Un-Stuck

About five weeks ago I gave myself permission to reduce the amount of running/weights I do in a week. I gave myself permission to loosen up on my diet — which isn’t terribly strict in the first place but if you are having doughnuts twice a week you know it has loosened up, even if your pants don’t — and I stopped doing most of my hobbies (knitting, gardening, random acts of sewing, etc.).  I did this because My Product Was Shipping, and it was Kind Of A Big Deal, and I had only been in the team for something like six weeks when that happened.  My function is a weird one: I don’t write code (or at least not for this role).  I don’t spend a lot of time in Power Point.  I don’t go into meetings and wave my hands around and drop some Very Important Sounding Names and so forth. My job title is flexible enough to let me do what I want to do (which is to Facilitate Other People Getting Things Done  and then of course for me to Get Things Done, which I’m kinda good at). But I dropped all of the aforementioned balls because I had to pay attention to *this particular ball*, because I feared if I didn’t that it might break.  (Note: not one word about giving myself permission to slack on mom-ness.  That is because when you are the mom of an almost 16 year old you don’t get to slack. Ever.)

As a result, when the Product Shipped and things calmed down, I found myself heavier (thank you for the brutal honesty, scale), but drastically less inclined to actually run (in the waning weeks I told myself that walking 2 miles on a treadmill at a reasonably fast walking pace and on an incline counted as much as running 2-3 miles, and if you believe that then I have some data for you). I had a backlog of projects that I had started and not finished.

While I was able to finish off most of those (and pre-plan the next ones), I found getting back on track dietarily and getting back into running– really running– was not happening.  I was stuck. I had no motivation.  Earnest morning plans about prudent food choices were shot by 4pm; earnest evening plans about early morning runs were dismissed with the snooze button. The days I made it to the gym, I was literally going through the motions. (ha). All of my workout music seemed old and overplayed, all of my dietary planning seemed dreary.  I had given myself permission to de-motivate under the assumption that if I hadn’t something would break (probably me), and ironically in the process I managed to break myself. Oh, not to injury — I do have a history of getting to about two weeks before an event and fondly hoping for a sprained ankle or some lovely tendonitis to give me “permission” to Not Do The Event — but in this case I managed to break something I found harder to deal with: my motivation.

I tried all of the tricks.

I switched to caffeinated coffee (caffeine and I shouldn’t be a “thing”). Historically I mostly drank decaf and then would use caffeine sparingly (Say, once a week or every two weeks) to give myself an extra boost.  I tried it for two weeks straight this time in an effort to kickstart something.  I was literally bouncing in my seat in a meeting last week (I know this because someone pointed it out).  But I wasn’t running.

I made some dietary tweaks in hopes of giving myself more energy and getting myself kicked into gear. That didn’t happen.

I researched articles about getting back into running, finding your motivation; considered getting a workout buddy (I don’t like to run with other people so while this felt like a good forcing function it also seemed detrimental).  I made public comments about how I was going to run so I would have the “hey I said I was gonna do it so I better do it” enforcement. (This kind of worked when I was at my mom’s and ran by the graveyard, which is full of history and a worthwhile visit).  I cut back (waaaaaaay back) on Diet Coke. (Full disclosure: I have “quit” Diet Coke two other times — no, three — and for me it’s largely a concern of quantity).

No dice.

I began to have some of those thoughts that are oh-so-tempting when motivation is gone: hey, I’m 45.  I’ve been running for 10 years, maybe it’s just “time”.  Lots of people get more sedentary as they age, they get a little freer with their diet, as long as my weight and measurements don’t go drastically up it’s all good, isn’t it? (Speaking as someone who has weighed 230 pounds unpregnant and once ate an entire box of pop tarts — that’s 12 for those of you counting at home– no, it’s not good).

I got lucky.

I was at breakfast with my son – we go out to breakfast on Friday mornings, just some mom and son time – and the breakfast counter had oldies playing.  Specifically Steve Winwood’s “Gimme some lovin‘”.  The song came out in 1966 — it’s 7 years older than I am — and my first exposure to it was in “Days of Thunder” (yes, the Tom Cruise movie). And at that breakfast counter, eating my Responsible Choice Wheat Toast with Fruit Cup, and drinking my Please Please Kick In Caffeinated Coffee, I found myself looking outside and realizing with the time change I could run outside — not on a treadmill.  We finished breakfast, I took my kid to school, and I went for a run by the lake.  I listened to this song over, and over, and over again over 3 miles. I didn’t hurt. I didn’t plod. I had one of the fastest miles I’ve had in years.

And I did it again today, just to see if it was a fluke. It’s not.

I am Un Stuck!

 

 

 

Business Travel: Quick Tips for Hassle Reduction

I do not travel for work nearly as much as some of my friends do or as much as my father did while I was growing up, but I have been on a plane roughly once a month for the last 6 months and am good for 1-2 work-related trips a year (at one time it was 5-6) (added to personal travel). Traveling for work is not as glamorous as one may think but despite Skype and Teams and lighting fast WiFi sometimes you just need to be there in person. With that in mind, here’s a set of useful tips culled from my personal experience and from my coworkers and friends.

