Digital Pruning

26 June 2020 • Personal

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When I woke up this morning, I was following 733 Twitter accounts. As of right now, I’m following 435. 298 just got the boot.

I’m not sharing this to brag, or to to make you feel bad. I’m sharing this in case it helps you out.

There are moments when pruning the digital garden that we’ve cultivated is beneficial. My Twitter feed, for example, had an extremely low “signal to noise” ratio. It was all just people retweeting stuff or being angry or whatever, and not a lot of good thoughts, important content, & the like. My friend Patrick made mention of a service he was going to be using called Tokimeki Unfollow, and I decided to give it a once-over.

It’s actually really hard to go through all of the accounts you follow & try to determine who stays & who goes. Old friends you don’t talk to much? Companies that you really enjoy? The one person that shares a ton of content, both good and bad?

The thing that kept me going, and being really decisive about pruning, was the little line above the “Unfollow” and “Keep” buttons on the Tokimaki site: “Do the tweets still spark joy or feel important to you?”

As I went along, I made up a few guidelines for myself:

  • People over products
  • People over companies
  • Thoughts over mindlessness

So… following the people that were part of a podcast is more important than following the podcast itself. Similarly, following the people working for a company or publication is more important than following the company itself. In both cases, I can expect that the important content from the parent company will filter through via RTs.

Additionally, I cut out a bunch of people who did nothing but RT without substance. A friend (I believe it was Patrick (EDIT: I was right)) imparted some wisdom to me years ago; instead of a blind retweet, they were more interested in actually knowing what the person thought about the content they were sharing (often done via quote tweets). Thoughts over mindlessness. Signal over noise.

I’m not saying I won’t add these kinds of accounts back; on the contrary, if I find myself missing the kinds of things that they posted, I’ll absolutely follow them again. I’m just trying to do a hard reset for my feed, and for my mental well-being.

Additionally, for my sanity, I’m doing 2 additional things:

  • Removing Facebook from my phone
  • Installing (and using) an RSS feed reader

The former, I’m removing so I stop wasting so much time. The latter, so I can have a dedicated location to read content from all of those companies, blogs, etc. that I want to read.

I have no idea how it’s going to go. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a prune before. But especially with everything going on right now, I think it’s vital to have peace of mind wherever we spend time, and this is how I’m going to attempt to give myself some.

Did this help you? Do you have your own suggestions for how to keep your digital garden pruned? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!


25 June 2020 • Personal

<Insert the 30 Rock “What a year, huh?” “Lemon, it’s June” graphic here, because right now, generating that meme is just too much effort>

2020 is. It doesn’t rule. It DEFINITELY sucks. But here at the end of June, I’m just trying to make do with what I’ve got. I think that’s all any of us can do at this point.

There’s really no rhyme or reason to this post, at least not yet. That might change as I go, but for now, this is just going to be a nice little “life update”.

My 2020 goals have been all over the board. I’ve stagnated on my weight, I’ve not written since February, and I’ve only finished 2 books so far. On the other hand, I’ve cooked a whole bunch of stuff (that I’ve not written down, but whatever), and I’ve completed 13 games so far this year (including 5 in April). It’s apparent that priorities have changed quite a bit for just about everyone, given COVID, George Floyd, and everything else that’s going on.

So, what have I actually done this year?

Beaten 13 games

As I mentioned before, I’ve gotten 13 games completed. They are: The Outer Worlds, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Ori and the Blind Forest, Pokemon Shield, Control, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Halo: Reach, Halo, Outer Wilds, Halo 2, Chrono Trigger, & The Last of Us. I’ve been making liberal use of Xbox Game Pass for PC, which has unlocked a ton of other games for me to play, and I also hooked my PS4 back up in order to go through some of these AAA titles that have been collecting dust on my shelf. Horizon: Zero Dawn is next on my list.

I was really only able to do this for a few reasons… one of which being I FINALLY uninstalled League of Legends. I’ve been playing for 6 years, and it finally just got to be too much for me. (I did just recently replace it with Valorant, a fun new shooter from the same company, but I’m keeping a close eye on things to make sure I don’t repeat the same habits.)

Adopted a(nother) kitten

Please meet Beau.


Becca & I picked up Beau at the beginning of May, and he’s been a joy. Beau & Pixel are fast friends. Bearcat is still a bit apprehensive, but they’re bonding more and more every day.

Transitioned to Colemak

Back in March of last year, I blogged about my experiment with switching my keyboard layouts over to Colemak. I gave it up for a variety of reasons, but since I’ve been stuck at home for a few months now, I decided to go cold turkey with QWERTY and make the switch.

