Tuesday, February 28, 2012


There's no better space for me to practice living in the moment than the track.  On one hand, there isn't a safer, easier, more protected place to run without machinery.  On the other end of that same spectrum, the work I do on the track typically leads me into sensations which can be remarkably memorable and are not always of the pleasant variety.  For me, time spent on the track is the ultimate reality check.  How motivated am I?  How accepting am I?  How prepared am I?  In many ways, the simplicity and predictability of the track surface is a mirror to my yoga mat.  The dimensions and materials do not change, they seem like they will outlast my lifetime.  Each offers a window into my soul as I burst into motion.  Each offers a reflection of my thoughts as I recover and regain my breath.  Each offers a measure of my dreams as the reality of what I can and can't do sinks in at full expression.  Each is a place to prepare for future improvement, to measure my progress, and to accept and honor where I am today.  I admit that I think runners who don't love the track are missing out on one of the parts of running I genuinely adore, it's like all of the people I know who consciously opt out of experiencing the emotions I find daily on my yoga mat.

Tonight's workout was 1k/200m then 400m/400m, for 6 sets.  When I read it, I did some sort of funny math and wound up expecting 8k total for the 6 sets.  How about that engineering degree!  It wasn't until halfway through the workout that I figured out that 6x2=12 meaning I had another 6k left to go.  I should have done the workout in the morning, when the sun would have warmed me and my brain would have had a better chance of being functional.  Instead, I went to bootcamp at core power yoga, and then I chose breakfast over a double header of workouts.  I knew it'd be tough to motivate in the dark but procrastination took root.  On top of that, I didn't get in touch with Luc, my go-to UCSD training partner, until too late.  He replied to my request for assistance as I was exiting my car outside his office, indicating he was done with his workout before I had even started mine.  With that, I ventured out into the cold dark night, alone and uncertain.

I tore my achilles on this very track a number of years ago.  It was only a micro-tear, but it's never been the same since.  I was pushing too hard, trying to keep up with Hupfeld after he got too fast for me, in the cold, without a proper warmup.  I felt it tear and I kept running.  Ah, the foolishness of youth which has long since passed (the youth part, not the foolishness.)  This time I wanted to be as warm as I could be, so I put in a full campus loop before finding my way to the oval for my strides.  The UCSD masters group was finishing up while I did my strides in lane 4, one yahoo even "raced" me to the line during his last interval, good for him for pushing his limits.  I started my first k mere seconds after the masters group called it a wrap.  My timing could not have been any better for that.  I was loose and ready to see what the measuring stick would say tonight.  I hadn't been out on a decent track by myself in quite some time since I've done so much on the San Dieguito dirt track which is 2 blocks from my house and the times there just aren't nearly as exact.

One thousand meters is somewhere in between a little and a lot.  It's just a bit longer than I'd really like it to be, but not long enough to really settle in.  The first 100m feels nice, since the pace for a k isn't a lung burner and it's fun to drive the knees and lean through the turn.  Then comes that first straight where reality starts to surface as you approach 2 laps to go.  The far turn starts to suck, you're nowhere near done, not even near a landmark of 1 lap done, and it stopped feeling smooth and doable somewhere on that first straight.  Somehow when I hit 400m I always get a boost, I start to think that halfway is approaching and I've got a solid lap down.  That 3rd turn is all about getting to the 500m mark and from there it's a straight shot to the 600m start of the bell lap.  Glide forward, long strides, deep breaths on that 6th hundred, look ahead, but not too far ahead.  With the start of the bell lap, there's always a boost, but oh is it short lived.    The penultimate turn is a long one, the full 100m which is the start of the end but every inch of it takes effort.  Eventually the curve gives way to the penultimate straightaway, you are heading home since it's the final lap, but you're running away from where you are going to end up and it's a bit of a mind game.  The focus this entire last lap is on form, elbows in, deep breaths, shoulders relaxed.  The final turn is really more of a final kick in the butt than anything to look forward to.  It's the turn of darkness, where nobody cares, nobody would even notice if you stepped off on that last turn and called it a day.  All of the energy comes back at the end of that final straight, the straight which feels so smooth in a workout but oh so unbelievably painful in a race.

It ends, every interval always ends, and then it's time for a 200m shuffle back to the start for the 400.  By comparison to the 1000, a 400 feels so very doable in terms of distance, but even more painful in terms of intensity.  The effort has to be jacked up to meet the time goal, it's a different style of running, more toes, more lean, more arms pumping, deeper and more rapid breathing, more burning in the core, tears in the eyes from the cold wind, and larger surface sensations as compared to the k's depth.  That 400 of rest afterwards seems like an indulgence, like double layer chocolate cake since it is twice as much rest than the 200 was, after doing less than half the distance.  The 400 rest erases most of the doubt that creeps up during set 1 and set 2.  It is the reset, the ginger in between sushi rolls, that allows the brain to wrap itself around set 3, 4 and 5.  The thoughts of "Will I make it to 6?" have to be pushed aside, living in the moment requires the mind to focus on each set as it occurs.  I tell myself to just get 3 done and I'll see how I feel.  When 4 comes up I offer myself the option to call it a day and promptly decline.  I'll do 5 even if I don't make the times, I'll just feel better knowing I tried to do 5 even if it's a mess.  And on the 5th k, towards the very end, I finally realize that I can survive the 6th set.  I wasn't sure going into the workout, but I became confident as I neared the end that it could be done.  It's a lot like that last 10k in a marathon, you just don't know if you'll have what it takes to run it at pace until you get to mile 20 and then it just happens or it doesn't and you're almost not even in control of the outcome at that point.  Tonight it happened, not in any spectacular fashion, but in exactly the way you want when you're logging track miles in the middle of a training plan.

As I jogged my final 400 to rest and recover the lights kicked off.  I assume they were on a timer, but regardless of why, I was instantly presented with a stunning view of a crescent moon, ardha chandrasana, right in front and above of my field of view.  What a beautiful way to end the evening.  I drank in a huge gulp of air and let loose a gentle Aum to celebrate the chilly stillness all around me.  I jogged to the familiar stop sign and then past the unfamiliar Peet's on my way back to my car, ending a 90 minute journey to the basement of my willpower and the root of my focus.  I can't say that every interval felt effortless tonight, but I enjoyed the rough spots as much as the smooth because they all shaped my body and calmed my mind.  It was a solitary indulgence, one I am fortunate I am able to experience.  I am so lucky to have these opportunities to express myself, alone, on hallowed ground.  As I wound my way around the oval, in constant motion yet going nowhere, I caught up with that inner peace I keep seeming to lose track of in the stress of work and the confusion of daily life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


My car stereo broke last week.  Well, actually, it's pretty fancy so it didn't really break, it just started displaying an error code and stopping pumping out the tunes.  I didn't have time during the week to investigate, but as I kept driving without music, the priority of this problem increased.  I checked out prices on a replacement unit and it seems that the model I bought for $500 back in 2006 is now priced at $750 new.  Funny how that works.  The other models available, which bundle navigation into the mix, are upwards of $1000.  Yikes.  I guess I was smart to pick it up for $500 when I did.

The error code was DC Error, indicating a potential short in the wiring.  Since it worked great for 5+ years, my intuition told me that the wiring was just fine.  However, the curse of the engineer forces me to rule out problems, so the first thing I did once I had time today was to remove the wiring harness and check it out.  Since I hooked it up so long ago, I used butt connectors (this is what they are called, I'm not making this up) which are crimped onto the wire to connect the harness to the factory plugs.  I've since changed my tune, now when I wire up a new car stereo I solder the connections and use heat shrink tubing over the solder.  In fact, when I sold my old truck (the white one, below) to my friend, Bruce Hanley, I took the time to redo the wiring harness for him by soldering all the connections and heat shrinking it all nice and pretty.  He'll never know, because nobody ever looks at the wiring harness other than the geeky dude who installed the thing.  Most people don't care about wires as long as everything works.  When it comes to me, however, I sleep better knowing it's all done the way I want it done.  I couldn't just put it back as-is, I had to bring it up to my "current standard" now that I had it out in the open.

