2016 The Year In The Rearview

Be sure to be thankful for the past year.

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Lemmy From Billboard.com

One of my all time music idols passed away last December 28 – Lemmy Kilmister passed away from an aggressive form of cancer days after having been diagnosed.  2016 was not  to be an auspicious year on that front: David Bowie, Maurice White, Prince, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake.  Just a tough year for the classics…and some of the names of my childhood.

The most bizarre Presidential election cycle of my lifetime came to a close in November…in the most unlikely ways.  I’m still letting the phrase “President-elect Trump” sink in.  He may well be President before I can swallow that phrase.

The mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends succumbed to the cancer that she had willed at bay.

As we close the year, I’m anticipating the flood of “So long 2016…” and “may 2017 suck less than 2016” posts all over social media.  With all of this, by and large, 2016 has been an amazing year for me. I learned some things about the power of goals and endurance.  I learned some things about humility and being willing to step out of my comfort zone and try something different.

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2016, a year of goals

On January 2, I set out amongst the snow and slush, making my way on an 18-mile round trip walk to a nearby dam. It took me a little more than 4-hours to make the trip.  Tired and exhausted, it was awesome. It also helped set the stage for more than a few workouts this year – up and down the stairs, along the trails came to be known as the “Pain Cave” in my strange little circle of compatriots.

I began with a goal of 50 Obstacle Course races by age 50 – something I may still strive toward, as that’s my real passion and interest – but my short list of a handful of races, eventually became a goal of 46 races for my 46 years.  I honestly had no idea how low I had set my target and why would I?

On February 13, I ran the first race of the year; a 5k in 17-degree weather.  A couple of weeks later, I jumped into a pool of ice water to raise money for a kids’ camp.

It wasn’t until May that I dared try anything longer than a 5k – although the day before I ran 2 5k races – and it was kind of important that I do that because somewhere along the line I had joined a Ragnar Relay team and I had never run more than a 5k at one time.  I guessed at a 10k pace time for Ragnar, and tried to match it a couple of weeks before hand.  I did well enough – not great, but well enough – that I agreed to take on a longer set of legs for the relay, and I’m glad I did.

328 racing miles on the year.  I did so much more than I ever could have imagined.  Ragnar.  Ragnar Trail. Killington Spartan Beast.  A half-marathon.  11-races in July.  An overnight marathon relay so far into the New Hampshire darkness I saw the International Space Station traverse the sky.  I met some really cool folks.  I made stronger connections with old friends.  I ran 4 races with my daughter.  I either lost 20 pounds and gained 5 or lost 15 – I prefer to think of it as having lost 15.

Completed the #22Kill Challenge, did “The Murph,” a round of T25 and of “Insanity.” Lots of stuff going on for a pudgy, middle aged guy.

Interestingly enough, that icewater fundraiser I mentioned earlier, set the stage for another key aspect of the year for me: we gave more to charity this year than we ever have, and over a wide breadth of causes.  We had international guests for 2-months this summer; what an amazing experience. We welcomed yet another dog into our home – but this time we swear, no more.

So, 2016 didn’t see us get suddenly wealthy or even progressively so.  BUT it sees us through together, healthy.  Our bills are paid.  My daughter has completed her college studies a semester early and will be going to Europe for a couple of months in celebration.

Before complaining about how crummy 2016 was to you, maybe take some time and think about all the ways 2016 was pretty good to you.  365.25 days can’t all be bad.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 has waiting; I’m ready to go.  Happy New Year my friends.

Some Stats:

9 Pairs of sneakers

  1. Reebok (3)
  2. New Balance (3)
  3. North Face (1)
  4. Asics (1)
  5. Saucony (1)

66 Races (9 Obstacle Courses)
64:33:24 Hours:Minutes:Seconds Racing
Raced in 5 States (MA, NH, CT, RI, VT); Ran in  9 (NY, NJ, NC, FL)

 

Historical Race Information

Previous year: 2015

17189
Fenway Park Spartan Sprint

Boston MA

November 7, 2015
flibby
Flibby’s Muddy Buddy 20

West Boylston MA

October 12, 2015
1742832958
Warrior Dash New England

Madison CT

 

October 3, 2015
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New England Rugged Maniac

Southwick MA

September 29, 2015
vpjc1mpa
Bubble Run

Brockton MA

September 5, 2015
17189
Boston Spartan Sprint

Barre MA

August 29, 2015
14220281771
LUK, Inc. 5k

Worcester MA

May 17, 2015

 

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My Level I Grievance Against Santa Claus

Mr. Santa Claus

North Pole

I represent Mo Morrissey. As his representative, this will serve as formal notification of a Level I grievance, as required under the social contract between S. Claus, Inc. (hereinafter known as “Santa”) and “All the Good Boys and Girls” (hereinafter known as “the Kids”), for the inappropriate placing of Mo on the “Naughty” list and without good cause.

