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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Okay, Workday is a great company. Anybody who knows me knows what I think of this company – how far they can go, how much they have going on, how well they treat their employees.

But not even I expected Workday to supply their people with company-colored and logo-ed M&Ms.

WDMMToday is an interesting day – my first day on the new floor. They’ve moved the Salt Lake office from the seventh floor of this building to the second, and the second is much, much larger. We’re largely empty, but not for long, of course, as we’re hiring as fast as we can. I think we slowed down a bit after we started stacking in folks on the seventh floor like cordwood, but I’m sure that things will be picking up again now that we’ve got these echoes reverbrating through the building.

But right now we have fields – vast fields of empty cubicles – where Customer Sales folks will not be borne, but will be grown. (Reference? Anyone?…Bueller? Bueller?) I’ve had to spend a good bit of time today getting my laptop reconfigured to talk to my three 20″ monitors, plus setting out all of the Island of Misfit Toys action figures on the window sill. Some things you just can’t work without.

The new break room is huge, and has room for the pool table and the ping pong table. We also have about 46 conference rooms, and we have a good-sized one for lunchtime yoga. (are you wanting to come to work at Workday yet? I thought that you would : ) In some of the conference rooms, we have the new 90 inch Sharp Aquos screens, for watching bowl games at lunchtime teleconferencing.

The new digs are pretty nice, and the best thing about ’em are the custom-colored M&Ms with the Workday logo. You can’t really have a productive day without those.

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You never know what effect your words may have on another.

The most offhand remark,a simple tale or reflection, or even a joke can change somebody else’s life in ways that you never dreamed.

Back in Ought and Ninety-One, I had just graduated from UAH, and – after a couple of months of frantic looking in that recession economy, I got a job with NTI (New Technology, INC) in Huntsville, AL.

tz(Editor’s note: This is not a picture of the building where I went to work at NTI in ’91; I can’t find that building. This was the place to which we moved shortly afterward, and where I worked until I left a few years later. And I can’t tell, online, that NTI even exists anymore.)

Right after I started there, I got a new boss, a quite charismatic young man named George. (I’m not using his last name here because he may wish to remain anonymouns, but He Knows Who He Is(tm) : )

Very soon after George started – just in those first few days – I wound up sitting in his office, having some get-to-know-you talks. They were offhand, spontaneous little chats, of no consequence, which he certainly doesn’t remember.

But in one – or maybe two – of those talks, George told me a couple of things about himself:

1) He had run a marathon, and

2) He and his wife had honeymooned snow skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

That’s it – just jabbering stuff that I’m sure he never thought about again.

But both statements floored me.

I’d never met anyone who had run a marathon. I had just stopped smoking six months before this, and was jogging a mile or two a day just to keep clearing the nicotine out. The idea of running recreationally – of entering races – had never crossed my mind, and the idea of a marathon – well, that was completely out of my consciousness.

And I knew that I had known people who had gone snow skiing – I knew that I had a cousin who lived in Phoenix who had gone skiing some in Flagstaff, although I had never been either place and had no idea what such a place might be like – but I had always found snow to be magical and wondrous, and thought that I would love to do something like that, if the opportunity ever presented itself.

As that fall wore into winter, a few things happened; one was that another new guy started, named Keith, who thought that a bunch of us should go skiing in North Carolina. He also brought in some ski magazines, and I can still remember that one of them had a picture of a place called Park City, Utah, on the cover – a town where the ski runs came right down to Main Street and lifts took off from the town itself up into the mountain.

A young fellow that I sponsored was from up north, and he allowed as to how, if I would drive him up to North Carolina, he would teach me to ski (Keith’s trip never materialized) – and then Ethel actually arranged for that with him as my Christmas present that year. We wound up making several trips to NC, and even going up to Snowshoe in West Virginia, and by the time the spring was over, Ethel and I were planning a trip to the Rocky Mountains (we decided, after doing the research in the ski mags, to try this place called Purgatory. That’s actually where Ethel got her name).

The rest is history.

Another thing that happened that winter was that I kept doing a bit of jogging here and there, and then one day in early January, I went out for a mile and a half run, and then just decided to turn and go *thataway* instead of going home, and did about eight miles. I walked in the back door and told Ethel “I think I’ll run a marathon”.

She just said “yes, dear” and kept washing the dishes.

