Watch Box

I never properly documented this project when it was done, so here it is now. Design was made in AutoCAD and Solidworks. Highlights from the Watch Box project, May 2016:

Step 1: Pop Out

Step 2: Sample Test

Step 3: Sanding

Step 4: First Coat

Step 5: Assemble Test

Step 6: Second Coat

Step 7: Tracks

Step 8: Cover Assembly

Step 9: Glass Install

Step 10: Pillow Test

Step 11: Accessories

Step 12: Matte Black

Step 13: Hardware

Step 14: Black Felt

Step 15: Finished

2017 Year in Review: The Hustle Is Real

For those that follow me, log in to Instagram for links to accompanying photos.

On my drive home from work today, listening to Kaleo's "Way Down We Go," I realized I have been unusually content with my life recently. The latter half of 2017 was downright incredible—in terms of personal accomplishments and career, at least. More on this later.

2017 for me started in York, PA, where I was visiting my "adopted" white family, and was convinced by Taylor and Aysenur to purchase my own sewing machine, mainly so that I can start tailoring my own clothes. So I did.

In January, I officially received my MD engineering license, the first of many. I even stamped and signed my first few projects. Later in the year, I obtained licenses in VA and DC as well. OK is still pending.

In February, I attended Smrti and Eric's wedding in Saratoga Springs, NY. While up there, I visited my sister and did some sightseeing of good old Albany, NY.

In April, I started upgrading the old Trek road bike Taylor gifted me a few years ago. The repairs started with a broken brake cable replacement, just to get it rideable again; I didn't anticipate a full upgrade. But piece by piece and about $1,000 later, I had new wheels, tires, brakes, shifters, and levers. Later in July, Taylor and I biked the (painfully uphill) 40-mile rail trail from Cockeysville, MD to York, PA.

In June, I visited Detroit for the first time (outside of DTW), to hang out with Taylor, Graham, and Sarah. I went camping, by Lake Michigan, for the first time. Unfortunately, the observation level of the GM Renaissance Center was closed for renovation. But did catch glimpse of Motor City Pride.

In July, I attended Myra and Ben's wedding in Cambridge, MA. It was nice to hang out with the bros again.

In August, I resorted to Solar Eclipse Plan C, but still found my way to the path of totality for the "American solar eclipse." I drove from Washington, DC to Nashvegas, TN to visit a few friends, and decided to attend a viewing party in a place called White House, TN, about 30 minutes north of Nashville, to stare at the sun. I was even randomly asked to get photographed, and later featured on the local newspaper website. (The ten hour drive alone in a white Kia Soul was a new personal record for time and distance.) On my way back, I detoured through WV, which was my first time in the state.

In September, I had my first surgery—nasal septoplasty and turbinoplasty. I was getting extremely anxious as I prepped and signed all the paperwork in the Nemo Room, especially considering how it was an entire voluntary procedure. At the time, I felt pretty foolish for volunteering for it. I walked myself over with my IV bag to the cold operating room, laid myself down on the table, put my head on the purple foam pillow, and then next thing I knew, I woke up in my recovery bed with gauze taped to my face. Fortunately, there were no complications. Thanks to Kelsey for being my adult chaperon and caretaker for a few days at home. I was prescribed some narcotic painkillers, and I took some just in case (and just so I could say I took narcotics for the first time), but there was essentially no pain whatsoever; just some swelling and numbness. Splints were removed just four days after the operation. The amount of packing that the doctor removed from my nostrils was astonishing. (I even asked the doctor if I could take a photo of it all in the trash.) Most of the recovery took place over a few weeks. I was able to go running in about two weeks. Full recovery took just about a month. Quality of living—a.k.a. breathing ability—has increased substantially. Highly recommend!

In October,... well October was pretty eventful. After over a year of realizing I needed to quit my job, I finally got serious about finding a new one by the end of summer. On Friday, October 6, I went in for an interview. Because of my propensity to schedule all the stressful things for the same time, I immediately followed up the interview with a four-hour engineering certification exam. I passed the exam, and I was extended a job offer the same day. All of this was followed by a celebratory drive back to NYC to spend time with family for the weekend. I remember listening to Cold War Kids' "Love Is Mystical" during the drive north. It felt appropriate.

