Friday, January 20, 2017

Kindness is Greatness, or Why Superman is Better than Batman

Perhaps it's the news and the subscriptions that I come across, but with the most recent election and transition, I feel that America has become mean. While violence is down, the number of posts on Facebook that are petty, cruel, and just vitriolic feel like they have multiplied exponentially. I can't help but feel that this negativity feeds and empowers negativity. One side of politics argue that Trump has emboldened bigots, but likewise, negative and cruel posts embolden negative and cruel posts. While we tend to agree with those negative and cruel posts that correspond with our line of thinking, nonetheless, cruelty does not have a side in party politics and attacks everyone indiscriminately. When we attack a person for an immutable characteristic, like the color of his hair, then we make it that much easier to attack someone for an immutable characteristic such as color of skin. No single snowflake believes it is the cause of the avalanche.

Additionally, I am disappointed by the shortsightedness of those claiming that democracy is over. This is our nation's finest moment. In fact, this peaceful transition of power that occurred while a large portion of the population is angry is the greatest demonstration of the ingenuity of our system of government.

I look back to my Mormon days, college days, and my grandfather for the path forward. While at BYU studying Alexis de Tocqueville, we sought after the answer to the question, "What is greatness?" In a LDS general conference talk by Elder Wirthlin (I believe), he said, "Kindness is greatness." While a conclusory statement, nonetheless is struck me as true. It is a simple statement. To be kind in times of adversity is truly great. It embodies all other principles of greatness such as integrity, magnanimity, generosity, and humility. I heard a rumor that my Grandpa Al never said an unkind word about someone except once. I don't know if that rumor is true, and the ideal is more important than the truth anyway. So today, to make America great again, I aspire to be kind. Nothing more. Nothing less.

To be kind does not mean to be indifferent or unengaged. It means just the opposite. We must stand up for correct principles and for those in less fortunate positions than ourselves. We must take an open stance on those issues we believe to be correct and work to dispel ignorance. This all must be done while avoiding personal attacks and dehumanizing those with whom we disagree. There is no need for name calling or labeling. The Mormons (and probably Christians as a whole) state, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." Today, most feel it a waste of time to try and differentiate the two causing us to dehumanize. It seems that traditional principles of "turn the other cheek" and "take the high ground" have long been forgotten in this age of the anti-hero. And this brings me to my last point, which this would not be my article if not for this final point.

I've always been a proponent of Superman over Batman. Of Captain America over Iron Man. I love the traditional good super-hero over the more popular anti-hero. The reason is because it is easy to be the anti-hero. It is easy to beat your enemy to an inch within her life and to use the same tactics as the bad people of the world. Sure your anti-heros save the world and make it a safer place, but hey don't do much more. They don't make it a better place. They don't inspire by acts of kindness. Batman would never take time out of his day to rescue a cat from a tree. But Superman is most iconic when shown in this light. Superman is great because given unfettered power, he is most powerful when he is simply being kind.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Risk Management

I manage risk. Whether in my work life or personal life, I find that fundamentally my objective is to manage risk to an acceptable level. While in work, a poor showing in my job may result in fines or regulatory oversight, the cool thing is that in my life, poor risk management may result in serious injury or death. And that is cool. And here's why. My gut tells me that for most people, the opposite is true. Failure to perform in their job has greater ramifications than failure to perform in their personal life (unless we are discussing "performance" issues, but since we are not discussing those issues, I think I am on solid ground). I hope that this reversal of risk allows me to have a better perspective on work. If something goes wrong at work, I can think, "Yeah, but at least my rope didn't break causing me to plummet three hundred feet to my gruesome death." A good way to look at it, and an industry standard, is

(Residual Risk) = (Inherent Risk) - (Quality of Risk Management)
(Residual Risk) < or = (Risk Appetite)

I think for climbing, a standard risk appetite would equate to performing at a level where there is little chance of serious injury or death. The inherent risk of each climb is objective. From a different perspective, these climbs are not rated by their difficulty, but by their level of inherent risk (as a general rule). So climbers like Alex Hannold that free solo 5.12, are not taking on any more inherent risk than me, but they are using different techniques of Quality Risk Management ("QRM"). Whereas I rely on bolts, rope, and the occasional curse or prayer, he relies on skill, technique, and experience. The major difference is that my QRM compensates for my lack of skill, technique, etc. whereas his QRM allows for little margin of error. In the end, I may have been able to onsight or free solo a 5.12, onsighting has happened before, and so any ropes and gear would have been overkill, but that is a risk I am not willing to take.So maybe I'm just wrong, but at least it's an original thought, and I'd hate to be unoriginal. And as far as Alex Hannold, at least he has does not go through life unoriginal. But yeah, if he keeps it up, he'll probably die early.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Deep Yoga Thoughts, Day 3

