This post is not about stairs.

This post is not about stairs.

It is about me trying to understand what’s happening in my city, country, and culture. I do it the best way I know how, through metaphors.

If you were walking up the stairs and saw this, what would you do?

Minneapolis, Apr 2, 2021

A New Step #1 was recently installed with new wood. The Old Step #2 matches the original build.

Where would you put your weight to climb the stairs: On #1 or #2? In other words, the question is whether you trust the old or trust the new.

There’s no right answer in every case. Each case depends on the context and personality.

Put my weight on the new: The old step broke away due to time and disintegration. So it’s more likely that the other old step will break, too. The new was installed with newer, better parts.

Put my weight on the old: The old has still more experience than the new, which hasn’t been tested yet. Maybe it was installed wrong and I’m about to find out. The new could be incompatible withe the original build.

This post is about Daunte Wright and Kim Potter. It’s about split second decisions. About desperation and stress. About equality and justice.

Daunte Wright was killed by Kim Potter. This loss is a tragedy for our city, country, and culture. The protests, counter-protests, and surrounding conversation are as much about the moments that ended one life and changed another as it is about competing ideologies; about where we should put our weight.

Old Step #1 broke, and the New Step #1 inserted itself in. There is a new movement calling for justice, demanding outrage, and condemning silence.

We as a people are now looking at Old Step #2.

Is Old Step #2 sturdy or most likely to break?

Was the breaking of Old Step #1 an outlier occurrence, or was it an indicator that the old wood is disintegrating?

Do we trust the original foundations or do we think it’s likely to break and hurt someone else?

Is the New Step #1 incompatible with the original build, or is it more advanced with updated parts?

This very week, during the Chauvin trials of the killing of George Floyd, ideologies are arguing louder than ever again. We have to choose whether to protect Step #2 and trust the sturdiness that lasts. Or we have to choose to replace the outdated old wood and replace it with a newer and updated build.

Paranoia vs. Planning: Ode to my car troubles

What’s the difference between paranoia and planning? When is it reasonable to live in fear?

My car has started to turn off randomly while I’m driving. I’m going about 25 miles an hour with a small amount of pressure on the accelerator. Each time it has happened, I’ve been able to react quickly by pulling over to the side of the road to restart the car. Nevertheless, it got me worried.

I took the car to a mechanic. But the mechanic wasn’t able to reproduce the issue and couldn’t fix it. But he said to try different gasoline and pay attention to see if it happened again.

Listen to this blog post here or continue reading below!

Well, it did continue happening. It’s happened about five times now. It’s hard to predict. But luckily, it’s only happened on small roads, not at high speed on the highway.

While I’m going 20-25 miles an hour, I should be able to coast to a stop if I’ve been paying attention. Given this new risk, I’ve actually become more aware of my surroundings at all times. Imagine if I were texting and the car turned off suddenly. I would lose valuable seconds. At the least, it would be embarrassing to stall in the middle of the road. At worst, it could cause a crash.

In addition to driving un-distracted, I now drive with a game-plan. I’m always thinking, “what if it turned off here? Or there? What’s my exit strategy?”

I’m not a mechanic or a financial advisor or really anyone that should be giving advice. But I think I might keep my car like this and ride it out for a while.

As a result, I will drive less distracted and with an exit strategy plan in mind. I know that this will improve my driving.

If you watch car crash videos, you’ll notice two things: 1. These videos are super addicting. 2. And many of the crashes were caused by distracted drivers.

The easier we make it to drive, the more distracted we allow ourselves to be. Massive innovations in autonomous and self-driving vehicles are coming soon to new car buyers. Even any “regular” car produced in the last few years has so much comfort that it lowers me into a state of relaxation, allowing my mind to wander away from the road.

Paranoia is different than planning. Someone that lives in a constant state of tension and preparation for a zombie apocalypse is paranoid. But a “global pandemic” should move from paranoia to planning to prevent it from happening again.

If I drive with constant fear and attention that my car will turn off, this is planning because it’s happened before and could definitely happen again.

When my car resolves its issues, or when I get a new car, I’ll no longer need to live in paranoia. But I can keep my planning. Maybe I won’t need to spend each moment thinking of an exit strategy, should my car turn off. But why not keep the un-distracted driving instead of going back into the comfort of distraction?

In search of the Lofi aesthetic

This past Sunday morning, we lay in bed listening to Lofi Lofts music and dozing. I felt like I was living out something more than the music itself: some aesthetic of Lofi-ness. We were seeking to embody a life of coziness and stillness.

