Thirty-Nine​

Today is my thirty-ninth birthday and what better way to celebrate than sharing thirty-nine things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. If it’s out of your control you shouldn’t worry about it.
  2. People can’t take emotion out of the law or contacts.
  3. Every night reflect on your day
  4. Pen and paper will outlast digital
  5. When dating look for their flaws, when married ignore them.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say no more often
  7. Always return your shopping cart to its rightful place.
  8. Avoid angry people and those that throw tantrums
  9. Don’t caricature an entire group based on the fringes.
  10. Read, listen, and try to understand various points of view.
  11. Turn off the tv and read.
  12. We are made to worship. Be mindful of what you are worshipping.
  13. Character matters more than skill.
  14. Being Prudent in Personal finance will remove tons of stress.
  15. If you can’t sleep write it down.
  16. Everyone is just a person. Some are famous, some are good at sports, but they are no better than you.
  17. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
  18. Make five and ten-year goals.
  19. Stop focusing on the now.
  20. The past is meant for learning, not dwelling.
  21. You can only change yourself.
  22. Make yourself get out of your comfort zone.
  23. You don’t have to share everything.
  24. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  25. Be comfortable with yourself.
  26. If you can’t understand someone’s point of view dig deeper and ask questions with an open mind.
  27. Your choice of coding language, framework, or IDE does not matter.
  28. There are only 24 hours in a day when reflecting, focus on the good parts.
  29. You don’t have to be great at something to love and enjoy it.
  30. Try to help people but don’t be upset if they choose to ignore your advice.
  31. Stuff is temporary.
  32. When in doubt ask.
  33. Make todo lists and stick to them.
  34. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.
  35. Get your kids outside so they embrace an active lifestyle.
  36. Kids will remember the day to day over huge lavish gifts or vacations.
  37. Embrace change.
  38. Simplicity saves headaches
  39. If you die tomorrow is there anything you would want to change in his others see you? If so make the change now.

This post is inspired by the birthday lists Noah Stokes used to make.

Carolina Thread Trails: South Fork Trail

I love to do things outside and try to get the family out every weekend. Today was no different and we decided to hit a new trail that is nearby called the “South Fork Trail” which is located in McAdenville, NC and runs beside the South Fork River. It’s managed by the Carolina Thread Trails which is specific to North and South Carolina but has a great mission:

The Thread Trail arose from a discovery process started in 2005 when the Foundation For The Carolinas convened more than 40 regional leaders and organizations to determine the region’s most pressing environmental needs and concerns. From that process, open space preservation surfaced as the number one priority. The Carolina Thread Trail was successfully launched in 2007 as a project focused on preserving natural corridors and connecting people to nature through a network of connected trails.

 

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Trail Map

 

The South Fork trail is only two miles going out and back and the path is wide with almost no elevation climb, so it’s perfect for those that just want to get outside and do some walking, but I’m most interested in the historical information about it:

This is a historic trail that was originally used by the Native Americans and then utilized by settlers for textile mills. There were two mills in the woods along the trail. One was the Ferguson Mill and the other one was nicknamed Pinhook. Opened in August 1852, the Pinhook Mill was the second mill to operate along the South Fork River. According to Gaston County historian Robert Ragan, the mill received its name because mill workers’ would use bent textile pins to fish for lunch outside the building’s windows. During the Civil War, a small detachment of Union soldiers were sent to burn down Pinhook Mill, which was producing cloth for the Confederacy. Upon hearing the soldiers coming, mill superintendent William Sahms ran out to meet the Union troop, only to find them led by his Pennsylvanian childhood neighbor. Sahms convinced the soldiers to spare the mill and the soldiers burnt the bridge instead.The stone pillars of the bridge are still in the river.

Here are a few photos from today’s hike. It’s worth checking out if you are in the Charlotte NC area.

 

My First MTB Race

Yesterday I raced in my first MTB race. Well I guess first isn’t completely accurate because I did do a short 5-mile race about 20 years ago, but that was it and it’s been so long ago that experience has been pushed out of my mind.

The one yesterday was called King of Goat Hill which as you can imagine was basically a bunch of hill climbs. I didn’t really know what to expect going in but I want to get faster so what better way than to get out there with some fast people? The event was four laps (10.1 total miles) and the majority of it was hill climbs, hence the name.

As the even started I decided it would be a good idea to start in the back so I don’t kill myself in the beginning but what I didn’t realize is that I’m not as slow as I assumed. The whole first lap I was stuck behind slow people and it was hard to pass.