It honestly wasn’t terrible. I still had a bunch of muscle memory built up, and while I’m still nowhere near as fast as I was on QWERTY, I’m enjoying the more limited movements with typing. Plus, it’s a good conversation piece to have in my back pocket. (I’m still waiting on my Nerd Cred™ card to show up in the mail, though.)

So there’s one more thing I’ve done this year that’s pretty important. Some of you may have heard me talk about this over the last 3 months; I’ve written and deleted 4 or 5 posts about this because I didn’t want to seem like I was just bitching about it. Feel free to completely skip over this section if you want, but I think it’s finally time I put this down on “paper”.

Cut out toxic people

The first weekend of quarantine, I cut out an extremely toxic friend (and, by association, our friend group) from my life.

This was incredibly difficult for me. These 3 were the guys that I talked to pretty much daily through Google Hangouts or Discord for 7+ years. They were my gaming group that played games (like League) multiple times a week. We’ve been at/in each other’s weddings (for the two of us that are married). They were My People.

But for years, I’d been keeping one of them off to the side. He was the self-proclaimed asshole of the group. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it wasn’t. And in hindsight, a lot of the “funny” stuff was actually just me trying to laugh off some pretty rampant toxicity, bullying, and “guy talk”.

Things came to a head when he said something in our group, and just kept doubling down on it. It wasn’t a thing directed at me, per se, but it vividly showed me how much of a dick he was to anyone that he didn’t deem worthy of his presence. So, I cut him out. And the rest of the group sided with him (which I fully anticipated, but it didn’t make it hurt any less).

I’m not saying that I’ve always been this perfect poster child. On the contrary, I’d definitely said things within that group that I am ashamed of. But I believe that most (not all) of that mentality and behavior was due to the proximity & tacit approval that I received from this individual. Others around me have said that they’ve noticed a change in my persona since March; I jokingly chalk it up to “more self-reflection time in quarantine”, but really, I think it’s been because of more self-reflection time due to not having a friend group to talk to on the regular.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s sucked not having that group around. We celebrated victories (in game or in life), and were able to actually discuss some struggles, which is something a lot of men don’t have the opportunity to do. There were a bunch of hard days/weeks in there when I didn’t have that group to talk to anymore. But now? I’d say I’m out the other side, and ultimately better for the decision I made.

I’ve been interacting with one of the guys more frequently, and another one on a couple occasions. But I haven’t spoken to the toxic one in (quick math) nearly 15 weeks, and I’m not at all upset about that. He knows how to get in touch with me if he feels like it, but I doubt that day will ever come.

So yeah. 2020’s been real weird. I’m ready for some sort of “normal” to come back. I’m happy that I’ve been able to work remotely throughout all of this, but I’m just very ready to get out of the house and experience life again. I hope you’re all doing well too.

How are all of your 2020 goals & resolutions going? Are any of you doing smaller goals like I am? Have you had great success or serious setbacks? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

Time To Update Some Goals!

14 January 2020 • Personal

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I KNEW that doing the smaller goals in 2020 would pay off in spades.

My entire goal for this year was to set small, achievable goals every quarter. Then, if I hit a goal, I could set a new one for the remaining time, or if I missed a goal in a quarter, I could analyze why and reevaluate if I should continue to aim to achieve it or replace it with something else.

To that end, I said that one of my “Get Healthy” goals was to lose 6 lbs in the first quarter of 2020.

I did it in 2 weeks.

Honestly, it wasn’t all that difficult. I’ve been logging all of my meals in an app called MyPlate, aiming to get both my standing and movement goals fully closed every day on my Apple Watch, and just be smarter about the fuel I put into my body. I had a few days where I splurged (watching the Patriots get beat in the AFC Wild Card game was not conducive to a positive food or alcohol intake), and as such, my weight chart wasn’t a flawless downward trend. But overall, I made a nice downward progression, and I achieved my goal in 1/6th the time I allotted for it.

I think the best decision I made (thanks to the suggestion of my wife) was to use MyPlate. I’ve tried doing the apps before, but nothing really clicked with me. This one did, though, because it includes a spot to log your weight right on the main page of the app when you load it up. They also will pipe in your calories burned from your Apple Watch (on the iPhone version, at least), and include a spot to log your water intake.

MyPlate Screenshot

For me, I’m the kind of person that likes to have all of these tangible things in front of me to play with daily. Plus, the app will notify me if I forgot to log something, which is a nice touch as well.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve found myself actively thinking more about what it is that I’m eating or thinking about making. Like last night; I wanted a bag of popcorn (which is all carbs, btw), but we didn’t have anything. So I thought about making eggs and toast. Or peanut butter toast. Or a wide variety of other things. Instead, I settled on just having a cheese stick. I’ve found myself actively walking away from doughnuts, soda, chocolate, or chips at work because I know that I’ll have to log them, and I’ll be unhappy with myself if I do.