The following weekend (October 13-15), one of my HVAC vendor reps took me and a few other engineers to San Antonio for a engineering seminar trip. Of course, while in Texas, we all opted to visit a shooting range and eat lots of steak. We also visited the Alamo and the River Walk. Having never shot a gun before, I had to slowly work my way up from 100 rounds of a .22 pistol to ending up trying a .308 FN SCAR 17 rifle (from which I kept a fired casing as a souvenir). Yes, it was loud. Yes, it was terrifying. Yes, it was a cool experience. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to do it again though, at least not for a while.

I returned from the all-expenses-paid San Antonio weekend trip and put in my three week's notice that Monday, October 16. It was three weeks, and not two, because I had already planned a work-related seminar and factory tour trip to Germany... which I still went to, because at that point, WHY THE HELL NOT? A free one week vacation, essentially between jobs, which meant no worrying about work emails whatsoever.

This year was probably the first time I definitively fulfilled my new year's resolution—to run a 5K. During weekend runs on the National Mall, I was able to run a full 5 km, on perfectly level ground, in 36 minutes, if I could finish at all. The morning of Saturday, October 20, two coworkers and I ran the Baltimore 5K. Somehow, I finished in 29:06. Later that same day, I was on a plane to Europe. Yes, after the 7 hour flight, my knees and calves were tight and in pain. I limped slowly through customs in Brussels, and waited for my connecting flight to Berlin. We started in Berlin, to Liepzig, to Cologne, to Attendorn (stayed at a castle!) to Rheingau, to Frankfurt. Needless to say, the Germany trip was also paid for by others. I spent maybe $200 in total, primarily for getting to and from IAD, daily international mobile data plans, and souvenirs. What a trip!

On November 04, I left Gannett Fleming. By that time, I logged the most overtime hours in 2017 among mechanical engineers in the company (198 hours); not sure if that's something to be proud of or not. I regretted having to abandon my friends and allies in the company, but it was about time to leave the toxic environment in the Facilities group. I teared up when I said good bye to my boss. Dave and I watched The Book of Mormon in expensive second row seats at the Kennedy Center that night.

Just two days later, on November 06, I started my new job in Rockville. On November 11, I celebrated my birthday in York, PA and test drove a new MX-5 Miata for fun. (First time successfully driving stick-shift on the streets, and surprisingly did okay.) On November 14, I flew to Rapid City for a multi-day work meeting, and found time to see Mount Rushmore; it was okay. Dinosaur Park was pretty neat too.

When I started the new job, I was at first very suspicious why people were so chipper around the office and why they were so nice to me. Like, what are you trying to hide? Two months into the job, I've concluded that maybe sometimes people are just nice, that maybe it was because there isn't a backstabbing narcissistic manager in the office like my old place had. So that's good, I guess. So far at the new job—as "senior mechanical engineer," whatever that means—I've been able to keep up. So far. The hustle is real.

What a year!

Summary from all the air traveling in 2017:
  • New state visited: West Virginia, Texas.
  • New country visited: Germany.
  • New airports visited: ALB, BRU, FRA, RAP, SAT, TXL.
  • New airlines flown: Brussels Airlines.

I'm going to wrap up 2017 having added about 23,050 miles on the SCP3SHP this year, for a four-year lifetime total of about 89,650 miles. With my new commute that is now a third the distance and half the time compared to what it used to be, my rate of mileage accumulation has plummeted, making it just that much harder to join the 200,000 Mile Club. Fingers crossed! I've been considering getting an old Miata to play around with as a spare car; haven't decided yet. With help from Taylor, I also learned how to do my own oil change, brake and rotor replacement, and spark plug replacement this year. Learning from mistakes is the best way to not make them again... like driving 65 mph for 40 miles with loose lug nuts... true story. Also worth of note on my car ownership adventure: I got my first flat tire on the Mazda, and also my first parking ticket.

2017 was also the year I finally decided to take my Cornell diplomas out of their cardboard sleeves and install them in decent frames. They're now in fancy frames, in a plastic bag, in the back of my closet.

I hope 2018 will be just as productive, challenging, and rewarding as 2017 has been for me. It is odd though that my "good" year was the same year of increasing national and international turmoil. With an ongoing investigation of probable collusion, explicit White House nepotism, obvious presidential lies, various terrorist attacks (domestic mass shootings by Americans count too), nuclear escalation with North Korea, and America's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, I hope 2018 will bring us some correction to the national embarrassment that is Trump and the blatantly hypocritical Republicans that surround him. Hopefully, we'll learn to put aside "alternative facts" and focus on real ones, and hopefully disgusting men will learn to keep their hands to themselves. Good luck to us all.

