I lost a friend last week. She was amazing and I want everyone to know about Linda.
I met Linda six years ago in the Planet Granite Masters Class. She always climbed levels above me, but was never too busy to encourage me as I worked on my projects. She was a magnificent climber.
Linda shaped my life with our friendship. One such example was the following exchange (to the best of my memory):
Zack: “I really want to get better at climbing so I can climb with you” Linda: “You are a coach, how would you coach yourself to get better” Zack: “I would hire a coach, it’s really hard to coach oneself.” Zack goes out and gets a climbing coach and gets better at climbing and life.
There were adventure trips with her to Yosemite (multiple) and Bowman Lake up in Tahoe. I remember a boulder adventure to Castle Rock. There were an appearances at my birthday parties and just general tons of fun and laughs.
The collection of stories that runs between our lives is complex and this is just a taste. What I’m failing to convey is the caring emotion she brought with her. The kindness and compassion that moved me and inspired me. The connections between me and others that are stronger because of her compassion and involvement in my life.
I’m going to miss her terribly. To all of those who had the pleasure of knowing Linda like I did, I’m sorry for your loss. To those of you who didn’t know Linda, I’m sorry that you didn’t get to meet her.
I reserve the right to update this post as more pertinent details about this amazing human come to me.
My life has been shaped by this microscopic little virus called Novel Coronoavirus. It’s a small little virus that is changing our world. It is changing the way we see each other and treat each other. It is effecting our relationships in so many different ways, and it is also negatively effecting our economy.
I am worried on so many levels. I’m worried about what this means to our human relationships. I’m worried about what this means to my career as an acroyoga instructor. I’m worried about how this is affecting my roommate dynamics.
In years we may forget what happened, so here is my interpretation of what happened. This is from my perspective, and not to supersede any truly researched document. This is from the middle of the pandemic, it is not over yet.
In late 2019 a virus emerged in China. This virus was in the same family as the common cold and flu. As we moved into 2020 it was suggested that this virus might be something more deadly than the flu, and it might be spreading, but it was still happening in China and not in the US. The news was reporting on it, but all the reports were on the spread and not very many were on the effects of the virus. I remember trying to google what the symptoms and duration of the virus were. There was no information on that. It was all about the spread. It made me feel like the news was playing into the hysterical nature of the spread and missing the actual effects of the virus. I’ll admit I did not take it seriously, my perspective was that it was a new version of the flu, and that death rate was not as severe.
Then the virus jumped from China to the US.
I went from not understanding the virus to being ordered to keep distance from people. All the Acro groups that I was involved in were looking at suspending classes and events. My work was issuing statements about working from home if we experienced any symptoms.
At this point I remember believing that this virus was only really deadly to a small subset of people: the elderly and people with conditions that already weakened their immune systems. To everyone else it was just a regular flu. It wouldn’t be bad if it I got the virus. I would get over it in a couple of days, maybe a week, and then have the antibodies in my system.
My company officially started working entirely remotely (closed down the office) on Friday March 13th (last day in the office), and there were only five of us in the office on that date. The official Shelter In Place order went out the next week. That first week I remember checking the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara Country Department of public health for information the number of cases and deaths in both areas. None of the numbers seemed to make sense for how much we were isolating ourselves. The stock market began to feel the effects of the economy being shut down. One of my roommates kept talking about how unprecedented this was. Things became more and more surreal.
I leave my house for the necessities like grocery shopping and exercise. I don’t have close interpersonal contact with anyone other than those living in my house. Connection and communication is done through phone calls, Google Hangouts, FaceTimes, and Zoom meetings. Fitness has been small in house workouts or bikes or runs. Everyone has had to find ways to cope with the situation. Personally I have invented a bunch of projects and tackled them vigorously. Everything from cleaning my room to scanning old photos. The only way I can stay sane is by finding something to do around the house.
Generally, for the most part I have felt hopeless. The Shelter In Place is now extended through the month of April. More and more people are being laid off from work. This creates an interesting space where there are some really great people out there looking for work, but there are less and less jobs out there for them.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the Shelter In Place is the right thing for us as a society to be doing. I’m disappointed that it took me so long to agree with the order. I still have concerns about our future, but I’m surviving in this plan. I have found what I need to do in order to keep myself together. Wish I had gotten here quicker than I did, but at least I’m here now.
