It’s only five sentences!

As Vonnegut said, if you can’t write well, you probably don’t think as well as you think you do. There was something about a particular project that wasn’t clicking for people. I couldn’t describe what was wrong—why I couldn’t communicate clearly. The more I talked to key confidantes, the more I tried to explain it, and the more I listened, the more convinced I became that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I didn’t have something straight in my thinking. So I asked for a meeting of minds to craft a clear explanation. To write it clearly, I believed I would need to clarify my thinking.

Four people sat down to write a better description of a project. It took over four hours to write five sentences. They’re not particularly complicated sentences. The affect—the change in my perspective, the things I now see have been done wrong and need changing… The affect is vertiginous. I’ve begun sharing the sentences with key confidantes. I’m letting them set and I’m picking them up at intervals to see if their power persists.

Forget about my five sentences.

What’s something you could solve, improve, or take to a new level if you sat down and crafted five perfect sentences?

Could you do it in four sentences? …how about three? …two? …what about one?

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Someone has to be the first guinea pig

(Part 4 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

The story behind episode one is challenging. How much do we want to know? How much do we want to share about the birth of the podcast? That all plays into Episode One. I picked Adam as the first guest because I wanted a guinea pig. I had bought a Zoom recorder and some microphones and cables. There’s a guy who did our audio editing for the first two years, and I had sent him some test audio files just to verify that when I press “Record” it does what we think it does.

I had been training with Adam for years, so I approached him and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a podcast. You want to sit down and have a conversation?” In hindsight, I now realize it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually say, “Okay, I’ll sit down with microphones,” but he was totally up for it. I said, “I need a guinea pig. I’m going to screw it up, and I want you to just be game for a radical F-up.” And, sure enough, now I realize the zeroth rule of podcasting is always press “Record” and then double-check that you’ve actually pressed “Record.” These days we actually have a system, because sometimes it still happens. The person who sits in and listens actually takes notes and uses the time codes from the recorder. So you have to actually look at the recorder, and if the timer isn’t running, we know that I haven’t pressed “Record.”

So, of course, when I sat down to record the podcase with Adam, we started right into it. I had looked at my watch and noted the time when we started, but 13 minutes into it I looked at the recorder and realized the recorder wasn’t recording. I said, “Hey, Adam, remember when I asked if you’d be a guinea pig because I’m going to mess it up? I messed it up. We’re not recording.” So then I pressed “Record” and we started over.

In hindsight, I’m really glad I fell on the sword on the first episode, because it taught me to be humble about when I screw up in a recording. If we’ve gone down the wrong path or I ask a dumb question, I immediately own up to it, like, “Whoa, we screwed this up,” or “You know what, that fire engine went by and screwed up your answer.” It taught me a lesson right out of the gate about being humble about the physical craft part of podcasting, because we really only get one chance. If the take that we get isn’t the greatest … It’s our responsibility to present the guest in their best light, and if there’s something wrong with the take, we need to own up to that. So that was the technical side of the first episode.

Tracy was helping at the time and doing some guest research. We had done a bunch of research on Adam and I had even written out some questions. Looking back now, I realized that writing out all your questions is the right thing to do, although I don’t do it now. But what I should’ve then done is crumpled up the list and thrown it away and gone into the interview with nothing between me and the guest. I had a piece of paper—actually, I think I had my computer. I realize now that, yes, you want to think of the questions, but then you also want to just try and forget them.

I stuck to the script with Adam and it worked out well. Adam is very good at talking and finding a thread, but I really wasn’t helping him very much by providing him with a conversation. That’s one of the things that I realize now is really important for guests, especially some guests who are a little more reticent to talk—not just to have the recording equipment and be able to create the physical space, but to create a conversation between myself and the guest where the guest is interested in continuing to talk.

With Adam, I served him these individual questions tennis-style and then asked a follow-up question or made a comment while he was answering. I pretty much just let him run on his train of thought and then I would present him with the next question. The episode is interesting though. The material is good; it still holds up three years later. But I can hear that it’s just me serving him simple questions. I love listening to it occasionally, because it reminds me of how the way that I craft the story that the narrative in each episode is vastly different, which is just a result of me listening to other people’s podcasts and listening to how people structure them, how the craft works, taking courses, and things like that. So that’s a bit of the technical and a little bit of in front of the mic.

