Home Improvement Landscaping

The previous owner of our property believed in letting nature run its course entirely without human intervention. As a result our front yard had been a long outstanding project that we’d been afraid to tackle. In addition, we had some serious drainage problems that led to standing water in the driveway, and sump pumps that just dumped out into the front yard surface.

This year we decided to change all that and had For Garden’s Sake do some landscaping for us. In addition to dealing with the drainage, and overgrowth, we wanted them to fix the front yard that AT&T had dug up numerous times, as well as connect our awesome new front porch to the driveway in a nice looking way. I would say mission accomplished – but you can judge for yourself looking at the following before and after shots:

Before:

New paint, new porch, old landscaping.

After:

New landscaping and stonework leading up to the front porch.

It’s a huge improvement, and the galleries above should give you an idea of the overall project and progress for the entire front yard. We’re happy with the work and looking forward to watching all of these new native plants grow.

Best of all, there is no more standing water to worry about!

Home Improvement Porch Project

Kat bought our house around the same time that I bought my condo in 2014, before we even met! It’s an amazing property on a large wooded lot with nice privacy and set back a bit from the street in a quiet neighborhood.

The house had a great back deck with room for an outdoor dining table. Being in the woods and in NC means we had quite a few usable months for the porch – but our nemesis, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, made the outdoors pretty much a no-go-zone whenever it was above freezing for a few weeks.

Old Back Deck – Tree Removal In Progress

For years we were spraying for mosquitoes trying to keep the situation under control. We weren’t happy about having a service spray chemicals, but the mosquitoes were so thick in the air as to create a visible blood-sucking cloud.

We stopped the spray service when our next-door neighbor started raising bees and at that point we ceded control back to the mosquitoes. We needed to take more drastic (and expensive) measures to maintain an outdoor dining experience.

Last year, we decided we were going to replace the rotting front and rear decks with new long-lasting Trex Deck material and build a covered screened in section in the back. Along the way we cut down a number of trees, replaced the roof, and are nearing the final point where the back porch gets a screen added. Check out the album below to see the house as it changed over time.

Photos of our house project

We’re excited to use the new covered section as the temperatures warm up. We even plan on spending a few of our work from home days out there. We made sure there was PLENTY of power and that the WiFi signal covers the area!

There are still a few finishing touches we’re waiting on in addition to the screens. We need gutters and downspouts, to finish the paint on the outside siding, a few more lights and switches wired in, and some interior trim.

The next part of this crazy project is landscaping – but that may have to wait a while. What do you think of the new porch and the new look?

Things You Won’t Learn on My LinkedIn Profile

I had to do a little introduction exercise when I moved over to the marketing team as a Tech Marketing Engineer. I had to share some things you wouldn’t learn on my LinkedIn Profile with the team. I thought it was fun to walk through and worth reposting here!

I just married the woman of my dreams (Kat) who was born in Germany but moved to Florida when she was young. She says y’all with a mixed German and Southern accent and it melts my heart. When we got married we smiled so much our faces hurt. We’re both still amazed that our lives turned out this way and we get to live our dreams.

Despite my mild mannered appearance, I like to live life dangerously. In addition to the rock climbing with my wife, you can find me riding motorcycles, snowboarding, or my one true guilty pleasure, eating Chipotle on my walk to and from HQ and the SJC airport.

I’m a Tough Mudder finisher. You’ll find me out crawling through the mud once a year.


Our long term goal is to move to a walkable city (maybe in Germany or the Netherlands) and spend summer nights walking between cafes. Especially EiscafΓ©s

Memorial Day Ziplining in Florida

I decided to make it a 4 day weekend for Memorial day on the Tuesday before the weekend started. I checked my family’s availability for Saturday, booked tickets for a zip line tour in Florida, took Friday off, then drove down to Florida on Friday.

I had a little bit of a stop in Jacksonville to visit a colleague Nik and say hello. Breaking up the 8 hour drive was good.

It was great to spend time with Jen, Matt, Cody, Mom and Cal. Saturday was zip lining and you can find some pictures here:

Zip Line Photos

Group shot
Group shot!