P.S. AirPods may looks like snot dribbling out of my ears, but using them day-to-day in the office has been truly magical.

P.P.S. Flannel sheets in wintertime make for fantastic dreams.

2016 Summary

At the end of last year, I promised that 2016 was going to be life-changing. As I sit here and type this year's journal entry in my apartment, I can say without a doubt that 2016 truly was.

Last year, I wrote:
2015 began and continued the same way 2014 ended, i.e. depressingly. This November and December, though, has brought me a lot of mental clarity that I was severely lacking for over a year and a half. I suppose, other than studying for various professional certifications throughout the year, being depressed was starting to become a second hobby. Talking to friends helped tremendously.
At the end of 2016, I get to say that I now know what recovering from depression feels like. My desire to seek logic in the illogical combined with my innate sentimental and obsessive nature hasn't served me well.

This year, I paid off my car loan in full on Jan 2, 2016, way ahead of schedule. I officially got my PE license on Jan 11, 2016, although I did not pursue my CxA like I had hoped. Earlier this year, I told my boss I was unhappy and planned to quit (though my feelings on the matter and my general irritability have since mellowed somewhat). I negotiated a 16% pay raise this summer. I stamped and signed my first engineering project just a few weeks ago. I've developed a decent working reputation with my suppliers and clients. Enough that one of the guys took me out to a Ravens game earlier this month, my first NFL game: Dolphins @ Ravens, which ended with yet another ridiculous Baltimore home game victory of 38-6. (See Orioles games from last year.)

I found myself getting back into woodworking and painting, and built myself a watch box out of laser cut birch plywood. Some assembly required. I bought myself a Kindle paperwhite and found myself reading again. I bought into the "smart home" idea, started getting back in to coding, and spent way more money on gadgets and devices than I'm willing to admit, especially for my tiny apartment. I went to a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers in DC with a new friend back in October. I saw Lindsey Sterling perform in DAR Constitution Hall DC with old friends. I learned how to bleed and flush brake fluid with help from Taylor and Graham.

There were just a few vacations this year, but I did find time for relatively random excursions here and there: I went on a sponsored, week long engineering seminar near Atlanta during the last week of March, where I got way outside my comfort zone and learned to socialize and network with so many awesome people. I saw the "bean" in Chicago with the bros (and Myra) early May. I drove down to Richmond to see Blue Man Group with a friend late May. I went on a Boston-Portland (ME) trip with my sister in August. (No new airlines in 2016, but I get to add ORD and BOS to the list of airports I've visited!) I went home to Brooklyn five times this year, which is one more than last year. So I guess that's an improvement. And in case anyone's keeping track, I've visited Taylor in York three four times in 2016, including once for New Year's weekend.

I'm on track to round out 2016 with about 22,300 miles this year, for a total of about 66,600 miles on the three-year old SPC3SHP.

Last year, I said that I should meet some people and get a life. After some self-discovery and coming to terms with who I am, I think this year has finally set me on the right track. Given all that's been terrifying in politics, the news, and the real world this year, I find myself cherishing this opportunity for self-reflection and taking advantage of the post-election months by going on figurative long walks in the woods. I mean, it'd be nice to maybe find a new passion that I can commit to—something, for once, that's not related to my employment or professional career.

P.S. Against the sound advice of a friend and my better [objective] judgement, I was selfish and decided to "re-pursue" a relationship, just to have my heart broken again. I suppose it's true—nothing teaches life lessons quite like personal experience. Still though, I'm glad I did. No regrets.

Hypocrisy

This is how I see the next four years roll out​—with less obstructionism in Congress, with significant backtracks of Trump campaign promises, and with extreme Republican hypocrisy, for better or worse.

----

Obama: We just went through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We need to help our kickstart our recovering economy by putting Americans to work with shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Let's do this!

Republicans: We need to reign in the national debt starting right this second. No new taxes! No!

----

Trump: Infrastructure, folks... we're like a third world country!

Republicans: Yes, it's about time! Reinvesting in America and American workers is exactly what we need now to save American jobs and recover.

Smell of Taiwan

Here in the East Coast, I am reminded occasionally of the nostalgic smell of Taiwan. I have only recently realized it's actually just a weird combination of the following:

5% Taiwanese People
15% Nature/Humidity/Dew
10% Taiwanese Street Food
25% Engine Exhaust
20% Cigarette Smoke
25% Sewage

2. 0. 1. 5.