There is a moment in that episode pretty early on where I mention an essay that Adam wrote. I don’t know how we found it, but we had come across this essay on the internet that was actually from Adam’s entrance application for college. I said, “Elsewhere you’ve written about … ” and named a couple of things that were in the essay, and it really made him do a double-take. He said something like, “Wow, you really, really dug at me. I kind of wrote that satirically. I don’t know how you ever found that. I need to go look at my social media to see where I had that online that I had forgotten about.” It was a fun moment where I had caught him off guard and at the time I thought, “Oh, that was interesting.” It took me a while to learn this lesson, but, looking back, I realized that just because I have information that’s interesting or even something a little bit controversial about a guest doesn’t mean I actually want to use that.

I’ve found that it can be hard sometimes if I know too much. You can’t forget something, it’s always going to be in the coloring of your questions. But if I know too much and I say, “Hey, I know about this,” that can really change the tone of the conversation. It can be too big of a gun to bring into the conversation. A lot of times it’s more fun to just know all these things about the guest and then to ask them a leading question to give them the opportunity to bring it up if they want. And then if they choose not to, the conversation just flows where they want.

Sometimes I feel more like I’m trying to create rapids in a river and then see how they whitewater raft down what I’ve created. It’s more like creating opportunities. “Hey, I have a couple of these obstacles and we’d like to roll them into the path. You want to go over this one or do you want to go over that one? Or you can go through the open field.” It took me a long time – maybe 50 interviews – to really figure out what I need to bring in, in terms of knowledge about the guest. 

Sometimes there are things that the audience needs to know about because they’re just so awesome and the guest is just going to be too humble and, I’m like, “I’m sorry we have to talk about this because it’s awesome.” But a lot of the time, the things I know about the guests don’t really need to be brought in. It’s just background that helps me color what we’re talking about. So that first interview really went amazingly well considering how I just leapt into it like, “What could possibly go wrong?” There’s a lot that can go wrong, but it really, really well.

I would say the greatest lesson I learned was having nothing between me and the guest. It took me a while to really learn the lesson to literally not put things between me and the guests because I continued doing that for several episodes, but that was the only interview where I showed up with a script or list of questions. I had an idea about how the whole interview should go and that, in my opinion, does not work. It certainly doesn’t work for the way that I do interviews and the way the podcast works.

You can totally think about how you want it to go, but don’t bring that plan to the actual interview. Don’t attempt to lead the guest to a particular place that you have in mind. That was the takeaway. I didn’t learn it immediately after Episode One, but that lesson is there in that first episode. I would say it’s probably in the first six episodes, because there’s some things that changed with seven – it became a lot more nimble at seven and beyond. I think that’s the biggest takeaway: Don’t go in with a preconceived idea of where the conversation is going to go.

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These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

Road trip to Dylan’s

(Part 3 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

I met Dylan Johanson in 2013. I went to an ADAPT certification course at Kutztown University run by Parkour Generations, and Dylan came down from upstate New York. He hadn’t really had a chance to train with a lot of other people, so this was the first time that he had had a chance to be in a group of roughly 27 candidates for the course, which was enormous. He was just so happy. He was basically running, jumping or laughing the whole time because he had never found such a large group of people with the same passion.

The first day he was sort of playing the, “I’m old,” card because he was in his late 30s at the time, having started parkour after quitting his previous business life. When he eventually bumped into me, it was like, “hey, fellow oldster!” We just sort of clicked, and we wound up walking from the training spots to where lunch was and back and forth. When I started doing the podcast years later, I was always thinking his story was interesting because of—as he talks about in the podcast—his early “days of the ninja”; He would just pick a straight line through Kingston on a Sunday when everything is closed and run over fences, dogs and all that.

He’s over 3 hours by car from me, but I kept trying to find ways to get up and train with him. I made a couple road trips up to his different iterations of the gym. When I finally got a chance to interview him, it was so fun to sit down with no distractions because normally the people that I hang out with, we’re meeting at events, we’re meeting at parkour gyms and things are crazy. For this interview, it was just this chill opportunity for us to sit at his house and relax.

