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My previous post on new truck was long but I still have some thoughts on it. It's not every day that I make sure a big purchase so I want to write about it a bit more. In fact, prior to the truck, I'd purchased just 2 vehicles in my adult life. Cars are certainly expensive purchases not including the cost of gas, maintenance, and insurance. My two first cars cost me a total of about 25K to buy. I like to say "Spend your money where you spend your time". Since I don't spend much time driving, I shouldn't spend much money there.

Well the new truck cost more than both of my previous car purchases. I didn't really follow my own advice this time around. Still, I think I'll get my value out of it if it lasts 20 years like my 1999 Ford Contour did. If I decide in a year or two that I made a mistake, well, trucks hold their value better than cars and since I bought used, most the depreciation was absorbed by the first owner. I could always sell it get something cheaper if necessary.

I'm doing well financially however (due in part to my prior thriftiness with cars). I hadn't had a car payment since 2003. That allowed me to save up over the years and now I don't feel bad about spending it on something nice.

One unexpected expense with a new car is having it washed. Normally I would almost always hand wash my cars myself. I enjoyed doing it and it was cheaper that way too. The new truck is a bit more challenging to wash due to it's size. I can't get to the roof without a step ladder and I'm not a short man. Also, I don't have the space in my garage to shelter the new truck so it lives outside parked in my driveway. Being exposed means it will get dirty more frequently and require more frequent washes.

Here I began to consider an unlimited car wash plan. I didn't realize that even the car washes prefer regular subscription money. For a set price every month, you get unlimited car washes. If you do the math, it takes 3 car washes a month to get your monies worth. I spoke with some co-workers and many of them bought such a plan. They all make sure to get plenty of car washes to make it a good value. Some going to the car wash 3 times a week! Why not?

So I bought an unlimited car wash plan to try it out. It's $28 a month which is an expensive monthly charge. If I don't feel it's worth it, I can always cancel so the risk to try it was low enough. It's a nice to me truck so I want to keep it clean. Heck, maybe I'll go get a car wash today.
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 I've been told that any man that owns more than 1 car is considered a "car guy". I became a car guy in 2015 when I bought a 2004 Audi TT to join my 1999 Ford Contour. The reliable Ford would be my daily driver and the Audi would be a project car and garage queen.

Now in 2019 the Ford Contour is 20 years old and I'm the original owner. While it's still a great car, it does need some typical maintenance. The paint and suspension are the biggest concerns. Both are original and in need of replacement. However, the costs are starting to outweigh the value of the car itself. It would still be cheaper to do the maintenance and keep driving it but honestly I've had my fill. Life is too short to drive the same car for 20 years. I want something new.

Since it happens that I'll be graduating in 2019, I've been promising myself a new vehicle as incentive to finish school. My original dream was to buy a Ford Mustang. I've always wanted a pony / muscle car no doubt due to my father's same affection for the Mustang. I could swap out my Ford Contour and the Audi TT and combine them into a single, awesome vehicle. However, while I'm tired of the Contour, I'm still enjoying my Audi TT quite a bit and I'm not ready to depart with it. I could get a Mustang and keep the Audi TT but I don't have any need or capacity for 2 sports cars.

My house has a 2 car garage but really it's a 1 car garage and the other half is filled with other home equipment (lawnmower, snow thrower, fertilizer, bicycles, etc.) The Audi TT gets the spot currently as the reigning garage queen. And so I couldn't buy a nicer car than her and keep it parked outside.

So my mind changed over and over as I browsed through car magazines and consumer reports. I wanted something practical that I could drive into work every day but not another sedan. If America had some better options for wagons, I might have gone that route. Cross-overs are super popular and I had my eye on a Mazda CX-5. The timing was off on that however. The 2019 model finally added the much needed bigger engine so I would have had to buy a brand new one. Buying used is a much better value.

And such deliberation went on until I decided to get a truck. I've been frustrated a few times in the past that I didn't have a vehicle with the capacity to haul something. Once I couldn't get the landscaping material I needed. Another time I couldn't transport a grill I purchased. It was certainly a rare occasion and I found work-arounds. 95+% of the time, the only thing truck is hauling is air. I don't need a truck. I just wanted one. A truck would complement the sports coupe well. One is the practical, hauling, go off-road, work machine. The other is a toy that I can putz around with and drive on sunny days for fun.