But the other really cool thing that I’m a huge fan of is the “Burned” and “Net” calorie sections, and how your progress bar updates throughout the day with your movement and exercise. It’s nice to see how going to yoga basically doubles my “Burned” calories, or that working a shift at the brewery will triple or even quadruple it depending on how busy we are. Small little things that help you reaffirm the “Duh” aspects of how exercise can affect your weight loss journey.

ALSO! I’m modifying another one of my goals.

My final long-term goal for the year was “Write More”, which I think was a good one to set. But instead of allocating it to just doing blog posts, I’m going to mix it up a bit.

I discovered a great little website called 750words thanks to a random blog post I came across on Twitter. The premise is simple: every day, you go to this site and write (at least) 750 words about whatever you want. Some people use it as a blog. Others use it to help them write a book. Apparently the community is big on participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November), which is something that I’ve tried and failed at twice before when I was younger. They’ll send you email reminders every day if you want, which I leave sitting unread in my inbox until I’ve had an opportunity to pop over and get my writing in.

As far as topics? A few days, I’ve just journaled. Today, I wrote this blog post. On a couple of days, I’ve popped over to the Writing Prompts subreddit and snagged an idea that looked fun from there (and they have indeed been fun). I try not to be too critical about what I write, I just write. The important thing is to get the words down on the page; I can always go back at a later date and edit them if I really need to.

So yeah. 2020 is off to a great start. I’ve already made 4 of 6 recipes and finished a game (The Outer Worlds, which was really fun). I’m going to need to buckle down and make sure I do some reading, as well as spending some outside-of-work time working on some code projects. But so far, so good!

How are all of your 2020 goals & resolutions going? Are any of you doing smaller goals like I am? Have you had great success or serious setbacks? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

2020 Q1 Goals

30 December 2019 • Personal

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If you’ve been keeping tabs on my 2019 goals, it’s pretty apparent that I whiffed on juuuuust about all of them.

If you read my recent post about patience, you’ll know that I intend to be better about that by breaking them down into much smaller, more easily achievable chunks.

I’m tired of missing the boat on all of my goals, getting discouraged, and feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything at the end of the year. My priorities shifted a ton since last Dec/Jan, and seeing such a daunting goal still looming in front of me on things like my weight loss made me just stop trying at all.

So! Let’s set these achievable goals, and see if we can do any better this year.

Long-Term Goal: Lose Weight, Get Healthier

Q1 Goal: Lose 6 lbs. in Q1

Updated Q1 Goal: Lose 10 lbs. in Q1

2 pounds every month. I’m itching to bump it up to 9 lbs., but I don’t wanna get ahead of myself. More water, maybe a few less cookies, and this will be EASILY achievable.

EDIT 1/14/20: I was right, it was easily achievable. Bumping this up to a 10 lbs. goal, so aiming for 177.2.

Date Weight (lbs) Weight Lost
1/1 187.2
1/14 181.2 -6 lbs

Q1 Goal: Make 6 new recipes in Q1

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I’m going to be tracking all of my recipes in 2020. Ready to put this notebook to good use.

Recipe Date
1. Avocado & Black Bean Salad 1/1
2. Low Carb Breakfast Casserole 1/4
3. Chicken Adobo 1/10
4. Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup 1/12

Long-Term Goal: Continue to Improve My Software Dev Skills

Q1 Goal: Create a New “Backlog Dreadsheets” Site

If you’ve been around my site before, you’ve probably seen my video game or books backlog spreadsheets. While these are fine, they’re really bulky & inelegant solutions. Also, now that I’ve started a new job & started working with a new language (Ruby/Rails), I’m trying to find little projects that I can do to help me learn quicker.

To that end, I’ll be working to develop a site to track all of these. Should be pretty straightforward, a nice learning opportunity, and it’ll allow me to have everything sorted exactly how I want. Wins all around.

And speaking of these backlogs…

Long-Term Goal: Work Through My Various Backlogs

Q1 Goal: Beat 2 Video Games

Game System Completed Date
The Outer Worlds PC 1/3

Q1 Goal: Read 2 Books

Book Author Read Date
Wanderers Chuck Wendig 2/3

I’ve had a book sitting on my nightstand for a few months now, and just got 4 more for Christmas. Maybe it’s time I open them. I’ve also got a myriad of games installed on my PC for years. I need to actually launch them and beat them.

