Saying Goodbye

I was originally going to title this post “breaking radio silence”, but after a bit, “Saying Goodbye” made a bit more sense. Fin and I have been really quiet on here – because we’ve undertaken one of the largest projects of our married lives – Getting the F*#@ out of suburbia. While the move was going on, we decided to not post or discuss it in public, and there’s been very little else going on for the past year. It’s been years in the making, but we finally moved. We’re now living on the outskirts of a smaller town, just close enough to our old city for me to commute.

I went back through this blog, looking to form a couple pictures to compare the old house when we were active and hopeful to the house we just left. I’m amazed to see the massive, unmistakable shift in our lives that happened in 2014. One of the reasons I’ve kept this blog has been to archive our story.

In 2013, and toward the start of 2014 – we had worked hard on moving that old house into a better state. Not long before, Fin’s dad came over and painted – we had the roof replaced, and we finally were doing ok financially.

The Garden in that old house has always told the story of our families mood. When Fin and I were doing well – it was doing well. And now, it’s a blank slate. Ready to be turned back into a garden again by the next homeowner – or perhaps, tilled and laid over with new sod. It’s no longer our choice or business.

At the new property – there is acreage, waiting for us to decide what we want to do. We’ve got a barn and shop – and lots of extra space for nerd projects. Plenty of room to have a garden, and space for Fin and I to actually stretch out and have a couple guests over.

So many chapters are closing now, but new ones have started. I suspect that I’ll be a bit busier posting now that we’re talking about what’s going on again.

A new chapter, and hopefully, a new tone for the blog. But, it’s not without a bit of sadness – I have memories of that house and many positive. It’s tough to say goodbye, but without goodbyes, we’d never advance.

And with that, I bid ye adieu old house. May someone find it a wonderful home and bring back the positive energy Fin and I had there before cancer and depression hit so hard.

And with that, I turn the mic back on, and hope to post again soon.

— Fate

Thoughts and Goals 2018

This post is coming a lot later than my usual list of ‘goals’ for the year. Mostly, because I’ve been giving my life and this blog a lot of thought. That said, it’s past time to get something going on 2018 plans.

1. Complete 2 graduate courses with B or better.

The masters program I’m working on requires completion of 2 courses with a B or better before one is fully admitted. If nothing else, completing a couple courses will help me get some confidence back in my abilities. Especially after seeing the new batches of interns starting that all make me feel old and out-of-date.

2. Obtain HAM radio license

A repeat from last year. This fell through from a lack of time and desire to buy equipment. I’m not certain how much the graduate course work will interfere with this, but I’d still like to try.

3. Complete a composition and recording for the piano

Also a repeat from last year. I need to get back to work on my musicianship. Hoping the first goal doesn’t hurt this too much, but only time will tell.

4. Focus on my health

I’d like to move to a ‘healthy’ weight / body fat percentage over the next year. Also, I’d like to get my level of physical activity up to a healthy level, and kill some of the lethargy that seems to follow me these days.

5. Move (Or at least Organize and Pack)

I’d like to end 2018 in a new home with the current house sold and no longer my concern. This goal is dependent on finding a house and organizing finances. I’m hopeful, but it’s going to be a stretch. While outside circumstances may prevent moving this year, I’ll call this goal a success if I can at least get areas I can control ready to go if we find something.

6. Find and Visit some Kansas CIty features

A returning goal, this year I’d like to visit a couple of the local tourist traps that I’ve been putting aside for a while. By the end of the year, I’d like to visit at least 2 local events.

7. Do some gardening

I’m not a hard-core gardener / farmer / outdoorsy person. But, back in my youth and high school days, I did enjoy gardening. This year, I’d like to do more outdoors and be productive at it.

8. Complete a major home project

There’s a long list of home projects that need done. The goal here is to pick one and complete it myself – or at least make an attempt myself before getting a contractor involved. That said, the means of completion isn’t as important here as the end – whether by contractor or not, the project should be done.

9. Kick the Social Media Habit

This really should be rewritten as ‘quit or greatly reduce Facebook’. I think message boards and blogging are awesome platforms. Facebook and Twitter are toxic cesspools. The goal here is simple, revisit how I’m spending time on social media and move to healthier approaches.

