What I Learned: July 12

  • I really enjoyed the Born in the USA 4 Mile run I ran on the 4th (at 7:44 am) in Columbia, SC. I finished in 40:22 which was much better than I was expecting, considering I ran a trail run 5K six days earlier in 36 minutes. Instead of medals to the top age group winners, they gave watermelons. In celebration of our country’s independence, I rocked the shirt o’ freedom. Sleeves are for terrorists.
    Born in the USA 2014
  • After my run, my mom, step dad and I headed to the movies to catch X-Men: Days of Future Past. Admittedly, I haven’t seen an X-Men movie since maybe X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 – and I’m a much bigger fan of the Avenger series – but it turned out to be really good. I grew up collecting comic book character cards, so it’s hard to go wrong with a solid Marvel movie.
  • The reason I’m a day late – almost two actually – is because work has straight up beat me down this week. Thursday night, I didn’t leave work until 7, headed straight to Chick Fil A to pick up dinner (no chance I was cooking), walked Harper, and laid down on the couch to read. Only the book never opened. I crashed and the next thing I know, it’s 1:30 in the morning. The good news is the guy who’s going to be my replacement for my old position started on Monday and he’s been excellent in the few times I’ve had to sit with him. I’m really excited with his potential. The bad news is that he’s in our new hire training for another week before he’s full time in the position, so I’m stuck trying to do my old job, my new job, and train a new employee in 40 hours a week. No chance that happens. It’s going to be a rough month or two.
  • My new role isn’t very technical which is going to be a big change for me. I’m going to be given all of the more technical-centric projects for the new group and I’m sure I’ll be helping the new guy out for awhile but my day-to-day role will no longer have my nose buried in data. To offset the change, I’m going to try and incorporate it back into my spare time with my Clemson database project and possibly a top 25 poll for the football season. With my new role being project management, I’ve got a new appreciation for how to plan changes and roll outs too. Gotta keep my skills sharp!
  • Somehow, I managed to miss the fact that there’s a 1100+ acre nature preserve nine miles southwest off of the same road my apartment’s on for two years. No idea how that happens. So Saturday, Harper and I took a trip to McDowell Nature Preserve on the North Carolina side of Lake Wylie. We hiked the 0.9 mile Kingfisher trail because it was one of the longer trails, started at a parking lot, and hugged the shoreline of the lake. I enjoyed the hike itself but the trail was terribly marked. There were several times I wound up at a dead end or noticing different color markers on the trees and would have to backtrack. So that worries me a bit for trying to take a stab at some of the interior trails where there isn’t a shoreline to help you out. But I do like that there’s a place in the woods that close for me to take Harper. We’ll definitely be heading back.

Until next week!

