Off Soda

For 2019, I decided to quit soda. And it was shockingly easy this time. I did this before and ended up relapsing but I’ve really tackled it anew this year.

The only drinks I’ve had:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Apple juice
  • Blackberry Izze
  • Fresca
  • Scotch
  • Wine

Before you say it, I know some of these drinks have a lot of sugar. That’s the point. I’ve been quitting soda primarily to get me off of caffeine. Cutting back on sugar is coming next.

But what actually made me want to write this post is that I’m currently sitting in a hotel room, of which one of my travel routines is to enjoy a bottle of Pepsi while watching streams in the hotel. It has no sense it’s just a thing I’ve found myself doing while I travel and today as I sit in this hotel room I was struck by a real wanting for soda – something I haven’t truly faced since I stopped drinking soda.

Ah the joys of the human mind.

My Top Games for 2018

Despite what the subject line might make you think, this is not me ranking the best games of 2018. It is instead me sharing the top 5 games I played this past year in terms of time gaming and time spent thinking about them.

Disclaimer: I work for Wizards of the Coast, which is very relevant to this list as we make the top two games on this list: Magic: The Gathering & Dungeons and Dragons. I specifically work on Magic.

1. Magic: The Gathering

My favorite game. The original trading card game and it has continued to thrive. This past year Wizards unveiled the new digital version of the game, Magic: The Gathering Arena. And I have spent many many many hours playing Magic digitally or on table top.

2. Dungeons & Dragons

While I only started a weekly session towards the end of 2018, D&D occupied a lot of mindspace for me because D&D streams are one of my favorite means of entertainment.

Between Critical Roll, Dice, Camera, Action, Penny Arcade’s The C-Team, and the Broken Pact, at its peak I had roughly 13-hours each week of D&D content to consume.

In addition to watching those streams, I also played it a great deal between playing on Clerical Error and other games. For the last few months of the year I started a weekly D&D game with friends, and as DM I spend several hours preparing for each week’s session.

3. Stardew Valley

This indie game is amazing. It is my favorite self-care game. When I have bad days, or when I am stressed, I like to come home and work on my farm. My main farmer is named Boris, his farm is “Motherland Farm” (I was watching The Americans when I started this farm.)

4. Alto’s Odyssey

My favorite mobile game from 2018, it’s a simple game. You snowboard, or in this case, sandboard and sometimes surfboard, across the realm of this game. It’s relaxing and good for winding down before I’m going to fall asleep.

5. Chess

My interest in chess rises and falls in a sine-like wave over the years. I’ve been in a valley of that wave for a while, but this was a late entry to the list as I dove deep back into it with the 2018 World Championship duel between Carlsen and Caruana.

Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)

Anthony Bourdain was a significant voice of the past few decades as he showed us the world, reminding us we don’t have to be scared of people in other countries and that there is a whole world that it is our duty to see.

It’s wrong to call myself a fan of Anthony Bourdain. That overstates it. I read Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it. When I watched one of his shows, I enjoyed it. But I didn’t seek his content out, I didn’t wait for news of new seasons or projects. But above all, I held jealousy of the career and life he had. It is a romantic way of life.

The vision of traveling the world to eat food and experience life around the world. I’ve been able to see many places around our world, and yet there remains a whole world that I haven’t seen yet. What I’ve done is a step more than most people, and those places I have seen have confirmed this famous quote by Bourdain.

If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

Bourdain summarized himself perfectly and succinctly in his Twitter bio: Enthusiast. And that is a great way to put what I wish my life was. I dream of being a professional Enthusiast as he was. Not because I think it is an easy and happy life. I knew his life wasn’t, and today’s reading by and about him reinforced it. Even when I travel for at most 30 days a year, I face loneliness on the road. Sure I might go out with friends or coworkers, but at the end I go back to the empty hotel room and am left with myself. Bourdain says he spent 250 days a year on the road. That had to be lonely.

Hearing the news about his death was tough for me this morning. Recognizing that a voice which spoke uniquely has been struck silent, and the resulting silence, would echo for many. Add to that for it to be due to suicide is to force us to recognize that under what he displayed sat the darkness which affects so many, and for someone like him to succumb to it… well, it’s terrifying. He wasn’t someone down on his luck, exhausted from the fight merely to exist. He was struggling, with demons, with loneliness, possibly with mental illness.

As death has a tendency to do, it puts the person front and center of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit; all of them were heavily centered on the death of a voice. And I let myself be swept along, reading posts, watching videos, and participating in conversations. One notable post, which I unfortunately did not save, highlighted something that was an underappreciated feature of Bourdain’s television work. He was one television show, if not the only show on right now, which focused heavily on convincing us we didn’t need to be afraid of other people in the world. It’s so common and so easy to be afraid of people in a foreign country if we’ve never been there or never seen what their lives are like. And Bourdain discovered, through the vehicle of food, that the world was big and amazing and he could show it to us one episode at a time.