I wasn't going to do it, but what better time than to gather my thoughts from 2015 than right now. Hell, it's a year-end tradition at this point. So here it goes. 2015 began and continued the same way 2014 ended, i.e. depressingly. This November and December, though, has brought me a lot of mental clarity that I was severely lacking for over a year and a half. I suppose, other than studying for various professional certifications throughout the year, being depressed was starting to become a second hobby. Talking to friends helped tremendously.

Professionally, I nailed my two-hour LEED Green Associates exam with only 2/100 questions wrong in just under 57 minutes (yes, it was an easy exam) in August, and I passed my Professional Engineer Exam in October. In November, I was invited to attended a mechanical engineering practice leadership meeting in Philadelphia. All the regional managers and group leaders were there to talk about projects, lack of profits, and other issues. I was invited to provide a "young engineer's perspective" on this; I felt somewhat out of place. I learned a lot in Philly, including the fact that I have, at least among the mechanical group, a good reputation that precedes me. Yay.

Soon enough, I'll have PE, CxA, LEED Green Associate behind my name on my new business card! Maybe I'll quit my job next year.

I went to two work-related Orioles game this year: Philly@Orioles, 3-19, in June; and Athletics@Orioles, 2-18, in August. With such a ridiculous win rate, Taylor says I need to go to every home game to help them out. Disappointedly, I haven't attended any Wizards games this year.

My sister Kelsey and I took a two-and-a-half week vacation/road trip in September (right at what should have been the peak of PE Exam studying season). We started by visiting Stephen in Seattle, WA. From Seattle, we rented a Chrysler 200S and drove to Portland, OR via Mount St. Helens. From Portland to Eureka, CA, via a circuitous detour to Crater Lake National Park (at which we saw literally nothing because of epic fog). After leaving Eureka, we stopped at Fort Bragg, CA for lunch before arriving at San Francisco, CA. San Francisco was awesome. We met up with some distant cousins for dinner, we wandered the necessary sights, and we biked across the Golden Gate Bridge twice. I travelled through SFO airport for the first time. (No new airlines in 2015 though.)

Also, I visited York, PA three times, including for Christmas this year, and I visited Taylor in Raleigh, NC, once. I only went home to Brooklyn a disappointingly meager four times; I need to do better.

This year, my car engine died suddenly while I was going 75 mph driving home from the aforementioned Athletics@Orioles on I-95S. Coasting without engine power, across three lanes, to the right shoulder is definitely something I do not want to experience again. I had to call for tow-truck service for the first time in my driving career. (It turned out it was a failed Cylinder #3 coil, causing the unbalanced engine to shake violently whenever I tried the accelerator. Ultimately, the broken piece was replaced for me under warranty. Luckily.) I drove approximately 20,870 miles in my Mazda3 this year, at an average of 34.36 mpg. My best tank-average to date was 39.53 mpg, which occurred in 2015.

Photography took a major backseat this year, but I've resorted to Instagram, which is weirdly addicting. I am considering making a photo book of my Instagram posts in 2015. Otherwise, there's been no major new hobbies this year. Although, I did develop an interest in horology and watches late in the year.

I should go meet some people and get a life. 2016 will be life-changing. I promise.

So sit up straight. Pay attention. Don't be shit, Kevin.

To My Self

To You,

I hope that you can stop yourself from falling into old, destructive habits. I hope this tragic ending to your year-long fling with the idea of finding love and happiness won't stop you from discovering new love in something you've yet to do or with someone you've yet to meet. I hope that you will be able to forgive and let go of those things that have hurt you. I hope you will be able to find your own way and find the peace you've been looking for for far too long.

Yours truly,

Kevin

Mousepad

K: Is a mousepad where a field mouse dwells?

B: Yes.

B: If he's single.

B: Like a bachelor pad.

B: Otherwise it's a mousehouse.

K: Ohhh!!

Not a Haiku

Right turn. 
Walk 10 steps.
Left turn. 
Hit wall. 
Open door. 
Hit wall.
Left turn.
Fall down stairs.
Keep falling.
Keep rolling.
Exit on level G1.
Turn left.
Keep going to Laundry Room.
Turn right.
You're at the Loading Dock.
Hit wall.
Fall down 4 feet.
—Directions on how to exit my apartment, to RC