Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 6/18/2020)

It’s been a while since I posted an update about upcoming speaking engagements. It doesn’t help, of course, that COVID-19 has shut down many of the events where I had applied. I was supposed to speak at SQL Saturday in Chicago, and I had applied to speak at a local code camp, but both events were wiped out by COVID-19.

As of right now, my only confirmed event is Albany SQL Saturday on July 25, which will be a virtual event this year. I will be doing my presentation on networking. Click the link above to register for the event. I love going to SQL Saturday. It’s always a good time, even if you’re not a database geek!

I’ve also applied to speak at this year’s PASS Summit, which, likewise, will also be a virtual event this year. As of right now, I am not confirmed to speak, so I have no idea whether or not I’ll be speaking at this event.

Generally, I apply to speak mainly at events within relatively easy driving distance of my home near Albany, NY (PASS Summit and Chicago SQL Saturday being exceptions), but now that COVID-19 has forced many events to go virtual, I’ll likely apply for more virtual events anywhere.

Check out my presentation schedule (including upcoming dates) for my updated list of speaking engagements. Hopefully, I’ll see you at an event sometime soon.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 15: The need to let off steam #COVID19

Think about a boiler or a steam engine. As steam builds up within, pressure increases. Eventually, pressure builds beyond the boiler’s capacity to contain it, and the boiler explodes, often with devastating results.

While we as humans don’t physically share the same traits as a boiler, psychologically and metaphorically, the principle is the same. Often, things in life causes stress and builds pressure. Eventually, the stress builds to the point where we just explode. The outlet can happen in numerous ways; at best, we cry on someone’s shoulder, and at worst, we hurt someone else in the aftermath.

I reached that point yesterday during my job hunt. My wife could see that I was visibly upset, and it got to the point that I vented on my Facebook account. I usually watch my language whenever I post to social media, but you know I’m upset when I start dropping F-bombs without any filters, and I did exactly that on my Facebook account yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, and it won’t be the last. There’s a reason why I keep my Facebook account separate from my ‘blog and from my other public accounts. My Facebook is strictly friends-only, and it’s the equivalent of keeping my private life separate from my public persona.

The point is that we all occasionally need to let off steam before the pressure causes any damage. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. Find some kind of outlet to release the pressure. Talk to your significant other or a friend. Go out and do something to get your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Write in a journal (or a ‘blog). Find an activity to safely release your anger and your extra energy. Do something creative. Exercise. Go for a walk. Go out to your backyard and yell at the top of your lungs. Do something — anything — to release that pressure, and make sure that you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

One of my favorite — and funniest — examples of letting off steam is a scene in the movie Analyze This, where a psychiatrist (played by Billy Crystal) tells his mob boss patient (Robert DeNiro) to hit a pillow. What he does is amusing! (If you have sensitive ears, be forewarned that F-bombs are dropped in the YouTube clip link that I provided.)

In a couple of weeks (May 28), I will be giving my online presentation about the job hunt and being unemployed. (If you’re interested in attending, use this link to register for the webinar.) One of the first — and biggest — things I address is dealing with your emotions after you lose your job. You’re going to feel something after your employment ends, and before you can do anything else, you need to deal with those emotions before you can proceed with your job hunt. Once you do, you’ll be able to proceed with a clear head.

These days, especially during our confinement through the COVID-19 crisis, our stress levels are heightened. Make sure you find a way to relieve that stress before it reaches a boiling point. Don’t become an exploding boiler. People can get hurt.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 14: Learning a new language #COVID19

When the COVID-19 crisis is over, if someone asks you, “what did you do to improve yourself during the crisis,” how will you answer? For me, personally, I’ll be able to say that I started my own business, I started running more, and I did an online presentation. (Hopefully, I’ll also be able to include that I got a new job, I upgraded my laptop, and I got back into music recording again!)

One thing that has been on my bucket list for some time is to learn a new language. I took three years of German in high school (and a semester in college), but I haven’t practiced it in quite some time, and I’ve very rarely had chances to use it. I haven’t had many practical uses for it. On the other hand, when my wife and I went on vacation up to Qu├ębec a few years ago, I found myself wishing that I could speak French. (Besides, France is on my bucket list of places I’d like to visit.) Likewise, I like to frequent Koreatown whenever I’m in New York City, and as a Korean-American, I figured that it would make sense for me to learn my own ancestral language. My grandmother tried to teach me while I was growing up, but she spoke almost no English, and it was hard for me to pick up. As I often tell people, my knowledge of Korean comes from what little my grandmother tried to teach me, and from M*A*S*H reruns.

