Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Freedom. What is it?

I spent most of my life chasing after some idealistic notion of it but in all that time I confess that I never really caught more than a glimpse of it. It seemed popular culture always played ahead, using the shell game of substituting symbols for the real thing. Somewhere in the ‘60s cool and free became synonymous as the notion of freedom became inexorably bound with lifestyle. And the marketing arm of popular culture was somehow able to create a huge need for all the accouterments that went with that lifestyle. The lifestyle required owning the coolest stuff and doing the coolest things.  

All that required money which meant that a lot of free people had to temporarily set aside some principles and get jobs. And circular logic held that these same people needed to make a lot of money in order to become free again.

I wasn’t atypical although I subscribed more to poor hippie model than to the entrepreneurial hippie model which probably just meant that I got a later start acquiring the lifestyle. But eventually I went through a period of banal prosperity that lasted 30 years although my interest began waning rather unconsciously soon after my divorce. I managed to go through all the motions of career for another 10 years although my heart was clearly not in it.

I got free the first time in my adult life back in 1999 when I made my first break from the corporate world. I was 44 years old, I had a nice chunk of money in the bank and I thought why not? And I then asked myself, ‘Okay, you’ve quit the company where you’ve been employed the past 10 years, now what?’

The idea of keep doing what I was doing namely working to make more money didn’t seem to make a lot of sense especially in light of the fact that my father died young as did his father. And I had no intention of dying from a heart attack sitting behind some desk while I was preparing a PowerPoint presentation for yet another asshole meeting. And I had enough money and investments – or so I thought – to get me to wherever that next place was. And whatever that next place was, it was going to be more satisfying than the place I’d just left.

But I still had no idea where that was. I guess that I was counting on the fact that I had always been lucky and that I had always landed on my feet. I was convinced that if I made myself free then I would be available for that next best thing.

I paced around the house for a couple of weeks before taking another long trip to South America. I walked the Inca Trail. Then I went back a year later and walked it again. aussie&me
I had a really good time but it was eventually time to go home. So as usual I went back to California and paced around the house for a few weeks. I went for a run every day around Folsom Lake. I sat on my deck in the evenings and smoked excellent cigars and drank good rums.

Then later I’d fix dinner while some beautiful music played in the background. I’d read for a while and then go to bed. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do but my life wasn’t any different because I was still doing the same old stuff as when I was working; I just had a lot more free time.

And yes, I had friends. There were women I could see. And one or two of them wanted to marry me but my cynical self could only see them wanting to marry me for all the wrong reasons.

I sold my house in California and moved east where I built a pretty cool house in the mountains just south of Asheville. I thought maybe a severe change of venue coupled with building a house would be the answer. And frankly I always thought that designing and building a house was a top 20 life-list thing. But as it turned out, while it was a great house, the novelty eventually wore off and it became just another possession.

So there I was living in a different place and doing slightly different things but I found that my life really hadn’t changed; I still smoked good cigars, drank excellently, cooked most every evening and had plenty of friends and women in my life but nothing as I had said really changed.

After 5 years of spending lots of money, living good, traveling, and having a great time I took a job in Washington, DC working for an aerospace company that built satellites. After they sold that division I went to work for a big defense contractor who worked on government contracts. It didn’t take long for the work experiences to sour to the point where I could clearly remember why I bailed out of the workplace 8 years prior.

But at least I was getting closer to answering the question of ‘now what?’ because I was finally starting to learn point by point what it is was that I didn’t want to do and what freedom wasn’t.

If you’ve read much other of the stuff that I’ve posted to this blog then you pretty much know what I did next; my running and sandal making interests put me on the huarache trail which I followed until I found my way to Michoacán.

So the ‘now what?’ question has been answered for the time being. And I think I can even sort of articulate what freedom means to me.

But first I think the notion of freedom needs a context; meaning living free necessitates having some sort of purpose. Otherwise you are just another person who has a lot of time on their hands. So if you want to be free you’ve first got to discover a reason to be free.

The definitions of freedom I leave to the poets and the philosophers. The only thing I can add experientially is that freedom seems to go hand in hand with a whole lot of responsibility. I really can’t explain the entirety of what exactly that means except to say that living out here on the frontier as I am comes with obligations to community and family that I never recognized back when I was living in a culture of abundance.

Shortly after arriving in Sahuayo I asked Pancho why he thought I was here. I asked him because he knows, like I know, that people expat for the damnedest reasons and not many of those reasons are particularly honest or honorable.

