Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Smart Grid Security Blogger: Unplugged, Rebooted and Recharged

If the post from a few weeks ago called Generating Leaders was about why we send kids to camp (and how society benefits), then this one is about why I/we send ourselves away sometimes. I don't want to waste your time with extraneous personal details, but will share a few takeaways re: the purpose and benefits of taking these periodic time outs.

And in my case at least, as with the traditional summer camp experience in the US, my best time away involves deep, cell-phone-free immersion in nature with a few close friends, and pushing myself physically in ways I can't during everyday life.

In the aforementioned post on kids and camp, I called out the following ingredients:
  • A change of scenery
  • New experiences & new skills development
  • Connections with the past
  • Dis-connection with the techno present
  • Time alone and time together
  • Encountering and connecting with other kids from other cultures
  • Big fun
Not all these line up perfectly with my recent experience (unless you count what happens when Bostonians meet Texans as a cross-cultural encounter). But even for a near grown-up like myself, the similarities are many.

First of all, in the chaos of what constitutes a normal day and night as a full time IBMer + blogger + parent, I'm not sure the static and cross-talk going on in my grey matter could really be called thinking. It's certainly not deep thinking in any sense. But several things happen on these hikes that seem to help. The first is sleeping and waking in near total silence. Related, but on the visual front, is the complete lack of illuminated screens in the mountains. There's nothing to catch your gaze outside scenes of the most natural beauty, lit by only ambient light (see: Sun, Moon, Stars). Lastly, there's pushing my body hard enough that things start to quiet down between my ears, which creates a space for really thinking.

For construction workers, miners, linemen, and anyone else who does hard physical work for a living, trips like these may be redundant. Though likely not in the most serene surroundings, they already do hard work with their bodies day-to-day and that brings a certain stillness. But for sedentary folks like me and probably you (aka knowledge workers), tuning in to the world from a chair surrounded by LCD monitors and more than 1 phone makes concentration a scarce and precious commodity. Disconnected on remote trails, humping heavy backpacks up switchbacks and over passes above 12,000 feet, the mind quiets down and then turns on in a different and better way. Back at home in Boston now, I can still feel the difference.

There are other ways to achieve a similar effect, of course. And some are much simpler, logistically speaking. But for me, at least once a year, nothing beats a trip to the mountains. It's been Colorado lately, but I can hear the Alps calling.

So, since you made it this far, here's an aerial shot of the Four Pass Loop ... we did the 30+ miles in about 3 days. Some go slower, some go faster:

Four Pass Loop - click to enlarge

Here's a picture taken last week after crossing and coming down from the fourth pass in the Snowmass/Maroon Bells region:

And speaking of Snowmass (Old Snowmass, that is), look who my son Dylan and my friend Chris and I ran into the day after we re-entered civilization:

If you know energy efficiency and renewable energy, then you know that's Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). We had the great fortune of spending time with him at his private residence and energy efficiency test bed, which you can read more about HERE.

All in all, a smashing success on many levels. I'm going to use the clarity I gained in my day job and on the blogs for as long as I can keep it. And as to the last item on the camper list ... you bet it was fun.

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