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?

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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”

Pops Oral History Project

Hey everyone! Above is my finished (finished!) oral history interview project about my grandpa Pops’ life. Clocking in at around 2:40h, the interview is broken into 16 clips by topic and arranged chronologically. It covers everything from growing up during the Great Depression to reflecting on a life of raising six kids, 12 grandkids, and countless great-grandkids (single MP3 version).

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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.

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​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.”

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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!

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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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