He looked me in the eye and said, ‘You came here to find a better way to live.’ And you know, I did.

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Problem: Acute Tendinitis in right Achilles brought on by over training in a new model of sandals.

I was running in new version of a sandal that was made by my alternate/backup fabricator and after 2.5 hours, just before one of the back straps came loose (he was later fired), I began to change my stride to try an relieve the chafing from new friction points. The chafing turned into blisters on my left foot and as so often happens, my other foot changed its cadence out of sympathy. So somewhere along the way my right foot began hyper-extending  the Achilles tendon.

Solution: Downtime. Ice (ice cubes in a small bucket of water) alternated with heat (hot water in a small bucket of water) 3 times per day. And just as importantly, I employ the anti-inflammatory herb Arnica; a herb that grows wild in Michoacan. I drink 24 ounces of tea made from the herb per day and add the discarded leaves and twigs to the hot water that I then soak my right heel and tendon in.

Results: In 3 days time I’ve gone from a crippled like limping state to very mild-discomfort. I expect to start running again in 2 more days; just to be on the safe side.

Warning: Read up on Arnica before you use it. Some say you shouldn’t drink it as it can cause heart palpitations and dizziness. The locals here in Michoacan drink it and I have found that drinking 2 X 12 oz glasses of the tea gives me a caffeine kind of buzz. It’s definitely a tasty herb whose flavor reminds me of Chamomile tea.

Testimonial: James Jessop, a gringo passing through Michoacan on his way to Ecuador, is the guy that told me about it. He did a face plant onto concrete a few years ago (coincidentally here in Sahuayo) when the stem on his bicycle handle snapped; resulting in a bunch of injuries mostly to the face like 3 snapped front teeth, a broken nose, and I forget  what else. Someone brought him a 2 Liter coke bottle of Arnica tea and advised him to both drink it and apply the infusion to his badly swollen face. Over the course of his 2 day stay in the hospital the facial swelling was reduced to almost nothing.

I loved the first 10 years of my working career and hated the last 25.

I studied electrical engineering and got a BSEE and subsequently entered the workplace full of confidence. I followed my interests in low-voltage communications systems and in the doing somewhere along the way got sucked into the whole IT funnel cloud.

I began my career in oil and gas down in Texas back when engineering was still a gentleman’s game but ended it when rampant technical worker immigration and Cisco ‘certificates’ began to undermine the profession.

I foolishly left oil and gas to follow in Jed Clampett’s footsteps to California which is where my profession began its death spiral.

I started working for Intel in ’89  and it was there things – namely my career – got twisted.

Example – decision making at Intel IT back in the ‘90s worked something like this: an engineer goes to his manager and asks a question regarding one of his projects. Manager’s response is crafted in a format more akin to a riddle but the direction, more typical than not is that the employee needs to go back and do a bunch more things. These things were typically about satisfying some of the finer points of business process and usually involved educating someone else about the project. That next someone else generally had concerns or questions that could only be comprehended if yet still one or more other people were brought into loop.

No decisions are being made at this point but more work is being generated. And in many instances the value of the project is determined not by the intrinsic nature of the project or the result, but determined by a manager based upon his/her perception of the value and the potential exposure that will result from the project. In other words, if a project was designed to solve problem, but the problem or potential solution was not understood by the manager, or was not a problem that the manager had to personally deal with, or the potential solution would not get sufficient notoriety, then the project was deemed unworthy. Often this results in busy work that requires an effort to prove that the project got properly vetted by the right people.

Things as seemingly innocuous like new self –empowered work teams, while timely and necessary (because if for no other reason than to expedite the decision making for the little issues), further complicate the management/decision making process.  1) By pushing decision making into such far corners of organization that the decisions that are produced are typically throw out at some point later because a) the decisions weren’t effectively collated for future reference b) or just something as stupid as moving targets creating extenuating circumstances 2) management is no longer the sole repository for the decision making process and as an end result is no longer being held accountable for decisions.

I had experienced a project plan that was stuck in both simultaneous management and peer reviews; and in different states of indetermination.

I had also experienced managing a project which necessitated gathering requirements, doing a design, and seeking funds conterminously; which was fundamentally absurd because one could infer that there both was and wasn’t a problem occupying the same space in time.

Here is a real example of what I am talking about: ‘We need you to design an Information System that will allow us to better understand the costs associated with the voice network. It needs to do this, this, and this.’

