Work has been a bummer for me lately. Trying to help out, I took a position last August that has essentially taken away my ability to contribute. I thought supporting others would be a way to expand the impact of my passion; I was wrong. It turns out passion is rare and fragile. Through all the re-organization, cost-cutting and inequity, I lost my motivation and purpose at UCF.
One morning my passion fought back. This was not what UCF had been to me. I met many of my friends here. I lost almost 100 pounds with a smoothie diet at this walk-able campus. UCF gave me room to grow, demonstrate my value and find my confidence. UCF stood for opportunity.
For weeks I’ve been exploring campus and visiting colleagues, filming everything. I woke up for sunrises on the top of empty garages. I stalked cats, squirrels, raccoons and sandhill cranes. I interviewed peers and clients. I pulled weather cam footage and swam in fountains. In all, I shot and compressed 700+ clips to a single production, a surreal memoir of my UCF experience.
Nothing in recent memory has made me happier or has been as fulfilling or rewarding. Seeing old friends, comrades, wildlife, and the hidden beauty around campus has been overwhelming. I sincerely hope everyone reading this can feel as strongly about their purpose and passions as I have felt producing this video. Please enjoy. 🐾
Last Thursday (our typical game night), instead of fireworks and flags, we took advantage of the release of Super Mario Maker 2 to host a little game jam! Ever since the original Mario Maker on Wii U I’ve had fantasies of having little game jams where we all create level designs with some constraints. For our initial attempt at a jam, we gave three randomly-assigned traits (game type, level type, style) to each participant and broke for an hour to create levels.
Once the timer sounded, we uploaded and validated our creations and took turns trying them out. Below are each of the levels and their codes:
Hey friends! I tend to write really structured updates and the temptation to do that this time is totally there! Instead I’m just going to write about what’s on my mind and fill in the details where I can.
Work Work Work
Work blows. I’ve been a Scrum Master since last August and it’s on par with the terrible internship I had with Orange County back in the day. Lots of theoretical responsibility and a bunch of people too disillusioned and/or busy to really care about Scrum, Agile, technical quality, or me. Most days I have literally nothing to do. I’ve filled the vacuum by taking on large, team-wide server and database migration projects, team satisfaction surveys, trying to keep on top of strategy and momentum, but it all just screeches to a halt the second I have to rely on anyone outside of my office. It’s depressing as hell and leaves me feeling like a useless member of the team (and questioning my own value). Even worse, gaslighting in the form of “we’re all doing a great job” and “Scrum is so important to our success” makes me feel like I don’t even know what reality I’m in half the time.
You’d think having all this “free” time would be a godsend for me, but the cognitive dissonance is not something I’ve shown any aptitude in handling. I’m at work to do work stuff and I go home to do my stuff and I just don’t know how to flop those two. I’ve tried to take advantage of the downtime in a lot of ways: hiking (mostly successful until the heat kicked on), reading, writing (hello!), a video project (incredibly fulfilling and fun until it got down to editing 500+ clips together), working on therapy homework (pretty difficult to do in a work mindset), and most recently, playing my Switch. It works sometimes, but most of the time the feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and worthlessness kind of push out any room for motivation or enjoyment. And there’s always that chance I could be needed or work could crop up—just enough to leave me paranoid and checking Teams / email every five minutes.
I hope it’s clear that it’s not a good time for me! I can’t complain about being paid semi-well, having vacation and getting health insurance, but this can’t be what my life amounts to.
It’s finally done! I’ve successfully turned my decade-long adventures discovering and exploring Florida’s freshwater springs into a photo book for friends, family and memories.
As far back as I can remember, my family took the occasional trips into the Ocala National Forest to visit the springs. Sometimes just for the day (we were always there at 7:45am sharp to be the first ones in), sometimes for a weekend of pop-up camping. They were little microcosms of vacation, parks nestled in an expanse of forest without cell phones or news. Only swimming, snorkeling, biking, hiking, a Game Boy, and the occasional game of Clue or Skip-Bo. Alexander Springs, Salt Springs, Silver Glen Springs, and rarely Juniper Springs: the springs of Florida. Right?
