Weekly Update, July 13, 2020
Howdy and welcome back!
Hi internet friend, and welcome back to my blog! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my weekly update. It means the world to me when I have friends reach out to me via Twitter or LinkedIn and tell me that they are reading these posts. It feels great knowing that I’m not just screaming in the void, and that people are actually checking this out! Last week I had a few friends reach out and tell me they are reading and it felt so great I wanted to share it here and say thanks!
So as usual, I’m going to talk about what I did personally and professionally last week. However, one thing that I want to mention right away is that I made a mistake last week. I forgot to include a section talking about Black Lives Matter. I do not want you to think it’s because the cause isn’t important to me anymore, I just plain forgot. Not going to make the same mistake again this week though, but I wanted to say sorry for not including it last week.
Finally, this week is going to be more heavy on personal stuff than professional. For the last few weeks, given how much has changed in my personal life, I shouldn’t think that would come as a great surprise to the frequent reader. But you know by now (since I mentioned it every week) that I break things up with headers, so read what you like! Without any further adieu, let’s get on with it! (Props to anyone who read that in the style of Monty Python, because that’s how I wrote it to sound in your head.)
Black Lives Matter
Even though I did not write about this last week, it is not because this is no longer important. Quite the opposite! I was just really distracted last week with sharing my big personal news that I let my support of BLM slip in the weekly post. I hope to not make the same mistake again.
If you haven’t read the “about me” section and don’t want to go here and read it, the TL:DR version is that I earned a philosophy degree while finishing my MA in history. With the exception of one or two classes, my entire philosophical education at Eastern Washington University was under Dr. Mimi Marinucci. Dr. Marinucci is an exceptional scholar and in her courses I was exposed to a few excellent books that I’ve recommended before.
Here are some suggestions of some three authors you can read if you want to learn more about Black Lives Matter:
- Audre Lorde
- bell hooks
- Angela Davis
If you are looking for some particular books that I found to be helpful, here are two quick suggestions:
- Slavery by another name - Douglas Blackmon
- Dismantling Racism - Joseph Barndt
If you don’t want to buy a book, Joseph Barndt has a pretty good essay on his website about anti-racism you can find here
There is much more that I could say on the subject of Black Lives Matter, but I will stop here. If you feel like you do not understand or know enough about it, doing some reading is a great starting place. Educating yourself first allows you to ask better questions and to show that you are coming from a place that desires learning and understanding the experiences of others. Please keep in mind that anti-racism is an ongoing project and always requires (writing this as a white person) us (meaning other white people) to constantly be evaluating our relationship with, and actively rejecting, white supremacy. It is not a one-time thing, it requires constant vigilance!
Having discussed and done my best to remedy missing this section last week, let’s turn the discussion to what I did professionally last week, if that is something you are interested in.
After taking a week off for the move, I was anxious to jump back in the project of teaching myself the Go programming language. Last week was great because I’m up to chapter four in the book I’m using, Black Hat Go, and we are starting to build really interesting stuff. After learning how to scrape websites like Bing, and interact with APIs like Shodan.io, it seems to me that we are learning some of the foundational knowledge one needs to build command and control (c2) clients and servers. This is uniquely interesting to me because of the work I am doing right now and looking to do in the future. Additionally, I’ve got some really great ideas of where to look in the documentation to build my subdomain enumeration tool in a few weeks. I’m waiting to work more on that project until the time is right. I feel like I still have much more to learn before I can build the program in a meaningful way, so I’m going to focus my time on building those skills for now. Plus it is important for me to follow the energy and excitement of programming. Forcing myself to do things that aren’t fun just cause me to distract myself, so I’m going to try to lean in to successful strategies rather than pushing and forcing myself to do what I think I need to do. Fun first!
I also mentioned this on Twitter last weekend, but I made a decision last week to pull back a bit from the programming work I was doing. As I’ve mentioned frequenly before, during the week I wake up at five in the morning to work on projects. Monday is focused on writing this weekly post, and the other four days I had been focused on programming. However, for a few different reasons I am going to share below, I’ve decided to spend Friday each week writing.
Three days of programming, two days of writing?
This was something that took careful thought and consideration. While on the one hand, I want to focus as much energy as I can in improving my programming skills, this only works if I can focus ALL my energy. I’ve discovered that many Friday mornings I spend my time doom-scrolling Twitter rather than working on teaching myself programming. I also have been thinking about my time in academia recently and the type of person I was back then. I’ve got a picture from when I finally finished my undergraduate degree after seven years and four universities that I’ve been meaning to hang up, but I keep looking at while walking through my house, which has got me thinking about who I was back then.
While it is true that I drank way too much, one thing I did much more in college and graduate school was write. I didn’t write because I wanted to improve my writing skills, I wrote because it felt like the most important thing I could be doing. As a student of history and philosophy, the vast majority of what I was required to submit and the work I was doing were papers. Outside those obligations, I wrote guest blog posts for the Women and Gender Studies department at my university, I submitted talks to academic symposia and conferences, wrote zines and essays that didn’t fall in the scope of my academic requirements. Since leaving academia, I’ve been writing much less and it has felt like I’ve been missing something important.
After talking it over with my wife, I decided that dedicating an extra day each week to writing would be a good thing going forward. Unlike the Monday post I am writing now, the stuff I write on Friday will be written without the expectation of pushing the update to git and then the larger internet at the end of each session. Instead, I am going to deep dive on some stuff I started working on but never finished. I’ve got an essay on my parenting philosophy I want to finish, as well as having the opportunity to write short stories, fiction, poetry, and other stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have time for.
