Monthly Update

This is my beginning of march update.

1000 Mile year

Despite having a VERY strong start to the month, I fell off at the end. This was mostly due to the fact that there was a BUNCH of traveling in the month. I got to about 71 miles when my target was 77. Combine that with my 49 or so miles from January and I’m at about 120 miles so far for the year.

While it is disappointing that I did not hit my target, the trajectory is definitely going in the right direction. If my pattern continues I should be over 90 miles this month? We’ll see. I did sign up for Planet Fitness (which is the cheapest gym with a treadmill near me). I’m two days into the month and only at 3 miles, but hoping to go to the gym tonight to catch up a little.

Acroyoga Field Guide

I started and stop and started again. I’m stuck with how I want this book to look. Do I want it to be a small book with a bunch of references that I carry around or do I want it to have a lot more information with a bunch more instruction? I’m leaning towards the latter. Either way, I’m not sure Pandoc is actually the tool I want. I’ve switched to 11ty and I’m making some progress there. I’m mostly just learning the platform.

I’m pretty convinced the content will be free on the website and the purchased book will cost money. I’m not 100% sure how it will all work, but I’m operating on that framework.

Renting the House

Starting to clean a bunch. I have lots of unpacking and a bunch of cleaning to do before I’m at the stage to rent the house. I’m trying to recruit my brothers to come and help with a weekend of home repair as we get stuff ready.

I’m also considering doing something crazy and getting a roommate instead of renting the house for the summer. This would allow me to be here on a more year-round basis.

Other Goals

Still hunting for local dance lessons, haven’t found any I’m excited about.

I’m working on learning to cook, but my family took some of my pots when they went to the boat so I still need to buy a couple of things to be very self-sufficient. I also really need to go grocery shopping. That being said, I have been making most of my meals at home, even if they are from limited stuff I’ve found around the house (lots of PB+J).

Weekly Updates

Couple of updates this week on the goals.

1,000 Miles on Foot

There were a couple of days last week where I didn’t get the full miles I needed so my total for the month of February has lost some of its overall level of dominance. I’m still ahead of my goal for the month, but the trajectory does not have me hitting the goal of 100 miles this month alone to make up for some of the lost miles in January.

Renting The House

I’m not in Newport right now so I’m not ready to start working on this, but I have started looking at the steps for this project. The repairs and the pieces required to get to that step. I’m excited about getting there.

Acroyoga Field Guide

I’ve started working on this. You can visit it here: Acroyoga Field Guide. It is a big work in progress and I have bunch of things that I want to do for this, but I’m starting to get somewhere. I started with Pandoc, but really I think this is a full website. Currently leaning towards doing it with Eleventy.

After much thought, I’m going to start with a website and then try to convert to a book. My goal is to release the content on the website for free and try and print the book at the highest quality to make it worth it. That way it will be free for people if they want it and if they find value they can purchase the book.

Other Things

Before the pandemic started, I started a podcast called “Zack’s Quacks.” By start, I mean I recorded the first episode. I never published it. I did purchase a website, but that is about all. Anyway, I’m in the process of trying to get that together as well. You can find it on iTunes soon, more details to be forthcoming at Zack’s Quacks (website under massive construction).

This is my last week traveling before getting home. I’ve got a bunch of driving to do, but I’m pretty darn excited about heading back to the ocean. I’ve got stops on the way, though.

News Years Resolutions: Better Late Than Never

I’ve sort of already written my New Years resolution page and hinted that this years theme was less. Well, that is an over simplification. There are many more goals for me than that this year:

  • Rent house for the summer
  • Learn to cook more and eat healthier
  • Do 1,000 miles on foot
  • Dance lessons
  • Get better at cleanliness
  • Learn to share attention with others more
  • Write Acroyoga Field Guide
  • Consolidate (website, notebook collection, clean up office)

Let’s go through each of them.

Rent house for the summer

I live in a great town, Newport RI. It’s so great that the population of the town balloons from 40k in the year to 250k in the summer. Because of the disability of the area, rents are high for the summer. But it also super busy and crowded. Some people love all the energy this provides, for the most part, I do not.

The plan is to rent the house so others can enjoy the season they want to enjoy and I can be anywhere else. Preferably somewhere cooler, but we’ll see.

This is no small task. There is a lot of work that needs to be done on the house, from painting to various other tasks like organization and figuring out where some of my stuff is going. I still haven’t fully moved from my room to the upstairs. No small task, but good for my financial future.

