Thirty-Nine​

Today is my thirty-ninth birthday and what better way to celebrate than sharing thirty-nine things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. If it’s out of your control you shouldn’t worry about it.
  2. People can’t take emotion out of the law or contacts.
  3. Every night reflect on your day
  4. Pen and paper will outlast digital
  5. When dating look for their flaws, when married ignore them.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say no more often
  7. Always return your shopping cart to its rightful place.
  8. Avoid angry people and those that throw tantrums
  9. Don’t caricature an entire group based on the fringes.
  10. Read, listen, and try to understand various points of view.
  11. Turn off the tv and read.
  12. We are made to worship. Be mindful of what you are worshipping.
  13. Character matters more than skill.
  14. Being Prudent in Personal finance will remove tons of stress.
  15. If you can’t sleep write it down.
  16. Everyone is just a person. Some are famous, some are good at sports, but they are no better than you.
  17. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
  18. Make five and ten-year goals.
  19. Stop focusing on the now.
  20. The past is meant for learning, not dwelling.
  21. You can only change yourself.
  22. Make yourself get out of your comfort zone.
  23. You don’t have to share everything.
  24. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  25. Be comfortable with yourself.
  26. If you can’t understand someone’s point of view dig deeper and ask questions with an open mind.
  27. Your choice of coding language, framework, or IDE does not matter.
  28. There are only 24 hours in a day when reflecting, focus on the good parts.
  29. You don’t have to be great at something to love and enjoy it.
  30. Try to help people but don’t be upset if they choose to ignore your advice.
  31. Stuff is temporary.
  32. When in doubt ask.
  33. Make todo lists and stick to them.
  34. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.
  35. Get your kids outside so they embrace an active lifestyle.
  36. Kids will remember the day to day over huge lavish gifts or vacations.
  37. Embrace change.
  38. Simplicity saves headaches
  39. If you die tomorrow is there anything you would want to change in his others see you? If so make the change now.

This post is inspired by the birthday lists Noah Stokes used to make.

Carolina Thread Trails: South Fork Trail

I love to do things outside and try to get the family out every weekend. Today was no different and we decided to hit a new trail that is nearby called the “South Fork Trail” which is located in McAdenville, NC and runs beside the South Fork River. It’s managed by the Carolina Thread Trails which is specific to North and South Carolina but has a great mission:

The Thread Trail arose from a discovery process started in 2005 when the Foundation For The Carolinas convened more than 40 regional leaders and organizations to determine the region’s most pressing environmental needs and concerns. From that process, open space preservation surfaced as the number one priority. The Carolina Thread Trail was successfully launched in 2007 as a project focused on preserving natural corridors and connecting people to nature through a network of connected trails.

 

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Trail Map

 

The South Fork trail is only two miles going out and back and the path is wide with almost no elevation climb, so it’s perfect for those that just want to get outside and do some walking, but I’m most interested in the historical information about it:

This is a historic trail that was originally used by the Native Americans and then utilized by settlers for textile mills. There were two mills in the woods along the trail. One was the Ferguson Mill and the other one was nicknamed Pinhook. Opened in August 1852, the Pinhook Mill was the second mill to operate along the South Fork River. According to Gaston County historian Robert Ragan, the mill received its name because mill workers’ would use bent textile pins to fish for lunch outside the building’s windows. During the Civil War, a small detachment of Union soldiers were sent to burn down Pinhook Mill, which was producing cloth for the Confederacy. Upon hearing the soldiers coming, mill superintendent William Sahms ran out to meet the Union troop, only to find them led by his Pennsylvanian childhood neighbor. Sahms convinced the soldiers to spare the mill and the soldiers burnt the bridge instead.The stone pillars of the bridge are still in the river.

Here are a few photos from today’s hike. It’s worth checking out if you are in the Charlotte NC area.

 

Operator Mono with Ligatures

Have you wished Operator Mono had ligatures similar to Fira Code? If so, here is a utility named Operator Mono Ligatures that will generate new OpenType fonts for Operator Mono that includes ligatures.