The story of how I got to the actual pressing of record was that I went to a winter retreat that was held in the Catskills. After the event was over, instead of driving the four hours back to where I live, I just drove 45 minutes across the Hudson River. It’s a fond memory for me because I had the quiet drive-time to myself, and I was driving west into a glorious sunset after a deeply introspective, winter immersion retreat.

I drove across the Hudson, and I went directly to the third incarnation of his gym; The gym that I had not yet been to. Everything just came together. There was an adult birthday party happening that evening at the gym, so when I got there, the place was packed with people and all his instructors. I showed up, dropped my bag and went to play on things. It was like the very beginning, “Hey, Dylan, how are you?” “I’m cool.” …and right into showing each other things to try and challenges. It was this perfect, closed loop back to how we met simply jumping and playing.

Eventually the birthday party ended, they closed the gym down, and I went back to Dylan’s to crash for the night. When I travel for podcasting, everything goes with me in one backpack with the rest of my stuff, and normally I just sleep on the floor with my favorite little air mattress. After dinner, I got upgraded to a futon, and it was a great end to terrific day.

In the morning, we sat around his house chatting. His house has some terrific quiet space where you can really recharge. There’s a lot of wood. It’s very much a home. There’s also Tesla, Dylan’s super-sweet love-hound pitpull, and she’s in the podcast too; You don’t hear her, but we talk about her. We sat in his living room with our feet on his coffee table, drinking coffee out of silly-shaped coffee mugs, and just talking about our ADAPT course and other random stuff. I often say that all the episodes are my favorite, but Dylan’s is one of the first where I realized how much having the chance to spend time with the guests before we do the recording changes everything.

The interviews always show the guests’ personality, and you can really get to know them, but it doesn’t work if I literally just walk up and say, “Okay, you ready?” “Yes.” And then press record. It’s priceless to have spent the day before jumping and playing at the gym, dinner at his home, and all night we’re thinking, “what are we going to talk about tomorrow? A leisurely morning with the dog, coffee, and then when we finally did press record, we were just so ready to talk that his interview just clicks. They just fall out like that. There’s little bits here and there that get cut or some do-overs, but it was just so fun.

His story that he tells in the podcast about making ninja lines through quiet, downtown Kingston… that’s literally who Dylan is. Not that he does that every day, but he is literally the person who runs and jumps and plays. In the episode, he talks about some of his favorite spots in Kingston. After the recording, we threw down the recording gear and drove down to Kingston. We went to some of his favorite spots, just randomly jumped on stuff, playing and enjoying ourselves for hours.

It was a fun session for me because it was just the two of us, and we’re both a little older. Now, he’s way better than me athletically, but to get a chance to once again move with this guy that I enjoy training with so much, and in the spots that are his places where he just kept going, “Oh, you got to try this. Oh, you got to try this.” I never had a moment to get bored, he always had the next place in mind. He’s super energetic and fun to follow around.

I didn’t know Dylan when he had his day job. I only met him after he had quit and started working on parkour as a full-time, “how am I going to turn this into an actual project?” job. Simply put, he was trying to create a community. It was in that timeframe when I met him at the ADAPT course. I started running into him at other events, and when he created his first gym I went up. I made another visit when he opened the second incarnation of his gym. I didn’t go up and train with him when he first started his community, but I’ve known him for that whole time.  Eventually he had created the third gym, and that’s when the random confluence of events created the chance to go up for an interview. As I was driving up I was thinking, “I don’t know anybody who’s opened three gyms.” Like three iterations of the same community gym, and that was why that kind of became a thing in the episode; It was me coming to him at the point where he had now done the third one. That’s why when I ask him for advice, he’s very much like, “Yeah, don’t do it. Don’t open three gyms.”

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These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

Being a great guest

(Part 5 of 5 in Parkour Travel)

This post is entirely rules, tips, and ideas about how to be an insanely great guest in someone’s home. It’s organized into three sections. The first two sections are meant to get you thinking about how your host, and other guests, perceive you. The third section is focused on the day-to-day details of living in an unusual space. It’s meant to get you thinking about solutions to problems, and ways to make travel more enjoyable.

tl;dr: Empathy.

For my purposes here, empathy is the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person. I’m not suggesting that you must continuously empathize with everyone. I’m suggesting that empathy is a tool that can be used to inform your plans and behavior. Simply put, artfully using the soft skill of empathy will transform you into a great guest.