Learn to Cook and Eat Healthier

My mom recently said that I’ve never really needed to diet because I’ve always been so active. It’s true. I do so many sports that it is actually impressive that I’m in the shape that I’m in. Now, I haven’t been able to do all of my activities over the Pandemic and some of my eating has taken a turn for the worse, but beyond that, I just enjoy food. I enjoy eating good food. I want to create the things I enjoy. I want to invest in creating better meals.

Last year I did Hello Fresh, which was a great, but their prep times were WAY off. I needed to spend much more time than each meal was supposed to take. I’d like to learn to go off script a bit and make some good things. I can do this with simple foods like steak or burgers or whatever, but I’d like to expand beyond the basics I can already do.

I’m excited for this challenge. I’ve done some while living in the Van, but honestly, kind of waiting until I have a full kitchen with an Oven to really kick this into gear.

Do 1000 Miles on Foot!

This one has been the one that I can’t put off. If I don’t start early, catching up to 1000 miles is a real challenge. Despite being pretty concerned from the beginning, I only got about 49 miles in January. My current pace in February has me passing that by the middle of the month.

I did 100 miles in a month, and I’ve done other challenges when it comes to movement, but this is by far the biggest I’ve attempted. It’s a much longer commitment than I’m used to. Still, I’m excited. I can do this and will do this.

Dance Lessons

One of the things that I’ve gotten away from during the pandemic was social dance. There are a couple of reasons, like moving to a new community, but they are all excuses. This is the year I dust off the dancing shoes and find some community among this arena. I’m excited to find some west coast swing not he east coast!

Get Better At Cleanliness

Before you talk about my BO, it is not that type of cleanliness. When possible I shower daily, sometimes multiple times in a day. This is not about my person, but more about my space. It is tied to some of the other resolutions that are mentioned (like renting the house, and consolidation).

Learn to share attention with others more

It’s how I was raised. I often go into a conversation and feel like I need to be a major factor in the conversation. This inhibits some of my relationships from growing the way I want them to and often times makes it hard for me to fully understand other peoples perspectives. I want to make time for others, to hear and learn from them, to allow them to share and grow.

This one is a character flaw of mine and will be a hard one to really work on for me, but that is my goal.

Write Acroyoga Field Guide

This is a big one too. I want to create a field guide for acroyoga. I want to write a book, and I want it to be the book that a bunch of people want to have in their hands when they go to a jam as somewhat of a players guide. There is going to be a lot to come here, and this is a big project.

I want to self publish this book too. I want to control all the aspects from the paper used to the binding. I don’t think it will be a giant first run, but it should be fun to have. Again, more to come soon, and I hope to put a bunch of the pieces of the writing online for other people to give feedback on as I write it.

Consolidate (website, notebook collection, clean up office)

As I grow up I accumulate a ton of different things. Some things I collect, some things I just have. A bunch of things I use, a bunch of things I don’t. I need to get rid of the stuff that I don’t use. Sometimes I need to just get rid of something I use so that I can force myself to use another thing.

The things we own end up owning us. THE THINGS WE OWN END UP OWNING US. There is cognitive load for the cost of ownership for things. I want to unburden my from this load. This will likely be a multi-year project, but the goal is to start this year.

Conclusion

Okay, so I may be biting off more than I can chew this year. My mom was giving me a hard time about setting such lofty goals. She gets upset if she doesn’t complete all her goals. She’d rather finish her goals and then go above and beyond. Personally, I’m the other way around. I’d rather have a pretty crazy goal and be happy with accomplishing 75% of it. Honestly, if I get 75% of these goals done, I’ll be super excited.

So this is me saying onward to these goals. Maybe I’ll try to post monthly updates.

Also note: this doesn’t even include any of my professional work goals! Those exist, they just exist somewhere other than where the public can read them!

Van Life Week 1

Part of my journey right now is living in this Van. I’ve had the van for a number of years and spent up to about 18 days in the van before, but this feels like a different test. I will be living in the van with a dog for several months. In the past I have pushed around pieces and found ways to sort of live by myself in the van. The day consists of moving items around each time I want to do something new. The goal now is different.

Here’s the task. Find a livable way in the van that doesn’t mean moving everything all day long. I’m working on it. I need to learn to cook in the van. The additional challenge of the trip is work on losing weight. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. It is time to change that. This means cooking and not eating out every night.

I’ve spent weeks in the Van before. Several of them. They are usually spent touring around from place to place and using the van as a more of a permanent structure tent. This approach leads to a lot of moving things around in the van and organizing for each individual activity, leaving stuff out on the counters and just general in van chaos. While I may have been calling this Van Life. It’s not really like living. It’s like Van-cationing (or vacationing in a van).

