Rules

So this weekend Kt, Chad, Max and I went hiking to Wallace falls (see instagram). It’s a state park and as it was MLK day, the park had no entry fees. There was a fold out sign placed in the middle of the path, right at the trailhead, as well as a notice board with park rules and a large map. The fold out sign on the trail itself highlighted one rule in particular: ‘Pets must be leashed’ and that the consequences were a $99 fine per WA state law. (Other posters throughout the park stated an $87 fine, so I’m assuming it was recently increased). One poster even explained ‘Six reasons why you must keep your dog on a leash’. It featured a picture of an injured dog receiving treatment on a stretcher. We kept Max on leash all day long.

We met a couple with two dogs who were well behaved and even played with Max for a minute. Both were off leash. The best one, though, was a lady running down the trail in jeans with a full grown Rottweiler galloping behind her. The trail isn’t wide or paved: it’s a narrow and rocky dirt path cut into the side of a hill, with switchbacks most of the way up. At the moment this lady decided to come hurtling down the trail, yelling ‘I’m coming up behind you!’ like a semi truck blasting it’s horn, two other groups were passing each other, using up the limited space on either side. We politely stepped out of her way, and so did the group coming up the trail, and she just barreled past us all, big dog in tow. Off leash.

I was a bit irritated by that behavior. She was obliviously inconsiderate. If anyone deserved a $100 fine, it was her. We ranted about it half way down the trail, about following the rules. Even if a particular institution isn’t perfect in its application of rules or enforcement, the fact is they are not optional. If you consent to being a part of the community (state park users), even just by showing up and being at the park, then you have a responsibility to behave in accordance with the rules established for that space. There are consequences if you don’t. The least of which is being written about on this blog.

Despite the minor inconvenience of someone being rude, we had a great hike. It was beautiful, clear weather, challenging enough, let us talk, and reconnect with nature. All the reasons why we go hiking in the first place. I’m only concentrating on the negative observations to process them for myself, and consider thoughts about how people behave in certain contexts. A simple example is how someone talks on the phone versus how they talk in person. There’s a big confluence of factors that can explain someone’s behavior, and whether it’s caused by internal or external forces. An internal force might be your personality, an external force might be a sign on the wall that says ‘no cell phones’. It all comes back to our incredible capacity and potential. If I can do anything I want at any moment in any location, what combination of mysterious forces enable and restrict my actions? What causes me to decide to follow the rules, while other people feel entitled to ignore them?

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Declutter

Kt and I are moving! The one bedroom we live in today switched to month-to-month while we were on vacation, and with the additional cost we have to move. So we’ve applied for 2br 2ba places and invited Kt’s brother Chad to join us. I’m really excited. I think we’re going to have a blast living together. Adventures all year long!

We had to do some housecleaning on our credit reports. It was a little stressful at times to fix those things (some items we paid, but were sent to collections without informing us?!). It ended up being a really a good story. We’re making solid financial decisions and taking ownership over that part of our lives. Decluttering isn’t just about clothes and stuff, it can be applied to other parts of life as well. I’ve always appreciated minimalist style (see future blog post) and Kt found it’s exactly what she needed to bring things in order. So we decluttered our finances a little, and are healthier for it.

I also had a long conversation with my parents the other day. It was important because there were things I was holding on to from moving to the US, and that have happened while I was here. It was cathartic and long over due. I’m feeling empowered to clean out the suitcase of emotional clutter I’ve been dragging behind me for three years.

The hardest part is dealing with people. There’s a kind of toxicity in people, even if their intentions are great, and they aren’t bad people. They just aren’t right for you to be around at the time. When you are feeling passionate and fired up, it sucks being around someone who is, at that moment, acting like a wet blanket (for their own legitimate reasons). People who are consistently off balancing you, pulling you off course, or getting in your way are ‘toxic’. It’s made difficult because of the relationship you have with that person, and it’s often not their intention to be an antagonist. I don’t quite know how to approach this one, and luckily there’s no one in my life at this time who fits the bill. Occasionally I’ll find myself at odds with someone at work, especially in terms of mood, but that dissipates and reforms over the week. That’s not a toxic person, that’s life. You don’t have to let those people get out of your life and on with theirs. It’s the persistently toxic ones you have to confront.

