The Lost Year – 2014 in Review

It occurs to me as I look back at my posts from last year, I didn’t do a 2013 “year in review” and that’s poor form on my part.

As I sat down to do this review of 2014, I went back and reviewed my goals. I knew that I wasn’t really working towards them, and we’ll get into the reason why in a minute. But to say that nothing really got done in 2014 would be a mostly true statement. At least from the perspective of personal goals. And will henceforth be referred to as “the lost year.” Continue reading

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Job Status: In Limbo

On Friday, my boss asked to speak with me in private. He had just gotten back from talking to his investors, and I had an inkling it wasn’t good news. My instincts were correct. Turns out, things have been pretty bad for the last few months (something I had also guessed but didn’t push for more information on at the time). The choices were work without pay while he attempts to work out funding (something not unheard of at start ups), or start looking for work. As much as I’d like to work for him while he works on getting more funding, my family situation doesn’t allow me to not get paid.

As of right now, I’m seeking employment. I’d like to stay in the Ruby on Rails world, but I’d be willing to entertain Javascript positions with Ruby on Rails back ends, since Javascript seems to be popular (and important) these days and it’s something I need to become better at. I’ve got almost four years of Ruby on Rails experience building my own web applications and helping my employer and friends build theirs. It has to be a full time, salaried job, with benefits (good or great medical coverage is a must due to my son’s medical issues), and I’m looking to take on a telecommuting (remote working) position. No more 2 hours worth of commuting every single day. I know that all may be asking much, but I know I’m good enough to make it work.

A little about me: I’m a software developer with 10 years experience, primarily in C# and Ruby on Rails, but I’ve done work in the past in Java, Python, and Objective-C though I wouldn’t claim to be “good” at those. I have worked in both Windows and Unix like environments and have server administration in both. I’m a huge proponent of open source technologies. I’m a quick study on new languages, especially when surrounded by others who are extremely familiar with the language. I work on “make it work, then optimize it” philosophy because, I believe, if you can’t make it work you’ll never understand how to fully optimize it. I’m also a fantastic communicator, I’ve written a book, scripted and recorded screencasts, been on a radio show, and given many a tech related talk.

I’m writing this blog post mostly as a way to inform my colleagues and friends that I’m looking for work. I know a lot of people who do what I do, so I’m sure someone I know has job leads of some kind. Also, it’ll allow me to link to my current resume for anyone that might think I’d be a fit at their company.

Download my latest resume.

Things change, and sometimes we have to roll with those changes. This is me, doing that.

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How I Lost 42 Pounds In a Year

Today marks the one year anniversary of when I got serious about wanting to lose weight. As many people have noticed and asked the same “how did you do it” questions, I figured this would be a good time to cover that in a decent amount of detail. This post will be kind of long.

First lets cover the tools I’ve used to help me be successful, and then I will tell you how I used each of them achieve this weight loss.

  • Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto (affiliate link) – A fantastic book that explains more than just how to lose weight but how to build muscle and burn fat. It goes into the science without being hard to understand and spends a good deal on the why before getting into the specifics of how.
  • Fitbit One (affiliate link) – A fitness tracker device with wireless syncing to computers and some of the more popular smartphones (iPhones & several Android devices). Tracks steps, mileage, floors climbed, activity level, and most importantly, calories burned. The Fitbit website also allows you to track your food and syncs with services such as MyFitnessPal, allowing you to track not only the burned calories but your intake as well.
  • Fitbit Aria Scale (affiliate link) – I didn’t purchase this until over 2 months into my weight loss journey, but afterwards I regretted not doing so. It tracks your weight and your body fat percentage. Knowing your body fat percentage is important in understanding your overall health level as it ties into your BMI number which is what doctors use to determine if your obese or not.
  • MyFitnessPal – Tracks food and fitness activities. Requires manual input but their food database beats out the one on Fitbit’s website considerably. I use it to track food only.
  • Runkeeper – Smartphone app (iPhone and Android) that tracks several types of fitness activities using GPS. Easy to use and easy to see a log of your activities.
  • Gorilla Workout – Another smartphone application used for daily body weight workouts. Contains 4 levels for those with different fitness abilities and has around 30 “workout of the day” (WOD) for each level.

That’s it. That’s all the things I used. And here’s how it looks in graph form:

Track My Weight on Fitbit

Now lets get into the specifics. Continue reading

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A Plan to Better My Understanding of Various Subjects

If you know me personally, you know I have little reservation about discussing religion or politics in a public setting. I think the idea that you should not discuss these things in “polite” conversation is an idiotic one. If we never discuss these things, how do we have any chance of understanding one another better and thus improving our situation on a political level? Reasonable discussion is the only way we’re going to better understand each other and move past much of the extremism that dominating the political culture in the United States right now. However, while I have a mild understanding of several important topics that affect today (politics, economics, philosophy), I’m not well educated enough to have the kind of discussions I’d like to be able to have. Or put another way, there are people who know more about these things and debating them sucks because I can’t counter their arguments due to my limited understanding of certain topics.

