I write... occasionally

Here's a collection of 644 pieces of nonsense that I've felt the need to journal about over the past 23.03 years.

80/35 at Waterworks Park

This was my 10th 80/35 music fest, and the first year that it didn't take place in downtown Des Moines. The venue change received a ton of pushback from locals and leadership stepped down... but the Des Moines Music Coalition and volunteers did what they could to make the fest happen.

I just wanted to share my experience…

To start off, I only knew 3 artists on the lineup, but one of my favorite things about this festival is discovering someone new. 80/35 has always impressed me by curating interesting, fun low-to-mid level artists that I never would have experienced otherwise.

On Friday, we biked down to Waterworks Park and entered via the tunnel from Grays Lake. The first annoyance was that there wasn't an easy way to get to bike valet …

2023 was expensive, but fun

2023 was a strange year. It felt gluttonous and hard to catch up, but it was always gonna be tough to follow the year of free boi summer.

We had lots of good stateside travel, a couple annoying financial issues, and I accidentally bought a Bronco.

We hosted fewer events and I made a conscious decision to only hang with folks who also invite us to things. This turned into spending time with new sets of great people but also seeing old buddies less than I'd hoped.

Travel

We didn't get to leave the country, but did take lots of road trips and I got to see 20 states.

The strongest woman I know

10 years ago, Kari and I were visiting Chicago during one of her fall breaks. I was there to work with my startup cofounders and she was there to hang out, shop, and enjoy our favorite city.

We got in late, ordered pizza from one of our favorite spots, and then crashed at an Air BnB. The next morning, Kari woke up unable to control the entire left side of her body. Being young, naive, and frankly stupid, we (I) thought that maybe she slept weird. Maybe she had a pinched nerve or something. I suggested that she try some stretches or yoga to see if she could work it out while I showered to get ready for work. She agreed, but the stretches weren’t helping, so we decided to go to the nearest walk-in clinic.

Preparing for how slow and …

Overlanding the 7-Hour Plane Crash Trail

The upper midwest is effectively devoid of off-roading and overlanding opportunities. Most people in the scene are settling for camping in parks, getting invites to a handful of events on private land, or making long hauls to get our fix outside of the midwest.

We'd been planning a fall overlanding escape to the Ozark National Forest with our cousins, who have a very similar setup as ours (Ford Broncos and off-road teardrops). We scouted out some campsites that we could drop our campers at while we wheeled through the forest. Ideally, we'd pull the teardrops through the trails, but some of the water crossings can get pretty high, and no one wants a wet mattress...

The week before we were set to leave, the forecast predicted temps in the …

2-Door Bronco Rear Seat Delete + Raptor Lined Cargo Platform

The rear bench seat of my Jeep spent most of it's life in a Christmas tree storage bag... and I had a similar plan once I traded my Jeep in for a Bronco. But I was pretty bummed to learn that it was a lot more work to add/remove the rear Bronco seats (bolts, sensors, and tools? wtf!)... so, I just went scorched earth and ripped everything out, along with the seatbelts.

With the rear seats out of the bronco, the floor is pretty ugly, with random bolts, holes, and cuts in the floor liner. It was gonna be pretty annoying to use as a "truck bed" this way, so I did what many others have done, and started researching/designing a flat "bed."

Goose Gear's system looks nice but is frankly overpriced. I didn't need the modularity that they offered, …

From a Jeep to a Bronco

As soon as Ford announced that they were re-releasing the Bronco, I knew that I wanted one. However, I’d just bought a Jeep that I really enjoyed, so I decided to wait a bit. This would allow the aftermarket to catch up and Ford to shake out any issues within the first couple years of launching. 2024 felt like the model year to go after. The vehicle should be relatively stable, the aftermarket would’ve had a few years to catch up and with any luck, they may launch their anticipated hybrid model along with some other mid-cycle refreshes.

If you’ve been following the rollout of the new Bronco, you know that it's been a shit show. Launching a vehicle during a pandemic and then dealing with the post-pandemic supply chain left folks …

How I do home automation

After 20 years of tinkering with home automation, I thought it'd be fun to blog about how I've come to approach things.

First, the background

My entry into home automation was tinkering with old school, X10 powerline/RF lamp and outlet modules that were paired with remotes, motion sensors, and a "smart" module that you could program via a PC to begin adding automation.

