Archive for category Life

Terrorism at the Boston Marathon

As a runner and first-time marathoner last fall I was shocked along with the rest of the country at the attacks out of nowhere at today’s Boston Marathon¬†today. I can’t imagine being caught in the midst of this only feet from the finish line. It’s such a great race that won’t ever be quite the same after this. There aren’t really words to describe how disgusting it is for anyone to be killed or maimed at such a fun, open, and historic event. But, I still want to run it and know they’ll pull it together, stronger than ever, in the years to come.

I also realized I’ve now posted twice in row about something terrible happening with crickets in between. This isn’t intentional, and I actually have plenty else going on that’s blog-worthy, but it turns out living life takes precedence over blogging about it sometimes. Even so, I’ll try to stop procrastinating and get it up here. Starting tomorrow.

For now my thoughts are with the runners, friends, and families in Boston tonight.

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A sad day, and a time for action

Today was an incredibly sad day with 26 people – 20 of them little ones – gunned down at school in Connecticut. What’s sadder still for me is that it’s only the most recent of increasingly frequent massacres of this type, and it’s getting worse at an alarming rate. I usually absorb these sorts of events privately, but the fact that today’s killings are on an especially large and senseless scale involving so many young children not much older than my own is compelling me to say more.

I still remember clearly the Columbine shootings in Colorado, probably the first shooting that really struck a chord for me because it was in a school, and nearby. I was in high school an hour away in Fort Collins at the time, but my friend at the time (now my wife) was much closer, living only miles away and much more connected to what was going. While I processed that event through a sort of detached fear and horror that this could happen anywhere – like my school, or my friends’ schools – it’s having a much different effect on me the older I get, and especially now that I’m a father.

From the other nearby shooting at a theatre in Aurora to the rest around the country and finally today’s school killings, I’m deeply troubled that my son is going to grow up in an age where this is commonplace. I’m glad for his sake that at two years old the news is a blur to be ignored, and when I asked him how his day went he happily babbled on about friends and activities like nothing special had happened today. I know in just a few years these events are going to hit him more deeply, whether it’s across the country or somewhere nearby. It’s one thing to go through fire drills and have basic safety precautions in place. But the thought of schools everywhere sheathed in metal detectors with armed guards and routine drills around what to do while a gunman roams the halls and the reality of more massacres not being if, but when and where they will occur, is more than I can put my head around and really makes me sick. No child should have the fear of being killed permeate their school. Of course I’m glad for anything that keeps my child safe, but I also can’t help feeling like it’s an un-winnable arms race as the frequency and severity of events like this keep climbing and we’re counting on school security measures alone to keep it in check.

Another big difference between Columbine and the recent shootings is how connected the world is by social media, and it’s probably only fueling my anger at the situation. While I read plenty of like-minded sentiments from friends completely fed up and disgusted with the state of second amendment paralysis in our country, it’s also not hard to find those quipping snidely that people kill people, take away the guns and they’ll just do it with a knife, or that if all the parents and teachers were armed to the teeth than a gunman would never make it past his first shot. My reaction is simple: that’s completely crazy. There’s a clear correlation between the level of gun control and the frequency and severity of gun violence in countries with stricter controls in place, and not just when it comes to the big-news massacre but with many types of violent crime. It’s even true on a muted scale with the different levels of state-imposed gun control in place in this country already. Limit the prevalence of guns and the opportunity and incidence of gun violence go down. Increase it and they go up.

I have no illusion that with tighter gun controls there won’t be sick people who set out to kill people in a school, theatre, or mall, but not letting them easily, legally, equip themselves with military-grade assault weapons will make a difference. In both today’s shooting and at the theatre in Aurora the reaction by authorities was by all accounts swift and thorough – they arrived in force within minutes, but it’s just not fast enough. The sheer volume of carnage that can be carried out by surprised with these types of weapons is more than any quick response will be able to intercept short of us living in a perpetual police state. The people who carried out these killings are directly to blame, are mentally ill, and we’re never going to fully get inside everyone’s head to curb that type of intent (nor do I think we should try). But we clearly understand and have control over the instruments they are using to carry it out with such vigor. Dozens of people aren’t going to be killed in seconds with a knife.

Probably the most ridiculous pro-gun argument I’m tired of hearing is the perpetual clinging to guns for self defense. You know, that in case some crazy guy breaks into my house or starts harassing me on the street I need to be able to shoot ‘em dead with my trusty handgun, therefore everyone should have whatever kinds of guns they want. Or when the government starts to really tread on me I’ll rise up and resist. Quite a bit has changed since the constitution was written and it’s infantile to keep propping it up with a sort of nostalgic colonial interpretation. We’re not talking about having a musket anymore, and statistics are clear that all forms of collateral and accidental injuries far outweigh the intentional ones by the average person owning a gun.