Most people don't care how well this part is done 

This is how life is when you're a geek, especially a type A geek, you want to fix problems that aren't even problems.  Soldered connections are more reliable than crimped connections because the copper strands are protected from oxidation by the solder and the connection between the strands is a chemical bond instead of the mechanical pressure from a bent piece of tubular aluminum surrounded by a plastic insulator.  In the photo above you can see a few crimps on the green and purple wires, some wrapped in electrical tape.  That represents my old standard.  Then you can also see the soldered connections with the heat shrink tubing ready to be moved into place and heated to shrink it down.  That represents my current standard.
Most people just care that this part works
The new harness didn't change anything but it did make me feel better.  The next step in troubleshooting requires eliminating other potential problems.  I pulled out the factory stereo (which doesn't have fancy circuitry to detect a possible short) and plugged it in and it worked OK although I noticed the front right speaker sounded bad which is an indication it may well have be blown.  I disconnected the front right speaker, disconnected the factory stereo, hooked up the fancy stereo and presto, DC Error was now gone.  I packed the dashboard back up, knowing now that all I have to do is buy new speakers and I'm golden.  $750 crisis averted, and only about 1 hour "wasted" soldering the wire harness which was really work that fell off my "to do" list at some point since I forgot I intended to do that.  I think at one point I was going to buy a new set of harness wires and do all the connections up, then swap it out, I just never got around to wasting $40 and an hour to accomplish no net change.

Anyway, this whole afternoon episode got me thinking about "all the cars I've owned before" (sing it Julio Iglesias!).  There have been a few.  You see, I was a member of the prestigious 3CCC (three car crash club) in high school.

The members of the three car crash club
I kid you not, Jon Everest did all of the leg work necessary to create an official club.  We had hats made and we even hosted a few assemblies, showing videos that promoted trafic safety awareness.  It was all an obvious ploy to get one of these photos into the yearbook.  Left to right in the top photo is Kaleo, Craig, Jon, Byro, Matt, Rob, me, Aaron, and John.  I still own those shorts, by the way.

We did our best to ensure all of the Honolulu body shops stayed in business.
Jon even joined the yearbook committee to try to sneak the photo in when our attempts to convert our fledgeling club to official yearbook status failed.  I think we came very close to making the final cut, but the photo got pulled at the last minute by a vigilant faculty member.  Oh well, it would have been cool.

Lisa, me, Nina, Mie at the party house on HLR.
So, in high school, I drove this red honda prelude around.  I loved that car, thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever had the privilege of driving.  We're talking 4 whole cylinders and automatic transmission.  I longed for a manual transmission and an engine that had some nads, but still, it was red, it was flashy, and I crashed it a bunch.  When I wasn't busy crashing it, I collected an assortment of speeding tickets.  Oh and it got broken into a few times too.  I miss that sucker.

My first truck, it fit in well in New Jersey
Off I went to college, and in college I didn't need a vehicle.  My senior year, in preparation for my departure into the workforce, I bought what every Hawaii boy dreams of, my first pickup truck.  And, no, I did not go out and buy a nice, gently used family truck, I had to go find the most beat up, POS pickup I could.  See the lettering on the side?  This truck had a snowplow, 4WD, huge tires that rubbed when you turned the steering wheel too far, and heavy duty springs which caused it to buck like a bull if it smelled a pothole.  It was absolutely undriveable and I loved it dearly.

Alex Dyer and I, moving all the junk out of his childhood home.
My best college buddy, Alex, was a total car nut.  He even wrote his thesis on the American automobile industry.  He roasted me for my choice, how impractical it was for a software geek to own a pickup, why I bought a work truck that was beat up instead of a good quality, lightly used family truck, etc.  On the day when his mom, Deedee, had to move out of the house Alex and his sister had grown up in, El Truck came to the rescue, making many trips to the dump, storage, and the new house.  So, I think at some point, Alex came to accept that my mistake at least served some purpose.

Flanel shirt, check.  Briefcase, check.  Velcro shoes, check. 
Next up, I bought my dream truck.  I special ordered this sucker from the biggest Ford dealer in Long Island, once I had my first steady paycheck, after realizing that the beat up grey truck was costing more than a new truck payment in terms of repairs.  The dealer threw me at the only female salesperson who tried all her best moves to confuse me.  Too bad for them, I was on a mission, not about to be swayed by sex appeal from an aging blondie.  I think they saw "idiot" written on my face and wound up shocked when I knew more than any of them about the options, even calling the option packages by letter/number code.  I had spent weeks memorizing all of the prices, and the disparity of preparation worked in my favor.  It was so bad that they called me back on a technicality, the truck I had special ordered couldn't be built because the longbed wasn't compatible with the off road package.  When I went in and tried to adjust the price downward for the short bed, they told me to get lost, they didn't want my $300 profit + holdback after all.  So, I took my deposit check and the DORA form down to the next dealership, explained the situation, and 3 months later I got my truck for my price.  Because every software geek in Long Island planning a move to San Francisco needs a 4wd extended cab stick shift F150.  In black too, what a practical color.  This thing took hours to wash, by the time I was done, the other side was already dirty.  Again, I put a lot of work into the stereo system, again it got ripped off, just like the grey truck, just like the prelude.
The last in the series of 2 wheelers, Honda CL360, VFR 750, and this  599.
In New York I got my motorcycle license and bought a friend's CL360.  When I moved to SF in 1997, I eventually bought a VFR 750 to handle the traffic from SF to Novato.  Then I started riding my bicycle to work and caught the whole triathlon bug.  The 599 pictured above served a great purpose for me in 2006 when I had to get through a snarled up mess of traffic on the 15 just south of 78 to get to work in Rancho Bernardo.  It probably saved me 20 minutes every day, maybe more.  The nice thing about motorcycles is that there usually isn't an option to overload them with car stereos, and they also don't tend to be broken into as often.

The one truck I actually used for the truck part.
In SF, I finally sold the black F150 and bought a white Tacoma that was slightly smaller and got way better gas mileage.  Stick shift again, because stick shift and San Francisco are such a great combo.  Oh, how idiotic I am.  I moved to Carlsbad with that truck and one day, eating lunch at Pelly's, the server was talking to someone about how she needed my exact truck (describing color, year, etc) she just couldn't find one without a sunroof and for some reason that was important (she planned to do some serious off roading with it.)  I mentioned I had what she wanted and would be willing to sell it if she wanted it that bad, so a few weeks later that truck was sold.  I went a few more weeks without a vehicle and bought the Tundra above, a bit bigger than the tacoma, yet able to seat 3 and haul a lot of junk compared to the tacoma which sat 2 adults and maybe 2 small children and could carry less garbage to the dump.  I got a lot of use out of that Tundra.

This lucky guy now lives in Goleta at the Hanleys
At one point I had a shell for it and I slept in it a few times, at Wildflower one notable year where it rained so bad that I didn't get out of the truck until after my wave started, then I went down to the lake and swam with the dudes twice my age, rode the bike course in a fleece, and ran through the mud miserably cold.  I had that truck totally dialed in, the stereo was decent, the mileage semi reasonable, and it was almost manageable in a parking lot.  Eventually I bought the corolla and found myself driving the truck less and less.  Bruce mentioned wanting a 4WD vehicle and now he owns it and I have no truck.  I also sold the motorcycle, leaving me with a three bikes and a crappy but perfectly functional corolla with 105,000 miles.

It's probably time to buy a new car soon.  Maybe a wagon this time?  I've got a full set of roof racks waiting for a new vehicle purchase.  It's really hard to go back to having a car payment after not having had one since 2003.  So, I just keep my crappy, dirty, POS car (sing it Adam Sandler) because it works.  And I haven't really ever bothered to go all out with the stereo because I figure it'll just get stolen if I do.  Or maybe I grew up and stopped caring about vehicles?  Unlikely.  It's strange that something which was so important to me as a kid is now such a total afterthought.  It is liberating to simply not care about the dings and dents in your car.

