Grand Cayman 2022

2 Weeks of fun and sun on Seven Mile Beach.

Grand Cayman, 7 Mile Beach, Scuba footage, 14 days distilled into 20 minutes.

14 Days at Christopher Columbus Condos
7 Days with my parents & 7 Days with dive friends

Scuba Diving:
24 AM/Morning Dives
1 Afternoon Boat Dive
1 Boat Night Dive
1 Night Dive and dinner at Sunset House
1 Night Dive at Eden Rock
1 Charter trip to:
Stingray City, Starfish Point, and Snorkeling on the North Barrier reef (with my parents)

2 trips to The Brassiere (one each week)
1 trip to Union Bar and Grill
1 trip to Aqua
1 dinner at Macabuca sadly shore diving was closed due to the weather
1 trip to Lloyd’s Smokehouse (Amazing Brisket)
1 trip to Casa 43 with Pete from EPIC

Snorkeling at Cemetery beach with my parents

Got to meet Guy Harvey in his studio

Multiple lounges in the ocean at sunset

1 Amazing Japanese Whiskey (IWAI Tradition)
1 not-so-good bottle of Scotch (I’m looking at you, Talisker Storm)
2 bottles of 19 Crimes (Snoop Dog Cali Red)
1 bottle of Caymus
1 bottle of Vodka
9 NY Strips and 4 Filets from Costco

Birthdays for both Claudine and Matthew (AKA Alex)

One drive around the island back to starfish point and cigars from the Cayman Cigar company on the east end

I need a vacation from my vacation

*Most photos and video footage made on iPhone in a Sealife SportDiver Case *Limited video from GoPro 8

The Great Blog Outage of 2021 – 2022

It dawned on me that I haven’t published on our blog in a really long time. Since the liveaboard dive trip, in Jan of 2021 and we’re now in Nov of 2022.

Man, a lot has happened in the last bunch of months, and a lot of it was blog-worthy, but for some reason, it never happened. The reality is writing takes time, and time has been in short supply over the last little while. I don’t do this for income or fame. I’m not trying to monetize this. The blog is more a family Journal than anything else.

Looking back, some of the highlights include:

I started Bee Keeping in the spring of 2021. I set the hives up in the fall of 2020 but didn’t have bees until late early May of 2021. There is so much I could write about Bee Keeping. While there’s no shortage of information on the Internet. I’m not an expert, but I have my own observations, which deserve a post. I started with 3 Hives in 2021, and expanded to 7 in 2022. [Future Post Placeholder].

We bought an RV. To be specific, a new to us, used 40-foot Deisel Pusher. a 2008 Damon Tuscany 4076 Model, in about May of 2021. This in itself is worthy of its own post, with lessons learned over the last 18 months. On our maiden voyage to the Florida Keys for Matthew (aka Alex), Open water diving certification. We broke down in Tifton, GA. Yeah, it was as exciting as you can imagine. No, we didn’t ever make it to Florida. Yes, we still own the RV. [Future Post Placeholder]

Summer of 2021 (Covid still in full swing)

Fall of 2021, I transitioned roles at Zscaler. Moving from Consulting Sales Engineer to Practice Build Architect in the channel. I realize most of the audience doesn’t know what that means. The first 3.5 years of my ZS career were spent working directly with customers and prospects. But if you actually want to buy what we’re selling, you have to buy it from a partner. That’s the Channel, the group of partners you can buy Zscaler from, as well as other vendors. Before 2021, Zscaler wasn’t super channel-friendly (my words, not my employers). We’re about to fix that. It was a good move for me; I was nearing burnout on the sales side.

In November of 2021, we did another Liveaboard dive trip. Specifically the Belize Aggressor Live Aboard (Aggressor IV). Long story short but I was awarded a President’s Club Trip in 2019 (to be taken in 2020), but since Covid was in full swing and nobody was doing company trips, Zscaler allowed us to choose from a multitude of rewards. Some folks got fancy watches; others took flights on historical WW2 Aircraft. There were lots of great options; including working with a travel team and booking the trip of a lifetime, which is what we did. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned.