There are many options for trucks. I knew my limits. I wasn't going to be towing a boat or going to Moab. Therefore a full-size truck is really just too big, too expensive, and too fuel inefficient. The mid-size truck is ideal for me. Sadly this segment is fairly small because American's prefer big trucks even though they almost never need one. I narrowed it down to the Honda Ridgeline, the Chevy Colorado, or the newly re-released Ford Ranger.

I could rule out the Ranger pretty easily. Since it's "new" for 2019, I couldn't get a used one. Also, Ford dropped the ball and released a "new: truck that feels 8 years old. I could have gone with a Tacoma or a Frontier in that case. Of the two remaining candidates, I selected the Honda Ridgeline because of the way it is built. Most trucks are built with a body-on-frame construction but the Ridgeline is built with a Unibody construction (like a car is built). That means it handles more like a car than a truck. It also rides better and has more interior room. Since I knew that I would I would be commuting more than trucking, I picked the truck designed for car people.

My first impression as a truck driver is just how big it is compared to my mid-sized sedan. It has tons of bells and whistles but think my favorite is the bright headlights. Wow they are bright! I can see so far at night. Sort of a stupid thing to be excited about but that's just my pragmatic way I suppose.

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With several scenarios going through my mind lately related to life prospects, I came to some conclusions. Lefty's birthday was on April 12th. He just turned 9 and I was setting that event as sort of a point of no return. It's mostly arbitrary but my thinking was that a dog that old shouldn't be subjected to a stressful change. A new home is an exciting but also challenging event even for a human. A former neighbor of mine only moved across town from their home into a nicer home but sadly their pet dog did not survive even such a short distance.

So as the week leading up to this week progressed, I was starting to accept that an exciting new life in Europe just wasn't in the cards. Adding fuel to my new position was the 2019 report of top US cities to live in. Denver ranked #2 (just behind Austin). Here I am in the 2nd best city in America, with a nice home that I can afford and a job that I mostly enjoy. About the only reason I have to leave is boredom. Generally that type of problem can be remedied by frequent travel. Being away is a certain way to renew appreciation for home.

With my mindset quickly setting in, all that was needed was the coup de gras. Coincidently (or perhaps a stranger power), I received the news on April 12 that my 4th attempt at a job in Europe was officially a failure. I had suspected that was the case but I let me optimism blind me to the truth. Not even a master's degree in IT would help get me there. Impossible to know why but reminds me to understand a problem before you attempt a solution.

While I was disappointed, I was also relieved. Now I could get on with other plans. The first order of business, buy that car I've been eyeing for years. It's something that I promised myself as a gift for finishing my degree and while I'm not there yet, it's just 5 weeks away. I needed something to encourage me to finish this endeavor now that the primary reason I had is lost. Also, I happened to come across the specific vehicle I wanted with the right configuration and price. More on that later.
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Time to revisit my 2019 plans to see how things are going so far. With the year already 1/3 finished, I want to keep track of my thoughts before I lose them to time.

My final semester is half over. Just 7 more weeks to go before graduation. I've been applying for some jobs already. Waiting until graduation to apply is poor timing since that's when all the other grads will be applying also. Also, the best time to look for a job is when you already have one. This allows me to be more selective with my applications. I've found just 2 job postings that appealed to me and I didn't get an interview for either one.

I'm really in no rush but I do have a few timing concerns. The first is that to take a job abroad would have to occur in the next 3-5 months while Lefty could still make the trip. He'll be 9 next month and I worry that an international move would be too stressful for a senior dog.

Also, I promised myself a new vehicle when I graduate. I've been driving my current car for 20 years and life is too short to drive just 1 car. Of course, if my career plans take me abroad, then a new car isn't needed at all. To buy the car is to admit that I won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

So once again I find myself in a holding pattern. Not certain if I'm going to land or fly to parts unknown. I check the job listing nearly every day. My HR person is well aware of my intentions so I don't feel guilty at all for looking.