Since then, I've played with tons of brands and ecosystems, but I've primarily used Zigbee, Zwave, wifi/mesh, and PoE devices.

I've gone pretty deep with Hue, Lutron, Arlo, Ring, Nest, NuHeat, Sonos, Amazon, Google, Apple, Liftmaster, Bond, and other random generic smart devices.

To tie the ecosystems together, I've mostly used SmartThings and HomeAssistant, but …

Twenty Twenty Two

I almost didn't write a year-end blog because I kinda captured the year already, but ... 5 weeks late, I just wanna say that 2022 was one of the best years that I've had in a while.

Most things have already been shared on my yearly stats page and blogs:

Oh, and we got a dog.

But, I ultimately focused on myself and leisure and felt more alive than I have in a long time.

I realize that I'm incredibly fortunate to have had those opportunities, but I'm now back to work, where I'm learning a ton and that's exciting.

I've started getting out to my coworking space more often and have def missed that change of scenery.

I'm spending less energy on internet friendships and relationships that …

The End of Free Boi Summer

Retired folks often say that they somehow become busier after they stop working. This year I got a taste of what that meant.

In April, I quit my job to take a break, reset, and enjoy a summer off with my educator wife. Those planned few months turned into 6+ months of "pretirement" and it was incredible.

I wasn't necessarily busier in pretirement, but I was definitely more active and more productive with my own wants. I got to wake up nearly every day and just wing it. I loved it.

Health

I generally felt way better than I did during my typical desk job life. I easily closed my nerd watch rings daily, maintained a healthier weight and my general mood, outlook, and overall mental health was immensely better.

I unexpectedly found golf …

My First Hole-in-One

I grew up playing golf, but fell out of the game for school, work and other priorities. I'd been wanting to get back into it, but kept procrastinating. So, when my friend Ben asked me to join him for 9 holes to celebrate his 40th birthday at Glen Oaks, I thought… here's my chance.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive to have my first round in 8 years be at a fancy country club. I didn't even have clothes to pass dress code, but I figured this would be a great way to dive in head first and get back out there. So, I quickly went shopping and got a few practice swings in at the driving range.

On Ben's birthday, I showed up to find him sipping on a Miami Vice cocktail with his buddy and business partner, Ben Sinclair. This immediately set the …

Joining and Leaving PayPal

I recently decided to leave PayPal so that I could take a few months off and recharge.

Here's how I got to where I'm at...

2013-2015: Building Modest

Building a startup is quite an experience. In our situation, it was even more strange because we had a team of 4 with a nice chunk of funding before we even knew what to build. So, we spent ~6 months flipping back and forth between ideating and contracting while we figured things out.

Once we got the idea to build a contextual, mobile-focused commerce platform, we moved fast. In a couple years, we grew the team from 4 to a little over twenty and had some solid initial clients. We built a full-fledged commerce API, a couple web apps, JS SDKs, mobile SDKs, white label mobile apps, …

Associate Principal KBROOX

A couple weeks ago, Kari applied to be an Associate Principal / Dean for the largest school district in our state.

She applied on the down-low, ignored most people's advice and went to her in-person interview rocking adidas wedges and kbroox fashion. She ignored dropping obvious industry buzz words and talking points, and responded as herself, with her values.

This would be her first time stepping out of special education to represent the larger student population... and she apparently nailed the interview. She went in as the full kbroox and got the exact placement that she was hoping for.

Before she was even offered the position, I was proud as shit at the way she presented herself, but I'm even more proud now.

🥰

2021 - The Big Disappointment

2021 was the year that was supposed to be normal again.

I really thought that we would get together and beat this pandemic, but nope. 2021 was somehow worse than 2020, at least for me.

The disappointment was real.

The depression was real.

The loneliness was real.

...

I was born and raised in the middle of nowhere and have always been sort of a lone-wolf nerd with close friends that were few and far between.

In elementary school, one of my best buddies died in an accident. I found another best friend in junior high, a couple more in high school, some in college, and a few more after... but with the past couple years of this pandemic coming after several years of working remotely, having most of my best friends living across the country, …

The alligator in the woods

A few weeks ago, Josh, Jeff, and I went camping at Lake Okoboji. We booked a campsite in a completely unreserved loop in the back of a state park and had the entire area to ourselves... which is always a good idea when our group gets together.

