Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Inappropriate Emotional Response of "Losing" a "Phone"

So I lost my mobile phone the other night. Well, that's not entirely
true. It was a 'mobile device' (i.e. smart-phone) and like most
scenarios - I accidentally left the 'phone' unattended for a period of
time, and when I returned to where I know I had left it, it was gone. I
think the reason most of us say "I lost my phone" was that it makes us
feel less cynical about humanity than saying, "Someone stole my phone" -
which is actually what generally happens. Perhaps another way to say it
was that I assisted someone in stealing my phone by leaving it
unattended for a while. Of course that's quite a bit more complicated to
say than "I lost my phone".

My situation wasn't as bad as a co-worker I was relaying this to last
night that 'lost' their phone at Denver airport. To me, stealing an
'unattended' phone at an airport takes an opportunistic based dearth of
morality to a whole other level. Because pretty much everyone going
through an airport has 'lost' their phone at one time or another and
personally knows how that feels.

The point of this post wasn't to elicit sympathy, or decry the declining
ethical fiber of humanity. It was to share what I think is the common
feeling you have when you lose your 'phone'. When I got into work, I put
it succinctly to one of my friends at work.

"The emotional reaction we feel when we 'lose' a 'phone' is completely

With that one statement, my friend instantly knew what I was talking
about and couldn't agree more.

To be specific; we feel a sense of loss - but the replacement cost of it
is the least of that loss. We feel instantly 'lost and untethered'. We
don't know what to do. We feel 'violated' - as if someone just didn't
take an electronic possession, but rather that they intruded on our very
lives. And we can't wait to have a replacement phone in our hands as
soon as possible to make those feelings go away.

The above of course is irrational, but it's almost instinctual - and
other people I've talked to have confirmed it's just not me.

I think the reaction is because our 'phone' is associated with being
connected to our social fabric. They are expressions of who we are. We
personalize them with cases, wallpaper, ringtones and apps. We take
photos and videos of memorable events in our lives with them - and those
accumulate (sometimes just on the phone). We send and receive eMail,
texts and even IM with them. We trust their GPS and navigation to guide
us and our families safely to our destination. They tell us what the
weather is like outside, the latest news and stock quotes and if our
flight is delayed. Some of us even talk on them from time to time.

They have become personal little portals to the unique configuration of
each of our worlds. They tether us to our friends, family and
co-workers. For some people, they appear to be appendages - but even the
lesser afflicted of us grow quite accustomed to them always being there.
And we don't even realize how dependent we've become on them until they
are suddenly removed from our day to day equation.

There's been lots of psychological discussion on similar topics - for
example our obsession with cars and how they are expressions of who we
are. But I think smartphones take it to a whole other level. They are a
convenience and a curse. All the time we are unaware of how addicted
we've become, until we are forced to go 'cold turkey'. What makes it
even more interesting is that in the age of Android / Google and Apple /
iCloud - the phone is just a reflection of our content that is actually
stored somewhere 'out there'. So it's not like I lost any of my contact
information, emails, photos, apps. I'll get a new Android phone, enter
in my Google ID - and within about 30 minutes it will have all the same
stuff loaded back on it automatically (btw - I find that pretty darn cool).

But back to my point about the 'inappropriate emotional reaction' - Like
I said - it just got me thinking. Perhaps as part of a '12 step
program', I'll not replace it right away with a fancy new smart phone.
Maybe instead I'll dig out one of my old RAZR phones (you remember - the
kind that just takes calls and texting is done via a standard phone
keypad)? It would be interesting to go 'retro' for a while. :-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Tethering Effects of Podcasts, Mexican Food and Widmer Beer

I'm here in China on one of my quarterly trips. It's Saturday afternoon and I managed to get in an easy 6 miler this morning. It was supposed to be a tempo run, but I just ran it at a moderately easy pace with some fartlek running near the end. The travel and time change always takes a little wind out of my sails - even if I don't feel tired.

Saturday's are quiet on the streets - which makes crossing them a bit easier than during the weekday. I only really have two major streets to cross anyway and then I'm at the river. I found a new route down there the other day. Actually, they had put a pedestrian path through in the past few months so it wasn't to be 'found' previously :-)

I like running here, even though I really just have a couple out and back routes to choose from. Depending which direction I turn when I hit the river path. That might seem limiting, but if you do the math based on how many trips I take per year times the number of typical running days - I maybe run each route less than 30 times a year. I'm sure there are routes near my house and in Denver that I repeat many more times than that.

