Monthly Updates Personal Travel

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!


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.


The Life and Times of the Neighbor Tree

April 19th, 2014. The random day I decided to create a brick ring around our single front-yard tree and fill it with red rubber mulch. The ring worked out nicely and has survived erosion moderately well.

For some reason, our odd, adorable neighbors decided this specific day was also the best time to quickly and hurriedly plant a new tree in their front yard. When I say quickly, I mean within an hour, 5+ family members, from kids to grandpa, had dug a hole, dropped a sapling in, covered it, tied it up with stakes, and surrounded it with a mulch mound.

We watched the whole scene with amazement and bewilderment, but at the very worst, we’d… inspired more tree planting?

That family has since sold the house, which was purchased by an investor to immediately rent. It took us some time to even realize the house was being rented. The yard has slowly fallen into disrepair, with all of the grass dying and being replaced, the flower beds being overrun with weeds, and the exterior fence decaying. Often a family member’s vehicle is parked halfway onto the grass.

Yesterday, we found the tree on the side of the road, in their front yard. It had been uprooted after being jostled by the hurricane and thrown to the curb, too much trouble to take care of, a gaping hole in the yard left unfilled.

Poor little neighbor tree. You were hurriedly planted for reasons unknown and were cast aside in an equally baffling manner. We barely knew you. RIP.


Pulse and E3

Back in college I made a few E3 game trailer mashup videos. It wasn’t very technically challenging, just good practice and a bit of fun picking my favorite moments and preserving them to some music. I dropped it after 2006 because the work was getting to be too much for the fun it was offering.

It felt like it was going to be fun to do one this year, with this generation of consoles hitting their stride and some updated consoles on the horizon.

Then the Pulse nightclub shooting happened, literally hours before the video game festivities were going to begin.

When I first heard about the shooting, it was a little shake of my head and a sigh before going back to whatever else was going on that morning. It didn’t even phase me. America, at it again. As the details, horror, and magnitude of the situation filtered in, it started to rip at me. It transformed the weeks to come, living in and working in Orlando. Even the digital highway signs read “#OrlandoUnited” around town. It was simultaneously a sense of dread and a strange affirmation.

E3 wasn’t the same after. How do you demo a dance club gunfight after something like that? Almost every presser started with a moment of silence or acknowledgement that the industry stood with the victims and LGBT fans. Almost every presenter wore a rainbow ribbon on their lapels to show their support. It felt a bit like insurance from backlash at the violence they would focus on in their games, but it felt mostly genuine. E3 was fantastic this year.

I have tried for the last few months to find a way to mash these two events together into some meaningful, touching video. E3 means so much to me; the shooting left me feeling numb. Was there some crossover here? Something to say about glorifying gun violence, or escapism, or the way games model anger and comfort? I picked a song, sliced it in Premiere, collected clips from YouTube of news coverage, game trailers, anti-gay propaganda, and threw it all together, repeatedly, hoping I could get it to stick.

It never did. I spent too many nights at work trying to make it work (including tonight), trying to say something. I’m admitting defeat tonight. All the clips and the project files are in the trash now. But it hurts so much to walk away from something like this where I needed to say something. So here I am, saying a few things.


Three Smiles, 9/26/16

This exercise is fun! I challenge you all to periodically pick three
positive things in your life recently or things you are thankful for,
write a little about them, and share. It’s been shown to increase


I’ve been having some problems with my lower back for most of the year (not positive!), so I’ve been in and out of the doctor, physical therapist, and orthopedist. One incredible discovery from all of that: BioFreeze. Think Icy Hot, but just the icy part! It feels incredible, like incredible enough that I bought a number of tubes on Amazon to keep some at work and around the house. It’s hard to describe what’s so good about it without experiencing it on a sore muscle or stiff knee, but a little seems to go a long way, and it’s a fantastic, relaxing contrast to the Florida heat outside.

Pokémon Go

Yeah, I know I know. I should have a motivation to go outside and move my body besides completing a meaningless virtual collection. But I don’t! So I’m pretty thankful something like Pokémon Go exists!

In all honesty, it’s wearing off a little, but I’ve still seen more new places in Orlando I the past couple months than I did the previous 12, almost entirely due to the extra motivation of progression in this game. Sitting about 1/3 of the way through level 23 currently.


My manager recently decided that, while still perfectly okay with disregarding the dress code for shorts, nose rings, and open-toed shoes, printed t-shirts were no longer acceptable. I’d been meaning to find some new polos anyway, so sure, good excuse!

Kohl’s is mostly devoid of nice stuff for a good price in Florida in September, so I checked online to see who else carried Arrow polos. SEARS! On a whim, I dipped into the store at a local mall—and right into a random massive (probably season-end) clearance of button-downs and polos. A few more SEARS and a week later, and I’m up two polos and five button-downs for about $50 total! Score.

Last weekend I hung them all up, cleaned out the closet and dresser a bit, took three bags of clothes to Goodwill, and took all my company-branded work polos back to work. Feels good!


See Salt

New iPhone! Pre-ordered mine Friday morning, 3:08am: 7, Black, 128GB. Stepping down from my 6S Plus (sorry telephoto). A second camera isn’t enough to justify 1/3 more weight for my tiny baby hands. I am a little salty about missing out on that extra gig of RAM though.

I couldn’t care less about the headphone jack. Bose Bluetooth headphones at work, a UE Boom and an Echo at home, Bluetooth in the car (or even better, CarPlay: audio and charging with one cable!). An acceptable trade-off for a future with more component space in these wonderful little technology miracles. I hesitated for so long before purchasing the Bose I use for at least four hours a day at work, and the move to wireless is worth any pain. It’s just such a vastly better experience. It’s worth forcing.


Despite being the butt of jokes, dude, these AirPods. Bluetooth headphones, no wires, incredible battery life for essentially no mass. 3 hours of playback after 15 minutes of charging. I can’t think of a better companion for the occasional stroll through a retail store or a client call. It solves all of the problems in that space: size, charging, storage, pairing, phone calls, music, and UI. Unless the audio quality turns out to be poor, I can’t see myself passing on these.


Get Over Yourself, Self

I’m sitting outside of a Starbucks. It feels incredible for a September evening. I never sit outside in Florida. You’d think I have some increased sensitivity to humidity or something, but I think those receptors are dead from overuse.

We were informed today that half of my current team would be reassigned outside of IT within a month. Maybe. Maybe longer. Decisions were made in committee, no one was consulted. It’s been decided, don’t worry about it, it’s out of our hands, I dunno. I’ve stopped asking why, what problem that’s solving, what the strategy is. I’ll just put my nose back in my study and pretend there’s some rationale for why I’m being paid.

At least it’s paying for the coffee…just not this one. It was free. Well whatever, it paid for the other coffees that made this one free. I’m nothing if not a bundle of technicalities.