Custom Pony Table Top

Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, Rob and I (and a number of friends) have really enjoyed playing and keeping up with EnterPLAY’s My Little Pony Collectible Card Game (MLPCCG) over the past few years. After hurriedly learning the game the morning of the 2nd set’s pre-release (May 2014), we’ve traveled to Regionals in both Atlanta and Miami, played multiple years at GenCon, and even threw our own pre-release (rented out a room at Dunkin and everything!). It was something we were able to really invest in together and meant a lot to us.

We recently decided to redo our living room and bought a small coffee table for IKEA hacking—we planned to replace the removable plastic top with a piece of stained pine. Along the way, we had this crazy idea to create a collage of memorable MLPCCG cards on the flip side of the wood top. Over the course of a few weekends and through a series of much-more-involved-than-we-first-thought steps, we:

  • selected all of the cards across all sets to include (all of the cards held memories to us, whether it was a tight win, a bitter loss, or a favorite episode)
  • double-sided-taped down each card to poster board sized to fit on the wood
  • cut off the overhang
  • taped the mass of cards and poster board to the wood
  • mixed and poured a coat of lacquer over top (and let sit for days)
  • shaved off the edge drip and nailed down the unfortunately-bubbled sections
  • created a frame out of old plastic and poured a second lacquer coat
  • beveled the edges on all sides with a router
  • dropped it in the dang table

Taking the idea from silly concept to finished table top was more work (and more costly) than I think I was ready for, but it was a super fun project nonetheless. Many thanks to Erik for the tools and know-how to get something like this done. It’s a shame the game itself doesn’t have much of a following anymore, but we’ll always have the good memories.

PS: We’ve still got two unopened boxes of Seaquestria and Beyond if anyone local would like to do a draft or something!

Hack Day, Summer 2018

MicrosoftTeams-image

This week I participated in one of the first combined Hack Days at my workplace, which brought together IT teams from across campus that normally don’t interact on a daily basis. I’ve always loved the concept of trusting people and letting them work on whatever they find most valuable for a period of time (it is baked into my team’s sprint schedule three times a year), so I wanted to support the event and encourage my peers to do so in the future.

I’ve been acting as a Scrum Product Owner for the past year and am in the process of transitioning to a team wide ScrumMaster for the foreseeable future, so my hack day projects were centered around building two small tools to assist in the calculation of business value and effort estimation (exciting stuff!):

  • Protocalc: Not the best name I’ve ever come up with, but it works! This simple tool sucks in a JSON object of categories, questions, and answers (and weights to those categories and questions) and dynamically generates a web form out of them. Filling out this form will give you a business value estimate for any item or feature, both out of 100 and out of 20 (depending on how you’d rather round). It’s a simple way to share an understanding of what drives value on our team and removes a lot of the overhead and ambiguity in calculating some usable value indicator. The question and answer set can be easily swapped out for different teams and different value streams making it reusable.
  • Plokker: Most Agile teams regularly estimate the relative effort of items on the backlog as this scoring is useful for determining how much a team can and should commit to in sprints. A pretty popular way to do that is through “planning poker” in which team members determine their own estimates and then try to reach a consensus.

Don’t judge the JavaScript too harshly (it was a hack DAY), but it was really reinvigorating to sit down and just create with no real risk in doing so. I’m still feeling the positive effects from the experience days later. If these small tools have any real impact in our day-to-day work I’ll be sure to report back!

E3 2018 Music Video

 

Here’s a music video / clip reel of my favorite game announcements, trailers, and gameplay from E3 2018! I used to make a point to make one of these every year but it dropped off many years ago. After a really thrilling set of reveals (and the sad state of world), I decided to dust off the process and take on the simple creative exercise.

The whole process is so enjoyable: finding the game trailers I love, selecting the perfect song for the mood I want to impart, extracting the most thrilling video clips, creating a beat track to align the clips, arranging everything…it feels awesome to feel a clip slide right into place with the music. A couple nights of that and some polish and viola, a little time capsule of my mood, interest and excitement bundled into one hype reel.

Even if these games never live up to the hype (or come out at all), I’ll always love a good E3 trailer. Enjoy!

Continue reading “E3 2018 Music Video”

Short Trip to Charlotte and Blowing Rock

Last Wednesday, my friend Vic and I took off toward Charlotte for a couple opportunities at checking out the suburbs on the way to and back from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I’m half-considering the move to Charlotte for a change of scenery and closer proximity to the mountains, but I also just wanted to get away for a bit and breathe some crisp, fresh, cold mountain air. Some thoughts and highlights from the trip!

