Wednesday, January 29, 2020

fighting that knee jerk reaction

I've spent last few days in bioethics and regulation educational training. I have a lot of bioethics, ethics, and regulation background and this was merely some "freshening up" skills. Still though, like a lot of times I wonder a basic question:  Why have a read and seen so much SciFi?

I mean, if you ask me I was always a fantasy person - not a scifi one.

I of course read Tolkien (and a lot of other fantasy writers, long before George R.R. Martin - the ones before him when I was a youngster Llyod Alexander David Eddings Raymond E. Feist Jenny Wurst and Elizabeth Moon ) and while I read some SciFi it was never my thing. It took me until early 20ies when I took bioethics to understand why I didn't fancy reading the Scifi.... It's simplified to say like this but still; "it's too complicated so I don't relax when I read it".

A lot of it deal with "what is human?" (hint, it has to do with soul and that robots don't have one but humans who are created by God does... ) and when you look at some of the bioethics questions today, a lot stems from "is it a human specimen?".

It's still the way I end up explaining my knee jerk reaction to all of the new computer based stuff. The AI, the ML (machine learning), the Telehealth, the big data..... all of it I have a visual of either Terminator world I saw as a young teenager, or the Gattaca (what a movie!) when I started my career as a biotechnologist or Alexa/Echo being in more than 50% of the homes of my friends supporting their next google/amazon search based on previous conversations. I know that I'm weary of this. I know that I think about it more since I work with privacy laws, bioethics, international law and views on a lot of biomedical research and future. 

However, after sitting through a couple of discussions and pitches the last couple of days I had to remind myself - "not to be scared and worried. Everyone else at the table is ok with this. It's only you who wants to disconnect the computer and go back to keeping everything on paper"*

At least I know I'm having a non actionable reaction and need to work through what I'm really concerned about (difference in what "people think can be done" and what "companies sells as being able to be done") and how this might be affected by people who are not working in good faith, and what they can accomplish with stuff that is available out there.

And I have very mixed feelings on AI. Especially after that final lecture on AI at AER2019"The learning is only as good as the training pilot program is devoid of bias." Indeed. My thought would be that there is still a lot to be learned, and there still is a huge value of having some regulations keeping track of what people can do in the meantime - before the next scare/scandal.

*glorious days. SO easy to keep privacy and preventing from exploitation. Of course, there would be no future breakthroughs either so not a viable way going forward...

Friday, January 24, 2020

being a night owl

It's one of those things that you know. If you're a night owl or an early morning riser. Don't get me wrong, I wake up at 6 am most weekday mornings. It doesn't mean that I like it though. Nor that my head is in the game. More often than not I mumble "is it morning again?". And it's not because I haven't slept enough. (There are many times nowadays as old when I am in bed at 10.30pm for a good 7.5 hours of sleep.)

However, when given the choice and opportunity - I stay up late. Like tonight. Sure, I have avoided a few things that I have to do and once completed these, I notice that I feel content and wanting to write something in this blog. I also wrote something smaller in another setting, and I am feeling the happiness filling me.

There is something about being awake in the darkness, in the quiet, in the stillness - that makes me so happy.

I wrote most of my PhD thesis at night as well. Most often I thought it was because I needed quiet so when most people in the department started getting home to their families and kids, around 4pm, then I started gearing up to write. Then when I was a post doc similar pattern appeared. And now, far away from the academic concepts, still I find my writing spot in the dark of night.

I thought it was due to that "if need be I can work through the night and not sleep" in case of a deadline. While that might be a rational thought for me, and one of the underlying reasons, I really think it is more to the fact that my brain isn't really functioning in the morning. Also, I spend a lot of time during the day having my brain thinking through the assignments and sorting through a bunch of thoughts and such, and then when sitting down after 5 pm, it all falls into place and I can easily write it up.

You see, while I wake up at 6 am on the weekdays. I wouldn't say I'm awake until 8am. And that's regardless of coffee or so. I just need a good 60+ mins to wake up and be sociable enough to interact with people. And kick my brain in gear.

One of the reasons I've had my fair share of complainy thoughts of "why does everyone think it is so noble to be at work at 6.30am and leave at 3.30pm?" and also mentioning to my bosses over time that if they want me the most productive, forcing me to be at work 7.30am is not in their best interest. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm privileged to be able to not have to come in at certain early hours every single day.  I'm not taking it for granted. And during my time as a mail person, I did start at 5.45am every single day and didn't complain about it. But then again, it wasn't a problem solving job either...

I am still wondering, when will it be considered "as good as being in at 6.30am" to work a full day (or/and more) and stay until 6pm? Or even, and this is pushing it, not counting the hours of coming in and leaving but focusing on the work that's produced.

