January 2006

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January 8, 2006 O #

Christmas was fun.

It seemed to come really quick. I didn't fly home until Christmas Eve because we were wrapping up the test for our payload (a very successful test at that), and then I got home, it was Christmas, and the rest happened from there. But I had all my shopping done before Christmas Eve. That might be a first for me.

Greg and Trevor have this escalating competition of hiding each other's gifts in the inopportune places. It started five or so years ago when Greg buried Trevor's gift in a bucket of dirt. This year, Trevor opened a GPS with a marker point a mile or so out in our back yard... so we had took a good hike Christmas Eve.

There's a certain danger in being part of my family. If we don't have plans to go do something, we'll wake up early and go do something anyway. The morning after Christmas turned into running stairs at Red Rocks. It didn't take long until I tried to be a Ninja, and in failing to do so, opened up my shin for 17 stitches. Just for the record, I don't recommend starting any vacation that way. But the doctor had me in and out in less than an hour and a half. I took them out myself just before heading back to Cali.

But at least I got to go snowshoeing with everyone one of the days.

Here's a pretty good video of Greg stepping some turns through the trees.

The mountains always have cool looking shots that make good pictures.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, Trevor dropped a 15'-20' cliff to a flat landing and opened up his chin for his own set of stitches. He's got some other cool skiing pics.

Who eats Peanut Butter, Jelly, and Whip Cream for breakfast?

New Years was fun. It's great having a house that can fit however many people want to come over.

And we got some climbing in.

I was actually supposed to be back in Cali when we shot these pics, but I must have mixed up my flights when I scheduled them online. I showed up at the airport, and found out my flight back had been scheduled for the same day as my flight in. It worked out for the best though.

Looks warm huh?

It was actually super windy, so we didn't stay long... but who can complain? It's January in Colorado. There' snow in the mountains and sun on the rocks.

January 10, 2006 T #

A Happier World Without Love

Don't get me wrong. I seldom hesitate to tell a girl I love her, and I mean it every time I say it, but...
The world would be so much happier without this concept of "Love."

Love has got to be one of the most destructive words to ever hit human relationships. It takes what would otherwise be very natural interaction (or non-interaction), and this stupid ill-defined concept is enough to persuade us into totally unnatural and irrational interaction. Think about it. How many moments, lives, and relationships have been screwed up because of the word Love? Not just the word, but the whole concept, and everything it (mis)represents and overrides regarding our relationships with people. Let's take a look at this for a bit.

- How many potentially wonderful relationships have been killed right out of the gates because the guy made the fatal mistake of telling the girl "I love you" and she got scared and ran?
- How many guys have accidentally got a girl mindlessly twiterpated because they casually said "I love you?"
- How many many awkward moments have couples shared because one of them said "I love you" and the other didn't know if they loved the other person enough to give that same response?
- How many hours have been wasted contemplating how to say those magical words in a new relationship?
- How many evenings have been spent in insecure conversation trying to define the type of love, level of love, and depth of love a couple has for each other?
- How much heartache has come around because one side of the relationship thought the words "I love you" meant something more than the other side meant.
- How many girls and guys have wasted year after year being discontent because they don't love anybody?
- How many awkward discussions have taken place between parents and their kids about love and sex and how the two relate?
- Get the idea?

Now on a more serious note.
- How many teenage pregnancies have occurred because of the obligation of a girl loves her boyfriend?
- How many kids with teenage parents are growing up in difficult circumstances because their mom loved a guy?
- How many abusive relationships are maintained indefinitely because a girl loves the guy beating her?
- How many guys have had their lives thrown for a loop because of an emotional roller coaster of a girl they love?
- How many families let a particularly manipulative member stress them out because "families love each other?"
And that's just dealing with individual love. We haven't even touched on the general love for people, often termed "brotherly love."

So what of it? I'll admit, Love has it's uses. Without Love, we'd have to get rid of about 90 percent of all songs ever composed. Some of the best movies would never have been made, and some of the best stories never written. But those generally deal with Love as it was meant to be applied; not in the destructive form it often takes. We're not going to get rid of this word love, and it's never going to be universally understood, so why waste the electrons to write anything about it?

