Last run in New Zealand

I’ve been in Malaysia since Tuesday, but I got one last run in before I left New Zealand. 

Queenstown is on the South Island. I flew there after talking with many people who encouraged me to not miss the South Island – and I agree, it’s spectacular! Very different from the north island, although I didn’t spend too much time there. 
This run was only going to be 5 miles, but then I kept going and explored some parts of Queenstown’s cozy downtown.  

Less anger, please

Another mass shooting. In fact, two, because there was one in both California *and* Georgia today. The California one got more news because more lives were lost.

355 mass shootings this year. That’s more than one per day.

I don’t know the motivations of these particular shooters, and there are a variety of news articles pointing to all the various motivations of different individuals.

There is one common emotion involved in all of these shootings:


A happy person generally does not want to kill other people. Once in awhile, sure, maybe someone is happy… but generally, killing is done because underneath all those emotions, there is a whole lot of anger.

Anger at the other person. Anger at the world. Maybe anger at political leaders having put some people in some places, or done something. All kinds of anger.

The internet and 24 hour news networks are two seemingly unlimited wells of anger.

They are endless fountains of anger, feeding off of whatever is happening in the news, tying almost any event of the day to their particular agenda, which is typically geared to get them mad and, therefore, increases your emotions and anger.

The anger is there because it gets eyeballs, clicks, and viewership.

Is all this anger helping the country be happier?

Is that anger helping people who are kind of on the edge, or is it taking them perhaps one foot over, into the area of bad decision making?

Do you give you ratings, website visits, and time to people who specialize in expressing anger?


You can choose not to pay attention to the angry people.

We all can.


Once we stop paying attention to the angry people, they will have to change their method of communication, because they will see anger doesn’t get them ratings and clicks.

We can also choose to not be angry ourselves.

We can choose to be level-headed.

We can choose to smile and have constructive conversation with people with whom we disagree, rather than get mad.

It won’t save the lives of the people already killed. But the more positivity we bring into the world, the more chance the incredible weight of anger the world is carrying right now will be reduced by just a little bit.

Baby steps to less anger.

Maybe your positivity will help offset someone else who is carrying a lot of anger to diffuse the anger slightly. Just enough to prevent the fuse from burning down all the way.

Maybe it’s holding the door for someone and smiling. Maybe it’s waiting at the stop sign. Maybe it’s not posting a link from that well-known angry media outlet on Twitter.

We can control our own emotions. We can be civil and level-headed, even with those with whom we disagree.

Here’s a toast to everyone who can keep a level head. It seems like more level heads – and less anger – would help the country.

I encourage us all to do our part, and not be too angry.

If you have anger issues, talk to someone: preferably a counselor or a hotline.

Let’s help the country be a little bit less angry, and hope that results in less senseless violence.

Because regardless of access to weapons, political or other beliefs, the one thing all these shooters have in common? They’re angry.

Let’s help reduce the anger. It’s at least something we can all do.

# # #

I’m not linking to any of the news reports about this, because alas, the more the media covers mass shootings, the more copycats tend to happen.

That’s a link to a report from PLoS ONE, which is a peer reviewed, academic paper. 100% anger-free, guaranteed!

Late night run with the sun still up

One surprisingly great part of living in New Zealand but working in sync with the US central time zone is that nighttime still has sun. I frequently go to the gym late in the day, and many times I have been stopped by a gym’s (completely reasonable) closing time of 10pm or midnight. And I don’t relish running in any city during the dark; a little more chance of crime, more hazards that I cannot see, and cars have a harder time seeing me. No bueno. 

Here’s a friendly family that lives near where I’m staying.  

Run + wine tour

I went on a nice wine tour yesterday, seeing magnetic, iron-filled black sand beaches west of Auckland, a waterfall featured in Xena: Warrior Princess (both it and Hercules were filmed in NZ!), and the empty bottom of many wine glasses. 

Before that, though, I wanted to get a little sweat in, so I ran near my place for ten days in Ponsonby, a pretty fashionable part of Auckland. So fashionable that they have a place called Wisconsin Burger, right next to this:

Lots of interesting people watching in Ponsonby!

Running and opening up hip flexors in Auckland

I’ve been neglecting my running recently, so I’ve been getting back into it lately, including doing a 10K with Diveena in Boston recently. So here’s my first semi-long run here in town: 
I’ve also realized how tight my hip flexors are, so I’m following some stretches in to start opening up those thighs. I recommend trying it, especially if you sit a lot – you may realize just how inflexible you really are!

