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Weekly Update - August 24, 2020

Welcome back!

Howdy internet friend and welcome back to! I’m stoked today because this post makes twenty weekly updates in a row. What?! How did I manage to maintain this streak during the pandemic? To be totally honest I have no idea, but it has been really helpful to vent every week and share what I’ve been up to. I know there are a few people who read these posts (greetz to Tim, who I worked with at my first real InfoSec job who mentioned he reads these posts. I really appreciate it buddy!) but I also enjoy writing them. One thing I’d missed since leaving graduate school was all the writing we were required to do. As a consultant I am frequently required to write reports, but it’s not the same as writing for fun like I get to do here. Writing feels like a form of catharsis for me. If you are unfamiliar with the term, Google says that Oxford Languages defines catharsis as, “the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.” This isn’t the only reason that I write, but I have discovered that it is a benefit to the process that has come with time.

Anyway, I could keep ranting about writing (and I absolutely will in future blog posts - that is both a threat and a promise!) but for now, let’s talk about what I got up to last week!1 First, I want to briefly write about Black Lives Matter before sharing some of the stuff I did last week. Without any further adieu, let’s get on with it

Black Lives Matter

To be totally honest, I have been avoiding the news for the last few days. Even though I have not been out protesting, I am still getting protest fatigue. This is not because I no longer support the protests, but because fighting is exhausting. It’s also exhausting to see the violence being escalated by the alt-right and the police in Portland. It’s exhausting to think that 57% of Republicans approve of the way this Government has handled the Coronavirus. It’s frustrating to think that there are people who think that President Racist Grandpa has made America better than it was before. However, as one of the more recent Banksy paintings reminds us, “if you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” This is an important lesson for us all to remember, and it is something that I struggle with.

I want to mention again that it is still really important for me to say that Black Lives Matter and if you want to know more, then investing the effort to learn more is a valuable use of your time! Check out previous posts for some reading recommendations or go to your favorite social media platform and learn more. Find some people to follow and just listen. You don’t have to involve yourself in a conversation online to benefit from it. Silent reflection, looking at what other people have experienced, and trying to think outside yourself will make you a better person. Regardless of why you do it, I would highly suggest investing time in listening to what other people have to say.

There is much more that can be written on this subject, but I will let other people do that. Seek them out and listen to what they have to share and think about how to make the world a slightly better place than it was yesterday. If we can all do agree to do that, we will make the entire planet better, but it requires us to all band together!


Last week was another great week for me personally. First, my son started second grade entirely online. I am once again glad to be living in California where almost every school is starting online. It’s been a little hard for my boy because he is starting at a new school (we moved to the Coachella Valley from Orange County at the end of June) and he misses his old friends. I totally understand this and we’ve tried to explain to him that we have much more space out here and we’ve tried to reach out to his old friends parents but they won’t reply to our messages. However, another way to look at it is as a growth opportunity for him to make new friends and get a fresh start.

I learned from my wife that our boy had been taking things apart to learn how they worked. Instead of being upset, I got really excited! I never had this instinct as a kid, but I know that we can foster his curiosity and so I bought some electronics toys for us to build together. Another thing my son and I do together is called “rude dudes.” In the beginning they were rude dudes dinners where the two of us would eat rudely. Mouths open when we eat, chomping our food and making loud ugly eating noises, we would (and still do) slurp our drinks, gurgling sentences with beverages in our mouths and misundering what the other person just said, pretending to be offended. For example, “hey, I don’t look like a butt that’s farting!” “NO! I said you look really nice today!” “Oh, sorry, I misunderstood you!” When my wife and I first got married she worked as a hairstylist and I ran this website, which at the time was a web comic that also occasionally made YouTube videos. This meant that I would be at home with our son most evenings and he would get really sad because he missed his mom. So with the goal of cheering him up, I invented rude dudes dinner and we’ve kept it going all these years later. Now every Sunday we have two and a half hours of rude dudes where we swim, eat lunch together, and play video games.

Now that I know he likes taking things apart, I found and bought him a small electronics project kit so we can start building things together. He also mentioned that he wants to learn how to play guitar, and we found some pretty cheap options to get him started.

Speaking of music, my wife and I had two jam sessions last weekend. It looks like all my practice on the practice pad (which is used to practice the drums. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts but basically it is a wooden block with a pad on it that allows you to practice drum fundamentals without making too much noise) is starting to pay off. It also turns out my wife has a natural ability to play the electric guitar. The first time she ever picked one up I showed her how to play power chords and we jammed for fifteen minutes. I tried to not be too mad, because it took me over a year of playing guitar before I could (poorly) jam with anyone, but she was just able to figure it out the first time she held an electric twangbox. She’s always been very gifted in that respect - she has a great sense of rhythm and is very naturally talented on the drums. However, I am actually really excited she can play the guitar too because it means I’ll have more opportunity to play the bass and drums with someone.