Why Bother?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why? Because decent human beings treat other human beings decently. (Did I need to write that? I hope not.)

If you are not already motivated to improve and to be a good guest, consider these benefits:

Lubrication: If your host likes you, they’ll interact with you more, you’ll experience more of their life, knowledge, and culture, and they may even help you more by driving you somewhere, or introducing you to someone. There is a wide margin of experiences which you cannot plan. But if things are going well via your being an awesome guest, then you’ll more often find yourself invited into that margin by your host.

Pete and Repeat: If you want to be invited back, you need to be a good guest. If you enjoyed a first visit (with your host, to the community, to the city, to the country), you’d probably enjoy a second visit. Notably, second visits are logistically easier because you know the lay of the land. So it’s a double-win if you visit again. Rare and valuable are hosts who become true friends through repeated visits.

Avoiding self-sabotage: Invitations generally only appear when meeting someone in person, so new invitations are fairly rare. If you are an annoying guest, your reputation will quietly precede you, and invitations won’t be extended.

Lead from the front: We are social animals. (Everyone varies as to how much social interaction we prefer, but no one is an island.) So it’s wise to help weave the social fabric by setting a good example. An excellent way to save the world is to be the change you want to see in the world. Be the traveler who breaks the ice, (appropriately of course,) who dives into the distasteful chore, who finds ways to include everyone, and who kicks off the cascade of cohesion and camaraderie.

The Cardinal Sin

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Invitations are never extendable to others; Never invite another person to your host’s home.

Corollary: Be cautious with social media. Avoid, revealing your host’s exact address, or the details of their private life.

Here are cringe-worthy examples I’ve seen: Someone you’re training with needs to use the bathroom? Someone needs a place to stash their belongings? A place to shower? A place to crash for the night? No, no, no and no. You should always and forever consider yourself a guest. Guests are, by definition, not the host and only the host can invite others.

Treat your host’s home like a magic kingdom. It’s a rare privilege, reserved for the select few, to even know where it is located, let alone be permitted to glimpse the interior. Only your host may pierce that veil and reveal the kingdom to those whom they alone choose.

I’ve spoken to many people, and there are differing views held by persons in the guest role. Some incorrectly believe that a guest’s behavior may change, pushing, or crossing, the boundaries I’m describing, based on the host and the situation. (Pro-tip: Be the host and then you can do whatever you want. Until then, you are a guest.) The guest’s role is unwavering. Hosts and their “homes” vary widely from open-door, dog-pile, continuous-house-parties, to Zen-temple-like retreats of peace and quiet known to only a select few. The boundaries of acceptable behavior are set by your host, will vary widely, and are usually not explicitly detailed. But that variety in homes and boundaries does not change the guest’s role and responsibilities in the least.

Lead from the front, be considerate, and practice empathy.

15 Suggestions

Be careful what you wish for: Your host may go out of their way to arrange something you didn’t actually want. If this happens, you should follow through with what you asked, enjoy it, and remember to pass your heartfelt thanks to your host. (Ask me the story about the swimming pool in Japan.)

Be predictable: Since, as a good guest, you are actively paying attention to how your presence is imposing on your host, you can work to minimize friction and problems. Once you start to see how this works, you’ll think of a myriad of small things you can do to be predictable. Think about your communications from your host’s point of view. (Here’s that empathy skill again.) Always let your host know what to expect.

Everyone has routines: Your mission is to figure out your host’s routines, and to figure out what their intentions are. (The later is much harder than the former.) Do they want no disruption of their normal routine, or do they want to get up early to do things with you? Do they want you to feed yourself, or do they deeply enjoy cooking and sharing meals? The inroad here is found by realizing that your goal is to make your interaction with your host, and your affect on them, intentional.

Sleeping: The biggest challenge is to tease out when your host expects to sleep and expects to awake, and to try to fit yourself to that. This can be hard to do well. If you wait too long, they will eventually ask you, and it can get awkward if you give an exact response—”I go to sleep at 9:30 and get up at 5:30″—if that is significantly different from their normal routine. I usually open the conversation about sleeping by mentioning what time I need to get up (for an event, transportation logistics, etc..) But, challenges can still arise because sleep is the thing I’ve arranged my life around, and it is rare that I encounter others with this same level of attention to sleep.

