Thirty

I figure turning 30 is momentous enough that I should blog about it. I’ve learned so much about life, myself, and others over the past decade that I wanted to take a few minutes to look back and reflect on those things. I’m going to concentrate on the things I’ve experienced over the last decade, as going back any further than that doesn’t seem very meaningful any more. If you decide to continue reading, I promise to try not to ramble so much.

Let’s start with something that I think about every single day of my life.

I am a very, very lucky man

A lot of what happens in life is entirely out of our control. I’m convinced at this point that the best we can do as individuals is put ourselves in the position to maximize the good things that happen to us, minimize the bad things, and take advantage of events or circumstances that can benefit us.

Please don’t misunderstand – I am a huge believer in hard work and planning (if you know me, you’ll know how much personal goals play a part in my life) – those are the things that put you in position to benefit from luck when it comes your way.

Just looking at my business, it is incredibly easy to see the role that luck has played. Consider the following:

  • I just happened to specialize in a very particular CMS / platform that now powers a full 25% of publicly accessible websites on the internet
  • I somehow managed to be one of the first development contractors for an amazing agency / group of people that provided me an astounding amount of meaningful benefits (honestly, it is hard for me to even list the number of ways that Modern Tribe nee Shane & Peter helped me as I was starting my freelance career – if you’re reading this, thank you so much)
  • I was approached to write a book (and did so!) at 23, less than a year into my career, and was mentioned in a “For Dummies” book by an important industry figure – bucket list item complete!

What part did I play in any of these things? The only one I really took action to make happen is the second one, and even that one is kind of up in the air. The studio job ad on FreelanceSwitch (now defunct) was one of many I responded to and I’m sure that I was one of many freelancers they interviewed. That it worked out and we made such a connection was mostly luck (and I’m so happy it did).

Very bad things happen in life and they are not fair

My sister died 4 years ago. It was completely unexpected. One night I was texting her and the next morning my mom called me to tell me Renee was dead.

It took me a while to come to terms with the situation. I’m sure the same is true for anyone who loses a close friend or family member suddenly. I kept thinking “this isn’t fair” and I certainly don’t think I was wrong.

The simple truth of the matter is that life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Just like the good luck I mentioned above, these are often things we can’t control at all. We, collectively, have to deal with the situations the best we can and move on from there.

My wife is amazing

I was tempted to make this a general point about stable relationships being important, but I don’t feel qualified to speak in general about the way other people’s relationships work. Instead, I’ll just talk about the one I’m a part of.

Not to belabor the point or anything, but Angela, my wife, is amazing.

On December 18th, we’ll celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. That day will also mark the 11th anniversary of the start of our relationship (when we visited the Museum of Science & Industry and looked at the Christmas trees). This may sound cliche, but I truly love Angela more than the day we got married and my affection for her continues to grow with each passing day.

I think about our relationship and am so happy that I have found a true partner in life. We complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, we are individuals with our own opinions – no person is subservient to the other. I feel like I’m not explaining it adequately, but this is the best I can do.

I look at what we have together and I hope that other couples we know have the same connection because it is truly amazing.

Needing help is not a sign of weakness

I mentioned above how hard it was dealing with my sister dying. After years of battling depression and hiding in my work, I finally went and got help in dealing with it. I didn’t believe I was ever going to be able to be happy again and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.

I was afraid of getting help because I thought it made me less of a man. I thought it meant I was broken – damaged goods in need of repair. I wish I had been less stubborn and spent less of my life in the state I was in.

If you need help for whatever reason, asking for it or seeking it out is not a sign of weakness. Please do not be scared like I was – you can most likely get the help you need and there are probably people around you who love you and care about you enough to help you get it if you need it.

Having friends is important

This may seem obvious to some of you, but I was oblivious to this fact until the last few years. I’ve always been an introvert and thought that I didn’t really need anybody else in my life other than my wife to be happy.

For me, this proved to be untrue. I needed people in my life who I can hang out with. People who shared a common interest. I found that through flag football and I’m so happy I did.

The one thing that is most important here is to find people who are truly your friend. We all have Twitter and Facebook friends / acquaintances these days, and that’s awesome. However, make sure that you are loyal to the people in your life and that you involve people in your life that will be loyal to you. People who will be there to help you out when you need it.

For me, I strive to be a true friend to the people I care about. So, if you ever need anything, please let me know!

Getting older doesn’t necessarily make you a bad athlete

This will be the last point because its a fun one. As I approached 30 I was a little worried that my skills as an athlete were going to diminish rapidly. I’d be just another workout warrior pumping iron and building my show muscles. Luckily for me, that’s not the case!