We started our family band a few years ago, but we’ve not had a chance to practice since we lived in apartments for the last two years. Now that we have a house, we’ve been writing songs and coming up with a name. At first the band was going to be my wife on the drums and me on guitar and bass. However since she can appearantly play guitar, we are discussing have two bands - one where she is on guitar, and that band has one name, and a second band where I am on guitar and bass with her on drums and a second name. Eventually we will have a band with our son too, because like all drummers it is a requirement that we are in at least three bands at any given time.2

Speaking of music, my bass amp should arrive today! I’m really excited because I’ve been practicing for the last month or so without an amp. I think I’m getting better but it’s hard to hear and thus to know for sure. I’m looking forward to slapping out a funky one (I’ve only been teaching myself and practicing slap bass most recently) as I’ve built up a decently nice callus on my thumb. I’ve also been practicing popping as well as the slapping, so hopefully it’ll sound cool.

If you couldn’t tell from what I’ve written so far, I’m really excited about getting to write music again! I have spent the last few years focused almost exclusively on my career, working as hard as I can to rebuild my career after taking time off to study the liberal arts. I’ll freely admit I had a chip on my shoulder from my academic background not being technical, and this drove me to work as hard as possible to prove myself. Now that I’ve established myself a little, I’m trying to dial back the intensity and allow myself to have a bit more fun. This seems like a prudent transition to share the professional stuff I was up to last week.


Last week was great because I was approved for more training time in cloud security! I was originally supposed to take the AWS Security exam last weekend but I requested more time and my manager had my back and I was able to get more time approved! In addition to being really appreciative of the opportunity to have more time to study, it really meant the world to me that my manager went to bat for me. It really made me feel supported and heard that I was allowed to have more time. I was worried that the few weeks I’d been studying was not enough time, and I feel confident that with more time I can pass the exam.

Additionally, this coming week I have the opportunity to participate in a virtual training with my firm. By the end of this week I will have more than doubled the types of engagements I can perform for my company since the pandemic started. There are many things that I really like about where I work, but the opportunity to grow my skills and career is high on the list of my favorites. Many companies talk about training their employees, but my firm actually does it!

Turning to my programming journey, I wasn’t able to make as much progress as I would have liked last week. I was able to write a second blog post about Think and Grow Rich on my extra writing day, and I am pleased with how it turned out. Interestingly, it did not end up being the article I planned on writing the day before I started it, but as I love to quote Phillip J. Fry, “time makes fools of us all.”

Between personal and professional

Last weekend I got to hang out with my great friend Acetolyne. Since DefCON happened in safemode this year, we both agreed to hanging out more frequently. We first met at a 2600 meeting when I lived outside Spokane and then we met up again when we both happened to be at DC27, which was both of our first time at DC and the first time we’d seen each other since I moved to California. So we continued our tradition of spending DC together (as I wrote about in my DC write-up) but we have been going back to our old tradition of Sunday hangouts as well. I had some technical fail trying to get Virtualbox running on my FreeBSD install, but we spent the afternoon chatting and catching up - which was great! Next week we are planning to hang out and write some code together. Even though we weren’t able to get anything done, it was/is really nice to hang out with a friend. During the pandemic, when we can’t go out safely, being able to spend a few hours with a friend each week has been really helpful for me and my mental health. I love my family and spending time with them is great, but being able to get a few hours to bro out is also a good thing!

I also wasn’t sure where to share this, but I discovered a huge new feature that seems to work in my new FreeBSD install but didn’t work on Linux. When I am editing a document in VIM (which I use to write code and most of these blog posts) previously I had to start at the beginning of a paragraph and use the forward and backward arrows to navigate. I discovered when writing the article on Friday that I can use the mouse to click on an area of the text and then I can start typing or editing there. This might sound trivial, but not having to scroll one at a time through the stuff you’ve written to edit it takes as long as it sounds when you read it! Slow, laborous, and painful! Being able to just click and go is a huge deal and I’m really excited for how much easier my life will be thanks to this!

One last thing about GhostBSD (which is the distro of FreeBSD that I installed a few weeks ago). I still haven’t figured out why Firefox audio won’t play through the headphones but next weekend Acetolyne and I are planning on looking at device drivers so keep on the lookout for the weekly update next week if you want to hear about how our journey with drivers goes.

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!

@EvilMog - creator of the DC MUD and an interesting person to follow.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope you liked it! If not, that’s cool too. You can check out the previous post here and click here for the next post. Finally, I hope you have a great day!

  1. We are neither going to discuss my exclamation marks problem, nor my love of footnotes. I studied history and I get fired up - this is the result! [return]
  2. As a multi-instrumentalist growing up in Washington state, I was always in a few bands at any given time. I learned that four was the limit in order to have time to practice with each of them and keep the songs straight. However, I imagine that people who didn’t grow up in places that it rains ten months a year don’t spend as much time indoors writing songs. I have only ever lived in three states in my life so I can’t speak to the entire American experience. If you want to share what it was like a musician growing up in a state that isn’t Washington, California or Kansas, send me a DM or at-tweet me! [return]