I’ve heard good things about Babbel, so I decided to look there. Unfortunately, Korean is not one of the language options that they offer. However, they do offer a number of others. I figure maybe French and Spanish might be a couple of good ones, and I can brush up on my German. I had also heard about language programs costing hundreds of dollars — another reason why I’d never pursued this earlier — but when I looked at Babbel, I saw that they had monthly subscriptions for reasonable prices.

So, I’m looking into it. Maybe by the time the COVID-19 crisis is over, when someone asks me what I did, I’ll be able to say that “J’ai appris une nouvelle langue.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 13: Running for my life #COVID19

I’ll admit that the COVID-19 crisis has had me fall into some bad habits. This morning, I decided to address one of them.

Since gyms have been shut down due to the crisis, I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to my CrossFit workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on my duff. Since I work in IT, it’s the nature of the beast and a job hazard. I woke up this morning to a sunny morning (for once — we’ve had a lot of rain, sunny days have been few and far between, and it’s directly affected my mood, not to mention my motivation), and decided to do something.

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It may not be much — I just went around the block a few times — but you gotta start somewhere.

I went to the Couch to 5K website and did a little reading. I’ve toyed with the idea before, but never pulled the trigger on it. For whatever reason, this morning was different. I downloaded the C25K app to my phone, put on my shirt, shorts, and CrossFit shoes, and followed the instructions for Day 1 as I went around the block several times. Day 1 is essentially a 20 minute AMRAP (or maybe EMOM might be more accurate — I’m not sure) that alternates between 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of jogging (not including a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walk at the beginning and end). It sounds pretty easy, but I was still winded by the time I was finished.

Will I keep this up for eight weeks? We’ll see. Right now, the jury’s out. For all I know, I might wake up tomorrow morning and decide that I want to stay in bed. But hey, we all need to start somewhere. Maybe at the very least, when the COVID-19 crisis is over and I’m allowed to go back to my gym, I won’t cringe when the coaches tell me that the WOD is a 5K run.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 12: The return of the milkman #COVID19

This morning, we got our first delivery from a local dairy farm!

If you were alive in the 1950s, you probably remember milkmen. They went around to houses, picking up the empty milk bottles that you left for them, and they’d leave you with fresh bottles of milk. I’m not old enough to remember milkmen (I had to look it up on Wikipedia to get info for this article), but I do remember hearing about how prominent they once were in our society and culture. From what I understand, with the improvement in refrigeration technology and the increasing ability to buy milk and other dairy products in grocery stores, milkmen largely became obsolete.

That’s changed with COVID-19. Now that people are quarantined within their own homes, people need to take delivery of goods and services. I don’t have any statistics, but I’m willing to bet that the number of deliveries of various items has gone up. Before the crisis, I never before ordered groceries to get them delivered; now, I’ve already done so several times in the past couple of months. Last month, I got an email from a local creamery announcing that they would start delivering products to local city residents. We decided to take advantage of that service, and we received our first delivery this morning (which is the photo of the milk crate you see above).

It seems like, out of necessity, a lot of these old-fashioned delivery services, like milkmen, are coming back into existence. I’m wondering how long these services will continue after the COVID-19 crisis is over. As of right now, I intend to be a regular customer of this creamery delivery, but I’m also wondering how long I’ll maintain it after we’re allowed to leave our homes again. Besides, there’s something to be said about the convenience of running down to the corner store.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 will change our lives in how we eat, work, and shop, once things have returned to normal — whatever “normal” is by then. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about supporting local business. This is another way of doing it. I hope we can maintain it, even after this crisis has passed.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 11: Goodbye, farewell, amen (again) #COVID19

Today is my last day at PwC.

Well, okay, my paycheck came from TEKSystems, not PwC, but nevertheless, I still felt like I was part of PwC. They accepted me as one of their own; heck, I even represented PwC at an event or two. And although I’m finished at PwC, I’m not necessarily finished at TEKsystems; they are looking into either placing me with another client or finding me employment at another firm.

I won’t get too much into it (for privacy reasons, I’m not going to ‘blog very much about my job hunt exploits), but my job search continues. I had a phone interview last week, and I have two more lined up for today. I’m still sending out resumes and filing applications. Also, I have my business that I started. I don’t yet know whether or not that will become my full-time or my side gig; it will depend on whether or not I can find new employment. But I do intend to keep it going, regardless.

