<![CDATA[Randy Gingeleski]]>https://gingeleski.com/https://gingeleski.com/favicon.pngRandy Gingeleskihttps://gingeleski.com/Ghost 3.14Sun, 05 Jul 2020 22:06:25 GMT60<![CDATA[State of the blog 2020]]>https://gingeleski.com/state-of-the-blog-2020/5efe4576bd4d47cc9b168628Sun, 05 Jul 2020 21:53:47 GMT

Recently I overhauled the underlying technology of this blog, which may be of interest to fellow engineers.

For the longest time, gingeleski.com was just a $10/month Digital Ocean droplet running Ghost (version 2.x).

That's it. You were hitting the live server all the time with minimal-to-no caching.

State of the blog 2020

Back in the day, what is now old.gingeleski.com started as live Wordpress on shared Dreamhost. Note the lack of linking to Dreamhost because they're not a service I would recommend now, unlike DO which is great for many things.

The whole single-live-server-with-no-cache was not a very 1337 pattern and shame on me for propagating it over here in ~2018.

Though at least with its own VPS that time.

Anyway, here we were running Ghost's 2.1.2 version. Some breaking changes kept me from bumping to Ghost version 3 — the latest major one for a while now. I'd longed to change my site into static-only so held off on *that* update for the same time.

Summing things up, as of ~60 days ago you were hitting something like this —

State of the blog 2020
Original technology behind this blog, circa early 2018.

Now you are hitting something like this —

State of the blog 2020
Implemented late June 2020.

Moving the blog has had me pause on writing for the last couple months. You'll see there was an April 26 to June 30 gap after starting out 2020 producing a lot.

It's easier to write a post than actually find solid time to move servers around and what-not. However, now that's done.

This was an incremental migration with a static copy of the site pushed to a content delivery network (CDN) first then the pipeline for making regular updates laid down after.

State of the blog 2020
Photo credit - Vercel

Hence, right now you're hitting a CDN. The blog content is based in a GitHub repo, with editing occurring against a live Ghost server I can get to through a virtual private network (VPN) only.

Copies of that Ghost server get made automatically when any live site content changes, then the latest copy goes into GitHub, where it's elevated to the CDN live.

Why go to static content? Well, it was on the table because there weren't (aren't) any dynamic blog features I even use, like comments or search.

The latter might be added via client-side JavaScript someday.

Comments remain something I avoid but could do by standing up a comment service that the client would interact with. Disqus was something old.gingeleski.com used, though not something I loved.

We'll see. Anyway, what's so great about static content again?

  • Website speed
  • Security

Let's talk speed first.

I hoped going static make this site a lot faster. The tool fastorslow.com helped me profile this.

State of the blog 2020
First speed report after initially pushing content to the CDN.

That first report post-change was 100s across the board. You can type my domain into Fast or Slow to see – high 90s to 100 are great. Before we were in the 70s.

State of the blog 2020

It's worth noting too that the site should be more accommodating of huge traffic spikes now. Hypothetically, a million simultaneous readers wouldn't (won't?) hit the same VPS in New York City.

Then we have security upside from static content. This is important because I make my living as an application security "expert."

In short, if my own website gets hacked, then that looks pretty bad.

I could have stuck a web application firewall in front of Ghost to help mitigate the risk of some crazy exploit coming out. Like Cloudflare, Akamai.

And/or restricted access for https://gingeleski.com/ghost — the admin area — to just me via VPN. Beyond RCE threats, someone could've tried bruteforcing there or whatever.

These were all credible risks given my version of Ghost was old. Also, it's easy to "fingerprint" an instance of Ghost and its exact version by requesting /sitemap.xml to inspect the "generator" anyway.

Now my static site is virtually "unhackable" because there's nothing dynamic about it. Even if jQuery becomes out-of-date and vulnerable, no input is being taken and reflected out.

It's a stretch to say maybe the email subscribe fields or an eventual comment area would be susceptible.

State of the blog 2020
Sample of the threat actors targeting me on the regular.

And speaking of email subscriptions, I am sorry but the old email subscription area never really worked. What's more, it got carpet-bombed with spam, making it near-impossible to identify legit sign-ups who wanted notifications or letters from me.

This is something I just didn't look at until it was too late to sort out.

Presently Mailchimp is in use to collect emails instead of the Ghost built-in like before. I turned off as much privacy-infringing stuff there as possible. For example, open rates aren't being tracked.

There are not automatic messages for new posts yet and I haven't sent anything out to the couple Mailchimp subscribers either. Feel free to drop your email to me for that eventual contact though.

http://eepurl.com/g1cS3L

Further speaking on privacy, my website no longer uses Google Analytics. I still have some love for Google and am invested in their products. However, they shouldn't be forced on you to stalk you around the Internet.

Honestly I hadn't checked my Google Analytics in a super long time anyway. Let's assume my MUD/WTR review post and recipe post are still the most popular.

But — you may have noticed — I just really write what I want here. My only commitment is saving you from most cybersecurity shop talk or any politics on this site.

My totally-separate-very-neglected blog War + Code gets security content.

In the future I may consider a more ethical page view counter like Fathom Lite, which is open source and does not use any intrusive cookies.

State of the blog 2020
Fathom Analytics is a more ethical way I'd consider view tracking.

One last thing to note is my actual CDN now is Vercel. In case that's interesting to you. Vercel seemed like a new, exciting thing with affordable pricing. I do have their "Pro" offering for more business stuff.

They integrate very easily with GitHub. Just as seamless as GitHub Pages post-setup, but you don't have to feel guilty about abusing that or that GitHub may suddenly purge your stuff.

The chances of that occurring may be low, though they are non-zero. Higher than Vercel I would say.

State of the blog 2020

Hope this post might help some fellow tech or blog people. Always think for yourself, though.

Thanks for reading. ✌️🕊️

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<![CDATA[Tripping on Futuremood "wearable drug" sunglasses]]>https://gingeleski.com/futuremood-glasses-review/5efa1710bd4d47cc9b1684dcTue, 30 Jun 2020 22:20:40 GMT

Thoughts after buying Futuremood sunglasses, which are billed as — and look like — "wearable drugs."

Below is that visual. Maybe your mental image would've been more of a tie-dye shirt.

Tripping on Futuremood

Let me contextualize this purchase of "drugs" for your face. It was one month ago and a relatively stressful day. Keyword relative.

I'd been living with my parents for several months, though that kept me safe from viruses and other chaos. I was still working on "day job" stuff at 7 PM. In Mom's basement.

Too weary to do side project stuff after that, some TechCrunch reading occurred. They had done an early article on Futuremood glasses.

So that set the stage for me then buying this ridiculous $175 pair of glasses. But when you compare something to "drugs", even writing it's unsafe to drive with these things on, I pay attention.


If you just want to buy these glasses already, you can find them here.


Binaural beats

Let's quickly analyze this whole drug comparison marketing shtick before my review. This phenomenon is not new.

The last case I can recall was marketing for binaural beats in my high school years. This would've been 2010 or 2011.

As cataloged by Vice, a company called I-Doser sells MP3's named after prescription drugs, with the intention of getting listeners high.

Tripping on Futuremood

Does that sound stupid? Sure. But it's something I got semi-obsessed with, standing up a Prestashop server and my own competitor, "NoiseRX".

My business failed. Blame lack of funds for proper marketing efforts, or anything beyond shared hosting on the technical side. Also a lack of audio engineering expertise.

However, one night I created a track that — you'll have to trust me here — made my whole body numb.

There might be something to binaural beats. There might be something to these wacky glasses?

That motivated my purchase to find out.

Trippy sales pitch

The other thing is you've got to venture through a very psychedelic Shopify store to buy these glasses, too. Below are a few snippets from it.

Tripping on Futuremood

Some frontend developers were really earning their pay on this site.

I forked over my money for the green glasses you see, which are called "AuraBliss 5000" and promise to deliver an immense calming effect.

Tripping on Futuremood

There are also "AuraBoost" (stimulation) and "AuraZone" (focus) models. The "5000" line looks all exotic, though there is a "100" line that seems more public-friendly.

Tripping on Futuremood

Arrival

These reached me fairly quickly — in upstate New York at the time, within 3 business days or so of ordering.

The packaging was pretty unique. See my images below. There's a velvet pouch, cleaning cloth, incense matches, some propaganda, and just a lot of thought that went into this.

Tripping on Futuremood

I figured that this presentation might boost any placebo effect if it was going to happen.

The verdict

At this point, over about 2 weeks I've worn these glasses probably 8 times. My opinion is that they do indeed work.

The effect is similar to 20 mg of CBD. Subtle, but there.

Tripping on Futuremood

My most pronounced session was one spent outside. I didn't have other polarized sunglasses at my parents' house so wore these out. The sunlight shining through these lenses maybe yields their ideal conditions.

Reading a book, listening to bird songs, looking at trees and grass — probably calming enough on its own. But the Futuremood glasses seemed to noticeably amplify that.

I hypothesize that maybe green lenses are calming because they remind us of nature. We humans are calmed by it. Just a guess, though, like the sunlight-through-the-lenses thing.

Let's touch on some additional points now as I am not sure what else can be said on the effects.

1.) The construction of these is very solid. These will last a long time. One might say a lifetime, as perhaps they'll outlast me.

2.) After 30-40 minutes of wearing these, a headache seems to set in. Maybe another sign they do something? Regardless, be aware of this.

3.) I would wear these more if most of my weekday downtime wasn't right before bed — which prompts me to wear my blue-blocker glasses instead.

Tripping on Futuremood

My concern is that the green lenses yield more blue than the red ones do. No idea if that's a valid concern.

4.) Also, it might go without saying, but these look kind of goofy to wear on work video calls. ✌️ That influences how often they get used.