Long-Term Goal: Write More

Q1 Goal: Write 6 Blog Posts

Updated Q1 Goal: Write Every Day on 750words

This is the one I’m actually going to push myself on. Not only do I have to write 6 posts, but they’re not game review posts or anything like that. Actual content, things that I actually thing need to be said or logged for posterity.

EDIT 1/14/20: Changing this up, and instead I’m going to aim to write & hit my goal every day on I started on Jan 8, and am currently on a 7 day streak.

That’s it! 6 goals for Q1. Keeping them small, simple, and achievable. I want to blow past all of these goals, and give myself the motivation to either stretch these for Q2, or open up to some different goals in the spring.

What goals do you have for yourself? Are you planning to do monthly or quarterly goals this year? Need someone to check in with you and keep you motivated? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

2019 Music Of the Year, Part 1

26 December 2019 • Personal

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Every year, I’m always anxious to find out what people’s albums or songs of the year are. Every year, I lament that I should’ve started in on my own ranking earlier on, so I’d have something to contribute.

This year, I finally did it.

While the lists have taken numerous forms1 since January, it has been meticulously updated since the start of the year. It’s been cool to watch my perceptions change along the say. My #1 album of the year was usurped in the final hours by another album that had been out all year, and finally clicked with me. Even though I’m really into the progressive rock & metal, a ton of indie (and some hip hop???) made its way onto my list. I’ve found it absurdly difficult to keep a running list, and actually had reservations about saying “this album is better than that one” later on in the year2.

So, without further ado, let’s start the lists!

Singles of 2019

I wanted to start with my favorite EPs and singles of 2019, which are not ranked and just exist as individual bright spots on the year. All of these hit me at a certain point in time that made me go “whoa” for various reasons, and I wanted to share them with you (some with commentary, and some without).

Killswitch Engage - The Signal Fire

Genre: Metal, Metalcore

I’ve been listening to Killswitch Engage since I was in high school, and fell in love with the band when Howard Jones became their singer after Jesse Leach’s departure in 2002. Jones himself had to depart from the band in 2012 while dealing with type 2 diabetes, and the band eventually brought Leach back to be their vocalist.

For 7 years, I had been crossing my fingers that the band would bring Howard back to split vocal duties on a tour, or even a show. Instead, I got a song and a music video! The magic moment starts at 0:51 below.

Pomplamoose - Lisztomania (Phoenix cover)

Genre: Indie

Pomplamoose is another band that’s been with me for years. I remember listening to their covers of the Angry Birds theme song or Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ in college. Over the past year & change, Nataly and Jack have been recording a ton of unique mashups, covers, and originals with the help of some of their friends, and they have all been killer. I encourage you to check out their full video catalog if you enjoy this video.

Bad Snacks - Oh, Shoot

Genre: Hip-hop, Chill hop

At some point earlier this year, I stumbled across Andrew Huang’s “Flip the Sample” challenge, and I was blown away by the creativity of all of the participants and the concept of these videos in general. Watching Snacks transform the simple piano line into a beautiful chill-hop beat was one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2019. (Honorable mention to Virtual Riot’s flip in the video.)

Jakub Zytecki - Sunflower

Genre: Prog rock, Instrumental

Just a gorgeous track from Jakub, making me wish I could write music and guitar lines even 10% as good as he can.

The 1975 - People

Genre: Indie rock

I’m constantly impressed with The 1975’s ability to completely transform their sound from album to album, or even track to track. The punk aesthetic of this song grabbed hold of me the day this track dropped, and actually inspired this entire category to be created.

Warning: do not watch this video if you suffer from epilepsy

Voyager - Colours

Genre: Progressive metal

This song grabbed me with its blend of metal and synthwave, a genre I took a deep dive into earlier this year.

Opeth - Lovelorn Crime

Genre: Progressive rock

This album will be making its return on my Albums of the Year lists, but I wanted to specifically call it out here as well. The guitar player was talking about this song in an interview, and stated “[Lovelorn Crime] started off in the demo stage of the album, Mikael [vocalist] had this beautiful ballad. He asked me, ‘I want you to do a long solo. I want this to be the solo that people will remember you for when you die’. I thought, ‘Okay, thank you for the pressure, mate.’” Sit back in your favorite chair and give this track a listen.

That’s it for the singles. Stay tuned in the coming days for my favorite albums!

What do you think? Great tracks? Terrible songs? Did you have any particular favorites in 2019? You should hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

  1. First just a text list in Notes, then a full Google spreadsheet, and finally a Trello board so I could drag & drop the albums in order. 