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What I Learned: July 4

  • IPTAY dues are increasing this year. For you non-Clemson folk, IPTAY is Clemson’s athletic scholarship fund that allows donors to buy season tickets before they go on sale to the general public. It originally stood for I Pay Ten (dollars) A Year. The donor levels have been stagnant for ten years, so it’s hard to complain about a jump in cost now. But hey… no one likes paying more, right? I currently give at the Orange ($350) level which is going up to $400. I had been eying the Champion ($700) level, which is the next one up, but it’s going up to $800 and I’m not sure I’m that dedicated yet. Since I’m already on the books for 2014, there’s still plenty of time to debate – or save – for 2015.
  • I got crushed in the 2014 Trail Run Challenge 5K at the US National Whitewater Center. It poured the night before so the course was a little soft and it was incredibly humid under the trees. My first mile was a good pace at 9:54. Then the trail went into the woods and I got beat up. I finished in 36:04 and was a little bummed at first. But after checking out the results, I somehow slipped into 3rd place in my age group. A 34 year old finished 2nd overall with 25:25, two 33 year olds finished with a 28:29 and 33:00, and then me. I was 4 out of 5 for the 30-34 guys which would have placed me 5 out of 10 for the 30-34 gals. Not my strongest race… but I’ll proudly sport the medal!
    Trail Run Challenge 2014
  • I’m still struggling with my job transition. But I ran across two business resources that put me in a good place about my new position. The first is a LinkedIn article detailing the 10 things exceptional bosses provide their employees. The culture in my old group goes against many of those points, while my new group seems to embrace them. The second was an excerpt from The Amazon Way by John Rossman, a former leader within Amazon. It details 14 leadership principles practiced within Amazon from the top down.
  • I watched most of the US vs Belgium World Cup match on Tuesday. We seemed to be incredibly over matched in the 90 minutes of regulation but we limped to the finish line tied 0-0. In the 30 minutes of extra time, craziness ensued. Belgium scored within the first three minutes to put a damper on things. Then when we began sending more players forward to try and score a tying goal, Belgium got another to go up 2-0. In what’s usually a death sentence in soccer, the US’ youngest player scored a goal on his first World Cup touch 17 minutes in. Ultimately, the deficit was too much to overcome but it was fun watching the fire lit under our guys in those last 15 minutes. And our goalie, Tim Howard, played the game of his life in what may very well be his last national team appearance. He had 16 saves, which set a World Cup record. I love opportunities to be overly proud of my country.
  • My cousin was in town for some work training earlier this week. So I met her uptown at Mert’s Heart and Soul for dinner Monday night. It’s a quirky little soul food restaurant stuck in the middle of skyscrapers and chic bars and nightclubs. The beef ribs and salmon cakes appetizers weren’t terrible but I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to order them again. I had Carolina chopped BBQ with green beans and mac & cheese for my main course and it was delicious! Then Wednesday’s lunch roulette took us to the Diamond Restaurant. I had the Big Block Burger with bacon, cheese, and fries. The burger was amazing! Easily one of the top 3 burgers I’ve had in Charlotte. #Fatty

Heading home to Chapin for the holiday weekend. By the time this is posted, I should already be finished with a 4 mile run through downtown Columbia. The good news is that it’s at 7:44 am (for July 4th) so it shouldn’t be incredibly hot. The bad news is that it’s still running in the concrete jungle that is Columbia in July. Look for another slow time next week!

I hope everyone has a great 4th! Be safe!

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2nd Quarter Report – 2014

So we meet again, July.

I’m no fan of summer. It’s easily my least favorite season. But something about the first week or two of July is pretty magical. July 4th gives Americans a reason to feel patriotic and recklessly blow things up. The MLB All Star game is right around the corner. Cookouts are in full force with the smell of grilled animal parts invading almost every weekend evening. The Sandlot is almost always playing on a cable channel. An added bonus this year is that the US is still alive in the World Cup and will be playing Belgium later today.

But it also means half the year is over (wait… how did that happen?) and it’s time to check in on those pesky New Years Resolutions.