‘Okay. What are the (rest of the) requirements’?

‘You and your team need to develop those.’

‘What is my budget’?

‘It depends on the requirements.’

‘Who is my customer then’?

‘You and your team, all of the site PBX folks, and business groups A,B, and C (and expectedly a bunch of other folks who wouldn’t be identified until some time out in the future).’

‘What’s my success criteria’?

‘Making everyone happy’.

In the older and infinitely more pure ‘design/build’ world, the work process flow was pretty straight forward – a customer created a need, funding was created to satisfy the need, the funding enabled a design and so on.

The questions always were: Where did projects get screwed up? Why did they get screwed up? And why did they get screwed up more times then not?

This example project had cross-organizational implications with regard to not just providing varying degrees of benefit but also different cost burdens depending on where you were in the information stream. It was here at this point that management never provided to build the communication bridges at the management layer and clearly define how corporate objectives were going to be translated into work and getting that done and  in agreement before pushing it down the food chain into engineering and assigning it to a design PM.

I made my 1st mistake in assuming that it was clear to everyone that there was a problem (no real visibility into voice network costs) and therefore I was tasked to design an IS to provide a solution to that problem. Part of my assumption was that management had dotted all of their ‘i’s and crossed all of their‘t’s further up stream (or why else give it to engineering and say, ‘design me an IS’?).

So I didn’t see that I was letting myself get set up to fail, which had to be imminent, because there was never any really clear picture of an objective other than the a couple of managers who had a desire to have a new capability (and then only in the abstract), and no clear understanding of ‘customer’, except in the vaguest sense.

The design/build process starts breaking down when you as the PM (as well as the design engineer) are in certain respects your own customer, or at least in that particular example where I was asked to design that new IS where my group would be one of chief end-users. I knew what my group wanted in a system. And I could design and build a system that would meet what I perceived as corporate objectives but there wasn’t one system that would serve to satisfy every last PBX admin in the company.  That was of course presuming that any admin had an original thought regarding capacity planning (I know what I am talking about here as I interviewed most of them). But the fact of the matter is that management allowed them input into the design because as end-users that somehow gave them stakeholder status. Which in and of itself wasn’t necessarily the problem. The problem was more about wasting critical design cycles training the admins in system design; a clear violation of IS design best practices. Another problem was, though try as I could to freeze the design after consensus had been finally reached on the major design points, we always at some point managed to revisit individual design elements typically because there was a new face, a new manager, or a new opinion resulting in numerous resets.

It would have been okay if one was allowed to build a prototype or to model the IS to a point where it could quantitatively be defended but as the project plan and the design proposals got pushed through the various and every changing peer and management reviews there was always something that would cause my team to get periodically reset to zero.

I remember on another project presenting a solution in my boss’s boss’ staff after which one manager hotly remarked that he didn’t even know that there was a problem ‘so what did we need it for’?

I had been working on that particular project for over a year. It was assigned to me by the manager in whose staff I was presenting and it was one of his people who ‘didn’t know that we had a problem’.

The very same manager who assigned me to design that solution turned around 180 degrees and in front of everyone told me that ‘I needed to do more work on selling the problem’.

So the long and short of all of this was that the organization runs the risk of the staff being perpetually lost, dazed,  and confused because management isn’t doing their job.

And yes this is/was a waste of resources all because middle management is/was able to side step the pesky little problems of doing their jobs pushing decision making down the food chain but then reserve by virtue of being management to always second guess.

And the net result is that projects rarely got finished; they merely evolved or morphed into something else. One project always begat at minimum an additional 20 ancillary line items (begits as in begats, ‘…and Joshua begat Loab who begat Isaiah who…’)

This partially explains why service organizations without direct P&L responsibilities are more or less hopelessly broken. And this state is self –perpetuating because people get used to working in an organization that allows their managers to shirk their responsibility. The sad thing of it is that while we all get used to it, the manifestations of operating in this perpetually screwed up way is that we get severe anxiety thinking that it’s our fault -think about your performance reviews –  If we only did our jobs a little bit better and if we could just get this next re-org behind us everything will be better.

But it never is.

It’s always screwed up and management’s solution is to re-org and of course the supreme irony is always to add yet another layer of management.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Now available in Fuchsia, Verde, and Aqua

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And of course they are all built on our indestructible recycled airplane tire soles so they should provide many summer’s of beautiful service.

