Weekly update, August 3, 2020
Howdy internet friend, and welcome back to my blog! I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to check this out, and I hope you find some value in this (and my other previous) post(s)! As I do every Monday, I’m going to be sharing what I did last week both personally and professionally, share a little bit about Black Lives Matter, and conclude with a list of suggestions for people you should consider following on Twitter. I have been considering creating a seperate sub-section within the person section to talk about some of the tea I’ve been trying lately. I don’t know if this is of interest to anyone reading this, but if you are reading this and would be interested in a sub-section on tea shoot me a DM. Depending on how much I hear from people (or don’t) perhaps I will have a section next week on tea (a few weeks ago I bought a kettle that would allow me to make tea using loose leaves and there is much I could write on this subject). Or, perhaps you will never read about this again! Either way, and without any further adieu, let’s get on with it!1
Black lives matter!
Last week I was running late and didn’t have time for a formal BLM section, but I have time this week and didn’t want to start bad habits by regularly skipping this important section. I am going to keep it short(ish) this week, as I think it is important to do research on your own. However, for people who are starting from scratch or don’t have a reference, I do want to provide folx with a starting point. There is much to read and know when it comes to anti-racist action, but this week my suggestion is going to be a little different, although it is something I have recommended in the past.
While I’ve seen Netflix had the documentary on the 13th amendment to the US constitution, I am going to recommend a book I read in graduate school and have suggested previously by Douglas Blackmon called, “Slavery by another name.” In this book, Blackmon explains that the end of the civil war transformed slavery through the US vis-a-vis the prison system. Essentially, the argument goes that blackness, or the very act of being black in public, from the end of the civil war onwards, was criminalized. First with vagrancy laws punishing black people for being out of work, until later the entire system of Jim Crow would grow to establish institutional oppression of black people in the United States.
If you are one of those, “I don’t see color” or, “I’m colorblind” type of people, it is important that you realize what a position of privilege that is. Not everyone can afford or is even able to adopt such a position - it is quite clear that the police are not, and they are the ones enforcing the law.
I am going to avoid a large digression on policing in the United States and instead propose that if you are intrigued by the suggestion I’ve made above and are interested in interrogating some of the historical roots of racism and white supremacy in the legal system, Slavery by another name is a great read and a good starting point. I am also going to move on because there is much to cover in this post, however, I hope you have found some benefit from this suggestion and if not, I encourage you to go out on your own and do some research yourself in this subject! You can reach out to me on Twitter and suggest something better for this section next week, and I will be sure to give you a proper shout out but if not, just check back next week to see what I come up with.
Last week most of the personal stuff I did was work around the house. We rented a four by six foot dumpster for a week so we could get rid of all the recycling we’ve accumulated since moving in, the vast majority of which was cardboard. Between moving house with a giant truck full of boxes then spending a month buying stuff from Amazon because buying furniture in person during the pandemic is a slow-moving disaster, and suddenly we had a mass of boxes. So we spent a bunch of time over the weekend flattening the boxes, putting them in the dumpster, then yours truly climbed inside the dumpster to smash it all down. There were some great pictures taken that will surely be used as leverage or a holiday card at some point in the future, but my wife is really happy that the job is done. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog and other people smarter than myself have figured out, happy wife += happy life.
I am also really excited because my Epiphone Les Paul Vintage Edition guitar came last Sunday but was delivered to my neighbor, who happened to be on vacation. So my guitar sat on his porch for four days since FedEx delivered to the wrong house (and anyone who has had the misfortune of dealing with FedEx recently is probably nodding along) and when he came back from vacation my neighbor gave me a call.2
Then on Thursday the 20 watt Orange amp I bought arrived in the mail. I was bummed to learn that I didn’t pay close enough attention and bought the regular 20 watt amp and not the Orange Crush 20RT, which includes reverb and a built-in tuner. It would seem to me that the lesson would be to pay closer attention to what you are buying, but I think there is probably also a second lesson about more being calm and not in such a rush to buy. Especially since I had been looking at these amps for weeks before buying, but I digress. I will also mention here that I had been looking at slightly cheaper Epiphone guitars but am very glad I spent the extra thirty bucks for the vintage edition Les Paul. In reading the little booklet that came with the guitar I learned that Epiphone has been under the Gibson umbrella since the late 1940s. This would explain not only how Epiphone can use the name of a very famous Gibson guitar, but also the quality of the build. While the guitar isn’t perfect, and I wish it came with a whammy bar instead of the locking bar, I am really excited to learn how to play. I also want to mention here that both the guitar and amp were each under $200. I had been under the impression that you needed to spend beacoup bucks for good quality gear, but both of these items are really excellent for the price. Of course there are more expensive guitars and amps that sound better, but just know that you can get really high quality gear without breaking the bank.
When I was in high school I took a course an AP course on music theory. However, that was almost 20 years ago and while I have a great memory, there are limits! On Sunday I found two music theory for guitar courses on Udemy and I am going to start tomorrow morning, and plan on spending 10-15 minutes each morning (re)learning music theory. These courses should teach me what I need to know to play lead guitar, and will hopefully knock loose some memories of the music theory I learned in high school. If I like them I will share a link so you can learn as well, but that will likely be a seperate blog post on rocking. I will report back once I have completed the courses with my recommendations.
After a few weeks of rocking out and learning on the guitar, my next investment will be a bass amp. Turns out the amp I’ve been carrying around for the last few years doesn’t really work with the bass. Rather than blowing out that speaker, I’m going to focus my energy on guitar until I can buy the bass amp and still practice slap bass to get my fingers ready! I’m leaning heavily towards another Orange amp, because I love the range of tones and how loud this little 20 watt amp gets. If I do end up buying another Orange, I am going to make sure it is the RT version, or at the very least comes with a built in tuner. I don’t have trouble tuning the guitar by ear, but I can’t tune a bass that way yet. Perhaps eventually I will be able to, but until then my next amp needs to have a built-in tuner, since I don’t want to buy a tuning pedal.