In his showing us the world we also got to witness the evolution of his voice. I love the below quote. I initially shared it on Facebook, coming from

He started off as a Hunter S. Thompson-quoting dude who might have tried a little too hard to show you his cigarette, the scotch in his hand, and his punk rock roots, all maybe compensating a little too much for a childhood that included trips to France to eat at La Pyramide, and an education that took him to Vassar. He ended up somewhere else completely: As a truly conscientious traveler, as one of the only men to really publicly examine his role in encouraging terrible behavior in the restaurant industry, as someone who began to understand that the truths of his stories were at best partial and happily highlighted the fakery of storytelling while still trying to expand its possibilities. To believe in it, and in the end tell a story that was human, and at its best, humane.

This quote is in context of a scene that many people lauded, Bourdain dove into what the American food chain Waffle House was. He didn’t try to bullshit about it, he didn’t wax poetically. He talked about it from the start as being a place that beautifully served food that is good for hangovers and serving blue collar people at 3am. In the video we get to witness him experiencing a pecan waffle, lathered in butter, and maple syrup. It’s no Michelin star restaurant, it’s normal food. And it’s delicious. He didn’t try to make us forget that the food we, regular people, could get tasted good.

I truly loved when I discovered his twitter bio was the infinitely evocative and simple descriptor: Enthusiast. That encapsulates my vision of him so perfectly. Food, people, the world–He was an enthusiast. The enthusiast. An example of this enthusiasm is captured beautifully in this Twitter thread about a chance encounter with Bourdain at a food festival:

The whole thread is a delightful retelling of having got to meet him, showing him and his fascination in hearing her talk about her home country. He was enthusiastic to learn more about it. And when he did eventually attend, he was enthusiastic about it. It is a wonderful snapshot of what it could be like to meet him.

I spent a bit of the day swimming through these stories. His stories. Experiencing a life cut short, but one which uniquely gave us plentiful echoes to experience after he is gone. He began his journey by writing a book about his time in kitchens. It’s his book, Kitchen Confidential, which holds a poignant quote that reaches full meaning today:

[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

Bourdain’s voice and personality, his zeal for life and the world, are gone from creating those new things for us. But there is a lot of him out there. His book, his Ecco press book imprint on which he published numerous books, his articles, his shows. He isn’t gone. Not yet at least. Not until the last of us turns off Netflix and Parts Unknown.

Who would you want to write your life story?

I already wrote it. And though I don’t really care about what people say about me when I’m gone, I guess Jerry Stahl would make an entertaining — if not necessarily flattering — story of the gruesome details.

Interview with the New York Times

Added 10 June 2018:

CNN and Anderson Cooper did a fantastic remembrance of Anthony.

Why I Love the Un-American Football

I started this blog post literally months ago. And I’ve tried to write a similar post for the past two years only to abandon each of them. This one is the closest I’ve come to success, and I’ve soldiered on revising and editing and fact checking. With the World Cup happening, I believe now is the time for me to publish it.

It was at Georgia Tech in 2002 that I met David. We weren’t good friends, or even close friends really, but we did hang out from time to time and during those times I discovered David was ‘weird.’ Now, being ‘weird’ at Georgia Tech is saying something. It was (and most likely still is) largely a geek college with a heavily skewed male to female ratio. I mean, to be fair, I was weird at Georgia Tech too. But David was ‘weird’ because he was, well, he was a die hard soccer fan. Die hard despite lacking access to downloaded recordings of games or infinite satellite channels for European broadcasts. He had just grown to love the sport with what he had been able to catch and follow online over a decade ago. He was always checking ESPN’s soccer coverage website. Like I said, he was ‘weird.’

Of the things I regret in college, I regret not spending more time with David and not getting to know soccer through his eyes. He was an American kid who had fallen in love with a sport which was firmly entrenched as the least popular professional sport in America. Rather than learning to love the game through David, I took another path.

My education in soccer first started as a kid when I played on a YMCA team. I wasn’t good. My earliest experience was in an in-door soccer league in Kansas City. I have no real memories of it but I have heard a story which involves the mob of kids on the field chasing the ball and I eventually collapse on the ball and curl up over it, determined to defend the ball in the only way I know how. When viewed as an action by a four or five year old child, it’s adorable. So focus on that angle.