The goal with this trip is different. I am spending about 8 weeks living out the van as my primary residence. I won’t turn down a free place to stay, and I’m currently staying in one those, but the van is my home. This means organizing the van in a way to LIVE out of it. Organizing in a way that doesn’t require moving everything from day to day to find clean clothes or brush my teeth. If I catch covid, I’m going to quarantine in the van. The additional challenge, I’m bringing my puppy. Coco is getting used to this as well. So I need to be happy and I need to keep my puppy friend happy as well.

Here are some observations from week 1:

  • Organize my stuff based on what I need daily, weekly, or on special occasion. The special occasion stuff can be much harder to get to.
  • Find a good place to sleep that is flat. Flatness is worth it.
  • I always know where the closest available restroom is.
  • Luckily, my dog can survive in the van without creating chaos for several hours if needed.
  • I am watching much less sports and TV. I’m still happy.
  • I can be happy with much less stuff than I thought I needed.
  • Better items are better than more items.
  • CLEAN everyday. The van will never be fully clean, but do a little every day to keep it clean. It’s a war, don’t give up.

I’m sure there are many more lessons to learn. I still haven’t achieved what I consider ultimate van living: do through meals and coffee out of the van for an entire day without anything purchased externally. Don’t know if I’ll get there this week, but the time is coming when I will achieve this goal.

Year in Review 2021

Each year, at the beginning of the new year, I take stock of what happened last year and think forward about what I hope to accomplish this year. Usually this culminates with some sort of resolution to attack more of something.

This year is about less.

I do too much, I stress too much and I work myself in too many different directions. This makes it hard for me to fully realize success in any one direction. That’s why the next year’s goal: determine what is important and more forward with less, will be a real challenge for me.

Looking back at last year accomplishments

  • Officially move the East Coast as my permanent residence.
  • Really invest in my relationship with my girlfriend (who is really rather special).
  • Road trip across the country to attend my best friend’s wedding in California.
  • Do a less than 48 hour trip to the west coast to be a part of a great company party.
  • Attend the Newport Folk Festival.
  • Start a more regular group of Newport Acroyogis.
  • Start frequenting an amazing coffee shop and proceed to tell everyone about it.
  • Adopt a wonderful Puppy.
  • Do a sail delivery for the first time and get some real experience on the open waters.
  • Pack and leave for a couple months of Van Life.

This year has been chock full of wonderful events and wonderful experiences. There is a bunch more that I’m forgetting, but it has been a full year.

There are many great challenges coming up for me, so I won’t dwell on the past. Expect more exciting news upcoming.

Learning and Thinking

I’ve come to the conclusion that my brain has started to work differently in recent years. I have grown, and my writing on this blog has evolved. It used to be that most of the content was uniquely interesting tech pieces. Notions in C and C++ and ruby and tons of other things technical. Over time I’ve developed a more personal feeling to the blog and there has been much less tech. What has been tech-related is largely code-independent.

I miss thinking about code. I miss thinking in a way to give back to people. I’m hoping to change that slowly over time. The thing I’m talking about today is one example in that direction.


A little while ago a coworker of mine asked me about my thoughts on the second brain. I have to admit, I had NO clue what he was talking about. So I did some research. I found this course about creating a second brain. The course is $3000 or so.

I don’t want to speak directly about the value of the course, because I haven’t taken it. The notion behind the concepts is particularly interesting, and it turns out Forte Labs aren’t the only ones capitalizing on this idea. There are a bunch of other resources out there about creating this collection of information.

The premise: collect thoughts so they are easy to find; organize them in a way so that you can connect related concepts; spend time organizing them when needed.

While some people’s goal is to create something for them, my goal is beyond that. I would like to put together a library of thoughts and learnings that I can then pass on to friends, family, and others to share the information I have learned throughout my life.


Enter the program I use: Obsidian.md. The more I think about this, the more I have been living some version of this idea for years. Before Obsidian, I was using a program called Day One. I have also spent some time working in Bear Writer. Each of these programs has interesting parts for me, but Obsidian has recently won out because:

  • It is available everywhere I need it: Desktop, Phone, & Tablet
  • Has a good methodoly for inter-note linking.
  • Fundamentally uses Markdown as a way to edit notes, meaning I can include more complex HTML elements if I really want to.
  • Because it is an electron app and there is a lot of documentation on it, I can customize it as needed. I have even created my own theme.
  • It exports notes to markdown. This means I can still view the notes outside of the app if I ever need to.

Honestly, Day One started out more like this, but over time moved to a less Markdown version to make more people happy. Markdown is not for all, but as someone who is relatively technically inclined, it works pretty well for me.

It doesn’t matter what program you use. What matters is that there is a way to link related content and it makes sense to you. Many people use Coda.io, some use Notion, and others use Roam.