I now wish to remedy this problem. Not only to be able to bring more to these discussions I enjoy having, but I think that better understanding various topics would improve myself overall. There are lots of things I wish I understood better, and not all of them fall into the realm of political discussions. There are aspects of science I would love to be better versed in. I’d love to understand things like mechanics, electronics, and other forms of engineering better. But these topics take time to digest. You have to read, comprehend, ponder on, and eventually regurgitate the information. So I’ve come up with a plan to help me with this and I’m writing this post as both a way to tell others so they can help keep me on track, and to allow others to join in on the “fun” because I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like a better understanding in some of the topics I plan on learning.

This the plan.

Pick a subject for the year. For example, I’m picking economics for 2014. I will then find 12 books on that subject that should give me a decent understanding of various points of views, theories, and thoughts on the chosen subject. I will then spend each month of the year reading each book. The goal is to finish each book within the specified month. Again, for example, I’ll be re-reading “Wealth of Nations” in January of 2014. In February, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money”
by John Maynard Keynes. And this will continue throughout the year. While the goal is to finish each book, there’s a good chance I might not be able to read the entire book within the allotted month, should this happen, depending on how much of the book is left to read, I’ll either finish it or just move onto the next book. The idea is to grasp a decent understanding of the concepts and ideas presented in each book, not become an expert on them. In January of the following year (2015), I will then attempt to write my understanding of the various thoughts, ideas, and theories down in my own words. This is will be the proof that I at least understood the basics of what I read.

I understand that doing this isn’t going to make me an expert in the chosen subject of study but I’m almost certain to walk away with a better understanding of it by the end of the year and that’s my goal.

I then plan to do a completely different subject each year. Some possible topics I’m considering are philosophy, US constitutional law, physics, and world history.

If you’re interested in joining me on this, leave a comment, I may work on creating an online community for those of us who are interested in doing this.

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Women in Technology

Before I start, I feel I should preface this with the statement of “I’m a guy” and therefore I have no personal understanding of the woman’s plight when it comes to working in the technology field or as a programmer.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I just want to write good code and make the best products I can and to that end I don’t really care if you’re male or female, if you can do those things I’m all for working with you. And finally, what follows is based on the reading of several articles on this subject and some real life, face to face conversations I’ve had on this.

There’s been a lot of talk about “women in technology” lately. Most of it is centered around the discussion that there are not enough women working in technology, specifically as developers. There are miles upon miles of prose about how programming is a “boy’s club” and that we’re “sexist” or a million other insulting things about male developers. Some posts even get flat out offensive about this.

I’m not saying that these complaints and opinions aren’t completely valid. Sure, the profession has it share of idiots just like all the other professions out there. But we only seem to hear about these cases. We never hear big deals being made about men mentoring at events like Rails Girls, an event specifically about getting more women interested in programming. Or about the conference planners who actively attempt to balance out the rosters with female speakers. You don’t hear about this stuff simply because it isn’t part of the angry side of agenda.

But here’s the thing that bothers me most. When people talk about this topic, it’s usually about how there aren’t enough women in leadership positions or that a conference is being boycotted because they didn’t line up “enough” female speakers. While valid points, I have to ask, are we solving the problem or the symptom? Continue reading

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Aiding the Enemy

Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. Fortunately he was found “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” but for other charges of espionage and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (a seriously outdated law).

I want to focus on the “aiding the enemy” part because even though he was not found guilty of doing so, it raises some very important questions about who the “enemy” is that I predict will play a much larger role when the United States government does finally get their hands on Edward Snowden.

What does “aiding the enemy” mean? Since we have no idea what the government means by that statement (as they can change it at their whim), I’m going to assume they mean helping terrorist groups and countries doing things we don’t approve of (like say, Iran or North Korea).

But, what if they charge Snowden with this? All he did was inform the American people (and people of other nations) that he United States government was spying on them and that the major technology corporations were in on it. I want to state this part again: He informed the American people. Meaning that charging Edward Snowden with “aiding the enemy” would make “We the People” into “the enemy” and that is a very scary thought.

If the American people are “the enemy” according to their own government, then we may be in a downward spiral that we may never come back from. This is something that transcends political affiliations. Regardless if you’re “right” or “left” this is something that you should not only think on, but be concerned about. If you’re the enemy, then we live in tyranny and all the actions of the Revolutionary War were in vain. We will have become that which our founding fathers rallied against.

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