Recognizing Happiness

Happiness comes not from having what you want, but from wanting what you have.

I am not sure where that saying is from, or who said it, but there is a lot of truth to that short quote. Recently I have felt antsy, like I am ready for a change, a move, a shake-up, a different place, crowd, or environment. I’ve felt this way before and I have done something about it, having moved my family a few times now. But I’m almost five years in to that once-new place, and I feel it again.

And the change will come, but I have to tell myself that now is not the right time. I need to put my head down, be happy with my abundance and many blessings, and get to work doing the right thing. I need to learn patience. And when the time is right, the change will come. Just like Sam Cooke sang, I know a change is gonna come. He was speaking about a different context, and bigger issues than those I deal with now, but Cooke’s song is still a good reminder to me. I have so much to be grateful for, so much to look forward to, so much to remember. The path ahead is bright.

The month of May starts tomorrow. The time is flying by, and it will pass anyway. So, as I write this to myself, I need to remember to be patient and enjoy the ride right now, in the situation, environment, place I’m in today. And remember, my four kids will never have this exact day again to be with and learn from their Dad.

The City of Lights

After almost fifteen years, I made it back to Paris for a quick visit. This time with my wife instead of my college friend. Older and wiser, I planned the itinerary through January and February and planned to pack a lot in a short amount of time. As one of the most visited cities in the world, I knew we were in for some tourist traps, but I hoped to visit some out-of-the-way places too. Overall, Paris didn’t disappoint.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Pantheon, and more, but one of the highlights, honestly, was the Paris Opera House. I highly recommend the audio tour there. It was fascinating.

Another point many people don’t often share is not just how overwhelming the Louvre is, but how impressive the interior of the building is. The building itself is a work of art, not just from the outside but throughout its many levels. I was expecting to be impressed by some of the ancient and priceless art within the building, not by the building itself. Wow.

Paris is a spectacular city full of history, with art and beauty at every turn. To not enjoy Paris is to not appreciate or enjoy humanity.

I know I have said this before . . .

but some months there is really not much to say.

Focus 2018

I have been a member of Facebook since 2007. The service has provided me with connection and reconnection, convenience, information, and at times, a distraction. It’s been over ten years since I joined the club and Facebook has become a behemoth, as has its Messenger and Instagram apps. While I usually limited my consumption during the day, I found myself the last few years spending more time than I care to admit on these three apps in the evening. After the kids went to bed. Or even as I sat in my bed. 2018 arrived and I decided I had better things to do with my time. I could read actual books more, you know, like I used to do. I could sleep more, which is never a bad idea, especially when I rarely hit the recommended daily intake during the week. Or, I could fill my time with other productive activities.

As January comes to an end, I am happy to report that I have spent limited time (almost none) on the apps mentioned above. I have not deleted my accounts, have not given up on smart phones in general, but have greatly reduced my exposure to social media (with the exception of LinkedIn). I still read news and attend to email, but I don’t whittle the minutes away on those sites any more.

And I don’t feel like I have missed anything (although I have missed conversations with one particular person). I have exercised more in January, have read more from actual books, have reorganized my desk and closet, and have even slept a little more this month. I am also still acutely aware of how many issues our country and world face in today’s hectic times – I’m not shutting myself out from the world – but I have controlled the source and filter of my news rather than handing it over to an algorithm.

The key from here on out is to replicate January eleven more times. If I can do this consistently well in addition to my other goals I am focusing on in 2018, I will be ready to call this year a success.

Origins

We hosted my dad and two of my siblings at our house over the Christmas holiday. Many memories were made over the short time we spent together, but what I may remember most is my dad, not always the sharer of experiences in his past, opening up on Christmas night to share some of the stories of his past. I couldn’t waste the chance to write this one down.

My dad started college in January at a no-name school in a small town. This was a month after he arrived in the United States, mind you, fresh off the boat, as they say. My mom, an American, was a young freshman from the largest city within a four hour drive and was probably unexposed to much in the world at that time, but was smart enough to get herself to college. One cold Sunday night in February, a month into my dad’s American dream, my dad’s roommates ended up calling around to various girls’ dorm rooms seeing if they could score an invite to come over. One of his American roommates made the pitch that his roommate was from Europe and these young women ate it up. They had to meet the foreigner. The guys came over and my dad and mom ended up meeting for the first time, sat together, and shared a conversation that Sunday evening.  Of course, as fate would have it, they ran into each other that coming week on campus, my dad asked her out, and the rest is history, as they say. By August of 1978 they were married and by the following July I was born, in that same small town, to a young happy couple who had just completed their associates degree (back when that meant something) and were ready to move on to bigger and better adventures together.