I think it would be worthwhile to start taking a look at our relationships with people, and the way we value people, in terms other than love. We don't have to stop loving people. Let's just eliminate that "love" word, and evaluate a person for who they are. It will help us to become less self centered. You see, the funny thing is, for as benevolent and selfless as "love" is supposed to be, love is all about the individuals own little world, regardless of the person they love. As soon as you say "I love [somebody]", you remove the reality of their person from the statement.

Example: I'll say I love... oh... I'll say "I love Brittany!!!" She's a fun girl to love, and I haven't told her I love her for a while, and I can link to her blog. As soon as I say that, the statement is all about me. The meaning is all about what I feel for Brittany. It has nothing to do with who Brittany is, why I love her, or any of that. Brittany, as a conscious individual, is totally absent from the statement. She's just an object used for me to express what I personally feel.

Now then, if we eliminate the option of saying I love Brittany, and I still want to tell Brittany how wonderful she is, then I have to start talking about Brittany. I get to say "Brittany, you're fun, happy, thoughtful, insightful, loyal, carefree, responsive, and you posses other traits I value and admire. It was fun hiking up by the Y and chatting and not getting any sleep the night before we graduated. It always made me feel good to see you walk into the lab in the basement of the Clyde Building to do homework." See how much more external that is? It's about Brittany, experiences shared with Brittany, and when she influences my world.

The advantage of "I love you" is that it can sum all those sentences and adjectives into three words, so it takes a lot less time and space. However, the danger is that it leaves the person saying "I" susceptible to discarding reality. If life with somebody is a living hell, but you justify staying with them with the words "I love them"... well, you may be right. You may feel that love thing for them, but life is a living hell. Or, more likely, life is good enough for you to accept it as it is. Well... I'm bored now. There were five or six more good points I wanted to make, but those will have to wait until another time.

The end of it all was that if you remove love from your vocabulary, and look at people as they really are, you will probably find that your relationships with people can be more fulfilling, more free, less obligating, and more beneficial for everyone involved through all phases. That's all for now.

So here's a good love song from Moulin Rouge, one of the all-time great movies about love.

January 11, 2006 W #

more on: A Happier World Without Love

The great thing about people reading blogs is they sometimes write the stuff I intended to write... and then I don't have to write it.

These insights courtesy of invisibutterfly:

... Sometimes, I think people use the word to validate themselves or their actions. Usually it's infatuation or just plain self-delusion. Most humans haven't emotionally or psychologically evolved enough to distinguish, so they attach their desire, impulse, etc. to whatever is the strongest word or concept that they know of, and think that must be it. Or they are just hoping that if they attach that strong concept or word, in this case,"love", that no one will question them or dispute their actions or motives, which often aren't noble enough to bear the title of love.

... What they "love" is the idea of being together with someone and the possibility of sharing some sort of bonding experience or emotional or physical connection with that person. Or maybe even just the validation of their own worth in the hopes that their confession of "love" will prompt the other person to "love" them. Or some people "love" someone because it satiates their loneliness. I think, most often, they "love" the fantasy that they have attached this person to, and because that person is attractive to them in some way, they OBVIOUSLY would fit into the romantic fantasy just perfectly. (irony intended)

(This is a good laugh)
And the sad thing is, it's not like it's rocket science or anything - it just makes sense. Not that rocket science doesn't make sense, it's just, well.... not knowledge that everyone is privy to . Hmmm maybe it is like rocket science. Weird.

A comment about not having comments on my blog:
- First of all, setting up a database and system to make comments on individual entries would take a lot of time and learning. If I had multiple incarnations of myself, I think life #3 would do that, but I only get incarnation #1.
- Second, I get emails from friends, and they can say whatever they want, without being concerned about it getting published to the world. I like that. It's less social, but more friendly. Running a social forum has its value, but I like hearing thoughts from my friends, and what's going on with their life, without the filter induced by public observation.

January 12, 2006 R #

In some areas, I'm very responsible. In other areas, I fail miserably.

