Makes me wonder…

What am I doing that is thwarting my own attempts?

Everything you’re trying to reach—by taking the long way round—you could have right now, this moment. If you’d only stop thwarting your own attempts. If you’d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

One Small Step: the lost art of conversation

A few months back I was lapsing on my commitment to stay off of social media and scrolling through my Facebook feed (<side note> if Apple really want to give people control over their lives again, they should add a feature to screen time that limits the number of scrolls you can have per day in the bottomless bowl apps like Facebook and Instagram </side note>). I happened to see a promotion of a new initiative from Story Corp called One Small Step. I was familiar with Story Corp from hearing some of the interviews they captured aired on local radio stations, but the One Small Step project was something different.

The usual Story Corp format is to have a couple people that know each other tell a story. They’ve done series on people’s immigration stories, cancer stories, childhood stories, etc. One Small Step was all about getting two people that didn’t know each other and were coming at things from different political viewpoints to sit down with each other tell / listen to each other’s stories.

Needless to say I was all in. This pushed so many buttons for me: the art of the conversation, seeking to understand, expressing yourself clearly, getting your ideas tested by someone, healing polarization, doing something physical / face to face instead of digital, going deep…I could go on for pages.

I clicked the link, filled out the survey (to determine my political leanings) and submitted my application. All from my phone. At dinner….sigh… I tried to answer the questions as truthfully as I could, but I also have a natural resistance to the left – right political paradigm, so I think I ended up describing myself in one of the few open text answers as a “anarchs-syndicalist” (which was intended to be ironic, but which I might actually have some sympathies towards).

I heard back about a month later that I was “accepted” with a quote from my story partner to tell me a little bit about who I would be talking to:

“I’m pretty damn liberal, but with a few areas of more traditionally conservative views (I tend towards pro-life, for example, but not the sign-waving, pray it away types.) I swear a lot. I honestly think a real apology is worth as much as a good public policy and I suck at both. I’m excited to meet you.”

I recorded my interview on Feb 15th at NKU. There was someone there from StoryCorp to run the equipment and to make sure things didn’t go too far off the rails (you can hear him a bit off Mic at the start of the recording below). I was a bit late to arrive (stupid Google Maps!) so didn’t have much chance to talk with my partner before the we started recording.

I was more than a little nervous. Who was this other person? Would we have even close to enough common ground to have a reasonably coherent conversation or would we be talking past each other the whole time? Would I be able to express myself clearly? Were my ideas even worth considering? Would I talk too much…or not enough?

All of that quickly faded away as I simply focused on the person across the table from me with the intention of sharing my experience with them and listening to what their experiences were. I covered things that I had no intention of talking about. We both commented on how this conversation ended up being a bit like therapy ;-). You can listen the conversation in the player below (it will also pop up on my podcast feed in iTunes).

I think you’ll hear that we ended up being far more similar that different. Not sure if that means that StoryCorp needs to find a better test or maybe it just doesn’t account for “off scale” people like me. Or maybe if we had met in cyberspace we would have fought and its just that when people are face to face they take the time to understand each other and have more than 140 characters to respond react.

Overall this was a fantastic experience and has provided more motivation for me to find opportunities for deeper conversations about things that really matter with small groups of people in face to face situations. In other words pretty much the opposite of what we all spend more time doing everyday, staring at screens. One Small Step made me realize that its just as interesting and valuable to do all of that with people I don’t know and/or don’t agree with.

On the dawn of being a parent to adults

On this day 20 and then again 18 years ago, I became a father.  So as of today, officially / legally I am a father of adults, rather than children.  While I expect it might take me a while to stop talking to people about how my “kids” are doing, the fact is that you have both been on the path to adulthood for a long time now.  Looking back, it’s clear to me now that I actually didn’t become an adult fully until your mother and I became responsible for the two of you.  Maybe I’m still not fully an adult?

On this special occasion for all of us, I wanted to take the time to write down what’s on my mind and a few wishes for you as you live the rest of your lives as adults.

First off, try your best to keep the best of your child hood: the curiosity you each meet the world with, your kind nature and most of all your deep friendship with each other.

Next, leave the necessary, but unpleasant aspects of childhood behind: the petty jealously, the need to fit in and go along with the crowd and certainly the lack of self assurance and self esteem.