Scheduling: Of course, if you have a specific thing to do (event, train, plane, etc), and they watch TV (or play games, etc.) at night, you should join them a little, but then go to sleep. Hopefully your sleep spot is out of the way. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is great because you can say goodnight and head off to your nest. Sometimes sleeping on the floor is a problem if your assigned space is the common space where staying-up is happening. Know your schedule in advance and factor that in when planning where you’ll sleep.

Bed: In the morning, stow your bed by putting your sleep system away or putting the sofa back together. If you’ve found yourself in a guest bedroom, make the bed.

Bathroom etiquette: This is hero-level stuff done by dream guests. If the shower is in the only bathroom, before you head to the shower, politely ask if anyone would like to use the bathroom. Always bring all your own bathroom stuff, (soap, shampoo, whatever you need, you should be able to carry it when traveling.) Leave absolutely nothing in the bathroom. (If there are multiple guests, the bathroom can get insane.) The exception would be your towel: If you’re the only guest, it should be hung neatly to dry in the bathroom. But if there are lots of guests, your towel needs to go dry in your sleeping space. (If you have a tech towel that dries quickly and shower before bed, it will dry by morning in your sleeping area.)

…and more Bathroom tips: Showering at night keeps the bedding cleaner, (your host’s, or yours if you’re using your sleep system.) Technical clothing that dries quickly can be washed with you as you shower to dry as you sleep. Take cooler showers to save hot water for others, and to make less fog in the bathroom. Always run the fan. Next, imagine you are being timed while in the bathroom. …and imagine there’s a line of people waiting. …and then imagine yourself waiting desperately in that line to use the bathroom. If there are many guests, get yourself presentable as quickly as possible, and then crack the door while finishing up the things you can do while dressed. Most people will knock on the door if it is cracked open. You can then pause your work to politely step out for them.

If you are handy: Fix things. But only if you are absolutely sure you can succeed! Sometimes you can just leave things a touch more organized, more clean, or less broken, then when you arrived. Do not make a big deal of it nor point out what you’ve done.

Disappear during the day: Not only you body, but all your stuff too, should disappear! Either carry everything with you whenever you leave, or have a large bag to leave at your host’s. (There are large, packable duffels that take up little space when stuffed.) This enables your host to move all your stuff easily if needed. (It also tends to keep children and pets out of your stuff.) If you do this well, instead of your host feeling like you’re there for three days, it’s more like three, separate, one-night visits; They have fun sharing a meal, some conversation, then everyone’s asleep, and then it feels like your visit ends in the morning.

Refrigerators: Use the fridge, but remove all of your stuff. Seriously, no one will eat your left-overs, (except obviously useful items like eggs.) If your host gives you a tour of the fridge, (literally, or by mentioning it in passing,) then do eat/drink their stuff. If they do not mention it, do not touch their stuff. Mastery level: change your eating habits so you don’t eat breakfast. Find your lunches and dinners out-and-about and place zero food-load on your host. Then, if they want to eat socially, you can add that back in.

Not seen and not heard: By default you should be invisible, and as quiet as a mouse. Make no noise, don’t watch TV, play games, etc. Let your host lead. If they want to interact, make noise, watch TV, playing games, etc., then join in!

Before arrival: Tell your host how and when you are arriving (“My train gets in at 4:30, so it will be about 5 by the time I get to your place by subway.”) This way they know when to expect you, and that you are not expecting them to pick you up. Then, if they want to offer you a ride, (or whatever,) they can. You should always be thinking: All I need is shelter and a bathroom; Anything else is icing on the cake. (wifi? electric power?! food?!! …omg awesome!)

Intentional updates: Your host should always know when to next expect to hear from you; This means you make the effort, not that you nag them. When you leave for the day you might say, “I’m not sure what time I’ll be back. I’ll send you a message after lunch.” …or, “I’m going to be late this evening, I’m having dinner with so-and-so.”

Oops happens: When things go wrong, own up to it immediately. If you break something, tell your host. However, if you ask, “can I fix/replace this,” most people will lie and say to not worry about it. Instead, you must first figure out how to fix/replace it, and say, “I see there’s a home depot across town. After breakfast I’ll take the subway over and get another one of these.” Sure, you will miss the morning of the event you came to attend (!), but you broke it and you should be the one who misses half a day fixing it. You’ll learn a hard lesson and be a better person for it.

