Labor Day Gridlock

This kind of thing is why I will be spending the holiday weekend close to home.

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Administrative Note: Going Anti-Social

With due respect to my fellow tribesman and hapa-daddy Mark Zuckerberg, I have reached some conclusions about Facebook after nearly a decade of use.

  1. Facebook was once a magnificent means of staying in touch with friends
  2. It has, of late, become a tool of hucksters, social manipulators, propagandists, disinformation artists, and very, very angry people to a far greater degree than it remains a connective medium.
  3. It became for me, as a result, a giant black hole into which my time and attention was sucked, never to be seen again.
  4. What was worse, any content that I created was used by Facebook to make money.

As a result, I have downloaded my content, deleted my presence, and will have no more to do with the platform. I’m done, and this time for good.

This blog is now my feed. I would rather pay the nice folks at Automattic a modest fee every year to own my platform and hold it separate from the anger, noise, and manipulation of Facebook. Better to shout in the wilderness than whisper in a crowd.

The sole reason I post this is to provide you a heads-up that I will be gradually back-filling content from my Facebook feed into earlier sections of this blog, so if you see something anachronistic, it is just me saving the worthwhile tidbits from my years on Facebook.

NB: Twitter is on probation at the moment, as is WeChat.

Naturally, feel free to comment.

Calming the Sky-Chicken

I have flown well over a million miles in my life, but I am still an incurable white-knuckle flyer. When you combine that with the challenges posed by my two-meter height, air travel for me is a battle: first to get myself into a seat that isn’t excruciatingly painful to sit in, and then to cope with a constant state of incipient terror.

I cure the first by shelling out something like 10% of my take-home income for upgrades. The second condition, the fear, is like any other chronic ailment: it can be managed but never cured.

One way I manage the fear is through knowledge. I have studied aviation, weather, and spoken to countless pilots and flight crew members. I have learned enough about airlines to choose those with the best operational safety, and watch for the subtle signals that things may be on the decline. Before every flight I consult a half-dozen apps and websites that tell me what to expect. And during the flight I switch my inflight entertainment system to the “flight information” screen, and leave it there for the duration.

So you can imagine why I was so delighted, when I boarded an ANA 787-900 for a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, to discover a screen that was essentially a simplified version of the pilot’s heads-up display. Altitude, airspeed, position, direction, winds, and other flight information are portrayed against a forward -looking moving map that offers everything but air traffic and weather.

Genius.

It will not surprise you to hear that this hop was probably one of my most calm and comfortable flights ever.

Some people will never worry in an airplane: my father was one. But I have friends and colleagues that need to be chemically calmed before getting on a plane. I have no immediate remedies to offer. For me, the medicine lies in the effort to make ever more believable the comforting illusion of control.

The Delusion of Health

For some reason I was watching Family Guy the other night, and during one of the digressions, a morbidly obese dude walks into a fast food joint and says, “I want the Double Cheeseburger, but I’m gonna go healthy and pick the fish and chips.”

The scene then cuts to the fish and chips all singing “fish and chips – fat guys think we’re a diet food.”

Sobering.

I have a long-overdue trip to the UK in September (business, not pleasure), and I have resolved to sample some of the local fare. I would not place any bets on talking me out of a curry or a savory pie, but I am going to dodge the cod and fries. The image of mocking food will not soon leave me.

Sabbatical: The Introduction

One of the cool fringe benefits my company offers is a paid, one-month sabbatical after five years of service. I reached five years, and the company COO urged me in no uncertain terms to take advantage of the opportunity.

You would think that the most challenging part about such an opportunity would be figuring out the bet time to go. Not even close. For me the greatest challenge came when the time came to decide what to do with my month away.

The company’s stated intent behind the sabbatical is to do something transformative that you couldn’t do in the space of a normal vacation that would leave you refreshed and reinvigorated upon your return. All good.

But I’m too old and too out of shape to go riding a motorcycle up Highway 1 in Vietnam, or go helicopter skiing, or bungee-jump off of a bridge, and I’m not sure I’d be inclined to do those things even if I were of an appropriate age.

I love trains, so I thought about taking a cross-country round-trip on Amtrak in a sleeper bedroom. I priced it: $4,500 for seven days on the rails was more that I was prepared to spend for the experience. I had been thinking maybe half of that.

I looked up first class airfares to cities across the country that I might be inclined to visit. They were rather more reasonable than a haul across the continent by train. Given how much I travel for work, though, and that I was going to be out of the country for much of the month before and the month after my Sabbatical, I nixed that idea.

And then I realized something: what I really want is not a vacation in place, but a vacation in time. I want the time and head-space to think, to read, to work on my fitness, to hike, to take a handful of courses, and to write. And I did not need to pay an airline, a railroad, or a hotel group to do any of that.

So I decided last night that my sabbatical is going to be a dress rehearsal for an active retirement, and an incentive to shift to a more balanced lifestyle. I told my wife that I would be around if she needed me, but that much of the time I would be out, engaged in a kind of early mid-life-crisis personal journey.

Naturally, I’ll be chronicling the journey here, but if you wish to skip these posts, I will be titling them.