Soccer required an athleticism that I lacked such that I was often put on defense where the coach’s instruction was “stay near the corner of the box and keep the ball away from the goal.” Not a rousing coaching strategy but then it was YMCA. Combine my less-than-stellar soccer skills with television actively pushing me towards other sports which I could actually watch: (American) football, basketball, and baseball. Soccer was left in the dust. I grew up seeing it as a sport that kids played and adults elsewhere (not America) played and thus not something I should worry about. I mean, I wasn’t seeing a soccer player peddling a sugary drink.

Grant Hill and Sprite

And so it was all the way through college, despite a friend named David, until I returned to Orlando in 2005. During that time I reconnected with some childhood friends from church, a pair of Brazilian brothers named David and Daniel. They were members of my childhood church. David was two years my senior, and Daniel was four years my junior. I was in middle school for one year with David, and I can remember him playing soccer for my middle school’s soccer team. I don’t know I ever watched a game, but I remember him in the uniform and the team photo. I knew both of them much more from church youth group and choir.

It was with these brothers that I watched the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I contend that there is no greater event than gathering with a Brazilian family to watch World Cup soccer. It was a feast of food for every game and they were infinitely patient as they explained the rules of the game which I didn’t understand. I will always be thankful for that first spark that relit my love of soccer.

As a brief aside: I think I returned the favor. My contribution was to take them to Sci-Fi City in Orlando where they bought their first RPG dice sets, before we went on to play many wonderful games of D&D with them and some other friends. The older of the two brothers, David, passed away a few years ago and while the group continued to play D&D without him it wasn’t the same.

After the 2006 World Cup passed, my interest in soccer waned once again as the world around me turned away from soccer and back to those other popular American sports.

In 2009, tied to the fateful events which turned me down my current career path, I joined where my two bosses were both big soccer fans. When the 2010 World Cup rolled around we took our laptops down to the game store before it opened and watched the games on the television while we worked. And it was there my love of soccer was truly reignited. Again, I was swept up in the World Cup, and again I was educated by those who knew far more about the sport.

Again though, the World Cup left us, but this time the interest in the sport was buoyed. I began seeking it out by following some oversea teams. Though I was only casually interested, this time the barrier to entry was lower.

Television was changing. America was changing. The Internet was changing. And I had two new allies: one of my bosses and my fiancee. Katie, as it turns out, was a soccer fan as well so she was all too eager to share this love with me. As I grew to know more about soccer, as I began to find teams I liked, and as the world around me made soccer more accessible here in the states I began to find more and more to love for it.

Perhaps the most critical event of this timeline was just before Katie and I left Orlando. It was then that Orlando launched their NASL team (and now soon to be an MLS team featuring a famous player named Kaka) the Orlando City Soccer Club. Our first experience with them was at a friendly against Newcastle United. Katie and I were able to enjoy the excitement together and we were planning to buy season tickets for the next season were it not for the fateful opportunity that brought us to Seattle.

For those of you who don’t know, Seattle is home to the Seattle Sounders, an MLS club since 2010 (NASL team since 1974). And we are the only city in America to consistently draw European-level crowds for their soccer matches (2013 averaged 44,000 fans per home game.) Katie and I, as I said, had discovered the joy of watching and attending a soccer match while in Orlando and so we knew we had to check out the Sounders. We attended, I believe, two or maybe three games and watched others on television before we decided to order season tickets for the 2013-2014 season.

Sounders stadium

As much as the Sounders matches with Katie deserve credit for feeding the flame, the Internet and the changing landscape of American television deserve a great deal of credit too. The Internet has become an American soccer fan’s lifeline providing clips and full replays of games from leagues around the world, available with just a few clicks of a mouse. Watching them stream live or as recorded matches ripped from broadcasts. It is a common practice for me to acquire a match or two before a trip so I can watch them during a flight, I’ve found I prefer those matches to any other in-flight entertainment.

Additionally, the landscape of American television proper is changing. It is my belief that soccer in America was actively stymied by the proliferation of television and the rise of commercials. Soccer is not an easy sport to profit off of as a broadcast network. Where football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR, and any other sport has countless natural breaks where commercials can be run – soccer does not. And so for that reason networks, in search of profits during some previous decade, shunned soccer. Maybe this is unfair, or perhaps there is more at work than I am aware, but the logic makes perfect sense so I choose to believe it.

Now though, the world has changed. America is going through a soccer renaissance as MLS is on a growth spurt, and American networks are competing to broadcast more and more soccer. Those, combined with online access to games, and infinite clips on YouTube, makes soccer a very accessible sport for those getting into it.

So then why? Up to now I’ve walked you through my personal journey of how I fell in love with soccer, but I haven’t done anything to capture the why. Before I do so, let me first step into a discussion about what I think a few of the reasons are for why soccer has struggled in the United States.