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Here’s a tip if you are running in sandals (or without socks) and you are getting a water blister on the bottom of one or both of the balls of your feet:

Here’s the problem – Your feet naturally ‘cup’ on the upstroke as they leave the earth; forming a small vacant hollow in the center of the ball of your foot. Over time this creates a hot spot where moisture and small amounts of dirt collect. This in turn creates a shear stress point where that part of the foot isn’t sliding as you are moving forward which results in a blister.

Solution – Lightly talc the footbed and feet before a run. If you are doing long runs – marathon plus distance  – stop every hour or so and wipe the center of the ball of your foot with your finger and lightly re-talc.

This happened several months back – the day began innocently enough shopping for house stuff. I bought a rug for 100 pesos. Black and white woven out of who knows what by who knows who. Not a completely unattractive rug, clean looking; one that would see service and get periodically washed by hand in the lavandria area.

I bought 2 matching plates (60 pesos), with 2 matching bowls (50 pesos), 2 heavy water glasses (20 pesos), 2 heavy tequila glasses (16 pesos), 2 stainless steel butter knives, 2 matching forks, spoons, cocktail forks, and eggs spoons all for 160 pesos. All of the items were made in Mexico; I buy local if at all possible.

‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you enjoying Mexico?’ This fellow is shouting at me from across the street. Before I even got the chance to blink, he had crossed the street and was shaking my hand and introducing himself as Leo. Standing next to me he is very short, even for a Mexican. My warning bells begin to chime after about the third time he tells me that we’re going to be friends. He was friends with Dave and Steve; the other gringos, and he was going to introduce me around because that’s what he does is facilitate and make things happen for people. I immediately recognize that someone is a pretty gifted English speaker when they can use words like facilitate.

I get his short-term life story as he gives me a whirlwind tour of a couple of shops ostensibly to introduce me to people who might know of places to rent. Leo was deported from the US a couple of years ago for some technical violation and he was now using his English language skills to make a go of advancing his career in tourism.

He was periodically on one of his 2 cell phones trying to reach one of his gringo buddies so that he can hook us up. As he has reminded me numerous times that’s what he does is connect people. Leo admits to being a very social guy which he demonstrates frequently by saying hi to people and shaking hands, ‘I have a lot of friends,’ he says.

After 45 minutes I am finally able to shake the guy. As we are parting he drops that he can get me a resident’s visa, ‘my cousin works in the visa office in the DF.’

I am intrigued, skeptical, but intrigued.

We agree to meet for the coffee the next morning at 10 am.

When I turn on my phone the next morning I see that I have 4 missed calls, all from Leo.

At 9:55 am I am making my way to our appointment and my phone rings, it’s Leo again and I ignore it. When I see him 4 minutes later I ask him why he is calling me all the time. He blathers some inanities and I, the grumpy old man, tell him to stop it. This seems to take some of the spunk out of him for which I feel a little bad but I don’t want to be his BFF.

He is carrying a small briefcase kind of thing and after we order he whips out his laptop and fires it up. I ask why? The coffee shop doesn’t have WiFi. He says that he wants to show me some photos but the truth is he is putting on a show for me and the coffee shop women.

We eventually get down to some negotiations. The resident’s visa was going to cost me 3000 pesos and he would have it for me in a week. I immediately said ‘no’ when he asked for a 100 peso deposit instead I tell him that he’ll get his money after he delivers and – more importantly – only after I verify that what he’s sold me is the real deal.

Of course when he turns up a week later all he has is a photocopy of a credit card size piece of bogusness that ‘all I have to do is sign it’ then he’ll get it laminated and I’m ‘good to go’.

He must have thought that all people other than himself were either complete morons or that he was such a lovable guy that no one would think to check up on the Mexican Resident Visa process online; which of course I had done. So I knew that his document was bogus and that he was full of shit up to his eyeballs. But following protocol I told him he’d get his money after I had verified the document. His argument was all about his costs; what he had personally invested to get me my resident visa. In short, he wanted his money then. I said ‘no’. He then threatened me, ‘that he’d get me’. I told him to shove it and left. A few days later he was in the El Cito Cantina trying to run some other scam and Pancho called him aside and told him not to mess with me; that I had friends, that I was connected to powerful people, and that he’d in up in a world of trouble and maybe even jail if he didn’t drop it.