From my past history, I should just assume the status quo but dreams can't wait forever.
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Jogging is my preferred means of getting exercise because it's cheap and simple. No need for gym memberships or expensive equipment. Just throw on a pair of running shoes and go. It's also convenient since I have to walk Lefty anyway, I might as well get some exercise while I'm at it. I had never attempted a marathon race however. The idea of spending $50+ for the privilege of jogging conflicts with why I prefer to run.

However, last year I convinced myself to attempt a 10K at the local marathon Boulder Bolder. Some of my co-workers were also running so we encouraged each other. In the end, I enjoyed it more than I imagined and I felt good about my health.

I failed to keep up my momentum however. I started biking more in the summer and then Lefty torn his ACL so he wasn't able to run. He had his surgery but still couldn't run with me during his recovery time. That was enough for me to stop jogging and start putting on weight. Then winter came and the sidewalks got icy. I know, lots of excuses.

What I needed was something to motivate me to get back into running shape. With the Boulder Bolder coming up again in a few months, I signed up again to give me that kick. Let's go!


Jan. 22nd, 2019 03:08 pm
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Merry New Year! Well I suppose it is a bit late for that now. Merry Martin Luther King Jr. Day! This is the final year I can use my lazy new year's resolution again. Finish school. This is the last semester before I graduate and I'm already surveying opportunities for a job change this year. Should that fail, plan B is to save as much as I can while I'm still relevant in IT so that I'm financially sound should this career have an early ending.

Outside of school and career news, I signed up for a comedy writing workshop. Reading these posts, I wouldn't blame you for wondering how such a boring person could write comedy. My preference is to have comedy delivered verbally like a stand-up comic does. Those jokes are written at some point. I gather that every comic has a different means of coming up with material. This course seems to use improv and then building on that to create sketch comedy. First class is this week. Maybe this could be plan C. C as in Comedy. Hey-ooooh!


Dec. 14th, 2018 11:30 am
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In Twenty Eighteen I took a little trip
flew from the Rocky Mountains to the mighty Mississip.
I took a little luggage and took pair of jeans
and I ate a lot of food in the town of New Orleans.

With the fall semester ending, I was finally free to use my excess time from off from work to take a vacation. As I live in Colorado, my preference is to go someplace warm in December. That and Homer Simpson convinced me to take my first visit to New Orleans (apparently known as NOLA).

I contest that you can get good food and drink in any city but New Orleans does offer a large number of specialty dishes. Indeed the food was excellent. I allocated my 7 meals over 2.5 days to get the most southern food I could.

BBQ shrimp
Muffuletta sandwich
Seafood gumbo
Bananas Foster frech toast
Fried oysters Po'Boy
Fried Chicken
Rabbit jamalaya

Being a social drinker, I didn't drink that much since I was traveling solo. I did drink a number of local beers and couple cocktails.

The real highlight to me was the National World War 2 museum. It's not in DC or NYC as you might guess but right in the big easy. It's an incredible museum that started out with a focus on D-Day only but has expanded to include the entirety of the war. Highly recommended.

Also on my trip I did a walking tour of the French Quarter / Cemetary and then took a Mississippi River cruise to the site of the Battle of New Orleans. Both were very interesting.

Mardi Gras is the most popular time to visit but I wasn't brave (or rich) enough for those crowds. Instead, I went to the place where all the floats for the parades are constructed. There you can see a bit of Mardi Gras any time of year.

I was pleaseantly suprised by the number of art galleries. Such an ecceltic city draws a lot of artists. I was tempted to buy some art several times but decided that the prices were just too high. I don't need original pieces that cost thousands of dollars. A nice print looks just as good at a fraction of the price.

Gambling is curious there. Harrahs has a big casino right on Canal street but otherwise gambling is mostly absent. Some restaurants will have 1-2 slot machines but it's nothing like Las Vegas gambling. The Harrah's Casino in Vegas has a Mardi Gras theme but I guess the New Orleans locals get enough of that so there is no such theme in the NOLA Harrahs.

"I've been very lucky with gambling. I've never won." -Sid Youngers

Some miscellaneous observations: I witiness mutiple film crews filming around the city. Must be a popular city for TV / movies.

NOLA is the city to be in for construction contractors. On nearly every block I witnessed interior and/or exterior remodels.

I walked all about the city and feel it's not the safest place to walk. At least in NYC, pedestrians have safety in numbers. In NOLA: the cars are aggresive, the roads are occasionally in poor shape, and pedestrains have little patience to not jaywalk. Always look both ways and then again when crossing the street.