I think part of the reason that soccer struggles is because our modern media machine has not been built to allow soccer to succeed. Television broadcasting relies on advertising deals for commercials and product ads, where NFL, NBA, MLB and other televised sports have many opportunities for commercial breaks (some initiated specifically for that purpose rather than used opportunistically)—soccer doesn’t allow for that. The game is two forty-five minute halves without stops. No chance for commercials, and thus not exactly the poster boy for profitability.

There is one thing which could force the broadcasters to eat this: public demand. And what brings public demand? National team success or the rise of a popular league. Neither of which has truly happened yet.

These issues are a chicken and an egg problem in today’s world. It is imperative for any professional sport that it not only get exposure but also the revenue from the coverage. With that coverage comes not only revenue but also the growth of a culture around the sport: kids watching and loving the sport’s stars. Lastly, this coverage is critical for also the reason of comparison against other sports. As a kid, why should I care about a sport I can’t watch on TV when instead I can follow Jordan and the Bulls, or Deion Sanders and the Falcons or Cowboys, or… someone relevant from baseball (Greg Maddux) or hockey (Wayne Gretzky.)

So, aside from the popularity, with the rise of attention that Americans give it around every World Cup there is still a problem of “stickiness.” It doesn’t grab Americans who aren’t indoctrinated in it. I contend one of the major reasons is the need for people to learn the sport beyond the base rules. Many people think soccer is slow, boring, or hard to follow.

The advantage other sports have that is that they are more “busy” than soccer. American Football is a multi-hour broadcast for less than an hour of active game play. Basketball’s last two minutes of action can take twenty-plus minutes. Baseball is a series of pitches which result sometimes in bursts of action. These sports are short easily processed chunks which create punctuations of action that make us believe that, on the whole, they are faster and more action packed than soccer. The difference is that there are nice and easy digestible bites of these sports. Whether the plays of football, or the shot-clock limited fast-paced action of basketball, these are benefits of short attention span because it lets you know for sure when a play or series of actions is complete.

Soccer is more like a marathon. The clock starts and runs without stop for forty-five minutes. You can’t stop and go to the bathroom without risking missing action unless a player is injured. And during this time, there’s no promise of a score, much to many American fans’ frustration. Games end 0-0 or maybe 1-0! Where’s the blow out? Where’s the double digit win?

Soccer’s continuously long period of motion creates a barrier to entry.

Next comes the lack of clear direction of attention. I sort of spoke to this above, but the trap of soccer is that following the ball is only part of what you should be watching. Soccer’s real beauty lies in the whole picture and not just what happens immediately around the ball. I’ll use the Seattle Sounders’ as an example, right now the Sounders have Nigerian Obafemi Martins and American Clint Dempsey as their star scorers with Clint leading the way. However to give either of them sole credit for their success thus far this season is a discredit to the other, and in fact the team as a whole.

Here’s a goal from the Sounders 2013 season, it’s Obafemi Martins who scores, but watch the passing that leads up to the goal:

So in that play you see a pass from Brad Evans (I can’t see clearly, but I think that’s who it is) to Obafemi, who immediately dishes it out to Andy Rose who is streaking up the side. It’s actually this run which is so crucial, without the run the three defenders around Obafemi would be focused solely on him, and thanks to the run they aren’t, which allows Obafemi to make the turn and get into position for Andy’s return pass before the score.

Now here’s another clip for you to watch:

What you see is Obafemi Martins streaking down the right side of the pitch, and doing so draws the Chivas defenders attention (as it should) we then see a pass to Mauro Rosales (now playing for Chivas funnily enough) who slips as he passes it on to Lamar Neagle who is left wide open because the defense has closed in on Obafemi and Mauro. Again, while the goal is exciting, it’s the movement leading up to the goal which is important.

Now for something a bit different, a defensive play that shows you the beauty of defense. A lightning quick foot move to stop an attack and then a tenacious defense.

Another shot from the World Cup which shows an amazing pass. It’s unlikely Guti, the player who makes the backwards pass, actually knew for sure a team mate was there but it shows the amazing team work where he felt confident a team mate would be in the area.

These aren’t plays which will convert non-soccer fans, but they are examples of the need to be watching more than just the ball.

So, now that I’ve just shown you the importance of not watching the ball – I’m not going to lie. Goals are amazing exclamation points, better than touchdowns, home runs, or three point shots. I mean sure, some are better than goals, but the best goals will defeat the best touchdowns in my opinion.

Alright, let me show you some amazing goals:

I could keep going. The fact that I can make those above embeds with only a few minutes of work is exactly what is going right for soccer now. Technology is opening up the world of soccer in new and Internet-friendly ways. The World Cup aside, it’s an exciting period.

