Friday, March 11, 2011


Playing Trumpet
"So you see", I said with the enthusiasm of a kid who'd just discovered a secret treasure map, "If you know the overtone series and understand the basic physics of sound production, then you can easily figure out all possible fingerings for any note on the trumpet. In fact, you can easily figure out how to play any brass instrument without instruction or looking up any information."

Scott looked at me for moment and then replied, "I don't see why you have to do that!"

"Do what?", I responded.

"Learn all that physics stuff just to play music. Wouldn't it be better if you just played?"

I suddenly found myself at a loss for words. It seemed that we'd taken a wrong turn off the super highway of how things work into the seedy neighborhood of how things should work and I wasn't quite sure how we'd got there.

"So I bought one of those juicers that you and Iris got and took it with me and the kids to Aspen", the phone crackled as Mark passed a cell phone obstructor.

"That's awesome!", I responded, "So are you juicing?"

"Well, I don't know about that. Rob Gray was telling me about just eating raw foods and my nutritionist tells me that juicing is worthless and besides, don't you need your protein?"

"Ummmm... I'm not sure what that has to do with juicing and you may want to consider another nutritionist. All I've been doing is making vegetable juice every morning and avoiding sugar. Basically, you eat vegetables, whole grains, meat, chicken and fish. Or more simply, you just avoid anything that comes in a package."

"Uh huh. So, what exactly are you doing for juice", Mark responded.

"You mean like a recipe? I don't really measure anything."

"That's okay, just tell me what ingredients you use."

"Well, carrots, celery, asparagus, spinach, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes... and oh yeah, after I pour a glass for Iris, I add some garlic and ginger."

"How much garlic?"

"Oh, just a tiny clove, no more."

"That must be it!"

"What must be it?"

"Well, I remembered you saying you liked garlic in your juice, so I decided to make some juice with garlic and I ended up puking."

"How much garlic did you use?"

"About a cup or so."

Since I started juicing, I've lost a lot of weight. So I decided to try running again. Although I haven't run for a while, I bike at least forty-minutes every day. My cardiovascular and pulmonary systems are in good shape--so good in fact that whenever I attempted running in the past, I'd end up not being able to walk the next day. My legs simply couldn't keep up with my lungs.

This time, the combination of being careful and having lost weight have made it much easier. I can run faster and longer without hurting myself. When Iris decided to register for a local half marathon at the end of May, I said, "Sign me up too! We can run together."

She signed up both of us and we've been preparing.

After just a couple of days, I said to Iris, "You know what? I think I can do this in 90 minutes. It'd be fun to set a pace where I could do a sub-three-hour marathon."

She just smiled.

So, I've been working towards that goal and it's been a lot of fun. When I was younger (i.e. in my late thirties and early forties), I could run ten miles in just under an hour, so I figure that 13.2 miles in an hour-and-a-half should be doable and even if not, if I shoot for 90 minutes, I know I'll break 100 minutes.

Last night as we headed out for dinner, I said, "Wow, it's gonna really be fun to run this half-marathon together!"

Iris, responded, "What are you talking about? We're not gonna be running together. You're gonna be off running seven-minute miles. I can't keep up with that!"

Not noticing the half-eaten chocolate bar and the other tell-tail signs indicating the onset of a monthly interval where the wise man would have simply skipped over the comment and kept quiet, I responded, "Why not?"

Iris just kind of looked (perhaps glared would be a better word) at me.

So I pressed on, "I mean, if you could run seven minute miles, would you want to?"

"But I can't run seven minute miles!"

"That wasn't my question. I just asked whether or not you would want to if you could."

Glare and silence.

As we drove to dinner, I asked, "So, why when I asked one question, did you answer another?"

After a few moments, Iris responded, "Well, I knew that if I said, 'Sure, I'd love to run seven minute miles', you'd jump into telling me how I could do it and then I'd have to do it or I'd be worthless shit."

I made a mental note that I should probably take into deeper consideration half-eaten chocolate bars and then said, "How'd you get from being able to run seven-minute miles to being shit if you didn't?"

I dropped Iris in front of the restaurant and proceeded to park the truck.

It seems that one of the best ways to muddy thinking is to clump. What I mean by "clump" is to intertwine various aspects of the same topic to the point where they become indiscernable, e.g., mixing up desire, capacity and obligation. The result of clumping is what we in computer science all an endless loop, no matter how many times you answer questions that might lead to clarity, you find yourself back at the starting point as though no questions had been answered.

The only solution is to de-clump, a simple and straight-forward process that is nonetheless difficult to implement. De-clumping is similar to sorting change. You dump all the aspects of what you're considering on the table and then segregate them into categories. Questions regarding desire and want go here. Questions regarding cost go there. Questions regarding obligation and should go here. Questions about capacity and can go there.

De-clumping helps you focus on the areas where you really are uncertain. It doesn't make sense to consider how to do something if ultimately you just don't want to do it. On the other hand, there may be things that you'd love to do, but you don't consider them because you've reached the conclusion that you can't do them. If on the other hand, you let the desire build unfettered by can't you might discover numerous ways that you can.

Where have you become clumped? Would you like to de-clump? How about a bit of chocolate?

Happy Friday!

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