5.) The company should hire an SEO firm because their own site is low on the Google first page for "futuremood" — their own name. After being public for several months it is hard to give them a pass on this.

Tripping on Futuremood

Closing thoughts

These green Futuremood AuraBliss 5000 sunglasses work for me. I can't speak for their other offerings.

Are they sort of a luxury thing at nearly $200? Yes.

Though, if you're regularly using CBD oil, these glasses could save you money long-term. Do the math.

I would be interested to try the Futuremood Aura* 100 series, intended for more "everyday" use. You could actually wear those to work without being self-conscious, in my opinion.

Overall the company gets a thumbs up from me. 👍

I guess this review is to help people that are "on the fence" about them. You might just either be the kind of person who buys $200 drug sunglasses or you're not.


You can purchase Futuremood sunglasses and trip for yourself here.

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<![CDATA[Why your GitHub sucks]]>https://gingeleski.com/your-github-sucks/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e115Sun, 26 Apr 2020 15:32:00 GMTWhy your GitHub sucks

After joining GitHub in 2013 and spending lots of time there, here are my opinions on effective projects and profiles.

Note that this article is subjective, and the views expressed in it are solely my own. Not representative of employers, clients, etcetera. Also this does not cover GitHub Enterprise really.

Years ago I wrote an article about personal branding for tech workers before having any real career success myself. Funny enough, that article holds up well.

One of its suggestions was making a GitHub profile.

I go on the site almost everyday still, to keep up with new open source, if not to work on some myself.

This time we'll focus on building out your presence there. What to do after making a profile.

Why bother with GitHub?

A solid GitHub presence is only rivaled in job market ROI by an impressive website/blog you run, or maybe a strong StackOverflow history.

It seems that IT hiring processes will at least involve a look over your GitHub nowadays. I am about to start my 5th job in the field and have been asked about my projects in every bonafide interview.

Granted, I put links in my resume. But that's a good move. It allows you to control your job interviews because side project stuff is usually more interesting than "real" work history.

Another thing is that everybody works and has gone to school... 😴 Not many people have enough passion to continue coding in their off-hours, for fun, making contributions to the open source world.

Why your GitHub sucks
Photo credit - Drew Beamer / Unsplash

Finally, it's no secret that you learn the most when trying to build some new thing from scratch. You likely will not do that "at work" as a junior person.

GitHub versus GitLab

I'm a big GitHub fan all-around. You may prefer to work on GitLab or Bitbucket though.

Sorry to burst any bubbles — the same exact content on either of those platforms just isn't worth as much.

There's less of a networking aspect to them, and not as much recognition from the people who will look. The people looking that you care about.

It probably hurts if they're your favorites but life isn't fair.

"Randy, Microsoft is evil and I can't support GitHub!!?!"

Acknowledged. I'm as certain that Bill-Gates-is-evil-and-actually-using-the-Gates-Foundation-to-enrich-himself-and-control-the-world as the next guy. And yes, M$ used to crap all over open source...

Why your GitHub sucks

... however that doesn't change the other stuff. Did I mention life isn't fair?

Trying to build your personal brand on Bitbucket is like buying Yahoo ads for a new product launch. Yes Facebook may be more evil but they're a superior platform.

Your profile

For reference here we can take a look at month-long "trending developers" for GitHub. We can extrapolate what makes a good profile from how most of these profiles are.

1.) Accurately portray what you look like. The most basic way to fulfill this is by using a clear picture of your human self.

However, you may also choose to spice things up with Photoshop. I took this route because I'm all about excuses to Photoshop, and thought it was cool when Tim Holman did it.

Why your GitHub sucks

Thirdly, I do condone cartoon images if they are high-definition. Does your cartoon look unhuman and/or like a Simpson and/or like a Bitmoji? Then you suck.

Why your GitHub sucks

2.) Complete all the basic profile fields.

This is self-explanatory. Seize the moment that people arrive on your profile to let them know about you.

Try to keep it looking clean with sufficient whitespace, as applicable.

Why your GitHub sucks

3.) Add at least one flair. On GitHub I consider "flair" to be —

  • a PRO badge because you pay the $4/month for Professional
  • an Organization (with a logo) that you publicly are attributed to
  • a status with an emoji

The first one is the easiest and maybe the best. I hardly use any of the actual Pro features. But everybody that visits my profile has to acknowledge I am "PRO". Subconsciously, at least.

Why your GitHub sucks

You could also just set your status to something.

Why your GitHub sucks

Don't complain like Jennifer Aniston in Office Space. 😏

4.) Pin some repositories. When new people and/or interviewers arrive on your profile, which projects do you want them to know about?

It's unrealistic to think anyone will do a deep dive into your whole profile history. Especially hiring people.

Show off the cool stuff up front with pinned repositories.

Mine might be due for an update soon, but they convey a grasp of hacking skillz. That's the intention.

Why your GitHub sucks

Your projects

Obviously, projects are a little more involved than profile suggestions. The possibilities for what you can build via GitHub projects are infinite.

Still — all projects have a README. Most of the projects I've visited and starred on GitHub are things that look interesting to me, that in the future may prove useful. But not things I've cloned to use yet.

Do you see where we're going here? Even if your project sucks and barely works, your README should be top-notch. Convey value!

What makes a great README?

  • A mastery of GitHub Markdown syntax
  • Instructions and useful documentation
    • Separate things out under subheadings
    • Be mindful of whitespace to achieve a "clean" look
  • Images or video to demo what your software's capable of
  • Badges to show the project builds, is maintainable, etc.

Fair criticism is that I don't always eat my own dog food here. But, as much as I need to.

Less-established folks need to put in more effort with their projects, READMEs, and dog-food-eating. 🐶

Closing thoughts

Let's tie it all together. If you diligently follow the advice in this post, your GitHub presence is sure to yield positive reactions and perception of high value.

Is that different than being a true GitHub rockstar? Yes. But I am not suggesting to ever be dishonest — just to put your best foot forward.

Why your GitHub sucks

There are some legendary programmers on GitHub who you'd never identify as such unless you read up on them elsewhere or really dove into their profiles.

I won't name names on this but we can agree most viewers will do neither of those things. Most viewers are just browsing GitHub, clicking around.

Kind of like a crappily designed website with amazing content hidden inside. Yes, the innards are amazing if only people would take the time to look.

Will they? ... My money is on no.

Attention spans are shrinking. People tasked with hiring are crunched for time. Many GitHubbers especially are trying to be as productive as possible.

The Bitcoin people are on all-meat diets for this very reason.

Why your GitHub sucks

Your GitHub artifacts must survive cursory scans from other humans. We're imperfect creatures who are more easily influenced by some things than others. This advice considers that.

Anyway — you get the point by now. Here's wishing you good luck on your job interviews, professional networking, etcetera.

Happy hacking! 💻

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<![CDATA[Everything is relative]]>https://gingeleski.com/everything-is-relative/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e114Sun, 12 Apr 2020 16:10:01 GMTEverything is relative

Maybe happiness, sadness, and boredom are all just really relative. You can choose or focus on whatever you like.


I am currently re-reading All Quiet on the Western Front, considered by some to be the best war novel of all time. The author did serve in World War I.

This is a "re-read" because we were forced to read this in 9th grade English but did not appreciate it as 14-year-olds.

Early in the book, like half the protagonist's company dies — 80 of 150 men as I recall. Then the survivors get a break from being on the front.

Since these casualties were unanticipated, there are 150 soldiers' rations awaiting the 80 survivors. They sit on some boxes in a flower field, feasting, smoking, and playing cards. The protagonist — if not everyone — is super happy.

Everything is relative
Photo credit - Bundesarchiv

Where is this going? Almost half of your co-workers just got mowed down around you. There are guts and screaming and general carnage all over the place.

As a "first-worlder" leading a comfortable life, it's hard for me to imagine that. Hard to relate to. But we can agree that sucks.

It seems like this trauma could depress you for a while. However, apparently all the survivors chose to focus on being grateful they're alive and that they lucked into this bountiful feast.

There are several things we might extrapolate from this. Even without actual wartime experience.

  1. Your mood, your thoughts, and you are what you choose to focus on.
  2. It can be easier to know happiness after something bad just happened.
  3. What we interpret as "good" requires a frame of reference via "bad" stuff.

In this post, really the third item is what we'll discuss together.

Everything is relative
Photo credit - Hans Veth / Unsplash

The world is mostly quarantined indoors at the time of this writing. A lot of people are complaining about being "bored" and their inability to "go out" like normal.

Hmmm... if boredom is your biggest problem right now, it seems to me that you should be thankful.

I imagine that this crowd would long for their boredom back if they were suddenly incapacitated by COVID-19, struggling to breathe. The prospect of permanent lung damage might make one long for the way their lungs worked before.

Let's also inspect the complaints about not "going out" to malls, bars, etcetera. How much did people appreciate these things before quarantine? When this passes, I think we'll appreciate them as we never have before.

Everything is relative
Photo credit - Jacek Dylag / Unsplash

Indeed, the simple ability to gather with friends at a bar is something that's easy to take for granted. I know I've done so and I rarely drink. It's going to be great once this is behind us.

Another thing, I miss my barber Hussein and will really appreciate Markdaniel Barbershop when it's back.

This is a gratitude you don't get until your mom cuts your hair.

Everything is relative

But hey, my hair still looks okay on Teams video chat and some people don't have their moms around at all. 💔

Back to the title of this post — everything is relative. We could go on for days with examples of this.

i.e. You don't think much about your health until you get sick or injured.

i.e. Can you truly experience or describe "dark" without also having "light"?

That point is straight out of Alan Watts' The Book. One of its major themes is the relativity we've arrived at here. Also, that everything's connected.

I do recommend reading Watts but he is not light reading and you've just interpreted much of The Book via this blog post.