I didn’t even know exactly how long a marathon was, but I was committed (or I should have been). I wound up borrowing a book from George about marathon training, and joined this brand-new thing on the Internet called the “Dead Runners Society”. That December I did  the Rocket City marathon in a death march, before training another ten months to do Marine Corps in 3:08:10 (negative splits) and qualifying for Boston.

And the rest is history.

One further off-the-cuff remark from my boss George – after my first Western ski trip, I said that it would be great to maybe someday actually move to a ski town. George smiled and said,’ Yes, everybody thinks that, but – of course – nobody ever does it”. (For the benefit of those not in the know, I’m typing these words in Park City, UT – after skiing the White Mountains in Arizona, I moved to Waterbury, VT, then Park City, UT, then moved back to Arizona and bought a condo in Purgatory,. and moved back to Park City last year. Yeah, nobody ever *does* it, but I’ve now done it four times 🙂

So you just never know what sort of effect anything you say might have one anyone listening. You never know. You might say something that will cause someone to chase a dream, or go on a quest, or move across the country several times.

Or you may say something that might ruin somebody’s life. Just imagine what kind of career I might have had if I hadn’t wasted all of my time and energy for the last few decades running and skiing!

You just never know 🙂

Yesterday morning, it occurred to me that we’ve fallen for another bit of cultural weakening.

Googling the phrase “this won’t hurt a bit” brings up a lot of nasty and sarcastic images, all of course intended to show that the phrase is always a lie, because they are too going to hurt us. This is one of the mildest pics I saw:

This Won't Hurt a Bit cover c border

I remember hearing this said, when I was about to (say) get an immunization :

“This won’t hurt a bit, although it might sting a little”.

The doctor was telling the truth, completely, at the time. He wasn’t going to hurt me, at all. He was, however, going to do something that caused a bit of pain, briefly.

But we’ve changed the definition of “hurt”. “Hurt” used to mean “damage”, but now it means “pain or discomfort”.

The shot the doctor was giving me did not HURT – no, it HELPED. The fact that it was briefly painful meant nothing in the long run. It was understood, at that time, that many things might be painful in the short run but very beneficial in the long run. The opposite of “hurt” is HELP. And the immunization was going to HELP.

But now we’re so terrified of discomfort that we think that pain “hurts”, and it doesn’t. Pain doesn’t do us any damage at all.  We’re so soft and stupid that we think that pain damages people. Meanwhile, our cult of comfort seems to be doing much more damage to us, individually and collectively.

“The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” — Kahlil Gibran

This has gone so far that now people aren’t supposed to punish their children in ways that cause pain, because we think that pain will do damage. And now the very concept of “punishment” has gotten a bad rap, because – hey, that hurts! This has colored and changed our very ideas about God, to the extent that we are now sure that He can’t be a “punishing” God, because – because then he’d be hurting us!

Man, we’re dumb.

Punishment is the infliction of discomfort – a controlled amount, in a controlled manner – by a loving authority,  in order to change behavior so that the actual, real consequences of that behavior in the real world won’t be visited upon the offender. I spank my child to teach him responsible behavior so that he doesn’t go out into the world and act irresponsibly, because the consequences Out There of a grown man behaving irresponsibly are much, much greater, more painful and longer-lasting than thirty seconds with a peach switch.

We’re busy avoiding punishing our children – because that might hurt them. So we let them – and society, as a whole – suffer the consequences in the real world, because we don’t want to “hurt” anybody, because we’re really so soft and stupid that we think pain hurts.

I am GLAD that God “punishes” me – i.e. he gives me lessons that cause me discomfort, but that keep me from doing things that would really damage myself and those around me. And they don’t “hurt” a bit.

A coworker brought me a Christmas present today – The Gentlemen.

gentlemenThis is a cutesy plasticized pop-culture version of The Gentlemen, from the Buffy episode “Hush”:

gentlemen2I was wondering if it was time for me to watch Buffy again – I just realized that the last time was this past January, and that’s either a long time ago, or not so long, depending on whether or not you’re talking “last root canal” vs “watching the best show ever seen on any medium”. It seems strange that I’ve gone that long without watching it, but it also seems strange that I would think that that was “that long”.

It’s strange how time is compressing as I get older. Now it’s time to get out the Christmas movies again, but I’ll be danged if’n it doesn’t seem like we just watched them the other day. I thought about pulling “Elf” out, but I was left wondering if perhaps we hadn’t gotten calendar-confused and watched it in October or November, because we just watched that show the other day. Now, I am certain that as I get older my memory is getting worse, so why does a memory of a movie from a year ago seem so sharp and recent?