The temperature on this morning's run was about 40 degrees, and a light rain fell on me for most of it. The stones I run on are a bit slick, and my hamstring is still bugging me a bit - so I didn't mind keeping things at an easy pace. I listened to a couple of podcasts from the "Stuff You Should Know" series courtesy of the How Stuff Works crew. They were both well done and I'll listen to future ones on the run.

I switch up between music and podcasts when I run. And probably 1/2 the time when I'm running in the US I go iPod 'naked' (i.e. don't listen to anything by my footfalls and the sounds around me). But when I'm here in China - I like having something familiar in my ears more often. It makes me feel 'tethered' to home. There are a few songs that remind me of specific things - mostly family and friends. When I'm feeling lonely I put them on and usually come back from my run feeling a little less so.

Some of the podcasts I'm listening to are:

- WTF with Marc Maron
- Running Times
- The Runners Roundtable
- The Nerdist
- The Adam Corolla Show - the one with Norm McDonald was hilarious
- The FredCast (cycling)
- Running from the Reaper (the host - Nigel - is delightful to listen to)
- and of course; Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (which every runner should listen to at least once :-)

It's amazing to me how much 'free' stuff you can download and listen to. Some of it is quite good. I'm looking forward to catching up on the Adam Corolla Show on my long run tomorrow. Mostly because for some reason - his podcast and show just ooze American pop culture - which is kind of what I need a dose of when I'm in the middle of a two week trip here and missing that completely twisted and strange country I call home. I could live anywhere in the world and be happy I think. I've got a good chameleon personality and mindset that blends into the background of where I'm at (although China is one of those places I can't completely blend in for obvious reasons). But for all it's wackiness - I like being an American and deep down my soul is steeped in our culture. You could say that it's because I grew up there - but I don't care. It's home. And everyone I love dearly is there.

So while I'm here in Hangzhou, I'll enjoy the rest of my week. I'll enjoy the familiar running routes here, my friends from work, the quiet weekend, the food. In a few days my stomach will take it's usual defiant stance and I'll start jonesing for Mexican food, Whole Foods Rosemary Sourdough bread, Widmer hefweizen and a decent glass of red wine.

I'll long to be home to the wide open feeling of Colorado, with it's high ceiling and views that stretch forever - and it's culture of athletes and being outdoors. Just wandering through an REI makes me happy.

To help me drift off to sleep in my hotel room, I'll start playing over the moments of what it's like to walk through the door of my home. The familiar smell of home, the warm embraces of my loved ones, and waking up in my own bed.

And when I land at my port of entry, and the US immigration officer decides that I'm legit - I'm always warmed by the sincerity in their voice when they say, "Welcome home". It's clear they understand what it's like to come home.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year! (Random Catching Up)

Yeah - ok. So I'm a week late. Just kind of getting caught up work-wise and around the house.

We had a great holiday. Spent the week down in Albuquerque with Paige's family. Great running weather, and I've gotten several terrific routes I do now in the area there.

Christmas was big fun with the kids. Very relaxing. I won't say that we are big New Year's folks. In fact, we didn't even make it to midnight - EVEN East Coast time! I did wake up when the fireworks were going off. Oh, and also when Paige's folks stumbled in at about 1am - oh, right: Did I mention that 'they' weren't lame like us and went out partying? Meanwhile Paige and I are having a snore-fest. Such is the life of an athlete. I can't freakin' stay up past 10pm to save my life.

The last week has been good. Caught up at work, nice weather. I somehow managed to tweak my lower hamstring - actually not even my hamstring. I don't know what it is. It's more like the connective tissue / ligament that connects the hamstring to the lower leg. I have no idea how I did it. It just showed up on my 10mi run on Tuesday around Wash Park. There isn't anything I can point to that would have caused it in the preceding days - other than a drive from Albuquerque to Denver. Weird.

It's getting better just running easy. Also did a cycling commute on Wednesday - cycling is my magical PT. There were a couple 'whoah there' moments due to some ice on the path, but for the most part it was clear sailing.

btw - my new Ksyrium wheel-set is the bomb. Totally connected to the road, quick. The bike feels like a single unit now. I don't know how to explain it, but the old wheels were just 'worn out' and 'sloppy'. I felt like the bike wasn't connected to the road. Of course the Ksyriums are way stiff - but anywhoo - jury is in. They rock.

Tomorrow was my first scheduled race. 10K with the running club I belong to. But I'm going to bag it. No sense in tweaking my leg further for a race that is more of a fun club race, early season and most likely will be on snowpack. Instead I'll just head out for an easy 10miler in Bear Creek and enjoy the snow.

That's about it. Nothing earth-shattering to report.