The second lap was much better as I started to get into a rhythm but my legs weren’t recovering enough on the downhills to be ready for the next uphill. So it was a struggle but I kept pushing.

On lap three I got lapped by the leaders and that was demoralizing. Getting lapped in a four-lap race is not fun, but I didn’t know what to expect so I should have known that would probably happen. I kept pushing through.

At the finish of that lap, I assumed the race was over. In all other events, you finish on the same lap the winner does. I stopped thinking it was over and the people standing around told me to keep going, that this event wasn’t set up like that. I lost a ton of time there.

I pushed through the final lap and finished with a smile. I also asked the top three how many miles a week they ride and each one said 100+ miles. They ride every day and two of three was under 20 years old. Basically, with my current schedule, I’ll never be at their level.

Now that the race is in the books here are a few things I learned:

  1. Start near the front, let people pass you.
  2. Realize if you are not training every day you probably will not finish at the front.
  3. During the race focus only on what you can control.
  4. Have fun!

I plan to race even more this year because I did enjoy it, but I’ll go into the next one knowing more of what to expect.

Mowing the lawn

I grew up in rural North Carolina on a track of land that measured around five acres. Much of it was wooded with maybe around an acre and half of grass. I have fond memories of fighting my brother to get dibs on mowing it, and it was so exciting for about a month, then I absolutely hated it. From then on I let him cut it.

All that worked fine until we became adults and the first home I bought had a lot of grass. I thought being older I’d enjoy it more but quickly found out that wasn’t the case. I went as far as buying a huge z-mower with a 60″ cut to try to get done faster, but nothing mattered I despised it.

Finally, when I sold that house one of the goals with the next was a smaller yard, and with that came the ability for me to hire out the mowing. After about four weeks I realized how dumb I’d been all my life and it reminds me so much of this quote I saw by Sam Altman:

I don’t think most people value their time enough—I am surprised by the number of people I know who make $100 an hour and yet will spend a couple of hours doing something they don’t want to do to save $20.

It reminded me that logically I should have made this decision 10 years ago, but because of cost, I assumed it was advantageous to just suck it up and keep going.

Old Racing Pictures

Growing up my family would travel somewhere in the southeast every weekend to race motocross. This went on from the early 1990’s to around 2002 when I eventually quit racing.

I have so many great memories from that time of my life and met some amazing people along the way. Last week my dad was rummaging through some boxes and found a few pictures of me racing and I decided to share them on social media.

One of my old racing buddies seen it and it reminded him that he had a bunch of photos of me and we shared contact info and then today I received about a dozen he had.

All of these are from when I was around 13 to 15 which means they are all about 20 years old. It’s hard to believe that they haven’t been thrown out.

I know for him these were probably in the attic and forgotten about but I was very excited when I seen them arrive. These are from a time before selfies and Instagram and I don’t have a ton of photos from back then.

It’s great when you are reminded of the good in the world when so much of what we see and read is negative.

AeroPress Recipes

AeroPress was invented back in 2005 and a few years ago it felt to me like it hit critical mass and everyone was using them.  I finally decided to get one for making quick cups of coffee but in my first few attempts, my results have been fairly lackluster. I talked to some friends, mainly Chris Gmyr, and he started telling me some tips as well as several recipes to make it better and I wanted to document all the recommendations here in one place.

Inverted Method

The first method that I’ve heard several people talk about is what they call the “inverted method” and here is a great site with full instructions including pictures. I’ve copied and pasted them below for a quick reference.

  • Grind 17g of Coffee (about as fine as table salt)
  • Boil 270g of water (195-205F range)
  • Insert the plunger into the Aeropress, filter-side up.
  • Add your coffee and pour enough water to submerge the beans (about 34g).
  • Stir so no grounds are left dry.
  • Wait 20 seconds.
  • Fill with your remaining water.
  • Your grounds should be about a quarter inch from the top.
  • Stir again if you think your grounds aren’t fully immersed.
  • Wait 1 minute.
  • Attach your filter to the top and place your mug on top of that. After placing one hand on the vessel and one on the Aeropress, smoothly turn the combination upside-down.
  • Gently press straight down on your plunger for about 20 seconds. You will know when to stop when you hear a hissing sound.

Standard Method

The next method is what you might consider the standard and was the winning entry in the AeroPress championship

  • Grind 17 grams of coffee
  • Boil 277ml of water
  • “No bloom! Just a low and slow pour and a low and slow press.”