But what I find most ironic – and under-discussed – is that the capability of quick and efficient killing by modern firearms is matched by quite a few viable non-lethal options. Protect yourself with a taser if you’re really that worked up about it. If there’s a reason that instantly rendering an attacker unconscious or incapacitated isn’t good enough and you really have to be able to kill them, I’ve love to hear it. Especially since in so many high-profile encounters between law enforcement and civilians we expect the utmost restraint and non-lethal force handed down to the masses. If riot police can control a swarm of violent protesters with rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas I don’t see how the average Joe is somehow more entitled to instant lethal force at his fingertips for the by-and-large more mundane encounters he’ll need it for – if ever.

Basically, to the guns-for-everyone zealots I can only say this: I value my child’s life far more than your selfish fantasy of empowerment, and I truly hope we’ve hit a threshold of these tragedies where people who share a common-sense, pragmatic view of the tradeoffs between unbounded “liberty” and a safe world for us and our children are finally heard more loudly than you; loudly enough to give our politicians the courage to no longer be your hostage on the topic and finally enact some real change. This isn’t about hunting and self defense, it’s about your pride versus my son’s safety. I know progress happens slowly, and a lot of politicians and citizens alike are set in their ways, but the catalyst we have here is real and heartbreaking. Let’s not keep paying the price of children dying for our inaction. I have hope because there has been some real progress on other tough social issues recently – healthcare and LGBT liberties come to mind – and also because other parts of the world have turned a corner on gun control. I know on the macro scale it’s not the sort of inescapable human failing we dumb it down to be; individual bad people will always do bad things, but society absolutely has some ability and responsibility to shape the trend with thoughtful policy, and it can work if we have the courage to try.

Back off the progressive soapbox, if there’s one thing that heartens me about these terrible events it’s the love and protection that our teachers and others in the community show our children. It may shine through brightly when they’re calmly hiding kids away from a gunman or heroically throwing themselves in the line of fire, but they do it in a thousand little ways every day and as parents we are truly blessed by all those who give so much to our children when we can’t be with them.

I’m going to bed with a very heavy heart tonight, and I hope that by the time my son asks me to explain an event like this I can tell him that as sad and incomprehensible as it is, it’s something our country cares deeply about and is working hard to prevent. He deserves more than just a platitude about how these things happen and there’s nothing we can do about it, because there is.

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First marathon!

I ran my first marathon, the Boulder Marathon, last week! After an intense but super fun past couple months of seemingly constant running when I wasn’t working, sleeping, or spending weekends and evenings with family (hence the lack of blog posts) I was totally ready and super proud to finally finish a big one.

I’ve been running casually since the end of college, at first intermittently between travel for work – something I did a ton of the first couple years after school – and then more consistently after getting married and being in town most weeks. But for a couple years this was once or twice a week for a mile or two at most without any thought put into distance, route, or pace, and I had no interest in signing up for a real race. Heck, living around Boulder I’m not sure that was even enough to call myself a runner!

Three events really changed this for me. First, watching the 2008 Summer Olympics four years ago which were first games where I was also running on a regular basis during them. I especially loved seeing Michael Phelps dominate, and after his last gold medal thought to myself, “if he can do that I can actually be more than half-assed at all these runs”. So I pulled up Google Maps and specced out an actual 5k, looked at the clock, ran it, and when I got back figured out my total time and pace.

Second, RunKeeper. This amazing app is an iPhone lover’s ultimate running companion. It’s beautifully designed, completely free of adds and other garbage (in both the app and website), and most importantly Just Works. After stumbling on it I was instantly hooked on running with my iPhone instead of the iPod Nano (despite the bulk – I have no problem with an armband!), hearing my distance and pace real-time each mile throughout my runs along with looking at my route afterwards. I know this is cliche to everyone who’s run with a stopwatch well before the existence of such niceties but as someone who entered adulthood with the advent of stats and achievements in online games, social media, and everywhere else it was perfectly natural and fun to have this immediate feedback as part of my runs. In fact, I craved it and immediately started getting much faster and more consistent. In no time I could feel my pace within +/- 30s per mile and knew the distances of every corner or landmark along the local paths. As RunKeeper added achievements proper I loved hitting them and it fueled me even more.