I did make my way up the Frenchmen street where the real jazz happens every night. This is where you find more locals and fewer tourists. As a result, there is a larger vagrant population so I didn't stay long.


Dec. 1st, 2018 07:00 pm
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As a fan of stand-up comedy, I have many acts that I enjoy. My tastes in comedy are electric but I think that is true for everybody. If I had to pick a favorite however, I think Jerry Seinfeld would be at or near the top. His sitcom originally aired when I was 12 and ended when I was 21 which were prime years for developing my sense of humor I feel. I missed the first season or two I think as did many others. Once I found out about it, I watched every week.

I've listened to the albums, watched the specials but have never seen him perform live. That is until 2 weekd ago when he had a show here in Denver at the Bellco Theater downtown. Stand-up comedy works best in a comedy club. There is an intimacy and a connection in a small venue that is missing in a giant concert hall (The same holds true to live music as well but to a lesser degree). With an act as big as Seinfeld however, there is just no getting around the giant venue. The crowds necessitate it.

Knowing this, I paid more for a close seat though I was still 30 rows back. The other problem with large venues for comedy is that there is no drink service. Drinks are served outside only which means missing part of the act if you aren't inebriated enough.

Fortunately Jerry's act is so good you needn't be close up or drunk to enjoy it. He killed as expected and I was not disappointed. Jerry is often described as 'obvervational' comedy in that he finds humor in the routine and mundane. Stuff that most everyone can relate to.

Food, for example, is a topic he may be borrowing more from comedians like Jim Gaffighan or Bryan Regan. Jim does Hot Pockets, Jerry does Pop-Tarts. I was also relieved that it was mostly new material. There was only one joke that I can recall hearing before. Surprisingly consider he has recorded so few albums. I've found that comedians that don't put out albums/specials regularly tend to recycle their act too long.

I keep an eye on the calendar for the local comedy clubs and wait patiently for my favorite acts to come. Perhaps instead I should experiment with other acts I'm not familiar with.
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As a bachelor, I admit I'm not much of a cook. I have a handful of go-to meals that are quick, easy, and don't make much of a mess. Given that I seldom eat out, I should be better at preparing meals at home. Fortunately work has a really good cafeteria with restaurant level food at reduced prices. For that reason, I make lunch my main meal of the day and dinner is really spartan.

This works well for my diet as well. Eating the largest meal of the day just hours before going to bed converts calories into fat. Anyway, where I was going is that I do cook something more complex on occasion and during the summer, the preferred appliance is the outdoor grill.

For many years, I was content with a simple George Foreman indoor electric grill: ally to all lazy bachelors. Then one year I had the opportunity to get a propane gas grill for a steal. Literally, I nabbed it from the street on large item trash pickup day. This is the day that the trashman will pickup extra-large items and it's a scavengers holiday. Every year there are several grills on their way to the dump so I saved one that was in decent shape. One serious power wash later and a propane tank purchase, I was up and grilling.

Well after one summer of grilling, I learned why that grill was being discarded. It was crap. Specifically, it never got hot enough to cook food properly. So the next year, it was me tossing it out on the annual large item pickup day. I learned that if I wanted to grill, I should invest in a good one.

And by good one, that means a Weber grill. By most accounts, these are the top of the line grills and they are priced accordingly. What's more, they never go on sale. I perused the lineup at the local hardware store almost weekly. Not during Memorial Day, Independence Day, or even Labor Day was there even the slightest discount. I was tempted to settle for a lesser brand but held out. Then my patience paid off.

Finally, I found a floor model marked down 50%. Without hesitation, I bought it. The chore came in getting it home. Since it was already assembled, it wouldn't fit in my mid-sized sedan. So I brought my tool box to the store and disassembled the grill in the parking lot to get it home only to re-assemble it on my deck. It's a good thing I like taking things apart. Doing so I witnessed just why Weber grills are high end. They really are made to last. But how does it cook? Fantastic.