Sunday was a lazy pool day at Jen’s and dinner at Mom’s.

Monday was driving back home to Raleigh. I don’t really mind driving and I got to listen to a lot of NPR along the way.

Buffalo Family Visit

My sister Jen said “I’m going back up to my HS reunion, and our cousin is having a bachelorette party / wedding shower”. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine some family visits with the brief time where the weather in Western New York is pleasant.

Here’s a link to the full gallery of our WNY Visit.

We stayed at my Dad’s and had a chance to check out some of the weaponry. This was fun because Matt (Jen’s BF) had never shot a gun before.

There was also old photo time. Here is me at about 16 years old working construction working with Dad. Super safe use of power tools right?

Also we saw some evidence of the Bread Box mass production line that my Bread Box came from:

Amanda also took out her horse for a little bit of a pond swim. It was pretty warm up there so the horse seemed to enjoy it.

We got a great shot of me, Amanda, Jen, and Matt all at my friend Jason’s parents’ house. Perfect weather for hanging out around a fire.

Jason and Chuck were there too which was awesome. I haven’t seen these guys together in a while so it was good to spend some time with them.

A crazy part of the weekend was helping Don and Tiffany put a roof on their house. Sort of an interesting way to spend a vacation πŸ˜‰ It was fun though. Here’s Jason tearing off old shingles.

There was a FRIGGING HILARIOUS moment where we needed Jason to move a 24 ft extension ladder from one side of the house to the other. I have never seen someone do THIS to an extension ladder. I don’t even really know how it happened but you could see the gears turning in Jason’s head as we watched and laughed at him.

On a visit up to the old farm I got to see my cousin’s Ashley and Angela. I took a great picture of Ashley post-party where she’s a wreck. She wasn’t too happy that I posted this one on facebook… but that’s what family is for πŸ™‚

You can check out the rest of the pictures. This was a good trip where I got to visit old friends and family. The weather in the WNY area couldn’t have been better. The summers up there really are perfect.

Maybe I’ll go back some day for more than just a short visit.

CCIE Voice Written Recertification – Passed

I passed my CCIE Voice Written last Friday. My CCIE is now recertified. There was some new material I hadn’t seen before, but I still managed to squeak by with an 827/1000. Passing was 790/1000.

To celebrate I went to the beach (Emerald Isle) with Kenneth and friends. We had a pretty amazing time, although my camera battery was dead. I only got one good group shot with my phone.

Group Breakfast Shot

Another highlight of the beach weekend was printing out and bringing Cards Against Humanity (A free party game for horrible people). Wil Wheaton recommended it (via Twitter) and he knew what he was talking about. It’s a combination of mad-libs, apples to apples, and something darker. Much fun was had by all. I’m looking forward to bringing this to Hawaii.

Oh right. Internet – I’m going to Hawaii from June 2nd to June 8th to check out the Transit of Venus with a bunch of Cisco / RIT / Gaming friends. I hope to jump off something tall into the water and visit the Kona Brewery. That’s all I require. It should be awesome.

After that I’ll be in San Diego from June 9th to 15th for Cisco Live. I’m a backup speaker for a “Centralized SIP Trunking Best Practices” presentation. Our session was so popular we’re going to have to present it twice! People are really stoked about SIP Trunking.

Sometimes I think maybe they have this in mind:

Then I’m going to Buffalo June 28th – July 1st to hang out with friends and family in the frigid northlands. I have childhood memories of my father saying “Winter is coming.” Maybe I’m getting things mixed up here though.

I don’t think I have any travel plans for July. (Although I may go to Birmingham)

I’ll be 30 coming up in July. Expect a post on that at some point bemoaning my wasted youth, etc..

Random trivia – I sold my FZ6. I’m down to just a single motorcycle now!

Coffee and blog posts

I’ve taken to making myself breakfast and coffee on the weekends. Turning into an adult is actually pretty awesome (even if it took me a LONG time to start the process).

When I was a kid everyone was like “you’ll have to work so much” and “you’ll have bills to pay!”