So two weeks ago I was crossing the plaza and heading out for a run when I heard someone shout my name. I turned around and saw Leo smiling and waving. I ignored him and kept walking. Then a couple of days later returning from a run he managed to corner me which started his running spiel about what he’d been up to since the last time we saw each other and of course acting like nothing had happened six months ago.

Before I know it he’s got his phone out and is showing me bloody pictures of gringo Dave who got stabbed last month and subsequently died. I was too exhausted after my 3 hour run to do anything other than to tell him to put his phone away and start the story in the beginning. I had never met Dave but I needed to hear the story; a gringo getting murdered in this little city was something I needed to know about.

The story of course unfolded like a sordid telenovela. And as I was able to piece together; Leo was staying at Dave’s house when he was awakened at 2:30 am to the sounds of Dave screaming, ‘Leo, come help me!’ Leo dashed into the hallway just as Susanne’s young lover was leaving Dave’s bedroom with 2 bloody knives in his hands.

The bedroom was slippery with blood but Dave was still alive and with Susanne’s help they manage to get Dave to the hospital in time; in fact there was even time for Leo to take a few photos of the carnage. Susanne at the time was sleeping in another bedroom whilst taking a short hiatus from her marriage.

Her young lover had broken in – he had liaised with her at Dave’s house before – so access [I guess] wasn’t difficult that night. Leo said that he intended on murdering Susanne as well. I asked ‘why’? Leo said ‘drugs’. And I thought ‘what does that mean’? But I didn’t want to interrupt and forestall the conclusion to the story which I hoped was forthcoming.  So something like 9 days later Dave dies when the infection from the stab wound in his neck moved to his heart.

As I said, I never met him. I just knew he was a 60-something year old gay man who had no local family.  He only had a few friends in the community like Leo and Susanne and Steve. Leo finished the story by saying that shortly after Dave’s demise, his possessions had started getting ‘legs’ and one by one began disappearing.

Regretfully the story doesn’t end there as coincidence would have it, two days ago a crusty old gringo by the name of Steve came up to me and introduced himself, forgetting that we had met months earlier in La Couchara, the coffee shop. I was sitting on a stool at Luz Elena sipping a large multi-fruit puree prepping for a run and just generally watching the mid-day Mercado traffic when he stuck his warty, freckled hand into mine.

He told me that he had run into James – who mentioned me – and that he’d like to have us over for dinner. But he had a small apartment, but was house hunting – did I know of anything? He was hinting at the fact that I might have space for him in my house. He rambled on all smiles, leaning in to me a bit too close for my comfort. He asked if I was ‘alone’? I said, ‘yes’ and of course I had to respond ‘how about you’? He said he was ‘in a relationship’. Of course manners dictated that I had to carry that uncomfortable conversation on to its uncomfortable conclusion. I then asked if he had managed to ‘snag one of the beautiful local women’; already knowing the answer. He gave me another radiant smile and said ‘no, I snagged a beautiful local man’, to which he pointed to a sullen looking Mexican boy who was standing 10 feet away. I then got to hear Steve’s short story on how he now had an extended family; the boy had 4 sisters whom he was helping to support. ‘Oh, and did I hear about the terrible thing that happened to Dave…’?

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I hired a cab last weekend to take me to San Pedro. I had to do this because I couldn’t seem to find the connecting canal trail points on my runs. All my runs through the vast agricultural valley east of town were to some extent discovery in nature. I was always looking for that route that would give me that perfect 4 hour run. And I decided to start at the point furthest across the valley and scout my way backwards to find out how all those dirt roads and agricultural trails mapped together.

It wasn’t until after two hours of criss-crossing the north-east edge of the valley that I finally found the locus; Los Negritos.

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And it didn’t involve San Pedro at all, like I thought it would. Instead it is a small lake that supposedly has a small hot springs and therapeutic black mud; hence the name, Los Negritos. I didn’t get out to explore it like I probably should have; I was just so relieved to have found the place where the east bound trail I had been running terminated.

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And wonder of wonders – the cab’s odometer showed that it was 20 km from there back to town – meaning I finally had my 4 hour running route.

 

 

We use recycled airplane tire exclusively for our soles. This photo shows why.
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I wear these sandals everyday and have for 6 months straight. The sole shows almost zero wear.  And look at the profile view – the midsole/sole show absolutely zero deformation.

I have 3 blisters, a cut on the bottom of my big toe and a thorn puncture wound on my left foot. My right foot has 3 blisters. Test driving new sandals in the harsh terrain of Michoacán is sometimes down right painful.