  • 15 Books:
    • 2Q projection – 7.5
    • 2Q actual – 8
    • What began as a strong start to this goal has quickly screeched to a halt. I read two Stephen King books in April – The Shining and Doctor Sleep – and I beta-read my mom’s first book of her new series at the tail end of May. While this quarter lacked quantity, it made up for it in quality. It was my second time through The Shining and it’s still an amazing, terrifying book. Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining. And while it’s not “scary,” it was still excellent and probably my favorite of the three books this quarter. Finally, my mom’s still-officially-untitled premier of her new series is her best book yet.
  • 12 Parks:
    • 2Q projection – 6
    • 2Q actual – 9
    • I’ve really enjoyed visiting South Carolina’s state parks. Much more than I had anticipated. I’m still averaging 1.5 parks per month halfway through the year, which I think is pretty good. The only problem is that I’m running out of parks within a reasonable day-trip distance. I hit four this quarter: Charles Town Landing, Colonial Dorchester, Lake Wateree, & Andrew Jackson. Compared to last quarter, it was weak since Andrew Jackson was the only park I really enjoyed. If I keep my pace, I should at least meet my goal this next quarter.
  • 12 Races:
    • 2Q projection – 6
    • 2Q actual – 5
    • I’ve killed this one over the last three months. I’ve run four races this quarter, with a fifth coming up on Friday just on the inside of next quarter. I ran the Bridge Run (10K) in Charleston, SC on 04/05 in 1:04:38 with the Jerdan clan for the my 7th consecutive year. I ran in the inaugural Wildcat Run (5K)  in Little Mountain, SC on 05/10 in 30:59 and placed 2nd in my age group (30-39). I ran my 2nd Jailbreak 5K in Lexington, SC on 05/24 in 29:49. And just this past Saturday (06/28), I ran my 2nd Trail Run Challenge in Charlotte, NC at the US Whitewater Center in 36:04, good for 3rd in my age group (30-34). I definitely need to work on my trail running, so I may be back for some races there later in the year once it cools off.
  • 10,000 Dollars:
    • 2Q projection – $5,000
    • 2Q actual – $6,079.36
    • I told you guys not to worry about my slow start to saving $10,000 in 2014. Not only am I more than $1,000 ahead of schedule, that’s not counting the $2,500 I moved into my Fidelity Roth IRA at the beginning of June. Looking ahead, this is another goal I may be able to cross off in the late 3rd quarter with no large expenses looming on the horizon.
  • 8 Months:
    • 2Q projection – 4
    • 2Q actual – 5.75-ish
    • July 9th is officially 6 months – half an entire year! – without a cable subscription. The good news is that I’m still going strong and not missing a beat. The only shows I’m watching at the moment are Deadliest Catch and Suits, both of which I watch online. Under the Dome started back up last night but I can still catch that over the air. The end of this coming quarter is where I’m really tested with college football starting back up at the end of August. I’m still not sure what I’m planning on doing about that. The bad news is that instead of random TV as filler to pass the time, it’s shifted to the Internet. I’ve become a regular reader of the WTF and College Football subreddits. So I’m still not accomplishing much. I’m just doing it cheaper.
  • 2 Projects:
    • 2Q projection – 1
    • 2Q actual – 0
    • No progress to report here, as the goal of printing out a picture book from my cross country trip and writing at least a rough draft of my story has sat untouched. As I mentioned last month though, I still plan on reading through three travel memoirs by the end of the year which should definitely put me more in the mindset to work on this.

How many of your goals have you completely abandoned? Anyone out there still making headway on the person you wanted to become in 2014?

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What I Learned: June 27

  • Saturday, our company put together two groups of volunteers to work on a couple of Habitat for Humanity houses. I wound up having a lot more fun than I had expected going into it. We started by nailing plywood on the outside walls and finished up by hoisting the roof trusses up. I’m a competitive person by nature and, without naming names, I’ll just say that the office isn’t the only place I outworked my coworkers. It was a hot five and a half hours but overall, I had a blast. I’m definitely going to look into logging more hours with them.
    HfH Walls     HfH Break
  • Monday was supposed to be my kickoff to transitioning into my new position at work. The schedule this week was to spend two hours each day with the new group, leaving six to help the old group. Next week, the hours equal out at four with each group. And finally, the third week, I should move over full time. So naturally what happens? My old group bombards me with “critical” work no one else can do. I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed. I’ll bust my butt to help this next week. But after that, it’s time to kick the baby bird out of the nest to fly on its own.
  • Another date on Tuesday night, another horribly awkward dinner to sit through. This one may have been over in record time though. I show up a couple minutes early, she’s a couple minutes late. I’m in jeans, an untucked collared shirt, and boots, she’s in jean shorts, a tank top, and sandals. Thirty minutes later, we’re exchanging “uh, maybe I’ll talk to you later”s and heading our separate ways. There’s a reason I made my peace with being single years ago… Dating’s the worst!
  • In what’s quickly becoming the regular weekly food bullet point, we bailed on Lunch Roulette last week because too many people had other plans. But a group of us wound up at Tupelo Honey Cafe in South End. Everyone has raved about the food but I’m more and more convinced they’re non-Southerners hyping it up. I had the fried chicken and biscuits. To be fair, it wasn’t bad… it just wasn’t amazing either. I like the Pillsbury frozen grand buttermilk biscuits better than Tupelo’s though. After Habitat on Saturday, a handful of us grabbed lunch at Cantina 1511. I went with a chimichanga and it was incredible. Although, that may have been the five and a half hours of manual labor hunger pangs talking. And finally, my dinner date Tuesday night was another trip to Phat Burrito, which is always good.
  • For Father’s Day, my sister in law got my brother an August weekend campsite at the Davidson River Campground in Pisgah Forest, NC. Aside from it being a cool gift in and of itself, it’s sentimental because it’s where my dad took us camping growing up. Needless to say, when my brother invited me along (probably because I have the most camping gear), I didn’t hesitate saying yes. Can’t say I’ve ever been camping with a dog and a baby before… but let’s do it! I’m pumped!

