Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Social Media Black Hole.

I'm not very good at social media.

As both of the readers of this blog can attest, I am at best sporadic in my posts, and they lack any kind of consistent theme.  And that's the problem.

I'm on social media, at least the common sites: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and I read most of them each week (although Twitter has gotten even less enjoyable over the past year).  But while reading about what's going on in the news, and peeking into the lives of my friends and colleagues, both recent and older, is useful, I normally find that I don't have much to say that should interest others.

Not that stuff doesn't go on in my life - sure it does.  This year is going to be an exciting one, with an Eagle Court of Honor, High School graduation start of college for one, start of college search for another, K has a marathon coming up, I've got lots of races planned.....there's plenty going on in our lives.  But it's that "why would people be interested" that holds me back. 

And I can do it - when I have a project, or something that I need others to focus on where SM is the platform we use to communicate, I can be very active.  But it seems it's always got to be *about* something specific - a goal, a project, an event....just the activities of my daily life doesn't seem to make the cut of things I want to talk about.

Maybe I'm just too old school....that's the point - do I just have the wrong mindset about social media and sharing?  Not 'wrong' per se, but just mis-aligned to a lot of the culture today.  If so, I expect I'm not alone - I have lots of connections on these platforms from whom I rarely ever hear, including many members of my own family, and my wife's family really isn't even on social media (but that's not surprising given who they are). 

I also don't know why it gives me (low-level) stress not to be more active.  Maybe it's seeing the activity of frequent posters / twitters / podcasters that makes me think it's what I should be doing.  I think that urge to join is part of my psyche (always has been).  It's just that - at this point in my life - that doesn't hit the high priority list, and as you can tell, even this blog which I use as a personal outlet, doesn't get the attention it probably deserves.

I'm not sure anything will change in the near future - at least not until I get a new job that provides me more free time than Saturday evenings.  But maybe I'll stick my head out of the frozen ground once in a while.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 - Reflections

And so we come to the end of another year.  It's almost New Year's eve, but I've been reflecting today on the year now ending, and comparing the year to my goals set about 360 days ago.  Its interesting how the year turned out to be entirely different than I expected, but in a few good ways.  Some highlights:
  • I finished my "run every road in town" project, and even got written up in a local magazine, complete with glossy photo!
  • I managed to get myself to speak at a conference for the Institute of Management Accountants, and travelled to Denver for it.  Lots of work to prepare, but also lots of fun to do.
    • While there, I got free tickets very suddenly to a Colorado Rockies game!
  • I ran my first half-Ironman triathlon.  I say my first, but I'm not 100% sure I'll ever do another one (remember when I ran my 'first' ultramarathon)?
  • I was on NPR!  Lots of friends heard me on the NPR Sunday Puzzle, where I did okay as well!  
  • I visited two new states, including Colorado and Montana, where we took our summer vacation.  Water is cold in Montana all the time.......
Also on the plus list, my son finished his Eagle Scout, and was accepted into the college he wanted, so he is in good shape, and my other son continued to grow into his own, taking on more challenges in school.  My wife is doing well, and has recovered from some minor running injuries, and is ready to take on 2018.

On the down side:
  • I wasn't able to run a marathon for the 2nd year in a row.  Bad timing and lots of workload got in the way, and I wasn't focused enough (I did do that half-Ironman, though, so it's really not all bad!)
  • I did not lose some weight that I had promised myself and my doctor that I would do, nor have I gotten my strength training, nutrition, or flexibility where I want them (think those are related?)
  • My home management (both familial and physical) still isn't in the groove I need and want.  Maybe it never will be......

I have been able to remain active in my community, at least partially, with Election, Scouts and church and (to a far lesser extent) running club, but candidly, work has me spread so thin that I haven't fully participated in any of those. 

Now that it's time to set objectives for next year, one of them is going to be achieving a better work-life balance, finding time and energy to do the things I want to.  We'll see how that works out, and I'll share my goals for next year (well, at least some of them).

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Eve (squared)

It's December 23rd, or Christmas Eve Eve.  Another year has passed, and as always, I now reflect on goals achieved and goals ignored,  the good times and the bad, and also as always, I appreciate the fact that there was more good than bad.

