December 2016

7 January 2017

December began with a flight back to New Orleans from Greenville. Christmas was around the corner, and the city was sure to recognize it with its vast display of light and decorations. I visited an impressive light show in City Park–acres upon acres of themed light displays and even some fake snow. Luna Fête, an arts and light festival, materialized downtown and I was awestruck by the video projected onto the pillars of the art museum. The fifteen-minute show depicted a colorful history of the resilient spirit of New Orleans and seemed to transform the building it was projected upon. In addition, a few friends came to visit before I was back in Greenville to deploy software in the shop. To our relief, it was a successful Go-Live.


After hassling with poor Delta policies on flight changes and cancellations (they charge you to cancel one leg of your trip and keep the second, FYI), I returned home to Grand Rapids. Through visiting friends and family, I got to see snow, go skiing, and witness the changing urban landscape of downtown. A week was plenty of time for a Christmas visit, but it was, as always, welcomed. As much as I like Christmas, I did notice a lot of stress and discomfort among the people celebrating it. Personally, I’d like to reduce the holiday to its core–lose the presents and decorations and focus on giving oneself to others and sharing good spirits. Unfortunately, it’s hard to change tradition. Un dulce resignación.


After Christmas, my parents and sister flew back with me to New Orleans. I played tour guide and we got to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the French Quarter. Despite the rain, it was fun to break our traditions and explore a new place. As we welcomed 2017 from my roof, we watched countless professional and amateur fireworks explode around the city. The smoke of Louisiana freedom filled the wet air until the lights and buildings blurred into obscurity.


It was great end to 2016.


November 2016

3 December 2016

November is one of my favorite months of the year. It’s cool, the trees naked, prep for winter underway, the holiday season begins, and I get a lot of writing done. Albeit the excitement, it’s certainly a busy time. National Novel Writing Month kicked off on the first of November and concluded on the thirtieth. I participated for my third year and “won” (a.k.a “wrote 50,000 words for a future novel”). The book is certainly far from complete–the first draft is only half done and I need to run a mop through the word vomit of that first half. But, I produced the words and that’s all that matters.


In addition to writing, I had my fair share of truck troubles–battery connection failures, oil leaks, dents, and more. Whatever I couldn’t fix, I brought to a mechanic across town. It was a good use for my new bike–having to ride ten miles across town several times between appointments, at night. After dropping some of my emergency funds on the repairs, I hope to squeeze another year out of the truck.


On a more positive note, I had the opportunity to attend GE’s Minds+Machines conference–a two-day event in San Francisco, showcasing the company’s digital industrial journey. I helped out with the Renewable Energy display and got to talk to many minds about the machines they work with. Shortly after the event, I headed home to Grand Rapids for Thanksgiving, so I visited family and a few close friends. Immediately after that, I flew back to Greenville for work stuff. For whatever reason, all but one of these dozen flights had me in a middle seat. The good news? I learned to sleep sitting up.


October 2016

15 November 2016

Alligators really like marshmallows and chicken necks. Feeding wild gators was the perfect start to a month of tourism. A handful of friends and acquaintances visited New Orleans as well, which gave me an excuse to experience the gamut of local activities–air boat rides through the bayou, a tour of Oak Alley Plantation, and stops at famous greasy spoons. Amidst the bits of local tourism, I had a few work-related trips: a day in Greenville and a half-week in Detroit for ScrumMaster certification. While back, I visited Grand Rapids with my parents and East Lansing to see my sister. Speaking of Michigan, my absentee vote retrospectively mattered this election.


After returning to New Orleans, I bought a watch and a mountain bike. I now spend much less time checking my phone without recalling the time. The analog face forces my mind to do a small translation, thus making me react to the time as opposed to just getting distracted with app notifications. Also, being a flat and relatively small city, New Orleans is a bike-friendly place that enables me to have a backup form of transportation. This is useful, given the current condition of my truck.


I also explored the other side of Pontchartrain. After a marathon-long bridge, Fountainebleau State Park offered a remarkable sunset beach amidst cypress pines. I also found the remnants of the illegal Pikachu statue that sat in Garden District during late summer. Drawn in the concrete base was a QR code and #pokegone.


September 2016

7 October 2016

A native Louisianan told me that New Orleans has four seasons: Football, Mardi Gras, Crawfish, and Hurricane. This month, I got a mild dose of the latter. A paddle-boarding trip turned into hiding beneath a low overpass while thunder, lightning, rain, and wind came–quite literally–out of the blue. Grocery store trips turned into unexpected, soap-less showers. Evening strolls…you get the idea.


The interesting thing about the weather was the local variability. One section of the sky was blue and cloudless, another dark and stormy. You could stand beneath bawling clouds on one side of the street or be high and dry on the other. If you waited a minute, you’d have the inverse. Weather doesn’t bother me, but the unpredictably sure made planning difficult (for outdoor activities).


In addition to unplanned rain, I had some unplanned truck issues. The battery in my pickup was old, so it died. Unfortunately, my parking spot was on the fifth floor of a downtown garage. Long story short; I taxied to an auto store with the dead battery, got a new one, put it in, and everything was fine. Despite the wasted time and cost of a new battery, it wasn’t a big deal. On the bright side, I got to experience the weird concept of taxiing to an auto store.