Here's the short list of potentials if I do decide to have a mid-life crisis and buy a new car:

1. Prius (I would have bought one in 2006 but the supply was tight and it was difficult to get one)
2. Tacoma (they are bigger now, more tundra-like, and it might have been the perfect truck if I hadn't sold it to the Pelly's lady.  I don't really need a truck for any reason.)
3. Mazda 3 wagon (great compromise, not much more inspiring than the corolla though)
4. Jetta tdi wagon (I think you can finally buy these new in Cali, but I am not sure I trust a Jetta as far as maintenance goes)
5. Fiesta hatchback (the assistant master in college had an original Fiesta back in 1992 and I still remember that ugly blue car.  The new Fiesta's look pretty cool and can get 40MPG but they aren't cheap or very spacious)
6. Honda Fit (good compromise but perhaps a bit cheapy, although I think that's my style)
7. Honda Element (fits the dork quotient, but not the most fuel efficient on this list.)
8. Nissan Leaf (my dad bought one.  It has some appeal, but I'm not sure I'd love plugging it in all the time.)
9. Corolla (it's an unbeatable value if you abandon all hope of caring about what you drive.)
10. Subaru outback wagon (if it's good enough for Lae Charles, it's good enough for me.  Just not the most fuel efficient either and not cheap)

Any other suggestions?  Hmm...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I had an unusually wonderful morning today.  It pretty much turned me upside down.  Hunter woke me up and I felt like a brick.  I had struggled a bit during my tempo run Tuesday morning and I guess my body was feeling the last two days more than I expected it would.  During the next 15 minutes, an unexpected sense of openness eased into my thoughts and joints.  Maybe it's a simple matter of temperature, how warm it is directly affects my mood and today in San Diego is just plain gorgeous.  As I carried Hunter downstairs for breakfast and said hi to Shane, I wore a smile on my face.

Photo Credits:  Trevor Hawkins

We started off with 5 surya namaskara A's and then B's as we headed into the first half of my dumbed-down version of the Ashtanga primary series.  For the first time ever, Shane took a mat next to me and together we rolled through.  "Ekam, dve, trini, chatvari, panca..." only the words were silent and our synchronized breaths marked the rythm.  It was seriously one of the coolest moments I've experienced on the mat or in any sport.  I've ridden with Jurgen and Norman, ran with Meb, and swam with Hillary.  Now I can add to that list that I've practiced breath by breath with Shane, at least for a little bit.  It was surreal.

Photo Credits:  Trevor Hawkins

The practice just flowed, despite my wounded-but-healing left shoulder and my inability to do an actual pickup which is sort of like the period at the end of the sentence in the Ashtanga practice.  After every side of every seated asana you are supposed to pick yourself off the ground, squeeze your legs through your hands, crank out a chaturanga, and then lift your feet back through your hands to seated.  I can't do it yet, but each attempt makes me feel slightly less incapable.

Photo Credits:  Trevor Hawkins

Towards the end of our session, we had reached urdhva dhanurasana.  The photos above are from a few months ago, you can see a lot of bending in my arms and not a lot of ability to press my chest away from my hips.  Today just felt different, and I reached a point where I felt my arms approaching full extension with my chest pressing forward.  I could barely breathe, perhaps out of joy, perhaps out of contortion.  Shane picked up on my energy and just smiled at me.

Maybe I'm also just extra giddy today because I pulled strings on a favor from a friend who made it happen instantly and without hesitation.  I feel such tremendous guilt asking for favors or special treatment, but for some reason this felt OK.  That says a lot about how I feel about this friend, that I'm willing to take, because I feel so much more comfortable giving.  Even more thrilling is that I'm excited to share the favor with 2 of my other friends, a night we will most certainly remember.  I promise to write about it in depth

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Last year I spent President's day weekend with Mike, chasing Tim Twietmeyer through the final 20 mile section of the western states course in the snow.  I remember pulling into the parking lot with Mike and seeing snow on the Placer High School track.  We ran the first few miles, chasing Tim in his green jacket, through snow flurries.  I was cold, but it was exhilarating, my first time running through snowfall.

This year, I wanted to go back and do the training runs so I tried to talk it up to Mike and The Yogger but it just didn't happen.  So, instead, I opted for a different kind of mountain trip this year, a more traditional route of snow seeking than the ultrarunner version.  My little brother, Cody, had never seen snow.  His mom, well technically his grandma, asked me if I'd take him because she thought that would be a great experience for him.  After I mentioned it to neighbor Brad, he got on board and booked a cabin at Big Bear for a couple of nights for his family.  The BBBS.org rules prohibit overnights, so I made plans to pick up Cody at 4am on Sunday, drive up to meet up with the Colberts, and spend the day playing in the snow.  I thought with 4 adults and 3 kids (they have a live-in family-member-nanny, Megan) we would be able to keep the 3 littles happy and still have time for a little fun ourselves.

Cody and his "mom" who is actually his biological grandma, Patty
I told myself I'd get to sleep early on Saturday night.  I took Tabu's class with Carrie and was on my way to grab a $50 salad at Whole Foods when my phone rang.  Jordan requested an extra set of hands to move a pool table the "old fashioned" way (meaning he hadn't rolled up the felt and chipped out the slate, so it was 600 lbs of pool table that needed to get shuttled out of his truck and into his front porch. Well, we got that table into the garage at least, but that was an hour or so, and it got us both thinking and talking (Jordan tends to do a fair bit of thinking which is one reason I enjoy conversing with him) so after I showered and packed and got to bed I noticed that I was looking at about 3 hours of sleep.  Oh well, better 3 than 0.  The alarm fired at 3:00, I finally got out of bed at 3:30, and I left the house at 4.  Not too bad overall, only about 30 minutes behind my own schedule, but this is the kind of perpetual problem with my lifestyle.  I get so caught up in the present, my mind is so engaged in what I'm doing, that I have difficulty shutting that down and preparing for the next event, hence I'm always late, and most people take that as a sign of disrespect.  In this particular case, I'm sure the extra minutes of sleep Cody and Patricia got were appreciated, and with clear roads and smooth driving, we arrived at 6:45am which was exactly the timeframe I had hoped for so it worked out well.  I mostly just have to set a time that is unnecessarily early in order to arrive at the correct time.  Some people do this by setting their watch 5 minutes early, but for me I would quickly adjust to the discrepancy.  I need to believe that I am late in order to arrive on time.

Matt and Nate eating breakfast at 6:40am
Carolyn, Brad's lovely wife, greeted us and as Cody went to play in the snow in the back yard, I sat with Nate and Matt for breakfast.  Cody came back in, but turned down my granola and almond milk, even though I asked him about 10 times if he wanted to eat anything.  Nate showed me how he drinks milk from his bowl after eating all the cereal by pouring it into his lap.  Matt was his usual self, meaning unusual compared to other kids I know, always a bit of the unexpected mixed in with all sorts of vibrant expressions.  I could see Nate playing football, having chiseled abs, and dating supermodels while Matt welds sculptures, writes poetry, and plays guitar.  Of course, since I don't spent much time with them, my assumptions about their emerging personalities are probably way off.

Matt calls me "Meester Daaave" 
Nate before dumping his bowl of milk in his lap 
Matt got his snow gear on and went out in the back yard to throw snowballs at Cody.  I stayed indoors, eating my hemp granola and talking with Carolyn and Brad who was a bit congested from the case of wine altitude and dry air.  Megan and Matt shared some precious moments on the couch, the tenderness of caregiver and child mixing together harmoniously, exchanging warmth without pretension or awkwardness.  I wondered, while watching that, what is it about me which limits my ability to engage with Cody in that manner?  Is it the whole man and boy situation?  Is it fear of coming off in any way as inappropriate?  Am I simply not an affectionate person?  Have I lost my inner child as my hair turns to grey?  We'll get back to these thoughts in a bit.