I’m so glad I found flag football here in Las Vegas a few years ago and have gotten the chance to compete the last few seasons. It has been unbelievably rewarding to test myself against other men (and a couple women) of varying skill levels as the years have gone by. I believe I have mostly succeeded in acquitting myself well.

Someday I expect my athleticism to fade, but I’m going to fight that battle as long as I can!

On to 40!

I’m excited to begin the next decade of my life and I can only hope it will be as fun and rewarding as the previous one has been. Thank you, sincerely, to all the people who have helped to shape the last 10 years of my life. It wouldn’t have been the same without you :-)

101 in 1001 Wrap Up

**Update: I think we did a pretty decent amount of things on our list and I’m proud of us. It was a great way to plan ahead and also to see how our plans changed/evolved over 1001 days. I hope our next 1001 days are just as exciting!

I got inspired by a post my friend Kate made about making a list of 101 tasks to complete in 1001 days. I thought it was interesting to make a goal list with a time frame other than just a year. So Nick and I sat down and made a list of some things we wanted to accomplish in the next 2 3/4 years. Our list ended up being more than 101 items, but then again, we did break down our travel plans to all of the specific places we wanted to visit – vacation planning: complete :) End Date: May 3, 2015

Updates

The List

  1. Go to a MNF Bears game
  2. Go to a BCS Bowl game
  3. Mob Museum
  4. Springs Preserve
  5. Natural History Museum
  6. Neon Museum
  7. Mystere
  8. Absinthe
  9. Jubilee!
  10. Jabbawockeez
  11. See Book of Mormon
  12. Shark Reef Aquarium
  13. Bodies Exhibit
  14. See Wicked @ Smith Center (Aug 29-Oct 2012)
  15. Zarkana
  16. Hike @ Mt Charleston
  17. Do all Red Rock Canyon hikes
  18. Go to the shooting range
  19. Zombie Store
  20. Grand Canyon
  21. Build Warthog airplane model
  22. Build and launch a large scale model rocket with E engine
  23. Go to a Renaissance Faire
  24. Buy Nick a bike
  25. Go bowling
  26. Go to the Polish Deli off of Charleston
  27. Knit a blanket
  28. Buy a house
  29. Build a home gym
  30. New bedding
  31. Print and frame wedding pictures
  32. New dinnerware
  33. New flatware set
  34. Get knives sharpened
  35. Get a stand mixer
  36. Get a grill
  37. Ship Nick’s workshop to new house
  38. Go to a professional conference
  39. Eat at Gordon Ramsay Steak
  40. Eat at 12 restaurants on the Strip/Downtown (12/12)
    1. StripSteak
    2. Mon Ami Gabi
    3. Javier’s
    4. Gordon Ramsay Steak
    5. Lombardi’s Romagna Mia
    6. Olives
    7. Cabo Wabo Cantina
    8. Serendipity
    9. CraftSteak
    10. Mesa Grill
    11. El Segundo Sol (a solid whatevs – check out Javier’s at Aria instead!)
    12. Andre’s
  41. Try sushi
  42. Make pasta from scratch
  43. Try deer or elk
  44. Go to Farmer’s Market
  45. Make a monthly budget
  46. visit Dad in Alabama
  47. Visit Chicago
  48. Visit Mom & Grams
  49. Visit Dad in Indy
  50. Visit James in Washington
  51. Go on a bro-cation
  52. Go to Hawaii
  53. Volcanoes National Park
  54. Coffee plantation and roast our own coffee
  55. Punaluu Black Sand Beach
  56. Akaka Falls State Park
  57. Go to San Diego
  58. USS Midway Museum
  59. Balboa Park
  60. SD Model Railroad Museum
  61. San Diego Zoo
  62. Botanical Building and Lily Pond
  63. SD Bay Walk
  64. Sea World SD
  65. Go to Boston
  66. USS Constitution Museum
  67. Boston Public Garden
  68. Go to New York City in the Fall
  69. Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
  70. WTC memorial
  71. Times Square
  72. Little Cupcake Bake Shop
  73. Central Park
  74. Lombardi’s Pizza
  75. Empire State Building
  76. Grand Central Terminal
  77. Metropolitan Museum of Art
  78. Metropoitan Opera House
  79. NY Public Library
  80. Rockefeller Center
  81. Radio City Music Hall
  82. Go to Washington, D.C.
  83. All museums of the Smithsonian
  84. Korean War Veterans’ Memorial
  85. Vietnam War Veterans’ Memorial
  86. FDR Memorial
  87. Library of Congress
  88. Jefferson Memorial
  89. Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial
  90. National Portrait Gallery
  91. National Air and Space Museum
  92. National WWII Memorial
  93. Capitol
  94. Lincoln Memorial
  95. Dr. MLK Jr. National Memorial
  96. Ford’s Theater
  97. US Botanic Garden
  98. US National Arboretum
  99. US National Archives
  100. Supreme Court
  101. Washington Monument
  102. Georgetown University
  103. National Zoological Park
  104. National Museum of Crime and Punishment
  105. White House
  106. Albert Einstein Memorial
  107. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  108. International Spy Museum
  109. Embassy Row
  110. Navy Museum
  111. Theodore Roosevelt Island Park
  112. Get a puppy