In closing, I am really thrilled to have these instruments and I am really excited to rock! My wife and I had two jam sessions last weekend and there are more coming in the near future. It takes time to build up the stamina to play for longer than twenty minutes, but it is awesome to learn and really fun to grow together. As she gets better on the drums, our sessions become more fun. I could keep ranting about music, but I will close by saying that you should keep a lookout in this space, as I’m sure at some point we are going to record some stuff and throw it on YouTube. Of course I will be sure to link to it here as well as Twitter so you can check it out if you like. Or if you’ve been wondering what my voice sounds like, you will be able to find that out too!
One final thing. DefCON28 starts in safemode this week, and that means that I am going on vacation starting on Wednesday! I plan on attending a bunch of sessions, as well as doing the Cloud Village CTF. If you are going to be at DC in the discord channel and you want to say hi, I imagine that my username will probably be whatever_sauce so just find me and give me a holler if you like! Keep an eye on Twitter as well, because if my handle is different I am sure I’ll share it there.
Last week was a combo of cloud training at work and Rust programming at home as part of my morning routine. There were many things that I learned about programming, going down a rabbit hole from a tutorial that started with, “what is a vector?” This lead to some great learning and I’ve been building out a long post on what I’ve learned so far with a heap of links (ha! Programming joke!) That will be coming at some point in the future, but I wanted to share that it is a work in progress.
I also came to the realiziation that I hadn’t been taking breaks at work since moving. I have been thinking about why, and I think part of it stems from being really scared of losing my job. Not because I think my job is in jeopardy, but rather because the entire economy seems to be hanging on by a thread and large swaths of this country are out of work right now. It seems to me really imprudent to do anything but work as hard as physically possible right now, and unfortunately that had been manifesting itself with me not taking breaks. One of the downsides of working from home is that many of my work days are from 5 am to 5 pm, and I’ve been working this schedule for at least the last year, although I started waking up at five in late 2018. This isn’t healthy and is a sure-fire way to burn myself out.3 One way I’ve been forcing myself to take breaks is that one or two days last week I just ran and jumped in the pool for a five minute swim, then a quick five minute shower, and then dressed and back to work for a fast 15. When I did this for the first time, the boy and his Nana were swimming and I just ran out and did a cannonball to enter the pool and they went wild! My son is becoming quite the young swimmer, and it is important to me that he sees both sides of working from home. I don’t want him to just see the part where his dusty old Dad’s office door is closed all the time. Instead when he plays games like Fortnite and Minecraft, he is always building a house for himself and in every house one of the first things he builds for himself is his own office. It is pretty clear to me that the boy really looks up to me, and I do not want to teach him the lesson that working from home requires you to work all the time. He knows at five PM that I’m done with work, and he will frequently knock on my office door at five and ask me to play Fortnite. As much as I pride myself on being a worker, it is also important for the work day to end, and the boy helps teach me that every day.
“Dave, I am struggling to see what this has to do with work or your professional week”? Well internet voice, it has everything to do with my professional week because I struggle with being a workaholic and sharing as much as I feel comfortable helps me address my issues. Despite losing Twitter followers recently for reasons I can only imagine, I am not going to stop using the platform I’ve spent years building to speak out against injustice and to try and use that hard work for good. It’s also one of those things that by naming the issue, I’ve taken a first and crucial step towards making it better. You can’t resolve an issue that you refuse to acknowledge. It’s also important for me to use my platform as honestly as I can, and that includes sharing things that are embarassing or tough sometimes. I’m a whole and entire person, one that freqneutly makes mistakes and often fails. All of this, success and failure, molds me and the man I have become and drives the person I want to be. Perhaps this brutal honesty is what has been costing me Twitter followers recently, or perhaps it is my outspokeness? It might be possible that people only care about tech stuff and do not like that I am sharing how inappropriate it is to push students back to school, or that federal troops are kidnapping protesters off the streets of Portland, Chicago, and New York. Regardless, both personally and professionally I know that I am going to make waves - I always have. What I am trying to say here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to make waves either. Like the articles I shared and updated on here last Friday, you can’t fly without taking a leap! If you never jump, you might have a great life on the ground, but you’ll never know if all this time you actually could fly. Spread your wings and fly like a peacock!
People to follow
As I do every week, here are some tech and non-tech people you might consider following 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!
- If you are not a fan of Monty Python, you probably aren’t hearing, “get on with it” the way it was intended. Here is a small cut of it from the classic, “Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail” that you can find here [return]
- I do not want to rant too much about FedEx except to say two things. First, they are the worst private company to ship stuff with! Second, I will go out of my way to NOT do business with firms that use FedEx because they are so awful. I’ve had in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars worth of stuff delivered to the wrong place. In the worst offense, someone even signed for and provided ID for a package that was in my name. All of that is to say that I hate FedEx and while I try to be positive and not rant too much about negative stuff, I will contain my FedEx rant to just this long footnote. [return]
- Even though I am aware of the risk to burning myself out, I feel a chip on my shoulder because of my academic background. While studying history and philosophy is great for writing and doing research, they rarely help my career in terms of technical requirements. I know that my greatest strength is not in my technical ability, and this drives me to work really hard and put in extra hours. While I don’t think that drive is a bad thing, it also seems to me to be important to guard yourself against burnout. I realize I am talking myself in circles in this footnote, the point I’m trying to make is that you should weigh the relative costs and benefits to any course of action, including putting in extra hours to improving your skills outside areas that are required for your career. [return]