I’ve heard that memory is like a bucket – once it gets full, anything poured in on top just goes off the sides; this sounds like what I hear from many older folks, whose long term memories are still sharp but they have trouble forming new lasting memories. Maybe what’s happening to me these days is that, because my long-term bucket is full (or close to it), perhaps my short term memory is getting more elastic, such that a movie that I saw a year ago is still in short-term memory, which is why it feels like “just the other day”. Maybe my brain, sensing the diminishing quantity of long-term storage, is keeping things around longer before it decides to move things from short-term to long term.

Suddenly I’m having a panicked thought – maybe I shouldn’t be watching anything more than once; if I’ve only got so much memory, I don’t need to fill it up with Yet Another Watching of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Heck, maybe I shouldn’t be doing anything repeatedly, but should instead be doing as many different things as I can – otherwise, when my bucket fills up, it’ll fill up with more of the same.

Okay, this calls for a major lifestyle change. I’m gonna have to quit my job and just start doing different stuff all of the time. It’ll use up all of my retirement savings, but who cares? If this is the way that things go, then when I am retired, I won’t even remember that I’m broke, since I won’t be able to store any new memories.

Ethel! We’ve got a plan!

…which is certainly reasonable.

Tell me these aren’t the same four folks:

 

30_thejoshuatreeIPYou never see them at the same parties.

…who, me? I saw the doctor this week – I needed to get biometric numbers for “wellness” to reduce my insurance payments for work. I told Park City Round Valley Clinic “biometrics numbers for my insurance” – they heard “annual physical”. Which was a bit strange, since I’d already had an annual physical this year. But there’s no doubt that I’ve got some health – or, at least, fitness – issues, so I’m willing to get checked out again.

After the other parts of the checkup (“turn and cough. Bend over and grab”) Dr Herb allowed as to how I might be asthmatic, and – after having me blow very hard and very long into a gadget three times – sent me home with a new inhaler. I’m supposed to use this twice each morning, and evening, for a month, and then come back and blow into the gadget again to see if it helped.

Of course, I’ll go back and blow into the gadget, but what I want to see is my running pace go down and my endurance go up.

Dr Herb agreed, reluctantly, with my recently-formed conclusion  that the only real fix for my fitness woes is to die, and get a new body when I reincarnate. I will tell you this, right now – next time, I’m going to drive a harder bargain. No short, short-legged, bald mesomorph body for me.

I’m also taking Sporanox, for toenail fungus. High-mileage training caused me to lose my big toenails many years ago, and when they grew back in, they grew back in a quarter-inch thick and discolored. I’ve also got one thumbnail that is the same way – it’s the right thumbnail, which I’ve always used when finger-picking my gitfiddle. This should solve those issues over the next few months.

The reason that I care at all is that I am now barefoot in the close company of other folks frequently, as we have a yoga class at work, and there’s no reason to gross anybody else out. The thing that’s more surprising than “Jim’s fixing his toenails” is “Jim’s in a yoga class”. Yep, and I’m eating sushi and watched the PAC-12 Championship Game. I’m half foofoo, almost. (or is that spelled “fufu”?)

When I asked Dr Herb about Lamisil (the Sporanox equivalent) he said, “Sure, I can give you that, if you don’t mind killing your liver”. I said “Doc, my liver lived through years of 151 Bacardi with Sugar Free Dr Pepper chasers”. He wrote the prescription.

 

 

Well, the DOW is tanking today –

dowWhy should you care? Some say you shouldn’t care because the Dow Jones Industriual is no longer important – they say that the S&P is a much better indicator of the current state of the market, and that the Dow is not representative of the economy or of the average investor’s portfolios. If so, that says something about the US – perhaps we really have stopped making things, and now only buy things and sell things?

Others say that we shouldn’t care about the Dow’s fluctuations because, over the long haul, it’s going to go up. No matter what, over any long period of time, the Dow goes up.

But perhaps the best reason for me to not watch the Dow is this (from 6 Matthew):

 

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I take a lot of thought for the morrow, because I hope to retire someday. But that’s exactly the problem, isn’t it? The reason that I’m busy thinking about tomorrow is because I have an agenda. “A goal is a premeditated resentment; a schedule is a resentment with a deadline.” I’m busy laying up treasures for myself because I am lazy and don’t want to keep working.