Just be warned you do need the Operator Mono font first and it does cost around $200:

NOTE: Because Operator Mono is not a free font, you must have the original font files. This utility will merge the ligature definitions into a copy of the original font. The new font family is named Operator Mono Lig so you can install it side-by-side with the original font.

Personally I’ve not been a huge fan of ligatures and my main reason for liking Operator Mono is the italics, but I know many like them and they do look pretty neat in this VS Code screenshot:

vsoperatormono

If you want to try it visit the Github repo and install the Python utility to create the new font.

Closing those Apple Watch Rings

 

With the Apple Watch, I was struggling to close my rings especially the standing. It seemed like nothing I did would cause it to close in those last 10 minutes after the warning came. So like all modern people, I went to Twitter to share my frustration.

Ben Sampson replied with a few tips that have been tremendously helpful to me:

  • Standing = arm down
  • Exercise = minutes when your heart rate is over 100
  • Move = general moving of watch and heart rate

By having your arm just hanging down it’s made closing that ring way more consistent.

The Revenge of Analog

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax is a book I picked up for two reasons, I thought the cover was awesome, and I’ve been on an analog kick this year. I’ve switched to real books, using pen and paper, and even subscribing to magazines instead of reading online. So I thought this book would be right up my alley.

The book is broken down into two parts, the Revenge of analog things and the revenge of analog ideas. Inside the first part talks about vinyl records, paper (moleskin), Film, and board games. Then part two switch to print, retail, work, and school.

I was disappointed in this book because it felt like a history lesson and then just information about companies inside the industry. For example, the revenge of paper chapter was almost entirely about Moleskine. However, I did enjoy the introduction and the epilogue that had a story and interviews with kids at a camp that doesn’t allow electronics.

Overall I give this book two out of five stars, and it just didn’t relate to me the way I thought it would.

The Amazon Three Stars Rule

The Washington Post has a story on how merchants are using Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews and this reminded me of the three-star review rule to save time and hassle.

It works like this. Find a product you are interested in buying, scroll down to the customer reviews and select three stars to filter the view so it only shows those reviews.

The advantage of this method is it removes all the paid reviews, removes the people that are always overly positive, and gives you a much smaller number to read through. Here is an example of the first product I found while writing this post:

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 7.53.05 AM.png

Just by spending a few minutes going through the list it’s pretty easy to see two important things. The paper is apparently really good, but the perforation is bad. If tearing out pages is something important to me then I know this notebook would be one to get. On the other hand, if I want to keep all the pages together and keep my notebook for many years, I should probably keep looking.

The next time you are buying something on Amazon give this method a try!

I did not come up with this method and found it on someone’s blog a few years ago and I can’t seem to find the source from a quick web search. If and when I find it I’ll credit them, and if you know who first coined this idea let me know in the comments. 

PayPal Holdings Inc. insists she should have known the minimum age is 18, because the rule is clearly stated in terms and conditions she agreed to. Clearly stated, that is, in a document longer than The Great Gatsby—almost 50,000 words spread across 21 separate web pages.

The ‘Terms and Conditions’ Reckoning Is Coming

My First MTB Race

Yesterday I raced in my first MTB race. Well I guess first isn’t completely accurate because I did do a short 5-mile race about 20 years ago, but that was it and it’s been so long ago that experience has been pushed out of my mind.

The one yesterday was called King of Goat Hill which as you can imagine was basically a bunch of hill climbs. I didn’t really know what to expect going in but I want to get faster so what better way than to get out there with some fast people? The event was four laps (10.1 total miles) and the majority of it was hill climbs, hence the name.

As the even started I decided it would be a good idea to start in the back so I don’t kill myself in the beginning but what I didn’t realize is that I’m not as slow as I assumed. The whole first lap I was stuck behind slow people and it was hard to pass.

The second lap was much better as I started to get into a rhythm but my legs weren’t recovering enough on the downhills to be ready for the next uphill. So it was a struggle but I kept pushing.

On lap three I got lapped by the leaders and that was demoralizing. Getting lapped in a four-lap race is not fun, but I didn’t know what to expect so I should have known that would probably happen. I kept pushing through.

