Greedy, Greedy, Greedy 19 March 2015

Through the usual social media channels, I found a handy little guide written by an AT thru-hiker called Mariposa that helps people decide on whether they should carry a hammock, tent, or tarp on their hike. During lunch I cruised a few of her other entries and the end of this one on how the trail transformed her stuck with me.

Escape from materialism was a main reason I set out on the AT in the first place. I had found myself caring too much about stuff, and wanting things I couldn't afford. I strove to live simply, to better appreciate the things I have, and that's exactly what happened. Once I had to carry everything on my back, I stopped wanting extraneous belongings. I definitely didn't travel ultra-light (I ended up carrying things like a tambourine just for fun), but the desire for more clothes, more jewelry, better technology, a nicer car–that desire left me.

Lately, I have been getting the urge to be a bit more materialistic and been considering making a few large purchases. With my student loan payments gone and a raise this month, I have more funds available for purchases. Conviently, a number of things in my life are becoming a bit long in the tooth or will soon be at the end of their life. For example, my car is from the last century and while I did have maintenance done on it last year to insure it would keep going for another couple years, enough damage and problems have developed that it would cost more to fix it all than the car is really worth. Further, it sure would be nice to have a newer car with better gas mileage and improved AWD that just so happened to have everything functioning correctly.

My bike is also over seven years old and last summer I had to replace half of its components and both wheels after my accident. It is functional but it is meant for cyclocross and is not the most ideal for all the long distance road biking I do. Again, it would be nice to purchase a new, shiny road bike and then be able to dedicate the older one solely to commuting.

Of course, there are other things. Skydiving lessons so I can get my solo license. A sea kayak and coastal navigation lessons. Formal wear clothes for work events. A bit of land and a cabin in the woods. And–I cannot believe I am saying this–perhaps an actual bed and mattress set for sleeping. Luxury!

A voice in my head is telling me this is all very greedy. I should keep on saving my money for bigger adventures in the years ahead. Live lightly. Do not spend money. You can live without. Just as the trail transformed me into someone who could live even lighter, so has civilization started changing me back to someone who wants more.


I'm a Developer 17 February 2015

I didn't want to be a CTO. I wanted to be...a developer! Leaping from repo to repo as they are forked from among the mighty projects of GitHub! With my best Mac by my side!

The Laravel! The jQuery! The Homebrew Package Manager! The Grunt JS! The Symfony Components! We'd code! Code! Code!!

Oh, I'm a developer, and I'm okay, I sleep all day and I work all night. I hunt down bugs, I eat my lunch, I go to the Facebook feed. On weekdays I am nappin' and have peanut butter cups with tea.


On the Nature of Things 14 February 2015

While last year was the year of taking care of things–paying off student loans, paying off credit card debt from the thru-hike, buying a new computer, getting the car maintenance done–this year is the year of saving. For what, I am not entirely sure yet, but I want to be ready to have the funds available no matter what I choose to do.

In the first six weeks of 2015, I have already saved enough money to fund half a thru-hike, which is my new, favorite manner of putting money in perspective. It seems incredibly easy for me to save money and I am often surprised by how difficult it seems for others. I simply do not need very much and crave even less. Food and shelter are the biggest expenses because I feel at a basic level they most contribute to my daily well being. Having healthy, tasty food is one of the greatest joys in the world and with my physical pursuits it would seem silly to not put serious consideration into my eating habits. And my spectacular, shared house is in one of my favorite parts of Portland with a very private room and a space outside it for all my dirty gear. I could live cheaper but these expenses are worth it to me.

After that, it really peters out. I donate a percentage of my salary to nonprofits each month and then because of my physical activities I am usually buying a new piece or two of gear every single month too. Things like trail running shoes can be expensive but if you are diligent, you can usually find them for 30-50% off and buy multiple pairs at the same time. And that is more or less it. There are small expenses like maybe a book or going out to see a movie, but for the most part I just watch things online and get books from the library. Better usage of resources, you know.

Where does everyone's money usually go? Stuff. Now, I do not mind stuff. I rather like admiring other people's stuff. I just do not like having stuff myself. As a thought exercise, I wondered if I would be so against stuff if I had a TARDIS to put it in. A ship that could move easily through all of time and space. Your stuff would never be in the way, it would never need to be moved to another house/apartment, and you could always have it with you. I think the answer is I would be perfectly ok with collecting and owning more things if that were the case. What bothers me about stuff is having to deal with it. It is a weight around your life and prohibits flexibility and options. Harder to move and harder to move on with it.