I signed up last minute for the Trail Run Challenge 5K out at the Whitewater Center this weekend. So bright and early Saturday morning, I’ll be out sweating while most of you are probably still dozing.

Farewell June. Bring on the heat of summer and July!

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What I Learned: June 20

  • It’s been the week of the medical profession. I haven’t been to a doctor or had a physical since I was in high school. But the second our work starts keeping track of points earned for doing health-related activities, my competitive gene kicked in and I scheduled a physical for last Saturday. So I’m officially a healthy boy now. Then Sunday night, I grabbed dinner with a newly graduated vet in the area. And last but definitely not funnest, I had a cavity filled on Thursday afternoon.
  • On Tuesday, I officially signed the paperwork to transfer departments into a new role the first full week of July. Goodbye data analyst, hello program manager! I think it will wind up being a good move for me. I’m excited to be working for my new manager because she’s excellent at what she does and she’s who originally hired me. I think this job will provide me skills that are more transferable for later on in my career too. It’s also similar to an assistantship I enjoyed in graduate school. I can’t wait!
  • Harper and I went hiking at Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster, SC on Sunday. It was just the right size and right distance from me to make for a good couple-of-hours day trip. Next state park puts me at double digits for the year!
  • I’m slowly amassing a solid list of Charlotte eateries. Dinner with the vet was at 1900 Mexican Grill. I had the pollo a la crema which wasn’t bad. My problem is that I’m still hunting for a Mexican restaurant in Charlotte that’s on par with El Poblano (who don’t even have a website) down the road from my mom and step dad’s house. And unfortunately, 1900 Mexican Grill didn’t live up to the bar that’s been set. Our Friday Lunch Roulette destination today puts us at Green’s Lunch. All you need to know is that they have $1.80 hot dogs and $2.40 hamburgers. You can never go wrong with cheap hot dogs for lunch.
  • Keeping with last week’s video game theme, I went into full on 12-year-old-boy Wednesday night. I’ve always wanted something fun and non-adult to spruce up my TV stand. So I ordered a Halo 3 Master Chief, Halo 3 Cortana, Halo 4 Master Chief, and Halo 4 Cortana action figure. McFarlane Toys makes detailed, cool action figures. So if I like what shows up, this may get out of hand…
     

This weekend is my Habitat for Humanity volunteering weekend with my group from work. I’m looking forward to it, especially since my current volunteering resume only consists of dog walking. It’s also looking more and more likely that I may be heading into work on Sunday to get caught up so I can begin transitioning into my new role.

Other than that, it should be pretty low key. Where is June going? Half the year is almost gone! Enjoy your weekend!

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What I Learned: June 13

  • I took Monday off so I could spend all day in front of my TV watching IGN’s E3 coverage. For those not in the know, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. It’s where Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and any other gaming-related company come show off their new games and products for the coming year. I watched TV from 12pm to almost 12am to see Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony’s press conferences. I’m not ashamed one bit.
  • I kept a list of the games announced for Xbox. Aside from indie games, I counted 13 games in 2014 and 7 on tap for 2015. This year, Forza Horizon 2 looks beautiful but I’m not a racing game guy. Evolve is a super cool idea for cooperative multiplayer play where 4 players team up as hunters to take down 1 player as a monster, who can evolve into a more powerful monster through accomplishments. Sunset Overdrive looks cheeky and fun! There’s a new Dance Central game (uh yes please!). The trailer for Ori and The Blind Forest looks super intriguing.
  • I wasn’t as impressed with the games lining up for 2015 but there’s still plenty of time to announce new games and improve the ones announced. Inside looks good for an indie game. The Rise of the Tomb Raider should be gorgeous if it follows in the footsteps of last year’s Tomb Raider. The Division was a Tom Clancy game, so typical first-person shooter but I could be on board with that because it’s post-apocalyptic and “I Am Legend”ish. Cuphead, which has a weird name, looks amazing because it’s in the art style of an old cartoon.
  • The Valiant Hearts trailer was heartbreaking. It’s a World War I game told through letters by a dog who was friends with a group of connected characters. Just watch the trailer. It’s emotional.
  • My second favorite game shown was Destiny, Bungie’s crack at an ambitious role-playing-game, first-person-shooter mash up. It’s always online, which I’m not super crazy about since I don’t have many friends still playing games as much. But it’s a new multi-year series by the studio who made Halo. It’s got to be good, right? Which leads in to my favorite game perfectly – Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It’s Halo 1, 2, 3, and 4 combined into one disc for the Xbox One for $60! Instead of being remade, they’re the original copies. So one of the best multiplayer experiences ever in Halo 2 can now be played on Xbox Live again. Halo 1 can be played on it for the first time ever. Not only that, it comes with a copy of Halo: Nightfall, the digital series being released next year by Ridley Scott and access to the beta for Halo 5: Guardians this winter. Every generation has their video game icon (Pong, Pac Man, Mario, etc). Halo and Master Chief are my Mario. I’m so pumped.