       I went to my third session of Core Power Yoga 2, and this time I went during the daylight hours and was able to see yoga's true form (think Plato's cave, but without the symbolism).  The lesson I learned from the daylight yoga was 1) even I look better in the dark and 2) having my feet so close to my face made me confront the fact that I really have ugly toes (thanks climbing).
       Anyway, I arrived early, got a premier spot in between the two other guys (no homo), rolled out my yoga pad, and then commenced sitting on my butt.  Looking around, I noticed all the other people stretching and doing poses.  This caused some confusion as I thought yoga was essentially deep stretching.  I equated it to jogging a couple of miles to warm-up for an instance walk.  To each there own (see how yogafied and accepting my mind has become).
       The instructor was pretty awesome, and once we got started, she provided some help.  No I don't want to be all un-yoga, but when before correcting my child's pose, a yogi should simply say, "Permission to make bodily contact."  Honestly, I don't know Ms. Yogi and adjusting my hips much less giving me a small back massage while I am in the child's pose can come as a shock.
     Otherwise, nothing eventful happened in yoga today.  I didn't even have to fart during it.  I guess it was the previous two sessions where I released all the noxious gases.  I did resent the middle-aged guy next to me grunting the whole time like he was giving birth, but in the spirit of yoga, I let it slide instead of using the Dhalsim yoga punch on him.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Deep Yoga Thoughts Day 2

       I have completed my second day of yoga, and once again, it was interesting.  As I guess is usual, I entered the room, and the room was dark.  It reminded me of all the sitcoms or movies when the couple is about to copulate (that means sex, but I am trying to keep this blog PG for any young readers), and one turns on the light and the other gets all angry/embarrassed because she has beauty/ confidence issues. As a guy, I can see how that can be disappointing.  I start making out with Natalie Portman, turn on the light, and it's really Mila Kunis.  Actors lives are so hard.
This picture is hideous.  I hope they never make a movie where the two make out.
So anyway, the low level lights just wasn't inspiring.  What do these yogi have to hide?
       On a lighter note, I did a ton of downward dogs today.  Unfortunately all I could think about was my oldest brothers diatribe on the "pooping dog" in Afghanistan that was in his last e-mail.  Here's a link for the adventuresome.
       And lastly, as I was in the locker room, basking in the smell of lavender and preparing myself for departure, I noticed there was only one shower with a shower curtain.  Considering the number of men that do yoga (not a lot), I guess this serves the needs, but I just thought it was anti-yoga.  I am not saying we need to go back to the India bathing in the river yoga, but I was expecting something more communal and efficient.
No worries about peeing in the shower here.
In high school, the communal showers were a place were teenagers could unwind, talk about there day, and as a freshman, feel embarrassed by the seniors.  Sure there were some awkward moments when someone dropped the soap, but nothing terrible ever happened unless your initials were M.G., P.C., or C.P. (these were all unrelated to soap).  And if your initials weren't there, the worse thing that ever happened was a heavyweight drinking Mountain Dew while peeing on a freshman's leg.  And given how cold the showers always were, that pee might have been the difference between life and a hypothermic death.  Instead, yoga decides to have only one shower and send the message of anti-bonding and anti-community.
Nothing promotes bonding like communal showers.  Plus it's a great place to practice bikram karate.