We leveraged our travel credit to book the Agressor Liveaboard in Grand Cayman. But Cayman was closed with some pretty significant quarantine requirements. Essentially they stayed closed to outsiders for almost two years forcing us to kick the liveaboard can down the road for a very long time. Eventually, we worked with the Aggressor team to transition our credit to the Belize liveaboard. So our first trip to Belize, a great liveaboard trip, plus a few days on a private island, that we seriously considered buying. That’s right; Matt wanted to buy an island. This trip also deserves its own post [Future Post Placeholder]

After returning from Belize, I got Covid. While I was certain I’d had it before, and know for a fact Claudine had had it, once if not twice. It hit us like a ton of bricks. We tested negative to get into Belize and negative to get out of Belize. So we likely picked it up at the airport.

Long story short, after just wicked flu-like symptoms, it finally got to my breathing. It was bad, really bad. So bad I was hallucinating, and furniture was talking to me. At this point, I told Claudine to take me to the hospital. When they checked me in, my Blood Oxygen was at 73%. It was not good. I spent ten days in the hospital at UC Medical Center in Mason, Ohio. That also deserves its own post [Future Post Placeholder].

Short Version: The treatment there was borderline barbaric. Their Covid Policies were atrocious. I did manage to avoid being intubated and put on a ventilator by listening to my wife and one of the nurses who cared more than the rest (you know who you are) and staying on the high-flow CPAP more than most folks.

While I appreciate some of the nurses that worked to keep me alive, I will never, ever go back to UC Medical Center. The Covid floor (floor 4) was overwhelmed and overworked. They had two patients per room, rooms that were designed for ONE person. Nurses had too many patients, and daily my breakfast tray would sit in the room all day. The room was unsanitary, the entire floor was unsanitary and, quite frankly, gross.

During my 10-day stay, I spent 5 of those days down on the step-down unit (floor 2). While there, I had my own room and more attentive care. The last four days were spent back on the Covid floor, where the biggest concern was literally the Mrsa infection which they were instrumental in giving me.

The Spring and Summer of 2023 (after Covid) were good for me. My employer handled my Covid episode extremely well (Thank You, Zscaler).

I didn’t waste any time recovering from Covid. I started walking immediately every day to get off the Oxygen and eventually started swimming laps at the gym to build stamina.

I got my PADI Rescue Diver Certification during the summer (thank you, Scuba Unlimited), harvested a bunch of honey, worked on the RV after it suffered a lightning strike, took a spring motorcycle trip to Murphy, North Carolina, and won another Presidents Club Trip. This time to Curacao.

Over the summer Matthew (aka Alex) decided he wanted to play football for the first time. So we signed him up for some summer mini-camps, and he was added to the Cincinnati Landmark Eagles Varsity team. So our summer/fall was consumed by football. Football may deserve its own post, to be determined.

Curacao | Presidents Club for FY22. We really enjoyed this island and were able to turn our 5-day adventure into a mini dive trip. Diving 7 times (6 boat dives, 1 shore) while we were there. Zscaler really did an amazing job putting this trip/event together at the Marriott Beach Resort. I’d go back.

Before winning the trip (not knowing I was a winner), we had booked a two-week vacation/dive trip to Mexico. Complete with hotel reservations, flights, etc. Only to learn that Cayman was reopening. So we scrapped all of that and rebooked in Cayman.

Grand Cayman 2022. 2 weeks, on 7-mile beach, in a condo, on the ocean, diving and snorkeling at every opportunity. We’ll be diving with Epic again, the same company we used in 2018. Spending week one with my parents and week two with the same couples we did the Saba trip with. It’s going to be amazing. [Future Post Placeholder]

Tuft and Needle–Mattress Review Update @ 5 Years

Almost 5 years to the day I wrote the original Tuft and Needle mattress review here: Tuft and Needle–Mattress Review and it’s time for an update.

Perhaps that original review was prophetic. At the bottom of the review I called out their 10 year warranty and if I had any issues in 5 years I’d shoot them an email and they’ll replace it. That’s basically what just happened.

Let’s rewind a little bit first. I would say the first 2 years with our Original Tuft and Needle Mattress was perfect. About that time, I started to feel like my side was sagging a bit. But that’s not supposed to happen so I blamed it on the the original box springs we used from the old bed frame. I purchased two sheets of 3/4 inch plywood and put a platform between the box springs and the mattress. This helped for a while and to be honest I forgot about it, for the next two years.

At around the 4 year mark, I really started to realize that as I rolled to the center toward my wife, if felt like I was rolling up hill. That’s no good. Standing back I didn’t see any clear visible indentation but clearly I felt like I was sinking or my side was softer.