At the finish of that lap, I assumed the race was over. In all other events, you finish on the same lap the winner does. I stopped thinking it was over and the people standing around told me to keep going, that this event wasn’t set up like that. I lost a ton of time there.

I pushed through the final lap and finished with a smile. I also asked the top three how many miles a week they ride and each one said 100+ miles. They ride every day and two of three was under 20 years old. Basically, with my current schedule, I’ll never be at their level.

Now that the race is in the books here are a few things I learned:

  1. Start near the front, let people pass you.
  2. Realize if you are not training every day you probably will not finish at the front.
  3. During the race focus only on what you can control.
  4. Have fun!

I plan to race even more this year because I did enjoy it, but I’ll go into the next one knowing more of what to expect.

Most maintainers start working on open source software because it’s fun and solves a problem they have. Many continue out of a sense of obligation instead of fun and over time this unpaid, increasingly non-fun work grinds them down. When they make a controversial decision and receive abuse for it, their friends and family start to ask them if open source is worth the grief.

Open Source Maintainers Owe You Nothing

What Makes PHP Popular?

I saw this question pop up on a forum and I know every PHP developer has their own reasons, it made me think of why I initially picked PHP way back in the early 2000’s when v4.3 was king.

It all started when my family hired a web developer to create a website for their motorcycle dealership. Everyone was moving to the web, and we didn’t want to be left behind. We ended up hiring a local guy, and a few months later a new website was delivered that was built entirely with Microsoft Front-page. He sat with me for an hour or so and showed me the basics on how to update it, took his check, and then went on his merry way.

Flash forward about two months, and I was spending half my day on Front-page forums trying to figure out the tool and how to make cool things. I loved it! Eventually, though I was sick and tired of Front-page, the extensions kept breaking, and every time it was a nightmare to fix.

This led me to a crossroads. I wanted to remake the site so it was dynamic and so we could quickly add new inventory. The two languages I heard was best for this was either ASP or PHP. To a newbie, they both seemed like greek, but PHP hosting was cheaper, so that is the direction I went.

With the language chosen, I started reading everything I could and tinkering, but it didn’t “click” I struggled more than I’d like admin with understanding the relationship between PHP, MySQL, and Apache. Keep in mind back then I had zero tech friends and nobody local I could even ask. It was trial and error from tutorials and forums.

What I ended up realizing is the part I struggled with was that I couldn’t actually see the relationship between all these tools. Around this time I tried Dreamweaver, and it helped tremendously because it was all basically integrated into a single app.

As I compare then to today the training material now is leaps and bounds better than we what we had. Yes, web development is way more complicated today, but everything from tutorials, to training videos, to even open source apps. Everything is better explained than back then.

So to finally answer the question, “What makes PHP popular?”, For me, it was cheaper hosting, and once I grasped the basics, I never left the community. If it works, embrace it.

Where is the Book Publishing Disruption?

There are two primary ways of publishing these days. The first is to go through a book publishing company and the second is through self-publishing. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

If you go the traditional route, typically how it works is they give you an agreed upon amount of money to write the book. Then once it goes on sale you make a low percentage until an agreed upon amount then it goes a little higher. The advantage to this style for tech authors is they handle all the sales, marketing, editing, book cover, etc. So you write the book and get paid.

The downside is the amount you get paid is low. You will, by far, make more money going the self-publishing route. However, everything is up to you. You need a following; you need to understand a little business, how to market, how to hire out contractors for the various parts and on and on. It’s a lot to undertake especially if you have a full-time job, a family, or other responsibilities.

What I’d love to see is an entirely new digital alternative where everything is more favorable to all parties involved. In my opinion, a writer should be able to pitch their book idea to a publisher, and if accepted the writer writes the book, the publisher handles all the mundane tasks like a cover image, editing, and sales & marketing. Then both parties split the revenue 50/50, 60/40, 40/60, just some split that seems fairer than what is currently the industry average.

I do believe something like this should work, but I’ve yet to see anyone come in and try to disrupt the industry. Maybe there is a reason, and I fail to see it?