That is part of the romanticism of a life of travel and thru-hiking. You only take one you need. You can go anywhere with what you have on your person. A very significant part of me wants impermanence. And that is why I am saving money.


Diego 31 January 2015

Diego wormed his way into my heart by being exactly the kind of animal I could not resist. He was so content just to hang out and be your calm, reliable best friend. I so desperately needed a friend who did not demand a single thing from me after the long recovery from my knee injury. I was a mess inside and not quite sure where I was going to go next. He helped alleviate the anxiety I felt about my own life by showing how content one could be with the simplest of things.

The first time we met, when I visited Amelia in Port Townsend, he just plopped down outside on the deck next to my chair while I read a book in the sun. That night I watched a bit of Star Wars on YouTube and you can see that he just jumped up and joined me. No fuss, no demands, just there.

When I moved up to Port Townsend a bit later and occupied the apartment above Amelia's, Diego would come visit and if I did not have my balcony door shut he would waltz right in and lay down on my futon. At first I resisted but my allergy to him was so mild and he was such a relaxing presence that I eventually relented. Over time, we finally became bros and he was welcome anytime.

When I returned from the trail and moved back to Portland, I was again in turmoil. Nothing felt right. Being in civilization felt inexcusably wrong down to my very core. Every day was a struggle. When I traveled North to visit Amelia, I did so to see Diego just as much as I did her.

The inevitable finally did happen though. Diego got sick just before the holidays and had to be euthanized.

I miss him. Quite a bit. Just like the last furball that I got attached to, I would give years of my life to have him here for just a bit longer. Hard to not be greedy when you have known the friendship of such a singularly agreeable creature. Rest easy, little bro.



A Troubling Lack of Snow 29 January 2015

Back in the month of November, Mt. Hood seemed to be preparing us for an excellent season of snow. On my first trip up to the mountain, the sky was clear, the temperature was in the teens, and one could circumnavigate Timberline Lodge itself in snowshoes without a care in the world. Feet of snow were on the ground at treeline and as you headed up towards Silcox Hut, exposed rock was visible but it seemed only a single storm away from disappearing completely.

Things have gone downhill since then. There were a few additional storms with snow, but the general trend has been towards melting rather than accumulation. Here is a photo taken yesterday of Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge.

Two months into winter and there is less snow on the mountain today than there was in November. My goal of being up in the mountains–at either Hood, St. Helens, or Adams–once a week to train is completely dashed. I went up 5 times before the end of 2014 but have only been up there once in 2015.

Is it climate change causing such a bleak winter? Or are we just having an extremely poor season thus far?

It has been well documented that the glaciers in the Pacific Northwest are receding at an alarming rate. Some are gone already, most are well on their way to extinction. Further, the USDA published a report last September that goes into detail explaining how they predict climate change is going to change the North Cascades in the next century, how it will affect the resources under their management, and possible strategies to cope. It is a harrowing read and a rather stark contrast to the US Senate's continued unwillingness to accept climate change.

So, what about this year? By playing with NOAA's Online Weather Data tools, you can see the precipitation and temperatures for Government Camp over the past two months. While precipitation is pretty close to normal, our temperatures have been repeatedly way too warm. Instead of fresh snow, we have been getting more rain and plenty of melting.


And here's the kicker, it is going to get worse. Much much worse. The whole reason I wrote this entry was because my housemate recently got me into The Newsroom and a week ago we saw an episode that dealt with climate change. For a quick recap, checkout the Mother Jones fact check article on the episode.

Watching the episode was painful because while you felt smacked down by its heavy-handed treatment of the material, the reality is that it was completely right. We have had this research in our hands for decades, yet as a species we have not even applied the brakes. This is happening, it is extremely bad, and the majority of people are paying little to no attention. In the United States more than half of our representatives are actively blocking any attempt to even accept that climate change is human caused.

The scale of the problem is immense. Greater than anything we have ever faced. And so, we choose not to face it.



13 years, 1 month, 15 days 29 December 2014

That is how long I have been paying my Reed College student loans. And today, they are entirely paid off.

There is no excitement, no cheer being raised, only a sense of finality. The debt has been paid. It is over.

Going to be interesting living without them. I still have my Portland State loans that I accumulated while doing my pre-medicine prerequisites, but compared to the Reed loans they are relatively easy to handle and will not be a significant burden on my monthly finances.

When I left Reed, so many of my decisions were focused on insuring I had the funds to make my loan payments. I graduated with under $400 in my bank account and was rather lucky to find a room for $350 a month with no security deposit. And when I found an attic for rent for $125 a few months later, I took it even though there was no insulation or heat up there (sweltering summers, freezing winters).  Let's not forget the invention of the infamous Burdick Burrito; all the calories necessary to feed Paul for four dinners for under $7.  Ah, those halcyon days of my youth.

