Put Your Mask on Before Assisting Others: Modern Stoicism and Radical Righteousness

There is a cool, almost inhuman calculation to emergency manuals. As the flight crew walks you through the various safety features of an aircraft before a flight, they remind you to tell them if you physically can’t open the over­wing door. There is no room in an emergency for your best effort. You either can or you can’t.

Similarly, they make it very clear that in the case of cabin depressurization, you are to put on your mask FIRST, before assisting others. Effectively, they are reminding us that we are of absolutely no use to anyone who may depend on us when we are dead. In the most calculating way possible, the airlines know something innate about human nature. If you don’t take care of yourself first, bravery, compassion even love mean nothing.

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A Year in Review

Welcome to tomorrow … today! I can hardly remember what happend last month, let alone January of last year, but let’s give it a shot, eh?

We’re still raising pigs, kids and occassionaly vegetables in Castine, Maine. Colin is still happily working as a software developer for Five Q. Emma continues to search for the craft project that will make her rich (so many schemes at the moment). Jane started kindergarten in the fall. Silas started talking back this summer. We took a family trip to Disney World. Sam finished up her semester at Coastal Studies for Girls. Peter kicked the crap out of his homeschool curriculum. Colin also, completed three marathons, and two half-marathons and registered for his first ultra marathon (now he’s just showing off). Emma is pregnant with our third biological child, who shall be a surprise but named either Asa or Abigail. Whew!

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Marathon Running as Test but Not Destruction

A little over a week ago I finished the Chicago Marathon. Me along with about 40,000 of my closest friends. But seriously, that’s about a factor of 50 larger than my current home village here on the coast of Maine. By my own calculation I finished fifth out of about 25 fellow runners in Maine, or around 7,555th in the whole thing. My finish was a little bit of a disappointment, but I refuse to be too hard on myself anytime I run more than 22 miles.

Here’s the thing: People are always writing or opinining about why they run 26.2 miles. I’ve done the same thing, and the answers are usually pretty trite. But the thing that gets my goat more than any of the lame excuses for pushing yourself really hard is when folks talk about finishing the distance as though it were going to destroy them. Or as if they were about to punish their body with the full distance of a marathon.

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The Business of Living Well

There was a news-hole-filler story today about how 19 predictions Bill Gates made for 2014 in 1999 have mostly come true. In one prediction, he prognosticates that by now we’d have devices that would provide us with up to date flight information, market quotes and news. Something about his list rang true with the way I was raised, but not the way I live now.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. When the day was done, and my dad was home from work, he would park himself down in front of the TV playing some sort of stock market review show about how things had gone. I grew up thinking that this was all really important news gathering. And to a lot of professionals in certain markets it is. But as an amateur stock market investor who’s occupation was a doctor, the market was really more of a fetish.

What I failed to realize then is that far less important that what the Blue Chips did on Mach 19, 1999, was what I was doing on March 19, 1999

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Mini Habits

For the past year or so I’ve been experimenting on and off with a technique that I picked up from Stephen Guise via his website: https://minihabits.com/. The long and short of his technique lies in making a decision about something you’d like to do or learn and start with the easiest possible step towards it and do it everyday.

So if you want to write more, endeavor to write two sentences everyday. Not a blog post, not two pages. Just two sentences. The logic is that if you make it too easy to fail, the success of achieving your goals will spur you do a little more each time until you find you’re doing way more than you expected and, far from a chore, it’s actually become a habit; something that you are compelled to do.

Guise goes through a lot more detail and I highly encourage you to check out his ebook on ths subject, but the question is, did it work for me?

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Universal Scale

Scifi authors and dreaming scientists believe that humans will one day find a way to tame the great distances between stars. While not the crux of the novel, Stanislaw Lem’s Fiasco presents a humbling observation about what long-distance star travel would actually amount to: isolation. Unless you bring a civilization worth of people with you, a journey out of the Solar System, regardless of the mechanics of it (worm hole, warp drive, conventional engines) would leave those on the ship more or less alone for the rest of their lives. Baring the discovery of a unique property of cosmological constructs like black holes which we understand very little of, the nature of time and relativity means once you’ve travelled far enough from your home planet, you can never be sure what you’ll return home to.

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Planning for Trouble

“Never live beyond your means,” my father would say. The human calculus that leads folks to impart their own brand of wisdom in their offspring and mentees is beyond me. And I deeply respect folks who have demonstrated the success of their wisdom via life success.

But as I get older and embark on adventures of fatherhood, profession and happiness of my own, I’m finding that repurposing wisdom is far better than blindly following it. For the above quote, I’m finding it difficult to imagine how you can possibly avoid living beyond your means.

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On the Bay

The comment on Skype this afternoon was meant to be serious, if not utilitarian. I was letting my co-workers littered around the country know that I was going to be taking off to drive down the Baba’s house in Belfast so she could see the kids in their costumes. Also, it meant that the kids could hit up the houses on the infamous Cedar Street before canvassing Castine.

One co-worker in Upstate New York joked about us going “over the river and the through the woods.”

“Well,” I thought, “Yeah, we kind of are.” And proceeded to hunt down a screenshot of the Google Maps route taking us up the East side of Penobscot Bay and down the West side.

“Ha, looks like you go over the river a few times,” he tossed back.

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Being a Night Owl

It’s 0116 EDT and I’m still awake. This has become a trend recently. No matter how diligent I try to be about wrapping things up and going to be early, I always seem to wind up going to bed later and later until it’s way past the mid point of the night and I am feeling guilty.

That’s an interesting emotion. Why should I feel guilty? Because I wont be very useful in the morning (or visible at all until around 0900)? Because my staying up late means more work for my wife in the morning with the kids? No. I need to stop feeling guilty. But it’s hard. Not least of all because our culture frowns on staying up late, and there’s research to show it’as actually unhealthy too.

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The Marathon and Exhaustion

I’m going to be running in my first marathon running race on October 5. I have to admit to being both nervous and skeptical about how the experience will be.

In training for the race, I’ve been increaing my distances on the weekend fairly slowly, while ostensibly keeping up a usual training routine the rest of the week (illness and busyiness aside). My conclusion so far: it’s not worth it. I’m sure there are people out there who are built for long distance running. And there may even be people who enjoy it despite not being built for it. Me, I love the half-marathon distance. I can do it, I feel good when I’m done and I can be competitive at it.

So far, the longest run I’ve ever done is 17.5 miles. That’s quite an achievement, but it left me feeling sore for days. From everything I’ve read, 20 miles is really the point at which you stop gaining anything from a run and start just wearing down your joints and muscles. I’d wager that I got close to that point last weekend, and it wasn’t fun at all.

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