I know I’m not including a lot of details here, but with this basic outline, I can fill in the rest. I have never returned to that small town, for I feel no connection to it, but I feel that perhaps one day I will return, walk the campus where it started for my parents, where my origins began.

 

There goes another one . . .

Another year, that is. It feels like just the other day I mentioned that ten years had passed since I started this blog. Now, another 365 days have passed and we are at eleven years since I started Sound to Sound. I was a new associate at a law firm in lower Manhattan when I started posting online for the world to see (however few of you are out there). The world and my life was ahead of me. I didn’t even have any children back then. Boy, things have changed; boy, how things have stayed the same.

700 East

Twenty years ago I lived on the corner of a busy intersection on 700 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time, I wanted to escape Utah, but this City and this road keep pulling me back. Even without intending to, I have found that my daily route to and from the office takes me on 700 East, where I am pulled, encouraged to stop by the wayside at a park they call Liberty, to walk, before I begin my busy day on calls, in Outlook, in legal documents, in meetings. Oh, the meetings.

In the sunrise, in the light of the moon, the drizzling rain, the afternoon heat, I walk briskly, or sometimes stroll, alongside 700 East, the cars next to me, heading south. I have consumed book after book in the park of Liberty, headphones on, movies in my head, ideas, sadness, drama, excitement, words fill my ears, various accents, genres, time periods, locations, some real, some fictional. But all alongside 700 East. I have not escaped the pull of the road nor the City of Salt Lake, but I have escaped through my saunters in the park, accelerated my car up and down the road, timing the green lights headed north, then headed south, day in and out. 700 East. My road. My escape. My daily drive . . . .

Oh Canada . . .

I made my first trip to Toronto this past weekend. The city left a good impression on me. Here are a few insights into the trip:

  • Urban Canada is a true melting pot, much more so than much of the urban U.S.
  • Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America
  • The PATH underground the downtown financial center could fit 19 Mall of Americas in its labyrinths
  • I thought I was brave enough to do the Edge Walk, but showed up at the base of the CN Tower and realized I could do just fine without walking along the edge of one of the highest structures in the world
  • The Nuit Blanche festival on Saturday night was both disappointing and mesmerizing (what were all of those people doing outside at that time of night, and where was the art we were promised?)
  • I enjoyed the Hockey Hall of Fame more than I thought I would
  • Ditto on the Maple Leafs game
  • The poutine I ate at the Maple Leafs game probably took a few years off my life
  • The St. Lawrence Market neighborhood seems like a great place to live, if I could ever afford it
  • Toronto is a great city; perhaps I should include it in my next job search . . .

Fifth Grade Memories

My oldest daughter, yes, the one whose birth I announced and wrote about on this blog more than a decade ago, just started fifth grade. Where has the time gone? Yes, it’s hard to imagine life without her, pre-kids, but if I sit still, close my eyes, and think, I can remember fifth grade myself. I know who my friends were back then. I can see my fifth grade teacher, remember her name. I can remember my school and the long bus ride to get there because they were completing the new elementary school in my neighborhood. I can remember how I spent my recess, can remember the school play I participated in that year, and I even remember that time when the girl I had a crush on kind of liked me back. I remember NKOTB was the popular music group and the end of the twentieth century was more than a decade away.

So, yes, fifth grade for me feels like a long time ago, a lifetime ago perhaps, but not really. As I sit here, watching the sun go down, I am reminded of just how short life truly is among the cosmos and eternities of the universe.

SF Thoughts

I was recently in San Francisco for the first time since I left California in June 2011. It was good to go back and brought back many memories. It is hard to believe I spent only two years working in the Financial District of San Francisco given that I have now doubled that time here in Salt Lake. The time has flown by. But with my visit, I had two main thoughts.