Anyway, leaving a job is rarely ever easy, even if you don’t like your employer. You develop relationships with whom you work; these people become your brothers and sisters. I still maintain friendships that I made from pretty much every job I’ve ever had. Not only do I feel good socially about the friends I made, it also benefits me (and them) professionally because it expands and solidifies my professional network. These people have worked with you, and they can speak to your skill sets that you develop.

In any case, it’s time for me to move on. Until my next stop, wherever it is…

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 10: We’re having a parade! #COVID19

This morning, the local grammar school put on a car parade by its teachers. I took some photos, and I wanted to share! Good things happen in neighborhoods, and I have good neighbors!

First, my neighbors wanted to show their support! The chalk art was by my neighbors across the street. I could also see other people out in front of their houses with balloons and signs to show their support as they drove by.

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I figured it was a good excuse to take out my horn, so on a whim, I grabbed it and serenaded the cars as they went by. I figured, what’s a parade without a band!

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Here goes the parade! I guess-timate that there were about a dozen or so cars, maybe more. I only got a few of them because I was busy playing my sax as they drove by!

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Despite the COVID-19, everyone is making the best of the situation. This put a smile on my face today.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 9: Going into business for myself, part 3 #COVID19

Yes, two “parts” in one post. Go figure.

So, now when someone asks me, “what did you do to improve yourself during the COVID-19 crisis?”, I can now say that I started my own business!

Well, at least I will be able to do so soon, anyway! Technically, I can say that I have my own business, even though I am not yet in business; last week, I registered an LLC. My thinking is that, at my age, there is a lot more uncertainty each time I lose a job, and as I get older, that uncertainty gets greater. I figured that the time was right to start my own venture, so I did so. I’m not quite open for business just yet — I still have some things left to do — but at least I can now refer to myself as a president and CEO!

I won’t kid. This is a little scary. I’ve never had my own business before, so I’m venturing into uncharted waters. Then again, doing something new adds to professional growth. As I’ve written before, you won’t get anywhere unless you step out of your comfort zone.

And by the way, I did have a phone interview last week as well. If I do end up landing another job, I will keep my new venture going. Even in just a few days, I’ve already invested quite a bit into it, so I might as well keep it going. Even if I’m employed elsewhere, it would make for a nice little side gig.

So, what did you do during your Coronavirus quarantine?

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 8: Food, wonderful food #COVID19

Tips and tricks for grocery shopping online during the coronavirus ...
(Photo credit: USA Today)

Here’s a little-known secret: I actually can cook. Granted, you won’t often see me cooking up any gourmet meals, but I’m also not so bad that you’ll see me on Worst Cooks In America. I can hold my own in the kitchen. (Just ask my wife; I haven’t poisoned her yet!) That said, with my (non COVID-19) busy schedule, I have to be in the right mood to cook, and when I’m busy, that isn’t often. My microwave oven and GrubHub are my best friends.

In that regard, I’ve gotten into some bad habits, and the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated some of them, especially the part about ordering out. Even though I’m not going into the office, I’m still keeping myself pretty well occupied throughout the day (as I mentioned before, I am still working from home, after all). If I have good things in the refrigerator or pantry, I’m pretty good about throwing together a quick sandwich for lunch, but if not — hello, GrubHub! It’s a habit that I desperately need to stop doing, and I’m well-aware of it.

One thing that I have taken more advantage of during this crisis is that my local supermarket offers delivery, something I’ve never used before this crisis. I’m usually insistent on going to the store myself to get whatever I need, but with my quarantine at the start of this crisis, that changed out of necessity. It isn’t perfect — on my first order, I requested 1.5 pounds of Angus ground beef, and instead got 1.5 pounds of Angus roast beef cold cuts (this is a major reason why I’d rather go grocery shopping in person, not online). Also, because the supermarket is overwhelmed with seemingly everyone using this service, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get my groceries delivered on the same day that I order them. That said, I’ll give the supermarket employees credit; they’re doing the best they can throughout this crisis, and they are among the unsung heroes out there trying to make life better for all of us.

We all need to make adjustments during this crisis, and I am definitely no exception. It’s just another thing to deal with until our lives get back to normal.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 7: Creating my own college football conference #COVID19

One of my admitted addictions is my Xbox 360 and EA Sports NCAA Football 2013. With all of us shut in during the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands lately, and I’ve been playing football on the Xbox a lot more than I care to admit.