Something like wanting to be the Lofi Girl.

Instead of listening to the rest of this blog post, instead listen to the Lofi Girl:

Link

The Lofi Girl has been sitting and writing in for over a year now. She was around before then. But she’s been live ever since February, 2020, around quarantine in the USA.

The soundtrack beats onward with different tunes. But the feeling is the same. Here eyes are relaxed, on the verge of drifting into dreaming. Her head slumps into her hand. A bit of writing and turning the page. It’s dark inside, but not gloomy. It’s calming, but focused.

The pieces settle together like they weren’t organized there deliberately. The books are scattered on the desk and shelf. But everything rests exactly where they are without tension.

There’s no activity outside. The sun rises and sets, the seasons change, but the girl and her cat still persist. There’s nothing else she’s missing. There’s nothing else worth doing than what she’s doing right now.

The girl looks up at her cat, and we expect something to happen. But no: its tail swings lazily. The cat is perfectly content where it is.

That’s really it: being content where we are.

We live in a disorganized world. But when we sit still in the early morning, we can gaze outside at nothing in particular. We realize there’s nothing under the bed or in the closet out to get us. There’s nobody waiting to knock on our door and send our life into a tailspin.

In that moment, stillness hangs in the air.

That’s what we felt when we slept in. Like we could wake up, yes. But we’re not missing anything. Why not appreciate the stillness as such. The world will still be there from one moment to the next. Right now is the perfect time to settle into something or nothing. Simple, straightforward, and slowly.

Dropping the unnecessary stuff.

As a culture, sometimes we drop words at the start of sentences.

For example: instead of saying “I have a friendly announcement that…,” we say “Friendly announcement that…”

And, instead of saying “I’d be happy to do that,” we say “Happy to do that.”

Wonder why we do that? Interested to find out. Quicker to get to the point. Confused or make sense?

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

How far to follow your passion

Many people say to follow your passion. But how far?

I don’t think everyone is meant to follow their passion to its conclusion. Instead, we often need to do things that we don’t enjoy or that wouldn’t be our first choice. I don’t think anyone sets out to try to clean toilets as their primary job.

But that’s ok! Because you can use your passions creatively in many types of work. And these skills can be invaluable in that other line of work.

Photo by Kael Bloom on Unsplash

For example, I love coaching. But my job title does not say
“coach.” Instead, I use coaching methods in my work. I market myself as a software consultant and account manager with coaching skills. As a result, this coaching makes our team more effective.

I also enjoy music. But I don’t make my primary occupation about creating or listening to music. Instead, I do employ artistic methods in my work.

For example, in a proposal, I include musical elements in the structure to make it flow. Similar to a song, the presentation builds with verses as supporting evidence into a repeating chorus as the main argument. These ideas work in harmony, just like in music.

So, if you like coaching or music, you can pursue those as primary passions. But remember that these skills are invaluable in other areas of work that you wouldn’t think of!

I’m addicted to hummus.

Photo by abillionveg on Unsplash

I can eat hummus with chips or dip or straight from the tub. I love it. I feel like I’m willingly taking on a master whenever we buy hummus.

Hummus is my weakness. I can’t resist it. I could eat it all in one sitting.

While I’m thankful that my addiction isn’t to sugary sweets or tobacco or something more destructive, any addiction is a risky thing.

I’ve been experimenting with putting barriers in front of things that are too easy to enjoy. As a result, I have to work harder to get that entertainment. For example, I recently deleted Instagram from my phone. So, if I want to browse Instagram, I have to spend 60 extra seconds downloading the app, logging in, and loading it up again. I really need to want it to spend those precious seconds waiting.

This simple action has reduced my time on Instagram time by more than 99% last month. That’s a lot of time I get back to spend on other things.

However, the other things filling the space aren’t all great. For example, my YouTube usage rose last month. However, it’s hard to get rid of it since I still spend some valuable time learning in addition to mindless enjoyment.

Maybe YouTube will be next to go. Hummus can stay another day…

I was there during the outrage of Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Franklin Ave Bridge, May 28, 2020

The air smelled of anarchy and new beginnings. We watched the burning smoke from rooftops. Everyone talked about the same thing. Eyes glued to social media. The motorcycles and trucks on the distant highway revved their engines with a guttural roar. The police were on defense. They wouldn’t answer if we called.

George Floyd was killed, and we were at the epicenter of the aftermath.

We were confident in our belief, but unsure about the future. Like a hero sneaking through a thick forest brush, we crept into a different world. Nervous, excited, nauseated. Time moved slowly. We have something rotten inside us, and we were finally burning it out.