Not quite. Fast forward to early college when, as I started to think about what I wanted to do with my life, I discovered that (actually) there are over 100 springs in Florida, all over the state. Residing in all forms: national parks, state parks, county parks, private parks and clubs, backyards, government research facilities, even undeveloped public land. A quick trip around the net opened my eyes to the possibilities of exploration and discovery and I was instantly bought in. Coupled with a background in high-school photography and the purchase of a used Nikon D50 (thanks Chris!), I set out to see and capture every spring I could.
I devoted a good chunk of my PTO in the last few years of the 2010s to springs travel, taking friends and renting lenses. Some favorite, choice moments from those travels (in chronological order):
Jumping into the Rock Springs run with my glasses on and coming back to find them resting on the sandy bottom hours later (with John)
Literally driving over a fence in a Jeep to find some obscure springs (and an alligator!) in the Seminole State Forest (with Ren)
Reading The Dionaea House before a trip to the springs around I-10 and I-75 and scaring myself so much I was anxious for the rest of the trip (with Rob)
Kayaking into Three Sisters Springs across Kings Bay (with my brother)
Diving through the limestone tunnels at the Chassahowitzka River springs (while someone was making a fire on the shore) (with Rob)
Swimming with a random wild manatee at the end of the year at Wakulla Springs
Taking a JetSki on the Suwannee River to find several land-inaccessible springs (with Ty)
Having the perfect, magical spring day the first time I visited Morrison Springs. Sunny, wide open spring pool, ice cold water, and one of the most accessible springs for all depths
Canoeing down the Econfina Creek to visit the unquestionably-beautiful Gainer Springs, only to encounter patience-trying downed trees for the next several hours (with Vic)
Swimming with more manatees almost exactly a year later at Weeki Wachee Springs (with Rob and Rosco)
Staying in a cabin at Lafayette Blue Springs and going down to the water in the middle of a thunderstorm (with Vic)
Dislocating my shoulder in a prank gone wrong at the Hart Springs Park House (with Brian)
The Wendy’s Smoakhouse Ranch and their deadly groundskeeper cat (with Erik)
The perfect birthday weekend for Rob with the crew at Hart Springs
Canoeing to and swimming in Cypress Springs many many years after thinking it was inaccessible (with Rob, who almost drowned)
Hello everyone! It’s March and I’m still alive, and that’s good. I had such a productive January that last month looked like it might be barren and unproductive by comparison. Not so! I managed to make some good progress despite the lighter outlook.
Exercise at the gym: I went to the student gym several times in February and even sometimes at work! Also got to play some ping-pong with Rob and Erik too.
Front door plants: Erik made us a really nice bench for the front door and we wanted to spruce it up, so we bought a couple of nice pots and plants for the front door area.
Trailer hitch: Got a hitch for my CR-V and tested it out by taking the bikes up to UCF. Works as expected, if not a little noisy; had to fish a bolt out of the sub-frame the installers “forgot” about.
Eye exam and new glasses: After taking a little tumble at work that scuffed up my glasses (and forehead), I popped over to LensCrafters for an eye exam and updated lenses and frames I’ve been putting off for far too long (since I lost my last pair in a lake in New Hampshire). Not a huge change in prescription and no eye problems, woo!
Aeron chair: After putting it off for a decade of working at a sit-down job (and coming home to sit the majority of nights), I finally took the time to try out some Steelcase and Herman Miller chairs. Thanks to a super helpful staff member, I specced out an Aeron chair and put some savings toward it. Thanks to Erik for buying an IKEA chair off of me to help fund it. No idea when I’ll get it but I’m excited!
Some other cool stuff:
I bought some rollerblades with my refund monies and rode them around the neighborhood!