I think it was Monday this week when I finally got the water bill into the mail. I guess that wasn't good enough, because tonight I'm going to sleep without any water. Tomorrow morning, I'll wake up without any water. Fortunately, I have enough water in random water bottles to brush my teeth.

I would like to say that I'm getting better at these things... but I've been terrible at it my whole life. I do an excellent job at setting up direct deposit, but I can't seem to figure out this snail mail system. Good thing I wasn't born thirty years ago. I'd have never made it.

January 19, 2006 R #

Sometimes You Find an Anomaly

The cool part of running resume workshops is I get to meet so many different people with so many different backgrounds. I just finished working with a guy who graduated high school and started college at 14. He's totally socially normal, so I never expected that kind of background. It turns out that he single handedly developed the programming that automatically updates pre-paid cell phones. The kiosk takes the persons money, and his software takes the order to their central center, and adds so many minutes to the phone... instantly. That sounds simple, but anybody whose done any programming knows that such simplicity is no small task. And what's more? He started programming it when he was 16!!! His challenge isn't a quality resume, but learning what is available in industry. He needs to network, and that's what he'll be diving into.

But I finally cropped pictures from this weekend while on the flight to BYU, and I finally have time to post them.

So, I'm aware this is a heavy picture month, but these shots are just so good I can't pass them up.

We got rained out from climbing for the first Saturday since Diego moved from Vegas (I think). But the weather was still great for hiking, so we found our way through the rock pools in Malibu Creek.

The clouds created the best lighting I've ever seen for this terrain.
From near to far: Cheyney (the Matrix Girl), Renee (the Climber Girl), and Kristin (The Human Gazelle)

And I have a new favorite band!!!
This guy is (these guys are?) great.
Here's the song from their album "Lost and Gone Forever" that instantly converted me.
What You Wish For
I highly recommend buying it. The whole album is great.
(Yes, I'm aware it's several years old... but it's new to me)

Some traverses were more technical than others.

We made it through, but not without a casualty.


And here's another Guster song that I instantly recognized from a while back .

Back at the Rodeo.

Ok. That's all for now.

January 31, 2006 T #

The Bay Area Becomes My New #1City

If you really want to get technical, I haven't yet decided if San Francisco or Palo Alto (or any of those surrounding cities) is my new favorite city, but it's definitely in that area. New York City has long stood at the top of my list of the coolest cities in the world, and it's with great reluctance that I allow it to be demoted. I think the change in New York's ranking is more an indicator of my change is valuation than it is a change in the qualities of any of the cities being rated.

I took the weekend up here to run around with Sara, see some other friends, and while I was here, I thought I'd drop into Stanford's business school, the GSB (Graduate School of Business).

But before we get into that, Sara is one of 30 engineers/scientists at Stanford working on the Gravity Probe B experiment. GPB is a satellite with super precise gyros, sent up orbiting around the earth and sending back position, time, and orientation data, so that we can test if Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is correct. In a nutshell, they're testing if the mass of the earth really does bend space-time, and if the spin causes frame dragging in space-time. Cool stuff.

And we went hiking in the Redwoods at Big Basin.

I had a couple hours down time, so I grabbed the Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tokien from Sara's shelf and started reading. I thought the stories in the Lord of the Rings were good, but this history of the creation of Tolkien's world is phenomenal. I'm seeing where the cult following comes from.

"The Light of Valinor (derived from light before any fall) is the light of art undivorced from reason, that sees things both scientifically (or philosophically) and imaginatively (or sub-creatively) and 'says that they are good' -- as beautiful."

Good stuff in context and implication. The identification of perfect unison between art and reason as the fullness of beauty... I won't even begin to comment.

Present and Historical Forces #

I met a guy at Stanford who is a little older than most, and has spent several years at NASA on program development. We chatted for a while, and what I heard was not surprising, but a little concerning. He has been on several programs where NASA had plans to develop a new space launch vehicle, and has seen every one of them scuttled. Unfortunately, this is the same experience everyone in NASA has had for the last twenty years. That's not surprising, nor is it concerning. The concern comes into play in his attitude regarding the CEV, and the accepted attitude of others on this project. He expressed that the managers he worked with expect to see the CEV canceled right when it's about to get off the ground... just like the previous projects.