Outside of these recipes I also learned that using fresh coffee beans is key, and to always grind just before you brew as ground beans start going stale after 15 mins. Use filtered water from your fridge, and finally rinse your paper filter before you start.

As a complete coffee noob, all these are new to me and hopefully, it helps someone in the future. I know coffee is something many people are passionate about and if you have anything to add, sound off in the comments below.

Featured Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Every Busy Two Lane Interstate in America

Both lanes packed with cars as far as you can see and there is always that one person on the inside lane going a hundred miles an hour trying jump in the tiny gap before they crash into the back of the slower car.

Of course, I’m guilty myself and trying to change by remembering that taking risks like this only save you a few minutes at best. The risk/reward is stacked heavily against you.

An Afternoon of Painting

This week my kids are on spring break and I took the week off so we could all hang out as a family with no worries. Today was arts and crafts day and one of the few times I actually tried to paint something.

When I finished making a few different pieces of art, my first thought was to take photos and share them. That made me realize how I’m such a beginner that I don’t care if it’s bad, compared to say sharing code where I’m self-conscious that I’m only sharing my best work or something unique.

As we mature in our niches we have a tendency to only show our green grass and keep our flaws hidden and I believe that is bad for the world.

So without further ado here is my finished art pieces:

 

Starting Canvas

 

 

Botman

 

 

Laravel

 

 

Fish, Botman, and Laravel

I’m not particularly proud of any of them and don’t worry, I’m not quitting my day job. It was a fun project to get away from the computer screen and to get to spend some quality time with the kids, A win-win.

 

My First Online Doctor Visit

The end of February I came down with a cold, allergies, something. It was horrible and after a few days of suffering, I decided it was finally time to see a doctor. Being the internet loving nerd that I am I figured I’d try out one of those new online doctor apps called, Teledoc.

I made an appointment for 10PM and went through all their settings to make sure my computer would be able to connect, and at about five till I logged in and waited for the doctor to arrive. Just after 10PM I heard someone come on but apparently, they couldn’t hear or see me, but I could hear them, just not see.

At around 10:30 the doctor finally called my cell phone and we did the consultation that way. It was like I was talking to a call center, the doctor had a foreign accent that I couldn’t understand, and all they did was give me some cough medicine and tell me to take some Claritin-D.

Flash forward four weeks since then I am still not better and after attempting to ride my bike yesterday and having a horrific coughing fit I decided to see my local doctor.

I ended up having fluid on my ears, stuff in my chest, a red and swollen throat, and I got a shot plus four different types of medicine to get this junk out of my system.

All because I wanted to save time I ended up suffering and probably get worse with each passing day. Now that I’m on all this medicine they say it’ll still be another five days before I’m fully back.

What is weird is that I have friends that have used the same online service and rave about it, I don’t know if I just did it at the wrong time, got the wrong doctor, or what, but it was not a great first experience and I doubt I’ll do that again. I’d rather take an hour off work and see a real doctor who can actually make a diagnosis of my symptoms.

Bloomberg: Traditional to Roth IRA Do-Overs Could Prove Costly

Ellen Stark writing about the new tax laws for IRA conversions:

The trouble with switching a traditional deductible IRA to a Roth is that you owe income taxes on the entire amount you convert. And while you have to make the move by Dec. 31, you likely won’t know that year’s full tax picture until you prepare your return. In the past, if the conversion pushed you into a high tax bracket or made your bill so high you couldn’t pay it, you could reverse the conversion, in what’s called a recharacterization. Same was true if the market dropped sharply after you converted, leaving you with a tax bill on investment gains you no longer enjoy. Starting with 2018 conversions, that escape route is gone.

Why the change? For one, over the next 10 years, the federal government expects to collect another half-billion dollars in taxes as a result. What’s more, this shuts down a strategy that exploited the grace period: converting multiple IRAs to Roths early in the year, investing each in different asset classes, giving all the accounts up to 21 months to rise or fall, and then recharacterizing the ones that lost money. Essentially, you could cherry-pick winners to save on taxes. “Congress didn’t want to discourage converting,” says Jamie Hopkins, associate professor of taxation at the American College of Financial Services. “What they really wanted to shut down was this tax-planning strategy.”

I’ve never heard of this conversion strategy before, and it still remains crazy to me that we have all these loopholes in our tax system and the only way to know about them is to have a highly​ engaged advisor or to spend hours upon hours researching how to best utilize the existing system.

