Sunday, January 7, 2024


I am currently relaxing in my recliner deciding what today's agenda entails. Probably a bit of work on the basement bathroom as well as some cleaning, i.e. nothing profound. Yesterday, I got the new toilet mounted on the flange and installed trim behind it, in opposite order of course. It's interesting how the final install/finishing aspects of a project feel the most satisfying. Framing, drywall, electrical and plumbing, while each taking a bit of time leave me feeling mildly unsatisfied as their completions is not necessarily the finished product. Instead, install a couple trim boards and set a water closet and I want to have a cigar (if I smoked cigars). Maybe for me it's because those are the parts that get the praise/notice from the proverbial peanut gallery? Affirmation might be "a thing" for me. 

That feels like a not necessarily good thing. One reason is it might short-circuit doing diligent work on my hobbies for a quick "like". I try not to be hasty but can get impatient, even with myself. Is it worth telling a half finished/not polished story before it's ready for "prime time"?  I'm not sure but would like to think a complete story might be more worthwhile/satisfying: A project from start to finish, a whole song on the guitar or drums that's well polished, a 3D print design from CAD to dealing with the headaches of getting a new material to print to the finished result. 

For music. I love to play but my playing work/frequency ebbs and flows. I'm also sometimes hesitant to put things out there as my feed is loaded with social media "virtuosos" that make showing off my little bit of work seem amateur. However, I occasionally have a punk attitude towards it and would rather things be a little more raw and gritty with occasional fuck-ups. That's more human more, more real. Honestly, maybe we should all be out playing live more often and not worry about the social media shit show. 

For other stuff, I just enjoy showing what I'm up to. Maybe the complete story isn't entirely necessary as attention spans are short anyway. It's fun to figure something out and share it. In this vein maybe it's less about attention and more about just liking to share. People can do with/click however they wish. I'm sure this long format stream of consciousness has already lost a few :P

I think what I'm getting at here, not that I'm really getting at anything, is that there's a lot of things I like to do and I like to share in life. Call it maybe reaching for some connection. For me there's enjoyment and love in that regardless of whatever "it" is. 

I do sometimes feel like I like trying/doing lots of things at the expense of developing true expertise. I guess as long as I'm good at my job and try my best at being an effective parent/co-parent everything else is just gravy. Still, I've been thinking about whittling back and changing tack. Continue to dabble but really home in on a couple of hobbies.

So what can I let go of? As I sit here thinking about it, it's hard to come up with any one thing. The beer brewing stuff can maybe go....BUT each batch doesn't take long to make. However, using the extract kits everything tastes similar (and mediocre). To actually get good at it would take a lot more time and equipment and I'm a little over it. 

With older kids, I'm getting to a point where I think having a yard and a bunch of property related stuff that requires me to maintain is overrated. I'd still like to have shop/studio space but really don't need the yard aside from a patio and a little garden space. I feel like some people, particularly in suburban life, thrive on this kind of toiling but I more and more find it not enjoyable. This may be a case in looking to hire out some of this work as there is value in home ownership and I like my neighborhood. 

So what else can be simplified? Cleaning? Laundry? Having a turtle? Closing the ebay store? Or maybe just not worrying about it and everything is fine?

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Retrospective '23 (not my original title)

Home Designed/3D printed ornament, 4" diameter. Let me know if you want one, free with shipping. 

I've often started my posts with the title only to find that my meandering words betray the initial intent. The title does start as a prompt, a passing thought that I think might be worth a few hundred words. The pivot usually happens a paragraph or two in, perhaps I've exhausted the idea or perhaps I'm already bored with it or think it then worth fewer words. For example, I'm already bored with writing about my blog titling process. I shall speak of it no more.

Instead, it's New Years Eve! In hindsight the year went really fast. It's interesting how our brains perceive time in this manner. The future seems to creep up slowly while the present often feels like a mad rush (thinking navigating a rapids) while the past is further away than it feels it should be. Maybe it's just being in my 40s? Things I swear were a year or two ago are actually a decade passed. Perhaps we fill up on memories as time goes on and our brain's main source of timekeeping is the relative chronology of those memories? What happens if we lose the ability to perform such relative placement? Is this why birthdays and holiday celebrations are actually important on a more biological/neurological level, i.e. they give us more significant social markers and become our way of mutual/social time synchronization? Will our technology's ability to timeline things like photos actually detract from our own ability to mark time? Will that result in more problematic memory issues later in life if we offload this ability to google photos? 

