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!

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!)”

Surprise I’m 32

I recently turned 32 (October birthdays, woo!), so here are 32 stream-of-consciousness topics that came to me as I forced myself to write about 32 topics.

  1. Thanks to everyone for coming out to Buca for my birthday! And thanks to Rob for surprising me and organizing it. Great food and great friends are always appreciated. Also, thanks to Rob for the headphones, Erik for the MEGABOOM, Vic and Robert for the cards, and everyone for the well-wishes.
  2. I weighed in at 190 recently. Calorie counting has been a lot easier and a lot more effective than I thought it would be, and I feel pretty damn good about it. I keep saying this, but a full weight-loss blog post is coming soon.
  3. ​My back pain is now mostly an afterthought, which is a huge relief. It’s still pops a lot, and I still intend to pursue additional support for that. But I’m certainly very thankful for how I can compartmentalize and avoid worrying about it these days.
  4. Bike riding is as awesome as it used to be, and this year has been such a wild ride (no pun intended) for this hobby. Rob has gone from no bike-riding experience to biking easily around Jekyll Island and Fort Wilderness; I got my first (cheap) bike for the first time since I became an adult; and it turns out it’s a really fun and motivational way to get some exercise.
  5. Low-calorie meal-replacement smoothies with no added sugar are still somehow delicious and it feels like cheating. Pair that up with a KIND bar and you’ve got my lunch most days.
  6. I’ve started trying to actually care about my appearance this year. My closet is mostly button-down plaids and slacks now. I have a small trimmed beard (the very same one I tried in middle school that got me called Old Abe). I get haircuts more than once every other month and don’t get it buzzed out of convenience. My former self would be incredulous, but my current self is better, so shove it former self.
  7. Even after losing 50+ pounds, shopping for pants still sucks in every way.
  8. Alcohol and burgers have disappeared from my diet and I don’t even notice most days. It does kind of suck at parties though.
  9. Blackened chicken sandwiches are amazing, especially at seafood joints.
  10. Our family recipe for baked Mac and cheese has iterated to near perfection. It was pretty simple at first: mostly just cheese, pasta, an oven. Then we added chicken. I caught the bug for green beans in 2015 in California (thanks Chance), so in those went. Now we’re mixing in some spice rub from Southern Soul in Georgia and…man. It’s so, so good now. All credit goes to the house cook, Rob. I make room in my daily calorie goal for 1.5 portions.
  11. Mixing music is still really fun and rewarding. One of these days I should learn a better workflow than the one I came up with in 2004, but MixMeister Pro 6 is still helping me deliver the beat. I’ll post my recent set for Halloween soon! It’s mostly older classics and singles I’ve always wanted to play, but I really had a blast playing it this year.
  12. Sometimes it’s nice to just look around and see all the stuff I’m able to use now. I’m very thankful for it all and I never feel like I deserve any of it (in so much as we all deserve all of it), but it’s so nice to be able to prioritize having nice tools (headphones, watch, phone, etc.) around me when I want them.
  13. At work, we’ve formed experimental new Scrum teams. Upon returning from the mountains, I successfully pitched our group name as “Team Fresh,“ gifted each member a bar of soap from Blowing Rock, and promptly named our backlog Mr. Bucket. We have “daily refresh” phone calls, frequently post the Fresh Prince, and will be a non-stop pun factory for the foreseeable future.
  14. Territorialism is bad. Next time someone asks you for something you both know they need, maybe like, try to just help them out and make their day a million times less stressful. Generally, if someone is being proactive, they care as much about doing good work as you do. Give them a chance.
  15. Even really expensive Dell laptops still mostly feel terrible to use. It’s hard to go back once you’re used to nice build quality. I was provisioned this mega-expensive developer laptop and every time I use it I feel like it couldn’t have cost more than $500. It’s a bummer; I tend to thrive off of a nice working environment.
  16. Pending the trainer opening their payment system, I’ve gotten permission to take a couple trainings this November: Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner. Both will be extremely welcome PDUs for my PMP certification, and I’m pretty excited about extending my reach into the project management field/discipline.
  17. The Bay Area is impenetrable and Seattle didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure where’s next for me, but I’ve been looking around Charlotte, NC. Mountains within a morning’s drive!