I’m still at the relative beginning of this process. I’ve started reading some about Zettlekasten and taking smarter notes. I’ve got a bunch of work to do on growing this knowledge base, but I’ve started. The idea is that our brains are not great at remembering specific details, but are good at ideas. How can we help ourselves be more thoughtful and offload the responsibility of memorization?

More to come on this as I figure it out.

Eilonwy in Memory

Over a year ago, I met a woman who is now my girlfriend. Along with that relationship came the relationship with her feline companion. This was not the first cat to enter my life, but there was a special feeling around this cat from the beginning. I am plenty fine taking my time for a pet or child to warm up to me, however this cat demanded attention in a way no previous cat encounter had occurred.

The cat’s name was Eilonwy, pronounced Eye-Lynn-Wee!, and she was a joy to be around. I put a lot of effort into getting her approval. I would put my hand in front of her face, and if she moved forward, I would pet her. If she stayed still, I would pull my hand away. Many times, I would wander behind her as she traversed the apartment. She would occasionally glance behind to confirm that I was following her. I was there ready to be of service if she performed the move I called the “burritto.” In this move, the cat would sit down and roll on her side exposing the side of her body for long pets. The rule was, if she burrito-ed, then I petted her, no matter what.

Over time we formed, what I deduced, was a pretty strong friendship. We were each others’ pals. My girlfriend was clearly her person, but I was second. Not a close second, but still second. While it took a significant amount of time for me to use the L-word with my girlfriend, that was not the case with the cat. The love bond for me was quick and there was a running joke about how quick I was to fall in love with a four-legged friend.

I started calling her “my queen” and that ran into some issues with the girlfriend. We settled on calling her my princess and I would end most phone calls with “Tell my princess I love her.”

She is also the primary reason I adopted Coco. The girlfriend looked at me one day and said, “You need a dog, she loves you, but not the way you want her to love you. You NEED a dog!” So she is responsible for my pet ownership as well.

In October of this year, my princess started getting a bit lethargic. She was peeing in weird places. While there were a lot of additional factors going on, we were concerned. We found out that she had a degenerative kidney condition which meant her time with us was limited. Despite being put on everything we could put her on, she eventually just stopped eating because it was too painful. She lost nearly half of her weight by the time the girlfriend made the decision to let her go. It was a very tough decision. We were both there as they put her down. She left this world knowing she was loved.

I will be forever grateful to the girlfriend and cat for entering my life and changing it in so many positive ways. I am now a partial cat person. While dogs will always be my first love, I can’t imagine my life without feline companionship.

Here are just a few of the things I will remember about the cat:

  • She loved warm blankets and would only really sit on us when we had warm blankets.
  • She was incredibly vocal and would meow when upset. I loved the sound of her meow.
  • She was a hunter, and despite the fact it would hurt the girlfriend, she would bring in her prey. I was proud.
  • She loved string, better than almost any present one could buy her.
  • She liked physical contact and especially belly rubs.
  • She loved being outdoors.
  • Even when she would get upset, she was very slow to bite or paw at people, she would usually just walk away.
  • She loved cheese and fish.
  • She hated traveling by car!
  • She enjoyed being held by her person and sometimes by me.
  • Boxes were her kingdom.

Stowe, VT : A quick Visit

Just returned from a quick trip to Stowe, VT to visit a friend up there. It’s probably been about 5 or so years since I’ve really been up to the state, but I used to spend a bunch of time up there as a kid. My parents would drive us up to ski in Killington, VT. Before the journey, I couldn’t be sure if I’ve ever visited Stowe.

Long story short, as I did the drive up, there were landmarks that I remembered, like the Ben and Jerry’s building. So, I’ve been there before, but probably not when I have been able to drive.

Places Visited and Reviewable:

While I didn’t have a ton of time there (I was only there like 36 hours or so), I did visit a bunch of places for food and shopping.

Ranch Camp

The first thing Forest took me to was a place called Ranch Camp for lunch. This place is awesome. I got the Local salad and it was just great. While I think they are more known for their burrito’s this salad was on point. They also had some beer from Anderson Valley (from California), which is one of my favorite breweries.

5 / 5 Stars! Would recommend.

Woodland Baking & Coffee

Wasn’t overly impressed with the espresso machine from first glance, not a brand that I recognized. This led me to choose a cold brew, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. They use Carrier Coffee which apparently is relatively local.

The real win was the molasses buckwheat sugar cookie which was spectacular. I would definitely go back here again for more coffee and pastries.

4 / 5 Starts because I’m still somewhat on the fence about the quality of the coffee.