Springs Preserve

Nick and I finally made it to the Springs Preserve. I am so glad we had a voucher for two free admissions because if we had to spend money on it, I would have been even more disappointed. This place was just pretty lame overall. The only neat parts were a couple desert animal exhibits and the Nevada State Museum. We still had a good time cuz we’re awesome like that.

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Nick modeling under a palm tree
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It’s like a little bonsai cactus!
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One of the few things we don’t get to see too often is this type of cactus
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Coolest thing at the Springs Preserve was this tortoise because tortoises ROCK! Side note – this enclosure was pretty small and it was actually kind of sad. Wish he had more room to roam around.
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Channeling my inner mountain lion
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ROSES!
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Ostriches, including scrap metal sculptures, are pretty creepy.
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Whatever this was…

 

Hiking at Mount Charleston

After a great win yesterday at flag football, Angela suggested we head up to Mount Charleston to do some hiking and see what Fitz would do in the snow. After some initial hesitation on my part, due to both tiredness and laziness, I agreed it would be a good idea.

We both knew the hiking trails were close, but we had no idea it would take less than an hour to get to the trailhead we wanted. After lacing up our hiking boots, we headed out.

To our surprise, Fitz was not surprised by the snow at all. I expected a little more caution, but our dog is apparently an all-terrain model:

After seeing that he was comfortable with the compressed snow, we decided to take it up a notch and delve into some deeper drifts:

Finally, we thought we’d try to get Fitz to do some adventure wiener shots – that didn’t work out so well:

He did eventually strike a pose that I reasonably believe you could call majestic:

Our dog likes to flex as much as Nick does
Our dog likes to flex as much as Nick does

I tried to get Fitz to pose with me, but that didn’t work as well:

"C'mon Fitz, just look at the camera"
“C’mon Fitz, just look at the camera”
"Fine, don't look at the camera, I guess"
“Fine, don’t look at the camera, I guess”

We had better luck when decided to take our family picture:

Family hiking picture
Family hiking picture

We had a really great time. We spent about an hour and a half in the hiking area before heading home. It was a little muddy and I was tired so we didn’t hike the entirety of the Mary Jane Falls trails that we stopped at. We’ll definitely be going back, though, especially during the summer months!

Model Rocketry as a Family

One of the things that has been on our to do list for a while is to build and launch a large model rocket. We finally assembled a kit towards the end of last year, but it languished unlaunched in my office for the past few months as we prepared for our big move.

I used to launch model rockets as a kid, but the biggest engines I ever sent into the sky were C level engines from Estes. I wanted to do something bigger now that I’m an adult, so Angela and I built a bigger rocket that holds an E engine.

Today, the wind was finally right for a launch and we headed out to a nearby empty area to blast it off. Here’s our bright blue rocket (in retrospect, not a great color for tracking, but whatever):

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After checking the launch controller a final time and hooking up the ignition wires, Angela and Fitz were ready to launch:

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The rocket went really, really high. It got to the point where we couldn’t really track it anymore, although I did see it turn over at the apex.

Unfortunately, there was a malfunction and the nose cone didn’t pop so the rocket dived nose first straight into the ground about 200 yards from where it was launched.

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A cursory investigation revealed that the engine tube decoupled from its attachment points and allowed the engine to push itself up into the rocket. This caused the second “pop” to not fire on the engine, so the wadding and parachute were not ejected. Oh well – we know what to do better next time!

East Coast Trip 2014

In late September, Angela and I journeyed to the east coast of the United States, visiting Boston, Rhode Island (Newport and Narraganset), and New York City. We had a ton of fun and did a lot of cool stuff. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, however, I’ll just let them tell the story:

Boston

Rhode Island

Also, a wedding happened here, but I’m not about to steal someone else’s thunder by posting wedding pictures.