Cody and Matt throwing snowballs

Somehow, after the plan changed about 40 times, Brand ended up jumping in our car and off we went, first to rent a board, boots, and helmet for Cody ($25 for the day, it might as well have been free, shoot, I'd have paid $25 just to talk to that way-cute-but-way-too-young female who sorted it all out for us in the store.)  Then we were off to park, pee, hop on the shuttle, and finally arrive at the slopes.  I spent too much time getting my boots on (it's hard to drive in snowboard boots, so I had to put them on with cold hands in the parking lot) and I forgot sunscreen (huge oops) and food (I had a box of purefit bars I intended to bring with for food for Cody and I, and I forgot to stuff my pockets with them, hence the $35 lunch bill.)  Somehow, by sheer luck, I wound up dressed properly for the day, at times I was too hot, at times too cold, and most of the day just about right based on our activity level and the changing weather conditions.

Conveyer belts take a lot of the pressure off first timers 
We stumbled into the beginner section and Brad picked out the conveyer belt which was hidden on the side.  I didn't even see it, though it was right there in front of us.  Hooray for neighbor Brad.  I don't think I can overstate how awesome Brad is in the daddy role.  I see it all the time with his own boys, but watching him take care of Cody brought it full circle for me just as watching Shane demonstrate a pose brings immense clarity for how it is supposed to look.  Some people are genuinely capable of the calm confidence required to be a parent.  And while there is some leeway in the mom department (most of us as children have experienced our mothers in a moment of weakness, tears, or meltdown) the role of father is about being a pillar of strength and confidence and inviting everyone else to reach out and grab a handle for the ride.  Brad has these attributes.  In fact, Brad is strangely similar to the neighbor we had growing up in Kailua, David Mortensen.  Ask either Brad or David for help and they are there.  Ask them how to do something and they know the answer.  Unwavering, accepting, and encouraging without any hint of overbearing.  Such is the delicate nature of fatherhood.

Neighbor Brad in yellow 
Cody started off catching a few front edges and taking a few spills but he didn't seem to mind much.  He sort of smiles and laughs his way through things when he doesn't know exactly what he is doing.  With Brad and I together, we were able to simultaneously assist from above and below, so he knew where he was going and he also got some verbal advice along the way.  He didn't hit anyone else the entire day which is pretty remarkable given how crowded it was.  He was pretty smooth with his bailouts, and he didn't have much of any extra trouble once we graduated to the chair lifts.

By lunch, Cody was able to hold an edge
 By 11:00 am, he was able to make it down a basic green, and keep a steady pace without falling.  I won't say that he is able to crank out S turns, but this was day 1 of seeing snow and I remember how awful my first day of boarding was so I can't help but be impressed.  In the interest of honesty (and this blog is intended to be an honest reflection of my thoughts) I will take a quick tour of some of the things I see lacking in Cody and compare them to my own memories of my 10 year old self.  If my dad reads any of this, I'd appreciate him correcting anything I misrepresent as it's hard to take a 37 year old perspective and apply it to 10 year old memories which have been in storage for a quarter century.

The smile is the reason we made the trip
I think the photo above is my favorite one from the day.  That was probably the peak of Cody's efforts on the board.  And he is smiling.  I can't tell you how many times in my first year of practicing yoga that I was instructed to "soften" my face.  This face, this look, is the natural, uncomplicated look of youthful joy.  This is the look that we spend years in therapy trying to return to when our lives become a garbage disposal.  So, to witness that moment occurring, to see firsthand how a child perceives "fun" was a wonderful treat and the highlight to my day.  Cody is not extremely expressive with his emotions, he is very even keel, not much high, not much low, all sorts of raw energy but it is all released deliberately, metered out over time.  This smile is his version of pure joy, the equivalent of my dog, Hunter, bee-lining to the surf zone at dog beach.

Day 1 of boarding means a lot of time spent like this
I also don't want to sugar coat this too much.  The kid spent plenty of time on the ground.  He was as natural as could be expected, but it was a learning process and there was plenty of time to learn what not to do.  When I say I am proud of him, it is within the context of his background and his abilities.  I don't want this to sound like he is some 10 year old phenomenon on a snowboard.  Compared to other kids his age, who have perhaps more experience or exposure to winter sports, he's probably somewhere in the upper middle of the group.  Not overly fearful, definitely not timid, but in all honesty his ambition is very tempered and reasonable.  I think this may come from his environment, the expectations are not terribly high, so he is rarely stretched to his full potential.  To frame this back to me, because this blog is about my thoughts, I notice that when an instructor in a beginner class gives cues for trikonasana, they often suggest paying more attention to elongated side bodies and hips rotated in plane, reaching high but not worrying too much about reaching low.  When Shane puts me into triangle pose, he doesn't hesitate to tell me to peace finger my big toe which is almost a completely different pose for me, with bigger sensations and overall much more challenging.  It's similar to a beginner classes reminding us that it's OK to pause in one legged tadasana holding the raised knee and working on foundation, while Bikram has someone with a microphone practically yelling at you to lock your knee out with fingers interlaced and back straight or you might as well die trying.  Put in a different way, I think Cody would grow tremendously if he had stronger encouragement, if he had someone who expected a bit more from him.  And yet, I am hyper sensitive to this because I feel like I carry some of the burden of a childhood spent chasing expectations and accomplishments and I realize that direction did not bring any great perspective or unique happiness.  Put in simpler terms, who am I to say that Cody's ambition is anything but perfect?  At 37, do I honestly expect to know more about life than a 10 year old?  Perhaps it is the other way around, perhaps the student is really the teacher and the teacher is only beginning to understand what the lesson is about.

Lunch at the top
One other point I want to make.  Cody has great hair.  I am so infinitely envious of how great his hair is.  I am growing my own hair out partially in response to how cool I think Cody is with his long brown locks.  It's natural, it's got color, some texture, but not too much.  The kid is going to become a really good looking young man very soon.  I assume that means he's going to have a lot of girls interested in him.  I wonder how that will change him, I wonder how he will react to the attention.  I wonder if perhaps the time for my contribution, for my suggestions on how he can make decisions that will enhance his life, lies predominantly in the future during his upcoming, most likely angst-ridden teenage years.  Will he ever spend time contemplating the rejection of a father who decided he wanted to not have any part in his life?  Will he confront his biological mother who he has met but lives across the country?  And how will his relationship with his grandma, who is primary guardian and the #1 most important family member in his life, the only one who has unconditional and unlimited love for him, how will that relationship change over time.  Will he ever be upset or bitter about the hand he was dealt?  I sure think I would go through various stages of thoughts like that at some point.  So far it all seems like anything that might go on is going on well under the radar.

Brad rented short skis for some reason
When we stopped for lunch, Cody was a bit less regulated and a more free with himself.  Perhaps the location (out on the deck at the of one of the lifts) allowed some of this, or perhaps the vigor of a morning spent in active motion created a safe space for expression.  We assembled a tray together, and he picked out (in order) french fries, mac n cheese, a tri tip sandwich, and a caesar salad.  I picked out 2 hard boiled eggs and watched him make a suicide of Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and Sierra Mist.