Airport Strategy

To check bags or not to check bags? That is the question. Before your trip assess which airport(s) you’re flying in and out of and then see what their reputation is online — for example, CDG in Paris has a reputation for losing luggage, one that I found well-deserved (I got my bags about a day and a half after I arrived). If you don’t want to risk it make sure your carry on fits carrier guidelines (many carriers have *reduced* the size of acceptable carry ons) and be prepared to not use that space under the seat in front of you for your feet — because if you’re in a later boarding group there may not be overhead bin space. Also, take advantage of YouTube packing videos.  You can get a lot of stuff in a small case.

Inversely, if you do choose to check, weight your bag before you get to the airport — and maybe pack a smaller lightweight bag or backpack in it. This is because if your bag is over 50lbs they usually charge $100 instead of a $25 or $30 bag fee, and having 2 checked bags is still cheaper than one overweight charge.  If you travel a lot and you have a carrier Visa card, that usually comes with free bag check. Finally: add some unique item to your handle, even if it’s just a strip of novelty duck tape. You would not believe how many identical black Samsonite bags are out there.

Get TSA Pre Check.

If you aren’t thrilled with an airplane loo — and who is? — and find yourself needing to go as you exit the plane: use the facilities closest to (and just before) the security exit. That is, you get off the plane, you  head down the concourse to the main hub, and you get to that part where it says “after you go through here you can’t go back” — and find the restroom right before that security exit.  This is because it will be less crowded than all of the ones you just passed (because everyone else got off the plane and will happily stand in line) and is likely to be less busy.

Hotel Strategy

Hotels often have more amenities than are listed on their site. For example, mine has a free shuttle to the conference I’m attending — even though it’s a half hour away. It wasn’t advertised and I came across it by accident (while trying to schedule a Lyft) so it’s good to ask at the front desk if there is a shuttle service to your location of interest.

The gym at a hotel can be resplendent with fresh towels and water bottles and a wide assortment of machines/weights or it can be one dilapidated bosu ball and a sketchy elliptical trainer. Check TripAdvisor or Yelp hotel reviews to see what the gym actually has and also when it is open.

It’s nice when they hand you your room keys in that little paper fold and it’s a pain to carry that around. If you travel a lot room numbers kinda blur, so take a pic of your room number (at the door) to remember it without having to keep track of little foldy bits of paper. This strategy also works with remembering parking space/stall numbers.

Hotel toiletries are unreliable (in terms that some hotels offer a selection of toiletries and others offer the inherently suspicious bottle of 3 in one shampoo/conditioner/body wash).  Get reusable travel-size bottles and fill up with your stuff from home. Bonus: keep them all together in a quart size Ziploc – you’ll need it for security, anyway.

Conference Strategy

Ever notice how conferences are usually in a hot-weather area during the hottest time of year? It’s because it’s cheaper (it’s during their off-season) for the conference provider and usually for the attendee. Case in point: Grace Hopper (where I’m at right now) in Houston, or an analytics conference I attended in July. In Las Vegas.  You’ll be tempted to wear a super-lightweight top and pants or a skirt, but don’t forget a light jacket or scarf — because as soon as you get into the Convention Center or Hotel Ballroom, the AC will be jacked up and you will freeze.  As much as you’d like to think that will help you focus on the material, it won’t, and you’ll end up drinking too much coffee in an effort to keep warm.

Speaking of coffee: the coffee shop or stand *at* the convention center or hotel may sound like a good idea, but it will be slammed.  Go around the corner or even two blocks away, or leverage pre-ordering apps like the one offered by Starbucks.  Bonus points if your hotel has a mini-market or quick options like muffins or fruit, but you’ll want to put thought into your breakfast strategy *before* the morning of.  This is because when you get up, you will be thinking about your deliverables and schedule, and just hoping to run into food. So are the other thousands of attendees.

Seating strategy is also important – you’re in a room with 300, 400, 500 other people? Figure out if you need to exit early (for a conference call or because you’re dubious on the content) — and sit closer to the door so you don’t feel like a horrible human being when you do get up to leave.  Do you need to take notes during the presentation and you’ve got a laptop? Look for carpet cutouts in the floor –– typically power outlets are stashed there (or sit along the walls).  Poor eyesight or you like to ask questions? Sit towards the front *or* near the mic stand.

Most conferences have some sort of expo or booth-laden enterprise where you go learn about new things and acquire swag. Don’t acquire swag to acquire swag. It’s more stuff to pack into your suitcase for dubious benefit. If you’re interested in the company or its offerings, grab your cell phone and take a picture of the business card or product info – doesn’t get lost, takes up no space, and you have all the information nearly instantly.

Finally — Conference WiFi (and any publicly available WiFi) is open — so remember to use a VPN to keep your electronic traffic safe. If you need super-reliable WiFi, don’t rely on conference WiFi — they can easily underestimate traffic — see if you can tether to your mobile or get a mobile card if it’s an absolute must.