I didn’t participate in the protesting. We were hesitant to leave our house.

There were good protesters and good cops, both working together within the confines of our structures. There were also stupid people on both sides, escalating issues and causing unnecessary trouble.

Eventually, we helped clean up the streets during the day while protests continued at night. I didn’t condemn the burning. After all, something had to give. But I mourned the collateral losses of the innocent.

I live in the exhausted majority. I don’t back my full weight behind either wing of the United States socio-political arena. My beliefs are fluid and depend on the situation and the context. I don’t align my beliefs with either of the political poles. Here’s what I know:

I believe that we discriminate unfairly in our culture, especially against people of color through racism. I believe that police have the responsibility to de-escalate tense situations without lethal force. I believe in peaceful protest to demand change.

I believe in the good of people.

I believe that police who protect and serve are pivotal and respectable in our society. I believe that criminals take advantage of police de-escalation tactics to get out of justice. I believe that burning and looting property is not a peaceful protest.

So, on the issue on police brutality, I can’t pick a side. I’m exhausted of thinking that we have to pick one. I hear both sides with valid arguments but not every situation fits the same narrative.

It’s ok to not decide on these types of complex issues. They involve multiple steps that we can rarely agree on by themselves: where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there. All three factors are open to deep debate. We must be flexible to work toward the answer. The effective resolution will be a mix, including the best ideas from a diverse set of perspectives.

The Cavalry: the values of serving

If you’re interested in occasionally volunteering in a group for those in need in the Twin Cities while staying safe from COVID-19, then contact me.


If you built an army of volunteers, what values would you instill in them to keep the culture together? Kevin asked just that. How would we answer Kevin?

  1. Humble Service
  2. Community
  3. Reality
  4. Respect For Others

Humble Service: This is the meaning of life for us. It is in our blood. It gives us energy. It aligns how we view ourselves and the world. We don’t get so full of ourselves to think that we are above any other person. We know that giving creates more giving, which creates a better world for all. Humility gives us a hunger to always be open and learning. We serve others because that’s how we orient our lives toward good in the world and away from distractions.

Community: We build a community of doers. We volunteer and serve with each other. We create bonds through shared experiences. We lean on each other for support. We empower each other to try new things. We push each other to increase our service impact. It’s a group of individuals formed by a common goal and purpose. It’s about We.

Reality: Do you feel out of touch? Come see what the real world is like. Your daily life is nothing like what others experience. Come see what real people are living through. In particular, let’s expose ourselves to others going through difficult situations. They could be just like you. The reality is, this could be you. So, the ones who have it easier are responsible to help others who need help. Understanding the full breadth of human experience will enrich your life and give gratitude for the little blessings.

Respect For Others: This dose of reality gives us respect for others, no matter who they are. Understanding how difficult circumstances affect normal people enables us to see that people are just people. But some are going through harder circumstances than others, and they need our help. They deserve our respect. We do not believe that any people are less deserving of respect because of their lifestyle, choices, or circumstances.

The cavalry’s mission to serve is clear.

Me Against Myself – Reflections on my first triathlon

Photo by Sahyli

I completed my first triathlon on Saturday, July 11th, 2020 with friends. It was an amazing experience. This triathlon is the first of many for me. I am planning to take on longer triathlon distances. So, this was a good test.

Stats

International Distance: 800m Swim, 24.8 mile Bike, 6.2 mile Run

Actual Distances Recorded with Garmin Forerunner 945: 856m Swim, 25.36 mile Bike, 6.25 mile Run

21:42 800m Swim (2:18 per 100m pace)

2:24 T1

1:17:29 Bike (19.6 mph, 331W or 3.7W/kg normalized power)

1:45:19 Overall time at Bike finish

1:54 T2

1:01:28 Run

2:48:41 Overall time at Run finish (5th)

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 74F -> 81F with 60-75% humidity (hot but not scorching)

Summary

For future triathlons, I should switch my mindset from “me against others” to “me against myself.”

Reflections

Swim –> Good! Need to reduce heart-rate.

I did better than expected on the swim. I hadn’t trained for the swim because I stopped in March due to pools closing from COVID-19. I swam once on the course a few days before the event.

I started behind the stronger swimmers. I followed their lines. I tried a new approach of taking a breath on one stroke, and then looking ahead above the waterline on the other stroke. I switched stroking sides only a few times.

I took the pace steady. I was breathing without too much effort. I was mostly relaxed and not tense. However, my heart rate was still high for the duration of the swim–tempo pace rather than base pace.

