Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

Pericles wrote “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you”. Why then, when it comes to this political season, do I have such a strong desire to scoop my eyes out with a melon baller? This country is on track to reach a debt level of $16 trillion this year. If you don’t think that’s an issue then please stop reading now and go back to your re-runs of Jersey Shore. How could you not be outraged, fired up, and follow all the riveting daily political analysis? Perhaps it’s because the meat puppet occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (don’t get  your knickers in a bunch – I think they’re all meat puppets, not just this one) is particularly adept at convincing the masses that if we just made things more fair, all our problems would be solved.

First, a Test

Before getting to fairness we need a little test to see just how deeply the brainwashing has impacted your orb of gray matter. Ready? One simple question – do you believe the Bush tax cuts cost the government (insert mega-huge $$ amount)?  If you answered yes, it may be too late for you already. Why? Because to accept that premise you must believe the lost money was the governments in the first place. It was their money and dammit, the meat puppets had starving people in the streets to take care of that will now go hungry because you took it away.

How delusional is that? It’s like having the schoolyard bully stealing your lunchtime sandwich for most of the school year. When a teacher catches him and gives your sandwich back, you should now feel guilty because he’ll now go hungry? It’s just not fair. You still had the rest of your lunch to enjoy and yet you’d still deprive the bully of his tasty sandwich. As a nation we seem to have completely lost the sense that most of the “revenue” taken in by government is your money. Money you worked hard for. You spent time away from your family to earn that money. You skipped little junior’s soccer game because you had to be at work on a Saturday earning that money. When we decide that we’d like to keep just a little bit more of our money the rational response should be that government simply just doesn’t spend money that year remaking Sesame Street for Pakistan ($10 million reportedly) – NOT that we’ve somehow “cost” the government money.

Which brings me to what causes the horrific melon ball scenario. In broad terms, this country does not have a revenue problem – we have a spending problem. (technically, at our overall level of debt I’m not sure it’s actually recoverable regardless of steps taken) Generally speaking I’m ok with taxes. I buy into the social pact we’ve made with each other. Everyone contributes a little bit of what they earn so we can pay for some  housekeeping here and there and have a safety net for those who truly need it. Oh, and protect us from the pending zombie apocalypse.

What I do have a problem with is seizing a non-trivial amount of my income, spending it like a drunken sailor, and then claiming more is needed when it runs out. Am I completely against raising taxes? No. However, before you do that I want to see that you’ve made every effort possible to use what you have wisely. Cut waste. Get rid of useless programs. Cut aid. Pull the 28,000 troops from South Korea. Cut 20% from every department’s budget. When that’s done go back and cut another 10%. When you’ve reached that point, and only at that point, you can come ask for more of my money.

The national wealth envy that’s being pushed is nauseating. The concept that it’s only fair that gazillionaires pay just a little bit more to help solve our debt problem is offensive (and no, I’m not part of that evil 1%). If we collect more in tax revenue from any particular group the only thing that happens is Washington will have more money to spend. Are you really naive enough to think that any additional money won’t be spent as fast as it comes in?

Speaking of taxes and fairness… the top 20 percent earned about 55 percent of all income, yet paid 70 percent of all federal income tax. Is that fair? Only if you buy into the politics of wealth envy. Want to spark outrage in this country? Stop collecting taxes via deductions from paychecks. Force everyone to write a check every quarter for taxes owed. I suspect very quickly people would actually realize how much of their income goes to the meat puppets in Washington for redistribution. Well… since nearly half of the country paid no federal income tax, maybe not.

Back to taking an interest in politics. Should I care about the grand promises that will never happen? Probably. But I don’t. A used car salesman will always be a salesman, no matter what the words on the teleprompter tell them to say. Besides, thinking about it takes time away American Idol.

 

On Walking Goats

On the trails the other day I passed a couple walking a goat and a llama on leashes. Neither farm animal seemed particularly pleased to be on a leash or out for a stroll. The llama looked fairly petrified, especially as I went by on bike. The goat wasn’t exactly being walked. It looked a little more like it was being drug up the hill. The couple on the other hand were perfectly happy with their crunchy-granola, Santa Cruz vibe. I’m sure they were convinced that walking farm animals like domesticated pets made perfect sense. I could only think WTF? It’s funny the things we do that make perfect sense to us but must look nuts to the rest of the world.

  • I like to run (pavement, dirt, trails, doesn’t matter) in Vibram Five Fingers.
  • I don’t mind getting up early and driving 4+ hours to hike/ski and then drive home. At the same time I don’t like getting up early to do something that’s only a 10 minute drive away.
  • If it takes longer than a couple of minutes to prepare lunch I’d rather just eat fast food… yet I don’t think twice about spending hours prepping for dinner.
  • I do not like wind under any circumstances. I have no problem doing stuff in the rain.
  • I’d rather sweat and suffer than take the time to stop and take off a layer and be comfortable.
  • It really bothers me to go somewhere if I haven’t looked at it/found it on a map first. Makes no difference if it’s a store in-town or a lake in the backcountry. I don’t like finding places on the fly.
  • Public speaking to a small group is much worse than a large group in terms of pucker-factor.
  • I’m very self-conscious about “looking” like I’m good at something if I’m not. I would never wear a fancy cycling kit or ride a super expensive bike because I’m not a very good cyclist. I live in fear of looking like a poser so I end up wearing ratty old t-shirts rather than something that’s probably more functional.
  • I don’t think twice about hiking, cycling, backpacking, skiing, etc… solo. Going to a movie or restaurant by myself – will never happen.