Hustle: How to Get Things Done

In Empire Records, Liv Tyler’s character is this seemingly perfect human who is a straight A student, cool, works in a record store, and gets a lot of things done. When her friend comes to pick her up for their shift at the store she’s got fresh-baked cupcakes and her friend marvels at her productivity: her answer is that there are 24 useable hours in a day. (Sure, later on we find out she’s been on amphetamines but we all know someone like this who isn’t. Or probably isn’t.)

Increased productivity is an economic expectation (and/or desire) for a given population but it’s also an expectation we put on ourselves, and our kids, coworkers, volunteers, etc. The “always busy” culture celebrates the hyper-productive person who, when you ask them how their day was, will inevitably reply “busy”.

In my career (which sounds really great as a tag for a series of only vaguely tethered job choices) I have developed a set of practices to live in that world and get a lot of things done. While it’s true that there’s no such thing as multitasking you can learn to recover from switched contexts faster, when to shove the ball into someone else’s court, and how to pursue the answers you need (to unblock your course of action) doggedly.

Getting Someone to Respond

Most offices work in an email-enriched environment (maybe too enriched) for primary communication.  Some have Slack or Teams as an augment or replacement. Then there’s meetings and conference calls.  Within these, there’s usually the need to either disseminate information and the need to acquire information. Getting someone to respond is the need to acquire information: either to get them to acknowledge a given topic or to provide a missing piece of data so you can go about your day. Example: I need to know if there already exists a security protocol/practice on a system I’m thinking about using. I’ve read the provided documentation* and still don’t have an answer.  At this point I reach out to the name responsible for the documentation (or the name responsible for the product, or indeed anyone I can find related to it) and send an email or Slack@. When the inevitable non-response occurs (email is good for that), I set a meeting.

Why?

Because people hate meetings. It’s a massive disruption, they’re stuck on the phone or in a conference room when they could be doing something else, and it means they’ll have to (gasp) talk to you in real time.  The reason why texting has taken off and voicemail is dead is because, for the most part, people don’t actually want to interact with you unless they have some social basis for it.  By creating a meeting and pushing the point it gives them one of three options:

  1. To unblock you by responding to the meeting request/your original email and giving you the data you need or some other poor sop to go after.
  2. To actually meet with you, in which case you get not only the answers you’re after but you can pelt them with more questions.
  3. To ignore your meeting request.

For that last: it does happen, but rarely.  When it does, and *if you’re truly blocked*, you request a meeting with their lead.  At some point up the chain, meeting requests and emails can’t afford to be ignored.  This is a somewhat nuclear option, so use sparingly.  You can also branch out and forward the meeting/email to others in the same group/product.

Carving out Time

This may seem silly, but actually carving out time on your calendar (“booking yourself”, as it were) will make sure you have the unblocked time you need to get whatever-it-is done, and that you don’t accidentally overlap incompatible things.  I can clear out my email while dinner is in the oven, and I can go for a run on the treadmill while listening to a podcast, but I can’t clear out email while listening to a podcast (because the brain gets confused). Some folks use this to actually make sure they remember to eat (e.g., “lunch” as a 30-minute block) and some folks do this so they can catch up on training or get focus time to diagram something out. Bottom line: book your time, because if you don’t someone else will.

Also, this includes personal stuff: I have calendar time carved out for housecleaning, for laundry, for grocery shopping, for trimming the kitten’s nails, for blood donation, etc. It keeps me straight. Sure, I could try to keep it all in my head, and I used to try to do that.  In 10th grade I double booked a friends’ house sleepover (super-rare for me to get to do those back then) and a babysitting job.  I was devastated because I had to do the job (you do what you say you’re going to do. Period.)  Keeping it written down reduces unpleasant double bookings.

Finally: carve out time to do nothing.

That’s right. Do nothing. Give yourself a night a week if you can afford it. Block it off so it can’t be consumed by other things (unless you really want it to).

Prioritize your Backlog

In the Hyper-productive Expectation World, you will always have more to do that can be done. Always. There’s not enough caffeine, amphetamines, or hours to accommodate everything.  You can either ruthlessly trim things (which is very effective but requires a strong will to say “No” sometimes) or you can prioritize things (which means you still have them on your list, they’re just much farther down).  Look at the Volume of Stuff, and figure out which are most important to least.  Some things will be of related importance (you can’t do A until you do B, but A is really important, so get B done now) and some will be compatible or a two-birds-one-stone situation (I can walk at an incline on the treadmill and read that latest set of whitepapers). I recommend having prioritized lists for Work and Non-Work (and if you have other commitments — PTA, Scouts, Church, Nonprofit, Clubs, etc.– prioritize within those).

Use Technology To Help You

Use your calendar and reminders. Use a list/task tracking app. Use OneNote. Use the alarm on your phone. Use sticky notes. Use whatever works for you to remind you if/when you need to do stuff and what it is.  For example, we have a running One Note grocery list broken out by the stores we use (because Trader Joes doesn’t have all the things and Costco doesn’t either). We update it through the week.  I have an Outlook task-tracking list of the things that are most important for a given week. My friends use a Trello board to organize household responsibilities and projects.  Another friend uses their inbox to prioritize.