This whole concept has a spatial analog as well. Does our reliance on our maps apps result in poorer geographic aptitude. Could that have an impact on instinctive direction finding and ultimately motor skills like balance? I do think staring at our maps apps does detract from seeing the world. There are a lot of neat things out there along roadsides, etc. that we just miss. Maybe these are opportunities we are also missing?

Anyhow, there's a whole (or at least 3/4ths of a) rabbit hole for you. I'm sure there's a whole body of neuroscience research taking a look at this. I may have to do a little digging of a colloquial nature. In engineering we call these things PNT (position-navigation-timekeeping) and a multitude of technologies are used to allow everything from phones to airplanes to NASA probes to know where they are. I could yammer about inertial systems and atomic clocks but will spare you for the moment.

Instead, I'll digress back to my '23 retrospective. What a fast-paced year! Which is surprising considering it started with a three hour wait for bags at the airport just after midnight on New Year's Day. We were returning from a cousin's wedding in Miami (excellent wedding, by the way) and most of Sun Country's ground crew must have decided to call off. I hope they have a contingency plan in place for this year's lucky red-eyes. 

Much of the year, for me, was settling into the new job. It took a surprisingly long amount of time to embrace my new role/company. I guess nearly 15 years in one role will build up some inertia to career change. Fortunately, I'm finally feeling more at home in my "engineering lead" role and am finding some opportunities to partake in some technical work. I'm also finding some ways to mold what I'm doing to at least follow some of the "contours" of what I professionally enjoy. I was able to give a couple "high level" talks about quantum computing at the University of Minnesota and hope to do some more presenting in the next year. Also, to my delight a small collaboration I had in my previous role yielded a couple of new publications

In '24 I'm hoping to increase some of my professional/academic travel. I have gotten to visit our main R&D center in Colorado several times, but that often just feels like work; sitting in a cube, etc. Still, it is useful travel as there is something often lost in online discussions that being around people. There's more time to let thoughts or ideas mature whereas online meetings often get engrossed in status. I also enjoy getting to know people beyond a voice and a headshot. 

Attending a conference or workshop or two would further fulfill this desire to interact and organically develop ideas. I have to admit, in my magnetics days, I often left conferences feeling motivated and inspired to try new things. I'm missing that.

Candlepin bowling in Cambridge, MA!

Beyond work, there was some fun travel in '23. As I mentioned, the year started with the end of a trip to Miami for a wedding. We were able to also do some skiing at Vail in January, toured around Boston/Cambridge in March, saw scenic Des Moines in October and took a short trip to Washington, DC in November. Summer and fall were tough travel times this year due to fastpitch softball and football training schedules. Still, we also made it up to the cabin a couple of times. 

This year, I'm planning on keeping up the mountain skiing tradition, thinking we'll explore the CO slopes some more. March may be another busy travel month with a golf outing in Myrtle Beach with my coaching buddies and possibly a trip to Vegas for the National Hardware Show (tied to my side gig). I'd also like to get a few more trips up to the cabin in than last year allowed. 

Last for the travel, I am able to work fully remote for the most part. I do like to go into the office a few days a week and "talk to the troops". Again, there is something about in-person interaction that trumps incessant online meetings and DMs. However, it would be fun to put my butt on a plane or drive somewhere to work for a few days. Midweek at the cabin at a minimum. 

Obviously, I'm phrasing this blog as "hopes and aspirations" for '24 while putting '23 in retrospective. Along with some of the '23 "good stuff" a lot of life happened. My ex-father-in-law passed away. He was a kind, family dedicated man who deserves at least as many words as I've written about silly things like travel and work satisfaction. (There have also been other health issues that I hope will be non-issues in the next year.) My son turned 18, finished is senior year of football with "all-district" honors and we're now figuring out what college and the next few years may look like. This includes figuring out what to do for a grad party, etc. My daughter has a boyfriend and will be turning 16 in March, we're in the process of figuring that out. The car that is, the boyfriend is a decent dude.

Speaking of cars, I had two die on me in short order these last couple of months. The beige beast essentially rusted out from the underneath and some welds broke. My replacement, the minivan my then-wife and I bought new in '08 then decided life wasn't worth living anymore and the transmission gave out. A tranny swap will take a little time, so something needed to be done.

After a couple weeks of thinking on what to do (weighing near future college expenses, etc.) I decided to buy a slightly used Nissan Rogue. It's been a tough time to buy a used car. Loan interest rates are obnoxious and inventory is only now starting to catch up (for those that like graphs on this stuff, check this out: Here I need to give a shout out to my folks for being my bank/loan sharks. I'd much rather be paying any interest/etc back to family vs. a dilute number of shareholders at some bank who I've never met.