This was the punctuation between am and pm sessions
He got most of the mac n cheese down (thankfully since I wouldn't have touched it) but only half of the tri tip sandwich, offering up the 2nd half to me and I decided to eat it even though I have eaten red meat less than 5 times this year and I'm still trying to avoid wheat as well.  It wasn't bad for ski food, but I focused more on the boiled eggs and salad.  Cody took the time to unpack the croutons and spread them over the salad but ate none of it, funny how the least nutritious salad became my lunch, the one I've learned to pick last, primarily iceberg and parmesan, but I navigated my way around the croutons and shook off the cheese as much as I could while Cody went off to past the deck to make snow angels.  I remember so vividly how frequently my mom would tell me "your eyes are always bigger than your stomach".  Knowing this, remembering how frequently I felt such intense waves of hunger, I had tried hard to prompt Cody to eat that morning.  I could have been more forceful with him, I could have made demands or ultimatums, but I didn't.  I knew he would need to eat at some point but since he is not my child I don't feel it is my place to micro-manage him at that level.  I am not sure I would want to even if he were my child.  At the same time, paying $35 for lunch is something I'm happy to do at Whole Foods, but not on the slopes.  There was an opportunity here for me to step up and assume some measure of authority.  I sidestepped and went with the flow.  It's not a big deal, the kid is healthy, lean, and has very normal eating habits compared to others his age and I'm not scraping pennies at minimum wage, but it's not how I like to do things.  Still, who am I to demand more?  Who am I to suck the "fun" out of these types of things?  I remember with tremendous fondness one ski trip in college where Doug and I went to Killington, on our 2nd or 3rd trip, this time without any other friends, just the two of us in a stinky motel room.  It was the most efficient ski trip of my life, we spent every minute we could in motion, and every night we went to Taco Bell for 39 cent tacos.  It was the furthest thing from healthy I could imagine and yet I remember it with immense fondness.  I think it's important to give space to others, especially 10 year olds, to make decisions which may not be entirely in their long term best interests as far as health goes.  And I suppose I hope that he sees my example and develops curiosity with time, I hope that my silent leadership is having a subliminal effect.

Cody decided to bury himself in snow
Brad stayed to finish lunch with Megan who arrived for the afternoon after taking Matt and Nate tubing with Carolyn in the morning.  Cody wanted to get going again, so I went down the hill with him.  This was where things changed up a bit.  With Brad and I, Cody did not call the shots, in fact Brad, knowing the hill from the day before, was doing most of the navigating and doing a great job of gently guiding Cody through a beginners progression.  In the absence of Brad, there was no authority figure, and I assumed my role of enabler of whatever Cody wanted to do.  He first picked heading off back towards the conveyer belts, and then wanted to go play in the "soft" snow (soft meaning dryer than the heavy, somewhat wet and crunchy snow under the canopy of most of the trees.)  He spent 20 or maybe 30 minutes playing around with a frozen block of a pond/stream/runoff water spot, and kind of just goofing off.  I started to get cold, but he was really enjoying himself, so I toughed it out.  This was where I really started to switch over to the "I'm not really enjoying this all that much because I don't want to explore cold/wet snow, I'd really much rather be out on the slopes carving turns and generating body heat" mode.  And yet I felt it was important to give space to Cody to explore his internally generated motivations.  I remember how empowering it was when one of my high school girlfriend's moms once asked me a series of questions along the lines of "what would you do right now if you could do anything?"  I wound up building and wiring an audio system for their house, spending their money but completely enjoying the process of transforming their outdoor space.  So, I felt that Cody deserved to explore this new world of snow and trees and ice without worrying about the silliness of paying for a lift ticket and not using it.  I also realized he was nearing his physical and/or motivational limits for the day.

Sort of like being at the beach only colder (for me)
He would run or walk or jump for a bit and then just fall over into the snow.  At first I found it odd behavior even though he jumps and dives in the grass and on the beach, but the consistency and repetitiveness of his actions eased my concern with time.  I think he honestly did not recognize how his body was tiring out on him.  I remember how badly my muscles ached after my first attempts to snowboard, how strange it felt to balance leaning on the edge of a board instead of placing your weight on the entire surface area of your feet as evolution intends us to.  Watching Cody fall into the snowdrifts intentionally turned on a light bulb on for me, he was responding to a morning spent exploring the edges of his board and the limits of his physical abilities and he longed to feel grounded to the earth, supported over a large surface area of his body on flat ground.  It was time for Cody's savasana.

He said he wasn't cold at all
I took him back to the house, got him on the couch, got his boots off, and he passed out before I went back to the slopes to pick up Brad and Megan.  He wasn't admitting it, but the kid was cooked by 2pm. I did wake him up for dinner before we left, but he passed out again in the car.  I don't blame him, my triple shot latte barely kept me awake through the 2 hour drive, I would have loved to have slumped over against the window and released my grip on consciousness myself.

Now, on to the honesty part.  I'm pretty sure this is going to come out all wrong because I have a special talent for saying things that get interpreted as insults when I mean them as observations.  However, I feel compelled to draw some comparisons between my little brother and the child I remember myself as being when I was his age.  I'm not talking about any physical comparisons, if I remember myself as being slightly more physically fit at that age from running, water polo, and tennis, that's not exactly a difference worth mentioning.  I lived in a different state, with different weather, and I had access to facilities and coaches that Cody does not have.  It's a simple matter of doing different things, not all of which I actively decided to do at all times, that leads to whatever physical differences I might be able to discern.  An over-emphasis on athletic performance at an early age probably does more harm than good as far as adult amateur athletic performance is concerned.

What I am most interested in, however, is the mind of a 10 year old.  I notice some similarities in the things that tend to fascinate Cody and things that I remember fascinating me at that age.  I loved running and jumping and trying to catch a football in mid air.  I loved exploring the "woods" (which really means anything off to the side of the main track but within easy visual range of the masses).  I remember noticing a lot of the little things that I look past as an adult, having been trained to conform to all of the rules that each microcosm of the world has set up.  I used to see the journey of youth as a process of learning and understanding all of the rules of engagement I needed to know in order to meet and hopefully exceed expectations in the various measurements which would be taken along my path.  I now see how much can be lost in that process, how pure the heart and mind start off at birth, and how as we add structure we are effectively voluntarily placing blinders on which limit our natural tendency to see wide as well as far.

Regardless, society isn't going to do some massive rewind, and this blog is hardly the place for a thesis on the loss of innocence which seems to be increasing in the modern world.  Instead, I want to focus in on something that's been so heavy in my thoughts over the past few months.  I see a tremendous disparity between "finishers" and "participants" in the modern world.  When I saw Cody "quit" on the slopes yesterday, I knew it was perfectly reasonable, he was tired, actually quite exhausted, and he reached a saturation point and just kind of fell over.  He was maybe a little proud or a little insecure so he wasn't able to tell me directly, "hey big brother Dave, I know this trip costs you some $ and an entire day of your time and I really appreciate you doing that for me, but I'm really tired now and I think it'd be best if I could maybe go somewhere to take a nap because I don't think I can board any more."  I can read between the lines on that one, I don't expect such a level of self awareness at such a tender age.

What fascinates me, is how normal that reaction is in this world, and yet how foreign it seems to me.  I wonder, I truly wonder, how much of my perspective is genetic vs developmental.  Was I born this way or was I made this way?  If I had a child, would they be like me in terms of how they react at the breaking point, or would they be more "normal"?  I remember my grandfather's never-ever-quit attitude, mostly the annoying parts of it.  I know my father is successful because he doesn't give up on anything that is important, even though he's scaled back his physical ambitious to more reasonable levels as he ages.  But I think I may carry even more of a burden than my father or grandfather, or my mother on her own, because I got some sort of crazy combination of perfectionist and obsessiveness tendencies which leave me in a perpetual state of being overly unimpressed with myself and motivated to try harder.  Was I ever 10 and able to lie down on the slopes and bury myself in snow and chillax even while the clock was ticking and chairs still open for another run?  I don't remember it.  I remember competing in tennis tournaments around the state at that age.  I remember wanting to squeeze every last micogram of toothpaste out of the tube.  I remember wanting to ride my bike around the entire island and being disappointed that I wasn't allowed to.  I remember wanting to swim out to the islands in Kailua Bay, wanting to bring a full sized shovel to dig to China, and wanting to build my own anything and everything in the garage workshop.