Speaking to Mo’s membership in the “the Kids” class, while he is sufficiently of age as to no longer be covered by the term “boy,” we refer you to the 1944 Mel Torme song, “The Christmas Song,” wherein the group “kids” is defined as “…from one to ninety-two.” As this definition has gone unchallenged, it is the working definition of those covered under this social contract, and Mo clearly falls within the boundaries.

We take the position that Santa without good cause placed him on the “Naughty” list and treated Mo as such for purposes of gift giving in the Christmas of 2014. Any evidence that Mo has, in fact, been naughty this year, is procedurally barred due to the failure to properly notify him of this assignment to the naughty list.

Article I of the social contract states that no kid will be placed on the naughty list without good cause and Santa will not arbitrarily or capriciously appoint such kid to the naughty list without due process. Mo was given no notice of his placement on the Naughty list, nor was any opportunity given to hear evidence or speak to the charges against him. Santa, in this case, placed Mo on the list in violation of the social contract.

Placement on the naughty list carries with it not only the stigma of having achieved a special sort of notoriety, but the additional penalty of a sub-par showing of presents on Christmas morning as defined by a minimal number of items under the tree as requested in his Article II “letter to Santa” (this document – which was delivered to the North Pole in the required format, no less than 3 weeks before Christmas morning as required – is enclosed with this letter). Imagine Mo’s surprise when, upon waking up to find Santa indeed came to his home, he found little of what he asked for on his Christmas list. The return receipt clearly shows “Hermie the Elf” signed for his letter two days after Thanksgiving day.

In consideration of Santa’s violations of procedure, we submit the following remedy of this grievance for your consideration. Removal of Mo’s name from the 2014 Naughty list, and an additional item from his Article II letter to Santa, with preference being given the SUV or in the alternative, we would be willing to consider the requested number of gold bullion bars.

In the absence of settlement, please confirm with my office a date and time for a grievance hearing. We are certainly interested in concluding this matter at the earliest possible stages of the grievance process as a protracted grievance serves no ones interest – particularly as you begin your winter vacation. Please do, though, bear in mind, the time requirements of the grievance process.

Sincerely,

The offices of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe

September 11, 2001

During the disputed Presidential election of 2000, I registered with CNN for email alerts on breaking news. For about a month between November and into December of that year, I would receive numerous emails from CNN with news alerts. After the Supreme Court decided “Bush vs. Gore,” the email began to peter out and after George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001, I received close to no alerts going forward.

For me, the morning of Tuesday, September 11 began much the same way Monday, September 10 had. I drove the 20 minutes or so to work, arriving at about 8 AM. I fired up my computer and geared up for my day. At 8:20, maybe 8:30, I drove out to some client sites – pick-ups or deliveries or whatnot – and arrived back at my office at maybe 9:15. As I logged back into my computer, a string of CNN alerts appeared on my screen – the most recent at the top. I remember reading through them in chronological order. At first I was stunned, then shocked, and then scared.

In our small office, we were all glued to our computers – trying to figure out what had happened. A small television was set up in our conference room and we just sat and watched in amazement. Our offices were directly across the street from the Massachusetts State Police headquarters, which in turn was next door to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Authority. Military armored vehicles blocked access to each compound. The air space over the Boston suburb was silent – no incoming or outgoing flights allowed. It seemed like the world had stopped, save for the emergency response going on across the highway. My cell phone provided sporadic availability – the limited cell coverage at the time was clogged from use. The dial-up internet was slow – bandwidth being taxed as millions logged on to find out news.