I’m sorry not sorry for the video-game, boy-centric entry. But sometimes you just have to let it flow. This week was much better than last! Four days of work, being bragged about in all day training, getting some good runs in, a possible solution to my work troubles, becoming buddies with a fellow Clemson alum coworker. Even got a wave from a girl who runs on my run days with her dog. So here’s to last week’s storm running out of rain!

Lunch Roulette finds us at Pinky’s this week.

Happy Father’s Day!

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What I Learned: June 6

  • Last Friday, I managed to get myself invited to a regular Friday lunch crowd. It’s a little game of Charlotte lunch roulette. One guy keeps a list of all of the decent restaurants in the area on a spreadsheet. Then each Wednesday, an Excel random number generator decides the fate of lunch. Last week, it was Price’s Chicken Coop. Later today, we’re giving Bedder Bedder & Moore a shot.
  • I’ve had better weeks than this last one. I had recently applied to a job in a different department working with the manager who hired me but on Friday, I found out it fell through. Met someone new for a date-ish adventure through Reedy Creek Park on Saturday only to get the “I get just a friends vibe from you” chat after thinking it went well. I’m doing my best to curb my work frustrations but the levels are slowly creeping towards Raleigh-level discontent. My 3 mile run on Wednesday crushed me. And I got into an argument with another friend Wednesday evening. So let’s turn this train around, why don’t we?
  • Speaking of Reedy Creek Park, I wasn’t impressed. There are ruins from a house built in the 1700s but that wound up sounding cooler than it was. The trails were bland and wrapped around two muddy ponds. You won’t miss much by missing this one.RCNP Rockhouse Ruins Corner     RCNP Rockhouse Ruins
  • After months of threatening to do it, my dad finally retired this past week from the federal government. So congratulations, Daddy! The good news is that my time frame to talk to him is greatly increased since he’s no longer at work when it’s 9pm or later my time. The bad news is that sooner, rather than later, I’ll lose my local connection for visiting Alaska. Luckily, I’ve been there twice before in August of 2008 and 2009. But I’ve always wanted to give it a visit in the winter.
  • To try and change up my funk of a routine right now, I’ve ditched the cell phone since Wednesday night. I put that bad boy on airplane mode and it’s been hanging out on my kitchen counter since. I wasn’t sure how Thursday would go since it seems I’m always waiting on a text, the next move in Hanging/Words with Friends, reading Twitter, or listening to podcasts to pass the day. But Thursday went by remarkably quick and it was probably one of my more productive days. So I’ve left it at home today too. I’ll probably keep it off this weekend while I’m at it. At least until Sunday evening when I talk to my dad. If you’ve called or sent a text, I’m not dead. You’re just going to have to find some other way to get me!

I’m still a little undecided on what I’m doing this weekend. Maybe try to catch a baseball game if the weather’s not too nasty. I haven’t volunteered at the shelter in awhile but eh… It’s been over a month since I’ve gone to a South Carolina state park but I’m also running out of options close to Charlotte. I’m pumped about having Monday off for a 3 day weekend though!

Enjoy it, guys!

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