What I Learned: November 17

  • Sometimes, there are no good decisions. I’ve transitioned back into my former position at work. On one hand, I needed to get out of the position I had because I was struggling to keep up and my work style and strengths didn’t compliment the work load. On the other hand, my former department can be a train wreck with all of the dysfunction and seemingly reckless abandon. On top of that, I’m not sure my current boss will be around for much longer, so let’s toss in a bit of uncertainty to the mix as well. But when in doubt, go with what you know. And I’m good at what I do in this role.
  • Food bullet lightning round! Since my last post I’ve been to:
    • Brooks – A cash-only shack with cheap, delicious chili burgers & hot dogs
    • Sauceman’s – The “best BBQ in Charlotte” (it’s no Midwood Smokehouse…)
    • Phat Burrito – Been there, done that
    • Brazwell’s – Okay burger and impossible trivia
    • Mr K’s – Hard to go wrong with burgers and shakes
    • Rusty’s Deli – A generic deli that was better than expected
    • Tres Pesos – A sketchy, disappointing, “eh” Mexican restaurant
    • Tryon House – Some of everything usually means good at nothing
    • Chicken Box – Terrible website and wait but amazing food
    • Ed’s Tavern – Our weekly trivia spot and good buffalo chicken wrap
    • Nana’s Soul Food – Delicious fried chicken, decent Oreo cake
    • Spoon’s BBQ – When they have free hush puppies, you know it’s good
    • Tavern on the Tracks – Good lunch spot in South End Charlotte
    • Dish – Amazing meatloaf! Quirky, hipster comfort food restaurant
    • Mac’s Speedshop – Spicy fried pickles appetizer is hard to beat
    • Local Taco (in Greenville, SC) – Disappointed to find out it’s a chain
    • Midwood Smokehouse – Best BBQ in Charlotte in my opinion
    • The Locker Room – Grilled not fried buffalo chicken? What? Run down sports bar
    • Mattie’s Diner – Diner from New Jersey. Amazing burgers and shakes!
  • I’m not a big birthday guy but hypocritically enough, I thought this year’s was a bit of a let down. I was in Clemson the first weekend of November for my step mom’s 60th birthday. So the attention was on her (rightfully so) and the quasi-family reunion. Then birthday lunch with my two work buddies Aja and Kaleigh. Nothing that night. Then my mom and step dad took me out to Midwood Smokehouse the night after. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t have a birthday feel to it.
  • I can’t adequately describe how excited I am to have a regular trivia night group now. There was a group of 6 or so of us in college who religiously played on Thursday nights. We’ve got a steady 6-8 regulars from work who play at Ed’s Tavern each Thursday. We tried Brazwell’s but it was impossible sports trivia. After switching to Ed’s for general trivia, we won our second week there. Thursday nights are amazing again!
  • This song may be the best thing to hit radio stations this year. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s so great about it. From the opening drum machine to the choppy lines to the lyrics sensationalizing her own public image, everything just works. Easily her best song yet.

With my Thursday nights now out of commission for weekly blog posts, let’s give Monday’s a fair shake and see what happens.

Enjoy your week!

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3rd Quarter Report – 2014

Good riddance summer! Bring on autumn!

Summer has always been my least favorite season. So I’m glad to get the third quarter out of the way just for the simple fact that I welcome Fall with open arms. But in terms of my resolutions, it was my worst quarter by far. In July, I transferred departments at work and the transition has been anything but smooth. So a poor attitude during the day tends to carry over into the evenings and weekends. That then translates to less trips to state parks, less races run, less books read… You catch my drift.

It’s make or break time now though. One more quarter left in the year to make an effort to better myself before wiping the slate clean, taking my lessons learned, and starting over.

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along?

  • 15 Books:
    • 3Q projection – 11.25
    • 3Q actual – 11
    • My third quarter was all over the place even though I only read three books. First was David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I love his books because they always present uncommon solutions and approaches to common problems. One chapter asks if it’s a good thing to wish dyslexia onto your child then he proceeds to make a compelling argument. My second book was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. For most writers, it would have been a good book. For someone with the bar set as high as King has it, not so much. Finally, I tackled How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived The Dark Ages of Nought by Lyn Fairchild Hawks. My mom had passed it my way to read and it’s hard to adequately describe the story in one sentence. It was good but it’s also young adult, which isn’t where I usually spend my time.
  • 12 Parks:
    • 3Q projection – 9
    • 3Q actual – 9
    • I warned you about this being a rough quarter. I didn’t hit any state parks in the last three months. Ouch. But the good news is that because I had such a strong start, I’m only three parks away from my goal. Just have to put one foot in front of the other!
  • 12 Races:
    • 3Q projection – 9
    • 3Q actual – 6
    • Ouch times two! I ran in the Born In The USA 4 miler in Columbia on the 4th of July. Since then? Nothing. I had wanted to run a 5K at the Whitewater Center this past weekend and started to train for it but wound up taking a big spill the weekend before and tore my knee up pretty good. So I’ve been off of my running game for a couple of weeks while it heals. Six races in 4 months may be a little tough to hit, to say the least.
  • 10,000 Dollars:
    • 3Q projection – $7,500
    • 3Q actual – $8,274.08
    • I lost a little bit of ground from last quarter (from +$1,079.36 to +$774.08) but dropping $700 on a new alternator and $300 on Clemson/Georgia tickets will put you back a bit. Luckily, October is a three-paycheck month so that should help. But the big push for Christmas is about to gear up too. This number will be fun to follow in the next three months to find out where it ends up.
  • 8 Months:
    • 3Q projection – 6
    • 3Q actual – 8
    • I made it! September 9th was eight full months and I’m still going strong. I thought football season was going to make me miss having cable. In reality, it’s been quite the opposite – not having cable has tempered my football fix. It also helps that of Clemson’s first four games, I went to the Georgia game, my nephew’s birthday was during the SC State game, and I went to a friend’s house for the Florida State game. I’ve only had to cave and use my brother’s ESPN account to watch this past weekend’s game against North Carolina. It also helps that I’m wasting/investing a lot of spare hours into Bungie’s new game Destiny.
  • 2 Projects:
    • 3Q projection – 1.5
    • 3Q actual – 0
    • There’s no news here. Shocker. I did find a new book-creating site (Blurb) that looks like it may be cheaper than some of the other competitors. They also have a self-publishing arm that could work nicely with my non-picture book project too. But I haven’t done as much research there.