EllisLab and ExpressionEngine may not have existed, or at least not in the same form, if not for my desperate need to learn programming so I could take a bit of contract work on the side. I foolishly wanted a dresser and bed, while Shadow needed dog food and vet visits.  Decisions, decisions.

Eventually it all balanced out and while the payments were still my greatest expense every month, usually exceeding all of my other expenses combined, they were no longer a life altering burden.

It was only when I went on my thru-hike that they became a problem again as making my payments every month while being in the backcountry was not a financially-wise move. So, this year was more or less dedicated to paying them off completely and erasing the burden completely.

And now, they are gone. The game has changed. A powerful variable is no longer on the board, which means I can start making plans without having to include those payments in my deliberations. Hm.


ImpactFlow is Alive! 12 October 2014

Just under two weeks ago, the ImpactFlow platform was officially launched during a party at the EcoTrust building in downtown Portland  The development process was not unlike the writing of a Reed Senior Thesis. Plenty of research, questioning, never quite sure knowing if what you are doing is right, redoing entire sections that no longer make sense, and then presenting it to a group of people and asking "what do you think?" and hoping they do not toss you out.  Stressful? Nah.

And this is just the initial launch. The platform has been public since mid-September and we already have a few hundred nonprofits and donors on the system. Oodles of feedback is coming in on a daily basis and plenty of areas need refinement. My To Do list has shifted more from large feature additions to dozens of small and medium changes required to streamline the entire process of creating projects, grants, and donations. Currently, there is only one part of the site I desperately want to tear out and start over, which is a rare thing for me. Also, a new marketing/sales team is being formed to help focus on a regional/national launch strategy, as apparently companies need to grow and bring in income (who knew?).

Still, after nine months without any time off and way too many nights and weekends working, I have a chance to take a deep breath and relax a bit. In about seven days I am taking an entire week off from both work and staring at the computer. Maybe do a few outdoor trips before the snow comes, a trip to the coast, sipping tea in coffee shops while reading a book, and eating way too many baked goods.  Sounds nice. I am looking forward to it.


River of Lethe 4 October 2014

A bumper crop of engagements and weddings appeared this year, providing a rather steady stream of pokes from the stick of singlehood. Gentle reminders that many friends are buying houses, taking engagement photos, going on long romantic vacations, and settling down with a loved one or well providing manservant. Not saying that I want any of that, but it is definitely a continual reminder that relationships do exist and I have been roaming this vast and quiet desert for a while.

Since I have resolved to stay in one place this year and eliminate a significant portion of the financial drain provided by my student loans, I have found myself in a position where pursuing a relationship is actually feasible. The usual vectors have been investigated: socializing in new situations, jumping into the world of online dating, and when leaving the house actually engaging with people and not shuttering myself in my own thoughts behind a book or computer screen.

In the end, I think the only conclusion one can rightly draw is that Dating Sucks. Perhaps it is my analytical approach to life, but if this was a scientific experiment one would definitely question if this is the correct approach. No significant results! And yet, other people seem to pull it off. I mean, how do they do it? I do not understand! I have read their abstracts, skimmed the methods section for hints; but no, my research keeps on outputting negative results!

"Maybe the lab equipment is faulty," he mutters to himself.

Online dating seemed rather promising at first. Set out criteria, answer questions and rate them on importance, and then find matches in your area. You have conveniently eliminated the most difficult hiccups of in-person interactions–knowing if they are single and interested–while also helping to eliminate those whose characteristics you believe would not bode well for a relationship with you. And yet, wow, can you not rely on their algorithms at all when it comes to in-person chemistry. Five minutes in the real world is worth more that a week of talking online. And then there is the feeling of being on a marketplace and being forced to prioritize who you interact with first in order to prevent messy complications. The site developers have made the entire process fascinating and addictive, but in the end it seems woefully inadequate and fraught with opportunities for abuse.

In-person interactions are far more rewarding, at least initially. Eye contact, flirting, and casual conversational chemistry are genuinely fun. Ah, but then you hit the roadblocks. Oh, not single (::sigh::). Oh, not actually from Portland. Oh, does drugs. Oh, she's 22 (no, nope, not even). Oh, she's moving in two months to the other side of the country. My forehead is developing a callous from all the facepalms. To continue the science metaphor, it is like receiving amazing initial results and then finding out it was all a computer glitch. It is quite maddening. You start getting tired of going into the lab at all.