Being a parent to adults doesn’t end the worries of parenthood.  I worry that I haven’t done enough to prepare you, but then I see how well adjusted you are and that vanishes.  I worry that I will loose my relationship with you, but then I find myself deep in a conversation and know that we’ll always be able to talk with each other.  I worry most of all about what the world will bring you, but then I am calmed by the knowledge of what you will bring to the world.

You are each the greatest achievement of my life and I am thankful to have played a small part in who you are and am more excited than anything to be able to see who you will become.

Missing

We started watching Murder Mountain on Netflix last night. Only a few episodes in, so not sure I’d recommend it yet, but so far so good.

One of the central themes is the large number of missing persons from this one county in California, which also happens to the the same county that supposedly produces 60% of the weed in the US (not sure how this is determined…). As I was watching last night, I started to ponder what it means to me “missing”. It seems to me that it wouldn’t make sense for someone to describe themselves as missing. The closest they might come that would make sense is to describe themselves as hiding, but that’s not the same as missing.

Missing is not a property of a person, but rather of a person’s relationship with other people placed on them by those other people. The only people considered missing are in that category because someone is missing them. Someone else wants to know where they are but doesn’t.

That got me to thinking about how many other labels are applied to us by those we are in relationship with rather than that we choose ourselves. That seems like a long list.

My questions for Story Corp One Small Step

I saw an ad for Story Corps One Small Step program a few months back and filled out an application.  I’ve always enjoyed Story Corps, but the OSS program struck me as important with its focus on building bridges across divides and proving that people with different beliefs can engage in civil dialog and perhaps even learn from each other.

I was selected and my conversation will happen this Friday.  Here is all I know about my interview partner:

I’m pretty damn liberal, but with a few areas of more traditionally conservative views (I tend towards pro-life, for example, but not the sign-waving, pray it away types.) I swear a lot. I honestly think a real apology is worth as much as a good public policy and I suck at both. I’m excited to meet you.

Here are the questions I came up with:

  • Was there a specific event or person in your life that shaped the views you hold today?
  • Have you ever changed a strongly held belief and if so, why?
  • Do you think there is a limit to our ability to understand each other (humanity in general – not us specifically)?
  • Have you noticed how you interact with people change in the last 10 years?  Has that change coincided with social media use at all?
  • Whats the one thing you’ve heard me say today that you wish I would change my mind about and why?
  • What do you hope someone listening will get out of our conversation?

Anything else you can think of to ask to get an interesting conversation going?  I will be looking forward to this all week.

Back to the trail – part 2: White Mountain Adventure

This is podcast 2 in a two part series (part 1 here)on our 2018 section hike of the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Kendall and I recount our various adventures and sum up with what we are taking away from this most recent walk in the woods (more mountains than woods…), including:

  • Getting back on the trail after an unplanned day off.
  • Making decisions as a group
  • How luck plays a huge role in your experience
  • How hiking can “force” you into a more meditative frame of mind

We are already planning our next adventure, so if you have any suggestions of sections we should take a look at , drop them in the comments below.

A soggy start to what would be a foreshortened day 5 and a crew that is absent Me and Mason (we had already left for Highlands)

Coming down Mt. Webster…what would end the day early.

Hanging things out to dry in the “emergency” suite at Highlands Center.

Refreshed after a hard day 5 and a night at Highlands center. Ready for a good day 6 on our way to Guyot Tent Site.

We got lucky and were able to wait out a storm in a hut…but the creek didn’t have that luxury so it was raging by the time we got to it to cross.

The view from Guyot after a 3 mile “run” to get to camp before sunset…reminded me of Ireland.

Up and at ’em on the morning of day 7 from Guyot Tent Site.

A quick break on a hard day 7.

Yep, that’s the trail that leads to Garfield Ridge campsite. It just happens to be an active waterfall as well. After this we were expecting the trail to go through an active volcano!

Cooking dinner at Garfield Ridge Tent Site. Last dinner on the trail so emptying the food bag of all dinner stuffs.

It was slow going on the top of Mt. Lafayette with the fog making it hard to see the next trail marker.

As the fog was cleaning when we were between Lafayette and Lincoln, it looked like you were above the clouds.

By the time we approached Little Haystack, everything was clear and you could see for miles.

The feeling that can only be achieved by actually finishing something like an 8 day section hike through the white mountains.