As an adult life gets in the way. You need to clean (we actually hire someone to clean our space), you need to take care of your stuff, you need to process the events that occur. Life is full of change but if you spend all your time processing the change, you won’t change yourself.
Changing oneself isn’t an easy thing.
It takes time and effort.
What is stopping you from change?
I’m not even talking about a dramatic change. This post is inspired by finishing a book about self improvement and committing to try and make space for the changes in everyday life I want to make. Here are a couple:
• Learn to cook
• I’ve been baking for the drop zone (yes, I’ve started sky diving, more on that later). In the process of learning to bake, I’m learning about the appliances and equipment we have in our kitchen. My cooking is limited, but I’m enjoying it.
• Clean my room
• I’ll admit, I have too much stuff. Some of it is great to have, some of it just takes up space, both in terms of what is going on in my brain and what I need to manage. Cleaning my room means figuring out what stuff I really love and what stuff I don’t and trying to cull my crazy collection of stuff.
• Get in Shape
• Part of this is diet, and learning to cook will help, but I’ve put on a bunch of weight as I’ve gotten older. Some of it is really helpful for ballast while balancing people on top of me, but my belly gets in the way when trying to do some L-Basing Acro, and it would be nice to be lighter to climb harder things.
• Figure out me
• I do a lot of things. People are often surprised at the amount of stuff I do. What people don’t know is that I often do things just to do them. I need to spend some serious time investigating what I enjoy. What I would like to do for me.
The point is that while completing a change might be complex and intricate, requiring countless hours of toil, starting to change is just about deciding and doing. It doesn’t need to be giant. In my head, starting to change is about intention. Even before the action, you need to derive your intention. Using this intention is the only way I can think to motivate myself. Why do you want to make the change? Write down your answer and check every day if that is really where you are. If it’s not, either you have a new reason, or that change wasn’t for you. You don’t need to share the reason with anyone. I’m not sharing all my reasons here.
Anyway, I, personally, live in a space of over contemplation and want to shift it to a little more action. Maybe this will inspire you to figure out what you want, maybe not.
Last weekend was the annual Battle for Bolts at the Planet Granite Belmont location. It’s a 12 hour overnight climbing competition. I was unable to attend the Belmont one last year, but I did do the Portland one. This was my first Belmont B4B, and I entered it with great anticipation.
12 hours of climbing
You get bonuses for climbing at least 1 climb every hour
Climbs are rated by level.
You must climb the whole route form bottom to top without breaks for the points.
You may only do a roped route 10 times throughout the night.
You can do bouldering problems 20 times.
You can only do each climb at most 2 times in a row to allow for more people to get the wall.
About my experience this year
This year I was part of team D-AR-E To Be Great! with Linda. Our set goal at the beginning was still to be there at the end. Basically, not get Evan to kick us out of the space. For those of you who don’t know, Evan is the gym manager at Belmont and my cohost on my podcast South Beta Podcast and as manager of the gym there was some serious concern if we would survive the full night together.
Last year I had spent the day before the event driving up to Portland. This year, I spent the night before at a corporate party, and the day before watching a roommate compete in a ballroom dance competition. The point is, I don’t have a good track record of starting these events well rested.
I was not rested for this event and it showed. I was able to climb the first couple of hours, but did much of the time talking to try and pace myself and annoy Evan and his staff. I have taken some real time off from climbing in the past couple of months to focus on family, rest, recovery and travel. This meant that my hands were not ready for 12 hours of climbing and within about 2 hours of climbing I was really feeling it. By the morning, I was down to doing about 1 climb an hour to try and preserve my hands and make it through the night.
Last year, there were 14 people in Portland at B4B. This year there were nearly 60 people at the Belmont gym. This was awesome, but because of the bigger crowd I didn’t feel as connected to the group. Last year, at Portland, the entertainment throughout the night was less involved in actual climbing. We had a milk crate stacking event, a dance off, and a donut eating without hands competition. This year we had a table climbing competition an obstacle course traverse. Both of these were very tied to the climbing and thus for those of us who are not high level climbers it was harder to be competitive in the events.
Other than that, I only have one other gripe. There was supposed to be headlamp climbing, but because people forgot to bring their headlamps it was cancelled. As someone who went out the day before to buy a headlamp so I would be prepared, this was a little frustrating.
At the end of the competition, while they are finishing up scores, they do a bunch of raffles. Many prizes are given away. This year I won a carabiner, which was a consolation prize, but I was stoked. This is a prize I will actually use and thing that I actually wanted.