Deep Yoga Thoughts from Day 1

       In honor of my oldest brother, I'll start this with a comment he would make.  "I like my women like I like my yoga rooms.  Hot. Silent. And for no longer than an hour at a time."  Having said that, today I completed my first yoga class at Core Power Yoga (, and it was enjoyable.  I went to the hot yoga session.  I would say it was Bikram yoga, but I am not sure of the Bikram sequence, and I don't want to be sued by Mr. Bikram.  Probably while causing offense, I have to say that yogi has dragged people into court for using his yoga sequence.  "Namaste...just kidding.  See you in court and wear something less form fitting."
       The reason I started doing yoga is because after climbing, I tweaked my knee, and I was hoping to rehabilitate it. I asked my friend Summer, who is an excellent yogi and exudes energy, about where I can find a good yoga video preferably with a hot female instructor.  She berated me and told me I should attend classes.  So thus my exploratory yoga.
       The last time I attended yoga was with Summer, and she told me that the guys usually wear form fitting clothing.  I broke out my form fitting running tights compliments Josh McAdams and the Olympic team, but there weren't enough guys there to tell me that I didn't fit in.  In hindsight, Summer may have only been looking for an opportunity to see me wearing spandex.  Plus, when I actually looked at what Bikram wears, my tights made me look like a Puritan at a swingers party.
Bikram playing Jesus if Jesus rocked a black thong and preached the suffering of others for him.
       Thus not wanting to unnecessarily emphasize my package, I texted a yogi/climber here named Lisa.  Lisa advised me that wearing shorts is now acceptable, and I am glad I took her advise.
       At yoga, I entered the dark, hot, humid room and began doing my poses.  I handle myself alright, and I will admit that yoga has great benefits.  The instructor is Dake, pronounced like Jake, but with a D.  Nice guy.  And he didn't touch my butt to emphasize correcting poses (look he has the lawsuit now Mr. Bikram).  However, as the session went on, he told us to breathe out all the poisons and toxins, and he also told us to connect to the higher energy which is exactly what I wanted because eventually I was looking forward to becoming a bad-ass street fighter.
Twelve year old Andy's expectations of yoga.
    My expectations didn't come true, and the closest I came to the whole purification was a deep breath.  I was thinking I could really release the toxins, and if I sat in the right position, the force of the exhalation may make me levitate like Dhalsim, but I already think one of the ladies there was already giving me dirty looks.  And if that levitation was to come through a higher power, it was Melanie's spaghetti with questionable beef and turkey.

Not shown:  Hundreds of dead fish from him releasing his toxins.

And as a parting, yoga expectations vs. yoga reality

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Of all the crags, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. Animal World, Boulder Canyon, Colorado

       Today I had my first real Boulder, Colorado experience.  Having met up with my friend Ian Buffington, we headed to Boulder Canyon to pull on some rock.  After hiking around for a wee bit, we found our destination and began climbing at Animal World.  Upon warming up, I experienced one of the phenomenon of the climbing community.  Making her entrance into the crag was a young woman that looked slightly familiar, but because of the probabilities of her being at the same crag at the same time, should not have been there.  Jenny Sherry.
       Jenny Sherry is a strong climber that I had the opportunity to climb with a few times while I lived in Ohio.  Apparently a wedding brought her out to Colorado for the weekend, and she decided to climb at the same exact climb I was at.  To make the phenomenon even more improbable, Ian and I originally hiked up the other side of the canyon looking for the crag Avalon.  After unsuccessfully seeking Avalon (not that hard to imagine considering it is an Arthurian legend), we changed courses to Animal World.  And thus my meeting with Jenny Sherry.
       Because of the nature of the climbing community, this has now happened to me twice.  While visiting the Red River Gorge, I met Rio.  Becoming good friends through social networking, I coincidentally ran into him again the following year.  Thus is the nature of the climbing community that allows strangers to become good friends over single line of rock, and allows those good friends to meet happenstance and bond over more inanimate pieces of rock.  Strangely odd, but oddly comforting.
       To make this day even better, I stopped on my way home at Chipotle.  Ordering myself a steak burrito, I asked the kind woman behind the counter if she can mix the ingredients together.  She can and I had the best Chipotle burrito ever.  Nate Mealy, try the unmixed followed by the mixed burrito, and you will defy the law of diminishing marginal utility function.  And lastly, when Jenny discovered that I had to be home at six from the crags to babysit, she laughed.  If I could climb half as well as babysit, Chris Sharma would have posters of me in his room.

       Even before heading out to Boulder today, I changed a diaper.  Upon getting home, I babysat.  I entertained a fifteen month year old and watched three other kids under the age of six.  Administer children's Tylenol, put on pull-ups for bedtime, read to and put Trevor to sleep, brush teeth, and all four in bed by 7:30.  I may not be the best uncle in the world, but I am among the top one.

Friday, September 2, 2011



This is an interesting article that uses physics and biology to describe the life of a city.