Everything is relative
Alan Watts

To sum this essay all up —

  • Things could likely be a lot worse for you than they are right now.
  • If you find it tough to be "mindful" on your own, subject yourself to some hardship like a grueling workout or a 24-hour fast.
  • We're going to get through these current events then be thankful for stuff we never were before.
  • Consider reading All Quiet on the Western Front or The Book instead of scrolling through Mark Zuckerberg's brainwash apps today.

Happy Easter 2020 🐰 and thanks for reading.

Everything is relative
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film)

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<![CDATA[9 habits to thrive in uncertain times]]>https://gingeleski.com/habits-for-uncertain-times/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e113Sun, 29 Mar 2020 22:44:17 GMT9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

In any uncertain life context, here are 9 positive habits you can control and focus on.

Caution: this is a longer read that you'll want to bookmark if you don't have 20 minutes right now.

I am writing to you during the COVID-19 "quarantine" but don't want to dwell on that. While these are uncertain times, uncertainty has come around before. It'll come around again.

The situation is outside of my control. It's likely outside your control too. And thus, there's no sense in obsessing about it.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

Let's talk about 9 things we can focus on. These habits have served me well long before *ahem* recent events.

Steal them for your own benefit!

Sunlight exposure

Studies have found that people who work near windows are happier. [1] And that sun exposure seems to ward off depression. [2]

When I lived in Hoboken, my bedroom and office were basically in a basement. There was one submerged window into my bedroom.

Now my sleeping and working spaces in Jersey City have lots of sun, being in a high rise. I am overall much happier. Coincidence? Certainly could be.

But if you're able to move your workspace near a sunny window, instead of not being there, I suggest you do the former. 🌞

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

What if you work at a scary isolated place like my former employer, a defense contractor? There are still a few things you can do.

Turn lights on at your desk. My sister is a basement worker and has a special light to ward off seasonal depression. However, I think any lights or a lamp will help.

At my old job and multiple places I've consulted for, you'll get stuck at a cubicle. They oftentimes have "under-cabinet" lighting you can leverage for this purpose.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times
Photo credit - cubiture.com

Supplement with vitamin D. There are more effects from sun exposure than just upping your vitamin D levels, but this is easy and may help in lieu of "the real thing."

"Effective detection and treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels in persons with depression and other mental disorders may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health outcomes as well as their quality of life." [3]

I use this vitamin D — we'll actually discuss more supplements later in this post. 💊

Don't just work, build

With a basic computer and Internet connection, you can learn or build something new.

I continue to work from home during this time but have found working on "side projects" to be especially fulfilling. Consider learning a new skill or even constructing some physical thing for your own good vibes.

Let's face it — if you're not working right now, you have a lot of time staring you square in the face.

You can no longer excuse away things you're afraid to start learning or building because of "time." At the moment you could have 40-plus additional hours per week to chase whatever dreams you have.

You can write a novel or a memoir; you can paint a room or an oil painting; you can program a game or some SaaS-type online business.

See 30 things to do when stuck at home by Anne-Laure Le Cunff for more ideas.

Exercise

Go do 4 sets of 12 heavy-but-manageable deadlifts then tell me how concerned you are about whatever troubled you beforehand. 🥵

When you really challenge yourself with exercise, you stop worrying about everyday, earthly matters. You focus in on "surviving" your workout.

Then of course, post-workout you're prone to endorphin rush or "runner's high". [4] All of this is great for anti-depressant purposes. Various studies have found exercise to be the most effective anti-depressant. No pills required!

In fact, beyond just lifting your mood short-term, regular exercise has been called a "magic bullet" for life extension and medical purposes. [5]

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times
Holed up at my parents' house, here is my makeshift gym.

There is a catch — you have to build up self-discipline to really push yourself. That's why a personal trainer can 100% be worth the money. You don't have an "out" like you may give yourself to avoid pushing your limits.

If you can still hold a conversation in the middle of your exercise routine then you need to work harder.

As many quarantine at home right now, I understand you may not have the workout equipment you'd like. My gym in upstate New York has been posting creative home workouts to Instagram.

That's a positive, justifiable use case for social media and I'll give you a pass for it. Because we're about to discuss...

Socializing > social media

Unless you're using them for business purposes -- and I'll leave that up to you to define -- what are you getting out of social media use?

Supposedly the average person burns a good 144 minutes a day on social media. [6] That even sounds conservative to me, given how many people on public transit appear transfixed on Facebook or Instagram.

"Randy, hello, it's how I stay connected to people!!?"

You can only really connect with 150 people or so at any given time. [7] Your 2,000 Facebook friends are mostly acquaintances.

People come into and out of your life. As hard as it is to realize, human social lives don't snowball.

Studies also suggest your brain doesn't feel any less alone on Facebook or other social media. [8] You might as well sit by yourself to build an online business with your 2 hours a day.

I won't drone on and on about my negative take on it. Just consider that real socialization beats social media.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

Times when things seem uncertain for everybody are a great excuse to reconnect with family or friends. If you can't share a meal together in-person, then a phone or video call will do.

Haven't talked to someone in a while? Send them a text, then follow up with a voice call once they get back to you.

Avoid discussing social media at all when reconnecting, i.e. "Did you see so-and-so posted such-and-such?" 🤐

Limit "the news"

When's the last time something from "the news" — local or national — had an impact on your life?

When's the last time it made you anxious?

I make fun of my dad for spending hours on his iPhone and scrolling "Apple News", presumably some algorithm-generated infinite stream. He claps back that I just stick my head in the sand.

It's not that I don't absorb any news. Earlier you heard about my election news habits via PredictIt.

News sources vary in quality. Most "free" sources optimize towards views and clicks, not towards high standards of journalism. That taints the whole thing because making people angry gets views. Peddling doom gets views.

At least with The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, there's a revenue base via paid subscribers.

But — I digress. This isn't about where you should get your news from. It's just that the return on investment for your time must be considered. Your anxiety levels must be considered.

Try restraining your daily "news" consumption to 30 minutes or less. Coupled with the absence of social media, you're going to notice a difference in thought patterns.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

Intermittent fasting

This is one of the first times I've talked about my intermittent fasting, in over 5 years of doing it. During that time it's become pretty trendy I guess.

Here's the easiest way to get started — only eat things with calories during an 8-hour window of the day, i.e. 11 AM to 7 PM. The first week may be hard as your body adapts. Have tea or black coffee in the morning. Now you're doing it!

What are the benefits? One, this makes it easier to keep bodyweight under control. You can have a bigger lunch and dinner within the same daily calorie budget.

Two, you just enjoy your food more when you're legitimately hungry for your first meal.

Three, there's a lot of research into longevity (lifespan) benefits. [9]

Four, caffeine and other "brain drugs" get absorbed faster in the morning this way. You'll be more effective in the morning this way.

Okay that's enough benefits. You shouldn't need any more than that.

Here's a pro tip — shrink your eating window down from 8 hours as you get more confident with this. I might aim for about 4 hours if trying to cut weight. Perhaps just a single big meal to satiate yourself during the day.

Bonus pro tip — try working out fasted in the morning. But ideally you should take 15 grams of BCAAs before doing it. And 10 grams afterward if you won't be breaking your fast right away. You can read more about that specific tip in Martin Berkhan's The Leangains Method.

"But Randy, { insert excuse here } !!" 😫

There is a lot of information about intermittent fasting online. Various talking heads have written whole books and blogs around their slights twists on this.

Avoid the decision paralysis, just try it, take action.

Supplement if you can

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Do independent research. The pills I am popping every day are liable to change over time, along with my reasons, opinions, etcetera. Proceed with caution.

For over two years I haven't been noticeably "sick." Including the nasty thing going around right now.

My last bout of sickness was a nasty, three-day thing that had me bedridden, drugged up, and dead to the world. Ask my sister — she came to visit in New York during this zombie time.

What's been consistent since then? Supplements I take. Even when traveling, you can count on me taking the following things every day.

  • Rainbow Light Men's One Multivitamin
    • Single dose taken during the day, not long after a meal
    • I think of it as a vitamin baseline even if eating crappy on the road
    • No iron in here
  • Jarrow Formulas N-A-C Sustain
    • Single dose taken during the day, not long after a meal
  • NOW High Potency Vitamin D-3 5000 IU
    • Single dose taken during the day, not long after a meal
  • Doctor's Best Glucosamin Chondroitin MSM
    • Single dose taken during "eating window" (see section on intermittent fasting)
  • Youtheory Collagen Tablets
    • Single dose (6 tablets) taken while fasted
      • Right before starting to eat for the day
  • Universal Uni-Liver Argentine Beef Liver Tablets
    • Usually 10 of these with each meal
      • So at most 30 tablets a day
      • Tend to take them in the middle of a meal
        • "Bro science" to ensure protein uptake
    • My family and friends are used to me popping these at restaurants
      • I don't take at work dinners though
    • Helps get more protein in my meals to build muscle
      • "Old school bodybuilder" thing
      • Every so often I worry about all the iron in these but nobody's ever written about that online...?
        • Maybe they didn't live to tell their tales
  • Zinc
    • 50 mg usually before bed
    • Linked is the brand I take but have never been that picky
      • There are many variants of zinc, some upset your stomach if not taken with food, this one has been good to me
    • Helps with immunity and "male vitality"
  • Doctor's Best High Absorption Magnesium
    • 100-200 mg before bed
  • Gorilla Dream
    • 2-6 capsules before bed
    • Though lately have opted for Sleepy Time Hippo, same intentions
      • Provides some magnesium and zinc but mainly black pepper extract and vitamin B6 help those other supplements absorb
        • "Bro science"
        • Other calming stuff for bedtime

"Where are the references, Randy?!?" 😤

Each of these is based off research I did a long time ago, or recommendations from friends, mentors... they seemingly have served me well.