One of the things that NCAA Football 13 allows me to do is align my own conferences. So I decided to have some fun with it.

With conference realignment, we have teams that, geographically, don’t make much sense. West Virginia in the Big Twelve (a conference whose easternmost school was once Missouri)? Seriously? Also, college sports conferences often have their own identity relative to their geography. With no Eastern conference, that identity no longer exists.

When I was a student at Syracuse, there was no eastern football conference (at that time, the Big East was basketball-only). Instead, there were a bunch of eastern independent football programs under the umbrella of the ECAC (not an organized conference) that pretty much played each other every year, so for all intents and purposes, they informally made up their own conference, even though there wasn’t one at the time.

The late Joe Paterno once said that we need to have an all-sport Eastern conference (this was before Penn State joined the Big Ten). I’ve often thought, if we had an Eastern conference, this is how it might have looked. Well, since NCAA Football 13 allows me to align my own conferences, I could make that happen. I decided, why not!

NCAA Football 13 represents the 2012 season, which is the last season of the Big East conference and the year before Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined the ACC. It means that, in this gameplay universe, there would always be a Big East conference, and the American conference doesn’t exist. Additionally, the four-team FBS championship hadn’t yet been implemented, so I’m stuck with the BCS (boo!). It is what it is.

So in setting up my all-Eastern dream superconference, I decided to kick out any non-traditional Eastern football teams (so long, USF) and bring back the old, traditional Eastern independents (hello, Boston College, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, and West Virginia), as well as pilfering other traditional conference teams and independents (looking at you, Maryland and Notre Dame — in this fantasy world, Maryland leaves the ACC, where they were at the time; in 2012, they hadn’t yet joined the Big Ten — and Notre Dame relinquishes its independence. Hey, before you Golden Domers yell at me, this is my setup, and I can do what I want!). I also kept other Big East teams that weren’t “traditional” — Cincinnati, UConn, and Louisville.

Of course, since I took teams from other conferences, I moved some teams around in order to balance them out. It’s interesting how your own fantasy conference realignment affects the other conferences as well! So, among other things, UCF and USF became ACC schools, Missouri went to the Big Ten, and Texas A&M went back to the Big Twelve. (I might have made some other moves as well, but I don’t remember what they were off the top of my head.)

Including twelve teams allowed me to split my conference into two divisions, along with an end-of-season championship game, so I created Eastern and Western divisions. When all was said and done, my new Big East conference looked like this.

Big East (Eastern Division)

  • Boston College
  • Cincinnati
  • UConn
  • Maryland
  • Rutgers
  • Temple

Big East (Western Division)

  • Louisville
  • Notre Dame
  • Penn State
  • Pittsburgh
  • Syracuse
  • West Virginia

(Note: yes, I know Cincinnati is further west than West Virginia. I wanted to keep as many of the traditional Eastern powers together as much as possible. Hey, my scenario, my rules!)

When all was said and done, here’s what my new “Eastern Football Superconference” looked like!

I also set up cross-division rivals, similar to what the ACC currently has — Syracuse (Atlantic Division) plays Pittsburgh (Coastal Division) every year, and so on. So in this setup, Notre Dame plays Boston College every year and Louisville plays Cincinnati. (I don’t remember what other pairings I had; I think I paired Penn State with Maryland, Pitt with Temple, West Virginia with Rutgers, and Syracuse with UConn.)

(Speaking of which, EA Sports keeps insisting that SU vs. UConn is a major rivalry. As far as I know, that rivalry only existed in basketball, and it wasn’t all that heated, like SU vs. Georgetown. Personally, I have nothing against UConn, except when we play them!)

I set up a championship game played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. I actually wanted to set it up at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, but unfortunately, NCAA Sports 13 doesn’t offer that as an option, so I tried to pick the most centrally located stadium in a big metro area (so Penn State was out) that was offered by the game.

(Okay, maybe Pittsburgh is more centrally located. The game does allow me to change it at the end of each season. We’ll see.)

It makes for an interesting setup. I keep the geography of the former Eastern independents, and it has its own Eastern identity. If I could imagine what a geographically-sensible college football realignment might have turned out, this is how it might be organized. Oh, what might have been.

By the way, I just finished playing a season in which I took my 14-0 Syracuse team to the national championship.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?