A workday inside a China Airlines 777-200ER

I just spent the majority of a 24 hour period on an airplane. Sound hellish?

Consider this: I was in business class on the 777-ER200, and more or less had my own little cubicle, which had a chair that folder out to 180 degrees flat.

I slept – and worked – well.

I have been in the business class lounge most of the time since I arrived in the Taipei airport. The airport is very clean, very quiet, and everyone is quite orderly. It feels less stressful than an American airport.

I’ve seen a few things here I’ve never seen in any other airport, though I’d love to learn about other airports that might have these things:

  • a sit-down calligraphy desk, where someone helped teach me how to draw a couple names in Chinese characters. At the end, I drew her name in roman characters.
  • a library – a completely non-commercial space in the airport. They were not selling anything, but instead just had this space for people to quietly work on a computer or read, complete with walls full of various types of books.
  • a workout area, with a shower – I don’t know who could use the shower, but I assume anyone. The workout area was very spacious, although it had only 6 pieces of equipment: 3 bikes, a treadmill, and two weight machines. It was connected to a small Adidas store, but there was zero sales pressure… though perhaps the language barrier had something to do with that.

I’ve spent a long time in the Turkish airport, and this time is flying by in comparison, because:

  • a quiet space is much more calm, and the hours go by smoother there… at least, when you’re my age, apparently
  • lots of good food and drinks – I’m sipping on some single malt scotch right now before bed, and I had Bailey’s and some red wine since arriving here
  • there was a shower, complete with towels, toothbrush and toothpaste, cologne, and soap, shampoo, and conditioner… all for free, within the business lounge. Considering I will be spending over 12 hours here, it’s not too far off from a hotel experience.

Wifi is solid, food is delicious, and there’s issues of Time, The Economist, and Bloomberg to read if I get bored… which, trust me, I’m not, with all the work I’ve got to get done.

China Airlines wifi

I asked online whether wifi on an airplane crossing the Pacific Ocean would be reliable or any good. People said it was bad. I disagree. I worked for about 7 hours on the flight, from 9am central time until touchdown around 4pm central time, and the wifi – although too slow to, say, stream videos – was perfectly fine with the text chat, file downloads, and web browsing I was doing. I was committing just like I was sitting on the earth. I’m sure your results may vary depending on weather and other unexpected technical difficulties, but I had zero problems.

China Airlines Business Class

It was a great experience! Everyone was nice, the food was good, and the TV screen was huge (I drifted off to bed to Ted 2, after leaving LAX at 11:45pm). The noise-canceling headset wasn’t branded Bose, and it didn’t seem as good as some other ones I’ve used, but at least they had one, which came in useful early in the flight.

Overall, it’s been a great first day of adventure … spent mostly in an airplane and in an airport lounge.

An adventure across continents and years

I am going to fly around the world.

I just took off from Boston on an American Airlines flight. We have power outlets so I can charge my laptop and phone, although they are both full of charge and don’t really need it. However, I want to make sure I have all the power I can, because my livelihood depends on a few key things:

  • my laptop
  • electricity, whether in my laptop’s battery or at a wall plugin
  • internet
  • my fingers

These things are important to me in many ways, because I really enjoy:

  • making software
  • making websites
  • playing video games, although I do it very infrequently these days
  • playing piano
  • keeping in touch with family and friends
  • learning

All of those 3 or 4 of the things above, except that last one.

That’s what this trip is all about. Learning about the world.

Why am I going on this trip?

My girlfriend Diveena asked me on the way to the airport this morning, “Why are you going on this trip?”

I have thought about this question a few times since I first thought of redeeming 275,000 frequent flier miles on Delta to get a Round the World (RTW) ticket.

Diveena didn’t ask it accusingly, nor because she has no clue why I’d go or want to go; on the contrary, she encouraged me to go on the trip, since I had talked to her about this crazy RTW ticket long before I knew Delta was eliminating the ability to redeem miles in exchange for one at the end of 2014.

Before the end of 2014, I thought I’d save up my miles for an indetermine time in the future when I would have enough vacation to simply take off a few weeks, maybe even a month or two, and see the world. I had a vague notion that I would do this in one of the following scenarios:

  • I quit a job, and take a few months before starting on my next job
  • I retire, then go see the world

That’s about it.

