Humanist, vegan, minimalist, programmer, collector of labels.
40,989 words

My Privacy-focused Apps

Over the last few years, I've made a concerted effort to find open-source tools that focus on protecting user privacy.

It's an ongoing journey. As you'll see, I'm still working through replacing some applications (and even operating systems).

This post lists out the tools I'm currently using, both so I can keep track of it for myself and help other privacy-conscious folks find software that values their privacy!

Cross Platform Applications

These apps work on all my devices, which is a big reason why I love them!

  • Firefox - Web browser, replaces Chrome, Safari, Edge, etc.
  • Signal - Messaging, replaces SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.
  • Standard Notes - Writing, replaces Microsoft Word, Evernote, OneNote, etc.
  • Bitwarden - Password manager, replaces LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane, etc.

Desktop/Laptop

  • Linux (Ubuntu) - Operating System, replaces Windows or MacOS
  • Thunderbird - Email Client, replaces Outlook and other email clients
  • VSCodium - Text editor, replaces VS Code, or any other developer-focused editors
  • Vim - Text editor, upgrades your ego, replaces all text editors (I'm still learning Vim so I rely on Codium a lot)
  • Krita - Drawing software, replaces Paint, etc.
  • GIMP - Image editor, replaces Photoshop, etc.
  • Inkscape - Vector software, replaces Illustrator, etc.
  • LibreOffice - Office software, replaces Microsoft Office, etc.
  • Audacity - Audio editing, replaces Garage Band, etc.

Mobile

What's Left To Replace

  • Android - I like the Librem 5 phone, but it's still a little soon for me to grab one. In the meantime, I'm planning to install LineageOS.
  • Goodreads - I don't need Amazon tracking my every read, but I haven't found a good replacement yet. I like Calibre, so I'll move there eventually, but it's not open source so that's a mark against it.
  • Google Maps - I've downloaded OsmAnd, but I don't naturally reach for it yet.
  • Moodpath - Tracks my anxiety/depression. I haven't found a good replacement yet.
  • Google Keyboard - The swipe technology is just too good and I haven't found a good replacement yet. They only send telemetrics, but still. It's Google.
  • Strava - Exercise tracking. I've downloaded OpenTracks, but I don't naturally reach for it yet (and I haven't gone running in ages).
  • YNAB - Budgeting software. I pay for it, so according to their privacy policy I should be okay. I'd love to move to an open source app, but I haven't found a good replacement yet.
  • Prey - Phone location software. I need to look into their privacy policy, because this is one I haven't thought about in ages. I don't know of any open source apps that will let you find your phone when you lose it.
  • Todoist - My todo software. I pay for it, so I'm less inclined to look elsewhere, but I do want to find a good open source version, especially if I can pay them to support it and provide a syncing mechanism.

The COVID Experience: Heading to Utah

Welp, after getting my pay cut drastically due to the pandemic, I can no longer afford to live in Seattle. I've moved in with my parents in Utah, and I'm truly grateful that I'm fortunate enough to have that as an option.

The United States is still largely pretending we're not in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years. I got a few dirty looks from Utah folks when they saw me wearing a mask. Neighbors chatting while standing two feet away from each other, without masks. I still haven't seen anyone outside of my immediate and extended family use a mask since I moved here a week ago.

No wonder COVID is running crazy through our country.

Those of us who took precautions, who self-isolated, who damaged their mental health due to loneliness... We should be outraged.

The White House is saying "the science should not stand in the way" rearding opening our schools. We have new hotspots in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and other states. California is still getting hit hard. We hit 4 million cases recently, and those numbers are still accelerating.

This thing is completely out of control, and states are opening back up.

What the hell is wrong with our country? Other countries who took this threat seriously are starting to look normal again. Germany is throwing a 4000 person concert just to study how the virus spreads! But here we are, screaming about how religious freedom is being taken away because of a 50 person limitation on gatherings.

And all of this time, the richest man in the world keeps getting richer, despite the insanely high numbers of people filing for unemployment and struggling to get by, while our Congress debates if continuing an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits is the right thing to do.

SPOILERS: Of course it is! We have a looming eviction crisis coming up because the average American has no money to cover emergencies and rent is expensive regardless of where you live.