  18. I’ve completely migrated over to a password manager (1Password if you’re curious, but LastPass is just as good). Despite thinking it was going to be a hassle, it’s actually been very convenient and a huge relief to never have to worry about remembering passwords again. Highly recommended.
  19. I was hyped for the iPhone X but I chose an 8 instead. I’d rather wait a year for the tech, supply, and software to improve before it’s inevitably standard next year. It does look fantastic though.
  20. Wireless charging on the new iPhone is crazy convenient. My phone is now rarely below 70% at any point in the day. Forget USB vs. Lightning; this will be the new cross-platform standard soon.
  21. Is Sonic awesome again? Mania was fantastic, Forces looks pretty good, the comic reboot looks rad as—wait, sorry the answer is that Sonic is and always will be awesome.
  22. Super Mario Odyssey is legitimately amazing.
  23. There’s only one thing better than an SNES Classic: a Switch SNES virtual console. C’mon Nintendo.
  24. My mom let me borrow a fairly old Kindle over the summer and it’s amazing how effective it is at keeping me focused on reading (when I can find the focus to read at all). I can’t look ahead or be distracted by text on future pages; I have much less of a sense of how much is “left”; and I can keep the text large and the page flips often. It all adds up to a much more intentional and focused activity that has helped me make it through a couple books now. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book prior to 2017, so I’ll take the uptick as a good sign! I just snagged a discounted Kindle Paperwhite, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going.
  25. I saw both The My Little Pony Movie and Blade Runner 2049 while in Boone, NC the first week of October, and they both left me with such strong feelings that I’ve seen both again in theater’s since. Both are highly recommended (for very different reasons). IMAX is required for 2049; it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a theater despite having seen it already. And there’s no dismissing the bubbly fun the MLP movie leaves you with.
  26. I never did blog about it, but we took a short trip over Labor Day weekend to the armpit of Florida (west of Gainesville/Ocala, on the Suwannee River). From Friday-Monday, a group of us (Me, Rob, Erik, Vic, Robert, and Paul) stayed in a house on stilts at Hart Springs. We kayaked the ocean off of Cedar Key (and were caught in a rainstorm and thought we were going to die) and tubed down the Ichetucknee Springs run for hours. Our meals ranged from Huddle House to middle-of-nowhere BBQ, from ocean-view fish sandwiches to small-town ice cream cups. Friday’s requisite midnight Walmart run turned into Sunday’s one-of-everything breakfast. And on top of all that, we still managed to surprise Rob for his birthday. Despite losing my glasses in the spring on Sunday, I don’t think I’ve ever been more consistently happy and satisfied with a vacation. Thanks to all that helped make it amazing.
  27. Plan, do, check, act. This works for basically everything, and if you do this, you’re already ahead of basically everyone else.
  28. I really like planning. The more I plan, the happier I feel. I’ve learned to be more aware of the appropriate level of planning too, to keep things manageable and digestible. Planning for failure allows you to react to it exactly as you want to!
  29. I have developed some kind of…skill at vacationing. Or maybe at traveling? I’m not sure how to explain it, but after every day trip, vacation, or event this year, I’ve found myself thinking, “Wow, this worked out really well.” I’m making better judgments about timing and planning, I’m trying to cram less into each day, but I’m also pushing myself to do more. It still drives me nuts that I can’t nail down exactly what is DIFFERENT (and thus am constantly terrified it’s random and will regress), but it feels very good. Like things are finally clicking.
  30. It feels like I’ve grown a lot this year. I’m lighter, much more active, happier at home, more motivated at work (despite literally every reason not to be), and much more satisfied with my relationships. I’ve set a lot of goals and met a lot of them. I’m doing more, and feeling better about doing (and not doing) what I want. I have plenty of room to improve (which is exciting), but I’m very content with this year so far.
  31. Donald Trump’s Twitter account disappeared this evening for about 11 minutes and it was the best 11 minutes of my life.
  32. I am sitting in a seafood restaurant eating a blackened chicken sandwich. I can only hear the sampled rain noise in my recently-gifted noise-canceling headphones. I just typed all of this out. I think I’m getting close to a writing head-space. Finally.