About 3 months ago we got rid of the big traditional wooden bed frame and opted for a newer platform bed. This took the box springs and the plywood completely out of the picture. It didn’t take long until I was hating life. Yes, something was wrong, I was clearly sinking and my side was softer than my wife’s.

So I reviewed the warranty:

Quoted here in case it changes later: ‘We offer a 10-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing and workmanship defects in the product. It includes things like sagging, or body impressions that are greater than 3/4 of an inch. It’s also going to cover any material breakdown of the foam that causes it to split, crack, or deteriorate in any other way. The cover is also included in the warranty. So if you notice any undone stitching or if the zipper breaks, we’re here to help you out.”

That was the rub, 3/4 of an inch, when I looked at the mattress, I didn’t see that. So I reached out. They replied almost immediately with suggestions for checking the bed. You could place two similar weighted objects on the bed, one in the impression, one in the area not depressed, lay a straight edge across the bed and it should be obvious. It just so happened that I had ordered a waterrower and had 4 gallons of water just sitting around waiting for it to arrive. So we took their suggestions and took the required pictures.

For reference the difference in the labels showing was right at 3/4 of an inch.

They immediately replied, “No Question”, we’ll send you another mattress and make arrangements to pick that one up.

I took the opportunity to ask about upgrading to their new MINT Mattress and awesomely they have a policy for that. Just pay the difference in price. Lucky for us it was Black Friday week and they were on sale so the difference was right in line with what I was willing to pay.

*Boom* 3 days later we have a new mattress. Here’s the best part, we get a 100 night free trial on the new mattress since we upgraded. If we decide we don’t like the MINT, they will pick it up, refund our money and send another Original. I’ll update this post in a few weeks when we make our final decision but as of right this moment I think we’ll be in love with it as we were the Original when we first got it.

So if this one lasts 5 years we’re golden 😉 and I’ll buy another. (The replacement doesn’t restart your warranty, which makes sense).

This was one of the smoothest customer service experiences I’ve had in the last 10 years. They stood behind the product and have earned a fan for life.

Working from home, what it’s really like.

Getting up and going to work

For the majority of my career I have gotten up every day and driven into an office somewhere.

I have also been fortunate to work for good companies that worked hard to keep employee morale up and endeavored to provide good working conditions. I’ve lived in my fair share of cubes but I’ve been fortunate. Digineer prided themselves on a great working environment with good 10×10 cubes with high walls and large desks with great chairs. Seapine as well, while the cubes weren’t as large, they at least had tall enough walls to provide some privacy. I was also fortunate to have a closed office for a good portion of my time, though it was rare the door was ever closed. It was invaluable when it was, either for time to focus or time to collaborate in private, without searching out a huddle room or some other hard to schedule resource. Open offices vs cubicles vs closed offices is a debate that will never end. I’ll tee that up for another day.

During this time I’ve always had the ability to work from home occasionally but not as a primary work method. Being on call 24/7 sets you up for that. I’ve always had a virtual office at home, with a full VPN tunnel to HQ, VOIP phone for calls, etc. But the times I used it were rare and more for off-hours coverage working with folks over seas in different time zones.

Bottom line, my go to the office life has been a good one, with manageable commutes, and for the most part great working environments.

The grass is always greener

Throughout my career I’ve interfaced with a lot of users, mostly vendors and consultants who “Worked Remotely” and I’ve supported my fair share too. This usually meant; working from home, car, hotel, someone else’s office, starbucks, or gate B-17 at their local airport.

I admit at times I was envious. Usually when I was heating up my lunch in the cafeteria/lunch room in the microwave, or when the weather was especially nice.

In 2016, I made a career change to the other side of the table. After spending nearly 30 years running an organization or infrastructure, I’m now the guy working from home, traveling, creating solutions, and supporting sales. I’m now that guy who works from “where ever”, but mostly from home.

It’s awesome right?

Yes, it mostly is, and I’ll likely never go back to a 9-5 office but there are some drawbacks and if you’re considering a change like this there are some things you need to know.