MLS is growing quickly, they’ve announced their next four expansion teams in the next three years: Orlando (as mentioned above), NYC FC (a partnership between Manchester City and the New York Yankees), Miami (courtesy of David Beckham and LeBron James), and Atlanta (with the likes of Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons). No other sports league in America is expanding like the MLS is right now.

In addition to these new teams, they announced a new landmark television deal with ESPN and FOX. This deal is exciting because the amount of money they’re talking about is actually more than NBC is paying for the English Premier League.

That’s exciting because it means that MLS is really starting to be taken serious by US broadcasters, and it also means that EPL is being broadcast in the US, and there is even more exciting news in that there is a deal for FOX to carry Bundesliga starting in 2015. My soccer excitement isn’t only because of the World Cup (though that is obviously part of it) but also because the years ahead are very exciting for fans of the sport.

Some may think I’ve strayed away from why and back to how, and that is understandable, except I haven’t. I’m still on why. I’m in love with the sport now because I have readily available access to it. Something which when I was in college wasn’t true.

There is another major factor which I shouldn’t overlook, though it is far from a conclusive one. Having a hometown team to cheer for is fantastic. Seattle’s love for the Sounders certainly plays part in why I love soccer. I love going to the matches and experiencing the atmosphere of it all. More so than going to a live basketball, baseball or football game, the soccer match experience is fantastic in Seattle.

As I write this latest revision to the blog post the United States Men’s team are on the verge of proceeding to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The only time we have proceeded further was in 1930, when we placed third out of the eight teams that participated in the first ever World Cup. Interestingly, the first match we played during that tournament was a 3-0 win over Belgium.

Will we be able to overcome one of our most ancient of professional soccer foes? I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow. But regardless of how it ends up, I know I’m going to love to continue to watch the rest of the tournament (though I’ll love it more if I’m rooting for the good ole’ red, white, and blue.)


Searching for a Distraction

For the past decade, my primary hobby has been to sit in front of a computer screen and manage a website. Whether a personal blog, a social group’s hub, or a fan site for a particular game – this has been my way of unplugging and relaxing. Not coincidentally, for most of the past decade my career has also been intricately intertwined with the Internet.

And in the last few weeks I have begun the task of trying to find another hobby which with to unplug.

In the past two weeks I believe I’ve settled on one, at least for the short term. And that is, the study of language. There are a lot of fascinating languages, and I have always loved them. Had I not gone to college for Computer Science I believe I would have turned to a dramatically different path for my life based around linguistics. In some alternate timeline I’m wearing a cardigan sweater and working in academia as I pour myself into languages.

However, in this timeline where I exist, I am still working on the Internet with various websites. So I found myself in need of a hobby which allowed me to fully turn my back on web development as if to hide my face in the shade after years of unforgiving sunburn. Seriously, that’s how I feel. My brain has finally begun to rot from focusing on the Internet for so long and now I need something else to take my focus for a while.

Enter foreign language.

In the past two years I’ve visited Spain twice: Barcelona in 2012 and Valencia in 2013. While there I found myself enjoying the language and wanting to learn more, but resigning myself to lack of time except for my random jaunts with DuoLingo on my tablet. I had a similar experience in Amsterdam – which is my favorite city to visit – and the Dutch language. So I figure, why not begin pouring some of my drive and effort and free time into learning these other languages.

I’ve constructed a rough list of my plan for languages to tackle over the coming years decades. I’ve broken it into two lists: Fluent & Conversational. Fluent meaning I want to be able to converse easily and understand these languages without issue. I am hoping to eventually “think” in these languages. Conversational meaning I want to be able to read and write these languages, and with effort be able to converse in them.

Currently Fluent:

  • English

Future Fluency:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • German
  • Dutch
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • Afrikaans


  • Latin (previously conversational)
  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese
  • Korean
  • Ancient Greek

Fifteen languages. One down, fourteen to go. Should keep me busy for a few months, right? I’ve listed them roughly in order of my planned level of attack. I don’t plan to get to fluency before moving on, my goal is to spend 3-4 months focused and then move on to the next with a growing back log of languages I need to actively work to maintain.

My current project is Spanish. For the past few weeks I’ve been working hard on Spanish vocabulary and getting an understanding of its grammar. I’m slowly getting better and I’ve begun posting sentences on Facebook to get feedback and lessons from my Spanish speaking friends.

I’ll do another blog post which focuses on my process and the tools I’m using.

The Sixth Stage of Grief

Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance and… Living.