The thing to determine here is what set of technologies work *for you*, because some folks like to leverage their mobile for keeping their brains straight and some people prefer tactile things like sticky notes and highlighters.  There’s no one *right* way, just the way that works for you.  You may have to try a few things before you hit on the right combination.

Eat Your Frogs First

In any prioritized list of things to do, there’s the thing you don’t really want to do but have to do.  Maybe it’s the cat-pan change out. Maybe it’s reorganizing under the bathroom sink.  Maybe it’s collecting all of the papers for your tax return. Maybe it’s going line by line through an excel spreadsheet until you find that the issue with line 943 is in fact that the value that should be a decimal was in fact a text and it broke your import. You know, that thing.

Do that thing first if faced with it and another 3 things of the same priority. You’ll get it out of the way, the other things will feel (and be) easier, and you’ll feel all kinds of virtuous.

Wash your hands when you’re done, though.

 

An Illustration of Live Site Practice, Featuring My Eyeballs

Congratulations to me, as I’ve got a new job, and I’m in a new team here at the ‘soft. Specifically, I’m in Azure, in the Internet of Things space, working on a Thing. I can’t talk about the Thing. Some day I will talk about the Thing. But not now.

This means I’m back on a live product (or a product that will be a live product, it’s all very complicated) and that means I am on a Live Site team and I’m pretty happy about that. I enjoy the Live Site process because it’s basically enforcing a culture of learning from mistakes.

What is Live Site Practice

Generally speaking, Live Site means that your site is… live. Meaning when something goes wrong (and there are varying levels of wrong to Wrong to WRONG to WRONG!!!) you have a person responsible to fix it, you have expectations of how quickly it gets fixed, you put a plan in place to make sure it never happens again and monitoring to catch it when it inevitably does. Live Site incidents can be singular (this one experience happened this one time) or multitudinous (cascading incidents, parallel problems, etc.) or chronic (a liberal application of the philosophy of Live Site could categorize a series of data breaches or questionable data sharing practices by a given company, for example, as a very large Live Site Incident).

Measuring the Live Site Response

There are four major ways to measure the response to a Live Site Incident. These are: Time to Detect (how long it took you to figure out something is wrong from the time something actually went wrong), Time to Engage (how long it took you to start trying to fix it from the time it was detected), Time to Mitigate (how long before the customer stopped having the negative experience), and Time to Resolve (how long before the actual problem was fixed).

General prudence means I don’t illustrate this with an Actual Thing From Work because I like my job and I want to keep it, so I’ll use a recent personal experience to illustrate.

At about 8am on August 25th I went to the gym and my contacts clouded over. It was annoying so when I got home I took them out and put them in a fresh solution/case and went about my day in glasses.  At night we had friends to dinner so I wore my contacts with no trouble. At about 9am on August 26th I went to the gym and my contacts clouded over. It wasn’t horrible, just annoying, and so when I got home I took them out and put them in a fresh solution/fresh case and ran around with my glasses.  No problem.

  • By 4pm that afternoon my eyes were itching. Because we’d had smoke issues lately coming in from the Canada and Eastern Washington fires, I figured my eyes had got irritated from that, and put some drops in.
  • By 5pm my eyes were uncontrollably watering and itchy.
  • By 8pm I had to stop watching Aliens, one of my very favorite movies, because the following hurt: opening my eyes, closing my eyes, and having my eyes closed. Thinking that eye irritations usually resolve themselves with a good night’s sleep (hello, morning eye crud) I went to bed (yes, at 8pm). The software equivalent of this is turning the machine off and turning it on again.
  • By 10:30pm I woke from a dead sleep feeling like someone was stabbing me in my eyeballs and asked my husband to drive me to the ER.
  • By 11pm they had put numbing drops in my eyes. Ensuing investigation showed my corneas had all kinds of pitting all over them and possibly dual infection in both eyes.
  • By 12:30pm they discharged me with a Percocet (to help me sleep and ignore the pain), antibiotics (for my eyes) and an instruction to see an eye doctor the next day.
  • By 10:30am the next day the eye doctor confirmed the infection, noted some abrasions, and said I’d self-heal in about five days.

Time to Detect

This one is tricky, because on one hand you can say I “detected” it at 9am when my contacts clouded over… but on which day? As nothing hurt and I wasn’t inconvenienced and I carried on with my day.  So I’ll say I detected it at 4pm.  But it’s likely the problem actually started at 9am on the Saturday, so my Time to Detect was 31 hours.

Time to Engage

Again, it’s not a clear line (and I’ll point out these things are hashed over in the Live Site world a lot as well). I started “engaging” with eye drops at 4pm. I didn’t request professional help though until 10:30pm when it got really bad. I’m calling it 6.5 hours (4pm-10:30pm).

Time to Mitigate

Mitigation is all about the customer’s perspective. How long from the time the problem started actually happening (and the customer was inconvenienced) to the time it got fixed from the customer’s perspective. For me, that’s from 4pm (eyes watering) to 11pm when I got my first numbing drops. Seven hours. If you want to be really specific, my eyes had stopped hurting mostly by the next day, *without* numbing drops, so a more conservative mitigation time would be from 4pm Sunday to 10:30am Monday – 18.5 hours.

