What they're doing. That's the truth.
It's been a trip, the past few weeks. I'm still not sure what's going on or why or what to do.
Five years is a long time, I think. Personally it's a sixth of my life, and the bulk of my adult working life, so that says... something.
There's a lot up here, but tonight? Whiskey.
This is probably good advice.
Trespassing is serious. I trespass quite a bit in my day-to-day life, mostly to take photographs.
I was doing just that yesterday when something strange happened. I was headed out with Will, a new explorer friend, to check out a Titan missile silo neither of us had been to yet. The titans are huge sites and generally in the middle of nowhere out in the plains, and this one was no different. We parked at a locked gate, the further of the two that are most accessible. We geared up and started the two and a half mile trek in, hopping gates and ignoring the no trespassing signs as we went. We opted to walk to the side of the road a hundred or so feet instead of directly on it, just in case someone were to show up.
We hiked about a half-mile towards our destination. It's a funny distance - it's not very far, but it's just far enough to not be able to run back in case we needed to, especially with all our gear weighing us down. This is when trespassing is the strangest - there's a bit of adrenaline flowing because you know you're where you're not supposed to be, but the reality is that it's highly unlikely anyone cares. But still, we keep a vigilant eye on the horizon.
Which is where I saw movement. Just up on a ridge, maybe two hundred yards away. I told Will, and we both stopped to take a closer look. It appeared to be a car - a large dark shape moving slowly on the horizon line. But then... I couldn't quite make out the movement I was seeing. It suddenly looked like the whole top of the hill was swarming.
Then I saw it: horses. There were no fewer than thirty riders trotting down the hill in a line facing our direction.
I didn't panic. We were in an open field with nowhere to run so panicking would accomplish nothing, but my mind was racing. Who were these people? Who goes for a group ride thirty at a time? I'm not sure I've ever seen that many equestrians at once.
Then we saw the cars behind them. Probably five SUVs and trucks bringing up the rear. The riders were starting to break off into groups of five or six and head different directions. They were still getting closer. We decided to break off even further away from the road and try to swing wide around them, adding another mile to the trek.
Then we heard the dogs. This was an old-fashioned fox hunt.
The group broke west and started heading away from us so we ventured further, not quite as adrenaline-filled as before. Another two miles and we were nearing our destination.
A mere fifty yards or so from the fence surrounding the silo, Will blurted "horses to the south" rather tersely, and kept walking with his head up. I shot a glance behind us and sure enough there was a group of four riders within earshot of us. We kept walking forward, away from them, and slowed our pace to look like we were supposed to be there.
They circled around us, and reached the fence before we could. They stopped, and one rider even dismounted to inspect a gate. A male rider turned toward us and said a quick greeting. I nearly lost it.
Here before us was a truly Old English looking rider complete with a riding helmet, black coat, and breeches. And a very thick South African accent. Everyone in the group was dressed the same. These folks didn't care who we were or why we were there or why I was wearing two backpacks, one with a rope dangling off it and the other with a tripod sticking laterally out of it. They were trying to make their way back to lunch with their cucumber sandwiches and mint juleps.
We helped them with the gate and they made their way off again, directly on top of the several acres that comprised the decades old missile silo. They had no idea what was below them.
We managed to find and air duct and rappel underground where there is no fear of being spotted. It's nice to take a deep breath down there and let the adrenaline pass.
I guess sometimes there are sheep in wolves clothing as well.
Science has always had a place in my life. As a kid I grew up taking stuff apart to see what made them work, making forts with structural integrity in mind and eventually - when I got a second-hand microscope, chemistry set and my first electronics kit - I moved on to doing "real" science. It was exhilarating.
In school, I have no idea what year, I learned about the scientific method. It didn't occur to me until much later that the method isn't necessarily intuitive, and also just how big of a role that the scientific way of thinking has in the field. That something might or might have merit based on measurements is an amazing thing.
But I'm trying to figure out if it's always necessary. Some things are meant to be tested, some aren't. I make a cup of coffee for myself almost every morning, and it's fun to experiment with different numbers of ground coffee beans and the temperature of the water. If I was perhaps more caffeinated at the time or cared a bit more I would keep a coffee journal with my different experiments to see which tweaks I prefer.
Which is, arguably, science. Of course I could take it a step further and measure the pH of the water and coffee and measure the amount of Total Dissolved Solids with a special meter like my friend Tyler has done, which would make the whole thing arguably more scientific.