  • From a pure city standpoint, I like New York City more. It fits me better. If I were single, New York would be more attractive to me. However, since I am not single, were I to choose to move back to either New York City or San Francisco, I would be more likely to choose San Francisco, as I would much rather be in the suburbs of the Bay Area with my family over the suburbs of the tri-state area of New York City. However, I don’t plan to do either anytime soon.
  • The prevalence of ethnic and national diversity available in San Francisco when compared to my current location was extremely noticeable. The trend in Salt Lake is definitely moving in the right direction, but I am one who strongly believes there is unity in diversity. The trend cannot accelerate fast enough for me.

Class of ’97

I can’t believe it’s here. It honestly doesn’t feel like that long ago when I graduated from high school. I mean, it does feel like a lifetime ago, but I clearly remember the event twenty years ago this month. I remember being excited to be done with high school, to move ahead in life, to begin college, to move out of my parent’s house. Class of ’97, it was something to be proud of. But now it’s here, just like that: our 20-year High School Reunion, held in Washington later this summer. Wait . . . what, how has it been twenty years? Where has the time gone?

I know my classmates and I are all approaching 40 and appear old to this year’s crop of high school graduates, but it is true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun. I did not make my 10-year High School Reunion a decade ago partly because the logistics made it difficult to do so, and honestly, the people I most wanted to see did not end up attending. And, I am still unsure whether I will make this summer’s reunion, but I am still a bit rattled by the fact that twenty years have passed. Will I blink and wake up a decade from now in 2027 to discover that my 30-year Reunion is just around the corner. Is this how life works?

Perhaps I should attend, enjoy it for what it is. A chance to realize that I have done okay in life and humbly show my classmates that they were passed up by the unremembered, quiet, underachievers like me in life. FWHS Class of ’97. Like I said at the time of graduation: you can take a man out of Federal Way, but you can’t take the Federal Way out of the man. Some things don’t change, even with time . . . .

FB at 10

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing in April 2007. I had my first job out of law school in lower Manhattan and this blog was going strong. Social media was not a term I recall knowing a decade ago and I received an invitation to join a relatively new social network called Facebook. I had recently joined Bebo, a now irrelevant social media site, and had connected with some friends from college and perhaps even shared some photos on Bebo. But Facebook was up and coming in 2007 and I created an account.

Had you told me a decade ago that Facebook would be alive and well in 2017, it would have been hard to believe. If you told me that Facebook would have two billion members, would possibly have influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and would be one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization, I would have thought you crazy. But here we are, ten years later, and crazy is now our reality. I don’t check the site and my newsfeed every day, and often don’t check it for several days in a row, but I still [*hiding eyes ashamed*] still check it often enough. And guess what: like most people, I scroll through a news feed posted on by the same revolving group of “friends” despite the many other silent “friends” I have on the site.

The question is whether Facebook will be a force to reckon with in 2027. It’s hard to see it going away anytime soon and will have probably reinvented itself at least once, if not twice, in the next decade. As a shareholder of FB stock, I now hope its trajectory continues up and to the right.

Some Months . . .

Fly by with not much to say. The days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. We keep getting older.

Fastnacht

As many parts of the world today celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I am reminded of a trip I took several years ago to Switzerland, where I used to travel for business regularly. While there in Zug, a city just south of Zurich, in late February, I was informed that I should go explore Fastnacht that evening. “Fastnacht?” I asked, having no idea what my colleagues were referring to. But they encouraged me to brave the cold and experience the Swiss-German version of Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Carnival. So I went that night with Melissa, another American colleague I was traveling with, and was blown away with what I saw.

There were people dressed up as animals, people wearing large and grotesque masks, groups of marching bands, brass bands dueling with other brass bands, tents set up to serve beer, strong cheese, pretzels and sausages, and ordinary masses of people, like me, on the sidelines observing the festivities with a cell phone camera wondering how this mayhem got its start. Turns out, Fastnacht goes back centuries in Germanic-speaking Europe and varies by region, with Lucerne and Basel known for their wild Fastnacht parades and events. All in all, it was quite the experience and one I am unlikely to have for years to come.