Going Rogue

The Rogue has just enough bells and whistles to keep me entertained and a powertrain warranty. I sat in the back for a moment to make sure the kids would fit. I have to admit the trunk space is a smidge smaller than ideal, but it's not like I haul things constantly. Maybe a roof caddy for skiing and maybe a hitch for pulling my camper/small trailer/jetski and I'll be all set.

This little bit of life pivoting does have me thinking about what the next few years will be like. Things are by-and-large good but ideas such as "downsizing" are starting to crop up. I think at least the first half of '24 will be taking a hard look at what's next. 

In the nearest term, how's the title?

Saturday, November 4, 2023

All Good Things...

These guys at 8th grade

These guys as seniors and district champs!

Last night my son stepped on and off the high school football field for the last time as an athlete. He and his group of 26 fellow seniors had an epic ride that started in their elementary and middle school days. In hindsight the journey feels unbelievably fast, too fast. I feel truly lucky, grateful, blessed to have been able to walk this part of the journey with my son, maybe reliving some of what it felt like from my high school playing experience. I am experiencing a lot of feelings right now: joy and amazement at my son and his fellow seniors and their up-and-coming teammates accomplished this year, but also tremendous sadness and a sense of loss as this is the first day of "moving on" from this epic journey. 

Yeah, there are tears.

There are so many memories and so many awesome people who came into my life as a part of this: my coaching brothers and the super supportive, and super fun, parent group of friends are people I hope to find some new adventures with. I mean how many parent groups take a party bus to a further away game?! 

There are a number of other big on-the-field memories from this group as well (and worthy of a couple html bullets): 
  • The epic 8th grade Bloomington v. Bloomington playoff game that went to overtime and solidified that this was an amazing group with a lot of heart. 
  • The Covid year freshman game at Chaska in whiteout blizzard conditions. 
  • The flag-a-palooza against Hastings last year where we ran and scored on the same play several times in a row due to flag-happy refereeing. 
  • And finally, what I hope will be referred to as "the drive", the 92-yard fourth quarter drive (more like ground assault) to score, take the lead and get the win against a rejuvenated Apple Valley team in our section semifinal. 
Inside all of this is also a passion for coaching and sharing my love of the game. I loved coaching this group through their middle school years. Seasons go fast and it is so fun to see when things click for the kids. I believe there's so much to learn about ourselves and how to handle success and failure in this sport, both individually and as a team. How to challenge ourselves and how to work towards common goals. I don't think there's a part of me that didn't learn from playing and is still learning from coaching.  

Digressing now that my fixation on my ordering, sentence structure and grammar has stymied some of the feels and tears. 

There were a lot of parallels with my career from playing the same position on the offensive line to working with a core group of seniors to bring a team from losing records to an amazing ride of an 8 win 2 loss record in our senior years. Honestly, I think I did define myself a bit more of a "football jock" than my son does, but ultimately we both just loved having the opportunity to play. As "O" linemen we aren't a flashy breed, we let our good work show through in the successes of our ball carrying teammates and our recognition is usually a, sometimes token, footnote in any press. And that's totally okay, we know what we did or didn't do.

My hope is that my son, and as many of the group as possible, keep partaking in football beyond watching it on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the occasional Thursday, and Monday and was there a Tuesday night game this last week? Playing in college is being discussed lightly in our house but we will see. College football was a profound experience for me and even at the D3 level it's another level of work. I still loved it, but it is a distinctly different era of my playing in my mind. If I have football dreams at night, they are about college two-a-days 😳

Ultimately, this was an amazing ride. Like all but the state champions, we ended with a loss. I have my opinions on hand-picked private school teams being considered "equal" (seriously MSHL, wtf?), but there were enough mistakes on our side that kept victory out of reach. We knew we'd have to play near perfect as you have to do moving further into the playoffs and that didn't happen. Still as the game progressed the offense found ways to move the football. A bad play call (opinion of the writer and probably many others) on the 4 yard line, after a good drive supported by a big play, near halftime and resulting in an interception on a trick play. We didn't need a trick play. We spent our entire season making habit of blocking and running hard and I have full confidence we would have scored in that manner. 

Okay, momentary rant done.

Beyond the end I think all expectations were exceeded. I am so proud of my son and this group. I am absolutely enamored and hope we (players and parents and family) find ways to remember and celebrate this era. My momentary sadness and sense of loss will turn to fond memories and hopefully a continued sense of building community and football here in Bloomington. Go Jags!