I have been grilling every chance I can get and the results are delicious. I was skeptical that food cooked over a gas flame was really any better than the electric grill. Now I'm a believer. Burger King was right. The downside here is that I'm making more eleborate dinners and I'm already starting to feel heavier. Certainly this phase will pass and I won't feel the need to grill daily. (Lefty is thrilled by the new food too since he gets a taste).
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My very first job was as a dishwasher at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. I do not recommend this as a career path. After 3 months of this, I quit and found a better job. Still, I think being a dishwasher had an impact on me. For most of my adult life, I have washed my dishes by hand despite having a dishwasher. This habit was amplified by my life in Japan where having dishwasher is uncommon. Being a bachelor, I really don't soil that many dishes anyway so it was never a real major chore to do them by hand.

Then about a month ago I decided that I had had enough. My wrists were sore from work (occasional I suffer from repetitive stress injury due to typing all day). Having used my existing dishwasher in such cases before, I learned it was terrible. It was loud, slow, and the dishes were not even cleaned well. I wanted a new one.

Dishwashers are expensive however. Even a basic model is going to start at $400. With Lefty getting an ACL surgery soon, I didn't want to spend the money on something I never really needed to date anyway. An idea came to me. I had recently sold a car part on eBay that I didn't actually need and thought I might be able to auction off something to come up with the cash to get that new dishwasher. I had just the item.

In my youth, I liked to buy and collect video games. Some of these purchases have actually become valuable with time (most have not). One such treasure is my Game Boy Player designed for the Panasonic GameCube. Without getting more geeky, just know that it was a very uncommon peripheral made for a unique Japan exclusive system. I had scored this rarity on Yahoo Auctions (Japan's equivalent to eBay) way back in 2004. If I recall, I paid about $100. Today's value: $500.

Some readers may be thinking, "You sold a rare piece of Nintendo hardware so you could buy a new dishwasher??" I know. I'm old. One was sitting idle in the basement collecting dust. The other saves me from having to wash dishes by hand again. I regret nothing.
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School is underway and I'm taking 2 courses. One of which is how to be a ninja with Microsoft Excel. An early assignment was to build a spreadsheet to calculate retirement savings. The real lesson being that "Compounded interest in the most powerful force in the universe". Sage advise to youth but well understood to middle-aged & middle-class like me.

I'm pretty good with saving by which I mean I put away money and then forget all about it. I'm not a day-trader, stock analyst, power broker. If I were, I would have lost it all by now. My strategy is to squirrel away a little at a time and never give it a second thought until the time comes.

Still, it's good to assess investments every so often. Especially when the economy is favorable. I recall an early lesson from Economics 101. When the economy is good, save. When the economy is bad, spend. (Most Americans tend to do the opposite) So lately I've been putting as much money into retirement as I can afford.

"A penny saved is a penny earned" isn't the whole story. A penny saved is actually worth more than a penny earned since the saved penny earns interest (and may not be taxed).

It feels odd to be thinking about retirement at my age (40) but nobody wants to work forever. In truth, if I could retire tomorrow, I would. I'm not there yet though an early retirement seems oddly within reach were I to save aggressively and the market performs. I know that markets are cyclical so such a plan is unlikely. Well, it's worth a shot right?
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While there is still a bit of summer left in the tank, school is underway again. In truth I've been looking forward to hitting the books again. Momentum is undervalued in many aspects including school. I'm over half way done but I can see the finish line which gives me a boost to finish.

To recap August, I spent most weekends on landscaping projects. Normally I would prefer to be up in the mountains hiking, etc. but Lefty has an injured knee and the one hike we did do may have agitated that further. So instead of being in the great outdoors, I was in the okay outdoors. Specifically, the side of my house installing a paved walkway. Were I to hire a pro, no doubt this would be completed in a single weekend. As an amateur, it's taken me multiple weekends. Also, I pace myself with just a few hours per day which delays the completion. Still, I may just finish before the summer truly ends.

Not able to get the embeded photo working so this link will have to suffice.
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I was in a bit of a holding pattern the last month or two as I was awaiting news about a job opening. It was a really exciting opportunity and I made it far into the selection process but didn't get the job in the end. Having missing a similar job previously, I knew to not get my hopes up this time so I was only slightly disappointed. So it's back to plan A: finish school and...

With my summer calendar suddenly cleared up, I made a quick trip to Washington D.C. for Independence Day. Actually I made this same trip 4 years ago. Since I had seen many of the sites already, this trip was more relaxed.