 

Throwbacks No More

In November 2015, I posted on this site that Salt Lake City finally received a radio station that I could enjoy and look forward to listening to. That station was 94.9 The Vibe. And now, that station no longer exists. I was shocked to learn the other day that my go-to radio station (in the event that I did turn on the radio) had disappeared literally overnight and was replaced with some sound-the-same Top 40 hit station. I don’t know what the motivation for the change was, but find it hard to believe it was market demand because everyone I know appreciated the classic throwback station that was The Vibe. So, for now, I’ll continue to stick with my audiobooks and NPR, but when I want to listen to music in my old car it really is a shame that my favorite option has been eliminated.

Theme Music by Alicia Keys

I realized the other day that I could attach some theme music to a few key points in my life. The reason this occurred to me was because each song that sparks a memory is written and performed by the same artist. That artist is Alicia Keys. Here are three separate moments in my life and how each song fits.

December 2003 – I was recently engaged and took my fiancé back to my hometown in between Seattle and Tacoma during the holiday break. The local radio stations of where we lived at the time were less than ideal when it came to urban, hip-hop and R&B and so I took advantage of better stations when in Washington. One afternoon, while driving to the Tacoma Mall, Alicia Keys’s “You Don’t Know My Name” came on. My fiancé didn’t know the song, but I somehow did. I remember singing it in the car and telling her, “this is one of the best songs on the radio right now.” She just smiled as I sang to her, just like lovers do before marriage.

October 2010 – I was with my wife and other immediate family members on my first and only cruise at the time. One of the activities that particular Carnival Cruise offered was Karaoke, and we all decided to entertain ourselves trying to sing one afternoon as we cruised the Mexican Riviera. Song after song, my siblings sang silly songs to each other and we all had a good laugh. Then it was my turn. I chose Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You.” The song was released several years before on the same album as the song mentioned above, so I knew every word by then, exactly what is needed to rock Karaoke. I stood up on stage, no one knowing what I was going to sing, and dedicated the song to my wife. I then sang my heart out, and I’m sure only those in the audience who knew me appreciated it. For everyone else, I am sure I was an earsore. Until this day, that song is the closest thing we have to “our song” and I still sing the song at home often. All my kids know it, which says something about how that song has fit into my life.

November 2011 – As I have mentioned on this blog in the past, one of my all-time favorite places to think and write is on a plane at night, surrounded by strangers, with the lights of small unnamed towns 30,000 feet below. One evening, either coming or going, I was on a Virgin America flight from coast to coast and I was listening to Alicia Keys’s “Un-thinkinable (I’m Ready)” on repeat. I was also scrolling through photos of my phone, which at the time, included many shots of my two young daughters. My wife and I had been discussing whether to have another child and when would be a good time. I was the holdout, feeling that maybe I was satisfied with the two healthy children we then had. But I kept thinking, Alicia’s sweet voice echoing around my head saying, “If you ask me, I’m ready.” I came home from that trip and told her I was ready. In September of the next year we had our third daughter. Alicia was even a finalist for her name. Instead, she ended up with another name beginning with the letter A.

There are other life moments that come to mind where Alicia Keys’s music has played a starring role, including dancing to “My Boo” in Lucerne, Switzerland to listening to her acoustic “Empire State of Mind” as I walked up West Broadway in lower Manhattan. Her voice and talent has been with me. Thank you, Alicia, for the great music and memories.

2006-2016

Thanksgiving 2016 has come and gone, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Ten years ago this month I started this blog. I was 27 years old when I had the idea to make some of my thoughts public. Back then, blogs were the primary way to do so before the rise of social media. I was married, but had no children. I was a few months into my first real job at a storied New York law firm and was a few weeks away from being informed I had just passed the New York Bar Exam. I had my whole life ahead of me.

Ten years have passed and I have even more to be thankful for today. I am now the father of four daughters and have lived in three states since I started this blog. My career has not been exactly what I would have thought ten years ago, but I would not have had it any other way. I am in an envious spot right now in my career and I am excited to see what the future brings. My family is healthy and I live in a great location in a (still) great country. So, yes, I have been blessed. As I sit here now, I am amazed at how quickly the last ten years have flown by. I can only hope that ten years from now (wow, 2026!), whether I am still writing on this site or not, I can look back and feel the same way as I do today.

