Sunday, March 31, 2024

Out Like a Lamb

Fresh tracks.

For some dumb reason, it's been hard for me to do much writing lately. At least anything beyond personal note taking. I've gotten a couple of hundred words written a few times, but nothing has really inspired or formed any kind of a hook for me to take off on. I've also been in more of an about state of things, which might create some fodder, but also increases my lack of patience for organizing my thoughts, but here I am giving it the old "college try".

March has been a busy/fast month as most months feel to be lately. It started with a ski trip to Colorado with my kids. This was the fifth year we've taken a trip, and this year didn't disappoint. We did one day at Arapahoe Basin, followed by a day off while a snowstorm moved through the mountains and then skied a second day at Breckenridge in several inches of pristine powder. 

The last couple of years skiing in Colorado, I'm finding I really need that first day to adjust to the altitude. The base of most of the hills is between 8,000 feet and 9,000 feet above sea level with peaks near 12,000. It's a bit of a difference from the ~700 feet above sea level where I spend most of my existence right now. Pausing to fully exhale and catch a fresh breath is a common occurrence. Also, I find that falling or doing things that get the heartrate up takes extra time to recover from. In some senses it's rather frustrating as I do have cardio as a regular part of my routine and I feel like I used to handle such situations better, but I guess it is what it is and won't keep me from going. 

Another interesting thing is that I'm now the slow skier of three of us. I tend to like to casually work my way down the hills, but also admit that I'm maybe a little more tentative than I should be when it comes to hitting powder moguls, etc. for the reasons listed above. It's not that I lag far behind, but it feels I'm a little less in the middle of the pack; especially when I eat it, which I try to minimize. Still, I did have a couple of falls. 

My most notable fall was after our late morning break/snack at Breck. I was feeling pretty spry after a cup of coffee and upped the intensity. I decided to follow my son on some tree-edges. I came out of one path into a mogul that gave me a little air (proud of my paper-thin vertical) but put me into the side of another mogul. What's the term? Arse over elbow? Anyway, after picking up myself, my skis and my dignity I met my kids at the mid-hill lift. Apparently, I was wearing a fair amount of powder on myself, queueing my kids into what happened. Oh well. I survived but pulled back a smidge the rest of the day. The only other time I seem to struggle is towards the end of the day when the edges get a little tricky to pick up and the terrain starts getting a little suspect after being heavily skied.

Outside of the skiing, we took the aforementioned off day to visit a hot spring and do some soaking in pools/tubs of various temperatures. The water was a little sulphur-y, fitting as the place was called Hot Sulphur Springs, but was nice to take some time and relax. We made it there early enough in the day that we had had our fill once the apr├Ęs ski folks started to show up and were able to make our way back to the condo in plenty of time. This was our second year staying in a ski condo. While convenient, I think most are in need of updates. However, we had a 100-foot walk to the chairlift at Breck from the condo and that's hard to beat for skiing. 

That is one of the neat parts about Breckenridge though. Ski access is well integrated with the town with several lifts and a gondola at your service. The ski area is also huge, uncompassing several peaks and there is terrain for everyone. The tops of the lifts can be a little crowded, but there's plenty of space once you get down the hill a little bit. The only thing I'll be more concious of next trip is cost. I held off buying passes too long and ended up paying the window price. If you buy early, as in the fall before, you can get very steep discounts (>50%). Check out https://www.epicpass.com/ if thinking of getting a better deal. 

I will mention that one of the reasons I didn't jump on the Epic Pass is I don't really like the idea of being tied into a single set of ski areas in travel planning. There are a lot of ski areas that maybe don't get the marketing the Vail resorts or Ikon resorts get that I'd like to be able to see before my body decides I'm done (which hopefully won't be for a couple decades :-) ).  Ski holiday's are definitely an area where a little bit of planning can go a long way for us wannabe deal finders. 

The next year may be interesting as my son will be off to college. We are starting to hone in on the where and it will likely be a little bit of a drive. Mixing that with family holiday planning, etc. could make the trip tricky. I'd really like to get out to Utah or California but will have to see. California is tricky as the snow can be hit or miss and is a little more expensive to get to. 

Arrowhead GC, Myrtle Beach, SC


After skiing and a couple of working weeks, I then embarked on another adventure. This time to lower altitude and sunny weather in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was my first time attending an annual golf outing organized by one of my football coaching friends. This was also a lot of fun and very much a "dude" trip filled with way more golf than I'm accustomed to playing (99 holes in 4 days!), card games and other harmless shenanigans.

Honestly, I played awful. That combined with a little Minnesota stoic underreporting of my handicap allowed me to bring up the rear in the tournament portion of the trip. Still, I won a little money by way of having a great partner in a team round. I flew home with plenty of sun and sore shoulders. 

You would think I'd be golfed-out but now I'm just wanting to hit balls and adjust my golf bag for my nine-hole league play this season. I even added a new pushcart as my birthday gift to me. It even has a cup holder :-P 

Thus, I'm looking forward to the Minnesota golf season to start. Unfortunately, it snowed for three days after getting home and has stayed cool. Most of it has melted though and I'm guessing the driving ranges and such will be opening soon.

To round out the month was my birthday. A good chill day to relax with dinner at Fireside Foundry and relaxing watching a little TV on Peacock. I had thoughts of going out but found myself tired and wanting to just chill. 

And here we are on Easter Sunday, March going out like a lamb and with a lamb. Enjoying more quiet and waiting for what April holds.




Sunday, January 7, 2024

Simplifying

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 tipsnbits.com 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: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/AISRSA). 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?