Observations & Training Tips from My Second Marathon

It’s been 2 1/2 years after running in my first marathon, but on October 4th, 2014 I ran in my 2nd marathon  at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic Marathon in Winchester, TN.

I finished 48 out of 86 with a time of 4:52:31, which was a huge improvement over my first marathon in my overall time. But more importantly to me, I wasn’t completely wiped out at Mile 19 and I actually ran without walking or breaking my pace through the final finish.

And those improvements were really just because it was my second marathon, and I that learned so much from my first. Here’s how those lessons carried over to my second. [Read more…]

10 Books That Stayed With Me

About a month ago on Facebook, there was a chain post going around where you had to name 10 books that “stayed with you.”

It’s a pretty cool idea and tapped into the common feeling that most books are sort of like meals where you consume, digest, get nourished (or not), and then you forget. It’s too bad when you think about how much time and effort the writer put into the book – and how much time you put into reading it.

That’s one reason behind my project to record and review every single book I’ve read (at least since 2007) – to try to get more out of the books I read. And yet still, there’s a certain set of books that I can recall plot, characters, and scenes instantly whether I write those thoughts down or not. Or books that really change how I act or think.

I read fiction & non-fiction very differently and are sort of like apples and oranges in this exercise, so I’m taking the liberty of 2 lists – and trying to mix up the non-fiction with different categories. Here’s my list in no specific order. [Read more…]

What Happens When An American Posts About Tiananmen Square On Weibo (China’s Twitter)

June 4th, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests/massacre in China, immortalized by the Tank Man photo. It was one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century where, unlike other Communist regimes in Europe, the Chinese Communists were able to keep their hold on power.

The massacre is immortalized everywhere…but China, where it has been actively censored and suppressed to the point where people will literally run away before talking about it.

The Internet was supposed to kill censorship, but China has the “Great Firewall” and one of the most ambitious censorship operations in the world. I had always heard that China actively and successfully censors the Internet, but never understood exactly how it works or what it would feel like to live in a completely censored world a la 1984.

China has banned Twitter because they will not grant access to the sensors, so they have a homegrown version – Sina Weibo. It has 500 million users – including me, an American citizen living in Atlanta, GA.

Yes – unlike some Chinese sites, anyone can sign up for Weibo, granted that you agree to their terms of service (ie, the Chinese government can revise your account).

1 Weibo Signup

I’ve had an account for a couple years, but had never used it…mainly because Google Translate has a very hard time with Mandarin Chinese. I have 9 followers (you know the type of people who follow everyone, mixed in with a couple bots).

But on June 4th, I thought I’d do a test of China’s censors. And see exactly what happens. [Read more…]

Unicoi Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap On The Appalachian Trail

View of North Georgia Mountains from Rocky Mountain

Mid-March is thru-hiker’s season on the Appalachian Trail. The most common schedule for anyone planning on hiking all 2,000+ miles is to start in Georgia at Springer Mountain in March and finish in Maine at Mt. Katahdin in September. You get to beat the heat of the South while also beating winter (and the closing of Mt. Katahdin) up North. It was also one of the few times in which my, my brother’s, my Dad’s, and my brother in law’s schedules all aligned for 2 days to hike another section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. So that’s what we did.  [Read more…]

Capital One 360 Savings Account Review: My 4 Pros & Cons After 8 Years

Not enough people talk about their finances. For whatever reason, we’ll talk and write about our favorite products – but never about things like banks, lawyers, or doctors. I do a lot of book reviews, but wanted to venture out with something a bit different – a Capital One 360 Savings Account review.

Back on January 6, 2006, I ditched my local banks’ one-tenth of 1% interest rate on my personal savings (at the time), and signed up for ING Direct. At the time, online banking was still a new industry. It’s now very normal will a ton of companies to choose from.

In the 8 years since I signed up, ING Direct has become Capital One 360® (see their plans & promotions here), and is now one of the largest online banks in America. After 8 years of banking with them, here’s my pros and cons of Capital One 360 (and online banking in general). [Read more…]

On Visiting Boston, Massachusetts

Visiting Boston

During the last week of December 2014, my wife Shannon and I went to Boston, Massachusetts on a brief 5-day trip. It was my first trip to a major US city outside of my Atlanta home since my City Stereotypes post went viral last summer.

Boston is a big city for tourists, and you can find generic tourist information all over the Internet. You’ll find no shortage of people who have been to Boston who’ll tell you where to go.