Now that I’m actually grown up, it’s just as awesome as I thought it would be. All those naysayers of my youth must have been getting it wrong. I get to do what I want mostly whenever I want. Sure I go to work 5 days a week, and yes I have plenty of bills to pay. The upside of all that work on top of being unmarried with no kids is almost unlimited travel and hobby time.

That’s really the primary focus of this blog. I only post when I buy a new toy, or go a new place with that toy, or have awesome visits with friends.

Now that we’ve got the random thoughts preface portion out of the way, let’s continue on with updates.

  1. May and June were a blur of concerts and hang outs. I went to see random bands play in random places in downtown Raleigh.
  2. July was up in the air. Literally – I flew a plane with friends one weekend, then jumped out of a plane the next. I stole Pete’s GF Beth for a day and her friend took us up for some air time. It was a very fun time! I miss flying.

    Jumping out of a plane was a pretty awesome feeling too, but honestly my favorite part of skydiving is piloting the chute down after the jump. I just like to steer things. I did a tandem jump so I didn’t get much free fall flight control – maybe if I jumped solo I’d be more into the free fall portion of it. In tandem it just feels like wind going by fast – like on a motorcycle, but way more expensive per trip.

  3. July also saw me hanging out with this wicked cool girl Lisa who I’ve blogged about before tangentially(Last August See 3rd of July section). My regular followers will be impressed that I started hanging out with and then dating Lisa when she was actually single. Personal moral progress on my mission to not be such a terrible wreck of a person.She mentioned that she didn’t like me at first (Re: I’m a terrible person), but that she’s glad she found out there was a better person under the Quagmire-esque veneer.I’m not sure how I’ve managed to fool her for so long, but it’s going well πŸ˜‰
  4. At the end of July my Step Sister Amanda decided she would fly down to Raleigh to visit. This was incredible as I hadn’t really seen the girl much since her high school graduation. When I met her she was in diapers. Now she’s 21. It’s fun to show a little sister around.We spent a night in Raleigh, then drove down to Florida to visit my other Sister Jen, my Brother Cody, and Mom and Cal (Step-Dad).Amanda had never been to the beach, so we sorted that out. We also went to the springs. Check out the cool pictures:
  5. At the end of August I spent a weekend with my motorcycle buddies and we rode from North Carolina to Indianapolis, IN to check out the MotoGP race.Check out these great pictures of girls, motorcycles, and racing:

    As part of this trip I added three new states to the map of states my motorcycle wheels have touched:

    I also learned that a 700 lb Kawasaki Concours with 180lb rider can easily drive up onto a curb if that’s where the hotel valet wants you to park. Who knew it would be so simple? After much trepidation I just drove up on that damn curb, no hassle.

  6. After getting back from MotoGP in Indianapolis I took another long weekend for a camping and Jeeping trip up at Rausch Creek in PA. This place was gigantic, exciting, and had gorgeous trails.
    Andy, Shapess and I have many good memories and stories about the place. There is nothing quite like a long weekend of camping and Jeeping with buddies. Although I’ll admit I’ve had my fill of dude hang outs lately. Bring back the female social interactions please.
    Here are some awesome Jeeping and camping pictures:
  7. Not only has life involved all sorts of social interactions and vacation happenings, it’s also been busy at work.
    I’ve been applying and interviewing for a position in Advanced Services for a while now. It was a tough decision to make. There are so many things I love about my current job and my current team. Part of me wants to stay in this spot forever because of the things I like about it. I’m really going to miss the team and being able to help everyone solve complicated problems every day. I’ll miss being the technical expert who can come in and kick a problem square in the nuts and at the same time do some training of new guys coming in.

    However, I think after 6 years my stress levels of constantly being on the hook or on the phone with customers on their worst days, has taken its toll. You try to steel yourself against the customer who says they’ve spent millions of dollars and now everything is down and they need you to fix it ASAP and make sure it never happens again, but they do take their toll, one piece of sanity at a time.