10. Start Writing Again

One thing starting graduate school has helped me realize is that I miss writing. This year, I hope to make some traction on this blog, start covering interesting topics again on my technical blog – hopefully even some useful stuff.

Let’s try to make this year a good one.

2017 Retrospective

For years, I’ve followed the same formula of reviewing my past years goals and writing new ones. This year, I figured I’d move to a slightly different format and reflect on the past year as a whole instead of just reviewing goal failure.

2016 hit both Fin and me hard – not really much to say about ending that year except we both have been dealing with some serious depression. The holidays and new years were just not the same. We struggled to find a new normal.

I started off 2017 fairly active with a return to martial arts and the gym. That lasted fairly well until early Summer. Gym motivation I’ve always found difficult. I don’t have an intense interest in it and have difficulty staying focused and finding goals. The martial arts? It suffered from a lack of adult students at the school I was at. Lame excuses for both – the reality is I stopped mostly due to depression and adjusted by throwing myself a bit more into work at the office.

Depression is a big angry monster that will eat families alive if you’re not careful – and sometimes, even if you are.

In May, Fin and I hit a huge milestone and finished paying off the enormous amount of credit card debt that I brought into the marriage. At present, all the cards  have remained paid off with the exception of one that we’ve been using and paying off every month before interest starts accumulating – keeping a small rotating balance seems to up the credit score a few points.

Being in a better financial situation, we’ve now started to take more active steps toward moving. We’ve been pushing a lot more into savings for a down payment, and Fin started a part-time job.

Prior to the holidays, I managed to make some large strides in getting the house more presentable / sellable. Unfortunately, the holiday season (starting with the 2017 Haunted Houses) really killed much progress there. I’ve been trying to get back in that game, but Winter time has a lot of weekend activities that sap most of my reserve energy.

I decided to actually put some energy into opening some new doors, and signed up for a graduate program. Starting in January, I’ve enrolled in a Master’s Degree program at Georgia Tech. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and learning some new tricks. I’ve been working through the various Math classes at Kahn Academy, trying to get my Math skills back up to those expected in a graduate program. I’ve forgotten a lot recently.

I can’t help but keep score for my last year’s goals:

I did not finish paying off my student loans, but did pay off all the credit cards. This was a decision to change the plan versus a failure. Success.

I did do some research into the HAM radio license. This has been more a lack of time lining up with getting tested than anything else. Fail.

My piano playing has been behind – largely due to depression and frustration with my slowly degrading piano. Fail.

I advanced fairly far at the new martial arts studio before the lack of fit between routine and myself became an issue. Mixed.

I’ve not managed any of the server customizations I’d planed for this year. Fail.

I’ve been working through multiple online classes and have completed a good deal of content. Success.

We’ve made a start on some things for the move on the house and improvement – but the past few months haven’t seen much progress and there’s large issues and small issues that haven’t been addressed yet. Mixed.

Fin and I did the usual family camp trip, but we didn’t make any real vacation time for ourselves. Mixed.

I’ve made a small effort to reach out to some new areas of the city – including visiting some areas. Still, I don’t think I met the goal as described. Mixed.

I’ve been far more regular in meetup attendance and active within the group. Still room to grow here, but… Success.

Total Score for 2017 – 3 successes, 4 mixed results, and 3 fails.

I think the theme for this year was attempting to rebuild and lay foundations for a new normal. I’m not sure we did nearly as much as we could have, but I do think we at least got a few solid starts.

Lessons From The Haunt

Both 2016 and 2017 have represented a change in season for my life. Likely, the 2017 Halloween season was my last as a full-season haunted house actor – at least for a while. As I move on to yet another new chapter, I’m amazed at how much the haunt taught me as a person.

In no particular order, I present the 10 life lessons I learned from working in a haunted house over many Halloween seasons. Hopefully, they’ll provide some amusement and a glimpse behind the scenes others might like. Continue reading “Lessons From The Haunt”

Goals for 2017

It’s that time again. Time to set some resolutions / goals. I’m averaging a roughly 25% success rate with these. Note, I’m saying Goals now. New year, new way of doing shit (from Fin).

1. Finish paying off my student loans.

It’s far past time for this one. I’ve been mostly ignoring this because it’s a small amount over a large period with low interest rates. Still, it’ll help get the ball rolling and simplify things.