  2. Music is art, and art is subjective. That’s why all of these are going to be labeled as my favorites, and not “best of”, because what I enjoy here in December 2019 is drastically different than it was in January 2019, or what I’ll enjoy down the road. 


11 December 2019 • Personal

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I don’t actually know if my mom liked cooking, but she did it a lot and was good at it. Her Yummy Bars were always the best thing at any party, and everything she made was always full of flavor and the literal definition of comfort food. I know my dad loved to cook; he was the grill master, the one who made rigatoni or pancakes, and the one who did the most experimenting with spices when Mom was away.

But me? I hated cooking growing up.

I don’t know why, but cooking was never something that I latched on to when I was a kid. The only things I would “cook” were frozen pizzas, ramen noodles (the 10¢ packs), and later on, some boxed Kraft Mac & Cheese. A far cry from making Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family.

I can actually pinpoint the key moments throughout my life that instilled a love of cooking within me. Moving to college and discovering the Food Network during Thanksgiving break. Moving into an apartment and getting sick of frozen dinners (and being grotesquely overweight). Making some pizza rollups1 or frying eggs at 3am with college friends. Moving to a new city and going to a massive farmer’s market that next day. Meeting a really amazing woman & deciding to make her stuffed peppers, death-by-chocolate cake, and hundreds of other delicious things as a way of convincing that I’d make good husband material.

(It worked.)

But now here I am, years later, trying to figure out how to best catalog all of my recipes. I’ve been using an application called Evernote for years, but a variety of things are making that not a great solution for me. I’ve had a few people suggest Google Drive, and storing the recipes in separate notes with links, change management, and search functions. I think if I go back to a technology-rooted solution, this might be the one.

Instead, I think I’m going to go analog for 2020.

I’m always a huge fan of nice notebooks. Not the 39¢ versions you get while back-to-school shopping, but the really nice ones like Decomposition Books or Moleskine notebooks. My handwriting generally sucks, but I always get satisfaction from writing things down when there’s a purpose to it. I’m also not a sentimental person, but the idea of a functional log of handwritten information that I can share with others holds strong appeal to me.

To that end, I think my solution is going to be this: using a Moleskine notebook (or series of notebooks) to keep track of all of the recipes I cook in 2020. And I think I’ve already figured out a system for this:

  • Write down the recipe on the left-side page.
  • Keep a “made it” log on the right, complete w/ dates, notes, and revisions.
  • At the end of the year, anything that was made >= 3x gets added to the Evernote archive (or wherever my recipes are living at that point in time).

That’d actually provide me with a few key things:

  1. Intentionality. Anything I make gets written down.
  2. Journaling. I’m a big fan of journaling or blogging or whatever it is people do to talk about what they’re thinking, so this gives me a quasi-way of doing that.
  3. Reducing clutter. Right now, EVERY recipe I have resides in Evernote; there’s a couple dozen that have never been made in the 7+ years I’ve been cataloging them. Pruning or purging is hard, because “well what if I want to make this someday?” This would help me eliminate clutter.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? You have a better suggestion? You should hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

  1. Canned crescent roll triangles, each with 6 slices of pepperoni and half a cheese stick. Roll ‘em up, bake ‘em how the roll instructions stipulate, and enjoy. Try not to eat them all in one sitting. 

The Perfect* Thanksgiving Dinner

30 November 2019 • Personal

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Every year around mid-November, I find myself pouring over blogs, articles, and all of my saved recipes in order to find the perfect dishes for Thanksgiving. I’m telling you that so that you understand what the true purpose of this post is: not a put-down of your beloved recipes, but a storehouse for mine1.

Note: My Thanksgiving dinner is no more perfect than yours; I’m just super happy about how everything turned out this year, and wanted to share the recipes with all of you.

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner for my family for about 4 or 5 years now, back when my wife and I were dating/engaged. It’s routinely us, her parents, and my dad at the dinner table, though one year it also included my wife’s sister, her husband, and their three children. Some of us are somewhat adventurous eaters, but I distinctly remember my mother-in-law telling me one year “I just want a plain turkey with salt and pepper. Don’t do anything fancy.” So I’ve known that whatever I make not only has to be great, but it has to appeal to the masses.

(One quick tip before we begin: are you someone that panics and wonders “oh no, when is {thing} supposed to go into the oven?” Use a spreadsheet and plan it all out like I did.)

So, without further ado, here are the recipes that I made this year (plus some commentary, because what’s a blog without commentary):

Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas Turkey + Gravy

(For those that like to read, here is a link to the turkey recipe)

I love Gordon Ramsay. His energy is a combination of a kid in a candy store plus a Wall Street day trader strung out on coke, but that kind of energy is infectious, you know?