Continue reading “Surprise I’m 32”

​Hurricane Warning: An Irma Experience™

Irma’s finally gone. I’ve lived through the “threat of an oncoming hurricane” phase enough times in my life to have lost count, but the harbinger period of the last week felt like an eternity. Even as early as the day after Labor Day, local stores were mostly out of bread and water. Newscasters love to talk about Floridians’ “hurricane amnesia,“ but it was pretty clear there was a good bit of healthy fear for this one.

I waffled between dismissive optimism and speculative anxiety all week, well after we stocking up on tons of food, water, gas, batteries, and flashlights. By mid-week, we’d decided to pack valuables in plastic tubs, move furniture and electronics away from the windows (I even plastic-wrapped our dining room PC and desk), and set a milestone for deciding to evacuate or stay. I was even able to take advantage of my parents’ Christmas gift of a drone to take some video of the roof and surrounding area, just in case. You can only do so much of this kind of preparation work before the dread sets in.

As fate-tempting as it felt, we enjoyed a rainy day at the Magic Kingdom on Friday, mostly to take advantage of the strange opportunity and to try to cut through the anxiety we were all feeling leading up to landfall. When things started closing around mid-afternoon on Saturday, you could really feel the unease set in everywhere you went. Back home, we focused on completing Overcooked (fantastic) and Tomb Raider (better than Uncharted, fight me), but as I went to bed that night, I knew, finally, tomorrow was going to be “the day.”

Continue reading “​Hurricane Warning: An Irma Experience™”

Life Update: April 2017

An exceedingly spooky end to a hike in the Blue Ridge. “Welcome to the family, son,” as Rob has said literally every time he’s seen it.

Blogging is hard, guys. Focus is on the decline these days, and boy is it frustrating. I started writing an article about various updates in early February and got pulled away to other things, so instead, here’s one for April!

I laid out a number of goals for myself in a blog post earlier this year. Here are some updates! Exciting! Exclamation!

Budget Update: Budgets have been updated! Rob and I worked on establishing an updated set of goals for our money for 2017, and as we’ve rolled into the year, I’ve put that into action. Roughly 30% of my take-home pay is going to bills and shared spending, while another 40% is going into savings (both shared and individual). That leaves me with about 30% to budget towards food, gas, health, travel, and general spending, and I’m pretty happy placing that tension on my day-to-day budget while direct-depositing the rest. The money’s still available if I need it; now I have to justify needing it, rather than blindly spending it. It’s worked pretty well so far this year, even with the frequent travel.

Vacations: Vacations have been planned (and many taken by this point)! Trips this year: all Florida state parks (many trips in the bag already!), Jekyll Island (was awesome), a Appalachian-flavored road trip (fantastic and fattening), a tour of the Florida Panhandle (just got back), an extended weekend through SW Florida (May), a classic High Springs swimming trip (Sept), the annual week in the Blue Ridge (Oct), a few days in the Keys (Nov), and (probably) Chicago to round the year out. There are a couple potential slots left to explore (early June and July 4th weekend), but I’m pretty happy with being able to have so much of the year plotted. I’ve found that having something to look forward to helps get me through my down periods, and it also helps me be content with not always doing so much in my free time in-between.

Work: Some mild success to report! I had lunch with my department’s director (over Jimmy Hula’s, of all things) to discuss my situation. He agreed that a hybrid role between project management and development would be a great fit for me for the next year or so. As of the end of March, both the leaders of our PMO and Development teams have been informed of my wishes and should be reaching out to me soon. I just scheduled a lunch with the Development head, so after this week I should have a better idea of where things are going. Here’s hoping!

Blogging: I tried the article-a-week approach (50 sessions of light writing a year didn’t sound like too much), but it ended up being really difficult to fit into my life. It’s been pretty disappointing; I underestimated how much focus is needed to really sit down, block out all the distractions, and write, especially when that time is usually after a full day’s work. Instead, I’ll be writing when inspiration, time, focus, or opportunity presents itself, while working on ways to improve my focus when needed. If anyone wants to read anything specific from me, please let me know!

Continue reading “Life Update: April 2017”

A Rogue One Story

It’s hard to believe that Rogue One came out almost two months ago. After trying to avoid (but eventually riding) the hype wave, soaking it in on opening night, and ingesting it twice more, it still feels like an excellent addition to the Star Wars cinematic universe. It sits in that awkward place of not being a good standalone experience but being a perfect fit to expand and add flavor to the existing saga. I still love it, understanding that I am square in the center of its target.

As has been reported, the third act of the movie is tremendously exciting, culminating in a very tense final sequence that leads literally into the opening of the original film. By the third act, I was a little unsure how I felt about the film; I was enjoying it immensely, but it had a distinctly unique tone that didn’t have much of a “Star Wars feel”. But as the third act kicked in, I could feel the wonder, tension, and joy flood back in. The movie might not take off from the get-go, but it sure does build to a fantastic ending.