Conclusion and Lessons
This year was a ton of fun! I’m very glad I spent the majority of my weekend on this event. Yes, the day after is spent sleeping and recovering so it really is most of the weekend. The Belmont staff was great, and put up with my shenanigans and didn’t kick me out, and I’m grateful for this.
For next year I want to focus on the following:
Make sure I get as much sleep as humanly possible the night before.
Relax and meditate before getting to the event, it is hard do it there, there is a lot of noise and not much quiet.
Condition my hands before the event. Trying to climb 12 hours without really attempting to climb for more than a couple of hours in the weeks leading up to it is a bad idea.
Pro tip: (learned from Linda) bring a clipboard for your score sheets. Bring healthier snacks. They provide some really good snacks, but not as much healthy options.
Pro tip: (learned from Linda) Bring a Jumar for belaying. It helps take stress off the hands.
Bring warm socks to wear between climbs. It really helps to keep your feet healthy.
Our team finished with 2930 points, in the Advanced division. Linda did the lion share of the point scoring, scoring more than 3 times as much as I did. Still, she only did about 20 more climbs than me. Still, very proud of our work and can’t wait until next year and this super special competition.
Several years ago I was on a photography expedition with my best friend Aaron and his photography partner, Willie, shooting waterfalls up in the Columbia River Gorge area when I realized that I was wearing head to toe Patagonia. My interest in Patagonia up to that point was mostly about the quality of the product and guarantee.
When we got talking about my Aaron said “You really are a Patagonia Fan Boy. You should buy the domain”. We brainstormed about what the domain would have and somehow we landed on the idea of visiting all the Patagonia stores. We started small, aiming for all the stores in the US.
Fast forward to now. I’ve visited 28 stores, there are 32 total. Each time I stop in and collect a sticker and talk to the staff and see what is different about each store. Patagonia is unique in the fact that they really try to work with existing buildings and work within the space instead of completely redefining the space to their brand. This means that each Patagonia store is unique and different. Visiting them all actually has some value.
I have four more. Two of them on are on Oahu and the last two are in Ventura. The plan has been to visit the stores in Ventura last. One of the stores in Ventura is the original first store of the company.
The whole problem came when I realized that I was going to be in Southern California for about 2.5 weeks in September but didn’t really have time get to Hawaii. At one point I was planning to fly out for a weekend for a super short trip to visit the two stores in Hawaii. I started talking to friends about this aggressive plan and many of them met me with skepticism. Everyone felt it was a really quick and somewhat pointless to go to Hawaii for such a short period of time. The thing was, when I stopped to think about it, I agreed with them.
The other stores I was able to visit by either traveling with friends or stopping by as I drove across the country. They were, essentially, not too far out of the way.
The other part is that visiting Oahu is on my list. I want to visit the Island, I want to surf or sail there. I want to experience that culture and while I could travel there just to see the stores.
This lead me to me to re-evalute the goal. Did I want to postpone my visit to the Ventura stores until after I made it to Hawaii? That didn’t feel right. Did I want to post-pone my visit to Hawaii and just finish the contiguous 48 stores? This really felt right for several reasons. Aside from the fact that is is a more attainable, this is still store 29 and 30. I’m going to make the Tin Shed my 30th store. There is enough significance there for me.
The point of this is not just to talk about my goal. Yes, I’m proud of this, but it is for me. It is something interesting to talk about, but that isn’t why I’m doing it. The goal is mine, and I have the ability to change it whenever I want.
More than all of this, sometimes we get it stuck in our head to complete audacious goals. I hope I learn something here: it’s okay to redefine your goals.
When I take my photo in front of the Tin Shed, I’ll be proud.
I’ve spent the summer pretty close to my family. This is pretty unusual for me because most of the time I’m 3000 miles away from my family on the other coast for work. One of the benefits of hanging with my family is sometimes my father talks me into going to Synagogue with him. It’s the oldest synagogue building in the use, Torro, and the entire service is in Hebrew. I don’t speak Hebrew and what little I learned as a kid has left me. So I read the English translations in the book and think about what they are talking about.
Somehow this past weekend, I got to thinking about the community in and all the intricacies of that group in the building with me. I started to think about my family and somehow to got to thinking about how which of my grandparents would be living in year (A.C.E., but going back to year zero of the Hebrew religion). Going through my current family, We’ve had four generations between 1900 to 2000. If we assume this math going backwards with generations, we have 20 *100 years = 2000 years. If we have 4 generations per 100 years, that means we have 20 * 4 = 80 generations since year zero.