    Some customers are great, patient, understanding, appreciative of your time, and know that some problems just can’t be instantly fixed.

    Some customers are ungrateful, impatient, uncooperative, willfully ignorant of basic facts and reality (even when clearly presented to them), and set expectations so unrealistic that their lives are guaranteed to be a constant disappointment for them. Some people have problems that I can’t solve. Some people just want to watch the world burn πŸ˜‰

    That’s tough for me. I like being able to solve the problem, and then being recognized as the bad ass without whom it would not have been possible.

    Have you ever seen House? When House makes his diagnosis he walks away. He’s solved the puzzle – figured it out. The patient themselves are not the prize, it’s solving the puzzle. That’s my motivation – interesting puzzles.

    This new job is going to be designing and deploying voice solutions for customers who contract with us. I believe it will go like this:

    Customer wants solution / Customer is sold solution
    I come in and help gather requirements for design and implementation
    I present design and deployment plan
    I deploy and verify success
    Next project

    I’m excited to get started on it at the end of October. The two main differences are going to be:

    Project lifecycle has clear start and end points (as opposed to non stop incoming cases)
    Customer is paying you for the work you perform (as opposed to customers having paid a flat service contract fee ahead of time, entitling them to have their problem fixed no matter how long it takes)

    Also – travel and more work from home. I’m going to get to see some places and spend more time enjoying the downtown digs.

All in all – life is pretty damn good right now. I’m excited to see what this next chapter of personal and professional development brings.

Now my coffee pot is empty and it’s time to take on the rest of the day. Hope you enjoyed the updates.

Buffalo Visit – Tiffany and Don’s Wedding and other great friends.

This past weekend I went up to Buffalo for Don and Tiffany’s wedding. You can find some great pictures of the wedding here:

Don and Tiff's Wedding

I drove the Z up on Thursday to stop by and have dinner with my dad, and to go see Jaime. That’s an interesting story because I “met” her at my HS reunion. I know what you’re thinking, how do you meet someone at your HS reunion, don’t you know them already? Well yes I suppose that’s true, but when you have a terrible memory for people like I do, and 10 years go by, it’s like meeting someone again for the first time.

I drove the 10 hours up to my dad’s then the 35 minutes out to East Aurora for coffee, then around EA, then back out to Delevan, than back out to EA. We wound up staying out WAY too late, which turned out to be a fun time for everyone. I didn’t make it back home until somewhere around 5AM, at which point my dad was already working on getting up and doing chores.

Friday I went out to see Elementary school friends Janette and Will. That’s always a blast from the past when you can hang out with someone you remember from 2nd grade!

Friday night I spent at my Uncle’s place where my grandmother cooked dinner. Home cooked meal == win!!!

Saturday was the wedding proper which worked out really well. I was partially responsible for some of the decorations. It was my job to light all of the candles hanging from the trees in mason jars. After a few drinks I don’t know what I was doing at the top of a ladder, but I survived. The lights came out great:

You can look through all of the pictures to find some ridiculous dancing, and me getting to hang out with a ton of old HS friends. Always a great time.

On Sunday I made it home from the wedding at about 7AM, just in time to eat breakfast at my Dad’s, and then go to sleep! When I woke up I made a trip out to Rochester to hang out with Kaija and Devon. It was interesting to meet Kaija for the first time after chatting with her online for nearly a decade (wow).

Monday I made the long trek back home to Raleigh.

In the end the odometer says 1700 new miles, and 31 hours of seat time!

My left leg calf was really sore from all that clutching. I’m just not that used to it. The Z drove great minus some hydroplaning issues in the rain. I enjoy road trips more than any sane and normal person should! My friends told me I should be a truck driver since I love driving around so much.

Now I’m back in Raleigh after being in DC for business. Just back in time for Matt and Candra’s wedding. I need a weekend of rest to prepare for it!

Busy lately – Camping, Jeeping, Motorcycling, Partying

I haven’t posted in quite a while. That time has been filled with all sorts stuff. I’ve been riding my motorcycle around, going camping and Jeeping, Ward’s wedding, more motorcycling, and just hanging out with people around Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

I guess I’ll start with links to albums in chronological order, just to document things. I have such a backlog of stuff that I can’t really write it all out in detail. Instead, we’ll skip straight to the pics, and brief blurbs.