I remember being mildly content with each forgettable W on the tennis court and completely crushed with every L.  I remember chasing the swifter runners around the track and the smoother swimmers in the pool, always expecting myself to be able to compete even if/when I couldn't, always looking in front and never once glancing back.  I don't remember many moments of just experiencing life through relaxation.  I remember a plethora of attempts to improve for the future.  I remember hitting tennis balls with my dad, and the ever-present opportunity to get ice cream afterward if I could keep a rally going for 50 shots, then 75, then 100.  That was one of the ways my father knew he could get me, I would rather die of exhaustion on the court than give up on returning a measly 25 shots in a row, and with each miss I'd double-down my efforts and be even more committed to hitting the mark.  I didn't like ice cream nearly as much as I despised failure.

Cody doesn't have this burden.  I don't want to put it on him.  But yet I do want to encourage him somehow, in subtle ways, just like Brad did, and like Shane does for me.  Because without encouragement, most of us don't self motivate at the right level.  That is why I blog, the one or two comments allow me to see my words and thoughts through an alternate perspective and this adds up to enabling the growth of my perspective as a writer.  It is why I long to be in a relationship, where my partner can offer me pure and honest feedback about how my actions and words affected them.  I don't want to infect Cody with any of my mental disorders I have, but I'd like to see him stretching towards his potential once in a while.  Because I do honestly feel that there is far more mediocrity in this world than excellence and I am supremely enamored with excellence.  I'd like Cody to choose that himself and I don't want to trick him into that choice either.

So, there you go.  I took a kid to the snow for the first time and wrote a 10 page essay on how I'm managing my disappointment that he didn't bust out a double McTwist in the terrain park even though he handled his first day far better than I did and I had the benefit of many ski days and twice as many years of age leading up to my first day on a board.  I'm so not fun to end this with my screwed up thoughts instead of a "life is roses and youth is all pure joy" sentiment.  I suppose deep-down I am worried that I do not measure up as a potential father, that I will never learn how to inspire without micro-managing, that I can lead only by example and not by instruction.  And mostly I worry that my leadership is lacking in the most essential ingredient of all, balance.  Perhaps that is all just my insecurity speaking today.

Friday, February 17, 2012


February 2012 is apparently going to be a pretty rough month for John Friend.  I'm nowhere near able to comment on his specific situation (alleged misconduct involving of sex, drugs, and money, basically your typical abuse of power theme) but I do think these recent events bring up an interesting topic that I have spent a good deal of time thinking about:  the seat of a teacher.

I really like the phrase even though it's sickeningly yoga-esque.  I like it because it's a reminder of what I think is the most important criteria for being a good leader:  humility.  Sitting down is an act of humility, much like bowing or opening your arms to greet someone.  On top of that, our bum, aka our seat, is often the body part we are least proud of, the one which is least representative of our confidence and individual awesomeness.  So, when we refer to our seat, we are talking about the part of us, or the role we are serving in, which is entirely about supporting others, and not about feeding our own sense of worth.  The seat of a teacher is the one nugget of altruistic truth that makes the entire effort of leading worthwhile.  It is within the seat of a teacher, where the purity of unidirectional, unconditional giving is manifested.

As a leader, we often find ourselves in situations where the perspective of those we are in charge of leading is skewed.  I've observed this from both sides, both in my own adoration of some of my leaders, and in the way I've been treated while leading.  A special sensitivity is necessary to hold the seat properly, sometimes a gentle touch is appropriate, sometimes a strong push is needed, and other times an objective mirror is the tool that works best.  Each situation is unique because each individual is unique and it takes some intelligence to avoid hammering a square peg into a round hole.  What is universal, however, is how we as humans act when we look up to someone as our teacher and how vulnerable we become by doing so.  It's as pure as the love of a child, but the effect on the leader can be dangerous and intoxicating.

I've been in charge of a group of 10 software developers, I've coached a group of 15 or so runners, I've lead 2 yoga classes, I've taken care of a dog for 10 years, and I've been a big brother for almost one year.  Such is my leadership experience.  It's not much, I would characterize it as very limited, nothing that comes close to being an actual parent and being responsible for the beginning stages of life or being in charge of hundreds of people in a large company.  I consider myself as a complete novice when it comes to leadership, an unseasoned rookie.  And, yet, with all that said, I think I've still learned quite a few lessons from those limited experiences.  Paying attention is the best chance to learn, as the opportunities to see what doesn't work very well are ubiquitous in our daily life.  It is upon that experience which I base my premise that humility, above all else, is the key to high quality leadership.

The thing about humility is that it there are a ton of words that can be used which might seem to imply humility, empathy, and understanding.  I'm not talking about words.  People can lead by using the right words for a period of time but eventually words fall short.  Words are the tools of salesmen and initial impressionists.  Words are wonderful, don't get me wrong, I love words, but when it comes to interpersonal relationships, words are limited.  We remember actions and more than anything, we decipher character based on interactions in 4 dimensions.  The inner marrow of personality is eventually exposed, and our complex reactions to people in our life are reflective of the judgements we make about that marrow even if it takes years.  One of the best parts of life is that we all like different things, we all are attracted to different people.  There are those who desire words of affirmation even if they aren't backed up by intrinsic moral fiber, and then there are those who seek out that inner fiber even if it is disguised by all sorts of crazy words.  I could just as easily be describing the dating process as the selection of a guru, the search for the right job, or the method by which a team of champions is assembled.

I'm not going to comment on John Friend's moral fiber because I haven't seen it and I don't know any of the facts.  But I know that I can only respect leaders who have demonstrated their humility to me.  Humility is having the option to do something for you but using that option instead to do something for someone else.  Humility is putting other's needs in front of your own.  To win my adoration as your student, you have to show me that you would carry me up a mountain on your back.  Shane does this for me every morning we work together, he does so with compassion, and through sharing the joy he feels for creating positive changes for my benefit.  I think I get more positive energy from experiencing his humility than I do from any of the physical capabilities his efforts have brought into my practice.  This morning, for example, I pulled off my first attempt at titibasana.  Sure, he was holding my feet for me, and even then it still didn't look anywhere close to the way it should look, but I owe all of the attempt to his continued belief and guidance.  I realized immediately afterwards that I was more stoked to feel like I was rewarding his instruction with this attempt than I was about the significance of the attempt for myself.  Shane doesn't work with me to earn money or to make himself feel awesome, he does it because holding the seat of a teacher in this context is his dharma and he believes in the importance of that.

I'm not sure how effective I am as a leader.  The feedback I've received has been, for the most part, fairly positive, but there has been some negative feedback as well.  Some of those I have lead have mentioned they felt empowered by my ability to explain, assist, and direct them to solve problems, build applications, lay out a design, execute a training plan, or work towards alignment.  Ironically I remember my own mother saying what a horrible teacher I was when I tried to help her with Word Perfect, back in the days before Windows and Microsoft Word.  Maybe I have improved since then.  I'd like to believe that is the case.  Regardless, I'm convinced I can keep improving as I get older.

However, some of the negative feedback about my leadership is also very valid.  I get carried away at times and I say some crazy stuff.  It's easy to see why.  All of the positive energy of being in a leadership position has an effect, it is a powerful drug, and it can skew perspective on both sides.  It's really just basic math, if you take a strong leader's personality as x and divide it up among 15 different students, you get x/15 going towards each student.  Then if you add up all of the energy from those students, averaging y, you get 15y going towards the teacher.  If we assume y is at least half of x, the ratio of teacher energy to student energy is 15y : (x/15) = 15(x/2) : (x/15) = 15 * 15 / 2 : 1 = 225 : 2.  Or, in words, the leader of a small group of 15 people receives two orders of magnitude more energy from the students than each student receives from the teacher.