Time to Resolve

Resolution is about the actual problem being fixed (perspective or otherwise). In this case, five days from Monday the 27th, or September 1st. Time to Resolve: a little over six days.  As part of resolution I had to throw out all open saline/lens solution containers, contact lenses, etc.  As a “customer” of this experience I also took the added step of “re-architecting” my framework: I went and got a different brand of contact lenses (that change out more frequently), and started wearing my glasses more often.

Measuring the Impact

Money

The Emergency Room is not cheap, although by comparative standards I got off easy. My bill, after insurance, was roughly $700 (not including the follow-up eye doctor visits, new contact lenses, replaced makeup, etc.).  The bill sent to the insurance company was roughly 3 times that amount.

Time

Money isn’t everything, and time is more precious: I lost about 4 hours’ sleep, I lost 6 hours’ quality time with my husband and a favorite movie. I lost another 2 hours or so to the ER and another 2 to/from the eye doctor.

Peripheral Impacts

I had to work from home on that Monday, and that meant even though it was my last week with my old team they didn’t have me right there to help with my transition; that’s 4 people impacted. My husband had to take time from his evening and next day to take me to appointments, which he was super supportive of and insisted upon, but it also meant he couldn’t do whatever it is he should have been doing during those hours.  Rarely is it just one customer who is impacted in Live Site.

Post Mortem

Yes, post-mortem means “after death”, and no one died. In the Live Site world, no one dies. (Well, we hope no one dies). The Post Mortem is when you look over what and how it happened, figure out how to keep it from happening again, and figure out how to detect if it does.

What Happened – also known as the Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the review of what instigated the problem. In this case, what happened was that I somehow (?) got either smoke between my contact lenses and cornea, creating a corneal abrasion that then lead to dual infection, OR the I got an infection, which led to corneal abrasion. The experts weren’t really worried about which came first, and if I had wanted to spend lab money to dig into which came first, I don’t know that they would have been able to figure that out. It is, in fact, a moot point.  If it was smoke from the environment, that’s how that could have happened. Or it could be infection from saline solution, eye rubbing, random bacteria, etcetera.  It could have been from contact lens over-use. If they would have been able to tell me definitively the root cause that would be great, because it would impact my next two steps, but rarely do you get a clean root cause.

How to Keep it from Happening Again

As we read up above, I trashed all of my eye-based items (including, incidentally, my mascara, every one of my eyeliners, etc.).  I washed all of my makeup brushes and sterilized them. I got a new brand of contact lens that is changed out more frequently.  I got new glasses and wear them more often than I used to. This may be overkill, but it is everything I can do to ensure I don’t have to miss one of my favorite movies.

How to Detect if it Happens Again

In this case, my first clue was my contact lenses clouding over on the Saturday. At that point I should have quit wearing contacts for a few days and thrown those lenses out instead of trying to disinfect them. My second detect point was the second day of clouding lenses — those two combined should have sent me to the urgent care or an eye doctor, which would certainly have been more cost-effective than the ER.  Uncontrollable eye watering, foggy lenses, and/or gritty pain when opening, closing, or having closed eyes are all reasons to see a professional right away.

Coda

You’ll notice in most of this I’ve not beaten myself up about being stupid, making poor choices, etc.  That’s because it wouldn’t help (either me or the situation) and it’s entirely beside the point. I can’t go and change what happened, so the best practice is to learn from it and ensure others do, too. *That* is what I like about Live Site. If your Live Site culture feels like a giant finger-pointing exercise, then it isn’t being implemented properly, and it’s time to do some Root Cause Analysis.

Ragnar, Continued

‘”A wizard is never late… ” he arrives precisely when he means to.’ The first half was emblazoned in chalk pen on the back of a van. I spent many minutes reading the rear end of vans this weekend.  There was the “Team which Shall Not Be Named” with full Harry Potter references, and “Worst Sleepover Ever”.  There were ultra marathoners (where instead of one van of 6 runners for this 200 mile relay race, they only had one of 6 (or 2 of 3)).  There were Unicorns and tutus and T-rex outfits and Nacho Libre vans. There were Runners Against Humanity (a play on Cards Against Humanity) with unique magnets (a Rangar tradition of tagging other vans with magnets about your team) for everyone. There were missed directions, weird road closures, and trains of chalk-painted vans between Blaine and Langley, WA, this weekend. This was my third Ragnar.

I didn’t do well.

I didn’t do crap, either; but having thought I was in better shape for the event I was disappointed when on my first leg I had to walk one of my miles (I had trained in heat. I had trained hills. I hadn’t trained in heat and hills and full sun, and so I had to walk). Fortunately, I was in a van with people who were supportive and encouraging without being condescending or smarmy.  I was able to text for help and get Gatorade, wet wipes, and body glide on demand. (Those didn’t happen all together. Different stories, and all). (Wet wipes for sunscreen that had sweated into my eyeballs — not fun at all. Gatorade because I hadn’t chugged enough and found myself dizzy on run 1 about halfway through.  Body Glide because my shorter shorts had only been with me on a 3-miler and apparently at 4 miles things start chafing).