Given historical trends drawn from conclusions, this would be the logical outcome to expect. However, conclusions are the results of determining forces, not forces in themselves (except psychologically). It is forces which determine outcomes, not historical outcomes that determine outcomes. We certainly can benefit by learning from historical outcomes, but we study history to understand what caused the outcomes. Only by understanding the causes of the outcomes, or rather, only by understanding the forces which determined the outcome, can we intelligently project the outcome of a scenario under new conditions / new forces.

It is because of the new conditions/forces that I believe the CEV can be made a success.
(These principles apply to any project/program)
(1) Concrete Need: The previous programs were developed while the agency had an arguably successful Space Shuttle. They felt no concrete need to replace something that isn't broke. The Space Shuttle is now, very clearly, broken. It must be replaced.
(2) Concrete Objective: NASA has a concretely defined exploration directive. They've been given a destination to reach, not just abstract "technology development." Previous directives allowed program cancellation because the objective of "technology development" could be argued to have been reached. Success was not mandated. NASA could give themselves an "A for effort"... and they did. It was looking busy and acting like they were trying that counted. Trying counted more than Doing.. Anytime Trying counts more than Doing, you are bound for failure.
(3) Concrete Team: This is the most important force, and will receive greater treatment here.

***The adjective "Concrete" is used in these descriptions because it connotates something that does not bend or break under pressure. Concrete holds its defined form. If needs can be rationalized and morphed, then needs will change to become what can work under the least focused pressure, or most distributed pressure. If objectives can be rationalized, the ojbectives will be changed to take the form allowed by stagnating pressures. If the team allows themselves to rationalize, then again, you get a team carrying an even distribution of pressure... a team with an even distribution of blame passed between team members. In all cases, the final reality is the result of the creative forces (need, objective, team) bending to the easiest allowable balance with the stagnating forces. If we want to create something, we must define and hold the form, as we do with concrete.
(Now back to the Concrete Team)

Now that I'm starting to write this, I realize that for the sake of my time, I'm going to have to give only a partial treatment, and it won't be as organized as I like. (It seems like this is always the case with a useful thought).

The head of the team is a good place to start. It is the head of the team that caused the first two forces (acknowledging Concrete Need and Objective) to come into place. At the head of NASA, we have George W. Bush, and Mike Griffin. Whether you agree with W. Bush or not, it is clear that he is a concrete leader. He set the objective to establish a democracy in Iraq, and now Iraq is a democracy with higher voter turnout than the U.S. He had pressure for him to change his concrete objective before invading Iraq, and that pressure increased the closer he came to succeeding in his defined objective. Whatever the pressure, he held his form. (Examples exist to the contrary, like failing to reach his Social Security Reform objective, but the comparison holds for our purpose here. The leadership style is a stark contrast to changing objectives according to gallup polls).

It is fitting that a concrete leader will choose concrete sub-leaders, and hence, fitting that a bulldog like Mike Griffin would be appointed to the head of NASA. Griffin took the reigns of NASA, and immediately began rebuilding the structure to acheive the concrete objective of reaching the Moon. He scaled back the long, drawn out proposal process originally put in place. Instead of spending funds to pay for "spiraling" proposals from several companies over several years, he cut the proposal length, and will quickly contract with a single team. By doing this, instead of distributing money around the competing companies, he's picking a winner, and funding the project. In addition, he is scaling back much of the science funded by NASA, directing the agency toward manned exploration. While focusing the budget, he replaced many of the higher level people at NASA who didn't want to march to his orders. He has been criticized by others for choosing rocket propellant systems that draw from old technology because (they argue) that means NASA isn't reaching their objective of "developing new technology." (In my opinion, space exploration technology is much more encompassing than rocket propulsion technology). What Mike is doing is taking the most direct path to the concrete objective set for NASA... regardless of the pressures to deviate from that objective. (Since I won't take time to fully address the forces of buerocracy within an organization like NASA, here's the summarized two bits. Focusing on a concrete objective is the only way to prevent a buerocracy from suffocating itself. The beurocratic forces didn't just appear after Apollo. They were there during Apollo, but the leaders overcame them to get to the Moon. Reading on the Apollo program, it is surprising how many decisions were made by the leaders, cutting short extended group studies and cutting off technology alternatives... just like Griffin is doing now. The same buerocratic forces we face today existed in the 1960's and 1970's. They were overcome then, and they can be overcome now.)