And that is just the first step. That, my friends, is just trying to get to the coveted First Date.

Maybe it is a combination of my stubborn inner child and slight bias against typical American adulthood, but when did people get so serious about their immediate futures? Is it just because we are now in our 30s? Without an ounce of exaggeration or sarcasm, I tell you I have been on a first date where I would have been greatly served by bringing a full DNA and psychological profile so my paternal potential could be efficiently evaluated. Never have I felt less a person and more a potential sperm donor.  Why have a conversation to determine if you even like me as a person before evaluating the potential of our future offspring?

And, good lord, would I not mind talking about my thru-hike and my longing for additional adventures without the question of my continued residence in the Portland area being immediately brought up. My long term plans are unknown and I will offer no guarantees on a first, second, or third date that I will absolutely be around in three months. I simply do not know. It is even more ludicrous than employers not wanting to hire me when I admit I might want to move on in a year. I can easily fathom a half dozen realistic scenarios where I head off to another continent next year. I have been informed this has been interpreted as a fear of commitment, fear of being hurt, or a wish to play the field. A friend has even gone so far as to tell me I should lie more often about what is going on in my head. Something about how sharing all the thoughts flying through my head scares women off...or something like that, I got bored midway through the conversation. In the end, I refuse to be dishonest or misleading. While it may serve me poorly in the dating realm, it keeps my brain from throwing yet another synaptic tantrum.

All in all, the entire process is ridiculously unrelaxing. At this point I am befuddled as to how I was ever in a relationship before. It does not seem too much to ask to find a single Portland woman in her early 30s with high intelligence, a proclivity towards outdoor adventures, a working knowledge of absurd humor or science-fiction, and a willingness to enjoy the first 3-4 weeks of a relationship without requiring assurances about the future and with mutual attraction.


Damage Assessment 16 June 2014

While cruising down a bike route ten days ago during one of our recent spats of hot afternoons, I was observing the neighborhood for a possible move when my front bike tire got snagged in one of the many cracks that seem to now be the norm on Portland's non-arterial roadways. With only one sweaty hand on the handlebar, I slipped and slammed into my bike before ungracefully impacting the street. In a word, it was unpleasant; if we can suffer two words, it was fucking unpleasant.

Nothing like bruises, abrasions, cuts, and a partially dislocated shoulder to start the weekend. The shoulder moseyed back into position after a minute or two, wherein I got my bike functional enough to get to the ZoomCare on Alberta. Alas, they had no open appointments, but a reliable stock of ibuprofen and cleansing pads were available for purchase. A half dozen of each, a few phone calls to friends, and I was whisked home in Dave's stately hybrid.

The Hawthorne ZoomCare cleaned up my wounds with such a thorough scrubbing that I quickly admitted all of my past crimes and made up a few more to insure continued Congressional support. With a sling and stronger pain relievers as my companions, I scheduled an x-ray for the morning and went out for pizza. I am always a bit peckish after quarreling with composite surfaces.

Spent most of Saturday in an exhausting pain and drug fueled haze of barely contained insensibility. I have a vague recollection of switching between grumbling, napping, and watching Batman cartoons for most of Sunday. Now things are much improved. A significant portion of the skin on my arm has returned with minimal scarring. The shoulder still aches, but movement is fully restored and the strength is steadily returning. No pull ups or pushups for a few weeks, but my lacrymal gland output remains steady.

The most frustrating part is the inopportune timing. The workload and weather had converged to finally provide me with an excellent chance of climbing Mt. Hood or spending a long day in the Gorge biking. And even with a minor case of shin splints, my stair running up Tabor was proceeding exceptionally well. Not only did the bike crash annihilate my weekend plans, but I am going to spend the next month just returning to my previous level of activity. Again.

This seems to be a repeating pattern in my life. It is a rare year in which I do not have some manner of accident or injury that incapacitates me and sets back months of work. Part of this is simply that I provide ample opportunities for the conspiring of probabilities. Spend enough time sprinting around a soccer pitch, running through the woods, or zooming down hills on a bike...and eventually you are not going to be paying attention at the right moment or get hit just right. I also have a tendency to be unforgiving in the intensity of my pursuits and also not allow sufficient time to recover.

Being intensely physical is deeply ingrained into my person; I revel in it. Yet, my psychology has not caught up with the physical reality that I am a 35 year old male with three decades of injuries on the books. Concussions, broken bones, dislocations, strains, sprains, and plenty of scar tissue. And all of that damage is not going away; I am more prone to re-injury while my ability to bounce back is no longer that of a 20 year old. It is a problem.