Not going to back-generate references (i.e. PubMed). You don't have to take anything recommended here.

Sporadically I will "cycle off" if unplanned travel pops up. Like covering someone in Washington D.C. for four days, work stuff. I don't ever plan cycling-off periods for my supplements.

In addition to that list, I take at least 250 mg of metformin on most days, before carb-heavy meals.

This is a prescription drug in the United States. It's mostly prescribed for diabetes, but an anti-aging doctor will write the script for life extension. The latter case applies to me — I take it as an anti-inflammatory.

Supposedly it can have negative effects on your mitochondria. This has come up at least on one of Dr. Peter Attia's podcasts as he discusses "zone 2 training" on the drug. [10]

Also supposedly, there's talk that metformin counteracts symptoms of COVID-19 well. [11]

Positivity and "reframing"

Concerned about a virus floating around outside? Buy a P100 half-mask respirator and a bunch of filters on eBay. At the time of this writing, those can still be had for less than $70 altogether, about a week of shipping time.

Concerned about hyperinflation from the government printing money? Go to APMex for some precious metals and Coinbase for some cryptocurrency.

Those are just two potentially negative things one could dwell on, swept aside by taking action. What else can you do after you've taken action? Kicking around negative thoughts in your head is simply unproductive after that.

Every day there are tons of negative things in the world you could focus on. Animal cruelty, pollution, the general inevitability of change and mortality... ad nauseum. These things can cripple you mentally.

Can you change any of the negative things? Then take action. Any thoughts beyond that are, again, unproductive.

We each have a limited amount of time "here" — define that however you'd like. You can choose to think positively or negatively.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

A virus makes everyone have to quarantine inside? At least you're not sick. You'll appreciate your gym and barber a lot more when they eventually re-open. Etcetera.

When you have to grapple with the negative, try to find "silver linings" by "reframing" the situation. Like the time this situation may have generated for you to learn or build something new.

Track your habits

There's a saying that goes

"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker

Tracking all the stuff in this post will make it more effective. You'll stick with these habits if they are new. As mentioned earlier, these are things I have been doing for a long time myself.

Tracking is like a "meta-habit" because it can make all the others more effective.

There are many approaches you can take to this. However, you've got to admit that software trumps paper. With your records in software of some sort, there's less friction to eventually analyzing everything.

My habit-tracking system currently revolves around Google Keep and Google Docs. It may seem "hokey" but I —

  • Have been able to stick with this daily for months continuously, generating valuable personal data.
  • Am writing a custom application to systemize this better, with analysis built in and without Google.

The best system is one you can stick with!

Without further ado, I keep a "template" note that's blank or has default values of things to track.

TEMPLATE
Location: ???
- Wake up @ ??
- Cold shower? N
- Caffeine? N
- MUD/chai? N
- Alcohol? N
- General email checks? Y
- Once @ ??
- Email newsletters? ??
- "News" stream? ??
- Instagram? N
- Facebook? N
- Twitter? N
- Workout? N
- Sunlight exposure? N/A
- Elevate brain training? N
- Eating window start @ ??
- Eating window end @ ??
- Collagen tablets? Y
    - 6 Youtheory tablets @ ??
- Multivitamin? Y
    - 1 Rainbow tablet @ ??
- Vitamin D? Y
    - 5000 IU @ ??
- Aspirin? Y
    - 81 mg @ ??
- Ibuprofen? N
- N-A-C? Y
    - 600 mg @ ??
- Metformin? Y
- 250 mg @ ??
- Gorilla Dream before bed? N
- CBD before bed? N
- Solo melatonin before bed? N
- Ashwaganda before bed? N

Then I keep copy-pasting that in a pinned note (Google Keep) before filling it in. When that note gets too long, I append it to a Google Doc for longer-term storage.

Sunday 03/29/2020
Location: Syracuse, NY
- Wake up @ 07:22
- Cold shower? Y
- Caffeine? Y
    - 1/2 cup black coffee @ 08:30
- MUD/chai? N
- Alcohol? N
- General email checks? Y
    - Once @ 08:30
    - Once @ 19:51
- Email newsletters? N
- "News" stream? N
- Instagram? N
- Facebook? N
- Twitter? N
- Workout? Y (basement; pull)
- Sunlight exposure? N/A
- Elevate brain training? Y
- Eating window start @ 11:55
- Eating window end @ 18:50
- Collagen tablets? Y
    - 6 Youtheory tablets @ 11:55
- Multivitamin? Y
    - 1 Rainbow tablet @ 13:10
- Vitamin D? Y
    - 5000 IU @ 13:10
- Aspirin? Y
    - 81 mg @ 13:10
- Ibuprofen? N
- N-A-C? Y
    - 600 mg @ 13:10
- Metformin? Y
    - 250 mg @ 17:37
- Gorilla Dream before bed? Y (3/3)
- CBD before bed? Y (1.5 mL)
- Solo melatonin before bed? N
- Ashwaganda before bed? N

Of course, this isn't the only way to track habits. You might not even think it's a good way. 🙂

Find what works for you! Consider other programs like Notion or Microsoft Excel before committing to one system.

Closing thoughts

I'm sending you my best wishes, and the hope these habits serve you well.

Count your blessings. Stay healthy. Not just now but all the time.

9 habits to thrive in uncertain times

[1] The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light via Harvard Business Review
[2] Unraveling the Sun's Role in Depression via WebMD
[3] Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? via US National Library of Medicine
[4] New Brain Effects behind "Runner's High" via Scientific American
[5] Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression via Harvard Health Publishing
[5] You Name It, and Exercise Helps It via The New York Times
[6] Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide 2012-2019 via Statista
[7] Dunbar's number via Wikipedia
[8] Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness via Psycom
[9] In pursuit of healthy aging by The Harvard Gazette
[10] Metformin and Exercise via Peter Attia MD
[11] To fight severe coronavirus disease and even ageing, make metformin an OTC drug, now! via Consumer Choice Center

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<![CDATA[ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience]]>https://gingeleski.com/butcherbox/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e111Sun, 08 Mar 2020 15:00:15 GMTButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

Virtually all the meat I consume at home comes from this service. It may be too good to be true, and go bankrupt. 🐷

That's not an exaggeration. In 2017, I was a happy MoviePass member, but it wasn't sustainable for them. To me it's unclear how ButcherBox makes any money off of me.

But we'll talk about that later. This is a service I recommend for anyone who eats meat. Even though the actual products are premium — organic, grass-fed, and/or humanely raised.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience
Photo credit - Sina Asgari / Unsplash

"A meat subscription service??"

The gist of the service is that grass-fed beef and other high-quality butchery are expensive in the store. Whether that's a traditional Whole Foods or an Amazon Fresh.

By signing up for monthly or bi-monthly boxes of meat, you get convenience and a dramatic cost savings. ButcherBox gets (this is a guess) a more predictable customer/demand for the products they source.

I understand them as a middle man to farms raising animals to higher standards than whatever industrial hell enables Dollar Tree steaks.

Your box can contain any or all of chicken, beef, or pork. You can change this at any time. There's also the option for "add-ons" to any box. For example, in my last box I added a $49.99 "ground beef blast" of 10 pounds grass-fed beef.

You can pause your membership indefinitely if need be. When I'm on the road or just away from home a lot, I pause. Like December through January were all away from home. My first box of the year only arrived a few weeks ago.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

To me this is all very flexible, convenient, and saves money. The latter part isn't as important to me — I would pay $9 a pound for grass-fed ground beef, if it means some animals are more humanely raised. I shell out $7 per dozen eggs on the regular.

But after lots of deliveries, and doing the math, ButcherBox isn't much more expensive than "regular" meat from the grocery store. That's why I'm skeptical of their profitability...

We'll analyze that further on.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

My history with ButcherBox

At this point I'd estimate consuming a dozen boxes from the service. So, many dozens of pounds of meat.

I initially signed up for ButcherBox like 3 years ago. I did find it requires a lot of freezer space, and ended up canceling my membership while co-habitating in Hoboken.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

There was a nice offer for restarting my membership, in "free bacon for life." That was the first "for life" offer I'd added from the service. It seemed too good to be true.

Let's... look at that more closely.

Giving away the store — can it last?

This is the ButcherBox receipt for my last box.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

Taking a look at that, you'll notice I have 3 "for life" deals. These are things that I paid one-time costs for and add extra things to all boxes for the life of my membership.

Does that... seem sustainable? See the following breakdown.

  • "Free Bacon for Life"
    • 10 oz. bacon package added to each box
    • Free promotion for re-registering (June 2019)
  • "Free Wings for Life"
    • 3 lb. chicken wing package added to each box
    • $35.00 one-time cost (August 2019)
  • "Free Ground Beef for Life"
    • 2 lb. grass-fed ground beef package added to each box
    • $29.95 one-time cost (October 2019)

Hmmm. So obviously at some point these start to be a per-box cost, and cut into whatever profit ButcherBox makes off each package. But maybe the increased loyalty (read: predictability of revenue) from this particular customer, me, makes up for it.

There seem to be too many variables involved in butchery for me to even make a decent guess at the take on each delivery. The profit estimate for each box, even assuming no one-time addition products. I went researching and it didn't clarify matters.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience
Lost in a meat business spreadsheet.

A podcast transcript with the ButcherBox CEO did reinforce that "bacon for life" is good for new sign-ups. That podcast is here via Mixergy.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

And also read a bunch of "mommy blogs" shilling ButcherBox without questioning their margins. The Mixergy podcast made it sound like the business is doing just fine though. I digress.

Closing thoughts

As mentioned, this is a recommended service I've been very happy and loyal to. There's high likelihood any meal cooked in my home will include ButcherBox products.