1. Denial and Isolation

I was too young. That’s what kept running through my head. I had locked myself in my bedroom and was crying into my pillow. He had been my best friend. But… Maybe my parents were wrong. Maybe the doctor had gotten it wrong. Maybe George was just playing a prank. He wasn’t really gone, that’s it, they were all wrong.

What sort of world takes away the best friend of a ten year old boy, my best friend? For that matter, what sort of world takes away a ten year old boy? No, this couldn’t be real. Someone got it wrong, and any minute now I’d hear the phone ring as someone called us to tell us about the mistake.

This wasn’t reality. This wasn’t my reality.

2. Anger

My mom was in the hospital and I had come to realize she likely wasn’t to come back out. I sat at a stop light, behind the wheel of my car on a March morning in Florida. In that moment I was overcome with a blinding rage. A rage I hadn’t ever experienced, and have yet to ever experience again. I unleashed a guttural cry of anguish, the sort you see in movies, and I started slamming my hands into the steering wheel. And then the light turned green.

I took my foot off the brake and rolled forward, forcing myself to take some gulps of air and wiping the tears from my eyes as I pulled into a gas station and let the anger roll over me.

3. Bargaining

I sat in an empty meeting room at work. I stared at the beige walls and I tried to figure out what deal I could make with God.

When my mom was in Houston, undergoing her bone marrow transplant, there were several nights where I talked to God. I begged him to make it work. To cure her. To bring her back to me. And then she did come back, recovering from her bone marrow transplant for several months until a fateful day when we discovered she had a fever, which led us to take her to the hospital.

This week I sat in that office room and tried to understand if I could do anything. If there was anything I could do, I would do it. I asked God if there was anything I could do to extend the time I had my grandmother on this planet.

4. Depression

It had been a few weeks since he died. I didn’t understand what I was going through at the time. Few people do even as they get older, much less a child. A family from my church offered to take me to Disney World with them. Josh was a boy near my age, we weren’t really close but we were friendly.

A trip to Disney still held the essence of Magic that Walt worked so hard to create and cultivate. Looking back, it was a critical chance for me to remember what being a kid was. At the time, it was exciting not only because of going to Disney but also because I would get to miss school and that was a really big deal.

I remember riding the Tower of Terror, watching Indiana Jones, and going on Star Tours. And in that one day, I was reminded what it was to be a kid. Yanked back from the precipice of adulthood through depression to reclaim a few more years of adolescence and joy.

George was gone, and I had struggled to come to terms with it.

5. Acceptance

“Sure dad, one sec.” I stepped away from my desk and closed the door to the empty meeting room. “Alright dad, what’s up.” I knew why he was calling, but I asked hoping for a different answer. Grandma was dead. I knew that was why he was calling.

And despite hearing the words from his mouth, I was calm. This is what grandma wanted, with her strict “Do Not Resuscitate” order. I sat in that room for a few minutes just waiting for something, anything, to wash over me. It was the same room I had negotiated with God just a few days ago. I waited for sadness, tears, anything. All that I found was acceptance.

Eventually I left the room and returned to my desk. Mike, my editor knew what was going on and he asked if I was okay. When I told him that she was gone, he did something which was exactly what I needed: a hand on the shoulder and an offer to talk if I needed.

6. Living

Death is a part of life. Every time I deal with someone passing, I have to remember what it is to live. Friday night Katie and I put out an email to our group of friends seeking plans for the evening. One couple, then two, then three, all confirmed and dinner plans were made.

At dinner we talked and laughed. We told stories and enjoyed conversations with each other. They all knew my grandmother had died, and they each did a fantastic job of reminding me what happiness and life is.

The five stages of grief are the journey through the underworld of sadness, and it is life which we break out to.


Priorities are a powerful tool in all parts of your life, but most importantly they are the direct path to attaining goals. I discuss how prioritizing lead to my successful weight loss of 2012 and why my progress slowed in 2013.

What happens when a swimmer stops prioritizing forward motion? He ends up treading water.

I have memories of sitting at the dining room table with my mom on my left, my dad on the right, and my younger sister sitting across from me. As a family we would assemble the monthly issues of “The Get Organized! News.” TGON, as we called it, was a monthly newsletter my mom wrote and published out of our home. Usually it was eight pages; two 17×11 sheets folded and nested within each other.

Like a well oiled machine we would assemble hundreds of newsletters, label them, and rubber band them for mailing.

Despite my mom writing a newsletter about organization, I was slow to pick up on it. Organization that is. She did her best to impress upon me the need to make my bed, pick up after myself, put things away when I was done and actually put my laundry actually inside the hamper as opposed to around it. As a kid, I just couldn’t understand why these things were important.