Hacking the CAN-SPAM Act for fun

The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted back in 2003 and one of the provisions is that you must include a physical address in your email newsletter:

A legitimate physical address of the publisher and/or advertiser is present. PO Box addresses are acceptable in compliance with 16 C.F.R. 316.2(p) and if the email is sent by a third party, the legitimate physical address of the entity, whose products or services are promoted through the email should be visible.

What I’ve started doing is when I get a newsletter I enjoy I’ll write a snail mail letter in response to it, much I like I did in this humorous post for responding to a Tweet.

So far I’ve only done it a handful of times but in almost every single case it gets a response and that’s because it’s unique and people really do enjoy getting real letters in the mail. Plus it’s fun! Now that I’ve shared my secret don’t everyone start doing it or it’ll lose the novelty.  🙂

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Mowing the lawn

I grew up in rural North Carolina on a track of land that measured around five acres. Much of it was wooded with maybe around an acre and half of grass. I have fond memories of fighting my brother to get dibs on mowing it, and it was so exciting for about a month, then I absolutely hated it. From then on I let him cut it.

All that worked fine until we became adults and the first home I bought had a lot of grass. I thought being older I’d enjoy it more but quickly found out that wasn’t the case. I went as far as buying a huge z-mower with a 60″ cut to try to get done faster, but nothing mattered I despised it.

Finally, when I sold that house one of the goals with the next was a smaller yard, and with that came the ability for me to hire out the mowing. After about four weeks I realized how dumb I’d been all my life and it reminds me so much of this quote I saw by Sam Altman:

I don’t think most people value their time enough—I am surprised by the number of people I know who make $100 an hour and yet will spend a couple of hours doing something they don’t want to do to save $20.

It reminded me that logically I should have made this decision 10 years ago, but because of cost, I assumed it was advantageous to just suck it up and keep going.

The War of Art

Every time I ready to ship something I get tons of apprehension and the feeling of a fraud and a failure. It’s brutal and it seems to happen every single launch.

During this time I’m reminded of the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and if you’ve ever experienced I’d recommend getting yourself a copy.

Stan Berenstein, co-creator of The Berenstein Bears sums up the book perfectly in this quote:

“A marvelous help for anybody who has ever encountered the resistance of a blank page, an empty canvas or an unyielding musical scale.”

The book was originally written for writers but it works for any creative profession.

What computer should I get?

If you work in tech then I’m sure you are familiar with the question of “what computer should I get” and outside of “will you fix my printer” it’s probably the one I get asked most often.

What you might find odd is I am a software developer building web applications. I honestly don’t keep up with hardware at all and as long as my computer turns on, is quick, and can run my text editor then I’m happy.

But I know many don’t understand and assume it’s like asking a mechanic which car to buy. So if we take that analogy to heart, then I would tell you to buy an iPad.

iPad’s are affordable, easy to secure, easy to update, and with the recent iOS releases they can do almost everything a laptop or desktop can do. Honestly, I’d use an iPad for everything if I could figure out how to build web applications on it.

The only trouble you might encounter is with printing, you will need a printer that can be setup and managed wirelessly. Just search for “AirPrint printer” or “iPad printer” on Amazon and you can find a bunch that will work.

If you are unsure of which iPad to buy I’d recommend checking out the Macrumors buying guide and seeing which has been recently released, and what’s reaching the end of life.

After you’ve decided on the size and model I recommend you get at 128GB of storage. On the just-released iPad, the default is 32GB and I’m sure you’ll fill it up.

Finally, consider paying the $0.99 a month for more iCloud storage that way everything automatically backs up and you don’t have to worry about it.

Old Racing Pictures

Growing up my family would travel somewhere in the southeast every weekend to race motocross. This went on from the early 1990’s to around 2002 when I eventually quit racing.

I have so many great memories from that time of my life and met some amazing people along the way. Last week my dad was rummaging through some boxes and found a few pictures of me racing and I decided to share them on social media.

One of my old racing buddies seen it and it reminded him that he had a bunch of photos of me and we shared contact info and then today I received about a dozen he had.