Third, having a kid. This was the most unexpected catalyst because I thought in advance the post-partem craziness would put running on hold, and depending how much free time I had left maybe even kill it altogether. But I was itching to run the day we came back from the hospital (and had a chance to, thanks to knowing grandparents who took care of everything for a couple hours while we did whatever we wanted that first day back!), and kept doing it whenever I could squeeze time in around lack of sleep and new baby wowness. Even more than before it became a crucial relaxation point of the day any time I could get a run in, and as opportunities for lots of other “fun” stuff evaporated it was one thing I could do solo and keep adjusting around any schedule. Then as soon as Cayden was old enough to ride in a BOB stroller, first in the little infant carrier and then eventually by himself in the big seat, runs became something even more amazing: a ridiculously epic trifecta of doing something fun that’s also great exercise for myself, an activity I can share with my son that he absolutely loves doing with me, and giving mama a break to do whatever she wants by herself while we’re gone.

If you don’t have kids you will not understand how rare and precious such things are, and I was totally surprised and thrilled at how much Cayden enjoyed it. He’ll ask to go on runs now, babbling, singing, pointing, laughing, or even snoozing the whole way, cheering when we get home, and never getting bored or complaining. I don’t know how he does it when he can’t even sit still for two minutes most other times, but I’m lucky. So within a few months of being into serious runs with a kid in tow I decided to up my game a little more and sign up for a real race, the Bolder Boulder. I ran it with a respectable time and kept running longer and harder after it, finishing the Sombrero Trail Run, Colder Boulder, and a few others over the next year.

By that point I’d had over a year of really solid running under my belt and was ready for another step. So this past spring I decided it was half marathon time, and I ran three of them along with the Bolder Boulder again in between. The first couple were mediocre, but by the third I was nailing my pace and ran every mile consistently getting in under two hours. At that point I decided it was time for the big goal: a marathon. Half marathons had always seemed in easy reach based on a starting point of being fit and running easy 10ks, but a full marathon was pretty daunting. It just didn’t seem like a whole lot of fun to run for that long, and even worse to do it for all the training lead up to it. But after a couple 15 mile+ hard runs pushing a BOB stroller the whole way (which I’ve come to realize is at least a 20% difficulty hit, but awesome way to make every step of a long run really count!), I knew I could do it. So I signed up for the Bolder Marathon and started putting in the rigorous mileage necessary to be more fully prepared than the half-assed training I had put in for any of the shorter races leading up. My first marathon was not going to be a DNF, and also not going to be walked through the second half!

Thanks to a great summer of training, especially all the long runs with running buddy Cayden along in the BOB and mama’s patience as the schedule did get crazy a few weeks, I went into race day totally ready. The weather was perfect, with beautiful fall colors on the Boulder backroads, clear skies, 50-60 degrees the whole time. I even had a random stray goat run along with me for a couple miles which was a hilarious little break from my usual focus. The first 20 miles felt great, and I actually blew through my half marathon PR over the leading 13. But if there’s one thing I’ve heard about marathons that rang true, it’s that they are a 20 mile warmup followed by a really fucking hard 10k. It was just stupid how drained I was over the last few miles, even with all the water, gatorade, and gels I packed in on schedule, and by the final mile I was really on my last legs. Still, that’s not unlike how the last few miles of my first half marathon felt, and more importantly I felt pretty great after a nap through the rest of the day, only a tiny bit of soreness through the rest of the week, and the next weekend I was out again enjoying a casual five mile run with Cayden.

So, I can do marathons, and they don’t make me hate life during or after – meaning I can probably push even harder. I’ve been thinking about it, and rather than just do more marathons I’m considering a couple goals: qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, and really kicking it up to do an ultra marathon. Some high elevation or other particularly difficult marathons seem fun as well, and will give some nice variety to the slew of them I’ll probably run on the way to these goals, but having them out there gives me something else to focus on. That is, when I’m not working, sleeping, or raising a kid… just like when it all started! I will try to write more about it though. Reading about the running adventures of others has reminded me that it’s a worthy topic to pour myself out about every once in awhile.

In the meantime, I’m super proud to have knocked the marathon off the list and will now say without hesitation – even in Boulder – that I’m a runner.

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Remembering Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday and I’ve been struck by the outpouring of appreciation and remembrance from consumers and the industry alike.

For me, Apple products and culture have always been the pinnacle of why it’s cool to do the kind of work I do, and nobody embodied this better than Steve himself. As a bit of a fanatical perfectionist myself I love that Steve never settled for second best and pushed people hard not to drive them into the ground, but to hone them and their ideas into the very best they could possibly be. But even more importantly he wasn’t just the king of geeks as so many giants in the industry are, but a real consumer’s inventor building things that made computers, the internet, and portable music accessible not just to tech heads like me but to my friends, my parents, and now even my baby.