I enjoyed it, for the most part (not the chafing, the event).  Our van was a homogenous blend of analyst-program managers with a penchant for the same podcasts and excel spreadsheets, decent food and a discreet understanding of what happens when six adults get into a van and run… and get back into the van. Wet wipes and deodorant were our dear companions. We attempted to sleep in LaConner (shoutout to LaConner Marina where the bathrooms at dock B are locked but the ones at dock F are not) and Coupeville High School (where the south side of the basketball court is shady in the morning if you need some sleep… watch out for the goose poo). We had local support (shoutout to the many Whidbey Island residents who had their sprayers out along the course — when it’s 85 degrees and full sun and you’re running, an open hose sprayer is amazingly wonderful). I was introduced to the magic of Cloud City Coffee in Seattle (before we departed), Port of Subs in Bellingham, where my turkey avocado sandwich was more than I could eat in a sitting and helped fuel the day; Panera Bread Company in LaConner with their Orange lemonade. Special shoutout to Coupeville High School and their flushing toilets.

I believe I ran the fewest aggregate miles in my van (more than a half marathon, but only just); you wouldn’t know it by the support and encouragement (and regard) of my teammates. I kept apologizing for the stretches I had to walk.  They kept being supportive. This sort of thing usually serves to make me feel more guilty but in this case it made me feel supported, and made me try harder. K-tape, Ibuprofen, and Gatorade all helped, too.

I want to do this again. I want to do better at it. And I want to do it with the same team.

 

Fallout

Today’s the day: I click the “delete account” for Facebook in about fifteen minutes (hey, I have it on the calendar at a specific time, okay?). I’ve lived the last week without Facebook and it’s been pretty good.  There’s only been a little bit of fallout, which I share here for those thinking about deleting your Facebook.

Interconnected Communications Feeds

I don’t use my Facebook login for most anything else (except Scrabble, see below) but there’s interconnected feeds between Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenTable, etc.  I hadn’t realized until I posted something via Twitter and the Editor saw it on my Facebook account (he was all excited I wasn’t leaving Facebook and I had to burst his bubble). I’ve spent part of the last week disconnecting things and rerouting.  My previous content strategy was to tier posts based on audience — most “close” audience was Facebook, next ring out was Twitter, next ring out was LinkedIn. (In effect: everything posted to Facebook but only very carefully thought about things posed to LinkedIn).  I’m sure I haven’t caught all of the entwined feeds and I did discover my Klout and Foursquare accounts were still (somehow) active, so I’m deleting those, too.

Facebook App Dependency

The Editor and I have played Scrabble nonstop for ten years now via Facebook.  It started actually with Lexulous, and then we moved to Scrabble when Lexulous was shut down.  However Scrabble requires one of two log ins – Facebook or EA. With me killing my Facebook, I went and created an EA account, only to find that I can’t link up to my former Scrabble opponents and with the EA account I can’t go search for the Editor. Words with Friends has a similar problem.  This problem remains to be fixed and so if you have an app dependency on Facebook you’ll want to figure out a Plan B.

Keeping Up with Friends/Family

This has become an old-school effort.  I’m texting more (and using Signal, if you’re interested in peer-to-peer), emailing more, and generally putting in more effort. I *think* that’s a good thing.  I still need to set up the photo sharing for family/friends.  I’m relying on Twitter and LinkedIn more.

Keeping Up with Communities

This was briefly touched on in a Marketplace Tech podcast (here), of how Facebook isn’t just used for peer-to-peer but also for businesses for their customers and communities (nonprofit and otherwise). Most of the nonprofits have a Twitter presence and I can keep up with those, but for example the group of people I’m doing Ragnar with are on FB as a group, and the same with Tough Mudder; I’m not going to get those updates and I’m relegated to the old fashioned email/direct communication.  On the flip side, I’m finding more use in some Reddit communities (r/running, r/learnprogramming, etc.) and will probably interact more on that platform. If you have a lot of community ties through your Facebook account, you’ll want to think about this if you pull the plug.

 

Goodbye, Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for the better part of 11 years. In that time it has afforded me the opportunity to keep in touch with friends, old and new; to see the immediate impacts of world events through a local lens; to ensure my family knows I haven’t fallen into a puddle of stress. In return, Facebook sold my data to various marketing endeavors, so I’d get served up “relevant” ads for Stitch Fix, Starbucks and You Need a Budget. I was fine with this arrangement.

I am not fine with them selling my data to a firm that will target ads to me in order to change my voting behaviors or my social views. I’m fully cognizant that they already have my data, and my deletion of my content on Facebook the site – which I’ve mostly done thanks to a script referenced in this article – is an academic exercise for those wishing to mine it from Facebook. The deals are done, the data is out. (Note it’s not technically a data breach, because Facebook gave the data freely away.) This is me, voting with my keyboard: they don’t get any future data.

Not directly, anyway.

Facebook still creates ghost profiles, still uses cookie drops through scores of sites on the internet, leverages publicly available data and sells the cooked product. It will still sell the cooked product. I will not help them do it, though. I am deleting my Facebook entirely March 30th. I have already deleted WhatsApp and Instagram (two Facebook properties). I am retaining Twitter (for now) and LinkedIn.