All of these are from when I was around 13 to 15 which means they are all about 20 years old. It’s hard to believe that they haven’t been thrown out.

I know for him these were probably in the attic and forgotten about but I was very excited when I seen them arrive. These are from a time before selfies and Instagram and I don’t have a ton of photos from back then.

It’s great when you are reminded of the good in the world when so much of what we see and read is negative.

AeroPress Recipes

AeroPress was invented back in 2005 and a few years ago it felt to me like it hit critical mass and everyone was using them.  I finally decided to get one for making quick cups of coffee but in my first few attempts, my results have been fairly lackluster. I talked to some friends, mainly Chris Gmyr, and he started telling me some tips as well as several recipes to make it better and I wanted to document all the recommendations here in one place.

Inverted Method

The first method that I’ve heard several people talk about is what they call the “inverted method” and here is a great site with full instructions including pictures. I’ve copied and pasted them below for a quick reference.

  • Grind 17g of Coffee (about as fine as table salt)
  • Boil 270g of water (195-205F range)
  • Insert the plunger into the Aeropress, filter-side up.
  • Add your coffee and pour enough water to submerge the beans (about 34g).
  • Stir so no grounds are left dry.
  • Wait 20 seconds.
  • Fill with your remaining water.
  • Your grounds should be about a quarter inch from the top.
  • Stir again if you think your grounds aren’t fully immersed.
  • Wait 1 minute.
  • Attach your filter to the top and place your mug on top of that. After placing one hand on the vessel and one on the Aeropress, smoothly turn the combination upside-down.
  • Gently press straight down on your plunger for about 20 seconds. You will know when to stop when you hear a hissing sound.

Standard Method

The next method is what you might consider the standard and was the winning entry in the AeroPress championship

  • Grind 17 grams of coffee
  • Boil 277ml of water
  • “No bloom! Just a low and slow pour and a low and slow press.”

Outside of these recipes I also learned that using fresh coffee beans is key, and to always grind just before you brew as ground beans start going stale after 15 mins. Use filtered water from your fridge, and finally rinse your paper filter before you start.

As a complete coffee noob, all these are new to me and hopefully, it helps someone in the future. I know coffee is something many people are passionate about and if you have anything to add, sound off in the comments below.

Featured Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Basecamping With Friends

A few months ago I had a conversation with a few online friends about writing and after a few hours of the back and forth we decided to start a Slack group where we could all have a place to communicate, ask for feedback, and hang out.

A few weeks later and I decided to switch all my Laravel News stuff over to Basecamp because I was losing track of things and wanted to unify everything. That move went so flawless that I decided to pitch everyone on the idea of moving our group over to a new Basecamp project and to my surprise everyone agreed to give it a go.

It’s been about 21 days since the move and Basecamp is excellent for this. We use Campfire to communicate throughout the day, the automated check-ins to share and cheer each other on, and finally the message board for those more extended questions that need to be thought out vs. an instant chat reply.

Right now it has about eight people in it, and I love how it has all the tools available to make a little private community and still have important features like the “latest activity” where I can ignore everything during the workday and checkup on my time without always having to feel like I’m missing something.

The only downside, of course, is the price but if you can afford it, then I’d recommend it. I don’t ever want to go back to what I had before with everything scattered everywhere.

Every Busy Two Lane Interstate in America

Both lanes packed with cars as far as you can see and there is always that one person on the inside lane going a hundred miles an hour trying jump in the tiny gap before they crash into the back of the slower car.

Of course, I’m guilty myself and trying to change by remembering that taking risks like this only save you a few minutes at best. The risk/reward is stacked heavily against you.

How to Keep Going – Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon giving a talk on 10 things to stay creative in our chaotic times:

  1. Every day is Groundhog Day
  2. Build a bliss station
  3. Forget the noun, do the verb
  4. Make gifts
  5. The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary
  6. Art is for life
  7. You are allowed to change your mind
  8. When in doubt, tidy up
  9. The demons hate fresh air
  10. Spend time on something that will outlast them