One thing my mom did teach me though, with some help from the author Steven Covey, was to recognize priorities. Covey uses an analogy about having a jar, and all these things you need to fit in the jar. They’re different sizes and shapes, from golf ball sized down to sand, so it is no easy feat. He explains that what you need to do is start with the big things and then once they’re in there do the small stuff like pebbles and sand.

This is, of course, his metaphor for time and how we spend it. And for much of my childhood I took it as just that, but I think the critical second part of this lesson is that while it’s about managing your time it’s also really about setting your priorities.

The above triangle was a commonly quoted aphorism at Georgia Tech (and other colleges I’m sure.) In humor it speaks truth, in reality it speaks about priorities. As it ended up, I prioritized social life and the Internet, much to my academic chagrin. In retrospect I don’t think I consciously deprioritized school, and in fact I believed I was still doing enough even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary (namely grades).

I remember my parents calling me one day while I was at school and my mom tentatively asking, “Honey, we’ve been reading your blog and… well… you never talk about studying or doing homework on there.” I waved their concerns away, saying that I was studying but it didn’t exactly make for riveting blog reading. Which was true, but also the truth was: they were right. My priorities had been steadily shifting away from school.

I clearly remember staying in the computer lab all night to work on a project and after getting stumped, staying up the whole night anyways screwing around on the web rather than working or seeking help. It makes me sick to think about what I wasted because I didn’t set my priorities for school.

Tech Tower by hectorir

Over the past year with my weight loss I attribute the majority of my success to making myself aware of and paying close attention to my priorities. Exercising was bumped to a top priority overriding things like TV, Internet, and social lunches at work.

Eating right became a high enough priority that I began passing on candy, having epic battles of self-control when presented with buffets of poor choices.

To me, priorities are the overlooked part of the goals & resolutions equation. Gurus and self-help experts talk endlessly about the importance of setting goals and striving for them, but they seem to gloss over the part where success for goals comes from making the goal a priority and becoming conscious of how it ranks in your life. You have to decide how they are prioritized amongst your life, and then consciously act on this change.

Changing habits is hard. I can’t tell you how many times I caught myself, change in hand, standing in front of a vending machine. Or found myself rummaging in the kitchen, not because I was hungry, but because I was bored. These were (and still are) actions so deeply ingrained in my mind that it still takes a conscious decision not to do some of these. And I come to these decisions because… I’ve set my priorities!

Over the past month I’ve been treading water and I’m fed up. I held onto most of my good eating habits but I’ve been snacking more, and even indulging in an occasional soda.

So, now I’ve come to terms with my lack of progress and found the stirrings which will drive me forward again. Namely, my 30th birthday is fast approaching. And I badly want to be in the best shape of my life for that birthday.

This week I am prioritizing ‘working out and moving forward’ to be the top of my list.

Where do your priorities lie?

Rain or Shine

I always thought that Florida’s slogan: “The Sunshine State” was just dumb. Then I moved to Washington and came to realize what it actually was.

The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Between those times it sits in the sky and shines down on us. Simple facts of reality.

With that as the guiding principle, I always thought that Florida’s slogan: “The Sunshine State” was just dumb. “We have something everyone else has too!”

Having never lived anywhere outside of Florida as I grew up, I just thought everywhere got the sun. Sure some places were more cloudy than Florida, and other places had snow, but they got the sun too. The sun was simply a constant for me as a child. Sure a rain storm blows through but we got plenty of vitamin D. And I never thought about just how much sun there was, except for the unbearable heat which our blessed air conditioners battled endlessly.

So when we moved to Seattle, I conceptually understood that I would see less of the sun as it rained. But keep in mind all three times I’d been to visit Seattle the weather had been mainly beautiful. Sure there was some rain but it was tempered with gorgeous days, and during my visit the gorgeous days easily outweighed the rain.

When we arrived here, we were gifted with a string of gorgeous clear weather days during which to move into our place. Once that was done, well, Seattle showed her true colors.


Rain rain rain.

In Florida a rain shower would last for an hour, if a large storm system settled over Florida it might last for a few days and it would be miserable downpour for most of it but then it would peter out and the sun would return.

The reason is that these showers form over the ocean, the water evaporates from the ocean and rises into the sky to form clouds. Now due to temperature and pressure differences between ocean and land the rain gets drawn to land and across the state to be pulled back out to sea, or pulled apart in fairly little time. All the sand and the humidity creates the thunderstorms and lightning we’re famous for, but they rarely last more than an evening because of the peninsula of our land allowing for unhindered travel with pressure changes.

Here in Seattle, with the ocean to the west and the Cascade mountains basically boxing us in, well, there is only hindered travel. The rain comes in off the ocean or the sound and crosses over Seattle only to find itself blocked in by the mountains. So where it might be gone in a few hours, it ends up sitting here and churning as more rain comes in off the ocean.