Stuck a super-secret comment tag in my portfolio website
I got my first heavy full combo on a real DDR machine! AM-3P, but still!
Talked with some close friends about some mental health topics
I like writing small updates around the turn of the month, but this time I want to deep dive into what goals I tracked for January to give a sense of how varied and granular it can be and still be super helpful (to me).
I track my goals in Trello with a very simple board layout: columns for To Do, Upcoming, Doing, and Done (cleared out once a month at our goals dinner). I keep the mobile app on my home screen, keep visible bookmarks to the board on every browser, and remind myself to check the board in my habit tracker daily.
I completed over 30 goal cards on the board this past month (which is crazy) and I’d like to share all of them to show how even the smallest goals can add up to a real feeling of self confidence and success.
My love of gaming started early and still burns bright, even if my relationship with it is a little weird right now (feeling pushed out of the AAA scene via boredom). Last year, I kept a quick ranking of every game I touched by enjoyment and thought I’d write a little about my favorites.
Donut County: The game design is a bit simplistic but it’s an ear-to-ear grin inducer from start to finish with wonderful characters, snappy, aware writing, playful graphics, and a soul that exudes joy. And raccoons.
Deltarune: Who would have thought we were going to get a fully functional and super enjoyable first act to a sequel to Undertale out of the blue? Great music, interesting new characters and nostalgic hooks made for a really fulfilling experience and gave way to the excruciating wait for the final product someday, hopefully.
Forza Horizon 4: I’m actually kind of bummed that this didn’t make my top five, but the changes to the world economy and introduction of extremely silly personalization options really took me out of the perfect formula the team crafted for the previous iteration. That aside, the game is still one of the best racing games ever made and a wonderful co-op experience that shouldn’t be missed.
It’s that time again! Halfway through January in the new year, it’s time to look back at 2018’s goals, see how they turned out, and use those lessons to set new and better goals for 2019. Let’s go!
2018 Goals in Review
Grow at Work: I made good progress in developing more fluency in Agile methodologies and techniques, bouncing from a successful Product Owner to a Scrum Master role after our team downsized a little. Despite really disliking being expected to motivate peers paid much more than me, I have learned quite a bit about what the role can and cannot accomplish.
Start Exercising Regularly: My walking distance has crept up steadily and I’m thankful for that, but I never really found a rhythm for stretching or exercising in a regular fashion outside of long walks and semi-regular bike rides.
Plan Nights and Weekends: We tried this for most of spring (and it worked well for a bit), but it started to yield less and less results as it became less novel and less compatible with external stressors and obligations. Instead, we switched to a dedicated night per week for games and lightly planned weekends and that has worked well as a fallback.
Clear (Some) Game Backlog: Most of my legacy gaming backlog is still the same as last year. Now I know that it won’t solve itself and needs to be addressed a little more directly.
Play Myst 4, 5, and Obduction: I dipped my toe into Myst 4 just in time for Cyan to do a Kickstarter for a re-release of all of the Myst titles. Now that 4 finally runs on Steam, it’s back on my list for this year.
Read More Books: Unfortunately, my backlog is largely the same as it was a year ago. It’s just something I couldn’t find the time for, and when I did it was very difficult to slow down enough to focus on the simple task of reading.
Finish and Publish Oral History Project: Despite taking much more effort than I expected, I did follow through on this and I’m very happy with the outcome. I have shared it with most of my family members at this point and they have all been thankful. Good outcomes all around.
Publish Springs Photo Book: Basically no movement on this one, so it’s been pushed into 2019 with lower requirements and expectations.
Get (a Little) into Investing: I didn’t purchase any shares in 2018, but I did gather some information on Roth IRAs and opened one with Schwab. It will be a crucial piece of my budgeting strategy in 2019.
Relocate from Florida: Despite some genuine efforts (visiting Charlotte twice, talking to locals on Reddit), I didn’t make much headway on my Florida exit plan. A big reason: Rob got a killer job and it pumped the brakes on our planning (and I was fine with that).