I’m not sure why I limited myself to just these two scenarios, but I think it’s a variety of reasons:

  • Most companies rarely give any ability to take more than 2 – 4 weeks of vacation off at one time.
  • I’ve been very busy with Third Iron, the company I co-founded in 2011, and there’s still so many things to do with the company, taking a full week off is a fairly big luxury, let alone multiple weeks in a row
  • Almost nobody I know has ever done anything like that

Without someone paving the way to do something, it can seem very difficult to do. However, I did have a role model for this: Dima, a friend I met in Iowa who has done the very thing I’m about to do. More about him in another post, though.

Seriously, why am I going on this trip?

Although I thought about why I was going close to deciding to go, and after I got the ticket, I did not ponder this question when I started saving up for this ticket. Since 2007, when I first heard about this round the world ticket things from my good travel buddy and friend Jessica Sander, I have been saving all my frequent flier miles in hopes of earning enough for this ticket. Three things helped me with this:

  • getting a bunch of miles for signing up for the Delta WorldPerks Gold American Express card
    • 30 or 50 thousand, I believe
  • preferring Delta over other airlines
    • if a flight cost less than about $50 more, I’d typically go with Delta… and because I would frequently fly out of Minneapolis or Iowa, Delta was typically the lowest priced option
  • using that Amex fairly frequently, especially for large purchases (computers, car repair, recurring bills, flights (with double points when flying Delta), etc)
  • flying
    • I really like to travel, so I certainly did fly and earn up miles that way, too!

So I just started slowly earning points, and after a couple years, I had enough for the economy-class Delta RTW ticket: 185,000 miles.

So earning the miles wasn’t too big of a deal to me, because I knew I was in no rush to go on this trip. Instead, I wanted to have them banked, so in case I lost a job or quit, I could take advantage of it.

But I never questioned why I wanted to do it when Jessica first told me about it.

Instead, my inherent thought was, “why would anyone NOT want to do that?”

I suppose I can think of a few reasons:

  • health problems
  • children
    • can be difficult to travel with them
    • taking them out of school for an extended period would be rough
  • fear of traveling alone
    • I’m lucky to be born a guy – we generally don’t have too much troubles traveling alone, but the same cannot be said for women
  • no desire to travel alone

That last one is a big one for me. I traveled alone around Germany and Austria during a two week period in 2008. I spent three weeks in Europe during that trip. The first week was spent with my work teammates, doing a multi-day presentation about the software my team was building for a helicopter upgrade we were selling to our German government customer. The next two weeks I spent most of the time alone, with a few breaks to meet my friend Amanda King, who was au pairing in Austria, and some family I never before met.

At the end of two weeks traveling largely alone, I was ready to be home and see friends. I was happy to get the opportunity to do it, but I thought I wouldn’t travel alone again for awhile.

Why, then, am I doing it now? Especially now that I have a great girlfriend?

One reason is because I have a great girlfriend. That may seem counter-intuitive to most people; why would you want to not be around your partner? In this case, though, Diveena saw that this was something I really wanted to do, since:

  • I had been saving for a long time
  • talked about it, even though I had zero plans to do it anytime soon
  • was quite unhappy when I found out Delta was discontinuing the ability to redeem miles for the RTW ticket
  • I love to travel, as does she

Diveena pointed out that I am in probably the 1% of people in the world who both want to and can do a trip like this, because:

  • I’m not married
  • I don’t have children
  • I have a job that allows me to work anywhere I have my laptop, internet, and a little electricity

Not everyone’s partner would be understanding enough to let someone live out a trip like this, let alone encourage it. I wasn’t early thinking of going, since I thought even though I can work remotely, some of my free time would be taken finding lodging, ensuring I had good internet, and I wouldn’t be able to travel with anyone else. My company, Third Iron, just seemed to have too many things going on for this to be a good idea.

Then I thought about the example my friends with children point out: there never is a right time to have kids. There is always a reason or excuse to not have them: we’re too young, our career is too overwhelming, we want to do too many other things, and eventually, we’re too old.

I thought about it some more, and since I started Third Iron in 2011, I have worked while visiting:

  • Bismarck
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco
  • Minneapolis
  • Rochester, MN
  • Boston
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Denver
  • Las Vegas

…and I’m sure a few more I’m not recalling.

