Author: blakespierson

Day 21

via The Washington Post

At first, I found this article depressing and sad. Later in the day though, I began to sense its deeper beauty. The author’s first-hand account as an emergency-room physician inside a New York City hospital reminded me that, while I do what is asked of me (stay inside), what is asked of so many others is to tend to, care for and fight for the infected and sick, often at great risk. While I worry about touching a covid-tipped elevator button or door handle when I go outside to walk our dogs, doctors, nurses, EMTs and countless others risk sickness and death every minute of their day in the service of complete strangers. Despite exhaustion and possible death, they solider on anyway. Daily, more join the fight. Maybe they don’t see themselves as heroes, but they are us tragic and complicated humans at our best in moments of crisis, and that, I think, is beautiful.

Note to self, in lockdown

Day 20.

Do less. Reflect daily on things not done. Strip the day back to its essential parts. Meet your basic needs.

Connect – to yourself; friends; loved ones. In the past, busyness and doing more stood in the way of this closeness. Often, closeness isn’t what we were looking for in the first place. In doing less, find that this is the “more” we need – closeness, connection, love.

Reconnect with yourself. Perhaps this is most important. With the ever-present mirror of your locked-down day-to-day, you can choose: to ignore it and look away, to direct it at others, or to meet it steadfastly, peering deeply into the reflected image of what you see, with all its imperfections, complications and beauty. These days gift you the material, and more importantly the time, for change.

These times may very well bring out the best and worst of us. Perhaps our worst, though, would be to emerge unchanged, on any deep level.

Lockdown – Day 3

I spent most of yesterday trying to understand where things are headed. A friend in the Bay Area sent me a link to this, and Andrea helped me track down this site. Together, the two offer guidance on not just where we are, but where things are going. It doesn’t look good.

Where we are. If you want to see where we are, I’ve been using this dashboard, courtesy of John’s Hopkins in the US.

These growth curves here are helpful to contextualize the above numbers by country.

Where we’re headed. More importantly though is what the above numbers portend to future days, weeks and months. This sums it up in a single graph (I’ve highlighted Spain, where I am presently, and the US, where I am from):

You can see how closely Spain tracks Italy, and how closely the US is tracking both, albeit 16 days behind Italy. The assumptions, which are key to understanding how to change the rate of growth, suggest that if the US waits to delay lockdown until they reach the same number of cases per 10’000 inhabitants as Italy (around 1 per 10’000), it will see ~33k confirmed cases in ~9 days, Wednesday 25-March, up from ~3.7k cases as of 4:33am EST this morning. Of course, these are confirmed cases, meaning the ones severe enough to seek testing in the first place, and likely to need more intensive medical treatment.

Based on a simple but illustrative model here, you can see what those hospitalizations mean for the health system in the US. Very soon, the number of beds needed will exceed beds available, by a factor of 6-to-1 in a little over 30 days. This is why there is so much talk about “flattening” the curve, so peak cases requiring medical treatment fall under levels of maximum capacity (as illustrated in the teal line in the below graph – existing capacity – versus the orange line of expected demand for hospitalization).

As for Europe (and the US), it will get much worse before it gets better.

The US won’t blunt the curve like South Korea did, at least not from the top at the national government level. The current focus on testing is, at best, weeks too late. In a less interconnected world, local and state actions would help. But we are interconnected, greatly so, meaning any chance for significant impact lies at the individual and family level. So please stay inside: every person makes a difference, and your actions will impact those around you, for better or worse. Very soon we may all reveal our best or worst selves, as individuals, families and as nations. If so, let us hope we like what we become.

Lockdown – Day 1

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.

Hector Berlioz

This morning, the Catalan government asked residents not to leave their homes unless “absolutely essential.” The government is also attempting to lockdown all travel within Catalonia, closing ports, airports, train links and border crossings by road. Denmark is closing its border for 30 days, and Norway is shutting down. We had planned to relocate by car to our home in Norway sometime next week. Now it is unclear when we will be able to go.