2. Obtain HAM Radio License (Technician Class).

This has been an idea I’ve toyed with for a while, but I’m thinking this is the year to do it. I might also be able to get some help from my employer in paying for this. Something I need to research.

3. Complete a composition and recording for piano.

I’ve got a few compositions I’ve toyed with. The real goal here is to take one of my sketches and actually get it worked out solidly enough that I’d be happy linking it from here. I’m hoping to perform well enough to rehost the Spring Academy recital on SoundCloud. Otherwise, I’m hoping to get something recorded of ye ol’ piano and posted up. Gotta make some ‘fridge art’.

4. Hit ‘advanced’ student class at new Martial Arts Studio, and hit some marks at the gym.

Starting back at martial arts after taking so many years off has been humbling. I’m at a new school, with slightly different style and starting over from white belt. It’s amusing seeing other students shocked at things I know – they don’t think about the potential that someone has training elsewhere.

At the gym, I’ve started doing resistance training and some basic cardio. My goal is to hit a level where I can comfortably move my own current weight around. A secondary goal is to get my body fat percentage down to a more athletic level (<= 18%).

I’m toying with the idea of running one of the local half marathons this year. Not sure how crazy I want to go.

5. Build out some better hosting services for family on this server

I’m looking at what all I can do for image / picture / family news, etc… I’ve got a few different ideas, some that involve using other services such as google hosting. I’m really tired of facebook, but want to stay in touch with people!

6. Complete some online courses

I’ve really enjoyed doing a few courses on Coursera / Kahn academy. I’d like to do a few more, perhaps while it’s cold outside still. Tough, to do, given how much time everything seems to take.

7. Determine exact viability / state for moving out of this house and improve its livability.

Fin and I want to move, and we’ve talked about it for a while. But just talk. I’m not going to set any more goal for this year than simply determining ‘where we are’ and what we need to move. Hopefully, I can amend this goal to make actions after that – maybe even land us a house somewhere.

There’s a fairly long list of home improvement projects I’ve made, and what all should be done in what order. My goal is to start knocking stuff off of this list. Hopefully, that means some improved organization in some rooms, and ability to do a few projects I’ve been thinking about. I’m going to start tracking “things I’ve done” as that’ll hopefully build energy into doing more.

8. Take a vacation.

This fall, Fin and I finally managed to take a much needed vacation. My only complaint is that we did a bit of combining seeing family with vacation activities. We needed to see family, but I’m thinking this year we do something a little more ‘chill’ / low key.

9. Continue my quest to know Kansas City.

I’m going to set my last years goal again this year. I’d like to visit at least 2 major tourist traps in the KC metro area that I haven’t yet been through / seen. There are multiple museums and such around here that I’d like to visit. We’ll see what I can end up dragging Fin around to see. We’ll likely be entertaining our niece for a couple weeks this summer – and I can drag her out to get some culture if nothing else.

It might be interesting to expand the radius of this out a bit as well. There’s some interesting spots within a few hours drive that might be worth seeing.

10. Be more active and helpful with meetup groups

I’m member / organizer of one meetup, and do a few things with other clubs. This is the most ‘resolutionary’ entry in the mix, mostly because I’m not sure how to manage it. It seems lately, people have been less interested in meetup / hobbies in general – vs ranting on social media. Hopefully I can help others get outside and doing stuff. Or at least be a contributing member to these groups.

2016 was not a kind year to Fin or me. It’s very difficult to look back and find things to be grateful for. I think moving through difficult years lets you see things in a new light. I find myself grateful for family – by choice, marriage, and blood. They have given me hope that we’ll have some awesome years ahead. My hope is that the crap of this year will provide some fertilizer for new growth over the next few.

I just wish it hadn’t sucked so much.

2016 Recap…

I’m keeping this tradition alive, but my feelings toward this year are best summarized by a picture:

SCH Fire Department Dumpster Fire Picture
SCH. Haven Fire Dept Dumpster Fire

Fin and I have been through some rough years. This past year, though, felt like an extra special kick in the face. That said, how’d my year end goals go?

See the picture for a summary.

