Weekly Update, November 2, 2020
Greetz Internet friend, and welcome back to my blog! I appreciate you taking the time to check out this weekly update, wherein I’ll be writing about the usual suspects, or as I’m starting to call them, “the big four.” For the uninitiated that includes politics, Black Lives Matter, personal and professional updates. Please note that the personal section will contain spoilers for Cobra Kai, so if you don’t want to have anything spoiled do not read that section until you have finished it, because there will be Cobra Kai spoilers in the personal section – you have been warned! Much to get to today, so let’s get on with it
I mentioned on Twitter that I turned off my personal computer Friday night and did not turn it back on until this morning. I’m going to share more about that in the personal section, but part of that was that I needed a break from the hell birb site for a few days. You might have heard that there is an election coming up this week and while I’ve already cast my ballot, if you are in the United States and have a mail-in ballot, be sure to drop it off in person, as it’s too late to put it in the mail and have it count.
I did read some news on my phone over the last few days, and when my wife and I were out on a date this weekend we saw a few Donald Trump flags (always on trucks) but we didn’t experience anything like other parts of the country that Trumpists (Trumpers? Trumpets?) shut down with their caravans and also Texas where they stopped a Biden-Harris campaign bus.
When America is this divided, Donald Trump and his supports do not try to unite the country, or meet their opponents where they are. Instead, they try to intimate them and make them feel scared. I think it is really telling, and as usual they are projecting their greatest insecurities on others.
I also read this morning that Biden has a double-digit lead, but myself and a huge chunk of the country will be holding our breath for the next few days. Not only has Donald not said he would leave the office peacefully, but he has been fantasizing lately about beating up Joe Biden
Dear reader, I am tired. I know that other people are tired too. After finishing the first two seasons of Cobra Kai this weekend (which I will write about later in the personal section), I will tell you that my patience for dealing with bullies is at an end. As a country more than half of us have been bullied by a small percentage of people. To be clear I am talking about Donald Trump and his supporters have tried to bully other Americans, and they may have been successful before, but their success is coming to an end.
We don’t tolerate bullies in school, why do we tolerate it from the oval office? From the highest office in the land? From our so-called President and our chief executive?
Does anyone remember that the First Lady made eliminating cyberbullying her top priority? Does anyone besides me care that she has failed, or that she never even tried? Am I the only person who felt like this was just another gaslighting effort by this administration, whose only consistency (aside from enriching the Donald Trump family) has been cruelty to their opponents?
I’m going to leave these questions here and move on to the next section, but I just wanted to remind anyone who has not voted yet to be sure to vote on election day. If you aren’t sure how to do that, look up your local state guidelines because each one is different. Make sure you find the official website for your state, do not be duped!
Black Lives Matter
I do not have much to write on Black Lives Matter today, but it is still important for me to bring it up every week. As I did last week, I’d suggest finding BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) on Twitter and following them. I didn’t write all social media because it is not all created equal, and I quit Facebook years ago and think everyone should quit everything owned by Facebook. In closing, just try to be extra considerate this week, as most people are concerned for the future. I think the world is about to see what it looks like when 300 million people all hold their breath at the same time on November 3rd.
Last week I was doing some cool automation and development work, as well as meeting and chatting with people outside my main discipline. I have been trying really hard to not over-analyze the amount of work I was able to accomplish last week, because writing code and development is much different than a penetration test where you just go through a checklist. I worked as hard as I could and did my best, and I cannot do any better and shouldn’t spend my time trying to figure out if I could have worked harder.
There are many things that I like about my employer, but one of them is that they take career growth and mentorship very seriously. In addition to having an assigned a more senior consultant as a mentor, my bosses boss has also been acting as an informal mentor and having calls with me regularly to help provide a track to grow my career and answer my questions. This has been tremendously valuable, and one thing that this informal mentor always stresses to me is the importance of building relationships and networking.
To that end, I’ve been going out of my way to cultivate relationships with people who work in areas that I want to learn more about. One of my first jobs, and something I’ve done in the past in my career, is/was sales. It’s not an area that I particularly love, but it is a tremendously valuable skill to have in business. If you want to lead an organization (be on the board, like a CISO or even a CEO) then you really need to have skills in sales. In order to improve sales skills, I’ve been reaching out to the best salesperson I know at my firm and trying to regularly meet and chat with him about the technical stuff that I see. This does a few good things, which I want to write about more below.