Pete and I took our motorcycles down to the beach one random day for lunch. We ate, walked around looking at girls in bikini’s then we turned around for Easter Dinner.
Wings

I went to Ward’s wedding and met up with a whole bunch of RIT and Cisco folks. It was incredible to have everyone together again. There was a lot of bittersweet talk about how this was the first and maybe last large reunion of so many RIT grads in one place.
Ward's wedding

There was camping and Jeeping after that.
Jeeps

Brendan and I took a random Thursday after that and went up to Richmond, VA to see Flogging Molly and Big D and the Kid’s table. They added ridiculously hot dancers. I was immediately in love. We also met up with Esther and her friend that night. It made for a long night. I eventually wound up riding my motorcycle at home from the Cisco parking lot at 3AM. Heated grips are AMAZING!

The next night we went out for Sasha’s birthday party. Raleigh was in full blown skirt season. It was excellent.

The first week of May is a Blur. Brendan’s friend Daniel had a grad party

I saw Steve’s band Idiom play at The Berkely. We met a cute Brunette that worked at an Animal Hospital

Aric had a house warming party where it was decided that everyone loved this girl

We also ran into another short Brunette who had opinions on whether or not Earth should be keeping a backup planet in the works for disaster recovery. Awesome.

Shapess, Andy and I had a random day out at Uwharrie. I had time to dial in the scope on my 22, AND spent some time shooting Shapess’ AK-47. Too much fun there.

On May 12th Kenneth, Pete, and I drove down to Charlotte to see Say Anything and Angels and Airwaves. Say Anything put on a good show but the set was too short unfortunately. It was nice to know that the girls belt out the lyrics to “Every Man Has a Molly” even louder than the guys.

You god damned kids had best be gracious with the Merch money you spend.
Cause for you I won’t ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again.

I met a beautiful girl with so many awesome traits it’s hard to believe she actually exists.
1. Bartender
2. Graduated Culinary School
3. Loves the music scene
4. Gorgeous
5. Incredibly friendly / nice
6. Brunette
7. Tiny
8. Likes jeeps and motorcycles, knows how to replace a radiator.

Doubtful that said girl will actually get in touch with me – but it was a good night regardless. Another weeknight of getting home around 3AM. Energy drinks are my savior.

Just last night I went to a Skinny Tie Party at Justin Tiexera’s place.

I proceeded to introduce myself to a girl so forcefully that she immediately notified me she was someone elses wife. I need to do a better job looking for rings.
I also met another beautiful brunette who can bust out the quadratic equation at the drop of a ‘hat’. Math teachers for the win. There was Rock Band. People rocked out to Coheed and Cambria, and I sang my heart out to NIN – The Hand That Feeds. I don’t even need the scrolling words to sing this one:

And finally – today I went on an awesome motorcycle ride out to Wilson NC with my motorcycle gang. We hit up Parker’s BBQ and it was delicious. There was some really beautiful back country and great roads between here and Wilson if you avoid the highway.

After riding around NC I went over to Andy’s house and helped him tinker on his new front axle. We removed the diff cover and took out the locker, getting it ready for the new axle. We also greased up his lower control arms, and I drilled some holes for his new bump stops.

I am now VERY tired just thinking about all of that.

The future holds a trip to DC to see the air and space museum, and hopefully a trip out to the mountains with my Mom to check out the roads there.

In other non fun related matters, I’ve REALLY got to recertify my CCIE πŸ™

Sick Again

Being sick can suck it. I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with me. I’ve been sick about 4 times so far this year. That’s just not right.

What the hell am I doing wrong?

Also, I’ve been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on http://hulu.com

There is some relief in that. It makes me feel a bit better.

I got an awesome birthday card from my Grandma in Florida, that helps too.

Otherwise, nothing good to report right now.

Feeling like I could use another vacation.