  1. Consumer Debt Free
    FAIL, stalled out in the summer.
  2. Make measurable progress toward moving.
    More FAIL.
  3. Get technical blog running again
    Even More FAIL.
  4. Build wireless temperature sensor system for greenhouse
    Epic FAIL.
  5. Post another piano recording
    You probably guessed it already. (*cough*) FAIL (*cough*)
  6. Take an actual vacation
    Holy shit. We did this one.
  7. Complete an online course
    FAIL.
  8. Learn a web framework (server and browser side)
    You might see a pattern here… FAIL.
  9. Visit at least 2 Kansas City tourist traps
    Well, I saw *both* Sea Life and Lego World? So? FAIL.
  10. Branch out from previous years in a current hobby or find something new altogether
    Hey, I started Taekwondo (Fin calls it Fancy Karate, because she can’t spell it) again. She doesn’t know if it counts, but I’m padding the numbers with a yes.

Well, given all that happened, 2/10 ain’t that bad. Hoping next year goes better.

Getting Back In Shape…

Over the past few years, I’ve made some variant of the “get back into shape” New Year’s Resolution multiple times. Talk to any regular at the Gym, and they’ll tell you all about the January – February rush before things return back to normal.

The past couple years, I’ve struggled with increased mobility issues. So much so, that I spent some time with a Doctor and Physical Therapist for my knees. The general consensus is some form of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. After 6 months of physical therapy, I felt a marginal improvement. This year, I decided I was tired of pain and would attempt to tackle my knees, as well as improve my health.

My ‘start stats’ for this journey (Aug 31):

  • Male
  • 6’6″
  • 260 lbs

I plan on writing up how things go, if only to help myself track progress. I’ve made a few different changes:

  1. Eliminate high-caffeine, soda, high-sugar desserts and foods. I’ve tried to align my diet in order to better control blood sugar, and hopefully prevent diabetes. Started at beginning of August.
  2. Start tracking caloric intake and logging foods / feeling. I’m using MyFitnessPal for my log. I’ll look at writing a more complete review later. Followed for about 2 weeks now.
  3. Monitor activity level, sleep, and heart rate. I’m using Garmin Connect and a VivoActive HR for monitoring. Followed for about a week now.
  4. Gym Lifting Program. I started a membership at our area YMCA, and began working with one of their fitness coaches. As part of a YMCA membership in our area, you get 6 sessions with a fitness coach where they help you build an exercise program. Followed for about a week now.
  5. Returned to the Dojo. I restarted a martial arts program at a new local dojo. It’s an odd feeling having been a fairly advanced student and returning as a white belt. I appreciate a lot more what’s going on, and can focus on the basics again. This also gives me a reason to do daily stretches and excercise beyond the schedule class times. Started at beginning of September.

I think I’m finally starting to see some results, but time well tell. The real question is “can I stick with it?”. Hopefully tracking / posting will help. Meanwhile, a video from one of the Dojo’s I decided to avoid:

Speaking to an empty room…

… write it and they will come? Perhaps.

I’ve recently tried to step back from FB and Twitter and ‘social media’ in general, and return back to the blog-o-sphere. I’ve had some form of blog or another since 2000 – lately, it seems that the majority of blogger folk have jumped ship to FB and friends – or just quit altogether. I’d estimate fewer than 1:10 blogs I used to read are active. Many, like this one, go for great periods of time with no updates, then a series of updates, and then back to quiet.

I guess if we have important things to say, we can post/share them on social media instead.

A while back, Fin alluded to things going on that prevent her/us from posting on a regular basis. In a lot of things, we’re fairly private, and so, I’ll leave it to her to share or not the past couple years. I’ll summarize it with a single phrase: Fuck Cancer. Fin and I have lived the past year in Cancer’s shadow – taking care of a dear relative through all stages of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Losing a close family member sucks, and we’ve both been fighting to move on. It’s only been a few months, but it feels like years.

We had grand plans for this blog when we started – chronicles of our adventures.

As the dust settles and Fin and I seek a new normal, it seemed like a good time to come back to the blog. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to adventuring and exploring the earlier themes here. I’m not sure where this blog fits in on the new normal – but we’ll see. Maybe there’s some life left in the room after-all.

Lazy Sunday Listening

This has steadily grown on me

A+ producing here. The individual components / performance are good to mediocre, but the combination of mixing, editing, and (shock to here me say it) tasteful digital enhancements combine to a very powerful studio effect.

Side note: anyone else thought about the resurgence of musical videos on the internet? I’m glad youtube and vimeo are around.