International Spy Museum - Not free but still worth it. Lots of parents and kids were there.
Newseum - Another paid museum but really great. The 9-11 exhibit is small but really moving. They also had a cheaply done display on presidential pets that I still really enjoyed.
National Gallery of Art (East Building) - I wanted to see some modern / contemporary art. Not as good as MoMA in NYC but still okay.
Hishhorn Museum - Another modern art museum. The weird stuff is here.

I'm happy to report that the new metro trains are a big improvement over the old ones with the carpet. I was able to ride the new trains all but once so they are common now.

My previous trip to DC included the PBS performance of "A Capitol Fourth" so I tried to see it again. I arrived 2 hours early to try to secure a good place to sit but it was already too late. To get a decent spot requires showing up 6 hours early. The view was very obstructed so I aborted that plan and went back to my hotel to watch the special on TV. Once the fireworks started, I went outside and down the block and got a better view than I would have from the capitol building.

As is happens, two of my friends were also in the DC area so I visited both of them. At my age, I don't have so many friends so I was happy to be able to hang out.

My interest in the World Cup is mild this year but as my surrogate team (Belgium) continues to advance, my interest grows. So I took a break from site seeing to visit a sports bar and watch the game. The bar was packed but as a party of one, I secured a place at the bar to witness another victory.

Also sport related, I got free tickets to see the Washington Nationals play. I don't watch baseball on TV but I do like going to the park to see a game. The Nats (as the locals call them) were slumping so I had low expectations and even planned to leave early should the game be a blowout. After 4 innings, the Nats where losing 9-0 and I was all set to leave. However, I stuck around long enough to see the Nats pulled off an amazing comeback complete with a grand slam home run! It became a thrilling game and I'm glad that I stuck it out.

Against my better judgement, I used a discount airline (Frontier) and I learned my lesson. Both of the flights were late. Also, upon arrival in DC, the airplane starting emitting a lot condensation into the cabin. We were assured that it was nothing to be concerned about but I was certainly startled having never seen such a thing in all my travels.


May. 29th, 2018 07:32 pm
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I start off most every morning by taking Lefty (my beagle) for a walk. It gets me up and helps to kickstart my day. After a while though, I wanted to speed things up so I started jogging which cut 10 minutes off the 30 minute walk. As I did this, I got better at jogging and now it's back to 30 minutes again instead now I run. In his younger days, Lefty would run with me but he's not much of a jogger. Instead, I let him off his leash in the park so he can sniff around while I do laps.

2 miles was my limit but since I did it every day I felt it was good exercise. I needed an excuse to push myself farther and I got one in the Bolder Boulder. It's a semi-famous 10K race in Colorado. Previously I avoided such events. Personally I didn't see any appeal to paying $50+ to run. Running is free. All you need is a decent pair of sneakers and you are good to go. What finally convinced me was a coincidence. This year is the 40th annual Bolder Boulder and I am 40 years old. The race grows every year but I can't say the same. So I signed up to see if I could do it.

Since 2 miles was already well within my capabilites, I only had to triple that to 6 miles to be worthy. I spent the month leading up to the race training but only got to 5 miles. Still, I felt I could handle that last mile. I even ran to work one day; a 5 mile trip. My time is about an 11 minute per mile which seemed pretty good to me. I could have qualified for a racing wave but I settled for the slower jogging wave being my first time running a 10K.

Well, I ran the 6 miles / 10 kilometers in 64 minutes. I was hoping to get under an hour and I might have if I weren't in the jogging wave. The course was pretty crowded and I spent a lot of time and energy weaving around slower runners and others that were just walking. It's most of a fun-run anyway and the course was littered with bands playing live, free food samples, and actual litter.

Now that I've proven to myself I can go the distance, I'm thinking of switching my bike to work days with run to work instead. I burn 3x more calories running and training for the Bolder Boulder I even lost the weight that I gained on the JoCo Cruise. I think if I run regularly I could even get down to my original weight: 6 lbs, 10 oz. ;)
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The Spring semester is done which means I'm now in Summer vacation. Well, I still have to work but the break from studies will be well used. Last summer I took a class to get ahead of the program. I would have done the same this year but none of the limited course offerings appealed to me.