This month, I also had the pleasure of visiting a Renaissance Festival and playing tourist on Bourbon Street. I’d do the former again, but likely won’t for some time. I’d prefer not to do the latter again, but likely will soon. To expand my mental map of the city, I joined a few meet-up groups in different parts of town and discovered new public parks.


If the month was a dream, it has surely ended in October. Didn’t have to tell work to wake me up when September ends.


August 2016

13 September 2016

No sooner had I unlocked the door to my new apartment was I on a plane again. Back to Schenectady. Like Greenville-Spartanburg, the Albany Airport was a familiar haunt. Despite certain layovers, there’s something to be said about second tier international airports. The workers are pleasant, security light, and the terminals easy to navigate; yet you can go anywhere you need for much the same price as starting at a hub–Hartfield-Jackson, O’Hare, etc. Gerald R. Ford, my home airport, is much the same. And although I’ve rarely used it, it has the same calm appeal of home as GSP and ALB.


MSY, from the first of this month and onward, has evoked the same feeling–but in a different way. Upon first arrival, it felt like a caricature of the new city: jazz playing over speakers, purple and gold coloring on advertisements, the fleur-de-lis tattooed on every other sign. But I soon learned that the airport, like the city, owned its image. It wore it with pride and was deaf to criticism. Whereas Upstate New York seemed littered with ego and self-consciousness, New Orleans stood with confidence and character. The subsequent interactions I’ve had with the city–be it the people, work, grocery store, restaurants, or on the streets–has stood true to this perception. The city seems alive, despite its awareness and acceptance of danger and death that surrounds and pervades it. Hurricanes, alligators, heat-lightning, voodoo, raised cemeteries, giant sewer rats, decrepit buildings, and vomit-filled potholes; the city is dynamic. It contains a playful wisdom–a full acceptance of all things that have occurred, are occurring, and are to occur–that is manifested in its many quirks. I enjoy these quirks and hope to indulge in as many of them as I can. However, my time here is temporary. I don’t know what came before me or what will come after, but from stumbling around this August, I can be sure of this:


I’m happy to spend the rest of the year here.



7 August 2016

Another six months disappeared. A few days ago, I moved out of Greenville and drove down to New Orleans, where I will be spending the remainder of this year. It was a great time of year to move further South, especially in a truck without air conditioning. Shortly after leaving South Carolina, it started to rain–which meant more humidity and closed windows. It was a sweatbox for me, but a greenhouse for my plants. At least somebody benefitted.


En route to New Orleans, I stopped at Britton Hill, Florida’s highest point. At a soaring 345 feet, Britton Hill was the lowest of the fifty U.S. highpoints. Similar to the flat peaks of Indiana and Delaware, Florida’s was nestled beside a cornfield. Next to a parking lot at the entrance to a wooded park, the highpoint was denoted by a stone marker, some benches, and a prominent wooden sign perfect for posing. As usual, a stranger was kind enough to snap my picture.


Britton Hill. 345 ft / 105 m. 30 July 2016.




July 2016

6 August 2016

This month I had my latest Samwise Gamgee moment of “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” That farthest step lies somewhere in the Hungarian countryside.


My company was gracious enough to send my colleagues and I to Budapest, Hungary for a month of IT training for two and a half weeks. There we learned broadly about Big Data–from warehousing to reporting and database design to governance. It was good to fill some of the gaps I had in my technical know-how and hone expertise in SQL and Tableau. We also saw a few of the company’s manufacturing sites, located in the countryside . In addition to the time in Budapest, I explored other parts of Europe before and after, as this was my first time leaving North America.


I flew into Paris and saw the usual tourist attractions for a day, took a train to Zurich and visited a lake and design museum, and took a night train to Budapest. While there, I thoroughly enjoyed the bathhouses and was surprised to find zero nude people. Pokemon Go helped me discover several small landmarks on both the Buda and Pest sides of the city. There was a lot of beautiful old architecture–which was evident across Europe. After training concluded, I was nickel-and-dimed (or the Forint equivalent) on Wizz-Air en route to Rome. While in Rome, I visited more touristy things–Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Vatican–and ate pasta at several family-owned restaurants. Although each of these restaurants were owned by different families, they had a franchise feeling of sameness–same dishes, same prices, same tablecloths, same complimentary bread. Europe, as a whole, was an alright experience. The public transit was very good, seeing as it was available, timely, and affordable. The food was also good–healthy and tasty and served with an ample amount of time to enjoy it. The architecture was old and historic–aesthetically nice but filled with the problems that accompany it: leaky pipes, spotty electricity, and poor air quality within. Most cities were walkable, but decentralized to the point of sameness throughout. Most buildings were low (less than 10 stories) and identical to their neighbors. Generally, the lifestyle was lame. People sat around at cafes and restaurants most of the day and had subpar service. Elevator floor buttons were labelled sensibly with integers (-2, -1, 0, 1, 2) and the date and time formats (21:00 – 12 July 2016, for instance) jived with my logic. Europe wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was different, but it was still the Western World. And on that front, I prefer America.


After flying home to Greenville–with logistically irritating stops in Charlotte and Atlanta–I packed my apartment and tied loose ends. I then moved to New Orleans to start my new assignment. Along the way, I stopped at Florida’s highest point and followed the Gulf Coast through Alabama and Mississippi.


There were a lot of new experiences this month. I look forward to some time to reflect on them.