T1 –> Solid!

The first transition from swim to bike was good. 2-3 minutes is a good transition time. I was a bit dizzy but not delirious. My heart-rate was high throughout the transition, so I didn’t relax too much. I didn’t know where others were. I knew some were ahead but I didn’t look behind to see where I was in the pack.

Bike –> Too excited, too hard!

I’m a stronger at biking than the other areas. I was pushing it hard after a few minutes of eating a Gu, drinking some water, and getting my gloves on. There were a few stops at red-lights. But I was pushing at relatively close to my FTP for the duration (about 90% of FTP). And near the end, with a few miles to go, I got excited. I had excess energy. I ramped up the effort. I realized I could maybe catch up to the leaders. I gapped some other riders who were pacing it more steady. My heart-rate was high for the bike: at tempo pace rather than base pace. I finished strong. I had switched my mindset to trying to win.

T2 –> Fine

I was fast during T2, with less than 2 minutes. By then, I was in race mode. I was ready to hit the run hard and overtake the leaders, wherever they were on course. My feet were wet from the swim in my socks, so I changed my socks. However I could have spent more time drying my feet before changing, because the 2nd socks got wet, too. I had planned to eat another Gu, but my stomach was uncomfortable so I didn’t.

Run –> Overextended

The run started off fine in the first mile, around 8:21 pace. It was a hard first mile though. My legs were wobbly and my arms were weak. My stomach was very uncomfortable from the fluids I chugged during the bike. After 1.5 miles, I wretched after a water stop. The 2nd mile and 3rd miles were slower, in the 9:00s and 10:00s. At that point I had to start walking up some hills. My heart-rate was way too high even while running at the relatively slower pace. I caught up with my wife Sahyli who was just doing the run. We walked & ran together for about 1.5 miles. Then for the last 1.5 miles I ran through the finish, increasing the pace.

For the duration of the run, I hit the wall. My legs were slow and feeling like molasses; my breathing was labored and heavy; my stomach was upset the whole way. At 2 miles in, I switched my mindset from trying to win to trying to finish without dropping out. I passed a few runners and was passed. I had a small sprint in the last half-mile. I was exhausted by the finish line.

For next time

For longer triathlons, I should maintain a new mindset: finish the race against myself. The mindset should not be trying to win. I saw the benefits of racing “me against myself” in the swim. As a result, I mostly ignored other competitors, not worrying about “trying to keep up.” I was in tune with my body and cadence. I finished the swim with energy and clarity and confidence.

The bike was my chance to make up time, so I switched my mindset to trying to race my competitors. I finished the bike ride tense and with a sense of urgency. This caused undue stress. Instead, I should spend more time listening to my body and relaxing for the ride. Since I am stronger biker, I can ease up on the effort and still manage a good time.

For the run, I can start out waaaaaay slower for the first mile. I should practically be at a fast walking pace around 10:00 min/mile. This is to shake up the legs from the bike and get them used to the effort. And especially, I should manage my heart-rate to get it down to a tempo pace rather than a hard anaerobic effort. After steadying the heart-rate to a manageable rate, I can steadily speed up the pace while maintaining that heart-rate.

There is a lot of excitement coming out of transition, but that adrenaline wears off within the first few minutes of the run.

I had one Gu before the swim and one Gu before the bike. After the bike, my stomach was feeling bad so I didn’t have another one. I drank almost 2L of water during the bike. One Liter was mixed with supplement and another Liter was regular water. I chugged the water too fast, causing serious discomfort for the run. I’ve got to take smaller sips during the bike. And I should drink water on the run rather than being a camel and storing the water on the bike. There were a couple of water stops on the run but I only had a couple of sips from paper cups. I didn’t pee for the whole race, nor did I feel the need to.

I should also consider carrying a water bottle for the run because I sweat a lot. And I should take some salt sticks or similar easy-to-consume nutritions for the run.

The run is a hard transition after the bike, and so I should continue to practice bricks to simulate the transition with high fatigue.

Ironman Triathlon, here I come.

George Floyd’s story is different

Source

George Floyd was killed unfairly. Why is this so significant?

Before diving in, please note: I am not black and I live in a position of privilege, and so George Floyd’s death as well as other similar deaths have not affected me as directly as they’ve done my black colleagues. But I see and empathize with this pain and fear, so I must speak out.

Also, police officers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world; often making quick judgment calls in stressful situations. I trust our police force and know that occurrences of unfair brutality are rare; but they must stop.

What’s different about George Floyd?

Why was this event unique? 1. The events moved slowly, and 2. We saw enough on video.