 

Back to the trail – part 1: White Mountain Adventure

A little late in getting this posted, but we hit the Appalachian Trail again this summer.  It was Kendall and I, plus Mason this time as well as 4 friends from church.  This trip all got started last summer when I was talking about our trip to Shenandoah and Greg, a guy I go to church with, expressed some interest in doing a section hike.  10 months, a few planning meetings and a lot of miles in the car later, we were in Pinkham Notch getting ready for what would turn out to be a really challenging, but really rewarding 8 days on the AT.

This hike was a lot different than our previous section in Shenandoah, but as I come off this section (and with the benefit of a few weeks or R&R back home), I can say that it has only strengthened my resolve to through hike.  Where there is a will there is way.

Mason, Kendall and I say down to record our experiences on the first half of the trip, including:

  • A pretty easy first day from Pinkham Notch to Osgood tent site
  • A way harder second day over Mt Adams and Madison to get the Perch (with some getting separated and lost for good measure)
  • A recovery third day with awesome weather to get great views from Mt. Washington and an overnight stay at Lake of the Cloud hut.
  • A very nice fourth day that got us in pretty early at Nauman tent site
  • A surprise 5th day that you’ll have to listen to hear what happened…

An annotated map of the plan for our 8 day adventure (things don’t always go as planned…)

Look at all those smiling faces and clean clothes! First morning on the trail.

A lot of this on day 1. Not too much different from Shenandoah.

We had it made at Osgood tent site. There plenty early and an extra platform to setup the tarp and play cards.

And then this happened on day 2.

At least someone was enjoying themselves.

No one said anything about rock climbing!

This is what 2 miles in 4 hours looks like at the top of Mt. Madison.

Coldest night of the trip at The Perch (sort of…this is a stealth spot since the campground was “full” by the time we got there after recovering Kendall from her unplanned side trip)

Back at it Day 3 and not looking to worse for the wear.

Fighting off the tourist who drive to the top in the car to get a pick at the sign.

Sunset from Lake of the Clouds Hut

Ready to face the day after a hearty breakfast at Lake of the Clouds.

Last night for the full group on the trail at Nauman Tent site.

Working in a crypto mine

I’ve been a crypto currency enthusiast for a few years. This past Christmas, I decided to do more than dabble with investment and take a try at mining. Mining the premier crypto coin directly, bitcoin, is out of the question for the hobby miner without investing in ASICS which mostly (completely?) come from Chinese manufacturers that seem to use them themselves to mine for a few months before selling them on the open market. Rather than jump in there, I decided to try my hand at GPU based mining which can be used to mine for coins like Etherium, Zclassic and Zen-cash.

I ordered

  • a motherboard off of alibaba (which was an experience) that can support up to 8 GPUs directly not he board and in theory 4 more through risers (I say in theory since the PCI Express slots are all blocked by the cards in the main slots)
  • 5 EVGA 1070ti hybrid GPUs from Amazon and 2 from Newegg. I must have just slipped in before the great GPU shortage of 2017/2018 as I ended up with 4 of the 5 cards from Amazon and none of the Newegg cards. I feel lucky to have any of them given the prices and availability since then.
  • the most crazy expensive 1500W Platinum power supply I could find
  • An open air frame that has the capacity (that I probably won’t use) to hold up to 12 cards
  • A few extra fans…mostly for the lights.

I put everything together in a few hours, downloaded simplemining os and was up and running in 4 hours. I made one mistake of not configuring my miner to point my account on suprnova (don’t yell at me…I’ve since switched to ZHash.pro) so the first few hours of mining went out into the ether (or more likely the suprnova wallet of the smos developer).

I’ve had the rig offline a few times for a total of maybe 4 hours, once to install the fans and once to move it from the bench where I built it to the shelf where it’s going to live, but otherwise it’s been running for 4 weeks straight. I am getting about 2,000 Sol/S mining Zencash (not the most profitable, but I like the project) and have mined a bit short of 8 zencash in a little over 4 weeks. At current prices (admittedly depressed) that’s worth around $280 with total electricity costs of $28, for a net profit of $252, which puts the payback on what I have invested so far on the rig at around 10 months.

I’d like to add some more cards to get to a full 8, but not at the current prices. Otherwise, I think I will just let it run, HODL my coins and see what happens the next few months.