(In one spot, the terrain changed dramatically, and has all this web looking stuff growing all over)

We've looked at the head, now let's take a look at the team, and Present vs. Historical Forces regarding that team. When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, they had history entirely against them. What they had going for them was the individuals on their team. This is the present state of NASA (I hope). The Broncos recently lost the AFC Championship to the Pittsburg Steelers (a sad day). The Broncos had history entirely in their favor. What they had against them was a flu bug in Jake Plummer (and Pittsburg must be credited for a well executed game). It's the team that counts, not the history. History can be an indicator of the forces at play in a team, but history is not a determining cause in itself (except psychologically). Tying this into NASA and the CEV, we have concrete leaders holding to concrete objectives (Concrete Need is an influencing factor in turning multiple individuals with shared leadership toward a common concrete objective). We have the concrete leaders and objective, so the next component comes to the managers and engineers within NASA. We need individuals, all throughout the lineup, who will work to the objective. This is where my conversation with this guy at Stanford becomes concerning.

During this conversation, I learned that many of the managers from these previous programs are still in place at NASA, and they're working on the CEV. They just transferred from the canceled program to the new program. Keeping people with "experience" is not always the best move. You need to ask what they are experienced at accomplishing. If they are experienced at climbing the management ladder within failed or canceled programs... that's the wrong kind of experience (unless you want to cancel a program). The Red Sox didn't win because the coach started telling them to win. The coach was telling them to win all along. They won because they were continually generating a better team. They cut those that didn't perform, and retained those who did perform. Nobody squabbled to protect a poor baseball player who was loosing his job. Rather, they celebrated the new guy on the team who they hoped would help them win. For the CEV to be successful, the players who are experienced at loosing need to be cut, and the players experienced at winning need to be recruited, and put on the playing field. Sure, we'll loose some "experience" by loosing old people, but we need to remember that we originally made it to the Moon with a relatively young crowd of people who had never gone there before, and didn't even have books to reference on the technology... they wrote the books as they went!!! The "Failure Mentality" must be rooted out of the team. This Stanford guy had the Failure Mentality for the CEV. He was courteous, intelligent, and insightful, but expects the CEV to be canceled like all the other programs he has seen. He is articulate about the history, and about the forces causing failure, but hadn't taken the time to evaluate the forces currently in play.

Again: History is an indicator of Forces, not an indicator of Future.

So wrapping this all up... I guess I don't have a conclusion. I apply the principles to my own sphere of influence, and use the indicators to guide my own decisions. I plan to be building spaceships during my life, and doing so will require working with and within an organization, so I think that understanding this will be useful for me. I articulate the understanding here in case it might be useful to you (hello anonymous reader, and welcome to my blog), or anybody else. And for the record, I have no intention of this casting a negative light on Stanford; it's just my observations from an honest and interesting conversation.

In all, Stanford was a pretty good place. More casual than Harvard, and the students were equally friendly. Their application process is very different than other business schools. They put a heavy emphasis on personal introspection, and really look to your interaction with your peers. Everyone I've known who has gone to a top B-School has either been accepted to several of the top 5 except Stanford, or rejected from every top 5 and accepted to Stanford. Seeing their application process, I now understand why. Stanford is looking for different qualities. In generaly, the students have the same energy, but are not as technically adept. In a finance class, the professor was explaining how they build risk and correlation equations for stock portfolios, and one of the students asked: "Do people really really take the time to plug in all those numbers, and make those calculations?" I had already scratched out my 11 lines of code to calculate everything... just becuase I could. But they're not afraid to ask questions, or make comments that may indicate they're less than all knowing. I appreciate that in a group. Candor and energy are good traits to make people grow.