First, it helps keep me on his radar. Sales people are very busy, and while I never want to pester anyone, checking in every so often isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sometimes I find an article that seems like they would appreciate, so I send it along with a quick note. Regardless of the “why”, it is consistent with the importance of networking stressed earlier. Next, it is valuable to forge connections with people during this pandemic, and the time zone benefits to connecting with people on your coast in the same TZ. Finally, it is nice to connect with people during these difficult times and sometimes just saying a few nice things to someone can brighten their entire day. It doesn’t cost you anything but some finger movements to say something nice on Slack and you never know if that might make someones entire day brighter!
Turning back to the benefits of working at a large company, I think one overlooked perk is the access you have to the talented and smart people that are also employed by your firm. During my first year at the company, I’ve been able to almost triple the number of engagements I can deliver for our clients, and that’s partially because of the training opportunities that I took upon myself, but another big part was due to my company using any pandemic-related downtime to offer training opportunities in different disciplines. Every consultant that I’ve talked to at my firm has gained at least one additional skill during the pandemic, and I suspect other organizations have done so as well.
Oh yeah, there was one other big deal that happened professionally, and it is close enough to personal that it will act as a good transition. Last week, someone on Twitter found the article that I wrote in the most recent edition of 2600, The Hacker Quarterly and quote tweeted me, with my own words and a citation. My article was the Hacker Perspective in the most recent issue and I had been waiting to share a post that also included the short story I am working on to break the news, but there are worse ways for the news to get out!
I am very proud that my first professional publication was in 2600! It was also very cool to see myself quoted and an academic-looking citation. It really made me want to keep working to write and publish more things, and that directly leads to the first thing to talk about in the next section.
Personal (BEWARE: COBRA KAI SPOILERS BELOW)
November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month and it is something that I have wanted to try for years. When I was a network administrator and listening to the old Linux Outlaws Podcast one of the co-hosts, Dan Lynch would talk about NaNoWriMo and I have been thinking about doing it for years.
Well, this year I am going beyond thinking and taking the short story that I am going to share soon and use it as the basis for a novel! My goal is 60,000 words and when you break that down over 30 days it comes to 2000 words a day, or 2069 per day if you take the first day to write an outline. This is nice because it takes what looks like a herculean effort and breaks it down in a much more manageable way and even if I do not accomplish the full word count ever day, I’ll have made great progress on one of my life goals – writing a novel.
If you are thinking to yourself that writing roughly 2000 words per day is a difficult undertaking, keep in mind that you are already at 1500 words so far, and that only comes to three single-spaced pages. By the time I finished for the day I was over 2300 words in this post alone. In the last weekly update after I took the weekend off from my computer was close to five pages, so I feel confident in my ability to put words down. Speaking of taking the weekend off Below starts the spoilers from Cobra Kai!
I was bummed when I found out that there were only six episodes of the second season of Cobra Kai, and even more disappointed with the cliffhanger of a finale. There have been many thought-provoking parts of the show so far, and I want to write about a few of them.
First, and what I think is the most personally important, is the redemptive arc of all of the characters in general, but Johnny Lawrence in particular. When the show starts he is a broken man, but as time goes on, we begin to see the improve and change in his life. Over and again, the show stresses that people who are sorry and want to change can and should be forgiven and given a second chance. Sometimes (as is the case with John Kreese) giving people a second chance turns out to be a bad idea. However, I really like the idea that you are not doomed to your mistakes. That if you are really, truly sorry, and try to become a better person, that you are not doomed to past mistakes.
I’ve made many mistakes in my life. From decisions that I regret and shameful choices that I made half-aware of what was going on. Years of my life wasted by being wasted, and despite my goal to live a life with minimal regrets, I have manys. However, rather than letting all those regrets become like demons that eat me alive and destroy me from within, I’m trying to be a better person and help my son not to make the same mistakes that I made. I want him to learn that you are not doomed from your mistakes and that you can come back from almost anything.
I am not doomed to be the person that I was before. Last weekend I had a few sips of the first cocktail that I’ve drank in over a year, and then poured it out. I’ve not smoked a cigarette in over a year, while I smoked half a pack a day for almost fifteen years. Just because I was a bad person before, that doesn’t mean that I am a bad person now, or doomed to be bad forever. I can change, and if you are reading this and unhappy with any part of your life, know that when I tell you that you can change, I am speaking from a place of personal experience. It is not just hyperbole, anyone who tries hard enough can change.
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.
TrakoZG – an internet friend who tweets excellent things
Sofia Rune – brilliant scholar who shares things that are both insightful and valuable
That’s it for this weekly update post! I ran out of time this morning to edit it before work, because I forgot that I took on an extra project and I have to start an hour early. That’s why it doesn’t really have an ending, and when I’m writing it at the end of the day, I’m tired and can’t think of any clever ending right now. So I guess just try to have a nice day and good luck the rest of the week – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for all of us!