It is weird. I need to be careful; more deliberate and more patient. No more of the consequences be damned approach. I spend more time focusing efforts on stabilizing and preventing issues than kicking my ass. And as result of my previous assaults and offenses, parts of my body are regularly problematic when pushed too hard. It is quite a bother. I do not like it. One bit.

It is quite a hassle getting older and living with the consequences of your youth, especially when your spirit refuses to accept that either need happen at all. At the same time, given the chance to relive my teens and twenties, I would do it all again but perhaps even harder. I feel too often that I may have taken it too easy by surviving this long.


VP of Engineering 29 May 2014

Despite requiring significant allocations of mental resources, I am not one to really jabber on about my work recently. There is a slight problem in that our main product has not launched yet, so we are keeping rather tight lipped about its features and the visual and programmatic design. Also, since a great deal of my work is technical in nature with occasional forays into business matters, it is not terribly interesting or accessible to the majority of people. As worthy of my time as I find building an API with 200+ endpoints and testing load balanced environments with multiple horizontal server resources...it lacks a certain dinner hour approachability. Still, I think the time has come to at least start pulling back a bit of the curtain.

We are a little over a month away from inviting Portland individuals, companies, and non-profits to help us beta test, and a splash page is already visible at ImpactFlow.com. Just last week I finished setting up a complete staging environment on the amazing Laravel Forge and we are prepping to start our internal testing at the end of next week. The pressure is beginning to build; it is quite exciting (if a bit stressful). So, what is this mysterious ImpactFlow?

ImpactFlow is a marketplace for philanthropy, where individuals and businesses manage their giving like investments to support the causes they care most about.

Nonprofits showcase their projects and get matched to funds from donors they know are interested in the work they are doing.

Philanthropy is a Big Word™ that has quite a bit of weight behind it. At its core, it is a catchall term meaning one is trying to make the world better though some manner of giving, be it money, property, or personal time. Like any product, we are trying to solve a problem. If you are truly serious about having an impact with your giving, it is a messy and inefficient process. Each non-profit has its own website and their specific projects may or may not be on it. How their projects impact the community or world at large may not be readily apparent. Directly investing in specific projects that catch your eye is seldom possible.  An individual or company can literally spend months searching for the perfect place to give their money, yet still end up just writing a check to the non-profit as a general donation and only receive monthly emails as a result.

On the flip side, non-profits are always searching for funds and donors. Significant amounts of their budgets are spent researching and applying for grants, contacting donors, and building corporate relationships to insure their projects are funded. Smaller, community-focused non-profits are often overlooked and lose out to more publicly recognizable non-profits. And, if they want to promote how their current projects are doing, they are limited by the capabilities of their website and social media team, if they even have one.

Imagine if you could bring both sides, funders and non-profits, to one place and meet all of those needs. Funders of any size (individuals, groups, corporations) can build their own giving programs to indicate specifically where they want their money to go. Non-Profts have all of their projects online and those projects are instantly matched to existing giving programs.  Conversations and collaboration can happen on both sides, and once funded the projects can provide direct reports to their donors on progress and impact.

There is an incredible scope to platform and I cannot discuss the details yet, but that is the seed at the core of it. We want to move beyond giving as it currently stands and allow it to be treated more as a professional investment.

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When I joined the company as a developer at the end of November, I was only the fourth employee and was primarily hired because of my knowledge and experience with the CodeIgniter framework, which I helped build during my time at EllisLab. Two weeks ago I was promoted to VP of Engineering and have finished an expansive API foundation for the entire platform using Laravel.  The scope of our work, even at this initial launch phase, is simply mind bending. And our list of future enhancements and features is ambitious to say the least.  

To be frank, I took this job because my savings were so depleted after finishing the Pacific Crest Trail that any development position with enough challenge to keep me motivated would have done. Now, after helping to design and build not only the platform but the company itself, I have both an equity and personal investment in its success. There is a real chance that if the platform is successful this might be the last job I ever have.  That is a statement I am still surprised to be uttering in public.

The scars of 2012 still haunt me every day.  As much as part of me desires to continue the path to becoming a doctor and making the world better that way, I can no longer find the will to plunge into that level of financial and temporal debt. I lost too much faith and became too greedy for a life without that level of sacrifice. But what I can do is use all of my technical skills to help build a company whose mission statement is explicit in its goal to make things better.  Not sure how long I will resist the call of extreme outdoor adventures, but I do not mind at least allowing the possibility of sticking around for that.