You get $30 off an initial order with this offer link. For transparency's sake, that also yields $30 in meat credits for me. I can't spend it on drugs or cloud computing. It will get eaten.

There are a lot of evil things that take place in this world to enable "normal" and cheap supermarket meat, but in my opinion the answer is not vegetarianism/veganism. It's to demand higher standards alongside a willingness to pay for them. If this service is any indication, the price difference really isn't so big.

ButcherBox is premium meat, corn-fed prices, and Amazon convenience

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<![CDATA[How to make money from your web host or domain registrar]]>https://gingeleski.com/money-from-your-host-or-registrar/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e110Thu, 05 Mar 2020 20:53:05 GMTHow to make money from your web host or domain registrar

If you're a technical person, who you choose to support your websites' resources could be lucrative. Or not.

For the longest time I just registered all my domain names through Namecheap. They've been promoted on this blog before — see this old article or this one.

Why? At the time, before or around 2014, they were one of the only registrars offering free "privacy protection." Where all your personal information required by WHOIS gets anonymized. That was why I switched to them from GoDaddy initially.

But now that WHOIS privacy protection is common practice. And the security-related thing you should be more concerned about is how prone your host or registrar is to social engineering. More on that here.

How to make money from your web host or domain registrar
Photo credit - Victoria Heath / Unsplash

Making money with your host or registrar "the old-fashioned way"

Hyper-aware readers will note I may have leveraged Namecheap affiliate codes in my old posts about domain names.

This is what you might call "the old-fashioned way" to make money from the providers of your website's tech stack.

You get a special link, you use that as your promote the host or registrar to your friends, then you get a commission if they buy something.

Honestly I don't think anyone ever bought stuff from my links so won't comment on how much it is. But after recently transferring my domains to a new registrar, it occurred to me that this new one offered a more lucrative relationship.

Increasing your IT marketability by doing stuff you already do

I transferred my domains to Amazon Web Services (AWS). I am in the process of going to AWS for the backend of this and other sites as well.

You're probably aware most businesses leverage them or Microsoft Azure in some capacity for IT stuff now.

Managing my websites is something that'll happen regardless of who my host or registrar is. As a technical person this is probably true to you, too.

Having familiarity and skills with AWS or Azure is desirable in my field. Building this skill set by doing things I'd otherwise be doing already adds value to my brand, job marketability, etc.

Now, it will help me to go the extra step and get AWS certified. Your normal website management may not hone all the skills you need to get even a basic cloud cert, though makes it easier for sure.

If this effort helps you get promoted or get a new job, potentially that means tens of thousands in additional compensation (cash, RSUs...).

Consider whether that's more lucrative for your situation than what just shilling affiliate codes would. Because AWS and Azure aren't offering affiliate programs the way GoDaddy or Namecheap do.

How to make money from your web host or domain registrar
Photo credit - Pepi Stojanovski / Unsplash

Closing thoughts

This all doesn't help people who don't work in tech or desire to work in tech. You may be better off taking cash payouts from some affiliate program if you can, in that case.

But this becomes a case of short-term versus long-term thinking for tech workers with their own websites. Or a case of honesty, maybe hawking affiliate codes for something you don't use yourself.

Give it some thought. In the future I intend to write about my own transfer of this site into AWS. It's not as scary as you'd think.

Happy hacking 🙂

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<![CDATA[Buckle down and do the work]]>https://gingeleski.com/buckle-down-do-the-work/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e10fSat, 29 Feb 2020 22:23:38 GMTBuckle down and do the work

At some point you have to stop advice-seeking, "product hunting", and traveling so you can just do the work.

If you spend all your time looking and consuming, when are you going to create? You should spend a lot more time doing (active) than watching or looking (passive).

It's tough because watching The Profit is so much easier than building a business. Listening to Tim Ferriss "dissect the secrets of world-class performers and billionaires!" is much more pleasurable than forging yourself into a world-class performer or billionaire.

At some point you need to "buckle down and do the work", as one might say.

Buckle down and do the work
Why is Mark Cuban so calm?!? - CNBC

Same thing with Product Hunt. It's a big platform for wantrepreneurs but I've got to give credit where credit is due. It is big. When I eventually launch some SaaS business, odds are I'll buy my way onto there.

Would it tickle my brain to actually participate in Product Hunt and become a "Product Hunter"? You bet. I'd get to look at new startups and SaaS concepts all day long. Leaving comments on them would make me feel like #hustle.

Eventually they might invite me to look for and recommend new things for the site. It'd save me that eventual $100 to someone off Fiverr to get my own business onto there. However, all the hours of my life wasted on participating in Product Hunt would also just delay the actualization of said business.

Buckle down and do the work

To try and get my point across another way, certain members of my generation fetishize travel. "I ONLY FEEL ALIVE WHEN I AM TRAVELING THEN WORLD. #RATHERBETRAVELING"

Last year I spent like 90-something nights in Hilton hotels alone. Most of it wasn't by choice, but the point is that I know what it's like to travel a lot.

My mental and physical health take hits when I travel too often. I can't keep up with my usual routines that move me forward in life. It's more difficult to eat healthy and get quality workouts in, despite grand efforts.

"That's different than leisure travel, Randy! My favorite Instagram influencers look like they're having the time of their life as they travel the world."

If that's you, then one day when you stop fetishizing travel, do a lot of it, and get your home life established, I think you'll see I'm right.

Not to even open the can of worms that is fellow young people compromising their financial health to support activities -- travel, etc. -- that'll look good on social media...

Buckle down and do the work

One of the problems I see with life in 2020 is that people don't appreciate anything the way they've got it now and are always yearning after something else. That's maybe a different theme than I started the post with... but not so much.

Now stop reading my blog and go create something.

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<![CDATA[Spreading joy is your job]]>https://gingeleski.com/spreading-joy/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e10bSat, 22 Feb 2020 18:36:04 GMTSpreading joy is your job

There are basically two parts to work — technical skills and "soft" skills. What matters may not be what you think.

Earlier today I had a bad experience with a dental hygienist, prompting me to reflect on "work" as a whole (and to complain but that's not why you're here).

I suppose this person did a fine job cleaning my teeth. However, everything around that — you might say "soft skills", "bedside manner" — soured the experience entirely.

Let's elaborate on my own job instead of that specific experience... I'll show you what I mean.

What do I do? My official title is something like "senior advisory consultant." Very vague. Readers know I work in cybersecurity, and might understand further that I specialize in software security. Securing web applications.

We go into a client and review an application, reporting security controls that could be better. We'll look at the code. We'll hack it live. We explain what we found, how we did it, why it's bad. We may help automate these things. That's it in a nutshell.

But still... that's not really it. Being a good consultant depends a lot on what I call "the perception of value." You need to internalize that concept, and what goes into "doing a good job" as a consultant. This is where soft skills come into play.

In fact, this is all more nuanced and important than the application security, I say. That is the technical part of the job. The work.

That's all wrapped in presentation, reporting, socialization. Those are what's seen from the outside as value is perceived.

Spreading joy is your job
Photo credit - Kira auf der Heide / Unsplash

Previously on here I wrote about teaching junior engineers to search. The message of this post is something I also try to instill, and is even more important.

If I ask a college hire — an assistant — to sum up what our job is at my place of business, they might look at me funny. The eventual answer may be something like "helping companies with application security" or "keeping clients from being hacked."

Okay sure. We can go more general than that, however. As consultants our job is to spread joy.

I didn't come up with that

Derek Sivers came up with this before me, as I recall, in his book Anything You Want. It gets high praise from me as a short, colorful book on entrepreneurship.

At some point in there he talks about trying to instill joy in all of his business interactions with other people. You think differently when you look through that lens.

"But, but, stopping hackers!"

If one of my clients' applications gets hacked after I've assessed it, then that's terrible. That is a nightmare scenario for me. Missing something that a bad guy finds. But still, just saying my job is to keep that specific thing from happening is wrong.

Making my clients feel safer brings them a bit of joy. Automating or otherwise completing tasks they're responsible for also yields a warm, fuzzy feeling. Giving an excellent presentation and helping them better grasp some security concept brings joy too.

Of course, they have to trust my application security work is competent. The technical stuff. And certainly I don't mean to ever compromise work quality for presentation or sales quality, in some scammy way. But I mean the soft skills wrap around the technical ones.

Hypothetical pen test walkthrough

You can do the most brilliant job while assessing an application. You pulled off some super elaborate hack, and it's a high or maybe even critical severity issue. Thank goodness you found it. The application is also written in a programming language and framework you're deeply familiar with. You are confident you found everything there is to find in this application. Fantastic job — on the technical stuff.

Except, when your handler at this client came into the lab to check on you each day, they found you couldn't hold eye contact with them. You also appeared — and smelled — less than professional. You had on ripped skinny jeans, and a wrinkled button-down shirt with some missing buttons.

From your explanations, they never got a good sense of what you'd found so far or overall how things were going. You also didn't keep in touch with the development team of your app, who is supporting you by answering questions, etc. At the end of the day, you did not send out a concise, clear, grammatically correct email about current testing status to the team and your handler.

Your readout call to go over the finished report also didn't go very smoothly. Your audio kept cutting in and out on the call. You were testy when the client mandated some minor edits to your report format.

Let's not even get into whether there are typos or other issues in the report itself. You know — the report that's the overall deliverable and work output from this assessment.

That's how all the "soft skill" wrapper stuff around the technical part of my job can ruin that. In the situation I just described, the client will almost certainly complain to your boss. "Is there anybody else besides Randy available to cover the next assessment?"

It's not as much fantasy as you think. This is a very common situation in my job, where you have extremely computer-savvy people working, but who shouldn't be consulting per se. It's a whole other can of worms.