Review: After each visit, take the time to think about what went well, what went badly, and wether your visit matched up with your expectations. Continuous improvement is the key!

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What’s wrong with the world

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/08/ok-here%e2%80%99s-what%e2%80%99s-wrong-with-the-world-pt-2/

I’m not sure that’s worth linking to. But it is the article that sparked the thought that became this post. So, hat-tip where hat-tip is due.

You’re probably familiar with the common definition of the word “doldrums”: A period of stagnation or slump, or a period of depression or unhappy listlessness. But the common definition comes from the actual doldrums, which is a place in the Atlantic Ocean, more generally referred to as the “Horse Latitudes.”

Here’s the thought I had: I’m in the doldrums.

I’m not in the internally-generated, mental state, that the common definition implies. I’m in a place in my life which is the doldrums.

Old-timey sailors discovered a huge area of the Atlantic Ocean where the winds and sea are unreliable. Once a few explorers got stuck there, “in the doldrums,” on sailing ships, they shared the knowledge with others. Everyone quickly learned to avoid the Horse Latitudes because that place made things difficult.

Long ago I developed the twin skills of self-awareness and self-assessment and set about a long—and ongoing!—journey of self-improvement. But these days, I seem to be stuck in my journey. Why? I’m in the doldrums. I’ve navigated myself to a place which makes things difficult.

Bonus: How did sailors of old get out of the doldrums? When faced with mass dehydration, (it doesn’t rain much in the doldrums,) they’d tie their huge sailing ships to their tiny row-boats, and take shifts towing the ship.

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On writing

https://seths.blog/2011/09/talkers-block/

I believe that everyone should write in public. Get a blog. Or use Squidoo or Tumblr or a microblogging site. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly–you don’t need more criticism, you need more writing.

~ Seth Godin

Thank you. …don’t mind if I do. Coming up on 8 years on this blog, and well over 2,000 posts. :)

Writing here has been useful on two fronts: First, when I do have to write something in some random context, le voila! …every day I suck less at writing. Second, writing clarifies my thinking. (My thinking needs a lot of clarifying.)

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A conversation with Mandy Lam

(Part 2 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

27 — Mandy Lam

The conversation with Mandy was the first time I tried simply recording a long conversation, which we published with almost zero editing. I had been talking to people on our team about trying this form of recording, but at some point, you just sort of have to jump in the pool.

I don’t remember where or when I first met Mandy. I don’t remember if someone said, “you should interview Mandy.” “Who?” “Mandy, over there— here, I’ll introduce you.” …or maybe we first met training. I really don’t recall. But I do recall that after a conversation we were like, yeah, let’s do an interview. At some point. Somewhere. Some when.

Then a few more conversations. Then a few stories at Gerlev, and then we were at the 3rd Évry Move event and we kept saying, “we should make time for an interview.” So after dinner one evening, we kicked our feet up in a hotel room overlooking the fountain in front of the Évry Cathedral.

…and talked for more than two hours trying to decide what to talk about in her interview. Two terrific hours of great conversation. We kept looking out from the 4th floor, with the big window swung open wide to the warm night, and thinking, “This is Évry. We’re just casually chatting about communities and life and everything… in the middle of Évry.”

…and the huge water fountain in the plaza sounding like a waterfall.

…and we really should press record soon.

“…ok, so, we’ve now been talking for 2-and-a-half hours. We should probably press record soon.”

Finally, I was like, “fuck it. ready?” and I hit record. Then we talked for another two hours. We recorded this sleep-drunk rambling conversation, and the whole time I’m thinking, “this is going to be so bad. No one will ever want to listen to this.”

Weeks later, I finally listened to it.

There’s a team of people behind the podcast and they  always want to know how each interview went. I bet you’ve heard the phrase, “like pulling a rabbit out of your hat,” used when—with a touch of panache—you manage something akin to snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

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These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

The interviews from my perspective

(Part 1 of 4 in The interviews from my perspective)

This ongoing series of posts will contain my memories and thoughts from the interviews which I have been doing for the Movers Mindset podcast.