If you can't tell, I'm absolutely livid. And I hope everyone else is too. We have an election coming up, and it's high time we vote out the neo-liberal bastards who put our country in this broken situation.

And now I have to do all my ranting, raving, and persuading in Utah. I hate living in Utah. I've done it before, and I told myself I'd never do it again.

But here I am.


While there's a sliver of hope, I try to ignore it. I had my heart crushed in 2016, and this time it could happen again. But if Trump wins, I'm terrified we'll find ourselves living in a fascist nation, and all my writing will make me a target. Turns out writing fascists don't like anti-fascists. Who'd'a thunk?

The worst part about being stuck in Utah is that my city is currently fighting back against police brutality in the Seattle Police Department, and this time I'm not around to go protest.

So I'll do my part through writing when I can't march. I'll do my part through conversations with friends and family. I'll do my part by encouraging people to get out and vote against the asshole currently occupying the White House.

100 days until the election.

A lot can and will happen, and I just hope we make it out alive.

2020, get fucked.

On Being Normal

The last handful of years have been some of the hardest of my life. Since 2018, my wife left me, I was diagnosed with depression, our country is accelerating its slide towards fascism thanks to Dear Leader, and COVID ravages our country and my mental health from being isolated.

This wasn't how life was supposed to go. It wasn't in any of my plans. But that's how life is. You can't predict what will happen. Success is not guaranteed.

I feel like life has taken a crowbar and beat me silly.

And with that beating, I realized something.

I'm not special. That was shocking, since I always thought I was.

I was taught to believe that I was one of the most important people to ever be born. In Mormonism, they teach that everyone existed before being born, and that there was a big war in Heaven regarding what Earth life would look like.

Lucifer wanted to force everyone to be righteous so they'll be saved, while Jesus wanted to let people choose righteousness for themselves, risking damnation for those who can't follow the rules.

As part of that war, the most valiant and righteous people in the fight were born to good Mormon families, and my generation in particular were constantly taught that we were "saved for the latter days" and were some of the best supporters of Jesus in the war.

(Totally off topic, but another thing I was taught is that "fence sitters" who didn't choose a side in the War in Heaven were born with black skin so we can tell they were less valiant when fighting for Jesus. Yeah... Mormonism is heavily rooted in racism, but others have covered that topic in much more detail than I ever could, especially in this post about being normal. Go look into it. It's fascinating and morally disgusting at the same time.)

Anyway, I was raised to believe that I was a super fighter for Jesus before being born on Earth, and, as a result, I was rewarded with being born into the One True Religion, with the mandate to share it with the world and make everyone else Mormon too so we all can become gods and make babies with a harem of wives for eternity. (Which totally leaves out people like me who wouldn't mind mixing in a few husbands to that deal as well!)

That's an insanely egotistical though to put in a little kid's head and nurture for years.

I didn't leave Mormonism until age 23, so I heard how special I was a lot. Church conferences in particular were filled with speeches about how we're in a war with Satan and only Mormon men have the power of God to fight back and do good in the world.

In addition to the egotistical religious indoctrination, I was a "gifted" child. I always thought that meant I was smarter than everyone, when in fact I was just lucky enough to be born into an incredible amount of privileged that allowed me to thrive and be my best self.

None of this is to say I'm not smart. I have a few talents that I'm quite proud of!

But I'm not special. I'm not "gifted". I'm just a dude trying to live my best life. I'm definitely unique, but that doesn't speak to my abilities perform.

It's taken me a long time to realize that I'm normal.

I think my job as a consultant is what helped me realize it. Part of it is that we hire amazing people who are smarter than me in so many ways, but another part is that the workforce requires an entirely different set of strengths than schooling.

I am amazing at school. I know how to beat standardized tests. I love to read and learn and write and remix ideas. I have a hard time making friends sometimes because all I want to talk about are abstract ideas and systems and how they impact our world. Those skills helped a ton in school. They help a ton in my day-to-day work as well, but schooling requires an incomplete subset of skills compared to working in the private sector.

