2018 Resolution Update: March

Another update on my resolutions.

Budget

Well, this month sorta broke the budget. But I saw that coming, somewhat. Lucky for me, March was a three paycheck month.

I spent more eating out than I wanted to, even though I inflated the budget for post engagement eating out and our preplanned nice dinner the day after1. I felt like I got a bit more lax after I broke the budget, which is a bad habit. When I saw myself doing that I tried to tighten things up. I’ll be important to bounce back next month, particularly with our vacation coming up the month after.

Unfortunately, I noticed two days ago a bulge in my front tire’s sidewall. Not a good thing. I ended up having to replace all the tires, which wasn’t too bad since 3/4 were originals with 43k miles on them and the other about 30k miles. That was a pretty penny though. Low profile tires on 18 inch rims look cool, but they come at a cost. I didn’t have enough planned in car repairs this year, but luckily I had some slush funds that I didn’t allocate for that reason. Next year I will allocate significantly more for my car.

Cooking

I did end up hosting a big Chicken and Waffles night and it was a success. We borrowed Rachel’s parent’s fryer and I had to get that thing out of the house before I started trying to fry all the things. I met my goal of times eating lunch out, and it was always a social aspect either with friends or my team.

Losing Weight

I didn’t have a measuring tape. But I did go under 230 for the first time this month. I ended the month right at 230 for 4 pounds lost in the month. It was good to see a full month of the graph trending downward.

I am looking forward to getting more outside activity in now that the weather is getting better. Yesterday we went on a nice hike at a park in Baltimore City and I hope to do more of that this year.

iOS

Well, I bought a flight, tickets to Alt Conf and their Podcast Festival, and an AirBNB. San Jose, here I come.

As I wrote earlier this month, I’m at a bit of a development stand still because of Marzipan. But to be totally honest with myself, I didn’t make it a priority with all the other things going on in my life.

It will be hard to find the time for app development with work, grad school, and life’s other distractions. I hope I leave San Jose ready to write some code. I am taking Android Development for grad school this summer so I hope I learn some transferable skills / am able to write some algorithms that I can convert over to Swift for my actual apps.

Miscellaneous

I didn’t end up tidying up my desk much more… This month passed me by. After I was done prepping and thinking about proposing, I was in a whirlwind of celebratory hangs and wedding chatter. I hope that dies down a bit this month and I am able to focus on a few more things in life. A micro goal for this month is launch the podcast I have been working on with my friend Jun. We have two episodes done and ready to release, we just need a logo and a site at this point.

Development Paralysis

When it became clear that I would not have my golf app finished in time for this year’s season, I decided to halt development and consider another app idea that wasn’t seasonal. As I began to workshop the idea, it became fairly clear that the app would best be served as an iOS and Mac app.

Well, we might get a new UI framework this summer to do just that.

So instead of building this spring I’ve been waiting. I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed in myself for procrastinating on this project, even if I can rationalize a reason to do so. This time of year is when many established iOS and Mac developers refine what they already have, but as a new comer to the space, I feel guilty for not creating and simply waiting.

Proposal Behind The Scenes

On Saturday, I proposed to Rachel. She said yes. It was awesome.

But a lot of people have asked me for more specifics, so I want to go into a deep dive here.

Prework

I felt it necessary to ask for her parents’ blessing before proceeding with any real planning for the proposal. I even felt bad looking at rings before asking. Not because I was worried they would say no, but because I thought it was disingenuous to ask their blessing whilst making plans. I wanted to make it a genuine gesture and conversation, so I decided to head up to their house when I had a family party in the area later that day1.

It took some time to get to asking them due to an unexpected sister visit and not wanting to cut off conversation, but we did eventually get there and the response was great. It was at that moment that I truly felt accepted into the family. Rachel’s family has always been kind and inclusive towards me but it was still a special moment in my eyes as it was the first time I really expressed what their family meant to me.

Before leaving I let them in on my seedling of an idea – to use their dogs and house as the setting for “The Albatross Protocol.” 2

The Plan

In early January, after my cousin’s wedding which kickstarted Rachel’s engagement fever, we visited her parents. When we parked in their driveway they let out the dogs to greet us. It was later that night when trying to go to sleep that I had the idea of recreating that moment as part of the proposal. I stayed up entirely too late searching the web for others who have tried something similar.

The original plan was to have the dogs deliver the ring in a box. I searched Etsy high and low, and there seemed to be nothing like it. A lot of people end up tying the ring to the collar with a ribbon or a small lacy bag. That wasn’t quite rigid enough for my tastes.

Then I had the idea of my aunt Polly to make a box to attach to the dogs collar. She is exceptionally skilled with woodworking and I knew she could make an incredible keepsake. Though the plan started as a box for the collar, it quickly became apparent that the box would be too large and simply too beautiful to put on the dog where it could potentially get gnawed on by the other dog.