Black Cap Coffee + Beer

Super huge line for this place in the morning. Didn’t recognize their machine brand or the coffee. Also got a cold brew and chocolate croissant. The line was out the door to get the coffee and I probably waited 30 minutes for coffee that was just okay. Its location is great, it’s right in front of the big Stowe Church. I don’t know if I would return.

2.5 / 5 Stars

Stowe Sandwich Company

Got very high reviews on Yelp and I would confirm. Tasty place. I wanted one of the signature options, but they were sold out so I settled for the Thanksgiving meal. It was epic. Very tasty and the perfect amount of each. The one downside is that their hours were posted to 4 pm, but they closed early at 3:30 pm. Luckily we were there at 3:25 pm. Of note, the meal was pretty darn expensive. Two sandwiches, drinks, chips, and coleslaw for 41 dollars.

5 / 5 Stars, will return for more sandwiches.

Salon Salon Photo Spot

Woke up early on the one morning in Stowe and went here for photos. Was pretty and because it was sunrise and a little past peak leaf-peeping season, it was pretty empty. It was also cloudy, but I wasn’t terribly upset with the photos I ended up with here.

5 / 5 Stars, will return.

To Catch Next Time

Tiny House Hosted By AJ

This cute Tiny home is available on Airbnb and the view is amazing. You have your own private view of the water. Need to rent it for a night.

Sunset Rock

Another photo location to check out! Upset I missed it, but honestly, both days I was up there were super cloudy and rainy.

Vermont Artisan Coffee

Saw this driving up need to stop and check it out. Didn’t get to do it during their hours this trip, but high on my list for the next trip.

Thanks

Big thanks to KitLender for letting me check out their space and to my friend Forrest for hosting me around the town. His mom cooked amazing meals for us both nights and they were kind of enough to welcome me into their house.

Is it Time?

When I moved to Newport, I left a teaching process in California where was teaching about three to five Acroyoga classes a week. Covid was growing more dangerous and the idea of being close to other humans in the Acroyoga context didn’t seem like the best idea. As weather got better last year, I started outdoor jams, they were at pretty terrible times (9 am on a Thursday), but at least they were happening. These events had a mixed success. There were larger gatherings of up to seven people, but for the most part they were small groups of two or three.

But winter is coming and the weather is getting wetter and colder. This means that in order to really grow we are going to have start looking for an indoor space. There are increased risks with indoor spaces and I’m concerned about bringing in new classes. The area I’m teaching has a high vaccination rate, and there seems to be a lowering of cases. The concern is, though, starting Acroyoga is challenge. It’s a challenge in times where Covid isn’t a concern. Is starting a class now just too much? What if I start it and have to cancel it due to covid concerns? This is stuff I’m worrying about and I’m just not sure. Anyone have any good ideas here?

HTML Email

What some of you may not know is that much of the time at Salesforce was spent in the world of electronic mail (or email for short). Email is interesting and relevant today because almost everyone has it and communicates with it. It is an official form of communication.

What you may not understand is that the world of email is rather confusing. Basically, the email that comes over the wire is presented to you by your email client and where email gets very confusing is that there are a million different email clients. You probably use more than one. If you look at your email on a mobile device and on a computer that is two different clients. Then when you think about 3rd party clients and even GMail which renders in a browser, you have a client which is actually a client within a browser.

Because of the various numbers of email clients and security concerns, while the web has advanced, email was still written and styled like the early 2000s web. This means table layouts, no real stylesheets, and things like the center tag from way back in the day.

When I left Salesforce, I was hoping that my email wondering days were behind me. Well, for the most part, they are, but one common thing our clients need is to send emails to their clients. Bringing me back to writing stylized email HTML like the 2000s in table layouts.

Despite being very forward-thinking when it was first created, Gmail is usually the hardest client to style for. It’s not really their fault. They are presenting your email in a web browser and they have to be secure on their side of things. I don’t begrudge them thinking about branding and security. Still, things are starting to change and Gmail is now supporting some new things:

Gmail isn’t the only client, though. Because of this, much of the email stuff is still being done with tables. This is pretty challenging for those of us who have spent a bunch of time learning to do things right in CSS (though, to be fair, I’m not the best at CSS).

The association for me feels a bit like the Cobal programmers who were needed to fix all the old code used before the year 2000. Granted, we have better tools for conversion, but this does feel a little archaic.

A Good resource is:

https://www.udemy.com/course/html-email/ – a good course on how to work through HTML email.

I’m learning more things as I go through this process. So far, I’ve learned that not all divs are respected and also that you have to use a capital M in margin for outlook. You also cannot use SVGs in email, you must use PNGs. More lessons to come as I dig through this project.