It was an unusual year in running.  While it was my lowest mileage year in a long time, my running got me some attention this year.  I was written up in a local magazine, did my first half-ironman triathlon, and inspired others to join the running circuit.  I didn't get to do a marathon again this year (second in a row), but I'm ending the year optimistic, and signed up for one in May.

My weight - well, that's a different kind of high.  In looking back, I realize that this year has just been the latest in a string of years of decreasing interest in taking the steps I should be taking on nutrition.  Frankly, this is also the year that I realized what's really going on in my gut and in my head, and I'm starting to separate the two.  I had a really good fall in being able to handle certain trigger foods, and it's been a long time since I have had a doughnut (last one: National Donut Day on June 6th!).

My family - well, for the most part they are great.  My older son earned his Eagle Scout, and has been accepted at two colleges already, including one he really wants to attend.  My younger son is doing really well in school, and seems more comfortable with that environment.  Kristen is doing great too, now also in training for a marathon next year, while maintaining a better balance than I am.

Work?  Story for a different blog.  Suffice to say that I'm not sure if I'm a workaholic, or if I'm just in a really busy position.  It didn't let up at all this year, but I'm hopeful for a new role in the new year that may give me more of a break.

In my community, I'm stretched thin.  Mainly due to work.  Again, another blog post.  I haven't been as active with Scouting as I'd like to be, and had to step down from being an assistant Scoutmaster, as I couldn't make time for some required training.  I have been able to pick it up a bit this Fall, though.  I have stayed active in the Church, and got to speak at a conference, which was really exciting for me (and I didn't really mess it up).  Coming up this year will be some changes - I'll leave the parish Council (my non-repeatable term is up) and perhaps turn toward more political endeavors.

There's lots of planning to do for the new year, and some goal setting, some of which I'll share here at a later date.  For now, I've got a week off, and some time to relax.  Before the new year (and our fiscal yearend) starts, I'm going to take advantage of the break.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Farewell to April (and good riddance?)

April was a tough month. 

I feel like I got none of my goals accomplished, personal or professional, and almost all I did was work and work-related.  Anything else was shunted to the side, as we implemented new processes and new guidelines into our operating units.  

This happens sometimes - usually once about every 6-9 months, but normally only for a couple of weeks.  This time has been a bit more intense, and the 60-70 hour weeks have been longer and more frequent. 

It's not great timing.  I have a major presentation due in three weeks, a project which is foundering a bit and needs some TLC.  I'm also supposed to start training for an athletic event in late summer, and my sons are both getting more active as the school year comes to an end.  Plus, I'm the race director for a 5K in June that so far, only has 4 runners (which is the same as the last two years, but my emotional brain doesn't process that).

Fortunately, a friend of mine had pointed out to me a few years ago that 'overwhelmed is a choice', and I take that in two ways.  First, you can't get overwhelmed if you don't overcommit to things.  So being prudent about what you take on as a mission is really important.  More directly, though, it means that the feeling of having too much on your plate can cause stress, but by prioritizing, delegating, and focusing, you can get through the hard times. 

So that's what I'm doing.  I've taken the weekend to line up my priorities of May, got myself organized and now I'm going through my work to find the items that my staff can handle, or that doesn't need to be done immediately, and can be ignored or deferred.   If I can do that, and strike a better balance of personal time and work time this month, I'll get to June 1st rested, ready, and prepared for an even bigger month.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Insights from reflection

The last six weeks have taught me a lot about myself.  Not that anything tragic or disturbing has happened; rather, I've taken the last several weeks to do some introspection (it was Lent, so I was encouraged to do that).