However what it comes down to for me is a cup of coffee in the morning. Shit, it might be "weak" some days or "acidic" on others, but when I'm sitting on my porch watching the sun rise with my cup, it doesn't really matter, because science be damned I want to enjoy my morning. I use what I've learned over the course of many mornings to influence my coffee-making experience, but it's not about the science, it's about waking up with a cup and easing into my morning.
Some things are like that. Everything can be tested and measured, but at what expense? Famously a then-Google employed Marissa Mayer A/B tested 41 shades of blue to see which was most effective on the Google home page. Google employs tactics of data mining their own employees to attempt to determine which are more likely to quit and preemptively fire them or extend better offers. Target started sending a teenage girl baby buying guides because based on her shopping habits they determined she was pregnant before she had told her parents.
None of the above is inherently bad stuff, but should it be done? It's a tough question, when to trust numbers and which numbers to gather in the first place. There's a big hulking gray area here.
I'm not sure where I was going with this.
There are a million clichés swirling about my head these past few days and weeks. Namely: "If you do something you love you will never work a day in your life", which I think has some merit to it. Folks like myself who truly love their job, while it's true we do work, have more fun and arguably do better at it and enjoy life a bit more.
But alas, nothing gold can stay.
I'm not sure when my job turned into just that. I think it was two or three weeks ago; I can't nail down the date exactly, but if I had to guess I'd put it on a Tuesday. The 15th of last month, perhaps. I wasn't having much fun at work (which isn't uncommon - sometimes one must suffer through love), so I grabbed my laptop and headed to a coffee shop which not coincidentally happens to be adjacent to a brewery. I got myself an americano and before too long a pint. Okay, two pints.
And it all came crashing down. I held myself together enough to close out my tab, but barely. I made it to my girlfriend's couch where I collapsed so wholly I'm surprised I didn't pass out then and there. I was physically and mentally exhausted from all the shit going on. Now, I'm not much of a crier, but so overwhelming was my state I couldn't help it. The tears flowed.
Since that night I've been trying to piece together why I feel so fucking defeated. I have for so long cared about not just my place of employment, but the ideas we stood for - and now I feel helpless as I sit and watch it all crumble to the ground. Not necessarily big ideas, but the little ones - things like educating people because that idea on its own has merit, not for some ulterior money-based motive. Respecting customers not because there are dollars involved, but because it's the right thing to do.
We never did have a set of so-called "core values" or a "mission statement", which I forever thought was a benefit. Those things to me always represented empty words penned by a team with no other intended purpose than marketing. But as the walls begin to crumble, I can't help but want to point at a poster on the wall with a picture of an eagle, soaring above the hills and scream, "but what about respect?!"
As the days continue to pass, my desire to even physically be present at work is fast waning. Any more I don't want to care, which I never thought could be so defeating. On top of that I see the personal relationships around me being put to the test, straining just at the idea of hard times to come, and for that I weep as well. This once great thing that we all had in common, that we all felt like we shared in, is well in to its decline. Even if not monetarily, the place is doomed. Doomed to turn into another job.
Which I think I'm set to move on to. Another job. There was a part of me that never wanted to say that out loud, that deep-down knew I would be happy here for a long, long time and that whatever misgivings I had would be addressed in due course. But now I'm not sure I even want anything to get better, as that would just make it harder to walk away.
But seriously, watch the sun rise now and then.
I miss writing.
I used to write a ton on a blog, at least weekly from 2002 until it petered off around 2009 or '10 or so. I'm not really sure why I stopped the "long-form" blogging, but I'm sure it had something to do with Twitter and all these other outlets for me to vent and share thoughts on.
But I do miss it. I've even written as much - that I miss it. I keep trying to pick up new ways of writing as an outlet again, but nothing has quite taken the place that my blog once did.
I told ~brennen over IRC that the writing I love the most is 5,000 word stories. I'm not sure why that number in particular, but it's long enough to say something but not too long as to lose the reader entirely. And stories. I love telling stories. I think I do enough to where I have enough stories that are worth telling, it's just a matter of putting the words into this editor and the photographs through my process and on to a server somewhere.
At this point I'm ... well, I guess I'm scared to be honest. I am scared of not making something "worthy", that folks won't want to hear the stories I have to tell. That whatever insight I have is the same as all over this here Internet. This is not, from what I understand, an uncommon feeling.
I tried 750words, which is amazing. It's not quite for me, but I like the impulse. Someone once told me that (in so many words) I should write for an audience - and to do that I must publish. So I'm going to try again, even if it's just here on ~C. I think I'll still try for a long story a few times a year, but I'll try writing here in between. We'll see how it goes, at any rate.