WW2 killed around 3% of the world’s population; WW1 a little more than 1%. Worst-case scenarios suggest the world-wide death toll of this pandemic could approach 1% in the face of complete inaction by governments and apathy by those of us who are healthy. Yet actions are being taken by governments and their peoples, even if later than we might have liked, and while borders are closing, travel being restricted and “our way of life” inconvenienced, no bombs are dropping from the sky – no forced conscriptions marching our young and healthy into battle. Instead, for the sake of the elderly and those in poor health or with weak immune systems (which could be any of us at some point in time), we are asked to wash our hands, keep our distance, avoid large crowds, limit travel and for some, to stay inside. We could all think of worse.

Trail Costa Brava

I squeezed in the Trail Costa Brava marathon this past weekend as part of a long training day within my current training block. The point-to-point race starts in Pals and tracks the coastline south, ending in Palamos. The race covers ~43km with ~2.100m in elevation gain and includes some of the most beautiful running in all of Spain (imo). Parts are surprisingly technical: steep, rocky descents and ascents to and from the coastline, many requiring rope or chains with not insignificant consequences if you make a mistake. I’m not much of a beach/water person, but the sounds and views throughout the race were soul-charging (I was not listening to music; the ear-buds were for the run back). I finished in 5:24:48, good enough for 14th place overall, before starting the 20km run back to the car to finish off a long training day.

Here’s a video from Klassmark, the race organizers, that gives you more of a sense for just how beautiful the course is.

Jan/Feb Roundup

A Year Abroad

It’s been a little over one year since we moved to Spain. Looking back, we did quite a lot in 2019.

  1. We traveled – Nice, Paris, Chamonix, La Palma, Valencia, Cadaqués
  2. We completed a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation
  3. We bought and renovated an apartment in Girona
  4. We lived in the mountains of Andorra in July, and in a tiny cabin below a glacier in Bionnassay, France in August
  5. I completed UTMB
  6. We hosted family and friends
  7. We made new friends
  8. We bought a home in Norway
  9. We had a baby, at home

Most surprising was our purchase of a home in Norway; most momentous, meeting Adya. We are thankful for it all, the product of and bookend to a decade no more.

To a Wild 2020, and beyond.

La Tossa d’Alp

Views from La Tossa d’Alp (2587m), looking east toward Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. About 2 hours from Girona by car, Brent and I skimo’ed this back in early January and I’ve been returning most weeks for solo reps up/down. The Salomon Ultra Pirineu takes place in the mountains in the near distance.

2020 OKRs

OKRs, or “Objectives and Key Results,” were an integral planning tool during my time at Opendoor. We did these quarterly to align the company top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top around specific goals (Objectives), while setting measurable outcomes (Key Results) to track our progress towards each – an organisational “where do we want to go?” (Objectives) and “how will we get there” (Key Results). I decided to apply these to my personal life in 2020.

OKRs are not for everyone. As my Grandfather put it to me a few weeks ago, “Blake, my goal this year is just to make it to the end upright.” Fair enough 🙂 Or like me last year, sometimes letting things unfold is the way to go. I kept 2019 fairly open-ended outside of training for UTMB. Coming out of 2019, however, I had a clearer picture for where I want to go this year, what space I still want to explore and fill, and how I want to focus my time and energy. In this case, OKRs are a great fit for keeping me focused and pushing me along!

If you are interested in creating some of your own, feel free to use my OKRs and process, described below, for inspiration!

(more…)

2020: WILD

Wild is my word for 2020. I came across it twice while flipping through magazines in late November as Andrea, our moms and I began piecing together our Vision Boards for 2020 from cut-up parts of magazines in what has become a fun and creative annual pastime in setting our intentions for the year ahead. As a part of this tradition, we also choose a word for the year – a capstone to our final boards that captures their essence, and our year ahead, in a single word. “Wild” spoke to me.

Already I knew 2020 would include spending time in the mountains of Norway, where Andrea and I had a few weeks prior bought a home to fix-up, as either a summer home or forever home. Our time last summer in a tiny cabin just below the glacier in Bionnassay, France was intimate, cozy, simple and connected to nature in a way that I’ve yearned to get back to ever since leaving, and that Andrea was open to re-discovering in a more permanent way with our home in Norway. The more I read and think, the more I slow down, the more I yearn to be wild, to break free. Of what I am still discovering, but I know at a very deep level I feel most peaceful, most grounded and most connected to everything around me when I am part of nature – part of its pulses and rhythms and equilibriums.