I read all that information, talked to friends who had been there, and friends who live there before the trip. But here’s 11 things in no real order that still stood out to me once I got there, and makes Boston a really worthwhile visit (or home). [Read more…]

7 Pros And Cons Of GoDaddy WordPress Web Hosting

EDIT: Originally published in Feb 2012, I’ve updated this post in January 2014 to reflect the current state of GoDaddy hosting for a 2014 GoDaddy Hosting Review.

This is a product review. It’s biased – but mainly because I’m (EDIT: was) an actual customer of GoDaddy.

You’ve probably seen GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercials, GoDaddy girls all around the internet, and most recently their Helping Small Business commercials in 2014.

GoDaddy is certainly the market leader in domains – and trying to be in web hosting.

Are they just the right WordPress Hosting Tool to build a better blog?

I started out using them (because of the brand) but I’ve moved to HostGator. So.

Here’s 7 Pros and 7 Cons of using GoDaddy to host your WordPress blog[Read more…]

Observations & Training Tips from My First Trail Half Marathon

Trail LakeLast week, I ran in my first Trail Half Marathon – specifically the Mystery Mountain Half Marathon by GUTS at Fort Mountain State Park.

Previously, I had run in 2 competitive road half marathons, 1 marathon, several half-marathon distances on my own during training or recreation. I’m a middle of the pack runner and finished 34th out of 108 in the Mystery Mountain race.

Here’s how I did my trail half marathon training, and some observations on what exactly a trail race entails, what to expect, and how to prepare… [Read more…]

Springer Mountain to Cooper Gap on the Appalachian Trail

Rain Near Horse Gap on the Appalachian Trail

So far on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, we’ve had both an idyllic experience, and a very miserable experience hiking overnight on the Trail. Nothing in the middle.

We’ve slept under a tarp during pouring rain with bears strutting around our camp like they own the place. We’ve also woken up on a crisp, clear November morning with clear views of a million shades of autumn leaves while cooking bacon on a smooth granite rock.

So – 3rd time overnight – and the plan is that we’re going to have a gloriously typical hike. Or at least the typical hike that happens when you’re old hat at the mountain hiking deal. The problem (or, the wonder) of the Appalachian Trail is that that never seems to actually happen.

What did end up happening was that we got to start at the actual Start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia – and hike to Coopers Gap Rd…in a veritable downpour that only let up for a couple hours during the entire hike – which is a bit telling since this portion of trail sees the most people attempt to thru-hike each year…only to quit after just a few miles.

Here’s the run down of hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Coopers Gap Rd (near the Gooch Mountain Shelter). [Read more…]

Risking It All Documentary Series

A well-made documentary needs to have 3 key ingredients –

  1. A fresh, unique, interesting topic
  2. Good production values and direction that take advantage of the medium (ie, – it needs to be more visual and fast-paced than a book, otherwise I’d just read the book)
  3. It needs to be upfront with its thesis – or have none at all, and try to be an actual documentary (in the literal sense)

Sadly – those 3 come together much too infrequently. It seems like the choices are usually the umpteenth remake of the Search for Sasquatch (great production, poor topic); something like General Orders No. 9, which was a fascinating topic with beautiful photography…and the pacing and production of a photo gallery that puts you to sleep. Or something like Inside Job, Waiting for Superman, or King Corn that are all engaging, well-produced, and have an interesting topic…but leave you feeling like you’re in the director’s cherry picking orchard and not getting the full story.

Even sadder is that good documentaries are even rarer on television – which is left serve to show re-runs of known topics.

So I was happy to find amazing 25 minute documentaries being produce by Al-Jazeera. I came across a series called Risking It All that, despite being  2 years old, only has 700,000 views. If you are looking for short, well-cut, informative documentaries of topics you’ve never seen. You should check these out. [Read more…]

How Other People Stereotype Your City

I always find it really fascinating to find out how people from different places can perceive the same things so differently. And especially how people from other countries, regions, and cities perceive my city, region, and country – what they focus on, and what things stand out in their mind. In other words – people’s country, region, and city stereotypes.

For years – it has always been an interesting conversation to have – but finding out stereotypes has always been anecdotal. But last year – Renee DiResta had the brilliant idea to apply something that we all use everyday – Google AutoSuggest – to find out US State Stereotypes (you can see that post here).

Here’s the same methodology used on the top 50 US cities (by metro area population) to get the top 4 to 5 city stereotypes of each. [Read more…]