I’m no stranger to working on the road. In fact, getting focused time to work on one single thing while I’m on an airplane is – however perverse this may sound – a joy to me. Throughout my working life, whether working for KB Productions, Rockwell Collins, or Third Iron, I’ve relished the time on an airplane as an environment where, free of anything else to do, it’s just me and the screen in front of me. I enjoy chatting up a friendly person in the seat next to me, but since a comfortably chatty person can be somewhat rare on airplanes, I generally look forward to them as a time to get something done… such as writing this very piece you are now reading. I believe I’m somewhere over Pennsylvania at the moment.

Seriously, you still haven’t said why you’re going on this trip

Well, I kind of did:

  • I have a girlfriend who encourages me to do the big things I’ve always thought about, but perhaps I never thought I could do
  • I have a job that lets me work where I want, and I’ve proven in the past that I’m able to handle traveling and working
  • because the world

I want to see more of the world up close.

I feel every place has many lessons to teach.

Every person you meet has a unique story, and can help you learn something new.

Putting yourself into an unfamiliar environment challenges you to reconsider what’s right, what’s pragmatic, and what’s possible.

What better way to put yourself into an unfamiliar environment than literally leaving the country in which you’ve grown up, and placing yourself into a place where people have spent generations growing up and living differently?

Some of the lessons I’ve learned in the past from traveling:

  • * If you don’t understand the local language, life gets difficult, and you rejoice when something is written in your language, or a picture, number, or symbol you understand is visible
    • After coming back from Europe the first time, I localized my Car Care iOS app into multiple different languages… it’s just so much easier when things are in your native language!
  • Plans are temporary – flexibility, and being open to change, is a cornerstone of being happy in life
    • We can’t predict what will happen – 99.999% of the world is outside of our control, so if change from something other than us causes you stress, you’re going to live a pretty stressful life
    • Don’t get too stressed out about being late – do your best to be on time, but if something happens and you don’t make it, apologize, and proceed to watch life go on
      • Corollary to the corollary: Being late for an airplane really sucks, so… try to be on time for that
  • Good people are everywhere
    • Creepy people are everywhere, too, but they’re vastly outnumbered by good people

So there’s another, and perhaps the most important, reason for going on this trip: to add to my list of life lessons.

One hospital visit, two bills

I went to dinner the other night, ordered a nice steak and salad, and a glass of fine wine. Once the bill arrived, my eyes grew slightly and my eyebrows creeped up and away from the table. The price was not the shocker; the two individual bills, one labeled “food prep,” another labeled “food service,” confused me.

I don’t see my waiter, so I grab the attention of another waiter, asking, “Excuse me, but I think you brought out someone else’s check with mine.”

“Sorry about that, sir. Which item didn’t you receive – the steak, salad, or wine?”

“I received them all – they were delicious.”

“Great. Glad we cleared up the confusion then. Shall I take your credit card?” the waiter replied, with no confusion over the two bills each with different amounts of money on them.

“Well, hold on… I think I got someone else’s bill. I only ordered the meal for myself, so I should have one bill.”

My waiter gave me the expression of a patient grade school teacher, explaining, “The restaurant bills you for the ingredients for your meal, storage of the ingredients and tools to cook your meal, and the time it took to cook your food and prepare your meal. Your waiter, however, is an independent contractor, and bills you separately.”

I sat there, fairly confused.

“So… I have to pay each of you separately? You can’t just combine it and split it yourself?”

“No sir.”

“Huh… can I speak with a manager?”

“Certainly, sir.” A manager came over shortly, reiterated that’s how the restaurant does business, and I eventually ended the meal by paying two bills. The strangest restaurant paying system I’ve ever encountered!

Okay, confession time: the above didn’t happen.

But the below did, and it’s essentially the same scenario.

I went to the hospital earlier this year.

Later, I got the bill. I got MANY bills.

I paid the bills, but over time I kept getting more bills. And I was confused, since I paid these already.

Turns out I was indeed billed twice for one single hospital visit.

Bill 1: for the doctors and staff directly employed by the hospital.
Bill 2: for a doctor who is on contract to the hospital.

All the doctors (I saw 4 of them in one evening!) looked the same.
All of the equipment was in the same room.
Yet one of those doctors was not a regular employee of the hospital, but somehow was a contractor.

Why is this happening in health care? And will it be coming to other businesses soon?