Things I Recommend:

  • If you remain on Facebook, I recommend using FB Purity.
  • If you want to delete your content (after downloading) I recommend Social Book Post Manager.
  • If you want to keep the cookies at bay, I recommend Ghostery.
  • If you want to listen to some great podcasts about the latest Facebook data sharing issues (because this has happened before), I recommend this and this.
  • If you are more of an article-reading person, read this and this and this.

Keep in Touch:
If you have my email, or we’re linked on LinkedIn or Twitter, that works. If you have my phone number we can totally text. My friend K has set up a private photo sharing process in his family that I will be pinging him shortly on how to do the same, to make sure my son’s grandparents get the latest photo evidence that he’s still growing and healthy and making bland sartorial choices. And if a more responsible photo-and-update sharing platform arrives on the scene, I’ll have a look.

New

It’s been three and one-half months since I last blogged. I know this because I forgot my password to this blog and my computer didn’t recognize me as its author and so it sent me to my own front page, which was about Tough Mudder. It seems fitting, because Tough Mudder was a Thing that I did to challenge myself and was new for last year.  I know I said I wasn’t doing it again, but…

GUESS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR?

Yeah. I did.  And Ragnar.  And CC and I will be running the Dark Side Challenge in April in Disneyworld.  I’m considering doing the Seattle Half this year, because it would be the ten-year anniversary of my first Seattle Half. It’s official, I’m doing these Things.

I know that the new fashion is to not have New Year’s resolutions, because after all if you’re resolute you can as easily be so on October 1st or April 4th or September 23rd as you are on January 1. As human beings, though, we tend to like starting new things at the arbitrary start of things: new weeks, new months, new quarters, new years. Some of my resolutions for “this” year I figured out and started on early (better eating, etc.), but I saved one to truly start on a Monday, 1st of the year, 1st of the month, 1st of the quarter: I’m not going to complain.

My good friends know that I don’t actually genuinely complain a lot — mostly because genuine complaint doesn’t seem like a useful thing to do. Since becoming a Real Adult™ I’ve been one to go do something — anything– than sit and whine. (Although on reflection yesterday I publicly whined about my inflight Wi-Fi being slow. So maybe I’m not as virtuous as I’d like to believe). It’s mostly a superficial whine, like that irritating hum your fridge makes but you’re not going to call the warranty repair because it’s not bad enough to warrant the inconvenience to call someone and deal with them.

At any rate, I have a tendency to gripe while training — any kind of training. Weight training. Running. Spin class. That I signed up for a bunch of events and then have to train for them. That it’s too cold out. Too wet out. Too hot out. Too dry out. Too hilly. Too far. Too boring. It’s not limited to voluntary improvement training; I whine during PT, the train of which I’m back on (remember Tough Mudder? that shoulder injury came back to bite me in a really crappy way).

Mostly the bitchy whining has been to myself — an inner monologue that drills through my head, making the training that much more hard or boring or arduous.  When I work out with my Weight Dudes (yeah, they won’t like that moniker either) I cheerfully whine; it’s all part of the hour (sometimes hour-plus) experience of lifting with David the Trainer and T and J.

It’s ceasing to be cute, for me. (I have no idea how they feel about that but they keep inviting me so it can’t bother them too much. Or maybe they find it entertaining. Or distracting from their own inner monologues.) And it doesn’t make sense: these things are voluntary. No one, absolutely no one will be let down if I stopped tomorrow.  I would probably have to watch my diet more, but I already got that news courtesy of genetics and ageing. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.

One day has become day One.

Tough Mudder: “How are we doing this?”

-me, after looking at pretty much any one of the climbing obstacles in Tough Mudder, of which there are several.

Yesterday I “did” Tough Mudder. I write that “did” in quotes because I skipped four obstacles of the 24 on the course, and it’s a coincidence that there were two planned skips (arctic enema and electroshock therapy were listed verboten by the doc) and two were unplanned skips (Everest and Stage 5 Clinger).  Arctic Enema is where you dive down a tube into water that has floating ice in it and is shockingly cold, and have to swim under an obstacle to get out of said water — so you are completely submerged.  Electroshock therapy is walking through about 15 feet of dangling electrical wires that will zap you.  Everest is a 20′ high slippery slope that you have to run at, run up (hope you don’t slip), and grab your team’s hands so they can pull you up.  Stage 5 Clinger is an inverted ladder (so the base is farther away from you than the top) that you have to climb and then pull yourself up and over.

I tried Everest. I tried it three times, and the third time I landed square on my right shoulder, and told my self enough was enough.  I’ve got an impressive welt and a jammed feeling; I can lift it but it hurts when I lift it just so.  I should have tried Stage 5 clinger more than the bit that I did.

My pull up game is *not* strong, although it’s getting better, and I struggled with many of the other obstacles that required me to do various forms of lifting my body weight with just my upper body.

Which gets me to this point: unless you are the kind of person who can do 25 effortless pull ups from hanging on your fingertips to pulling yourself up and over something with  no foot support, you will have to rely on other people in Tough Mudder.