Celebration of Life

A childhood friend of mine passed away recently. Actually, it was more dreadful than that; he took his own life. In my youth, we spent a lot of time together, although he was a year older than I was. He was a neighbor, schoolmate and church friend. We had fun together. We played soccer, football and baseball together. We jumped on our trampolines together and, looking back, survived some awfully daredevil endeavors. We went trick-or-treating through our neighborhood each year, raking in loads of candy. We played pranks on others, especially our siblings. We were boys and made memories. As we aged, we grew apart, as happens sometimes, even among good friends, with life taking each individual in his or her own direction. But he was always my friend.

Which is why I was surprised, to say the least, when I saw his family members posting the sad news of his passing. I saw that his memorial service and celebration of his life was days away. I rearranged my schedule to attend, and I’m glad I did.

While we had grown apart over the years, I remember him well. The more recent parts of his life I was unfamiliar with were highlighted at his service. He was a good man. He loved God and his family. He struggled with mental illness and such disease worsened over time. I don’t know what he was thinking on October 12, 2016 when he decided to end his life, but I know there are many people here on earth who will remember him for all the good he did and were reminded at how precious life is.

16 Years Later

Our Japan trip was amazing. It was so good to be back after 16 years; nostalgic even, as if I was returning to a dream or a prior life. The surroundings were familiar, but different in some ways from what I recalled from my two years in Japan years ago. When I first went to Japan in 1998, it was like I was going into the future given the technology disparity between the US and Japan – the mobile phones in Japan were amazing, more functions were automated at the time and so on. But I felt that less this time around, since no matter where you go in the world today, people have the same iPhones and earbuds and apps and games. I did, however, appreciate the food more this time around and had more cultural context to understand what makes the Japanese culture unique. And it is unique. It is orderly, clean, and respectful in a way that much of East Asia is not. Japan is a fantastic country.

This trip also marked my first trip to Tokyo, and wow, what a fantastic city. The size and scale of the city is incredible, both in terms of humanity and infrastructure. We stayed near Shinjuku Station, which is the busiest train station in the world. As someone who has commuted daily through New York’s Grand Central Terminal, I was used to a busy train station. But let me be clear: New York has nothing on Tokyo. Nothing. Shinjuku alone has around 3.6 million people a day traveling through its tunnels, walls, shops and connections. And there are multiple other stations in Tokyo alone that are almost as busy. It was incredible to see the morning rush hour. And in the evening, I was amazed to see that 11:00 pm felt almost as busy as 6:00 pm, not that I should have been surprised given the hours the typical Japanese salaryman works. But still, it was impressive and overwhelming.

One of the trip’s highlights was the day trip to Kyoto. Yes, that’s right, with our JR rail pass and thanks to the shinkansen bullet train, we were able to make a trip to Kyoto and Osaka from Tokyo a “day trip.” It was a long day, but we did it. We visited some sites I had never seen before, including Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari Taisha and the Gion District. Kyoto has a much different feel from Tokyo and was worth the effort to visit while there.

We also spent a day in Kamamura just south of Tokyo along the coast. It was a quaint, touristy place and we walked the streets and hills of the town exploring the Buddhist and Shinto temples, including a temple built into a cave where the promise to visitors is that if they wash their money with the natural spring water from the mountain their money will double. We’re still waiting to see our Yen double from such a washing.

Overall, it was a great trip. Japan is a country that, despite its quirkiness, I still think I could live in. I fit there, even if I am a tall, white gaikokujin. But that’s just me. I am not sure my family would fit there. And were I ever to have an opportunity to move there, I am pretty certain that doing so would result in a substantial downgrade in comparison to our way of life here in Salt Lake City. Living quarters are smaller, working hours are longer, commutes are exhausting, housing is more expensive, not to mention the language difference. My time to move back to Japan has passed; I just don’t see how it could ever make sense with four children and our current lifestyle. But I do hope to visit again and can only hope it doesn’t take another 16 years.

It’s Finally Happening

Almost exactly five years ago, on September 1, 2011, I wrote the last paragraph below regarding my desire to return to Japan. Well, it’s finally happening – I am returning to Japan for a week. Better late than never, right? When I left Japan in August 2000, I truly believed I would be back within a short time, a matter of years at most. Of course, by attending college in Hawaii, I literally put myself as close as possible physically and culturally to Japan without leaving the United States, and my Japanese skills flourished as a result.