I don’t go out for a 10 minute run around the block; my last run was 2.5 hours. I think that is what it takes to read the nuances in a new sandal.

 The development of the Sahara Running Sandal is now in version 10. Here is a photo of the failures –

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Yes, they all look pretty much the same, don’t they? The differences are in the details. Version 1 failed because the leather stretched. The fix was to stitch to it a lightweight lining; a special soft leather that doesn’t stretch.

Version 2 got a toe thong adjustment. Versions 3 -8 were all about the midsole; running stony Michoacán was literally hammering the balls of my feet into jelly.

For version 9 I switched fabricators and got the midsole problem fixed 100% to my liking but they hosed the upper; the toe thong was wrong, the lining was wrong, the stitching was wrong – all of which created new abrasive points which in turn caused the blisters that I mentioned earlier.

For version 10 I got crafty: I gave the good leather upper piece to the fabricator who built the perfect midsole and vice-versa I gave the perfect midsole piece to the fabricator who got the upper perfect.

So now I’ve got 2 competing fabricators; both having duplicate examples of what works in their hands, so odds have it that one of them is going to deliver that perfect version 10.

The little things that bring me joy and pleasure are exactly that, little. As a prologue I should say that I long ago lost interest in being pleasured by the big things. I discovered that, for example, when I parked my new car in the garage and I went on to something else that the car existed apart from me and was not really anything that was in any true sense of the word mine.  I merely bought it and would make payments on it. I certainly didn’t design it or build it, ergo it wasn’t really something I could really call mine. Maybe you look at stuff differently than I do but that’s how I came to look at all purchased possessions.

Created possessions are different, which I will explain in a minute, but those too ultimately end up bundled and set out next to the rubbish bin. I recognize that my view on possessions is hardly unique. And I further recognize that my renunciation of possessions had to have been at the very least subliminally inspired by greater and wiser men who walked before; much more spiritual men who tread this earth with much lighter foot prints than my own.

But it is as equally honest to say that I didn’t cast off my possessions to be like them or anyone else. I didn’t renounce possessions to become spiritual. If anything it was the other way around. Something deep inside of me had been pushing me down that road for a long time. Some men want the corner office. I found out some where along the way that I just wanted to be free.

Doing presentations and going to meetings became more and more what I did for a job; the engineering itself became only prep work. My job became more and more one of explaining technical things back to those that had authority over me and my output. Upper management came up with the deliverables and my value add was chasing down the details and then presenting back up the food chain the merits and demerits of a given solution. It became a very Dilbert existence; solutions unwound as they became more political and as such turned the rationality and elegance of engineering upside down.

I formally studied engineering and sought to become an engineer because I wanted to know how things worked and because I wanted to work in a capacity where I made things. I never wanted to manage people. I never wanted to participate in nor write performance reviews if for no other reason that I never wanted to liaise with those lying backstabbing useless assholes in HR. I just wanted to be one of those guys who solved the big technical problems and built the coolest stuff. But nothing was ever that simple; corporate culture left a political stink on everything.

God introduces himself in the book of Genesis as the creator of all things. I believe he does this for a couple of different reason but the take away for this discussion is that he seems to attach an inordinate amount of importance to the creative act. Therefore, for a man to create – something, anything – is to participate in the divine. God created man and purposely imbued him with divine attributes. And to exercise them, in this example, the creative act was therefore to aspire to participating in this life in a manner that the Grand Architect of All had intended.

I have a very devout humanist friend who looks at all of this is an entirely different way. He believes in Man while I believe in God. He scoffs, ‘If there is a god where is he? Why doesn’t he show himself?’ I don’t find the question to be particularly penetrating. He in turn finds my faith to be irrational. We both like classical music but for entirely different reasons. He grew up in Europe and classical music was part of his tradition. I like classical music because it is unobtrusive; it’s beautiful, it’s there in the room when you want it to be, or it’s not. Unlike popular music, classical music doesn’t have an agenda to push and it doesn’t tell you how to feel. Classical music just ‘is’ and it is what you want it to be and not the other way around.

Back to stuff – at the end of the day, everything whether created or purchased is just stuff. I have neither the philosophical engine nor the intent to parse out the value nuances between things like a Bach cantata and a BMW M6.

For myself over time, owning stuff just gradually began to become less and less satisfying and I started to become more interested in things that were more intangible.

I’ve often told my daughter that the only thing better than being happy was knowing that you were happy.