I know, I know. It's not the way it is. Just my little dream world. For now though, happy writing in the dead of night. sleep well!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

new year, new me?

It's that saying "out with the old, in with the new", "The King is dead, long live the King" and other niceties. Happy New Year! Now, let's go.

The start of this new year, the new decade, coincided with a deadline for a huge project I'm involved in being moved up. When finding out about this change in schedule and delivery, there were some mapped out alternatives and suggestions of fast tracking some processes. However, what happened later could be referred to as "crashing the project".  Both of these terms are of course project management terms.

It's not really descriptive of what happens in a team with a project. To explain the terms quickly, one could say that fast tracking means working on several things in parallell rather than sequential. It increases risk, maybe especially when you develop things at the same time although the things are technically building on each other. And crashing is adding resources and increasing the cost but making the project faster.

In real world it meant that in the first part of the "let's work hard for the deadline" was developing a few things in parallell to avoid the time between "now this is complete, start with the next part". And then the second step was "stop working on any other project and go all in on this one and work OT if needed".

I would admit to thinking when I learned all these fancy terms that "increase resources" meant "hire additional people to help". I would say now that it usually means "stop working on other stuff and focus on this Project" since there's seldom a long period of time that this happens (in my place of business anyway). Needless to say, it's rare that you can "stop doing everything else" in a job, so it's a struggle balancing leaving all the other stuff for a short time vs working a little too much.

Which brings me to my point of this post. There is nothing that makes it so clear who you are as when you are faced with pressure and how you deal with this pressure is (for some of us) telling. I tend to get very focused on the task at hand (finishing the project). Depending on how much extra things that are in the background, and on the team, I tend to drop the shining smile and become a bit more blunt. As I said, focused on the tasks e.g. "We need to do A, F, G and K to finish. Let's do it!".

And while I definitely have worked on my personality expression over the years, and was raised as a very polite non-pushy person - there are limits to my patience and emotional bandwidth with people waffling and not contributing.

Lucky for me, there's a gif and a video (1-1.14 in the link) expressing how I felt when this phase happened.

"You don't know what I look like when there is a deadline that we can meet but it will require actual work and getting things done in a timely fashion".

Of course it's not quite as melodramatic. I was never in love with the project, and the project never loved me back to start with. But it is a good reminder that the last part of project is often the hardest. And that it requires something special to motivate the team and get everyone to perform great. The "actual finishing" the final things, wrapping up the present, tying the bow and writing the documentation and filing it so you can find it when you need to revisit, that takes effort. Especially when there are a plethora of other things waiting to get done and demanding your attention. And it is why it's so important to keep politeness and decency, and after the project is complete - have a "we did it!" celebration and hopefully a short relaxing time to regroup and get energy for the next thing. One can hope. Happy New Year indeed!

Monday, December 30, 2019

out with the old, in with the new

It's that time of the year when everyone recaps the year that has happened, and this time also the decade that has happened. I would love to, but bad planning and a computer without much power will lead me to do this report on New Years Day.

Maybe, just maybe, I can see that as a sign of the new year and decade for me. To accept and not overplan, to look forward and not dwell to much on the past?

For now, here's to happy future times! To friends! To friendship! To love and loved ones. And most of all, to all the lovely people in the bloggosphere who has brightened my day this latest year and will do the same for years to come.

Happy 2020! Happy new decade!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

42km/26.2miles - again?! why? (marathon musings)

I realized that I never did follow up on my post about marathon training last year . Together with my earlier musings this year in regards to Lessons learned post I put up, I feel that it might be a good idea to do follow up....

So, in short I ran the marathon after 6 months of training. Like a lot of people will say, the race didn't go according to plan. I woke up to thunderstorms, delayed start, pouring rain like you wouldn't believe and then more delayed start. When the start happened the sun was up and the course was pretty much without shade, it was 96% humidity and unusually hot for being in December (80F/26C) in the shade. I had a sneaky feeling at 10 miles when I wanted to use the restroom to pee that I was in trouble since there was no way I really needed that. Especially since I know that one of the signs to flash "you're in dehydration" mode, is the feeling that I need to pee. Strange, yet there it is.

I still felt pretty ok about it all when I saw a runner getting taken off the course at mile 12 (medics pulled them off). And then the runner who almost ran into a tree. And then runner who was all gray in their face, walking slowly and then threw up next to me. At that point I started to think "what is the most important thing for me?". And it wasn't about finishing on a good time, it was finishing strong. So, I started walking a little and took it slow and steady.