New York City

Had a blast in NYC. Loved everything.

Journey to the Top of Lone Mountain

Fitz looks over the Las Vegas vallery

A few days ago, Fitz and I were at the local dog park. Fitz is finally starting to get used to the other dogs and was being, somewhat surprisingly, polite to the yorkie and terrier mix that were in the pen with us.

I was talking to the other owners and one mentioned that he likes to take his dog hiking and he had recently taken her to the top of Lone Mountain. I asked if she needed any help along the way and he confirmed that, due to the amount of rock scrambling, he needed to lift her up at times on the way to the top.

In my mind a challenge was born. I decided Fitz was getting to the top of the mountain without any help.

Yesterday, Fitz and I headed out as soon as we woke up. The sun was still low as we arrived at the trail head. I could tell Fitz was excited about the journey ahead. I decided I’d be happy if he made it halfway before getting tired. I knew this was something unusual for our little dachshund.

You can imagine my surprise as we reached the halfway point and Fitz showed no signs of slowing. He was ready to head for the peak. He let me know by continually bursting onwards and upwards.

In what seemed like no time at all we reached the summit. I’m proud to say that Fitz received no help as we headed to the top. He used his powerful little legs to hop on rocks and leap over crevices.

Fitz gazes upon his domain with pleasure

The way down was only slightly more eventful because we encountered another owner and dog. Fitz got into a barking match with the other canine, presumably discussing ownership of the turf.

Alas, Fitz’s energy ran low as we reached the car. After drinking almost a full liter of water, he fell soundly asleep on the passenger seat and stayed asleep almost the entirety of the day.

What Football Means to Me

Recently, my Aunt Susan linked to a documentary regarding the NFL’s denial of a link between football and head trauma and the ongoing scandal that has resulted from the actions (and inaction) of the league. She asked what my brother and I thought about it which led me to think about what football has meant to me in general.

Let me lead by saying that I think it is unfortunate that the NFL has gone to the lengths it has to deny that football can have a negative impact on the brain health of players. Anyone with a lick of common sense can look at the recent research and see that repeated concussions are bad and that small head traumas add up over time. I think the NFL could act as a leader in more meaningful ways than they currently are:

  • Mandate safer helmets which have been determined to provide better protection against head trauma
  • Suspend players for violent hits rather than just fining them (unlike college, I believe these suspensions should be issued post-game rather than in-game)
  • Require that player helmets fit appropriately – a helmet coming off should cause a player to miss the remainder of the half
  • Reduce the number of total games played over a season (or increase the active roster size substantially)

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be done. Major changes like revisions to the nature of helmet construction (padded foam rubber instead of hard plastic shells) and removing kickoffs from the game could be viable options down the line. Of course, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the things that the league is doing already to protect players:

  • Hits to the head are punished (although it seems to be somewhat inconsistent)
  • Concussion testing is now mandatory for players showing symptoms
  • The NFL is promoting the Heads Up Football program in a big way (which is a huge deal, in all honesty)

All this being said, none of the recent research affects the way I feel about football, either as a player or a spectator. Here’s what I said on Facebook:

I know I’ve had concussions while playing and it may have affected me for the rest of my life. Also, the position I played is particularly susceptible to repeated small impacts, which some research has shown is actually worse than single big hits.

All that being said, I wouldn’t trade my playing experience for anything. I learned the value of camaraderie and being part of a team. I had experiences that I’ll remember the rest of my life and a lot of my physical fitness can be attributed directly to football. I think there are ways to make the game safer and I’m hoping they’re implemented, but I’ll never feel bad about enjoying the sport.

I love football. I loved playing and I love watching it. It is a chess game played by large, athletic men (and some women) who need to work together in a very precise way to achieve a shared outcome.

As a player, I experienced the whole gamut of human emotions almost every time I stepped on the field. From pure elation to the deepest despair. Sadness, joy, loneliness, and togetherness – all of these could be felt in a single game. I learned about myself as a man and as a leader. I pushed myself to the limits and the only thing I regret is not playing longer than I did.

As a spectator, I enjoy the technical aspect of the game. While most people who watch football follow the ball and watch the skill position players, I more often than not am watching the intricate stunts and blitz pickups by the defensive and offensive lines. I’m watching the techniques of the linebackers as they read their keys and either drop into coverage or attack. I yell at the TV and boo the refs like everyone else (if not, what’s the point of being a fan) but my enjoyment goes to a deeper level than the play on the screen.

If Angela and I are blessed with a male child in the coming years, I’ll probably encourage him to give football a try when he reaches adolescence and I think Angela will, too. I believe strongly that the benefits of a structured football program outweigh the risks.