But then came marriage and a family and a large chunk of my Japanese skills and travel flexibility disappeared. The true test will be how easily my language skills come back while in Tokyo in a few weeks. I know Japanese is in my head somewhere, I just need to dust it off. Will I realize I missed the country as much as I thought I did once I’m there? Will it have noticeably changed in the last sixteen years? Will my desire to return again be just as strong this time when I land at LAX? I’ll report back next month.

___________________

It has been too long. I can’t believe that I left Japan in August 2000 and as of September 1, 2011, I have yet to return to visit – not even once. From 1998 to 2006, a good chunk of my adult life, I have identified myself partly as someone who was interested in Japan, its people, culture and language. Once people met me for the first time, it didn’t take long for them to know that I used to live in Japan and spoke Japanese fairly fluently. But since 2006, my Japanese speaking opportunities have dwindled as my family life has flourished. But I am still interested in Japan, although I have accepted that my career won’t revolve around Japan like I once thought it would. But that may not be a bad thing, as the country is not what it used to be in the world and may never be again. There are so many things in Japan, though, that I would still like to see and experience. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get back, if even for a short time, and experience life as a gaijin again. I still speak Japanese well enough that traveling throughout the country wouldn’t be a problem. It is just a matter of finding the right time and arrangement to be able to go back. My target Japan visit date is sometime in fall of 2013, two years from now. Unbelievably, it has been longer than I ever would have imagined it would have been. I just hope that this drought doesn’t continue for longer than I am imagining it could.

A Change Gonna Come

I was involved in a recent conversation where my counterpart was arguing that the world was going to end soon. In other words, Christ will come again in his glorious “Second Coming” and will cast out the wicked and usher in a thousand years of peace. Let me be clear, I have no idea when the Second Coming will happen; it could be next year, it could be in hundreds of years. I don’t know. But I do know that people have been insisting that the end is near for centuries. My view, for what it is worth, is that the so-called end of the world is a long time from now.

Despite the global concerns that exist today – and there are real concerns, to be sure – there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. We are on the verge of technologies that will forever change the world. I believe that by 2050 we will look back and realize that the most innovative, life-altering inventions of the first half of the twenty-first century did not yet exist by 2016. If they did exist in 2016, they were in their infancy. The Internet/networked era we are in the early stages of today (yes, the Internet is still in its early stages from what will come in the following decades) is much like the personal computing days of the mid 1980s. We are only just beginning. Screens will continue to proliferate, but the big data and AI capabilities behind them will make them smarter, more productive, and hard to live without. Robots may take away many of the jobs and functions we do today, which will lead to large job displacement, but will offer opportunities and careers (for the prepared) not even existing or imagined by today’s youth. How we communicate, transport ourselves and access information will continue to alter, further reducing barriers and costs. Customized healthcare based on your body’s specific needs will become a reality. In short, the world decades from now will be unrecognizable to today’s daily life, much like today’s younger generation cannot fathom, yet imagine, what life was like in the 1950s.

So I’m optimistic. Good and evil will still clash, problems will still abound, but I believe that life has a specific purpose and that one day this may in fact all end in a grand Second Coming. But it won’t be this year nor this decade, and maybe not even this century. I don’t know. I just know that despite the struggles we face as a society, country and each of us personally, I know that, in the famous words of Sam Cooke, “a change is gonna come, yes it will.”

 

Designing the Future City

I’m not a futurist, but I take a heightened interest in the future. Not just in my future, which would be natural, but in society’s future at large. Of course, a large part of the future is technology and its transformative power (hey, remember what mobile phones looked like ten years ago?). A decade ago when I began this blog (and had a LG flip phone) I listed the topics I was going to cover: Business, History, Law, Technology, Japan, and New York (if not cities in general). These are my interests. No matter how much I am exposed to other ideas and places, my interests tend to come back to these general topics. And lately I have been reading a lot on how emerging technologies will forever change our cities and our world. From autonomous vehicles to the IoT connected cities and AI, the city of the future is an exciting place to imagine, where possibilities are literally endless and the use of space, human interaction, and the movement of people and goods look vastly different from what we know today.

