Changing the Adventure

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.

Family

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.

Someone please tell me where my math falls apart?

The Internal Family Systems

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.

With all this pervasive parts talk in my week, I just wanted to call some awareness to the concept IFS and throw some interesting resources out there. In addition to The Body Keeps The Score I’ve also been reading Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life. Would recommend both.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks post on psychology. Back to normally scheduled writing next week.

Deceptively fast for … Self Deprecating Humor

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).

New Home

It’s taken me a fair amount of time to do this transition. I’ve been switching from LunarPages to DreamHost for a while now. LunarPages just stopped being up to date with all the technologies I needed in order to host all the projects I wanted, but I was (sort of still am) worried about moving from host to another. My primary email is associated with this domain (zacharyc.com). Also, I had a lot of secret hidden files and tools placed around the old website that I had been collecting pretty much since college (when I first started using lunar pages). Yes, that was over 13 years ago.

Lets define the type of technologist I am: I enjoy solving technical problems, but time is limited and there are too many problems for me to be an expert in all of them. I don’t want to be an email expert, but I do want email. I don’t want to be a server administrator but I do want my servers to be secure. So I pay other technologists to worry about those problems so I can worry about the ones I need to worry about. If I spent the time it would take to be an expert in those, I wouldn’t have the time to do all the other things that I want to do.

Looks like DreamHost is doing a pretty good job at meeting my needs. The move was stupid easy. When hosting a new domain on DreamHost, there is a checkbox for them to host Google Suite. All you have to do is check that box, and point the name servers to dream host and the magic works. I keep sending test emails to make sure they are still going through, but so far so good.

Also of note, I’m using a new theme here. I found it when I created a temp backup of my WordPress site on WordPress.com. The theme is called Independent Publisher 2. It’s not easily accessible from the themes download but it is public at GitHub: https://github.com/Automattic/themes/tree/master/independent-publisher-2 and it is working great on installation here. Had to do a couple of tweaks to get it where I wanted to be. I dropped the side bar on the main pages, and moved search to the footer. Other than that, pretty smooth.

Rom Coms

February is the month of Valentines Day. If there was a RomCom (Romantic Comedy) month, February would be it. To that end I spent some time thinking about my favorite RomComs. Below is a list of my favorite RomComs. I was trying to put them in order, but they each have a special meaning to me. If there is one you feel is missing leave it in the comments.

  • Roxanne
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • 27 Dresses
  • Wedding Date
  • Along Came Polly
  • Love Actually
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Failure to Launch
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 days
  • Serendipity
  • Definitely, Maybe
  • Grosse Point Blank
  • The Princess Bride

For more information on RomComs feel free to check out this great episode of This American Life: Rom-Com.

Spelling my name

Many of you will note that my name is Zachary. I spell Zachary with an ‘H’. What you may not know is that many of my friends call me Zack. Notice how I spell Zack with a ‘k’. There are many reasons for this, but lets just say that Zack with a ‘k’ sounds more correct to me. Sorry for any confusion.

Purpose

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.

Swim Across America, Year 3

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.

Year One

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

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.

Year Three

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.

How to Donate

http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/SanFrancisco?px=1462996&pg=personal&fr_id=4371

Go there and donate some money. Any little bit helps.

July Off

Two years ago I got to visit Newport, RI for a couple of days in October, but because we were right before Dreamforce I had to work almost the whole time I was here. I realized that even if I hadn’t needed to work I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of Newport that I wanted to experience, a weekend just isn’t enough. I promised myself that I would take the summer of 2017 off from work, and when I got back, I started asking my bosses how I could do it. Guess what? It’s the summer of 2017, and while I’ve decided not to take the whole summer off (I technically could have), I am taking July off.

There are no rules about this month. I’m not allowed to get mad at myself about doing a thing or not doing a thing. I’m not going to berate myself if I don’t build something spectacular, I’m just going to relax and do the things I feel like I need to. I’m reading a little about swift, I’m looking at a couple of other programming things that I’ve been meaning to look at but been too busy, but there are no requirements. I’m not accountable to other people this month, I’m accountable to what I want to do.

About half way through the month, I’ve driven across the country, done an acro yoga festival, visited seven different Patagonia stores (eight if you include Newport, which is a technically not a corporate owned store, but might as well be), sailed four of the last five days, been to Maine for the first time in over a decade, seen my niece and nephew, played with dogs, driven a scooter, and eaten at some of my favorite childhood restaurants (though I’m still searching for a good latté in Newport).

In short, my dream two years ago has been realized and I’m ecstatic about it, and I still have two weeks left!

As people we often talk about what we want to do, but if what you want to do turns into a dream, I suggest you find a way to make it happen. This one ended up not being that hard to pull off and I encourage you to look at your dreams and evaluate what it would to turn them into reality.