Pros to working from home

  • Your office is what you make it. Nobody gets to tell you what your office will look like, how tall the walls are and if you have to share a desk or cube cluster with that person who’s perpetually sick, or is, well, just gross.
  • While you might be given a laptop, your choice in monitor, keyboard, peripherals is usually up to you. Of course you might get to pay for that, but you get to choose for the most part.
  • You have access to the coffee you want to drink, not what’s provided which usually sucks. Speaking of coffee, if you make it, you get to drink it. No more making a pot, walking away to let it brew, come back to find an empty pot.
  • You get better toilet paper 🙂
  • If there is rotten stuff in the fridge, it’s your stuff, for sure, and nobody’s stealing your lunch.
  • If there’s a mess in the kitchen it’s yours. You pretty much know if the dishwasher is clean or dirty, and you don’t have to scowl when you’re the only one that cleans up the kitchen.
  • Work attire, while I mostly worked in a t-shirt and flip-flop software environment, most people don’t and now they get to work in comfy clothes if they want.
  • It’s quiet (usually).
  • I get to move about the house, work from the porch or pool area and get to hang out with these co-workers:
  • Travel, can be nice, it is what you make it. Getting out of the home, out of the office, visiting customers is where it’s at for most of these jobs. (Requires a wardrobe change though). I probably could not work from home all day every day.
  • I’m fortunate that my travel is mostly local, within a 150 mile radius for the most part with limited air travel. That does mean overnights in Toledo, Findlay, Columbus, Louisville and Lexington. Those can be good and welcome from time to time just for the change of scenery.
  • When you’re traveling you normally get to eat pretty good too.
  • You are pretty much immune to office gossip and when it does circle around it’s easier to stay out of it, and/or not perpetuate it.

The Cons to working from home

  • Your at home, a lot.
  • There are no lines of demarcation. This is fundamentally the biggest issue, especially if you’re prone to be a work-o-holic. Work doesn’t start when you get there, and it doesn’t end when you leave. I’m not saying that people who go to the office every day don’t work outside the office, they do, and I did, a lot. But there is a mental switch that happens when you show up and when you leave. Your world changes, and your attitude can change just by changing your environment. When you have a bad day at work, it’s a lot easier to leave most of that behind when you when you walk out the door. It’s a lot easier to “Not take work, home with you”, and likewise to “Not take home into work”. When you work at home, and wake up at 5:30am, you are at work. 8pm at night, you’re still at work especially when the company you work for is headquartered on the left coast. You have to consciously make the decision to turn off work and it’s harder than it sounds, at least for me.
  • The amount of impromptu conversation and collaboration is minimal. Sure you can pick up the phone can call someone, or skype them, or slack them, but it’s not the same. Not even close. It is really hard to keep your pulse on the office vibe. This is a double edged sword, when the vibe is negative you’re not subject to it and that’s generally good. But you’re also out of the loop, a lot more than in an office environment. There is no water cooler to hang out near and just have casual conversations with peers or others in the organization. From a management perspective, those candid discussions with people are invaluable.
  • The phone, you live on the phone. Conference calls, video calls, webinars, Skype, WebEX, zoom, etc. Good thing cellular is pretty much unlimited these days. I used to have a phone plan that provided 500 minutes a month and never used them all. Now my phone usage is counted in days, not minutes. 79 days and 1 hour of phone calls at the time of writing since July of 2017. That’s, 113,820 minutes over a 24 month period, or about 215 minutes a day (22 working days per month) puts that at 3.59 hours on average. Keep in mind there are days when I’m on-site with a customer all day, days where I’m in meetings most of the day. So there are days when 7 of 8 working hours is on the phone. (There’s also no such thing as an 8 hour day, never has been, even when I worked in an office). But that’s a lot of phone time and I am on the phone less than a lot of guys in sales or sales management. Bottom line, I’m on the phone more in 2.5 days (on average) than I used to be for a whole month. (Oh, and regardless of the products ability to use computer audio, I always dial into conference with my phone when possible. It allows me to not be tethered to my desk).

Video/Conference call realities:

  • Collaboration, despite all the tools, just isn’t the same as getting in a room with a whiteboard and working through it.
  • Nobody sees how hard you work. Nobody sees how hard some people don’t work either.

All joking aside. Working from home, or remotely has its challenges. It’s good way more than it’s bad that’s for sure. But it’s not for everyone. It is unlikely that I will ever go back to a daily office job.

R.I.P. Monty

On Wednesday 9/20/2017, my little buddy of almost 17 years went over the rainbow to see Dorothy and Toto.

He’s been uncomfortable for a while, half blind, mostly deaf and his hind quarters have seriously deteriorated. He will be missed.

I scrounged a bunch of older photos of him.  He was a blast.

Special thanks to Mikes Mobile Vet for coming out and taking care of him and Matthew (who’s 9) who dug his grave so I wouldn’t have too.