My connection to Apple and Steve is also a sentimental one. My family’s first computer was an Apple IIgs on which I wrote my first programs in elementary school (yes, in BASIC), and when I got my hands on a Mac Plus and eventually newer Macs I was consumed with tinkering with the Finder in ResEdit (replacing the Welcome to Macintosh dialog icon with my face was a favorite of my parents), building crazy apps with HyperCard, and generally being mesmerized by MultiFinder, AppleTalk, and so many other now-defunct Apple ideas that made things “just work” in an era when absolutely everything about computers and connectivity was a nightmare. I gained plenty of experience tweaking out Unix, later Linux, and Windows setups with friends, school, and work, but my heart was won by Apple. I became that guy who had to do everything just a little bit better on his Mac. When I finally managed to save up for my first computer that was “all mine” in middle school, it was a Mac (and the Mac price premium in the 90′s was still no joke!), and when I downloaded my first MP3 (New, if you must know) it was loving played on my very own Mac using Audion. I hauled my Mac around to LAN parties and then eventually off to college.

Not far into college, and already working at a company producing mainframe-esque software that had very little in common with Apple, I was lucky enough to get on board the Apple University Program and win a free tip to the Apple WWDC that year. While I couldn’t realize the significance at the time, this was a really pivotal time for Apple: Mac OS X had just gone beta and they were on the verge of iTunes and iPod taking the world by storm. We happily piled into our campus rep’s company van and trekked from Boulder to Cupertino, tinkering with our Apple-provided Blueberry, Lime, and Tangerine iBooks (back when this was a laptop not an eBook!) all the way. Once there we got to hear more about how Mac OS X was going to change the world, see the iTunes visualizer splashed across every projectable wall in site, and bask in the notorious “reality distortion field” from Steve himself. And if the trip wasn’t already enough, I was lucky enough to be the winner of a brand new white iBook from their random drawing! I proudly vowed to use it for all my ongoing Unix and Java development. Steve told us all that if we were serious we should really come back and work at Apple that summer, and while I didn’t take him up on it every hyped Apple product release since (which in retrospect, this one surely paled in comparison to), makes me smile and think of this trip right as Apple was on the verge of becoming the king of consumer computing.

Now, Apple products provide not just some elitist way I can do everything with my computer better and easier, but a complete transformation of how I live my day. Mac at work, Mac at school, iPod in the car, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV… there’s nothing I couldn’t do per se without any one of these, but replace them with the runner-up across the board and it would be a very mediocre experience indeed. Every day for me and millions of others is more productive, more enjoyable, and more wonderful because of these ideas that became products that became staples of how we relate to technology, and ultimately, each other.

Steve, you were the ultimate inventor who knew what the world wanted before we did and a model for accepting only the best for all of us who build hardware, software, and user experiences for a living. Thank you for making our world so much better and the brilliant legacy of Apple (and Pixar!) to continue to amaze us for many years to come.

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Go the fuck to sleep

I discovered an epic bedtime story today which I’m sure every parent can lovingly relate to! When all else fails, maybe it’s time to read your sweet baby Go the Fuck to Sleep.

You can see what it’s all about here.

In actuality, staying up holding, rocking, snuggling, and doing whatever else I need to for my baby has truly been more joyful than I could have possibly imagined (even if it is difficult in a sleep-deprived haze), but there are those moments when it challenges you to really step it up a notch. I think this struck me particularly during one of the first couple nights which went something like this:

  • Wake up to screaming
  • Start feeding baby
  • Diaper fills with poop
  • Stop feeding and start changing diaper
  • As soon as second diaper is on, it fills with poop again
  • Start changing second diaper
  • Hands get blasted with poop mid-change
  • Put on a third diaper
  • Return to feeding
  • Just as baby is full and falling asleep, third diaper fills with poop (also waking baby)
  • Change third diaper
  • Baby is now awake, hungry, and fairly angry at all the interruption; start feeding again
  • Well after baby is asleep – and about to be put to bed – the ominous sound of more poop emanates from fourth diaper
  • Sit patiently, waiting, wondering what the longest reasonable timeout is before starting diaper five, virtually¬†guaranteeing¬†another reset

Of course, this gets way better once the baby is more than a few days old but other sleep obstacles still abound. Believe it or not it’s somehow still magical and entirely worth it. I may never read Cayden Go the Fuck to Sleep but I have newfound empathy for all the parents who go through ordeals like this for the love of their kids!

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