In many videos in which police use excessive force, the situation typically moves fast and thus it’s not clear whether the result was justified. Any small action or movement push the officer to pull the trigger and shoot in a split second. It’s impossible to see that same action or movement in the video that caused the officer to pull the trigger. So, we cannot have full certainty whether the officer acted unjustly.

George Floyd’s death was different. We see the video clearly. Derek Chauvin and the other 3 officers had 9 minutes of slow bleeding while George was handcuffed, face down in the street, and calling for his mom for help. Once the clock started ticking and Derek put his knee on the neck, there was no need for a quick judgment call. George was already apprehended and the officer was in a position of power. Even if Derek felt in danger, Derek had 3 officers as backup to reposition George from a fatal hold into a non-fatal hold. In fact, this is actually how good officers are supposed to apprehend suspects: hand-cuff the suspect and then reposition them.

But not this time. Every second that Derek held his knee on George’s neck was a second he chose to actively continue murdering George. Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

George did not face a fair trial for his alleged crime. He was arrested, which we trust our police force to decide when to do. But George was not treated according to just practices given the opportunity to face a trial. Instead, the officer carried out a slow murder on the street in full awareness while others in power watched. Maybe George was guilty. But our country has a justice system that is promised as “innocent until proven guilty” to all. With countless evidence showing how black people are treated over-proportionately as criminals, the justice that is promised is not provided to all.

I identify as someone that has not felt the pain of black issues from systemic racism; however today I woke up to see this as a human issue. No human deserves a knee to the neck in the street by anyone for 9 minutes until they suffocate on their own blood.

A whole lot of Maybes

It’s currently unknown why Derek and the officers carried out the execution for 9 minutes. The reason could occur at any level. Maybe the ethical imbalance of how to treat certain humans was in Derek as an individual. Maybe as a group of 4 officers, their morality was off. Maybe it was racism in the police precinct, or maybe institutionalized systemic racism. Maybe none of that. Maybe a bit of everything.

Maybe the result of how the officers face charges will expose systemic racism, institutional racism, or some other form of injustice. Maybe they were all having a bad day and George was really unlucky.

What’s clear is that this cannot happen again to any human being.

So, we need something to police the police. We design similar systems for other groups with power and privilege like banks and government branches. We need a review board of how law & order treats crimes and criminals.

We’ve seen this too many times before

This was not the first time that an unarmed black civilian has been killed. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castille. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

In the past, I would defer to authority. I didn’t know the whole story, so I’d let the experts and the system carry out justice. But the evidence in this case is undeniable that Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Now, this makes me question whether past events were judged fairly and why police trials for civilian killings are so rare.

There is something going on and it is not new. Minorities and underprivileged people, but especially African-Americans, have been treated unfairly for centuries in this country from the very beginning. And there is still imbalance of treatment today. We thought we solved it before. But we are seeing the unresolved injustice more often now, because people are filming and sharing events. I was in willful ignorance a few years ago.

Those on the receiving end of imbalance are used to feeling this pain and fear from systems meant to protect or support us. But those who have rarely experienced this imbalance of opportunity need to wake up and see how fairness that is promised does not always equal fairness given.

What do we do?

The right thing to do is to identify areas of imbalance of opportunity; why a drug crime in one neighborhood is a sickness, while the same crime in another neighborhood is a felony. Why? If the crime is the same, then why is our justice given out differently? Why are unarmed black people killed at higher rates? Then we address them. Then we change them.

We as people with privilege have a responsibility to make change, share our opinion, and address these issues. Let’s educate ourselves to have wisdom and empathy for those experiencing systemic imbalance.

Where as a country have promised one thing, but practiced another? Suppose that George Floyd was killed because he was black or poor or suspicious within a country that accepts institutionalized racism. Then we can talk and think about why other unfair imbalances occur, like why the iPhone facial recognition has more trouble recognizing black faces than white. The product designers didn’t intend to be racist, but nevertheless we see an unfair imbalance. A black person spends the same money on the same product but receives different value. This is not fair. Then we can talk about how we would design the next iPhone differently to enable a fairer result.

I believe in good. I believe hierarchies are good. Institutions are good. Change is good. Let’s use what we have.

George Floyd’s death is a universal issue. His life mattered because all lives matter. If you are in the hospital for a broken leg, your broken leg matters because, of course, your whole body matters. But the issue here is that your broken leg needs the treatment. Black lives have not mattered enough in the US, and we must finally follow through to make “fair and balanced” in policy to be “fair and balanced” in practice.