That’s my completely unprofessional, uneducated, unmeteorological explanation for how this all works, I could be wrong.

With this stagnant rain I’ve had to adjust over the past four months. The biggest and quite frankly the easiest learning point was that in Florida, when it rained you only ventured out if you had to because those showers would quickly drench you. In Seattle, rain is simply part of reality. The rain isn’t a soaking rain, it’s more like a fine mist usually such that with a jacket of some sort it’s hardly an issue to venture out and walk your dogs or run to the store.

I’ve begun to really realize how much I miss Florida’s sun. Not to be confused with missing the heat, humidity, mosquitoes and bad drivers – just the sun and its light.

I’m promised that this rainy weather will be done by July, and then we’ll be ready to enjoy three months of the most perfect weather in the world. Seriously. Everyone who hears me bemoan the rain promises me that in three months I will become ready to accept nine months of rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the people I know and work with – it’s just the weather I’m griping about.

That’s Easy

Life is easy. Really.

Stop and think about it. Look how easy it has become to survive in developed countries.

Compared to Haiti or Uganda or some other third world country our lives take monumental effort, idiocy or bad luck to truly screw up beyond repair.

What isn’t easy is excelling. Whether financially or socially or professionally, being above the curve requires either sustained hard work, one time greatness or knocking it out of the park on that one critical time when it mattered most and where so many have failed before.

Earn Your Body

I’m not going to lie. And it’s all stuff I’ve said before, but I’m overweight. I’m fat. This post is going to be a string of consciousness post laden with pop culture references and quotes. Buckle up.

Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest. – Joan on Mad Men

The sentiment here is clear, you have to be objective. If you look at yourself, you see you, but when we look at others – people we don’t know, we judge them. We judge them based on how they look. The bag on our head, even the metaphorical bag, enhances your ability to disassociate yourself with your body and look at your flaws, and your strengths.

The key to my exercise program is this one simple truth: I hate my body. You understand that the second you look in the mirror and you’re happy with what you see, baby, you just lost the battle. – Perry Cox on Scrubs

Change only happens when we have become so dissatisfied with the current state of things that we must change. I left the comedy club due to a single staff member who made my working there unbearable. And thanks to him I doubled my salary, then doubled it again the next year. All because I worked with a class-A raging asshole. Now, I must find that equivalent in my body and use it as leverage to cause change.

Here is the thing though, you cannot take a leap of faith without knowing where you’re aiming to land. Otherwise you end up being one of the characters in Super Smash Brothers where you fall to your death, fall forever and never reach your goal.

A goal is akin to a dream. Separated by a thin veil. Dreams require we admit to what they are, and risk to ourselves that we may not realize this dream. Like asking a woman out on a date, chasing a dream exposes ourselves to danger.

I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
– W. B. Yeats

I first heard this in the movie Equilibrium, and then I looked up the poem. Powerful stuff. It finds another risk in admitting our dreams, that others will crush them. Children dream of Santa, and it falls to parents to one day tread on that dream to educate them about the world. If my dream is to have six pack abs and a body of a god, then there are hundreds of people who will tell me it’s impossible, I’d never get there. And here is where my resolve, determination and bullheadedness come in. To them I say: Fuck off. It’s my damn dream so get off my cloud! This post is what happens when I stay up late watching Fight Club and coding PHP.

Earn your body.

I do not know where I heard this quote, I apologize to whoever said it and came up with this great truth. In so many ways I’ve spent my life taking the “free demo” of my body. Even during high school sports I struggled to push myself and earn it. For a short while after college I was earning my body. Daily workouts. Eating well. And I was earning it, seeing the pounds slip off. Then I didn’t fall of the wagon, the wagon exploded around me and my body slid backwards to the worst shape of my life. Here is a simple truth: Your body wants to be fat. Fat = sustenance and in famine it means you can live longer. But unfortunately for your body, your goal is not to survive famine, it is to survive time. And science shows that time is conquered by not accumulating that fat. And so it’s time I begin earning my body again.

This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time. – Narrator, Fight Club

The time is now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. I need to start earning my body. Tonight. Aside from the desire to look appealing, it has become more and more apparent that my future requires I make these changes. Both of my parents have fought disease, my dad is a cancer survivor and my mom died from her disease (forgive me for not going into more detail, I don’t need to delve deeper than I already am.) My family has history of heart disease, diabetes, alcoholism, and more. A clear sign that I should get moving and stop wasting time. So what stops me? Fear.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Fuck fear. Simply. I’m able to do this if I become dedicated and stop cheating.

I’m going to earn my body.