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”

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).

Continue reading “Pops Oral History Project”

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!