So what to do? I initially thought a special dog tag saying “Will you marry Alec” could work, potentially with a ribbon to draw attention to it. I also saw bandannas online to the same affect. Though I like the subtle nature of the dog tag, I didn’t want to potentially point it out to Rachel so I decided to go with a more obvious approach with the bandanna.

I’m glad I did. I spoke to my friend Alice about it who did an incredible job making the bandannas. It was her idea to put “She said yes” on the back and make them reversible for a photo op. I loved the idea and they turned out nicer than anything I could have ordered online. Since I proposed on Saint Patrick’s Day – more on that later – I decided to lean into it a bit with a subtle clover pattern fabric and green ribbon accent around the exterior of the bandanna. They came out great.

Another reason why I wanted to propose at Rachel’s parent’s house besides the dogs is because I know how much her family means to Rachel. As a big believer in our chosen family too, I wanted to make sure to invite some of our closest friends. I am so glad that Rachel’s parents were okay with playing host for this day. Having my mom there with some friends and her family made the day even better and Rachel ended up loving it.

The Date

Around Christmas last year, I commented to Rachel how I would never propose on a major holiday because you already celebrate that day and it makes more sense to add a new day to the calendar to celebrate. She joked, “knowing you you’ll propose on a little holiday like Earth Day” and I replied back, “no, a bit too mainstream, but I would consider Arbor Day.” Turns out, Arbor Day is a Friday in late April. I proclaimed it a wonderful day to get engaged and it was a running joke that Arbor Day would be the special day.

Clearly, Arbor Day was no longer in the running.

But I did want to propose before our trip to London3. I also wanted to propose on a “golden weekend” so Rachel could enjoy the whole weekend and not have to worry about work. That gave me two options, March 17/18 and April 14/15.

I also wanted to see if I could plan for us to go to Opera Night at Sotta Sopra, one of our favorite restaurants downtown. They do this once a month and lucky for me, both months happen to hit on those golden weekends. I thought this would be a great distraction from the main event, though Rachel apparently never thought much of the plans considering we had talked about going for ages and because she correctly assumed that I would not propose at a restaurant.

March 17/18 won out for two reasons. Rachel became available for Easter through a schedule shift4 and I thought it would be great for the family to  see her post-proposal. Second, I rather plan for the early weekend and fall back to the later one if weather was poor. I mean, if today’s weather was a few days ago, I doubt I would be writing this blog post or a major last minute change of plans would have been in order.

The Box

Like I said, this box went from a box to hold a ring box on a dog to an actual ring box. What a good change of direction that was! Polly did an incredible job. We sat down at my family party just after I asked for her parents’ blessing and she learned my preferences in wood and styling.

I was responsible for the etched logo on the cocobolo5 but she did the rest. I’m glad I gave her a direction and let her run with it because it allowed her and Lisa to surprise and delight me with the final product. I never imagined it would come out that good. A great touch is the magnet to keep the box shut. It reminds me of my various Apple products.

The Ring

Rachel and I had looked at rings a few times together so I had a good idea of what she wanted. Luckily for me, we have the same tastes so I was pretty confident anything I selected would be a winner. The only thing Rachel was torn about was whether to get diamonds along the band or not. Ultimately, she decided they distracted from the main stone and to go with a plain solitaire.

When I went looking with my Mom at a few places and ended up with a family friend, Rhoula. We told her what we were looking for and mentioned side detailing and she pulled out the perfect ring. It was a unique style, with diamonds on the side. If there is such a thing as love at first sight, it was me with this ring. My mom says I have never been so excited about a product not made by Apple. I think she’s right.

My only gripe was the stock version had 4 prongs and we both prefer 6. This small tweak took over 6 weeks to make, but it was absolutely worth it. Thanks for all the help Rhoula.

The Execution

After a historic UMBC victory, I was up the night before basking in Twitter. I eventually was exhausted and fell asleep around 1:45am and woke up promptly at 6:15am, earlier than a work day, because obviously getting good rest is too much to ask for on a day like today. But lets be real – the last time I woke up so anxious for the day to begin was Christmas morning as a child.

I made a nice bacon and eggs breakfast for us to try and pass the time and calm my nerves, but I basically had to force feed myself because I had no appetite. One goal of mine was to not drive so I could text updates 6 to the people at the house so I acted like I wasn’t feeling well –I wasn’t– and should try and get some rest on the ride up — knowing I wouldn’t. Rachel bought it and said she would drive up this time.

About 10 minutes from her parents’ house is a lovely bagel shop we like to get things from. Luckily this made my request for a dozen bagels with the idea of having some leftover for the week a believable one.