I picked up the pace again closer to the finish line, once I hit 22 miles I felt safe to run "as fast as I could to get in goal" and did my last mile as the fastest mile of the whole race. Happiness for me! I crossed the finish line, got my participation medal, snapped a few photos with it and went to the hydration and food stance. Called my parents and talked about the race, still feeling pretty good about it all. And then the strangest thing happened when I met with my partner (in hindsight I should've seen it coming but I am good at ignoring certain things) - I started crying and mumbling that I hadn't done a good race. There were so many emotions all at once. Not only tired, but "not as tired as I thought I would be" (since I hadn't pushed myself as much since I was scared of the dehydration and belly cramps). Not as fast as I had hoped, which I had told myself all alone was never going to be the goal - "first race is to finish, not for time".

It all felt a bit better after the cry, the hugs and "you're being silly sweetie, you did great", and of course the glorious shower once I got home. And hydration fluids and a little bit of food. And more rest.

All in all, looking at the scale and the weighing before carbo loading, before the race and after the race - I lost over 6 pounds in water weight that day. I was seriously nervous about how little fluids I had left in my body (pee colour I've never seen before...) but I kept up with hydration two more days and then I had my annual physical. (Wouldn't recommend it but there is was.) My labs were excellent by the way, go me and hydration!

So, why do I bring this up now? Well, because I have gone and signed up for another marathon to do soon. And this time around my anxiety (competitiveness) is ramping up and I have to face a few uncomfortable truths.

I've always detested "the second time". I had to do my driver's license test twice and I was way more nervous the second time than the first. The first was "you just go and try", the second was "if you fail now you really aren't good". In short, stakes were/are higher the repeat time than the first. In theory, I should be faster this second time than my first race. But that's in theory, not a given. And it is a chance I will fail at that.

I got a good eye opener the other week when talking to a colleague about the training and how the running is going when they asked; "who are you running for? It doesn't sound like you look forward to this". And I thought to myself, "hm, that's an interesting thing.. I am way more nervous about this time around. I want to make a better time than last year, and I would like to feel better afterwards. But if I don't make a better time, how will I feel?". I answered them that this is one of the reasons I wanted to do it a second time, to prove to myself that I can do it "when I know what I am getting myself into and see if I can repeat what I did".

Funny enough (?), until I was on the course last year I never would've thought that I couldn't finish. All my training was still while never having doubt. I did my training program, kept at it and chafing and all, I still kept slogging along. It was while I was on the course, during the race, that I realized that it could go pear shaped at any time. That my training had been good, but at that point there were a lot of choices that I could make that would make things very difficult and that it wasn't at all clear that I would finish just because I had started (after all, more than 500 people of the 3000 who started didn't finish). And that knowledge - the doubt and the knowledge on how fickle the weather and life can be - is more prevalent this time around.

It's one of the things I have realized more and more the older I get, a trait (skill?) I have that isn't in everyone - the ability of shutting down and just keep going. Sometimes it's a good trait, sometimes it would've been better to stop and leave - accept that the situation is horrid and there's nothing you can do and you need to get out. I'm not saying it's all great to "persevere", sometimes it's plain dumb and I have certainly a few experiences that I would do differently if they came about today.

However, there are times - like when you are pushing yourself to jog 26.2 miles in a go - that the ability of not questioning "why am I doing this" but focusing on "one more mile, then I'll take a sip of water" is a good trait to have. The other benefit for me doing this is that I have to get over myself mentally - especially when I do my long runs. I have to get my brain in gear and think "I can do this". Somewhere during the run my brain will start spewing negative thoughts, not only doubt but "you're too slow", "you're too fat to do this", "why do you keep trying", "start walking and turn around to go home" etc. I've mentioned before, and it's probably all too obvious in my previous posts, that I am a champion in having these less than supportive self esteem thoughts. The good thing though is that it's really hard for my brain to do those thoughts after a long run when the body and brain is drenched in dopamine and my muscles have used up adrenalin and I lay panting on the floor hurting everywhere.

And I'm smart enough to remember that feeling when my brain comes knocking saying "hey, you're on mile 4, let's go home instead of doing another 12 miles". That's when the stubbornness kicks in and states "keep going, it'll be over soon enough and you will feel great afterwards".

All in all, what I wanted to say with this post is:
If you wanted to do a marathon - go ahead and train! Give yourself at least 6 months. I had done 6 half marathons before, and would recommend at least one half marathon before a full so you know how you feel after 2hours of jogging/running.
It's a lot of mental training to keep training and to keep running. And it gives you a different perspective on a lot of things. And if you can do it without music (which I recommend), it's an amazing time to be alone with your thoughts and really tap into feeling your body, breathing and everything.
And I really hope that my second marathon race will feel at least as good as the first. Fingers crossed!

TLDR: I hope I feel happy after my second marathon than my first. It was a lot of emotions and expectations in one day. And I want to prove to myself I can repeat this training and race a second time since now I know what I can expect from the race - and it's going to be tough. Mainly overcoming my own expectations and shortcomings.