The only check and balance on this effect is humility.  And that humility has to originate from within, it cannot be enforced by an external entity.  We have to actively temper our perception of own greatness in order to effectively lead others who will want to see us as greater than we actually are.  We have to become servants in order to be great leaders.  We have to do everything in our power to continue to support those below us if we want to lead them to their own excellence.  Leadership is entirely about holding that seat of a teacher, about protecting, nurturing, and going to battle for those in your care.  Far too often, especially in the corporate workplace, leadership centers around looking good to the next layer of authority, making the grade, passing the test, hitting the mark.  I think that is why I dislike corporate leadership so much.

I know this goes against the mantra of "love thyself" that is so prevalent in yoga.  Perhaps the desire for self love is exactly what makes yoga so susceptible to cults and leaders who abuse their power.  I know that whatever leadership skills I do have center around my own belief that I am a student.  If I am able to inspire or instruct in any meaningful way, if I am a halfway decent friend, it all is based on a foundation of sharing what little I've learned or what I've managed to figure out after multiple failures rather than dictating the correct plan of attack or prescribing a standard of care.  I know that I relate much better to people who can poke fun at themselves than I do to those who highlight their accomplishments or achievements.  Because a little bit of humility, a splash of self loathing, coupled with the sense of humor to highlight individual absurdities, is a sign of a balanced human perspective in my book.

I usually comes across to other people as the guy who is too hard on myself, and I accept that it seems that way on the surface.  I don't ever really want to be content with who I am today because I can always do better tomorrow.  I can always try harder, and each new day is an opportunity to improve in all sorts of regards.  It's not very yogic to be constantly searching for more humility, but that is my path, just as I constantly search to improve my fitness, my eating, and the central balance of my life.  I accept my discontent and I use it to thrive.  I know that's not how most people operate.

Being a leader is such a unique and delicate responsibility.  I do not take it lightly on either end, not as a student, nor when I attempt to hold the seat of a teacher.  I know we are all human, and we are all imperfect beings, but I think playing by the general rules goes a long way towards sustainability.  Don't lie.  Don't cheat.  Don't steal.  Don't abuse privileges.  It's all pretty basic stuff, so I don't know why it's so hard for so many people.  I believe our greatest responsibility as a leader is to look after those we are in charge of, even if that means putting our own desires aside.  Maybe I just take it all way too seriously, but I simply don't know how to operate any other way.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I miss you.  I know today isn't a special day.  It isn't your birthday, nor is it the anniversary of your death. But I couldn't help thinking about how badly I'd like to just talk to you and how sad I am that I can't.  I thought about you during my run today, how much you loved to run, how that turned into a passion for walking on the beach, but only with a big straw hat and before 10am once you had a few melanoma's removed.

I remember this shirt my dad has on.  I bet he still has it.

I would want to hear you tell me what your life is like if you were still alive.  I would want to see you enjoying retirement, just like your sister seems to be.  I would want to hear about how wonderful it is to be a grandmother, about the bond you feel for the 3 girls Leila has brought into this world.  I would want to know what life is like for you after the immediate responsibilities of parenting wrapped up, but you never got a chance to live that stage of your life.  I would want to know what it's like to live with my father, your husband, and all of his quirks.  I would want you to tell me how to keep a marriage together, how to listen, and how to talk, where compromise is important and how to stand your ground without disrespecting your partner.  I would want to hear about your latest challenges, what is on your mind, and what motivates you.  You always had such clear cut opinions about things.  You were the glue that held our family together, the rock that supported all of us, the organizer and the enforcer.  I miss being able to talk to you about how you did all of that, why it was important to you, and what ways I could be more like you.  I feel myself drifting without you.

Pretty sure that is me on the right. 

I wonder what you would think of my passion for running and for yoga.  You were always moderate with your pursuits.  I blame your choice of husband for the extremes and obsessions that leaked over into my dna.  But the organization and the compulsions, that came from you.  I wonder what you would think of the house I've put so much time into, of my failures and of my accomplishments.  I know you would have advice for me, you were never one to be silent when it came to that.  It's just been so long without you that I no longer know for sure what that advice would be.  And maybe, just maybe, I might actually start to listen to it now.

I love the fro my mom is sporting.

I am approaching 40, and I'm about the age you were when I first became aware of the particulars of your personality, how different you were than other moms, and the things that were important to you.  I remember you forcing wheat bread on us, how we couldn't have sugared cereal or soda, and how you constantly tried to shed those elusive last 5 lbs and how I never understood why that mattered until I got old too.  Ironically, 2012 has me eating healthier than ever before.  Would you approve, or would you think I'm taking it too far?  Would we connect even more now than we did when I was younger?

This looks like the PCT trail on Mt. Laguna just past Dale's Kitchen.

I think about religion a fair bit.  I struggle with how strong your belief was in God and how short your life ended up being, how much you felt you left unfinished and unexperienced.  I've had a hard time resolving that inner conflict since you left this world, and I haven't really figured out what my views are on religion without you around to tell me what to believe in :)

This is where my definition of family started.

Today, for whatever reason, I just wish I could pick up my phone and talk to you.  You've been gone for almost half my life now and I still feel like I'm trying to catch up to where you were when you left.

Happy Valentine's day, mom.  I love you.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I did a little retail therapy this week and picked up a new toy for the master bathroom:

At $80 I wanted to give it a spin and indulge myself.  I've been carrying my laptop into the shower lately and while it's nice to have music, I worry about knocking it over, getting it wet, etc.  I actually suggested to my dad that he check out roku back when he was using an old laptop for netflix streaming.  After playing around with the roku a bit on my last two trips home, I was tempted to get one for myself sometime.  The WD player is a lot like the roku only it's more adept at playing local content.  We happen to have a number of movies on our file server now (thanks Trevor) and I figured I should make them accessible in the event I decide to spend 2 hours in the ice bath.

The new toy needs a shelf to call home

While playing around with the toy last night with neighbor Brad and roommate Trevor we got into our usual discussion about wifi vs ethernet.  I realized that most other people, even very tech-savvy people like neighbor Brad, aren't as silly as I am about hard-wired network devices.  Most other people configure things for their wifi once and forget about it.  My guess is, most homes have no more than 3-4 devices.  In other words, most homes have no need for any more than the 4 ports offered on most routers.  I, on the other hand, have a 16 port gigabit switch connected to my gateway and almost every port on that switch has something plugged into it.  When it comes to wires, particularly network wires, my freak flag flies at full mast.

18 network jacks + 6 RCA jacks = 100% geek
I'll start with my Uverse Gateway (aka the cable modem) connected to a uverse DVR (this is the one internet enabled device I no longer have any interest in, I'd get rid of it if roommate Paul didn't like himself some Tosh.0 and Squidbillies.)

Every home needs a 16 port gigabit switch 
The uverse gateway is connected to my gigabit switch, or more accurately, the switch uplinks to the gateway, so that's port 1 on the switch (or port 16 depending on how you see it, although the switch in question is auto sensing so you can uplink from any port, we could call this port 7 if we wanted to, I don't even remember which port is connected to the gateway.)

What about the other 15 ports?

1. Sony Blue Ray Player (for firmware updates mostly since it doesn't do streaming content, I bought it just a bit too long ago.)  I can just plug this directly into the gateway and probably will if/when I need to free up a spot on the switch.
2. My mini ITX Windows 7 web/ftp server and htpc (www.daveeasa.com and ftp.daveeasa.com all run off this box, it uses 20-some watts at idle so I don't feel too guilty leaving it on permanently and it has gigabit ethernet so it's more than capable of serving up content to multiple devices at the same time.  The drives are hot swapable from the front and are currently stocked with a 2TB music and photos drive and a 3TB movies drive.  The other cool point is hdmi out with audio so I can just do one cable to the receiver and I still have an analog audio out or optical out I could use for a 2nd zone (i.e. watching the dvr in the living room and listening to pandora off the htpc in the kitchen).   I can do slideshows + music for parties, and it's a 1u rackmount so it takes up almost zero space, plus it's so easy to swap drives in/out as price points drop and hard drive capacity increases.