Closing thoughts (dental hygiene)

With all that said, a dental hygienist's job is to spread joy as well. The technical part is cleaning your actual teeth. But once you've got that down, you must realize the patient's experience is influenced by you asking inappropriate questions, forcefully moving their head around, yelling at them... any number of things.

I probably don't know you personally or what your job is. But I've been known to bet, and would wager that "spreading joy" is a helpful lens to think of your own work through.

Consider that before your next professional interaction. If you've got the bandwidth, do check out Anything You Want too. It's a short read.

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<![CDATA[On PredictIt as a neutral 2020 election news source]]>https://gingeleski.com/predictit-election-news/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e10aThu, 20 Feb 2020 02:23:51 GMTOn PredictIt as a neutral 2020 election news source

PredictIt is a market for "putting your money where your mouth is" about political events. And a great news source.

Do you want to bet on just about anything in politics?

It's one thing to post on Facebook about what you feel, and another one to put a financial stake behind it — up to $800 per predictive event.

PredictIt.org is where a college in Australia makes markets for political opinions and hunches. Allegedly they do it all as educational research. I believe it, because there's not a "house edge" built in anywhere.

On PredictIt as a neutral 2020 election news source

They just seem to cover operational costs like payment processing. It's worth noting that anyone in the U.S. can deposit money and participate.

Even as a New Jersey resident, it was easier for me to deposit on PredictIt than my Super Bowl sportsbook.

Also to their credit is the number of political events they covers. Numerous sportsbooks might take a bet on the U.S. presidential election outcome — but how about for a politician's number of tweets on a given day?

This all probably sounds like a glowing recommendation and would be a good lead-in to an affiliate link. But PredictIt doesn't have an affiliate program, because of their not-for-profit nature.

And my most adamant referral is towards their... news coverage.

On PredictIt as a neutral 2020 election news source

Some weeks ago I became curious about what the markets thought about this 2020 election. For the most part, I ignore "the news" but something or other had prompted me to seek out the wisdom of markets.

It might've been after the approximately-once-a-week time when I don't ignore "the news" and will skim Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal... The significance of those is that they're both paid, so have somewhat less reliance on page views (eyeballs). And they're both biased but in opposite directions. They smooth each other out.

This is when I found PredictIt as the dominant player in its space, as described thus far. I signed up then made like $20 in longshot predictions on the election. It's still early even now as of this post, so who knows what'll happen.

This was seemingly the end of my interactions with the site until post-election. However, soon after a newsletter appeared in my inbox from PredictIt... unexpected, in itself.

Yet even more surprising is that it was pleasurable to read. It didn't stir up any strong feelings one way or another about anything political.

The newsletter comes out a few times a week. Coverage is able to be very political yet also devoid of emotion. I'm obviously still subscribed, hence this post.

On PredictIt as a neutral 2020 election news source

It meets a desire from people like me who are curious to follow election proceedings but don't find pleasure in the typical news outlets' other baggage.

The PredictIt letter goes over the ongoing political events that are making new predictions become available in their market, how events have unfolded or concluded, what betting activity has gone on, etcetera.

It perhaps also helps that they're Australian.

In the future I might do a post covering newsletters in general. As someone who doesn't use social media, it's helpful to just collect things I'd be prone to read or skim in my inbox. No "endless scrolling" that's so mentally dangerous.

But for now — check out PredictIt.org if anything it's offering sounds like it's for you.

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<![CDATA[Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor]]>https://gingeleski.com/super-bowl-bonus-money/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e109Sun, 02 Feb 2020 19:19:08 GMTSportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor

I didn't even know who was in today's Super Bowl until going to the sportsbook, but thanks to bonuses, betting's in my favor. 🏈

"That's really stupid, Randy, especially after all your writing about game strategy and casino math!"

Hold on, dear reader. For context you have to remember I live in New Jersey. You also have to allow me a backstory.

Early Internet casino bonuses

Years ago, when online gambling was first becoming a thing, the market was saturated with different outfits and all the competition was good for gamblers. They benefited in the rather direct form of sign-up bonuses and promotions.

This wasn't just driven by competition but also lack of trust in online casinos. The Internet was younger then. People probably weren't as concerned with "hackers", I guess... they just didn't totally trust "The House."

(From my time dealing blackjack in real life, I can tell you a lot of people don't trust "The House" when they're sitting in it either. With real cards right in front of them.)

I was like 10 years old when all this was going on, but gambling history says there were bonuses like 200% of your initial deposit, which could be used on whatever games you wanted. People could exploit that with maneuvers like depositing $100, putting the $200 in bonus money through the blackjack table once, then withdrawing $200+ in real dollars.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor

Nowadays regular casino bonuses have stricter "playthrough" requirements, and/or can only be used on slots, etcetera etcetera. Gaming operators have wisened up whether they're online or brick-and-mortar.

Present-day Internet sportsbook bonuses

"What does this have to do with the Super Bowl?!"

Well, if you live in an area where online sports betting is legal, you can probably find a sweet promotion for today's event by signing up for a sportsbook you haven't used before.

I'll use my own example. It's not a "big money" one but it's realistic.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor
Photo credit - Riley McCullough / Unsplash

I've bet on and off on sports for a while. For me, sports aren't naturally that interesting. Maybe just given me being "a nerd." 🤓 But with just a little money at stake, sportsball suddenly becomes interesting.

(It's also something I've pursued as a money-making scheme a few times though that's never worked out. Keeping the lights on here in New Jersey still means hacking software far and wide. But, feel free to fork my Nitrogen Sports or Odds Portal programs on Github for your own attempts.)

Today is the 2020 Super Bowl — not really sure what Roman numerals it is, and until placing some bets yesterday, I didn't know who was playing. Doesn't matter! There are at least a few dozen sportsbooks serving my area, I've only used like one of them previously, so bonus money was able to tip the scales in my favor.

Go searching — either plain Google or a gambling review site — and you'll see a bunch of available bonuses if you live in a legalized area.

$10 real + $100 bonus = probable win

The operator in my case was Pointsbet. That's an affiliate link with a promotion attached. Two "risk-free" bets up to $1,000 total. Google for a better offer if you like.

That's arguably a better deal than I even used... mine was $100 in bonus money on a deposit of at least $10 cash. This came from a sidebar ad on some non-gaming website.

Thus, the best math for us would've come from depositing only the $10 then placing it all on something reasonable like which team would win, for instance. Let's talk about just fixed odds bets here.

The Kansas City Chiefs are favored to win right now at 1.80 decimal odds. Meaning, if you stake $100 and they win by any number of points, you now have $180.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor

Let's say we bet that with our $10 real money and $100 bonus money. What's notable about the bonus is you wouldn't get that $100 back. You'll see that as I reveal my actual bets in one moment.

For this example, continuing to do the math, our $10 at risk would potentially become $98.00. See how below.

Real money : ($10.00 * 1.80) = $18.00
Bonus money : ($100.00 * 1.80) - $100.00 = $80.00
$18.00 + $80.00 = $98.00

That's as if the odds are at a long 9.8 instead of their current 1.8 — not bad. In upstate New York that'd buy a halfway decent meal.

My actual betting deviated from the above. I deposited $50 in actual money, which went on Kansas City to win by 2 points. The odds were slightly different yesterday so that came at 2.00x for potentially $100 back.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor

Then the bonus went to this less likely event of the game's total points (add both final scores together) falling between 41 and 50. Odds for that were 3.50x, though since this was a bonus wager, the yield would be $250.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor

Admittedly, this was primarily in the interest of entertainment while my girlfriend and I have the game going. It's not as conservative as the first wager described for $10. But that's still an outsized return against the provided odds.

Real money : ($50.00 * 2.00) = $100.00
Bonus money : ($100.00 * 3.50) - $100.00 = $250.00
$100.00 + $250.00 = $350.00

Closing

Smart use of sportsbook promotions can add some additional entertainment value to events you were going to watch anyway. And, some money in your pocket.

When the promotions dry up and you're just straight betting on sports, be more careful. Do not get addicted to gambling in any form.

Building predictive models of sports is tough. I've tried to do it for soccer on Nitrogen Sports, have scraped tons of Odds Portal data, plus have written about modeling baseball. Gaming mega-corporations have invested a ton of resources in accurately modeling this stuff and offer you odds with an edge built onto that. It's unlikely you can do it better.

But, if you try, you'll at least learn about statistics, machine learning, other computer science, etcetera. 🤓 The only sure bet is yourself.

Happy Super Bowl.

Sportsbook bonus math for the Super Bowl = odds in your favor
Photo credit - Timothé Lejeune / Unsplash

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<![CDATA[How to become a good engineer using Google search]]>https://gingeleski.com/good-engineers-search-stuff/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e108Sun, 19 Jan 2020 01:25:00 GMTHow to become a good engineer using Google search

One thing I've consistently had to teach junior engineering staff is to search for stuff.

Not even really how to search for stuff, just that they should. It's 2020 and everyone more or less knows how.

The Google brand has been associated with engineering excellence for a while, but the amount of productive engineers they've helped turn out is probably immeasurable. How do you track every technical person who's ever used search to solve a problem?

Nope, not binary search. Web search via Google or (for the conspiracy theorists) DuckDuckGo. Let's also count StackOverflow's local search, though I always like to cast a wider net when looking for answers.

There's a misconception that pops up somewhere in the growth path of a software engineer (or security engineer, etcetera) that one day they'll stop Googling.

"Real" engineers don't need to search. "Professional" developers have memorized every out-of-the-box thing in Python. Every Java compiler error and warning!

They are too embarrassed to search but not to call me over to see their Git conflict error. At which point I'll make sure to spread embarrassment anyway.

If you're in a technical job, you should try to search your way out of problems before using more senior staff's time. This is an easy way to stand out amongst your peers.