Some insights:
  1. I actually do have some introvert characteristics (I'm an extrovert, really).  After being with other people (lots of other people) for 12 days straight, I needed more alone time than I usually get.  I took that time this month, and it was just the 'decompression' that I needed.
  2. Starting projects on the first of the month often leads to, well, failure.  The nature of my job requires me to be at my best at work during day 4-10 of each month, so starting new projects on the 1st of the month doesn't lead to lasting change.  I will change, and start new projects on the 15th, to give new habits time to form.
  3. Sleep is more important than I give it credit for.  I make worse decisions (not bad, just less good) when I am tired and / or fatigued, and my emotions run closer to the surface.  Maybe that's part of that whole introvert thing, too, though.
  4. I put too much pressure on myself to succeed everywhere in my life all the time.  I'm not perfect (news flash!), and I need to accept that sometimes, I need to prioritize and that means I'll fail at some things.  That has to be okay, but it's connected to.......
  5. I overcommit myself WAY too much.  I've gotten better at this in recent months, in that I hold back before volunteering for new things, but at the same time, I don't know how best to extract myself from the commitments I have made.  Fortunately, I now know that some of them are time-limited, so that's a problem that will start to take care of itself next year.
  6. Some of the things I do (like listening to podcasts, even!) I do out of a sense of responsibility that DOESN'T ACTUALLY EXIST.  I'm responsible to the people I've made commitments to, but not to THINGS or ACTIVITIES that only I do.  That said, I do have a commitment to ME, and there are times that I need to put that commitment above all others.
  7. I don't spend enough time on relationships....especially those which are most important to me.  
The key, though, is what I do about these things.  (and by the way, I recognize that my focus on 'getting better' is feeding right into point 4 above, but that's the way I am).  Part of my plan has to be to focus on the things that I enjoy most, and maybe stop doing the things I enjoy least. 

That's sometimes easier said than done, especially for someone who thinks that his needs are secondary to the needs of those around him (I get that from my mother, by the way).  As my current commitments expire, I plan to first, transition and let them go, and then after time, exchange the time I recover for time spent doing the things I like.

We'll see how that works out.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Self-Driving Cars will kill people. And we have to be okay with that.

Recently, there was a fatal car accident involving a Tesla model being operated by the Autopilot system, and last month, the NTSB cleared the car’s software of responsibility, citing that there were no deficiencies in the software that caused the crash.

Eventually, though, there will come a time where the software of a self-driving car will be found to be either negligent (passively allowing a crash) or responsible (actively causing a crash) in a motor vehicle fatality.

I say it’s inevitable because the world we live in is chaotic, mainly because of us humans.  People run into streets without warning, change lanes or make bizarre-seeming turns while driving, or drive inattentively, causing instability in our traffic.  The best programmed self-driving cars will never be able to account for every possible circumstance, but only the predictable ones that their sensors and artificial intelligence can process. 

What follows will be the result of pre-programmed split-second decision making.  Take the following situation: A self-driving car is going down a two lane road at speed with traffic on both sides.  Coming to an overpass, the car notices a person stepping out into the road.  The car has three options: hit the pedestrian, swerve into on-coming traffic and hit another car, or swerve to the right and crash the car (risking the life of the driver).  In this type of no-win situation, which option do we find best?

Counting on the driver isn’t going to work – the self-driving car is going to lull the driver in the same level of attentiveness to the road as they would have in a taxi.  They just would not be able to assess the situation and act in time to be useful.  So it’s up to the car, or more clearly, the programmers behind the car’s controls, to define the best approach to these types of situations.  Whatever they choose, someone is going to be put at risk because of a decision that the automation system is forced to make.

When it happens, there will be an uproar, and significant expressed concern that ‘our cars are out to kill us’.  It will be incumbent upon the makers and promoters of these automations to ensure that they can demonstrate the net positive benefit, and the lives saved through the implementation of self-driving capabilities.  Tesla and other manufacturers have taken the first step in demonstrating that there have been fewer accidents in their cars when being driven by the automation than when being driven by humans.  As more driving becomes automated, and vehicles become networked, this trend is likely to continue. 

If it does, then fatalities on our highways may become the rare occurrence, and may only be the result of pre-programmed split-second decisions.  Before we face that, let’s make sure that we all agree on how those types of decisions get made.


Given the prevalence of political discussion in many forums (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), I'm going to relaunch this blog and move all of my ranting here. 

This is the equivalent, I realize, of going into a small, unoccupied room and yelling out political positions where no one can hear them.  I think I'm okay with that.