It was a time of unbridled fear. I wanted my loved ones close – almost irrationally so. I couldn’t keep my 6-year old daughter any more safe than could her school, but I wanted to be the one keeping her safe. I worked for two Sikh gentlemen and with a host of Indian nationals; knowing an attack of this magnitude could not have come from within and realizing quickly that news outlets were speculating on Islamic extremists, I was afraid for their safety. Sikhs have no relation to the Islamic faith, yet they wear turbans as some Muslims do. I was afraid for ignorant retaliation – those who may be inclined to retaliate will not take the time to figure out who is the enemy. I was afraid for my employees, any one of whom could be the target of xenophobia and attack. I was afraid for the wellbeing of the business – if ownership didn’t feel safe making calls, and if clients were reticent about meeting, the company would shortly begin to fail. I remember telling one employee to be careful, not to display his Quran – horrible advice to have to dispense. Last, I was afraid for my country and what direction it would take.

We had assigned spaces in our parking lot: My space was the last in the row of our assigned spots. After September 11, I noticed the car usually parked in the assigned space next to mine had no longer been there. As it happens, the woman who owned that car and the owner of a business located in our building, began a business trip to Los Angeles the morning of September 11 onboard Flight 11 from Logan Airport. She died as the Boeing 767 crashed into the World Trade Center. Less than a month later, her company died without her guidance.

I would watch videos of the planes striking the World Trade Center over and over, and I sometimes felt overcome with this existential angst – but for the grace of God go I – and anger. I couldn’t fathom making the choices some were forced to make, between jumping out a window to certain death or remaining in a building waiting for certain death. I thought about the babies and children aboard those ill-fated flights and could only hope their parents could have somehow controlled their own fears to comfort their children. And I thought about my own child and the world she would be living in going forward. I wondered about my own strength in the face of adversity and how I would respond.

When air traffic resumed, we were subject to more intrusive security checks – and that was okay. We accepted it, the world, after all, had changed. It didn’t take much, though, to realize that it would not be long before we wouldn’t tolerate long security lines at the airport gate. It didn’t take much to realize how woefully unprepared we were as a nation to combat an attack on our own soil, and it didn’t take long to realize that to ramp up our preparedness, the government would have to take a more activist role.

Some ten plus years hence when I can stomach watching those video clips, I still hurt and I still fight back tears. So many innocent people lost because of random chance – they took a flight they just happened to book or went to work the same way they always did, or responded to an emergency call as part of their job. Countless more who made slightly different choices and were spared. The realization not everything is under your control – that the smallest choices can have enormous consequence – is a constant message.

I realize, too, that I cannot remember the slightest thing about my day on September 10, 2001. I was probably upset the Patriots had been smothered by the Bengals the day before, but other than that not one blessed thing. I remember September 11, 2001 in almost scary detail, and I think it sad that I spend so much time going about my business that I don’t take the opportunity to make sure I’m making the most of my time. And much like the rest of us, I resolve to change that, but quickly slide back into the old habits of complacency. I just hope it’s not another 9/11 event that jars me – or anyone else – out of their complacency. God bless the United States of America.

Robin Williams

Tonight, Robin Williams is dead.  A man responsible for so much joy found life so intolerable that he felt he had to end his.

Truly a comedic genius.  So completely outrageous, and zany, he leaves me in a sad place.  How someone who could see the world in such humorous terms, apparently couldn’t see his own life through the same lens.  While “The Crazy Ones” was alright, it was still humorous.  How someone in such a dark place could be as humorous as he was in that show eludes me.

To be sure, someone who commits suicide doesn’t find himself in that place just once for a short period of time.  It’s a long term pain.  It’s a place so dark and so awful, but even then it takes time to come to that place where you decide there is only one way out of it.

Williams accomplished more in his life than most.  His body of work is incredible – from Mork & Mindy, to Mrs Doubtfire, to Jumanji, to Aladin…name it.  His work made me laugh, and made me think.  And now, I watch an interview with him – zany, funny, smiling – I can only think about the pain he must be hiding.  It astounds me how someone who accomplished so much couldn’t see how much he meant to others – not just the faceless and nameless masses, but his own family.  I live – and perhaps am alive today – for my kids and family.  I’ve felt hopeless, and I’ve been in dark places, and I’ve questioned my own existence.  It astounds me how someone as accomplished as Williams could feel the same.  But worse.  He took that one more step.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world…”  I used to think Robin Williams was both funny and deep.  Today, I’ve come to find he was funny because he was deep – and he used his own pain for leverage.  Consider: “Good people end up in Hell because they can’t forgive themselves.”  Imagine his own personal hell that had him take his own life.  “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.”  Imagine what his family is feeling tonight.