Andre’s Las Vegas

Last week, Angela and I went to Andre’s Las Vegas for dinner. We purchased a TravelZoo Local deal for a 3-course meal (appetizer, entree, desert) at Andre’s because it seemed like a good deal and would be a good way to get out of the house and have a nice date night.

Andre’s is located inside of the Monte Carlo Casino. It is off the beaten path a little bit, located in a corner that you wouldn’t see unless you were looking for it. We had a reservation for 5:30 PM and arrived a few minutes before that time. We were immediately seated at a table.

The first thing I noticed was that there were only four other people in the restaurant – they looked like a group of businessmen attending a conference or something, so definitely not local. I wasn’t a big fan of the decor and just felt like there was a kind of weird ambiance. I didn’t take any pictures of our food because there wasn’t a way to do it inconspicuously where we were seated.

Our waiter was polite and prompt. He asked for our voucher and then provided us with a limited menu from which we could pick our courses. I chose Caesar salad, sauteed chicken breast, and a chocolate souffle. Angela chose French onion soup, potato crusted sea bass, and banana ice cream profiteroles. She also ordered a glass of Riesling wine.

After placing our order, we were provided with an amuse-bouche. The small plate had a fried pork belly sphere with a red pepper drizzle and a goat cheese and beet tart. Angela enjoyed both of the selections while I didn’t like either one. For me, the pork belly was too fatty and the tart was way too tangy. Not my style, honestly.

Our appetizers came out shortly thereafter. The Caesar salad was well dressed and had a parmesan flower instead of the usual parmesan strips. That was kind of neat. Angela’s soup was way too hot. She had to wait until I was almost done with my salad before she could even start eating it. She said the flavor was good but wasn’t happy that she burnt her mouth with her first taste.

Our entrees came out next. I was surprised to find that I didn’t get served a chicken breast, instead being provided with a wing and thigh. The flavor was OK, but the chicken seemed a little bit more fried than I thought it would be given that it was described as sauteed on the menu. Angela’s sea bass was done well and she enjoyed the flavor. The noodles that were served alongside the fish, however, were much too buttery. She let me have a taste and all I could taste was butter.

We each enjoyed desert, but we weren’t offered the option to order a la carte coffee or drinks to go with our dessert, which I thought was really weird. After dessert and before paying the check we were provided with a selection of four chocolate truffles. They were pretty good and a nice touch.

Overall, Andre’s isn’t somewhere we’d go again. The service was good but the food was just OK. The thing that really, really displeased me was not getting a chicken breast when that is what I ordered. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. If it is because we were using a TravelZoo deal, then they just shouldn’t put it on the menu. We would not recommend going to Andre’s when there are so many other good restaurants in Las Vegas in general. If you really want to eat at the Monte Carlo, just head to Brand.

My Birthday!

I can’t believe I’m 27. I can tell I’m old now that my outlook on time is “Where has it gone?” as opposed to when I was much younger and it seemed like time dragged on and milestones were a forever away.

27 has been pretty amazing so far – Mom came to visit; saw Bruno Mars in concert; ate an amazing dinner at Craftsteak; lots of shopping; dinner at Mesa Grill; and my first ever experience with coin slots!

Bruno Mars
At the Bruno Mars concert

One of the nights we were out, Mom and I stopped at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill (because I could never get Nick to go – he’s not interested in “Southwest flavors”) and I had rabbit as a main dish for the first time! (Tastes like chicken. Seriously.) It was the Cascabel Chile Crusted Rabbit with spring pea cous cous, green chiles, mint, Marcona almonds and a smoked red pepper sauce – if you want to get all technical. It was pretty tasty and I especially loved the cous cous. Note to self: smokey pepper flavor is not my favorite. I like my peppers unsmoked – thankyouverymuch.

Sorry Bugs and Thumper
Sorry Bugs and Thumper

Another night we ventured downtown (eek!) and I had done some research and found that the new hotel, The D (don’t even get me started on that name), had an area of the casino that still had real coin slots. Mom and Grams always talked about coming to Vegas and playing the slots and using the buckets for their coins, getting their hands all gross and filthy from the dirty money, but by the time I was 21, those slot machines were pretty much history. I was so excited to experience a part of Vegas history myself – it was even more exciting that I ended up leaving with more money than I put in. PS – $27 in nickels is pretty dang heavy. (I didn’t say I was a high roller.)

 

Thanks to everyone who made my birthday extra special! I’m excited to see what the rest of 27 has in store.