I was born in 1985, much too late to see the original movies in theaters. I’m sure there were showings here and there over the years, but I was pretty sheltered as a kid (I can only remember seeing a handful of movies in theaters through my high school years), so my introduction and viewing of the original trilogy was limited to a VHS recording of the USA syndication airing (which saw a lot of use). The Special Editions (released in 1997; I was 12) were the first opportunity to experience Star Wars in a theater atmosphere, and I was only able to persuade my mom to take me to A New Hope.

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2016 Year in Review

Welcome to 2017 everyone! I’m a bit late on this year-in-review post; been picking at it for weeks (despite it’s short length), but it’s better late than never. As promised, here’s my list of some major, personal positive notes for the past 12 months. (Rather than stick photos in the body, they’re arranged above.)

  • Obtaining My PMP Certification: I finally earned some certifications this year! Neither were strictly related to web development, but by far the most significant was the Project Manager Professional (PMP) certification. I learned about this certification while trying to apply to an internal Project Manager opening. Despite not being chose for the position, I received permission to go to training for the certification in April. I attended in May, purchased a ton of study materials on my own, and had my nose in books, exercises, and practice tests all the way through November. The preparation was long and grueling and the test was a four-hour nerve-racking ordeal, but I made it out the other side a success. Look for some posts related to this in the coming year!
  • Finished Guest Bedroom: This is one of those topics that may seem pretty mundane to those of you who don’t know me personally, but I can’t stand unfinished or untidy spaces. All of my work and living areas have always ended up with some kind of order, color, and sense to them in one way or another. But since I purchased the house in 2013, I’ve never quite been able to figure out this middle, guest bedroom. Until this year! With the help of Pinterest, IKEA, online mattress providers, and friends, I finally finished the room to my liking (complete with an HDMI splitter to the wall TV). It’s pretty cozy now!
  • Trips and Vacations: Cliché, but I really did have a wonderful set of experiences in 2016 outside of my routine. I ventured off with Erik to the Smoakhouse Ranch near Branford, FL for springs swimming, kayaking, and Star Wars watching; partied, go-carted, and In-n-Outed with Rob and Michael in Reno; jumped on an impromptu trip floating down Ichetucknee with my Jacksonville friends; dragged Rob to his first trip to Anastasia Island State Park for a morning ocean dip; enjoyed our amazing, filled-with-hiking-and-food now-annual outing to the Blue Ridge; ran with Rob’s idea to hit up the “crop” maze in the fall; played in the snow in Chicago; and ended the year with a wonderful day at Blizzard Beach (my first time back since 3rd grade).
  • Back Issue Identified: All year I dealt with some lower back pain, specifically around my right hip (until it spread to the left). The last several months of 2016 were filled with doctor visits, physical therapy, X-rays, orthopedists, and other nonsense. And that sounds pretty negative, I guess! But in November, I discovered I could “pop” a joint in my lower back doing a certain stretch. I redeemed a Groupon (a gift from Erik for my birthday) to visit a chiropractor for an adjustment and deep-tissue massage (my first), and he confirmed that the “popping” was me resetting my SI joint to its proper place. I started doing this regularly (and still do), and it seems to considerably reduce the pain I’ve had all year. I still have a rough road ahead to figure out how to exercise, stretch, and work on fixing my body so the joint doesn’t fall out of place many times a day, but I’m really, really thankful that the pain can be dealt with for the time being and that I’ve all but identified the issue after so many months.
  • Pokémon Go: Let’s face it: Pokémon Go basically isn’t a game. But it is an app that got me excited enough on day one to careen all over UCF with Rob in search of critters and loot. Over the year it’s encouraged me to walk and get out far more than I would have otherwise, and I still launch it daily. I’m thankful for the adventures it’s taken me on all year, and I hope it continues to do so in 2017.
  • Rogue One: It’s not a perfect movie, but boy was it a welcome, immensely satisfying sigh of relief of a first Star Wars spin-off. Eventually the Disney acquisition of Star Wars will end up generating too many movies too often, but for now, it is one of the most welcome feelings around the holidays. Both last year and the year prior, I was able to see the new Star Wars movie with Rob on opening night (two of the best movie-going experiences of my life) and travel home for the holidays to see the movies in 3D with my mom and brother. I haven’t been disappointed yet, and here’s looking forward to Episode VIII this December!

Continue reading “2016 Year in Review”