So be on the lookout for more content besides the usual weekly update post in the future. I will talk more in the personal section about some of the other stuff you can look forward to as well!
One more thing
This still feels like it should go under professional, so I wanted to share one final thing, by way of a quick story.
When I moved to Orange County in July of 2018, I had almost zero interest in hardware hacking. Since I didn’t know anyone in Orange County, on the first Friday of July I found the nearest 2600 meeting and I was there! I met some interesting characters and it seemed like everyone there was interested in hardware. One of the folks there told me about a group closer to home called Irvine Underground and when I went there, I met more people who were really interested in hardware.
Their enthusiasm was contagious and before I knew it, I had my first Raspberry Pi. That was cool, but then I learned about the Pwnagotchi and started getting even more interested in hardware. I really quickly ran up against a problem. Much of the cool stuff that I wanted to do with hardware required soldering and there was no place in the apartment to do that kind of work. Now that we have moved in to a house and I have an entire garage to do these types of projects! So while it is hot here in the desert, I’m looking to invest in a soldering iron and some kits to start expanding my hardware knowledge. It cools down in the evenings and the mornings so there will be time to work on cool hardware projects. One I have in mind is to connect a raspberry pi zero or some other small powered machine to a picture outside my office that will show my family whether I am on a call (unavailable), focused on a project (come in if it’s an emergency) or I’m just hanging out and they can come in and chat.
I am also really excited about getting in to hardware because I think it is the kind of project I can program myself. My skills are pretty limited, but they should be enough to hack together this type of basic project. I’ve got a few other ideas as well, so keep an eye on this space where I will share more info once I’m finished. I might even go as far as to figure out how to upload pictures as well! Finally, if you have some suggestions about a good iron or a nice kit to get started, reach out to me on Twitter.
Last week was pretty great for me personally. Since we moved in at the new house, I was able to use some birthday money I had been waiting to spend and buy myself some gifts. My first gift was a really nice record player and a few records to expand my collection. Among those were John Coltrane’s, “Giant Steps” and a few records from the exceptionally great funk band Parliament. Listening to records this weekend with my wife in my office was a really great experience!
My big gift to myself comes tomorrow, and that is an electric bass guitar! I started playing bass somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years ago, but haven’t played in a few years. I bought myself a really, REALLY cheap bass and I’m hoping it doesn’t sound terrible. Regardless of how it sounds, I’ll be invested in a better bass and an electric guitar and Orange amp in the near future. I’ve been playing guitar for more than twenty years, but I still have lots to learn!
“Gee Dave, it almost sounds like you are trying to put a band together.” Well observant internet friend, you are correct! I’ve got my drum kit set up behind me in my office, a bass guitar on the way, and plans to buy an electric soon. On top of that, THE COLLINS FAMILY BAND HAD OUT FIRST JAM SESSION IN A FEW YEARS YESTERDAY! My dreams of starting a family band are in progress as my wife is learning the drums and the bass. Since I can play bass, guitar, and drums, I’m going to be teaching everyone the basics that I know. I’m also going to be studying more music theory so I can write cooler songs. I played my first show when I was twelve years old, and I am very much looking forward to being able to play music again! Even though I know the most music theory, everyone in the Collins Family Band will be able to write songs, contribute to the songwriting process, and play all the instruments (if they want to learn). When his birthday comes around in a few months, we are looking at buying the boy his own drum kit that he can use to play with us, given my drum kit is full sized and he is still young.
Yesterday my wife played the drums while I jammed on guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. It was really fun playing music again and I am really looking forward to getting the band going. Since the boy is only seven, it’ll be a while before we will share the stuff we are doing, but it feels great to be playing again!
Finally, I bought myself a tea pot that will hold loose-leaf tea and a pound of Earl Grey. I do not believe I’ve ever had Earl Grey in the loose-leaf form and I could almost not believe what a difference it makes in terms of how muted the flavor is and how much you can taste the tea bags. My wife and I were discussing how British people always give Americans crap about drinking tea with the bag and how much worse it is, and it turns out that they were absolutely right. Who knew that the British knew their tea? Who could have possibly anticipated that outcome? There were flavors and tones I didn’t even know were there. I also learned about over-steeping but that’s a conversation for another day.
Between the tea, the records, and the rocking out, this weekend was fantastic! I should also note that I did my best to not spend much time on Twitter (which I failed miserably) and avoiding the horrific news about the Coronavirus in the US would have helped me have a slightly better weekend. But there is no use crying over spilled milk, and while there is much more I would like to say on the subject of COVID-19, I think this post is already really long and I need to finish up so I can edit and post it. :)
People to follow
As I do every week, here are some tech and non-tech people you might consider following on Twitter. I do want to give an extra shout out and greetz to Null Coder, who took time out of their weekend to expand my knowledge of how interfaces work in programming. Null Coder is a brilliant up and comer doing really interesting work and I highly recommend checking out the stuff they are sharing on Twitter!
Martin Luther King III - The son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bernice King - The daughter of Dr. King
@cetolyne - great friend, awesome programmer, super helpful!
@blenster - cool maker, very positive, well worth a follow!
@GWeessies - very smart person doing interesting research!
Marley - first place champ! Marley is one of the best on Twitter!
Null Coder - another awesome person to keep an eye on!
Thanks for checking out this long weekly post! Click here for the previous post and as always, have a great day!
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