As we drove down her street, I insist she never has obeyed the speed limit so closely. It felt like it was taking entirely too long. We finally drove into the driveway and parked and Rachel giggles seeing Lucy in the window with her bandanna7. I sold getting out of the car per normal as she did the same. Once she got near the dogs I went back in to grab the box out of the bag8. When I turned the corner from the car I had the box on display and she started to say yes repeatedly. I told her to hold on and let me ask my question, guiding her to the center of the yard as Jun closed in to take photos9. As I was petting the dogs and she let out another “yes” the peanut gallery inside the house started to cheer. I laughed and waved them to come on out. It was once everyone filed out that I finally said my spiel, which basically amounted to “I know how much your family means to you and I wanted to make sure they were all a part of this special moment. Rachel, will you marry me?” Finally I got the yes that actually mattered, after months of planning and overanalyzing.

Cheers. Kisses. Hugs.

2018 Resolution Update: February

Another update on my resolutions.

Budget

This one I’m most excited about. Every budget came in under projections this month — though I did up my Transportation budget 30 bucks for all months since I noticed I undershot that original estimate mainly because I added things like tolls, Lyfts, and parking to that total.

I haven’t spent time with any automation tools or apps like Mint to help with these expenses like I mentioned last month. I’m actually thinking of opening some additional savings accounts to better visualize the different things I am saving for so I don’t build too much lock in with a service like Mint.

Another thing I have gotten into is stocks outside my retirement savings. I made a small account and have made over 6% returns in the month, which makes me quite happy. I haven’t gotten in too deep yet, but I can definitely see myself spending more time with stocks in the second half of the year.

Lastly I got some good tips from this video that I hope to implement. One interesting one is to keep a month’s worth of expenses in a rolling monthly CD. I think that will be a nice augmentation to my rainy day fund.

Cooking

I was better this month than last which is fantastic because last month was a big improvement too. One goal I have for March is to host some friends over for dinner. I miss making band meal and it would be a nice way to socialize with friends without having to spend money eating out.

Losing Weight

This morning I clocked in at 234, so I guess you can say that was an improvement, though I simply got back to the weight I started the year at. I lost my way at the gym again, but I did start it up again a few days ago (I honestly think this post is the reason for that). I plan to go tomorrow morning and keep this alternating schedule going.

I forgot to take measurements last month so tomorrow morning I am going to take them — assuming I have a measuring tape.

iOS

Again, I spent more time contemplating WWDC than coding.

I do have a plan, which again I came up with during my ride to work this morning. Forcing myself to give updates with my accomplishments makes me work on my shortcomings. I’m going to make an internal companion app that will help me data collection I need to do for my main app idea. This was a great idea from Curtis, who is definitely earning himself a beer or two next time I see him. Making this app for myself will help me get more familiar with Core Data and iOS development in general while also keeping it low pressure since this app will never go outside a TestFlight to anyone else I want to help with data collection.

Miscellaneous

I cleaned out some unused clothes from my closet and cleaned up my desk a bit. I want to finish cleaning off my desk this month which probably means getting some sort of drawer system or something. Or better utilizing the one I already have.

🎵 HomePod Test Playlist

When buying a car in 2015 I created a playlist of test tracks for my future car stereo as it was one of the most important features for me. I decided I should take that same playlist, make some edits, and use it for HomePod tomorrow. I’ll let you know what I think about it once I’ve had some time to play with it.

  1. Big Money by Rush. Thanks @joec. A new addition, but I have always though Power Windows was one of the best produced Rush albums.
  2. 6:00 by Dream Theater. That opening drum fill is a great test of soundstage.
  3. Blank Space by Taylor Swift. The thick bass and crackling synths in the chorus give HomePod a lot of layers to play around with.
  4. New Rules by Dua Lipa. A new addition. This song has been my latest pop obsession and the way it makes my Soundsticks sub dance makes me excited to try it on HomePod.
  5. Hope by Rush. Gotta hear some crisp acoustic guitar work.
  6. The Enemy Within by Rush. I was really into this song when I got my car. I think 80s Rush is always a good test because of all the layers of synth.
  7. Losing It by Rush. I think I can cut this one. Even for me, there is a lot of Rush in this playlist but I think they really do have a wide diversity of sound that makes each of these valid in their own right.
  8. Leave That Thing Alone by Rush (specifically live from Time Machine Tour): A new addition. I need to hear how HomePod articulates Geddy’s signature live bass tone and this is probably the best example. Fun fact, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame agrees: this is the song they play for Geddy’s Fender Jazz on display.
  9. Spring Break Mix 2015 by Kap Slap. I used this to test the EDM output. Specifically around 22 minutes when Five More Hours kicks in.
  10. Illumination Theory by Dream Theater. This song has a lot of moments of complexity that I like to test, particularly the symphonic moments.
  11. Don’t Take Me Alive by Steely Dan. A new addition. Steely Dan is known for their extremely well produced, jazzy sound. This is one of my favorite tracks by them with great vocal harmonies.
  12. Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash. A new addition. Another song with great vocal harmonies that I want to use to hear how HomePod processes each voice.
  13. Sharped Dressed Man by ZZ Top. A new addition, mainly because I want to listen to it tomorrow. Its pulsing low end and necktie shout outs should be pretty cool.
  14. Paperback Writer by The Beatles. A new addition to the list mainly because it hard pans the instruments in the stereo channels and I am curious how HomePods computational computing will handle this input.