Godspeed Robin.  I hope you’ve found your peace.

With All Due Respect…

“With all due respect.” The phrase is supposed to acknowledge that the parties of a conversation do not agree on a particular point, and such disagreement is not due to any disrespect. It further indicates there is a degree of admiration due to the listener.

A skillful speaker of English, however, can successfully twist the phrase into a slight in and of itself. The truly beautiful part of using it against the listener is that there is nothing in particular about the phrase that should engender anything from the listener other than a polite response; it almost creates the obligation for a polite response. If you’re the particular sort who takes great pride in knotting someone’s boxers in a bunch, you can lay that on your listener, say something that completely contradicts what they have just represented and they will be left with the sense that you were speaking to them with respect, yet you have come up with something utterly offensive.

This of course can cost a few social points in that you have specifically stated that you don’t mean to be offensive – and clearly because you gave all due respect – and yet your own social filters were unable to screen out the patently offensive comment. However, if the target of your social incorrectness is somewhat more socially inept than are you, you can easily skate on this point with all of your social correctness chits in place.

You can also use the phrase to indicate how little you actually do think of the listener.

When speaking with someone you clearly do not respect, stating that you’re going to make a point to them with all the respect due them, is a bit like offering the sleeves off your vest. Say you’re talking to someone with whom you are actively engaged in an ad hominem attack. In the phrase “with all due respect,” you’ve now embedded the meta-message, “and you’re not due any respect.” “With all due respect, I think you’re a pusillanimous puke.”

In my opinion, the most personally satisfying use is the time when the object of ridicule has no idea he or she has been identified as not having been due respect AND having received the offending comment having been initially disarmed by the that initial faux-acknowledgement. It’s a beautiful Machiavellian double-entendre where that individual may actually compound the insult by acknowledging that what you have said could be true.

The skillful turning of a phrase can be one’s best psychological defense from perceived attack or one of the best implements with which to bludgeon one’s despised other in a socially tactful way.

And so, with all due respect, I must now bid you adieu as I do have some other affairs to which I must attend. My hair needs washing and my socks are due for their matching. I’m sure you understand.

To Be Honest With You…

How many times have I sat in an interview with a candidate or sat in an automobile sales office, or in some other meeting on a sensitive topic where the person with whom I’m speaking says, “To be honest with you…”?

Now, I’m sure the expression is mean to address the idea that what has been asked or that which has been otherwise addressed, is somehow sensitive or somehow difficult to answer – particularly for a sales representative trying to sell me an automobile who wants to recenter the conversation away from potential issues or additional costs. Particularly in the case of an interviewee telling me that he or she is going to be “honest with me” though, I immediately note that something other than the complete truth is about to come my way.

It’s a verbal cue. It tells me instinctively that the person saying it feels they haven’t built sufficient credibility throughout the conversation – or relationship or body of interaction with you – to sufficiently express themselves. OR they’re flat out lying, putting some undue spin on what they’re telling you, or telling you something other than what one might reasonably consider the truth. An interviewee saying “to be honest with you” to me is essentially telling me that “I haven’t been honest with you up to this point, but please accept what I’m about to say as truth.”

In either case, now the listener is focused on a few things other than that which the speaker is expressing. Bingo. That speaker has redirected full attention away from that which he or she has expressed to you. While you’re thinking about whether they’re about to fabricate something out of whole cloth or if your relationship is something other than wholly honest, this person continues talking.

If you’re a sales representative trying to sell a car, this may be a good thing.

For an interviewee, this is potentially fatal. As a job interviewee, it is your ONLY job to be communicating who you are, what you are about and why you are the right fit for the organization. Your ONLY job is to communicate a positive message about yourself, TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. “To be honest with you” screws that up. I’ve now got MORE questions about you. I’ve now got MORE questions about what you’ve already told me. My pace and track has been derailed. Does that mean you won’t get a second interview? I don’t know – it depends. Do you want to take that chance?

It’s loaded. Don’t bring a loaded phrase into an interview, lest you shoot yourself with it.