P.S. Please don’t let the above paragraph let you think that I’ve lost faith in humanity, or that I’m in any way less affirming of the human spirit. I still firmly believe in people’s capacity and potential. I might wrestle with the concept of free will every now and then, or have something to say about the dark side like above. Kt once reminded me that like turning on the light in a dark room, the light casts out the dark. The good overwhelms the bad. It’s not light that creates shadows, it’s the things between the light source and subject. Whether it’s a physical, emotional or human obstacle, sometimes you have to declutter everything to find the source of light in your life.

Good Vibes Only

Yesterday I encountered some frustration at work. I’m not going to lie, it was all selfish stuff that I was frustrated about. So today I turned that around and really dived right into being myself again: positive, ambitious, and energetic. No wet blanket could stop the fire today. Tapping into that energy meant I made things happen.

Somebody stop me!

— Drake, Back to Back

There’s a project I’m working on and it requires the analysis of data in a report, and the calculations occurring behind it. I think people might be surprised if I told them I haven’t studied math since I was 16 years old. Numbers and arithmetic aren’t my strong suit. I’m a linguistic type: language, reading, and writing are stronger. I can write a paper no problem, but ask me to do algebra and I’ll need to work at it for a while. I never let that stop me though, and I don’t make excuses. I help solve the problem. It just takes a little longer for me to get my head around it. Once I get it, I can explain it and sell it.

Sometimes it feels like we’re stumbling around in the dark, then the light comes on.

— paraphrased from Spotlight (a movie everyone should watch)

So here’s to staying true to yourself and making no excuses! Good vibes only!

Sidewalk design

Today we started with a light jog, and skated over invisible black ice on the sidewalk. I noticed something about the composition of the sidewalk, and where the ice was. So when a company (or maybe the city?) recently replaced sections of it, mainly due to tree roots, they failed to design their solution for all conditions. Heads up, this is about to get nerdy.

When the project ran, someone made a decision to use flat concrete instead of aggregate, so instead of a rocky textured sidewalk, it would be flat and smooth. To avoid slip risk, the top layer appears to be lightly scored. Although ice and snow are rare, they do occur. What would it have cost to use a similar product to the original? What were the trade offs? Does concrete hold up better against tree roots over time? It’s an architectural problem: concrete does not match the rest of the sidewalk.

I don’t really want technical answers about the sidewalk’s composition, but the project missed a use case: me jogging at five am, when there’s ice. I’m not saying they had to solve for that specific situation, but if ice and snow are possible then does it justify the additional cost? Is the benefit to the jogger worth it? Or was the decision to use concrete made in full awareness of the potential risk, and accepted as a trade off? The value proposition of using concrete must have outweighed the cost to go with original materials. Maybe concrete is the new industry standard surface, maybe the city mandates it for all sidewalk repair.

So now we are left with the architectural debt of that decision. We have to live with the trade off. To replace it again is too expensive, and to replace everything around it with concrete is too expensive. So we have to live with it.

It’s not bad as neither one of us fell over, but it cut the run into a pattern of jogging and walking gingerly over the ice.

Today felt blank. The weather was pure and clear. At work I felt sensitive. I did have a realization about my work, and how I’m the guy who can realize my manager’s vision. I had my business analyst hat on. I took an idea, a proof of concept, and turned it into a viable operational solution within an hour or two.

Big work-related news just dropped, and it’s late. Goodnight!

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Four Ante Meridiem

This morning I woke up at 4am to start the day. Kt, Max and I went on a mile run/walk. It felt good to tap into an exercise state of mind. I realized something late last night and finally admitted it out loud to the bedroom ceiling. By the end of last year I was very tense, anxious and stressed. Whatever strategies I was using to manange it were not working. It had become a kind of black hole, where the things in life that normally help end up falling in and making the stress worse. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I’m feeling a lot better now. These early starts and the routine Kt and I are establishing — for good this time — is going to help keep my head down and focused.

Four More Years

It’s the beginning of my fourth year in the United States of America. I still have so much to do and so much to see. I don’t have resolutions, I have objectives. They’re printed out and on the wall beside the bed. So every morning when I get up I am constantly reminded of the direction of my life this year.

Last year my key phrase was ride the lightning. This year it’s GOOD VIBES ONLY.