The next step to this fun math is to realize that each generation adds another layer of parents.
Notice the trend? Powers of 2. As a software engineer, powers of two are my specialty. If you keep going back to 2 to the power of 80 you end up with a gigantic number: 1.2089 * 10^24. I feel like my math must be wrong, but if I’m doing this right, I’m related to more than the current population of the planet over the past 2000 years.
Have you ever had the thought: “part of me feels …” ?
Turns out there is whole part of modern psychology focused on understanding humans a collection of parts. It’s called IFS, short for Internal Family Systems, and was first described by Richard Schwartz in the early 1990s. The general idea being that our internal mind can be represented a bunch of different personalities inside our head, each trying to protect or do some job for us as humans. At the core, there is a concept of Self, or the governing body of your person. When one is in control of the self one can understand what each of the parts wants and make informed decisions about actions.
There is much more to IFS, including the formation of parts from traumatic events, but I’m not a psychologist, and I’m not trained in any way with IFS except to view myself as a combination of parts. There are categories of parts that are designed for different purposes.
I was first introduced to this concept of IFS while reading “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessle Van Der Kolk. I’ve been practicing talking to my parts for over a year now, and while they are still often not in balance, I definitely am more aware of their existence in my daily interactions. This has helped me calm down or see why I’m getting too involved in a small piece of nuance.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I’ve had several conversations this week that really bring this to the front of my brain. I’ve talked to some people about defining my personal values and the conversation was so akin to IFS, I couldn’t ignore it. I had a conversation with a dear friends sister who is a psychologist who has attended an Van Der Kolk conference. I’ve also been keenly aware of my own parts playing out in my daily activities.
Self deprecating humor is a double edged sword. On one side, being able to laugh at yourself is somewhat healthy. We are comical animals who make all sorts of weird sounds and have crazy individual tendencies, if you think you don’t, you are either lying to yourself or crazy (see Merlin Mann’s tweet on priorities)
On the other hand, we sometimes use this humor to cover up areas of insecurity. Using self deprecating humor this way can re-enforce the belief that we are broken or defective. This isn’t healthy.
I’m really fond of saying “I’m deceptively fast for how fat I am” in acro. While this isn’t a lie, it’s not a nice thing to say about myself. Firstly, I’m not overly fit, but I definitely feel fatter than other people perceive me. Secondly, people don’t need to know that I’m deceptively anything, they just need to know I have them while spotting. By continually saying I’m fat in this context I feel fatter. Not healthy!
I have a long history with self depreciating humor. My family is a teasing family, we tease each other. It’s a form of showing love, but it isn’t healthy for me. I got into the habit of hearing areas of my life where I was weird or not as good as the rest of the family. This lead me to believe that some of the teasing a jesting that I experienced was true.
I also had a rough bus in middle school where I was constantly made fun of (even to the point where I started riding my bike to school in fifth grade by myself). I got into the habit of starting conversations with the kids on the bus by insulting myself to get it out of the way. I had heard the teasing from my family and I felt like the kids on the bus lacked creativity. I used my intellectual strength to come up with witty insults for myself that the other kids hadn’t thought of.
This behavior has evolved over the years into the self deprecating humor I use continually in my life. Several of my friends have brought this up this week as I talked them about my life or about this article I was writing. All of them wanted me to stop being so self deprecating, some of them didn’t even want me to waste any time writing this post and thinking about this negative subject.
If you google the topic, you will find a mixed bag of results. A lot of the results are based off this one study that finds that have a sense of self deprecating humor is helpful for online dating, and being happy. After a bunch of reflection, I feel there is healthy self deprecation and unhealthy. Healthy: making fun of yourself in a way that pokes fun at the human experience in a healthy headspace where you aren’t looking for any reaction other than humor. Then there is unhealthy self deprecation: using yourself as an object of humor to reinforce your insecurities and hopefully have those around you be more aware of them.
I definitely do most of my self deprecation in the latter form. I’m looking for sympathy or emotional companionship and instead of asking for it. I make a joke hoping for someone to step in and defend the part of me that is wounded underneath.