This is hard for me (and others), and there’s usually one of two competing reasons behind it:

  1. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t find others reliable.
  2. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t want to inconvenience them.

I don’t have the first problem and once you finish your first few TM obstacles you won’t, either.  Random strangers will pull you up, grab your leg to help you get over an obstacle, come to help you, and encourage you to overcome your fears.  Yes that was me whimpering at the top of an obstacle because I couldn’t get a toehold and some completely strange person came up and coached me where to put my foot and reassured me he’d catch me if I fell.  Your team will also be there for you; I had only met one of my team members before this but every single one of them gave me a folded hand or a leg up at one point.  This was not my problem.

My problem is that I kept feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight (no pun intended). I’m still not sure I did.  The Abseil and similar exercises– where there’s at rope or rope ladder — were no problem.  But anything that required team-provided-footing left me to feel guilty, like I hadn’t trained enough.  And in theory I had “trained” more than my team — following the guidelines, doing the runs (mostly — I only got two 8-milers in), etc.  As mentioned previously I can’t do a pull up but I was doing weight-assisted ones in the gym; that proves to not have been enough.

I can say with absolute and utter confidence that I would NOT have signed up for Tough Mudder if I  had known the volume of obstacles around heights.  Heights for me — particularly ones where I’m sure I’m going to injure myself but not die — are a trembling phobia that surfaced about twenty years ago and hasn’t gone away.  (For those of you worried about enclosed spaces: there’s a few of those, too, but they aren’t bad at all– not even MineShafted).  Had someone walked me through the course in advance I would have bailed, then and there. But having spent the last 3 years regretting the Tough Mudder I didn’t do, I’m very glad I didn’t talk myself out of this one. I’m glad I had to work through a series of heights challenges, I’m glad I had a supportive team and was reaffirmed in the kindness of strangers, and I’m glad to be back in “regular” training again. Except this time maybe I’ll do some more upper body work.

Those who know me are probably shaking their heads because they think this means I signed up again for next year: NOPE. This was one of those beautiful, shining days that sits on its own. My legs and forearms are thoroughly scratched and bruised, I have the aforementioned shoulder welt and a matching one on my hip. I have met new and awesome people. I have my orange headband.

tm
Yes that’s a massive bruise on my right shin. A lot of our course had berry bushes and straw packed in to the mud.

I’m good.

 

 

Intermezzo

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and there’s a few reasons for that.  I’ve been busy (well, who hasn’t been?).  I’ve been without useful ideas to share (maybe untrue, but…) I’ve been censoring myself (yeah, that).

As to self-censure: there isn’t anything I can add to the yowling atmosphere of today that someone hasn’t already said, and so I’m doing the “actions speak louder than words” thing and redoubling my efforts in the places that I think I can help and letting much more eloquent people say much more specific things to much greater effect.

But Happy Pride, everyone :). And Happy Ramadan.  May you find joy in the celebrations of things that encompass your values and in the Italian-Argentinian spirit of “do what makes you happy” — which is the way I was raised — be happy and move forward.

I’ve been trying to do that.

I went to visit my mom this weekend; she lives south a bit from me in a small town that’s bordered by other small towns.  If you want to go to Starbucks it’s 2.5 miles away, and I know this because I run it occasionally.  I ran it today.  It’s a nice, flat run, past a firehouse and many farms and one big intersection.  They are just as busy and popular as any other Starbucks anywhere.

There are no sidewalks on the way.  If you run, you run on the side of the road, and if you’re smart, you run opposing traffic.  The beautiful part is everyone moves waaaaaaaaaaaay over for you.

Everyone.

Big semi trucks, regular trucks, SUV’s, vans, motorcyclists, people driving Hondas and Kias.  Folks in vintage cars taking them out for a sunny day (at 9am it was already 85 degrees) and folks in their beater cards headed wherever a Sunday morning took them. Every single one moved well over the meridian for me.

As a 5’10”, more-than-150-pounds-but-less-than-200-pounds woman, my personal meatsack existence would do nothing to their vehicle at the current speed limit (35-45, depending). Their vehicle, on the other hand, could do quite a lot to my meatsack.  Unpleasant. They weren’t moving over for themselves, they were moving over for me. I like that.  That was nice.

I’m running again.  Real running.  From about November to about two weeks ago, my running was almost exclusively indoors and on a treadmill (with the exception of a two-month break for injury and two outdoor events).  You know what you get when you run on the treadmill? You get the treadmill running you.  I’m fast (for me) on a treadmill. I go at like a 9:30 pace. Go me!

You know how fast I run in the real world, on real pavement? 11:15 ish.  There was a time where 9:30 happened in the real world. I lost it, and I need to find it again.

So I found myself running in the early morning heat, out in small town Washington, waving to each and every car and bike and truck that made way for me (and most of them waved back), because that’s what I need to do. I need to do more, and I will.

That’s what I’ve been doing, mostly. See the goal, focus on the goal, follow the goal. And this was a check in from that goal.

Let’s see where I’m at in a couple of weeks ;).