And this might be applicable to any job where you sit at a computer, though run-of-the-mill tech support's time might be better spent than yours. It could be cheaper. I don't know you.

How to become a good engineer using Google search
Photo credit - Sebastian Herrmann / Unsplash

Back in college, my last year of undergrad included a class titled "Software Engineering." We were 18 people who had to work together in groups to build one overall thing. However, it was really me and 2 others who carried the whole class. I think anyone who was there would agree.

It wasn't that we were necessarily gifted. That's not the case for me.

Really -- there are some truly crazy programmers I've met on the journey of my career, who blow me out of the water.

All it took to lead that undergrad course was a drive to aggressively Google error messages. And, though this should be a given, you have to care enough in the first place to even do that.

How to become a good engineer using Google search
Photo credit - Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

For security jobs, searching exact error messages you get back while attacking is often valuable reconnaissance.

Emphasis on the exact part. This weeds out noise in search results. You'll need to put quotes around your search query, possibly breaking it up into multiple parts with a plus sign between them.

As an example, let's say I am either building or attacking a web application (trust me there's a lot of overlap) and it gives me the message below* in a response.

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "scraper.py", line 135, in
asyncio.get_event_loop().run_until_complete(main())
File "C:\Users\1\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python38\lib\asyncio\base_event
s.py", line 612, in run_until_complete
return future.result()
File "scraper.py", line 54, in main
raise RuntimeError('Could not read environment variable ODDS_PORTAL_USERNAME
')
RuntimeError: Could not read environment variable ODDS_PORTAL_USERNAME

* This is an actual error someone encountered trying to run an open source project of mine. It wasn't in an HTTP response though. That'd be bad. Just pretend.

The inexperienced search user might then try a query like Could not read environment variable ODDS_PORTAL_USERNAME or RuntimeError: Could not read environment variable ODDS_PORTAL_USERNAME. If that Python error is not obvious I'm going to guess you don't understand ODDS_PORTAL_USERNAME is an application-specific variable either. Anyway, at best you'd then get these noisy results below.

How to become a good engineer using Google search

The battle-hardened search soldier would tend to look at the original error then derive the following query instead.

"RuntimeError" + "The environment variable is not set"

Here, we've dropped the variable that seems custom to our application. This tends to be a good idea unless you have reason to believe your error is coming from a vendor product. We also lost the colon because it doesn't add value.

If we try that in Google, our results are clean and allow for immediate action.

How to become a good engineer using Google search

At this point I hope you get the idea. From here, you might go bookmark something about "advanced Google search tricks" to learn helpful syntax.

Notice I didn't link -- readers might get some practice here. 🙃

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<![CDATA[As much anxiety as you want]]>https://gingeleski.com/much-anxiety/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e107Fri, 03 Jan 2020 20:52:01 GMTAs much anxiety as you want

Please stop with absolute statements about how bad the past year or decade were.

In the closeout of 2019, many outlets of online content have taken the opportunity to write retrospectives of the year or the decade.

I'm of the seemingly rare opinion that it was a great year, great decade, and we're living in the best time to be alive.

You might not share my opinion -- that's okay. But neither side of the coin should be peddled off as absolute fact.

There's no way it can be. It's all relative.

So if I go to read a list of best non-fiction works of the decade (okay maybe this was doomed from the start because "best" non-fiction will be subjective too), I can do without this --

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature.

As I also can when Variety puts together a list of standout movies and recognizes 2016's La La Land --

The most joyful movie of the decade, and joy is not a quality we should take for granted (especially these days).

Your brain decides how good or bad things are, including any given period of time. In turn, you get as much (or as little) time-based anxiety as you want.

A personal example is that social media and "the news" used to make me a nervous wreck. Then I cut that stuff out of my life, for the most part, after failing to think up anything good they brought me.

That's why your Twitter or Instagram message to me will go unanswered. Sorry. They're now just parked pages, more or less.

We seem to project our own thoughts out onto the world. Just, before you do, remember that you might control whether you're having a bad time. And not necessarily everyone is.

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<![CDATA[2010 decade in review]]>https://gingeleski.com/2010-decade/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e105Thu, 02 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT2010 decade in review

Here's the high-level story of my 2010-2019 decade.

This blog started at the end of summer 2014 in its original form, now maintained at this old.gingeleski.com subdomain. So it's only half a decade old and doesn't capture all of what happened to me during "the 2010s."

Or rather, what I was able to get done, as you can decide how much life will just happen for you.

This post attempts to gather the most impactful points of each year for me, back to 2010. Not all of it is flattering but, that's life. Respect the transparency.

2010 decade in review
Also note there are no mentions of travel. At this point the volume I do makes it unremarkable (i.e. during 2019 I spent 91 nights in Hilton hotels). 🚀

2010

  • Took high school computer programming class, won award for out-coding everyone else.
  • Continued being a video geek.
  • Tried to "get a job", as some of my peers were doing, then got jealous because of lack of success in this department.
2010 decade in review
2010 decade in review

2011

  • Started learning/doing computer hacking and other "white collar" bad stuff.
  • Spike of interest and success with girls/"partying".
  • Got driver's license.
2010 decade in review
2010 decade in review

2012

  • Was arrested twice as 2011 activities came to a peak.
  • First went to therapy; forced to reflect on own thoughts, life, what's important.
  • Graduated high school.
  • Burned the hell out of my arm.
  • Started college.
  • Moved from Syracuse to New York City.
  • Drinking/alcoholism reaches peak during this year then drops off through college; hardly ever drink now.
2010 decade in review
2010 decade in review

2013

  • Did "marketing" internship for some sketchy people; networked my way into freelance web development work for their peers.
  • First time living totally alone.
  • First "bad breakup."

2010 decade in review

2014

  • Moved back in with parents for all-online semester of undergrad.
  • Took blackjack training class then spent summer working casino graveyard shift.
  • Started this blog and began working on "Ging Casino" project.

2010 decade in review

2015

(Related post: 2015 in review)

  • Continued honing web development skills to build casino site.
  • Grandmother died, who I was very close with.
  • Graduated college (B.S. computer science).
  • Started two "real" software development jobs in upstate NY after successful interviews.
  • Juggled freelance development and security work on the side.

2010 decade in review
(Not blurring my sister's face as this was published on my blog before)

2016

(Related post: 2016 in review)

  • Realized opportunity cost of the job I was in, not enough challenge/excitement/stimulation.
  • Began further honing programming skills to jump for different job at a hyper-competitive firm.
  • Began "exercising seriously" with personal trainer (weights), rowing, running.

2010 decade in review

2017

  • Get depressed after failing first attempt to get a new, fancy programming job at top firm.
  • Worked on open source (volunteer) programming for OWASP.
  • Interviewed with and then joined the security company of person supervising my OWASP work.
  • Moved back from Syracuse to New York City.
  • Met current girlfriend.
  • Company I was working for gets acquired by Big 4 professional services firm.
2010 decade in review
2010 decade in review
Syracuse, cubicle, miserable; New York, no cubicle, not miserable 😉

2018

(Related post: 2018 in review)

  • Adapted to life at new employer post-acquisition.
  • Further honed skills in both application security and programming.
  • Solidified relationship with current girlfriend.
  • Close friend died unexpectedly.
2010 decade in review
2010 decade in review

2019

(Related post: 2019 in review)

  • Solidified clout within day job, figured out what I find most fulfilling to work on, renegotiated compensation.
  • Ditched roommates for own apartment (had not been living alone since move back to New York City).

2010 decade in review

Closing

This decade captured my life from 15 to 25.

It's quite fortunate that I got through many reckless events of my youth without more long-term harm. But going down that route, it's also fortunate that I was born in the United States, with a stable family, so on and so forth.

In many ways I feel like I conquered myself, which is probably always a prerequisite to conquering the world.

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<![CDATA[2019 in review]]>https://gingeleski.com/2019-in-review/5eb2029507f27f3b3f41e106Wed, 01 Jan 2020 10:00:00 GMT2019 in review

My annual recap of what happened in my personal life (2019 edition).

For new readers, I've traditionally done a year-end post here on the blog that chronicles my own life.

This will be a very one-sided post because I'm probably not going to read an account of what happened in your 2019. There's my warning.

It's cathartic and reflective for me to write one of these each year. Now that I abstain 99.9% from social media, think of this like my life update for acquaintances. Or a general transparency report.

This next section's like a TL;DR then we'll go more or less chronological.

Overall thoughts

2019 was a year of me trying to maintain or build on good stuff from last year, while cutting out some negative points. That might sound like what people aim for every year but, looking back, there weren't any big life events that otherwise stick out.

No job change or promotion, no big side business starts or ends, no deaths close to me, no injuries or health scares, no other real crises. Didn't unveil any personal projects that seem big, however my Github remained active. My "relationship status" has been unchanged for two years. I did move from Hoboken, NJ to Jersey City, NJ and live by myself now, unlike before. The lead-up to that was my only real adversity of the year. More on this later.

One thing that maybe continued declining during 2019 was my social life. 2016 to 2017 marked maybe the peak of me being social, regularly hanging out with a wide variety of people and cultivating deep friendships. Since then, I don't see as many people as regularly. My immediate family and girlfriend are my deepest social relationships by any metric. My aggregate time spent socializing is down.

However, this all to me is a price of success. It's not like I spend 60 hours a week on my salaried job... average we're talking probably 45 hours per actual working week. But I do hone or develop technical skills, research side projects, etcetera on many Saturday nights when others are "going out."

On another note, I stopped feeling that young after turning 25. Not like the wife from Don DeLillo's White Noise but more so than ever before. Will also expound on this further in.

I realize overall I'm a lucky guy. In the grand scheme of things, thinking what some lives are like in other parts of the world (i.e. where people walk 5 miles from home to find potable water), none of these "issues" were/are significant.

