with me on some of the more difficult Colorado peaks for which he and I would both benefit from our combined experience, perspective, enthusiasm, and encouragement.

Life doesn't always go the way we expect. Sometimes that unpredictability can add a dose of fun and challenge. Other times it can amplify risk beyond control and skill. There's very little that I've written about regarding fear, risk and survival which Chris didn't already know. I remember his eagerness and interest in our discussions surrounding my articles of "Experience the Challenge" and "Panic, Luck, and Control". On the days where I'd be standing in my office, longing for an outdoor adventure, Chris would provide all of us with wonderful views of his adventures. Last weekend, Chris and I both happened to be sitting in our own solitude on two different peaks; miles apart, but still unified via technology in our appreciation of adventure.

A few days later, I sent Chris this article comparing Altitude and Latitude. I didn't know it would be our last exchange, but I'm glad it could be surrounding our mutual love and fascination with the mountains. I will never be able to share a journey with Chris, but I will remember his enthusiasm and thirst for adventure. I will strive to use that memory as kindling to keep that fire burning... for Chris.


Happy Ultimate Half Tau Day!

Pi is nice, but Tau is better!

Image from "The Tau Manifesto"

Over the years, I've written about Pi and Tau. Today is the Ultimate Pi Day; March 14, 2015. And throughout the world at 9:26:53 local time, people can celebrate Pi to nine digits. Still, Pi is only one "slice" of the whole pie. Tau is the answer to learning about circles, angles, and waves in an easy and fun way. So, enjoy your slice of Pi today, but remember to give Tau's simplicity a "turn" too.

URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hhjsSN-AiU

Read more about Tau here: http://www.tauday.com/


Groundhog Day 2015

"Everything changes, nothing remains without change." -- Buddha

Photo by Wotan (Found via Wikipedia)

My life has undergone significant changes over the course of this last year. Some of those changes have been gradual, others have happened in an instant. As a parent, I witness with wonder how quickly my children grow and change; their development mentally, physically, and emotionally happening at an exponential rate. However, rapid change doesn't only occur with children; think of the impact a significant change has had on your mind and body (e.g. loss of a loved one, learning a new skill, meeting a new person, an injury, a move, etc.). One moment you were one person, the next moment you were someone else with an entirely different perspective.

As the years pass and I continue to enjoy my silly little tradition of watching the film Groundhog Day and using it as a catalyst for self-reflection. Last year on Groundhog Day, I had deep thoughts related to metaphorical donuts. Today, while I eat a literal donut, I find myself contemplating how the film remains the same and it is I which continues to change. As Phil repeats living the same day and all else remains constant, he changes within. I've seen this movie too many times to count; some years I even play it on repeat the entire day. That said, each viewing experience seems to bring me something different that I can consider in my life.

That powerful contemplation doesn't come from the unchanged film, but from within as an effect of the life which I have lived since my last viewing. Viewing this film and celebrating a large rodent and its shadow aren't essential to the effect I recognize. Rather, it all comes from within. Life isn't about how much time passes and how little or how much things change, it's how we embrace those changes and value the time we have.

I wonder, with great excitement, what changes will occur between now and the next Groundhog Day. Who will I be when I reflect on these words a year from now? What adventures are in my journey ahead? Today (and each day) I set in motion my future. Today I determine the changes I will create and changes I will undergo as I live this ever-changing life.


Review: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthAn Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield quickly became one of my favorite books while reading/listening to it. I decided to go through this book using both audiobook and written word. I chose to listen to the audiobook because I saw that it was narrated by Chris Hadfield himself; I couldn't think of a better way to hear about his experiences and thoughts than with his tone and delivery, his emotion through spoken word. I read along sometimes and often reviewed specific chapters just so I could highlight a passage that had caught my attention.

This book is itself a journey with Chris in becoming an astronaut and, as such, there are many lessons learned along the way. In fact, there are so many bits of life-applicable information, that I can only select a small few to include coherently in this review. For example, Chris presents a useful metaphor regarding "attitude":
In space flight, "attitude" refers to orientation: which direction your vehicle is pointing relative to the Sun, Earth and other spacecraft. If you lose control of your attitude, two things happen: the vehicle starts to tumble and spin, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which, if you’re short on time or fuel, could mean the difference between life and death. In the Soyuz, for example, we use every cue from every available source—periscope, multiple sensors, the horizon—to monitor our attitude constantly and adjust if necessary. We never want to lose attitude, since maintaining attitude is fundamental to success. In my experience, something similar is true on Earth. Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.
I had read one review of this book as being like a dad-talk and, after reading it, I agree. That said, it is not a patronizing lecture; Chris words are encouraging and uplifting. The kind of dad-talk that motivates you and kindles your spirit. His words are far from "I'm an astronaut, literally and figuratively above you." Instead, they are like this passage:
Fundamentally, life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: You can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones. Ultimately, the real question is whether you want to be happy. I didn’t need to leave the planet to find the right answer. But knowing what it was definitely helped me love life off Earth.
Reading this book was a wonderful way to transition into the new year. I highly recommend this book and I'm already looking forward to reading it again in the future.

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