With my weekends free, I'm planning on camping / hiking and some home improvement projects. Both are on hold for a bit longer however. Lefty injured his knee while playing so he's still taking it easy. Once it's healed, we'll be going out to the trails. A home owner's work is never done and this year I'm starting in the yard and I'll think about some interior upgrades later.
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I had best get this in writing before my memory fails me. Two readers are anticipating so I would hate to keep all my fans waiting. This is a great opportunity to flex my writing muscles and make up for my lack of blogging this year. An important finger is still injured from the fracture and was injected with cortisone today so that may be my limiting factor.

Even with sharing a stateroom, taking a cruise is an expensive vacation. Add in the cost of airfare to the port city plus any desired excursions. Being a bit of a pinchpenny makes this a difficult sale. Fortunately it was a good year for the company I work for and my annual bonus was easily spent. Better to blow it on a life experience than some new shiny toy. I was going to be spending a lot anyway so I got a new credit card for the sign up bonus awards.

Onto the cruise itself. 7 days with departure from San Diego and 3 port stops in Baja Mexico. As I was just in San Diego a few months ago, getting to the port there was a breeze. Boarding however is as involved (if not more so) as boarding a plane. There are security checks and customs. The cruise line prohibits bringing alcohol since they want to make money on selling booze.

Once aboard, I began to learn my way around the ship. Cruise ships are ginormous of course but ours is only considered a mid-size ship by today's standards. That's "only" 10 decks to navigate. The main theater has enough capacity for half of the passengers so each night the same show was performed twice. An early show and then a late show. Whichever show you didn't go to, you had dinner instead.

Ahh the food. I had never eaten so well in all of my life. I knew that the food would be plentiful but wasn't expecting the exceptional quality. I ate like a king for a week straight. By the end I had put on 3 lbs. Worth it.

Seasickness was a concern. While I had never experienced it before, I had also never been on a ship for an extended period. I planned accordingly and took meds the first day. From then on, I didn't need to take them again.

Getting back to the shows, each night had a variety show with music, comedy, etc. This was probably the weakest part of the cruise. There were performers that I know and admire but for every one of them there was another that was disappointing. Some used politics in their act which I didn't enjoy. It's not that I was disagreeing with them. It's just that I don't want to think about politics on a vacation. Also, as the shows were a mix and match of performers, it was clear they were not well rehearsed.

During the days, various other venues of the ship were used for panels and presentations. Mostly this was a chance for the authors and artists to do their thing as their craft didn't translate well to a stage show. Also going on was the shadow cruise events. These are events run by the passengers themselves. Many areas were covered like an improv workshop, knitting, crafts, logic puzzles, sing-alongs, and so on. Late night there was karaoke, dance parties, bar crawls, etc.

If none of those were appealing, a 24 hour board game room had a literal ton of games to check out and play. I certainly did some of this and learned some new games. A game that I embraced is bridge. We all know bridge as that game that little old ladies play. A bridge club made of youths aimed to dispel such stereotypes. Indeed, bridge has lasted for generations for a reason. It is a great game and I hope to play it more now that I know how.

Then there were the 3 ports in Mexico. I had never been to Mexico so I did an excursion simply to say that I had. My choice was a zip line adventure which was more fun and more stressful than I expected. The next port was a small town in Mexico that hardly gets any tourists. They were super happy to have us and were very welcoming. The third stop looked like crap so I stayed on the ship.

And if all that wasn't enough, you could always relax on the deck and read a book, soak in the hot tubs, or just sit and watch the ocean pass (all of which I did).

My favorite part was a behind the scenes tour. As you recall, I'm interested in the logistics and mechanics of how such a large ship operates. I was fascinated. Our tour showed us the engine control room, waste management, the command bridge, crew quarters, mess hall, laundry room, tailor, the galley, the provisions storage, and even backstage where we got to meet the cruise director and headliner Jonathon Coulton himself. What a surprise!

As you can tell, I had a great time and I'm already considering joining the JoCo cruise again next year. (School schedule may not allow it however) Even if I only get to do it once, I'm happy I did it.
bigmog: (Default)
Erik Larson is an author I especially enjoy. His writing is best described as narrative non-fiction. Quite recently, I finished one of his books on the RMS Lusitania, a cross Atlantic cruise ship that was sunk by a German U-boat in WW1. It was a great tragedy but these days mostly forgotten in favor of the Titanic disaster.