To be honest, I never liked turkey before I tried this recipe. It was always dry and gross, no flavor, just a boring meat that nobody should cook. Now? I look forward to this every year. It’s a blast, it’s really not that hard, and the best part is that it’s just chilling on your counter while everything else bakes2.

The gravy is also an excellent one, full of flavor, and you get to make it right in the roasting pan over a couple of burners, which always makes me feel like an actual chef whenever I do it. Pro tip: as soon as you put the turkey in the oven, use the giblets and start making a stock out of them. Replace the chicken broth in Gordon’s recipe with this stock. It’s delicious.

Bon Appétit’s Simple Stuffing

In previous years, I had made a sausage and herb stuffing for Thanksgiving. It always turned out delicious, but I felt that doubling up on the meats lent itself to being really dense and heavy.

Bon Appétit has been on heavy rotation for me lately; they’re one of the handful of YouTube channels that I watch every video of. Tons of inspiration, lots of laughs, and extremely educational. So when they said “oh, THIS stuffing is THE stuffing”, I knew I had to give it a shot. And wouldn’t you know, they were right. Absolutely perfect in every way, delicious, and a crowd pleaser. This was one of my 3 new recipes for this year, and one that’ll stick around for a long time.

Bon Appétit’s Ultra-Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Look, you can be as healthy as you wanna be on Thanksgiving, and I’m not going to stop you. If you want bland, boring potatoes that take forever and just kinda sit there on your plate, be my guest.

But if you wanna put in like 5 minutes of extra work to make some heavenly potatoes? These are what you should make. As the 2nd new recipe I made this year (and the 2nd from Bon Appétit), I know there are some things I’d do slightly different next year3, but they WILL be made again next year.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

This recipe crossed my Twitter feed the Monday before Thanksgiving, and was the 3rd new one I made this year. It seems a little daunting; making soup just for a casserole?!? Where the heck do I even find dried shiitake mushrooms?

Oh. My. God. Y’all, this was SO worth it. That soup was delicious, the casserole turned out amazing, and I will definitely make this again.

(Bonus points: you can make the soup up to a week ahead of time, so you can just assemble day-of and go.)

My mother-in-law’s scalloped corn

We’re gonna end this post on the most not-good-for-you thing on the menu, and quite possibly my wife’s most favorite food in existence. This one’s not posted online, so I’m just gonna write it out here. You need:

  • A pound of Oscar Meyer* thin smokey bacon
  • 2 tubes of Ritz* crackers
  • 2 cans of Delmonte* creamed corn
  • 2 eggs

The prep is super easy too.

  • Cook up the bacon in whatever way you prefer, let it cool, and then dice it up. (You can do this the day before)
  • In a decently sized oven-safe bowl, combine the crackers and the corn. Whisk up the eggs, then add them & the bacon in and combine.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour.

Note that most of the ingredients call for a specific brand; I’m not the expert on this one, I’ve just been specifically instructed to not f*** this up because using alternatives makes for an inferior tasting product.

And that’s it! That’s the Lake Family Thanksgiving, leaving us with full stomachs, tons of leftovers, and a happy family. Next year, I might make a cranberry sauce from scratch… anything else? Do you have a favorite recipe that you think I should add? Or is your version better than one of the ones I found? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat about it.

  1. But really, you’re gonna want to keep reading, because these recipes are absolutely divine. 

  2. Always rest your meats after you cook them. Always. Steaks? Rest ‘em. Chicken on the grill? Cover them with foil. Pork chops? Wait, you fool! 

  3. In the video on their post, the guy uses a potato ricer that only has holes in the bottom. Mine has holes along the side as well, for some reason, and lemme tell you, molten hot riced potato is not something you want to get on your hands. I’m either replacing this or removing the skins before ricing next year. 


21 November 2019 • Personal

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If you polled the people closest to me and asked them to rate my patience on a scale from 1 to 10, I’m confident that most of the results would come in below a 5. If not, then they clearly don’t know me well enough. Patience is something that I’ve never embodied in my life, much to my detriment at times.

For those unaware, I just started a new job on Monday. I’m now back in the software development world, using new languages (Ruby/Rails) that I’ve never used before1. My coworker who is guiding me through a lot of the stuff has told me numerous times “don’t worry about being useful for the first month or so, just pick up what you can and learn.”

And lemme tell you, as someone with 0 patience? I take that as a challenge. “What do you mean, I won’t be useful for a month??? I can pick this stuff up quick! Look, here’s a pull request!!!” I have no desire to sit at my desk and feel useless; being bored at work is the worst.