Also, from time to time I find that I am resentful that I’ve had to pay into Social Security all of these years, so that the current crop of old folks can sit on their patushkas, but there won’t be any of that around for me – I got taken in the biggest pyramid scheme ever foisted on any group of people, and nobody is going to lock the perpetrators up; instead, they’ll get monthly checks.

If I could go ahead and accept that I’ve been taken, and that I’m gonna have to keep working until I die, I could probably drop all of this silliness. Unfortunately, I’m married, and my wife doesn’t want to keep working, either, so I assume that it’s my responsibility to make sure that she doesn’t have to do so, and that we can “spend a comfortable and secure retirement together” (copyright from just about any advertising copy for any investment firm or annuity company on the market).

Maybe the best course of mental action is that I can go ahead and plan on my working until I’m dead, while Ethel sits on her patushka 🙂 That makes things a lot easier!

“It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another – but which one? Differences are crucial” — Robert A Heinlein

I had a nice lunchtime swim at the Steiner West pool today.

Small_empty_poolI really enjoy swimming these days – a couple of months ago (before I got sick for three weeks) I stopped swimming drills or repeats or what-have-you and just started swimming 2000 yard sets as a workout. No warm up, no cool down, just jump in the pool and swim 2000 yards without stopping (disclaimer – usually I’ll stop halfway or three-quarters through for about ten seconds to get a big drink out of my water bottle; this helps to prevent cramping). I find swimming like this to be very rewarding – it’s a comfort, which is strange, because a year ago every length left we wanting to stop for breath. Now I can swim for a long time very comfortably and happily.

However, “now I can swim for a long time” does NOT mean that I am in shape.

Not too long ago, I got injured at the ski hill, and the nice PA in the clinic referred to me as an “active adult”. (I let her live).The concept of  “active adult” seems to involve being old but still doing stuff.

Once upon a time, I was a reasonably fit athlete – heck, I was regional class. I was as likely to place in my age group as not at most local races, and even won some races outright. Now I am in the worst shape I’ve ever been in as an “active adult” and, other than the few weeks off sick, I’ve not missed any training time at all – I’m just out of shape because I am OLD.

Now, I am fully aware that being an “active adult” means that I’m in “better shape” than most of my peers. I’m sure that it also means that I’m in better shape than I would have been were I not an “active adult”.

But none of that helps, because even though I’m in much better shape than a hypothetical Jim who was sitting on the hypothetical couch for the last thirty hypothetical years eating hypothetical CheezIts, I am in much worse shape than the real Jim that I was two or three years ago. (I’m not going to debate the reality of the past – take it down the hall, thankyouverymuch. I have memories of being that Jim, and I do NOT have memories of the hypothetical Jim who never worked out).

So the difference that I’m living with is not the difference between “the shape I’m in and the shape I might have been in” but is, instead, the difference between “the shape I’m in and the shape I was in”. And that’s a much sharper, much more painful difference.

Every day, I am painfully aware of how fast I’m going downhill physically. For the last two years, I’ve been slowing down at an alarming rate, and it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I work – how much volume or intensity is involved – I keep going downhill. I can’t do anything about it. I’m admitting it out loud right now, and doing so is not freeing at all; it’s discouraging. I only seem to be able to keep working by pretending that I’m going to turn a corner Any Day Now(tm). Whenever I actually take a long look at my running log – looking at the distances and paces over the last few years – it makes me want to go home, climb on the couch, and become that hypothetical Jim who hasn’t been wasting hours every day for the last twenty-three years doing stupid stuff that, in the long run, didn’t seem to help because, look! I’m in terrible shape!

I have to admit – many times lately, it’s occurred to me that now would be a good time for God to come get me, because this body has been used up. I’m ready to start over in a different body (based on my spiritual development, I doubt that I’m through with the cycle of births and deaths. I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least one more runaround).

Maybe my body in the next life won’t be as good as this body, but at least it won’t be OLD.

I envy Ethel – she has just started working out hard, so for a long time, she’s going to be improving, and even when that curve flattens out, it’ll be a long time before she endures the Long Slow Painful Slide Into Abysmal Oblivion – but I can feel the grease on the skids, and I see the oubliette right  in front of me, a yawning chasm into which I will disappear any day now, hopefully to come out the other side as a newly born upper-class Ethiopian with Haile Gebrasselaise’s mitochondria.

In the meantime, I’ll keep swimming – and not looking at my watch.