Unleash Apple Watch

The last few days I’ve been going to the gym in the morning and doing about 30 minutes on the elliptical while watching some YouTube. I’ve been tracking my exercise using Apple Watch’s Workout App. I don’t have any of the power saving features on.

After my workout, my watch is at 100% battery. My Series 0 would be at ~75, even when the battery was brand new. I know that 100% is never truly 100%, but every morning it is at 100% after my workout. The battery life of Apple Watch has improved dramatically year over year and it’s time to unleash it.

I’ve been tracking my watch’s battery each night before hitting the charger and on my longest day of over 6 hours of usage it ended with 66% battery. There has to be something we can do with this excess battery.

I would be surprised if the Series 3 could not support a low power watch face all day that becomes the watch face we are used to upon raise to wake. If this is exclusive to a new hardware revision of the watch (which I wouldn’t be surprised by) I’d be disappointed. I know that feature is one that would drive upgrades, myself included.

As much as I’d like to see a more robust developer API for the watch to enable better apps and things like podcast playback, I’d take an update that exclusively gave an always on watch face.

2018 Resolution Update: January

With January in the books, I wanted to update my status with my resolutions.

Budget

I’m happy with my first full month of budgeting, though a few things went over budget. I spent more eating out than I wanted to, and a touch more on miscellaneous purchases but I’ll allow it. There are a few reasons for that.

One of the main reasons I went over both budgets was because of spending in Williamsburg. I wasn’t sure if I should include those costs in my travel budget or not (which has some excess at the moment due to a great flight deal I found). I chose not to.

Another reason I am considering it a success is because I was diligent with my spreadsheet and I made sure to log every transaction in a timely manner. This practice definitely made me more intentional with my spending, which was the whole point. I am thinking of spending some time with Mint this weekend to help automate things a bit. I know I won’t do the spreadsheet forever and I think if I keep the practice of managing my finances daily, it’ll achieve the same effect.

Cooking

I did this. I cooked a lot more this month and I only had one lunch out and it was with a friend. I’ve been buying a lot of groceries on the outside edge of the store meaning lots of vegetables, fruits, and proteins. I did spend a lot of money eating out socially this month – more than normal – but I am glad most of the time I ate out, it was to see good friends. I only bought dinner once because I was lazy.

Losing Weight

This morning I weighed 236. From a number perspective, I failed hard this month. But I think there is more to it than the number shows. I don’t have numbers to back this (I plan to change that for next month’s update), but I feel like if I measured myself, there would be losses. I’ve had more beer than normal this month (social eating out == social drinking), which I believe is the main reason the number hasn’t been going down. I need to cut down on that in February. During the second half of January I started to go to the gym and I want to keep that momentum up. Only allowing myself to watch YouTube on the elliptical sure helped me go downstairs and break a sweat more often.

iOS

I have spent more time this month pricing out flights and AirBNBs to WWDC than coding. That isn’t good. I did convince myself to email Curtis Herbert about one of my app ideas since his experience with Slopes would apply. He got back to me with some advice that I plan to follow. Thanks Curtis! With my grad class starting up, I’m disappointed I didn’t make more headway with my app.

My goal for February is to pick an app to develop and make a few storyboards and features. My guess is it won’t be the one I spoke to Curtis about since I would miss the beginning of the season at this point and I could use my other idea to get more experienced with iOS so I can make a bigger splash with the other idea down the line. I’ll be entering a crowded market with feature rich applications. I will need my A game to get a piece of the pie.

Williamsburg

This was a great weekend getaway for us. I hope we are able to do more of these with Anna and Brian as difficult as it may be with our clashing schedules. I recommend Williamsburg if you’ve never been. I found it quite interesting to hear from the different journeyman about their training in various traditional trades from the time period. We got lucky with an unseasonably warm weekend in January. It was nice going off season – I understand the different places of interest get packed during the summer and lines form. For us, there was never a line and we never felt rushed to leave a conversation.