Or hey, let’s talk about my Kickstarter that failed miserably. I was all fired up, ready to go, ready to get back into making some great music. I got some swanky headshots taken, I figured out exactly how much I needed to raise, and I made my Kickstarter page look really nice.

My wife, who runs her own business and does her own marketing, told me numerous times “make sure you’ve got an emotional hook,” or “plan out some content to post in the coming days,” or “don’t just expect people to donate, give them a reason.” And of course, being the stubborn idiot that I am, I completely ignored her. “My music is great. People will love it! I got this,” I thought.

The result? I got a ton of people to donate on the first couple of days, and then nothing. And since I’m impatient, instead of actually following her wonderful suggestions, I got mad and frustrated and watched my plans completely crash and burn.

One more example: take a look at all of my 2019 goals I set. 6 of my 7 goals are currently not completed. Only 1 or 2 of those actually has a shot. And you know why? Because I set massive, 365-day-long goals, didn’t see enough progress early on, got impatient, and gave up.

Does this last one sound like you? Did you set some goals for this past year and give up because of a lack of early-year progress?

Then do what I’m gonna do in 2020: don’t make yearly goals. Make them quarterly, or even monthly.

One thing I learned at my last job is that when you’re working on a project, not only do you need to set realistic expectations, you also set concrete and achievable milestones. Those milestones are almost more important when it comes to accomplishing your goals or projects. If you hit them, it gives you inspiration and something to hang your hat on. If you miss them, it gives you a chance to re-assess your long-term plan. Can you get back on track & hit the original deadline? Do you need to adjust and extend that deadline out a ways?

So. 2020. I’m going to be setting some long-term goals, and they’re gonna look similar to what they looked like this year. But my goals that I’m going to track? Those will be quarterly goals. Tangible steps that I can accomplish. A way for me to not get so discouraged if life happens and I miss the mark.

Will you join me?

Did you enjoy this post? Did something I say really resonate with you? Am I just flat-out wrong? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat about it.

  1. Side note: I’m sorry to everyone that I’ve ignored over the years when you’ve talked about how awesome this language is. 


9 August 2019 • Personal


I’ve come to discover that it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to be your own hype man if you’re not used to doing it on a regular basis. I’m gonna practice it now. Y’all ready?

Some of you may know that I have previously released music under the name The Music Plays You. I recently launched a Kickstarter for my next album, “Holophrase”, and it’s currently sitting at 21% funded (thank you so much to those who have contributed so far). I’m simultaneously excited & nervous about doing this, for a variety of reasons, and I thought I’d write a little blog post to talk about it.

Side note: I genuinely wonder how many other people who have run a Kickstarter have had Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” stuck in their head like I have.

Who or what is The Music Plays You?

The Music Plays You is my solo music project for all of my post-rock, ambient, and instrumental creations. I’ve been writing and recording music for it off and on since 2012, and after a 6 year hiatus, I’m ready to release some more tunes.

What exactly is “post-rock”?

Wikipedia defines post-rock as “a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbres over traditional rock song structure, chords, or riffs.” Basically, take any modern guitar-based rock music, take out the vocals, and then make it interesting enough that it never needed vocals in the first place. A couple popular post-rock acts include Sigur Rós, Radiohead (especially their work on the Kid A album), and Explosions in the Sky, who gained in popularity after being featured as the soundtrack to the TV show Friday Night Lights.

Why do you need to Kickstart this? Why not just release it?

My wife and I ran into some unexpected expenses when we moved this past fall, and it necessitated me selling off a lot of my recording equipment. So, some of the funds from this Kickstarter are going towards replacing those items.

Additionally, I learned after releasing my first EP that having someone master my album or create artwork for it should be something I plan from the beginning, and not an 11th hour afterthought. I’ve already reached out to people and gotten things lined up, and the rest of the funds will go towards that.


What does “holophrase” mean?

Let’s go back to Wikipedia again! “Holophrasis is the prelinguistic use of a single word to express a complex idea. A holophrase may resemble an interjection, but whereas an interjection is linguistic, and has a specific grammatical function, a holophrase is simply a vocalization memorized by rote and used without grammatical intent.”

Here’s an example: when a toddler says “Up!”, what they’re probably saying is “pick me up so I’m not on the floor.” “Food” might really mean “I’m hungry, and I would like something to eat.” “Ball” probably means “I want that ball that you currently have.”

The concept of a holophrase caught my attention about a year ago, and I’ve been fascinated with how that can and does shape my music. I’ve been gathering words that elicit feeling and emotions out of me, and using them to craft songs and melodies. I’ve not solidified any of the tracks yet, but you can hear an example of what the word Foundation elicited out of me once upon a time.

Why has it taken you 6 years to put out new music?