This interest of mine is not accompanied by a particular skill set to do much about it, however. But when recently confronted with the ageless question of what I would do if I could do any job in the world for a living, helping design the city of the future is what came to mind. And Alphabet’s (fka Google’s) Sidewalk Labs is doing just that. The more I learn of the company and its mission, the more I am interested. The big question in my mind is whether I do anything about it, or will  I continue to solely read about the future and how it will shape me instead of actively taking a role in how it will shape us. My wheels are spinning, so stay tuned.

Reduced Portions

I am certainly not getting any younger. But ever since I hit 35 years old, I have noticed my metabolism has not been what it was. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted for my entire life. Those days are sadly over. Just recently, I realized that I needed to make a change. Don’t get me wrong, my diet is not bad, but it could be better. The change I needed is primarily with portion sizes. In fact, I was convinced that most of my issue and recent weight gain was due to how much I ate rather than what I ate. Moderation was not my strong point, especially with certain foods and snacks.

But those days are behind me. I hope. I have begun a diet this week. And it’s a simple diet: eat real food, eat less at mealtime, and eat fewer snacks. That’s it. Eat less is the goal. I will report on my progress in coming months, but I realized that now is the time of my life when I need to learn to live on less food and on real food. There is still a lot I want to do in life and I need the time to make it happen. I am trying to control my destiny to the extent I can. And it begins with my health.

Fitbit Nation

I received a Fitbit as a gift last July. July 18, 2015, to be exact. I have always liked to walk and found the idea of tracking my steps interesting enough to try it. Much to my surprise, I am still using that Fitbit on a daily basis. With the exception of a few trips out of town, I have worn my Fitbit literally everyday since. These are just a few random thoughts on the experience.

  • I have recorded more than 3.5 million steps since July 2015.
    • Yes, I know that some of the “steps” are just hand motions by way of washing dishes or wrestling kids, but for the most part, those steps are actual steps since I tend to do two walks a day during the week and am on my feet all day during the weekend.
    • Fitbit tells me that this is more than 1,600 miles, or the length of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • My daily average is around 13,000. My daily goal of 10,000 is usually obtained by early evening. The most steps achieved in one day was over 29,000.
  • My average sleep per night comes out to 6 hours and 34 minutes. This has been surprisingly consistent over almost the past year.
  • My Fitbit has changed my behavior at times, encouraging me to take the stairs or take the long way back.
  • My resting heart rate is consistently at 62 beats per minute.
  • My love of wristwatches has meant that I have continued to wear my watches on my left wrist and my Fitbit on my dominant right wrist. In other words, unlike most people, my Fitbit has not replaced my watch. Future fitness trackers or smart watches need to be much more compelling than current versions for me to stop wearing my low-tech, but reliable watches.
  • Since I am using the Charge HR model, I have appreciated the call notification function. A text notification on a smaller non-smart watch would also be helpful. Yet, related to the point above, I am not ready to upgrade to current smart watches for this feature alone.

The wearable market is still young and will evolve in the decade to come, but I have obviously found some utility in my Fitbit and am excited as to how wearable technology and the quantified self help me make future health decisions.

Chile

I was recently in Santiago, Chile for the first time on business and visited some farmland in the greater Santiago area. These are my brief impressions in no particular order:

  • Chile is not the Latin America many people likely envision;
  • Santiago is a modern and efficient city and felt much more like Europe than my impression of much of Latin America;
  • Santiago reminded me of Spain, but that may be because so many of its people have Spanish or European roots;
  • I had the chance to view Santiago from the tallest man-made structure in all of Latin America – it was breathtaking;
  • I will never view grapes, walnuts or avocados in the produce aisle the same way again after seeing how such crops grow and are harvested – I have a much better appreciation for where my food comes from and the manpower and natural effort put forth to produce what ends up on my plate;
  • Valparaiso, on the west coast of Chile, is one of the largest Pacific Coast ports in the world and most people in the U.S. have likely eaten fruit shipped from Valparaiso;
  • Valparaiso is also an artist’s haven, with much of the city’s walls up and down its many hills painted by local artists – it makes for a stunning drive through the city’s streets;
  • Even in the rural areas I observed, my perception is that Chileans tend to live better than much of the world and definitely better than many people in the region;
  • Chile is a very livable city with extremely warm people and left a strong positive impression on me.