From several conversations... "What is Love?" The answer given is the same as if you were to ask "What form of relationship do you want more than anything?" Invariably, this is the answer given. Codependence. Fun, Exciting, Adventerous. Reliability, Trust. Understanding. Mutual appreciation within every availableoption.
Pick your brand, and that's probably what love is to you.
Depeche Mode: Somebody

This post is more like several posts because I wrote segments, and didn't want to post it until I had pictures cropped to post as well. It became pretty long. I guess this is what happens when I have time after work for two days straight, and I'm not writing a book, building a web site, climbing with friends, putting together a workshop, dating a girl (recommendations appreciated), or other things that seem to be more entertaining or intellectually passive.

This tree must have fallen over the night before, or maybe a few days before. The wood was fresh.
... and the tree was HUGE!!!!!
All the trees in the Redwoods are huge like that. Hiking through here was like being a little kid again, when the world was so big. It makes you feel likea little mouse skitting along the trunks of these old Giants.

And another cool thing about these trees is that some of them are 2000 years old!!! That's a little bit of age. They're biologically unique in that they don't have any chemistry in them that makes them die of old age. They also have a natrual fire retardent in their bark, so the forrest can burn down several times in their lifetime, and they still stand.

And now I just deleted a long segment on being people and growing old and dying, and the natural life cycle we have, which ties directly into another segment from Tolkien. I'll just leave the Tolkien quote here, and my own little note that it took me until a few years ago, maybe only a couple years ago, to really grasp that I'm mortal, and that it would be wise for me to live life accordingly. Not realizing I'm mortal in the sense of injury, but what that means regarding how much time I can apply to different experiences, and decision timing regarding expereinces, etc. It's a very interesting realization to carry to it's full implication.

"The view is taken that each "Kind" has a natural span, integral to it's biological and spiritual nature. This cannot really be increased qualitatively or quantitatively; so that prolongation in time is like stretching a wire out even taughter, or 'spreading butter ever thinner' - it becomes an intolerable torment."

So... it was half raining on us hiking the 8 miles in to this waterfall. Then the sky got dark, and the forrest got pitch black, and the rain got steady. Good thing Derek had his headlamp for the last 6 miles of the loop.

Tolkien wrote his books because he's been creating his world ever since he can remember. He created a world using his imagination, and was very strict about the marriage of reason and imagination within that world. It was interesting relating to how I want to create within the world in which I am living. Tolkien chose to create in thought, and I choose to create in material. In his lore about the creation of the world, Iluvatar (God) showed the Ainur (Angels/gods, who become the powers of this world) a vision of the world from the beginning to the end, and they were stoked about it. He then let them choose if they would head out to the void and take a role in creating this world. Then, I thought it was insightful that Tolkein has these gods show up at the Void/World, and be somewhat surprised that they had to actively create the world into the vision Iluvatar had shown them. When they arrived, it was just a bunch of stuff in the void, so they got to work. I think life is the same for everyone while growing up in this world. We gain a vision of what life can be, get stoked about it, and then find that we have to create it if we want to experience what we have envisioned. There are many parallels between Tolkiens Ainur/gods creating this world into the vision they saw and wanted, and us individuals creating our lives into the visions we have seen and want.

Another side note on leadership (elected leadership in particular). It is the responsibility of a leader to do what they personally believe is right, not what they think their followers think is right. People elect a leader to make executive decisions, and postion that leader to have access to the most important information pertaining to those decisions. If the people collectively decide that the leader has the wrong values, or had bad judgment, then they will elect another leader. A leader is there to apply their personal best judgment. Elections, or policy votes, are there to ascertain the collective judgment of the people. Leaders are elected, or selected, because those they represent believe that leader's character is the closest embodiment of their collective best values and judgment. It is not appropriate for a leader to discard their values and beliefs because they are in an elected position. We elect leaders because of their values and beliefs, and it always remains their responsibility to live their valuesand beliefs.

Ok. That's all for now.

This is a personal web page. Things expressed here do not represent the position of my employer.

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