The Strava Effect

Growing up I raced motocross from the time I was about six up until my early twenties. I’m competitive and especially so on two-wheeled​ objects. Motorcycles, Bicycles, Scooters, anything. Since I don’t race competitively any longer I miss that competition and in the past, ​the only way to get that back is to have friends to ride with you that will push you.

But now we have Strava, and all our times are logged and tracked. It’s turned every single ride into a competition and we are all pushing each other as hard as we can. I personally enjoy it, the smack talk, the crashing from riding over our heads, the planning certain routes so you have fresh legs on a certain trail. I think it’s awesome.

Apparently, some people are taking this way too far and are starting to actually damage trails and cheat so they can get better times. That is sad and takes the fun out of it.

I definitely​ like Strava, and the effect it has on my riding and I love that we all push each other even when we can’t get together to ride.

If you are on Strava give me a follow and we can push each other.

iPhone Home Screen

This is my current iPhone home screen and a few times a year I like to take a screenshot just to see what changes and how my patterns move. With the screenshot let me explain why I have the apps that I do and why they are set up​ like this.

The first two rows and not really used. I have the apps because there is a chance I might open them but mainly they are used to just push the others down so I can access them easier with one hand.

The third row features Safari, Tweetbot, Calculator, and​ Strava. Safari is my primary browser on the Mac and iOS, then I use Firefox for dev work. Tweetbot for getting social, the calculator I use all the time and Strava for working out.

​The next row features Pocket, Spotify, Bear (black icon), and Reeder. Outside of Spotify, these haven’t been getting a lot of use lately. I just haven’t felt like reading or making notes on the phone when I’m usually within reach of a computer or a notebook.

Next, we have Audible, Slack, Day One, and Todoist. I love Audible, Day One, and Todoist. Slack is needed for work so it gets a home, but I’d prefer to not even have it on the phone.

Finally, in the bottom bar, ​I have Airmail, Messages, Telegram, and Kindle. I keep switching between Airmail and Inbox by Google and now that I’ve used Airmail for a few weeks I’m missing Inbox. The searching in the official app is just so much better, but it doesn’t have integrations for things like Todoist. I’m pretty certain I’ll never find a perfect email app.

So there you have it. My current home screen as of February 22nd, 2018. ​If you have any questions, feel free to ask below.

We are all idiots at something

We all have our interests, and it’s impossible to be knowledgeable in everything in the world. For example, I’ve never been good at basic auto mechanics. One time I tried to change my oil I ended up draining the transmission fluid and then adding five more quarts of oil. When it wouldn’t go into gear, I couldn’t understand why and had to ask for help…

I remember getting picked on for that, and looking back it was a dumb mistake, but I had no one guiding me. I unscrewed the first thing I saw, which happened to be the transmission fluid.

Over the past few days, Strava has been in the news because they released a public “heat map” of all the workout locations from billions of data points all over the globe.

Apparently, you can use this data to pinpoint military bases throughout the world and what has previously been blacked out is now easily findable. To me, this is much like my auto mechanic story and a stupid mistake on the part of the leaders of our military. I mean how can you think it’s a good idea to use a social media app with the whole goal of tracking you with GPS on a base that should be blacked out?

One interesting piece of information on the story is Area 51 was indeed blacked out. I have assumed the other bases aren’t on some global list and if I’m being guessing even if Strava would have asked the military they wouldn’t have given them any information on what to block out.

But what this story reminds me of is that we are all idiots in our ways. Just as in my example I am an idiot. You are an idiot. However, if we work together, we can bring our IQ up collectively​ since there is a significant probability we are both dumb in different areas.

Mr. Rogers Documentary

Above is a clip from a new documentary coming soon called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? that is about the lessons, ethics and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a staple of my youth. We watched it almost every day​ after school and I have so many memories of both the show and the people that were​ in my life during that season. This will be a documentary that I’m very much looking forward too. ​

Crying Wolf

Living in a home with others causes you to get comfortable with them, to get complacent, and to get lazy. One example of this is when you need something from someone else.

If they aren’t in the same room, it’s easier to scream for them than to get up and address them properly​. This, of course,​ starts a pattern and before long everyone in the house is doing it and the ones on the receiving end will grow more and more annoyed with it.

One problem with this is when the unthinkable happens, and you need someone immediately​. Having someone run to you instantly might be the difference between life and death. Seconds matters. By training others in your house that your screams aren’t important, on that day you need them, they just might ignore you.