The trip was great. Bullshitting. Disc golf. Swimming. Driving the topless Jeep around the lake. Night hikes. Cooking over fires. Beer. Hanging just like old times.

But this story is about Saturday night.

The skies were clear and there was a full moon. So naturally, every time one of us caught a glimpse of the moon we’d belt out a big ol wolf howl… and as you can imagine, the other two would follow suit like normal ~40 year olds. It was good that we were in that loop all by ourselves.

So, we …

Benny the Butthole's Short Life

Last night, around midnight, our dog, Benny became pretty restless. He started moving about the bedroom as if he couldn't get comfortable. This was followed by incessant panting and pacing about the house. He'd had a bit of restlessness the night before, so we didn't think anything of it at first.

But it kept up for quite a bit, so I tried to think about what was different that day. I'd kegged some homebrew earlier and spilt a bit of the filtered trub onto the floor. As he does with everything edible that falls within his range, he quickly lapped it up... and he's lapped up a bit of spilt beer before, so I didn't think anything of it. But I googled homebrew + dogs and found that hops can be very toxic for dogs. This particular homebrew …

Forty

I’m 40 now. Almost dead.

So, as I approach my final years (RIP), I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past decade and what I want going forward.

On my 30th birthday, I moved to Chicago to kick off a new, stressful, and fruitful trajectory in my life and career.

In that decade, I took some risks, took advantage of some big opportunities, worked hard, had some big wins, lucked out, and burned out.

On paper, our net worth quickly went from negative to a couple milli. We got a new house. New cars. Traveled a lot. It felt like success. Not quite "made it" success, but definitely success..

After buying the house, we immediately started remodeling it, which turned into the biggest set of personal construction projects that I've undertaken. It was …

Benny's Juicer

So, Kari subscribes to this weird service that sends her random home/beauty/gym stuff every month. A couple weeks ago her package came with a juicer... but we already have a juicer. So she was gonna give it away.

The next day, I found the juicer in Benny’s bed, so I asked Kari if she decided to just give it to the dog instead. She didn't. He apparently just found it laying in Kari's mud room locker and claimed it.

So, now Benny’s just running around the house. Proud as shit. With his new favorite toy.

A juicer.

2020 - That quarantine life

My goals for 2020 were to:

Covid really helped me nail three of those, hah. But with nowhere to go, I didn’t get on the bike nearly as often as I wanted.

So first of all, Kari and I were incredibly fortunate to have steady work, income, and a spacious home and yard during this pandemic. I absolutely feel for everyone that had their pay scaled back or eliminated, or were cooped up in apartments or city spaces without being able to fully enjoy their local amenities.

The only way that I knew how to stay sane in isolation was to be outside and stay as busy as possible on projects, so I started the pandemic with a lot of yard work and small house …

RIP Garth Brooks

Today, we had to say goodbye to the sweetest, most awkward, and lovable dog that I’ve ever met.

Garth was a stray that was picked up in SE Iowa in 2010 and put on doggy death row at a kill shelter. A foster home in Cedar Rapids rescued him and we adopted him soon after.

We got the privilege of hanging out with this sweet boy for nearly 11 years.

Later in life, Garth started developing lots of tumors, which eventually found their way to his pancreas and caused him to over produce insulin and cut his blood sugar to half of what it’s supposed to be. Insulinoma. We found out too late to be able to act on it in a meaningful way.

He started getting weaker and developed seizures that became more and more frequent. An episode this morning left …

The Jefferson Lake Fiasco

We went on the sketchiest hike today.

It was at Jefferson lake, which sits in the mountains between the cabin we're staying at and our friends, Clint and Jacqui’s house. It's a very pretty lake, with no one else around, and what seemed to be a nice, easy trail.

A little over 1/3 of the way around the lake, we had a decision to make.. Go all the way around or go back the way we came. This was largely dependent on our old man dog, but also on Kari’s balance and how rough terrain can be exhausting for her brain.

Garth wasn't really showing a sign of slowing down and Kari felt good, so we decided to keep going. This was mistake number 1.

It went from an easy trail to straight up boulder climbing. And since it looked like an easy trail from …