In response to writing this I’m going to try do three things differently. One, I’m going to try to find humor outside of myself or other people. I don’t want to insult others, because I don’t like it when others insult me. I won’t be perfect but I will try. Two, when I do use this type of humor (which will hopefully be rare), I’m really going to do it from a genuine, detached space, and focus on the humor not the response I get from other people. Three, I’m going to continue to focus on the positive pathways in my brain (this one’s for you, GGU).
I was watching a TED talk on Youtube the other morning as I was getting ready, just like any good engineer in the Bay Area. Once the talk I was watching finished, the next talk was by a woman who was trying to convince me that life wasn’t about happiness, but rather purpose.
It may just be me, but this is not a new theory. I’ve always believed that there was a purpose, but I have had no clue about what it is.
In this cacophony of words, images, video, sounds, and generally multimedia, I often feel that sharing my opinion with the world is a bit trite.
I have traveled more than most. I have experienced a lot of different cultures and have unique experiences, but so does everyone. I’ve always wondered what makes mine special?
The answer is simply, it isn’t special. I am not special. Or more specifically, I’m probably exactly as special as anyone who would ever read this. If I’m special than so is everyone else.
Recently I’ve been contemplating the sources of information I consume. With Facebook maybe effecting the last Presidential election, I’m concerned that I spend so much time reading a plethoria of potentially unreliable articles. I don’t know if these writers are good stewards of my mind. As more and more information is available on the internet, it is hard to know what to trust.
This has lead me to two truths. Firstly, I should not be reponsible for deciding if you want to read my content. That is your choice. If you think my experiences are worth reading, great, read them. If you think I’m full of crap, write poorly, or am just generally annoying, feel free to ignore what I say. My second truth has been that if I ever want to be a voice in this world, I have to publish. I have to learn to write. There is relatively little harm in writing and having people ignore my content.
Sure, if someday I really learn how to write, I could be embarrassed about what I’ve written previously, but that is a risk I’m prepared to take in order to move forward in my writing.
Every year around the mid of September I do a swim in the SF bay. Well, by every year, I mean the last two years and I’m about to do my third year. Swim Across America is a special event.
I somehow got talked into doing this swim by one of my teammates, Jessica Steffins. Jessica is a phenomenal swimmer, she was actually part of team USA Waterpolo in 2012 that won the gold medal in 2012. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It’s a very early morning start, around the palace of fine arts in the city.
Half asleep they throw you onto a bus and ship you across the city to where you board a ferry. Once on the ferry, you get tatted up with some temporary tattoos marking your commitment to the event. First year, you get a rookie tattoo. I plastered an additional tattoo on my forehead.
They then put you on a boat, and take you out into the bay. There is a ceremony where they invite people who have been touched by cancer to talk about their experiences with the disease. Some get up and talk about their loved ones, some doctors get up and talk about their experiences treating cancers, but the most powerful stories are those who are surviving with cancer and still out here to swim.
Those stories are really very powerful. I’d do the swim just for those stories alone.
Year one was a smaller group, we had only a couple of people from Salesforce signed up on our team. I believe there were four of us.
Once you jump off the boat you swim in to shore. I was wearing a full sleeved wetsuit and was very hot the whole way in. I panicked just out of the boat and was concerned about making it in. Jessica was there to calm me down and had me focus on taking a couple of strokes and breaking then doing a couple more then breaking again.
Year two I practiced more. I spent a lot of time in the pool working on my swimming. We even did a practice run in the ocean. The group was much bigger, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 people. I got salesforce tattoos for the team.
The process was roughly the same, but there was a lot more current and it made the swim much harder, and I actually had to be towed in a bit at the end.
It’s coming and I haven’t done any real training. I’ve been spending more time in the water this year, both in Newport, surfing, wind surfing, and wake boarding, but I have spent very little time on long swims. This is really going to be a change. Please consider donating!
Reasons to Donate
I’ve had several friends ask why they would donate to a swim that I’m doing? Here are several reasons why you should consider donating:
Most importantly: you agree with the notion that cancer is a terrible thing and it is especially terrible in the young ones. Childhood is rough enough, going through cancer as well just seems like too much.
You wish you could swim this year, but didn’t register in time, so you want to donate your sign up money to my fund.
The more you donate the more I feel like crap if I don’t make the swim. Help me raise my minimum so that I have no choice but to get up at 2 am, drive to the city and then spend some time in the super cold bay! Think of it as a punishment for all the ways I’ve annoyed you over the years. Get me back!
You want to support the engineering team. Currently I’m the only engineer on the SFIQ team, please don’t let Will Roller and his product ways beat me.