  • We unintentionally ended up at the same Arby’s on the way up and the way back. We got embarrassingly bad service both times, but nothing stopped those Chicken Bacon & Swiss from being delicious.
  • The southern and eastern areas around the 485 (Charlotte’s beltway) are pretty nice! I could definitely see myself staying there if the opportunity was right.
  • The typical places described as desirable north of the city (Davidson, Mooresville, Huntersville, etc.) are very crowded and the traffic / construction on I-77 was horrible by 2:30pm on a Thursday. I don’t think I could deal with that, but the parks and amenities on Lake Norman felt like they could be frequent visits.
  • Our room at the Hemlock Inn in Blowing Rock was upgraded to…the same room Rob and I stayed in last October. Not complaining!
  • Restaurants that remain stellar: Local Lion, Bella’s, Our Daily Bread. Those that weren’t so great this time: Capone’s, Blowing Rock Brewery. New find that is pretty solid: The New Public House’s breakfast.
  • The weather and forecast only gave us a couple mornings’ worth of sunshine so we crammed a lot of hiking into those windows. Friday morning we hiked a trio of trails (Beacon Heights, Flat Rock, and Linville Falls Plunge Basin) and braved a starting temp of 25* Sunday for the Green Knob loop. On our dreary, wet Saturday, we stuck to the flat lake loops (Trout Lake and Bass Lake).
  • I joined my team’s Daily Standup from the top of Beacon Heights.
  • It snowed Saturday night and I was a nervous wreck, having never driven in snow. But uh, it was mostly just in the air, and literally everyone I asked rolled their eyes at me. It made for a really pretty Sunday morning hike atmosphere!
  • Vic started a new Pokemon Go account on Wednesday and was level 21 by the end of the trip. Oh look a Wailmer!

All in all, a pretty great trip! It’s a nice holdover until Rob and I likely return for another early-October week in the mountains. For now, back to work finishing out the Spring semester and looking forward to an early-May trip out to the Bay Area!

March 2018 Update

It’s that time again! Just got home from our monthly Budget and Goals dinner and I’ve got some updates on goals!

Entered Sweetwater Cabin Lottery: There is a small, private spring and cabin in the heart of the Ocala National Forest, rentable by the week. It’s one of the only springs I’ve never been to in Florida, mostly because you have to win a lottery to even pay to reserve it. Threw in my entry for this year–here’s hoping!

Posted Weight Loss Blog: In case you didn’t see, I’ve lost a lot of weight in the past few years! Read about it in my recent blog post.

Finished Reading Leaders Eat Last: As part of a work book club, I finally finished reading Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. A common selection for leadership, it’s a really good basic look into what powers actual motivation and how you can respect that in your leadership style. Worth a read for sure.

Performed Some Car Maintenance: Typical stuff, but changed the oil in the Fit myself for the first time (thanks for the assist Erik!) and had the tires rotated and balanced (a good combo with oil changes as a rule of thumb). Next month I’m rolling it into the shop for some major, milestone work: all new brake pads and rotors, a brake fluid replace, a complete transmission fluid flush and replace, and new spark plugs.

Planned Charlotte / Blowing Rock Trip: In an effort to see some possible move spots, I’m taking a trip with Vic for an extended weekend to see Charlotte for a couple days and chill in Blowing Rock in between. Too much driving but should be a good time.

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How I Lost 70 Pounds (And You Can Too!)

 

I’ve never been a smaller dude. I had a pretty average build throughout grade school and never paid much attention to developing healthy habits. I started putting on the pounds in college as I had less and less structure to keep me away from bad habits. Starting a full-time desk job continued the increase, both from the lack of activity and the increased stress and pressure to eat out and snack. I was a motivated person back then, but food was a comfort through bad days and bad times.

By the end of 2013 I’d grown as a person, been put in charge of a team at work and bought a house, but I was still turning a blind eye to the weight (then around 245). Christmas photos started to get under my skin and clothes shopping was a nightmare but I was pretty comfortable with my life overall and didn’t have a lot of motivation to change. Besides, I knew the only way to lose weight was to develop a love for salads and exercise all day and that was a nonstarter. I maintained a weight of just under 250 (my peak) through March 2015.


I‘d always joked that some medical issue would be the motivation I’d need to lose weight, but I wasn’t expecting it to actually happen. One stressful Sunday about halfway through March, I started experiencing pain in my left big toe. I remember walking around my neighborhood unable to put pressure on the right side of my foot. That night the pain was so bad I couldn’t fall asleep; I’d jolt awake every time my toe would move or even brush against the covers. I rode out this swelling for four more days, working from home the best I could with my feet in a tub of cold water for hours at a time.

Continue reading “How I Lost 70 Pounds (And You Can Too!)”