It turns out, I'm not good at a lot of non-school related things, and I struggled mightily to adjust to work after graduating from university. Part of my failure in that transition was definitely my un-diagnosed depression, but I attribute many of my early failures to not having the skills to succeed in the workforce.

My friends who got Cs are now years ahead of me in their careers because they spent their time learning the skills that make a good worker, not the skills that make a good test taker. While I was studying for tests, they were starting side businesses and making cool apps. I'm not sad that I studied. I love studying! I'd be a professional student if I could.

But watching people I literally helped tutor become thought leaders in their specialties while I struggle to even get a simple promotion is brutal. I'm not jealous of their success (I wouldn't want to do the jobs of most of the people I'm thinking about right now), but I do feel like I'm failing on my own internal measuring stick sometimes.

I know it's dumb to hurt myself like that, and I've gotten much better not doing that since embracing my normality.

One of my favorite little stories that helps me embrace failure and not measuring up is about a fish being called stupid by the other animals because it couldn't climb a tree. What the other animals forgot is that the fish could swim circles around all of them!

We all have our own strengths, and everybody is good at something. It's normal to be great at some stuff and absolute garbage at other things. It's okay to fail. It's okay to change your plans. It's okay to ask for help.

So the next time you wish you were "special", remember that line of thinking does more harm than good. Normal is great. Normal is perfect. Normal is being special.

It's advice that I'm hoping I'll take myself.

Life During the Pandemic With Anxiety and Depression

Every day in the pandemic is the same, and all of them feel like this:

08:00 - Wake up freezing, even though I'm buried under sheets, cuddling Kaladin in a 76 degree apartment
08:30 - Ignore the constant body aches and pains by planning my day or snoozing
09:00 - Hot shower to relax my tense muscles, most likely avoiding a panic attack in the shower
10:00 - Existential Dread
11:00 - Despair upon hearing new record numbers of cases in whatever fresh hell was birthed with today
12:00 - Put food in my mouth so I don't die
13:00 - Existential Dread
14:00 - Should I quit everything and be homeless on the street to prove how brutal capitalism is?
15:00 - Roll out my aching muscles with the 4+ different devices I've collected to keep me sane
16:00 - ANXIETY
17:00 - Long walk with Kaladin, listening to podcasts or audiobooks to keep me distracted
18:00 - More food in my mouth so I can keep living and suffering
19:00 - Messaging friends and family and not mentioning the overwhelming loneliness and despair
20:00 - Books, Netflix, reading technical documentation, working on side projects, video games
21:00 - More books, Netflix, reading technical documentation, working on side projects, video games
22:00 - More books, Netflix, reading technical documentation, working on side projects, video games
23:00 - Lay in bed trying to think of anything but what I'm thinking of
24:00 - Maybe I'll be asleep by then, but probably not

The Coming Storm

Wave 2 is here, folks.

Well, sorta.

COVID's first wave never really stopped, we just kinda barreled through towards our second peak without obliterating the first.

Today Florida had its single biggest reported count, with just over 15,000 infections.

Florida also broke the single day record for the entire USA. Florida is going to be worse than New York, and New York did not have an easy time getting to their first day in months with 0 deaths.

I'm not sure that I can go visit my family in Utah at the end of the month for our yearly family reunion. Salt Lake County has as many cases as King County, but half the population. I'm finding it hard to justify crossing state lines.

I really don't want to kill a grandparent or bring it back to Washington with me.

And then I see huge groups of people partying at the beach and I feel like I'm depriving myself for no reason. But if I go, I'm just like the irresponsible party people who are putting aside sound public health advice to have fun...

That's why we're screwed. We can't sacrifice a little bit of happiness to prevent other people from dying.

Because of our country's long and obstinate tradition of rugged individualism, we're going to get hit incredibly hard. As a country, we're in a worse spot than in March, but now we're tired from months of living in lock-down.

I don't see the general populace having the strength to do the right thing... This is going to keep spreading.

Why are Americans so damn stupid? With every passing year I become more embarrassed to be a US citizen. Mexico literally shut down their border because we're riddled with COVID.

It's an incredible irony.

Trump and his administration's lack of Federal action has turned us into a "shit-hole country" who gets slapped with travel bans.