Still, the book piqued my interest in ships and marine logistics. Living in a land locked state, I find the entire enterprise of seafaring to be romantic and quaint. A book about a sinking ship might deter some people but I was keen to get on such a ship to see one for myself.

However, cruising is not a favorable vacation for single people. The cabins are billed based on there being at least 2 people in one. So to travel alone means paying double. The alternative is to find a stranger in the same situation and split the cost. Given that most cruisers are either newly-wed or nearly dead, there are few other singles looking for a roommate.

Perhaps I might have better luck with a chartered cruise. That is, one that is marketed towards a specific type of person. There are charters for all variety of demographics. One that I had interest in is the JoCo cruise which appeals to fans of musician Jonathan Coulton and his entourage of performers including comedians, authors, and other geek centric artists.

Said cruise was scheduled to depart in less than 2 weeks however so if I wanted to join, I had to act quick. So I did. I found a roommate in short order and arranaged everything in time to take a cruise vacation at the last minute. The was a lull in school before midterms and I had just recieved my annual bonus. It was now or never. Let's do this!

Much, much more in the next exciting entry!


Feb. 17th, 2018 10:14 am
bigmog: (Default)
A peculiar opportunity came up at work that I'm sort of considering. Although I've been with the company for 10 years and my field even longer, I'm pessimistic to this combination lasting in the long term. I work in IT which has a ever changing skillset that tends to favor educated youth over experienced aged. That is why I am going for my master's degree to at least be educated aged.

Basically I have an excellent, well-paying job that I'll probably lose sometime in the next 20 years. I need to expand my skillset to make it to retirement. Back to this weird situation. There is an internship listed at my company looking for a student in the middle of a master's degree that is studying what I am studying. To me, that is an enticing chance to launch a new career.

The downside is that I'd have to give up my current salary for internship money for the 3 months of the internship. Doing the math, I'd lose about $15,000. Now, switching careers often means accepting a lower salary so while it would be painful, I could do it. The other risk is what happens after the intership is finished. I spoke with my boss and my boss's boss and I was assured that I could have my old job back if I want it. That's a generous safety net should my new career plans fail.

With that all established, it couldn't hurt to apply. With me already being an employee, I'd guess that gives me an advantage over real interns. HR told me there are already over 100 applicants however so it's not a given.
bigmog: (Default)
2018 is well underway so before it gets too late, I want to review 2017.

Most importantly I made great progress towards my master's degree. I just about half way done already. There have been some challenges and it isn't always a plesant experience. Once I had to involve the ombudsman over a grade dispute. Despite the high ranking, I wouldn't recommend this school. It's more difficult to change however so I'm hoping that I can push through the 2nd half without incident.

Travel opportunities are harder when assignments are due. True I could work on them anywhere which is what I did on a week long business trip to Orlando for Microsoft Ignite. That was my first Ignite and quite possibly my last if I'm able to turn this education into a new career. Such plans are in motion early for this year.

I also went to Phoenix in the spring and San Diego in the winter for a quick weekend of warmer weather. This year I'd like to travel to even warmer destinations like Hawaii, Mexico, etc.

The highlight for summer of 2017 was hosting a friend from abroad. He tolerated me dragging him to a variety of Colorado tourist traps.

No significant purchases unless you consider tuition (which is reimbursed by work). Instead I put more savings into investments for retirement. No, not bitcoin or other cryptocurrency (perhaps regrettably).

A pleasant surprise came by an entirely unexpected promotion at work. I'm now a senior system administrator. So if my plans completely fall through, I can ride this job for a bit longer.

Not so thrilling I know but I managed to due an entire year of meatless Mondays (mostly). There is little chance of me turning vegetarian but for my own health I will stick with this habit.

Those are the 2017 highlights that I can recall. There may be others in the archives that I could reference. I'll save my memory and rely on those entries instead.


Dec. 27th, 2017 02:36 pm
bigmog: (Default)
I'm way behind on my journal but I will put forth an extended entry soon. It's just that I jammed up my left index finger playing football and the injury makes it difficult to type. It feels nearly usable again.

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