2019 in review

Running away from home

At the end of 2018, my then-roommate had an emergency which prompted him to move home for parental care. The lease on our place in Hoboken went until the end of May.

I foresaw this creating some friction between us and, sure enough, we had a falling out over how to handle his obligations. This in itself created an uncomfortable situation "at home" but a random person would also be moving in with me for the last 3 months of the lease.

This successor to my original roommate would end up being about as incompatible with my personality as possible, turning our place into a bona fide frat house.

The main reason I spell out all this is to warn anyone (especially younger people) who'll be co-habitating about getting stuck in a bad situation. Protect your interests in writing, plan for the unexpected in writing.

You need leverage to do anything. Lacking that, I made myself sparse during early 2019.

For work, I spent probably four weeks total from January 1 to April 5 just outside Philadelphia. There were also many nights spent petsitting with my girlfriend.

2019 in review
2019 in review

When those failed I paid with Hilton points for the Jersey City Doubletree or Millenium Hilton Downtown.

Though there were some nights spent in Hoboken, feeling entitled to get something out of my rent payments. During the day I'd frequent one of my company's offices instead of work from home.

During all this I put a deposit down for a place in Jersey City's Journal Square. That would've been the beginning of April, and my new lease was set to start in June.

Traveling-transitioning

The end was in sight but there was only one week of work travel for me between April and August (long remote project). My girlfriend's housesitting was slowing down. My Hilton points were all expended.

I figured my girlfriend and I would spend a weekend in Atlantic City before this work thing. My return from that would put me in Newark airport late on a Thurday night. I'd rent an SUV, get all of my stuff from the apartment in the dead of night, then drive up to my parents'. We'd all leave for Florida together then I would spent May in upstate NY.

Turns out... my stuff in the apartment was really two SUVs of space instead of one. But otherwise everything went according to plan.

Atlantic City, Chicago for work, Delray Beach.

2019 in review

2019 in review
2019 in review

(Almost) running away from my job

Further adding to the uncertainty of the beginning of the year was several months of testing the job market. While I wasn't unhappy with my job, the market was/is very hot and recruiters solicit me every day. So it was a money thing.

I mention this to capture my feelings at the beginning of the year... my places of residence and work were up in the air, or at least felt that way.

By the end of 2019 I'd build a better appreciation of my current job as we mutually sorted some things out.

Home again

The month of May in upstate NY was good. I was working remotely, able to spend a lot of time with family and at the best gym.

My dad and I saw the classic hair metal band Whitesnake at my former employer, the Turning Stone Casino.

2019 in review

One sad thing was that, during the month, our family dog showed signs of being sick then ultimately passed away. This was a more impactful pet death on me than our previous dogs. I guess it's just the window of my life spent with him (almost 10 years).

2019 in review

Good times + Jersey City

At the beginning of June, I moved into my current place in Journal Square. My parents helped me move -- with really just one bedroom's worth of stuff, we drove two cars down, then I ordered a lot of new stuff from Amazon.

This made me really aware of just how much "stuff" goes into a more established home. As one example, not having a can opener until finding myself unable to open a can.

It took me until to July to feel settled in the apartment.

During the middle of June, my girlfriend and I went to Maine. It was still a bit cold then but you can't necessarily sun bathe much up there anyway.

2019 in review
2019 in review

Increased output

After the week of July 4 (traditionally more vacation time), I entered a period of increased productivity and output through the end of August.

The last time I lived alone back in college brought me a lot of depression at first. My first "big breakup" occurred early into me having my own place, and that plus the adjustment to simply living solo was a lot to deal with.

Initially I escaped that by taking a semester online back in upstate NY, doing blackjack training, then casino work over the summer. But shortly after starting this blog I found myself back at (not online) school, feeling alone. What saved me was concentrating hard on learning web development to build my fabled Bitcoin casino project.

2019 in review
My office circa 2014

Would it have been healthier to just rebuild my social life as a single person? Maybe. However, that period from September 2014 into May 2015 was one of the most productive in my life.

Was that just an outcome of living alone? No. But I'd be lying if I say that didn't weigh in as a motivator to live alone again.

July through August of this year saw some big output on what was sort of a secret project for my day job. At the end of August, my organization all gathered in Dallas where I unveiled that plus gave an unrelated research presentation.

2019 in review

There was also just a lot of billable day job work going on too, like 55 hours a week average. Yet I still studied for, then passed, the CISSP exam (a standard accolade for the information security field).

2019 in review

Having full control over my living environment again certainly contributed to this spike in output. It's hard to say how much because at least a dozen other things could've contributed.

For instance, increased sun exposure because it was summer and I now had a rooftop lounge to read books from. Workouts were also up due to my in-building gym, which meant more blood pumped through the brain. Etcetera etcetera.

Mixed in with the work was (what's become annual) travel to Pittsburgh with my dad.

2019 in review

And then my 25th birthday, briefly spent in Syracuse.

25 years old

I didn't have an overt "quarter life crisis" for 25. Quite happy with my life. I did seriously consider pre-ordering the 2020 Corvette C8, but that was mostly unrelated.

Part of a male life crisis involves buying sports cars, right?

For whatever reason this did all strike me as a more substantive birthday than usual. 25 seems way less youthful than 24. As brought up in this post's intro, I feel pretty adult, and many things are stable.

I've had the same job and girlfriend for over two years. Those are milestones for me. I live by myself again, 100% independent, paying rent, utility bills, insurance, all "adult" stuff. And my thoughts creep more to child-rearing and death than ever before.

But, hey, no more underage fees when renting cars. 🚗

Increased output again (or not)

September into early December was supposed to be as productive as my summer, but it just didn't pan out. It may have been that the pace of that was simply abnormal.

My work travel crept pretty high again, north of half time. Mostly into Pennsylvania. Also one very rushed, very weird trip to D.C.

2019 in review
Note my suitcase in the back seat of the rental because it didn't fit in the trunk.

There was some personal travel too. I went with my sister and one of our friends to see David Byrne's Broadway show before its actual Broadway run, in Boston.

2019 in review
2019 in review

Disneyworld

December 9 marked the start of 4 weeks' PTO from my day job. This will force me to take some unpaid time in 2020 to cover many trips planned then, so don't get too envious. Easy come, easy go, no big deal.

That first Wednesday through Sunday was spent in Orlando and at Disneyworld to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday. She is hard to shop for so I've gotten into the habit of gifting trips.*

* My barber and some other friends have said this is unusual for your S.O. to be agreeable about. That also played a role in Bar Harbor earlier 2019. I am lucky. Valentine's Day 2020 we'll be in Las Vegas.

The last time I was at Disneyworld would've been maybe 12 years ago. For that, and other times my parents took us as kids, what I remember more than anything else is my dad complaining about the cost of everything. Don't subject your kids to that. If you can't really afford it -- and there will be expenses beyond park ticket costs, duh -- don't go.

I make it a point now to overestimate trip costs when setting money aside for travel. It is very hard to financially rattle me on vacations. And, I have a lot of travel loyalty points from work.

We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando because Hilton's triple points promotion was still going. There it made sense for me to save existing points and use my Hilton Amex there. Basically, the out-of-pocket cost was still less than almost any Disney property and will pay for time in Vegas during 2020. My allegiance to Hilton burns strong.

2019 in review

The Orlando Waldorf was also a great place to stay because you're still on-property with similar perks to the actual Disney hotels. But, with (presumably) less kids at the hotel.

It's connected to a "regular" Hilton too with similar perks at a lesser rate. That may have more of a kid population.

We arrived at the hotel early afternoon Wednesday. Ideally this would've allowed some time by the pool but it was gloomy weather out. I desperately need sun after little exposure in the northeast for so long. It's been a long time since I've done indoor tanning, either.

The theme parks we went to Thursday through Saturday. Basically, all except Magic Kingdom. I really enjoyed the new Star Wars and Toy Story areas. Acute readers may remember me running a Disney 5K two years ago as a Toy Story alien. And getting a special Star Wars milk drink was cool.

2019 in review
2019 in review

I will say that the walking tired me out after 3 days at heavy levels. While I work out regularly, it's more weights and any running is never at distance (< 2 mi.). My girlfriend kept up with all this much better because, as a dog walker, she logs like 30,000 steps per weekday.

We spent her actual birthday night at Flying Fish instead of an in-park restaurant. The Waldorf's own restaurant looked really good but I didn't reserve it in time. Logistically it wasn't bad to go to the Disney Boardwalk to eat.

Some people claim this is the best restaurant in all of Disney but we found it a little pretentious. The food and service were great, it's just that we had a more low-key dinner another night we liked better. See Disney Springs' The Boathouse.

Anyway, the overall trip was a success. Direct flights there and back, to my preferred airport of Newark. Less than 20 minutes from my apartment by Uber. Cannot complain.

Normal Syracuse winter

My winter holiday plans are pretty fixed from year to year. I used Hertz points to drive from Jersey City to upstate New York on 12/18. I stayed through the year end.

Christmas Eve and Christmas itself with family. New Year's Eve spent at-home and low key. Worst night of the year to go out -- I'll write that every year. New Year's Day (today) is another family even, though it's technically not 2019.

2019 in review

Closing

2019 was good to me. It was a year that mostly "stayed the course", but no worries there. I am lucky in the cards I've been dealt.

What's in store for 2020? More miles logged traveling, with many business trips by air and at least one personal trip overseas. Upstarts on "side business" stuff that I will reveal in due time. And some upward (or outward) mobility in my day job.

And what about the whole new decade? That's tough to think so far out. In a coming post I'll review my past 10 years at a high level.

Basically, if you wanted me to envision my life now when I was 15, there's no way this is what I'd have foreseen. Even if you asked me in 2015. So... who's to say.

Happy new year to you and yours, from me. 🎉

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