Well my third quarter was not a good one. On one hand, not nearly as much progress was made that’s needed to wrap up some of these goals. But on the other, I did go ahead and get one scratched off the list by making it eight full months without cable.

Have your goals been accomplished? Are they still in play? Is it time to scrap them and start planning on 2015? Let me know in the comments below!

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What I Learned: August 15

  • My new job was a mistake. I left my last department because of the lack of leadership. A month after I leave, the manager is fired for the state of the department. So I inquire about the position and I’m told I can ask but there’s no chance I get it since I “made a commitment” to the job I’ve got now and that I’d need to be in it for 12 months. Let’s glance over the fact that I’m struggling bad in my new job and falling behind. Or that it would be a promotion, not a lateral move. Or the fact that it’s the area I know the best. Or that the department is still having production issues. Oh well. #Whining
  • Since my last What I Learned entry, I’ve made a stop at Mr. K’s, Maverick Rock Taco, and Lupie’s Cafe. At Mr. K’s for lunch roulette, I had a burger, fries, and a chocolate shake. The burger was decent, the fries were eh, and the shake was disappointing. I feel like it’s hard to botch a chocolate shake but somehow, it happened. At Maverick Rock Taco for a work happy hour, I had a carne asada steak burrito, cilantro lime fries, and sweet tea. I’m thumb-downing all of it. The burrito was medicore, the fries were terrible, and several glasses of sweet tea tasted like the bottom of the batch. Lupie’s for lunch roulette saved the day though. I had a burger, chips, and sweet tea. The waitress claimed they have the best tea, which I’m always leery of. But she backed it up. So delicious! I’d definitely go back. The other two? Don’t hold your breath.
  • EA Access launched for the Xbox One this week. It’s a service that allows you to play last year’s EA games fr $30 a year. But that’s in addition to the $40-ish I already pay for Xbox Live. So I’m a little curious to see how that plays out with Ubisoft, Activision, and other publishes probably following suit in the near future. Right now, there are only four games (FIFA 14, Madden 25, Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2). But ever since the World Cup, I’ve wanted to give a soccer game a chance. Now I can, along with three other games, for half the price of a new game.
  • I went to see Lucy with my mom and step dad a couple of weeks ago. It wound up being a lot weirder than I was expecting but it was pretty good. I’m also a fan of staring at Scarlett Johansson for 90 minutes too.
  • I recently started following Isaiah Cooper on Vine. For those of you not in the know, Vine is like Twitter for video. Instead of 140 characters to make your statement, you get six seconds. But what’s cool about Cooper’s videos are that he’s thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail! He started in Georgia and he’s up to Vermont as of yesterday. He’s chronicling hostels, where he starts each day, and the trail itself. It makes me want to give the AT a shot some day. This is my favorite!

Fortunately, I’ve got Friday off and I’m heading to the mountains to go camping with my brother. He’s bringing the kid. I’m bringing the dog. We’re going to the campground my dad used to take my brother and me when we were kids, so I’m super excited to go back! Yay memories, old and new!

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What I Learned: July 25

  • I Died Today by Duke Roberts. The most beautifully, heartbreaking thing I’ve read in a long time. I’ve read it at least five times. I can’t make it past the first picture without tearing up. On one hand, I love what Duke’s owners did. On the other, it absolutely tears me up on the inside because I know I’ll have to go through something similar with Harper. A dog’s bond is one of the best experiences I will ever have in my life.
  • I put in four and a half hours at the office this past Saturday. Just in case you were wondering, it’s completely overrated. I left work Tuesday at 1pm for a last-minute, unplanned trip to the vet (she’s okay) and – before including Saturday’s hours – I still worked more than 40 hours last week. Hopefully the storm’s beginning to break up a bit though.
  • Midwood Smokehouse was our lunch roulette stop last week. It’s no South Carolina mustard-based sauce but it was some of the best barbeque I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was so good, a group of us went back on Monday. I had the large Carolina Pork plate with bacon-wrapped jalapenos and cole slaw the first time around and went with the same plate and cole slow but swapped out the jalapenos for mac and cheese. All of it was amazing.
  • A group of us from work were trying to go to the whitewater center last Sunday but the weather called our hand. They shut the rapids down if there’s thunder and the forecast didn’t look promising. So we picnic’ed it up at a local park with sandwiches, fruit, and cookies and then went bowling. It was a good, laid back afternoon. And I got to meet fellow Clemson alum!
  • I went to two stops of the Monumentour with Fall Out Boy and Paramore on Tuesday and Wednesday. They were completely different experiences but amazing in their own right. Some coworkers gave me a hard time for going to see a band for “teenage girls” but you know what? Fall Out Boy’s my favorite band and I completely own it. And Paramore was on the top of my list of favorite bands I’ve never seen live. You can bet there will be follow up entries here.
    Monumentour Charlotte 001
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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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