How to Prepare for the Storm

  1. Stay the Fuck Home
  2. Shut the fuck up and put on your mask

Honestly, that'll do most of it. Even if our country can't prepare, you can! You still remember what the first wave was like, so use all those lessons you learned to prep for the next one!

Personally, I'm stocking up on cooking staples, frozen broccoli, and Jolly Rancher Bites (those things are delicious and are always out of stock!).

Other than that, I'm making sure to keep in contact with friends and family, and with the gorgeous Seattle summer rolling around I will be doing many picnics outside to catch up with friends.

We will get through this, one way or another. At the moment, it looks like the plan is letting a highly infectious virus ravage our populace.

It's going to hurt. Way too many people are going to die. Hundreds of thousands of others will have to deal with complications from the disease, ranging from a very difficult sickness to lifelong scarring.

It didn't have to be this way, but we find ourselves in the defining moments of the century (thus far).

Watch.

Listen.

Learn.

We have a big decision to make at the ballot box this November. At the risk of being hyperbolic, this is the biggest election of anyone's lifetime.

If we play our cards right, we can elect folks who listen to scientists and will take the steps necessary to end this pandemic (we're not going to be back to normal in January).

I have hope that we can do it. But then again, I had hope in 2016, and my heart can only be crushed so many times in the last four years...

Our Broken World

Our world is broken.

It's been broken for a long time, but some people are only just noticing.

Rampant inequality, unrestrained consumption, deregulated markets, and a Laissez-faire attitude has led to a wholesale looting of the Earth, who has responded by sending us a climate crisis in response.

COVID-19 has been a wake up call for many people, especially in the United States. We're handling this pandemic by basically ignoring it, and, as a result, the deep economic and racial inequalities have been exposed in a way that can't be ignored.

The United States still ties healthcare to employment, even after record unemployment numbers kicked people off their insurance in the middle of the 21st Century's first global, ubiquitous, pandemic. This will lead to many citizens being saddled with incredible medical debts, in addition to having no way to pay for them.

And our government has demonstrated that they don't care.

A $1,200 one-time cash payment? While trillions are handed out to who knows which corporations? Transparency wasn't a requirement of dispersal.

It's insane. We care more about GDP than human lives. Our country has become a late-stage capitalistic hell-hole, where working hard is not rewarded with a decent life.

Instead, we've allowed incredible fortunes to be aggregated into the hands of a few people. Our politicians bow to corporate interests at the expense of everyday people.

This government is not a democracy. It never has been.

And now it's ceased to even be representational republic.

I don't know what the future will hold, but there will be a reckoning. Whether peaceful, by fixing our political system to actually represent the will of the people, or by force, things will change. Money fixes a lot of problems, but it doesn't get rid of a broken, overwhelmed, and angry public when they come knocking at your mansion door.

Surviving the Pandemic: Protests, Violence, and Panic Attacks

2020 is quite the year. Whenever I think we've finally hit rock bottom, we manage to go lower.

In the last month since I threw some thoughts out there, a lot has happened.

The biggest event is obviously the police murder of George Floyd that sparked worldwide protests. Hundreds of cities in every state in the US rose up in unison to push back against the frequent violence our police inflict on citizens, especially the disproportionate violence towards our Black friends and family.

Countries from around the world showed their support through their own massive protests. It was amazing to see the swell of support, and heartbreaking to watch the hundreds of videos of police violence in response to these peaceful protests.

Seattle is having our own adventure in that regard. If you've heard of CHAZ or CHOP or Free Capitol Hill, you'll know what I'm talking about.

A little backstory though.

Before CHOP

My neighborhood, Capitol Hill, has a police precinct near Cal Anderson Park (a great park I take Kal on walks to on almost a daily basis). Back during the early days of the George Floyd protests, the police stopped a march from proceeding through the block by the police station.

The police threw up barriers and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in full-on riot gear. There were nightly stand-offs between a peaceful protesting crowd and police that used tear gas and other violent crowd control weapons that we ban in war but use on our own citizens.

The National Guard was brought in to support the police. Each night, they'd face off for hours, at least until the police decided to attack.

For example, the pink umbrella.