My friend Shelley calls me "Man Cave Dave"

All of that is on a dell half height server rack in the man cave.  From top down the server rack has an unused KVM mounted high (which should probably be moved lower since it can't opened in the position it's in) then the gateway and dvr sitting on the top shelf.  The next shelf has the receiver.  The shelf below has a blue ray player.  Then I have a blank shelf which currently has some dvd's on it b/c junk seems to have a way of piling up where open space used to be, and then the bottom shelf has the 1u computer and a power conditioner underneath it (think glorified powerstrip).

But wait, you say, that's only 3 of the 16 switch ports, what about the other 13?  The answer lies in the fact that I have a one and a half 12 keystone wallplates filled with network jacks which feed throughout the rest of the house (the other half of the 2nd 12 port plate holds 3 pairs of rca's, more on that later.)  Yes, I painstakingly ran 18 network cables, more than 1000ft of cat5e, some through the attic, some between the two floors, everywhere I thought I might need them.  I only missed one spot so far, I didn't cover the far side of the kitchen and I'm a tiny bit bummed I forgot about that.  I'm a big fan of wire, particularly network wire, and I'm a bit of a grump about wifi for anything that doesn't have to move around.  And we aren't even really getting into the 15 different runs of speaker wire or the hdmi and vga cables.

Let's do a top down approach to the final 13 switch ports which are connected to most of the 18 available jacks.

Two wires are coiled up in the attic, unused, waiting for their shot.  I'm going to take one to Paul's bedroom this weekend so he can skype with his sweetie in private and not worry about the wifi flaking out on him.  I always intended to put at least one jack in that bedroom and so far it has none.

Two go to Trevor's bedroom which I built out as my home office.  I gutted the closet and did some shelves up high and a really wide marble desk, then the power and network jacks below on left and right side, leaving the center of the desk for kicking the wall when the app I'm building doesn't compile.  I've never actually sat at that desk, as soon as it got done my life situation changed and Trevor moved in.  Since he doesn't have any need to hang up clothes, and he spends a lot of time in his room watching movies, it's a pretty good setup for him.  He has his 27" imac plugged into one of the jacks and I've got an airport express in the other jack, trying to expand the coverage of the wifi better.  I could just get a better router that would cover the entire house, heck that would be cheaper than the overpriced airport express, but I like the uverse firmware for routing incoming web/ftp traffic to one specific server regardless of IP.  And I like the name resolution from inside and outside without having to use .hosts files as I did with cox cable's barebones router.  So, anyway, Trevor's bedroom has 2 jacks, Paul's bedroom has none but should get one of the 2 spares which are sitting coiled up in the attic like a snake, waiting for him.  That leaves 9 open ports on the switch or 12 jacks left to cover.

I have one network drop in the corner nook just outside my master bedroom.  That's where I have a 2nd mini-itx pc mounted underneath a triangle desk with a bosu ball chair.  This is a complete desktop setup, but it really exists only to upload my garmin data for me.  I charge my ipad, my garmin, my mp3 player, my phone, and my laptop.  It's a perfect setup for me, I spend at most an hour of my day at that mini desk, and yet it's fully usable for 8 if I ever needed or wanted to work from home again.  We're down to 8.

Home office on a budget

I have two jacks inside the master bedroom.  One was intended for an alarm control panel, I just ran a wire to where the old alarm panel was installed since I thought that might be a good idea.  I ended up using it for my chumby (think internet enabled alarm clock) because the damn thing would drop wifi every once in a while and that irked me to no end.  So I splurged on a $10 usb ethernet dongle and now the chumby is super reliable although having 2 wires coming out of the back is a little unsightly even if the dongle itself is tucked away behind my nightstand.

Overpriced alarm clock thanks to /mdk

The 2nd jack is the one in the master bathroom that feeds the new streaming media player hooked up to my bathroom tv.  So now I can sing along in the shower and not have to hear my own voice like I do when I have the laptop going in there.  And I don't have to worry about knocking over the laptop and breaking it on the tile or getting it wet.  The media player plays every file format I have on my server (avi, wma, mp3, etc) and has all the online streaming services (netflix, pandora, etc).  It's really cool, very fast, and super easy to use.  Ironically, I have no network jack for the wall opposite my bed, and no tv on that wall either.  My gut tells me that most normal people with multiple tv's have one in their master bedroom.  And I can't say that the concept is abhorrent to me, but I just always envisioned a really resonant piece of art for that wall.  If anything, I'd like to try to simplify my bedroom even more, the less clutter I can see from bed, the easier it is for me to drift off to sleep.

So that's a half dozen left.  We head downstairs for the rest.  Starting from the street, I have 2 wires between the phone access box and the man cave server room.  This was mostly to handle a possible future fiber connection (thinking way too far ahead) from the street (don't ask me how this would even be possible, I just ran wire in case, though I should have run fiber too, but I didn't know too much about which type of fiber to run, so I just ran some boring cat 5e.)  So, that's 2 cat 5e cables sitting around unused and purposeless, jacks which go nowhere effectively since the other ends aren't hooked up to anything.  Maybe someday this would support network monitoring of a solar power inverter or an electric car charger since it's right next to the circuit breaker box.  Or maybe I steal one of those wires for the east wall of the garage if I had any reason to do so.

This weekend's efforts will center on finishing up the garage audio.

Speaking of the garage, I have two jacks in the media closet in the garage which is in the northwest corner.  Those are actually connected and I have a dell mini 9 netbook to jam pandora or stream files off my server when working in the garage.  The mini 9 is small and fits in the garage media closet with room to spare, but I think I much prefer my new toy's streaming capabilities since the mini 9's atom processor leaves something to be desired in terms of performance when running windows.  It seems to be OK with ubuntu, so I could swap that out too, but I think those things are mostly throwaway at this point.  The western digital streaming device has hdmi, optical digital out, and a remote control whereas the netbook has vga only and no remote.  The future of home entertainment does seem to be shifting towards these streaming devices which are basically stripped down, single-purpose, low power, small form factor computers.

So, we're down to 4 or 2 depending on how you count (since the 2 wires to the phone/cable street box aren't connected to anything)  The last 2 that saw any real use are in the dining room and are currently not connected to anything, but at one point this was the spot where my downstairs pc lived.  Then I got a dining table and had to move the desk away from the wall to make space for it.  Now the jacks aren't used, though they'd be the perfect spot for a tiny printer since they are right by the front door.  Or, if I ever pony up for my own iMac, since I already bought this super cool wall mount for it, I could consider using that wall and hard-wiring the iMac.  Right now the stand is on the wall opposite the jacks, the one place where I should have run network cable but didn't, and now it's too late since everything is closed up and it'd be a ton of drywall destruction to steal from the one side to feed the other side.  So, to offset my stupidity, I use this absolutely beautiful iMac wall mount as an apron hanger.

Last, there are 3 jacks on the wall that has the tv, along with 9 speaker cables (2 for the kitchen, 3 for left, right, center, 2 for subwoofers + rca's for powered subs, 2 for front surrounds aka wide front).  Those 3 network cables are not currently used either, they are just sitting around waiting for a purpose.  Since I ran the speaker wire I figured I'd run network cable as well since the wire itself is pretty cheap and so many devices can put it to use.

I experimented with an infrared extender over cat5 for the tv remotes since all of the parts are in the man cave which is in the back corner, but never got that device to work properly, and the IR to RF extenders I was using seem to trip out the uverse dvr (though they work well for all of the other devices) so we just keep the door to the man cave open for now, at least until I get a new logitech universal remote with built in RF (aka the 900 which costs an arm and a leg.)  The left and right network jacks on the tv wall may never see much of any purpose beyond temporary use, but the one in the center which comes out with the hdmi cable that feeds the tv will most likely be useful when we upgrade to a new tv since almost every new tv comes with an ethernet jack for firmware and streaming.

And that is how a geek like me puts a 16 port gigabit switch to work.  All of which reminds me of perhaps my favorite scene from Breaking Bad: ("What element comes to mind???")