And of course – who’d be dumb enough to give up a perfectly good job and house in the silicon valley to move to Idaho with only a vague plan for what comes next? WTF?

See You At The Top

Endurance activities are a funny thing. Of course conditioning and training play a big part, but for me the mental aspect is almost more important. A week or so ago I was doing a mountain bike ride that’s pretty much a four mile climb straight up. As you get near the top there’s a really steep climb. Lung searing, legs burning, I might barf sort of a hill. At the top of that climb, with almost no break, is another even steeper, longer hill.

When I rode this last time I made it up the first hill. Still completely anaerobic, gasping for air I started up the second. About a third of the way I glanced up towards the top. When I saw how much further I had to go I could feel a wave of defeat flow over me. I just knew I’d never make it to the top. With a bunch of people watching I stopped. Doing the equivalent of the walk of shame, I had to push my bike the rest of the way up the hill.

Fast forward to yesterday when I did the same ride. I felt great the entire way up. When it came to the two final hills I already knew I’d be able to clean both of ’em. Sure enough I rode up them with ease and even managed to chat with someone on the trail on the way up. How did I do that? My conditioning couldn’t have improved that much in a week. Same bike, same weather conditions, same breakfast. There’s something about a positive mental attitude that does wonders for performance. Now, if I could just figure out how to have that same attitude every day!

Let Me Solve That For You

Today I started working through some chemistry refresher lessons. I quickly realized two things. First, it’s been a frighteningly long time since I thought about this stuff. Second, how I approach things is much different as an adult than it was as a first-time student. I found myself fast forwarding the second I thought I knew something. I whipped out the calculator as soon as the instructor mentioned a formula. Worse of all, I kept checking mail and social media every five minutes. It wasn’t very long before I was a bit lost on a simple concept. I’m clearly not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m not the dullest either. How did this happen?

Our world has become one of instant access to everything at all times. Always connected. Real-time analysis of speeches, world events, sports. Accuracy can always be “tweaked” in a subsequent blog or story. I’ve clearly developed AADD (adult attention deficit disorder). Paying attention to something and ensuring you really understand it is hard. Making the commitment to study, learn, and not just do enough to pass a test will be challenging for me.

You hear a lot that the younger generation, having grown up with multi-tasking – information overload, simply manages all this intuitively. Part of me mostly agrees. Watching my young nieces and nephews playing video games or working on the computer can be exhausting. Thirty-plus years their elder, I cannot process the on-screen information fast enough to keep up. How are they absorbing information that quickly? Easy to be intimidated… and then I followed a popular (in the college-age/hipster world) blogger looking for a research assistant. He posted the application requirements to make it the next level of applicants. Five simple instructions. Of the four thousand who applied only 1500 were able to successfully follow the instructions. Perhaps taking your time to understand something before acting is becoming a lost art?

Since my new path is in the medical world, I think I’ll learn to take my time and ensure I’m really learning. The consequences of not understanding might be a bit higher than a poorly written blog post <grin>.

Famous Quotes

The other day a friend and I were exchanging famous quotes we liked. He then sent me his personal quote/saying that has meaning for him. Made me think – if folks were going to repeat a saying or philosophy of yours, what would you want it to be? My version is:

“We only go around once in this life. Don’t waste it waiting for tomorrow. You never know what’s waiting around the corner.”

For me it’s a continuation of why we made the decision to move back to Boise. A healthy dose of mid-life crisis and recognizing our eventual mortality plays a big part of it as well. We had been talking about moving back to Boise for years but it was never the right time, couldn’t right now with the jobs, maybe next year, etc… We finally realized that it was never going to be the perfect time. If we didn’t make some bold moves, another ten years would pass us by and we still wouldn’t be in Boise. In terms of finances, careers, and family was it the best decision? I don’t know the answer to that, but if we don’t try we’ll never find out!

Yesterday there was another affirmation of this – freestyle skier Sarah Burke passed away from injuries sustained during training. When she woke up that morning for what was probably a routine training day, of course she, her family and friends would never have thought that there wouldn’t be another tomorrow. We need to be responsible of course… but also realize that your tomorrow may not arrive. If today was the end, are you satisfied with what you’ve seen and done?

No, not a New Years resolution

So many changes on tap for 2012. One of the major changes was leaving my job at Microsoft. Eleven and a half years at MS plus another nine or so at other companies. That’s a lot of time spent in the tech world. During that time I don’t think I ever took more than two continuous weeks off.  Prior to starting my next adventure (more on that later), I decided to take some time off.  It’s only been a few weeks, but already my mental health is markedly improved. I cannot describe how good it feels to wake up without that level of stress.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt this happy.

One of the tasks I’ve always intended to be better at is keeping a blog/journal.  So… this is it. Not sure where I’m going with it, but frequent writing can’t be a bad thing for self-development.