Oh man, you didn’t actually think you were gonna get out of here without an emotional hook, did you?

When I was 4 years old, I went and sat down at the family piano, and asked my mom (who was a piano teacher) to teach me how to play. I spent the next 14 years honing my craft, and eventually became one of the best under-18 piano players in the state of Iowa. I also picked up drums & percussion, bass, and guitar along the way as well. I was a 2-time All-State percussionist, and entered college as a music education major. While that didn’t pan out for me (got bit by the injury bug), music has never left my blood.

In the fall of 2012, while in the midst of recording my first EP Sailing, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I rushed to finish it, because I wanted her to be able to hear what I had done.

I had planned to release the EP on my birthday, February 13th. My mom passed away 2 days earlier, on the 11th.

I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to share the EP with her before its release, because I felt like it was a way of saying “thank you” for all that she had done for me. But for years afterwards, my desire & energy to make music has dwindled to the point where I haven’t really sought out making music.

After some conversations with a couple of people this summer, that energy has been rekindled, and I am ready to jump head-first back into the fray. Sitting and feeling sad and not using the talents & gifts my mom helped me develop doesn’t do anyone any good; I’d rather release more music and put all of this energy and emotion to good use.

So yeah. The Kickstarter is live, and will run until August 23rd. I’m so excited about this album, and I hope you all are as well. Any amount helps, even if all you can afford is $1. Thank you so much for your support, and I cannot wait to share this music with all of you.

May Check In

1 May 2019 • Personal

Well, I intended to do this quarterly, but I kinda dropped the ball on it, so I guess I’ll be doing 3 updates this year on my goals progress. Mostly for me, but also for you!

Goal 1: Lose 36 lbs

I’m currently down 8.4lbs, which is great! However, I lost 8.8lbs in the first month, when I was hyper-focused on my goal (and I got the flu and a nasty cold, which sucked but also helped me shed some weight pretty fast). Also, if I wanted to be keeping pace, I should be down an extra 3.6lbs (12.4 net), so I’m a little behind there. I’m looking forward to getting back into yoga heavily, focusing hard on what I’m eating, and getting out on the bike as the weather warms up.

Goal 2: Cook 12 new recipes

I’m currently sitting at 7, with most of those coming in the first month as we got hyper-focused on eating better. The Egg Roll in a Bowl is outstanding, and we’ve made it a handful of times since. The cucumber chips are probably my wife’s favorite. Looking forward to some more stuff out on the grill!

Goal 3: Record 12 songs, and release a new album

Honestly not sure if this is going to happen or not. I’ve had a few realizations in the past few weeks that have helped me understand why I have such a hard time making music nowadays, and I’m not sure if that’s something I’m going to be able to get past or not. I have TONS of ideas ready to go, though.

Goal 4: Complete 12 video games

Bad news: I haven’t completed any yet.

Good news: I have 5 in flight, with 3 (Pokemon Let’s Go, Dark Souls 1, and Half Life) nearing the finish line.

GREAT news: Last night, I hit Gold in League of Legends on my main account. This is something I’ve been trying to do for 6 years now, and I finally accomplished my goal. I immediately uninstalled the game, as I know I have a HUGE backlog to get through. I’ll likely go back in June, but I wanted to force myself to have May to focus on other games. I don’t have League, Overwatch, WoW, or Apex installed currently, so we’ll see if that helps galvanize me.

Goal 5: Read 12 books

I’m super impressed as to how well I’ve done on this so far. 5 books down, although technically only 4 count, as I had a mini-rule that only 3 of the books I read could be repeats. The Armored Saint by Myke Cole is the only new book I’ve read so far this year (and it was great!). Up next is The Eye of the World, the first of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Goal 6: Write 36 blog posts

Not doing great here! I should be at 12, but this is #5 (although I have at least 3 more topics in the works). Once I start getting some games completed, that will help as well. If you’ve got any topics you’d like me to write about, PLEASE let me know!

Goal 7: Finish writing (and start running) my D&D campaign

This goal has hit a major speed bump. For one, I’ve not made the time to work on this since February. For another, my D&D group has not played in over a month; schedules have gotten crazy, a child has been born, and we’ve just not made it a priority for ourselves. This was last on my list for a reason, as I wanted to prioritize pretty much everything else above it, but I would like to do more with this at some point soon.

So there it is; my 4 month update. Some goals are going great, some not so great… but that’s ok! These were just guidelines to help me feel like I’m doing something with my year, and things always change in terms of life priorities and the like.

How are your goals going? Do you need some motivation? Do you have any motivation for me? Use the hashtag #GoalsUpdate when you message me on Twitter and let’s chat!