You can—obviously—listen to each interview. But in this series I want to share things about the interviews. I realized that I have begun to tell stories about the interviews, and people are fascinated by those stories as much as by the interviews themselves.

And so I want to share snapshots—imagery and ideas conveyed through storytelling—from the interviews. The podcast is about, among other things, sharing stories and for every interview I have at least one great story I want to tell.

Stories from before the interviews, or after. Or the people in the room you didn’t hear, or beautiful spaces I get to visit, or the time of day, the light, the vibe, the orgin-story of how I first met the guest, how they affected my life or my journey, …

I’m already 27 stories behind and even the most cursory romp down memory lane has brought countless stories to mind.

So, Craig, “Is there a story you’d like to share?

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Heating with math

Something a little different today: I’ve been considering switching to heating with gas and I recently ran some numbers.

tl;dr: I will be continuing to heat with solid fuel.

Preamble: We have already deeply insulated our attic, upgraded insulation in the walls which were opened during some remodeling, and replaced all windows and doors with modern versions. (Our house was originally built in 1954.) This is the obvious first place to begin improving heating your home.

Electricity: My electricity costs $0.0758 per kWh. I can basically turn on my electric baseboard heaters and this is what I’d pay (per kWh) to heat our house.

Methane: This is the proper way to heat a home in northern climates. Unfortunately, “street gas” is not present in my neighborhood. One block over, yes, here, no. They would install it for me… if I’m willing to pay the entire cost to rip up the street and put in the gas main.

Propane: Chemistry geeks know that propane has about 12% less energy per molecule compared to methane. But generally speaking, appliances (my gas cooking stove, a gas heating appliance I would need to buy/install) can be adjusted to burn either fuel. Anyway. I already have a small propane tank that serves my cooking stove, so I would “just” need a larger tank — possibly MUCH larger, possibly so large that safety ordinances would require me to put it underground. Anyway. My propane costs me $5.999/gal — if you know about petroleum, this is an incomprehensibly high number. Meanwhile, 1 gal propane = 27kWhr of energy. And a gas heater (I’m imagining replacing my wood stove with an appliance that sits in the same space) is effectively 100% efficient at turning that gas into heat. So simple math shows that propane would cost me $0.222/KWh — about THREE times the cost of electricity.

Firewood: This is MUCH harder to compute. First off, I have to estimate how much energy is available in the wood I’m burning; that’s affected by species of wood, and how it’s seasoned and stored (because the MORE water in the wood, the more heat is “lost” to vaporize that water and send it away up the chimney.) Some factors to consider: Where I live, there are several readily available “fuel” species of trees that are sustainably available. I’ve found a reputable supplier who is not hauling it long distances and provides me the right sizes etc for what I want. I also have the absolute best imaginable way of storing the wood in “cribs” that expose it to air drying while having it under cover.

So I’m guessing 20 million BTU per cord. (A cord is a stacked, pile 4 feet tall, with a foot print of 4×8 feet. Technically, it’s a pile of 4-foot LONG logs, 4 feet high and 8 feet wide on the ground. A true wood heating system is a separate unit outside that is meant to take 4 foot long logs. I purchase ~16″ pieces split, which still makes the 4×8 foot print computable. I digress.) Good fuel species can be up to 30MBTU/cord. So I’m being conservative with 20.

20M BTU is 5,861 KWh. I pay $300 per cord (fellow Pennsylvanians just twitched because that is pretty expensive — 225 or 250 is typical — but this is excellent wood species, all cut and split to the correct sizes for stove fuel, delivered early in the season, and dumped exactly where I want it. As usual, I digress. So math happens leading to $0.0512 / KWh. Even if I figure-in that the wood stove is only 80% efficient (we have a great stove made in Scandinavia which really does exceed 80% efficiency when operated correctly), that only bumps the cost up to $0.0639 / KWh.

Update in 2019: My electricity costs $0.07039 per KWh. (That’s down about 1/2 cent.) I’ve a new firewood supplier, with the price down to $225 per cord. That’s $0.038 / KWh, and still only $0.048 / KWh at 80% stove efficiency.

And finally some references…

http://www.propane101.com/propanevselectricity.htm
http://worldforestindustries.com/forest-biofuel/firewood/firewood-btu-ratings/

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