Photo Book: Water Ways

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.

The Springs

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)
Continue reading “Photo Book: Water Ways”

Life Update, March 2019

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.

Goals Completed

  • 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
  • Joined a Florida Springs website and shut down my old and languishing site
  • Finished listening to both Serial: Season 3 and The Dropout with Rob
  • Bought tickets to Medieval Times (and planning to go soon!)
  • Started tracking my overall mood per day in my notebook, for fun mostly
Continue reading “Life Update, March 2019”

2018 and 2019 Goals

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).
Continue reading “2018 and 2019 Goals”

Blue Ridge 2018: The Hikes

Hey all! For anyone interested in some Blue Ridge hiking guidance, here are all of the hikes Rob and I did on our annual October Blue Ridge trip this year, ordered chronologically and labeled with our distance and elevation gain. These differ a little bit from the published info (we sometimes combined trails and extended them).

We accomplished a pretty large increase in our hiking distance this year: 79.5mi, up from 55.4mi. I don’t know if my poor aching IT bands could take much more, but it didn’t feel all that crazy!

  1. Sam Knob (2.5mi, 557ft)
  2. Cat Gap Loop to John Rock (6.2mi, 1154ft)
  3. Grassy Creek Falls (1.8mi, 400ft)
  4. Crabtree Falls Loop (2.6mi, 577ft)
  5. Trout Lake Carriage (3.3mi, 300ft)
  6. Rich Mountain Carriage / Deer Park Loop (5.3mi, 756ft)
  7. Cascades / Tompkins (2.3mi, 272ft)
  8. Rough Ridge (1.5mi, 362ft)
  9. Bass Lake Loop (1mi, 20ft)
  10. Black Ridge Loop (3mi, 574ft)
  11. Fisher Peak Loop (2.2mi, 233ft)
  12. Bass Lake Loop Extended (2.8mi, 170ft)
  13. Price Lake Loop (2.2mi, 72ft)
  14. Elk Knob Summit (4mi, 971ft)
  15. Green Knob Loop (2mi, 515ft)
Continue reading “Blue Ridge 2018: The Hikes”

Halloween Suiting

For many years I’ve had the privilege of donning an amazing costume on Halloween at work and parties. In college, I received a custom mascot costume for doing some website work for a friend that created the costumes (thanks Spain!). I don’t exactly have many opportunities to don it, but it’s always a blast when I do!

After showing up for work in a red-herring beach bum outfit, I changed into the costume and had my usual fun eliciting surprise, nervous laughter and many questions. This year, I also met up with a small group of suiters on campus and strode around with them for a few hours. After we snagged dinner, I tagged along for a chill Halloween hangout that included the requisite round trip through weird YouTube, a little impromptu jamming, and after-midnight baked cookies and ice cream. I felt welcome and really enjoyed the opportunity to hang. 🦝


Sneaking in quick updates for the month of November:

  • Met with a lovely and helpful friend to talk stocks and investing and get me rolling in the right direction with my money.
  • Oil changed in the Fit! Erik did most of the work this time. It passed 90,000 miles a couple weeks ago. Feels like I just bought the thing.
  • Physical therapist recommended me to get an MRI of my hip area if it wasn’t too expensive or a hassle. Spoilers: it’s a hassle.
  • Started tracking my sleep with my Apple Watch and AutoSleep in an effort to be more aware of how much I actually sleep so I can take steps to improve. So far it’s working out pretty well and is actually really interesting to see the results every morning.
  • In that same vein, I’ve also been trying to establish a simple bedtime routine of sitting with my laptop in bed until around midnight with lights out shortly thereafter. It lets me regularly focus on writing and organizing things just before bed, leaving me with a good sense of contentment and preparedness.
  • After hitting a little snag in therapy, it’s been going pretty well since. I’ve got some homework that I actually look forward to doing and it’s translated into a good bit of hope for a future progress.

Going to Chvrch

Before October, I’d never been to a real concert. There I said it. I’m lame. Sure, I’ve piled into a church bus to see Steven Curtis Chapman as a kid*, joyfully attended Rockapella’s Christmas special last year, and saw Hamilton with Rob in Chicago, but I’d never had to slip plugs into my ear holes and rock out in a large venue.

I’ve also been a big fan of CHVRCHES lately. I gained an interest in the band through the Rebel FM podcast, the Forza Horizon soundtrack, and their stellar remix of MS MR’s Hurricane. They were one of the first bands I binged heavily when I first adopted Spotify, and their Every Open Eye album dropped into my life with a bang.

One day this Summer I noticed their upcoming tour dates on Spotify. I’d missed them in Orlando around my birthday a few years back (chickened out on going alone) so I clicked through. One jumped out at me: Asheville, 10/9. We would be in Blowing Rock (a couple hours north) the week prior…maybe this could work? But no—we planned to drive back the Saturday prior to this Tuesday night concert. Drat. On a whim, I checked Kayak for flights to Asheville and was surprised to see extremely cheap seats from Sanford and back surrounding the exact time of the concert: departing at 5pm and returning the next morning at 9:30am. Could this work?

Continue reading “Going to Chvrch”

Birthday Weekend 2018

Another year, another birthday! Because it worked so well as an alternative to the Super Bowl, I held another limited Halo LAN party to celebrate. The afternoon and night were filled with Slayer, Hog Heaven, and terrible attempts at custom game types we always found some way to break. Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer continues to feel like one of the best LAN experiences available.

The next morning Rob and I woke up early and met up with Ty at the Sanford airport to graciously accept an offer to fly up to Saint Simons Island, GA in a small prop plane—the first time I’ve flown like that since I was in single digits (and the first time ever for Rob).

It turned out to be a complete blast! Literally—it was the day after a cold front moved through, leaving us with beautiful weather and strong winds. After a thorough preflight inspection, we squeezed into the cockpit, ran through a takeoff checklist, taxied to the runway, and, with my stomach in knots, floated into the air.

We fought strong headwinds all the way to Georgia, taking a detour to Cape Canaveral to see the shuttle building and landing runway. Our direct path was up the Atlantic coast, and along the way we spotted many familiar landmarks as Ty spoke another language to every major tower we passed.

Once into Georgia we spotted Jekyll Island, the barrier island just south of our destination (and where Rob first showed off his just-acquired bike-riding skills only 18 months ago). The approach to the small, tower-less airport on Saint Simons was winding and fraught with turbulence—the plane pivoting from side to side all the way to touchdown (we survived). Continue reading “Birthday Weekend 2018”