8 Years Ago

On this day 8 years ago a woman was in pain.

She tried walking to take her mind off it but nothing could soothe​. Her face would grimace every few minutes and I could tell she was miserable.

She insisted to visit the hospital but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to go to early and be sent back home. To save my marriage I reluctantly agreed. On the drive over I was calling family and internalizing how it would all go down.

When we arrived they took her vitals and rushed her to a room. The nurse came in asking hundreds of questions prepping us for what was about to occur. Minutes later the family started rolling in. Her dad couldn’t stop pacing.

Shortly after, the doctor sent everyone out. Finally, ​it was time!

In the blink of an eye, ​a glorious gift arrived. So small. So fragile. So wonderful.

On this day 8 years ago my second child was born.

Starting Your Own Charitable Foundation

I love reading about personal finance and the more you read it feels like the same stuff is repeated over and over. However, The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins is one I just finished and it’s a short no-nonsense guide that I really enjoyed. This quote sums up his advice perfectly:

Simple is good. Simple is easier. Simple is more profitable.

Every part of the book focuses on simplicity and things that any of us can do, as long as we remove and avoid debt. Outside of the personal part one part that made me really think was at the end he has a section on what to do with your wealth after you’ve spent a lifetime generating it.

Once you reach a certain level where you can live comfortably off your investments he recommended starting a charitable foundation and what is surprising to me is you don’t need to be a multi-millionaire. You can open your own foundation with a minimum of $25,000, and he recommends the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program because of the low fee structure. Mr. Collins states quite a few benefits to doing this:

  • You get the tax deduction in the year you fund your foundation. So I got to take the tax benefits when they mattered most to me.
  • If you have stocks, mutual funds or other assets that have appreciated in value you can move these directly into your charitable foundation. You get the tax deduction for their full market value and you don’t have to pay any capital gains taxes on the gain. Double tax win and more money for your charities.

Outside of, this the greatest advantage is that everything runs throughs the foundation and not you personally. Based on this advice you can give freely and keep yourself distanced so you are not getting inundated with people asking for things.

I’m currently in my 30’s and very far away from this but I think it’s a great idea to keep in the back of your mind to support causes that matter to you.

Using the Noun Project for Journaling

2018 is just getting started and I know many have set out to start new habits break old ones and begin with a fresh start. One of the things I started is keeping a daily log book so I’ll be able to revisit memories that happen throughout 2018.

As I was researching log books I came across this awesome daily plan bar by Mike Rohde who is the sketchnote genius.

I love how all his have little drawings and color that make it look like a work of art. Not being a great artist I wanted to duplicate this effect and I found a little life hack for creating drawings quickly, search the noun project.

If you are not familiar with the noun project it is the home of millions of icons for almost everything. I use the Mac app but the site works as well. Just enter a keyword and then use the results as inspiration in your log book or journal.

The featured image on this post is an example I put together for this post and I think having the little icons and visual flare makes it easy to come back to in ten years and flip through your history.

Keep A Praise File

I enjoy revisiting books that I’ve read in the past because each time you read it, you are in a different season of life. An example of this is the book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.

The first time I read it I remember he had two small pages on keeping a Praise File and I honestly thought it was a sort of, self-righteous I am the most remarkable human being in the world thing, to do. A few years later and now I get it 100%.

The more work you put out on the internet, the less praise you get. It takes its toll, and you have to stay on guard to not let people get you down. Having a folder full of lovely things is an excellent way of reminding yourself why you are doing what you are, and refocusing on the positive.

Just keep it private because you don’t want to come across as a narcissist on the social media.


Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

On Insults

While reading the Guide to the Good Life I came across this gem on dealing with insults:

Refusing to respond to an insult is, paradoxically, one of the most effective responses possible. For one thing, as Seneca points out, our nonresponse can be quite disconcerting to the insulter, who will wonder whether or not we understood his insult. Furthermore, we are robbing him of the pleasure of having upset us, and he is likely to be upset as a result.

Notice, too, that by not responding to an insulter, we are showing him and anyone who is watching that we simply don’t have time for the childish behavior of this person. If a humorous response to an insult shows that we don’t take the insulter seriously, a nonresponse to an insult makes it look as if we are indifferent to the existence of the insulter: Not only don’t we take him seriously, but we don’t take him at all! No one wants to be ignored, though, and the insulter is likely to feel humiliated by our failure to respond to him—not with a counter insult, not even with humor!