Protesters next to the police barriers held up umbrellas to protect the crowd from the use of tear gas, pepper spray, and other chemical weapons. A policeman on the front line decided to grab a pink umbrella (because it "crossed the barrier", but that's just a bullshit excuse for the police to start the violence). After the protesters tried to pull the umbrella back, the police cleared the area using flash-bangs, tear gas, and pushing their line forward to clear the area.

This type of thing continued for a bit, with various moments of inexcusable police violence. The one that stands out to me in particular is a harrowing video of a woman who shot in the chest with a flash-bang. It stopped her heart and she only lived because the protest medics were able to keep her alive.

Eventually, the police pulled out of the area, and that gave birth to Free Capitol Hill, also know as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), and now, the Capitol Hill Occupy Protest (CHOP).

CHOP

The weeks after CHOP formed were so much more peaceful than when the cops were attacking protesters. I could sleep again without being startled out of sleep by an errant flash-bang and my dog's very loud response to them.

Watching CHOP come together after the police pulled out was amazing. There's a huge, beautiful "Black Lives Matter" mural painted on the street, which each letter painted by a different local Black artist. A new community garden section that has popped up in Cal Anderson. Groups have brought couches and chairs to have teaching sessions for people to learn more about Black oppression and police brutality, among other topics.

In addition, organizers are out getting petitions signed and displays of CHOP's demands have been set up prominently to try to keep the focus on the task at hand:

  1. De-fund the Seattle Police Department by at least 50%
  2. Invest in local Black communities
  3. Free the arrested protesters.

It has felt very much like the usual Capitol Hill summer block party, except most people are wearing masks and the focus is on dismantling racist systems rather than having a good time.

Unfortunately, it hasn't always been a good time.

CHOP Violence

There was one shooting a week or so back where a man drove his car into the CHOP crowd, a protester pulled the guy out so he wouldn't be able to kill anyone with his car, and the driver pulled out a handgun and shot the protester in the arm. The shooter then ran over to the police line, and I believe he's since been arrested for assault.

But this last weekend there were two shootings in/around CHOP. And the worst part is, I can't tell if I'm hearing fireworks or gunshots! On Friday, there were lots of fireworks to celebrate Juneteenth, which was awesome! Kal wasn't that happy about it, but I was glad to see my neighborhood celebrating the holiday. However, the fireworks have continued late into the night, with assholes setting off M-80s and other extremely loud and bomb-like fireworks in my neighborhood (not everything I'm hearing has come from CHOP). CHOP folks have been recruiting folks to patrol the area at night on bikes to watch for whoever is setting them off so we can figure out who is doing it and why.

Anyway, the fireworks have already created a stressful situation, with Kal startling me out of sleep when the pops and bangs startle him into a late night reflexive bark session. And now we've got shootings in the mix. It's been a tough weekend for CHOP, my Capitol Hill neighborhood, and my sleep schedule.

So, first shooting. A 19-year-old recent high school grad was killed and another person is in serious condition. It happened around 2:30 AM, but there were fireworks and M80s going off up until about 2 AM that night, so I was awake and stressed already. I had been checking Twitter to make sure the bangs were fireworks, and that's when I saw the shooting being reported.

And less than 48 hours later we got another one. Again at night. Again with fireworks going off around the same time. Thankfully the victim seems to have suffered only a shoulder wound and should be okay. Again, my neighborhood and I got no sleep.

I'm relieved that the noises I heard Sunday night/Monday morning ended up all being fireworks. But my body doesn't know that, so the panic attacks came anyway.

So I'm going on a total of maybe 13 hours of sleep in the last three days. I'm more If this post makes no sense or has spelling errors, let's blame it on that.

Back to the topic at hand.

Investigations are still ongoing for these shootings, so it's impossible to tell if this recent violence has been from disagreements within CHOP, outside right-wing agitators coming in, or even the police department itself working to turn the community and city against CHOP.

And that's what is scaring me so much. I have felt completely safe during the dozen or so times I've walked through there, but now that we've gained national attention, including major mischaracterization of CHOP by both the orangutan in office and his propaganda arm (Fox News), outside folks are starting to come make trouble. The Proud Boys where here last week, rumors of gun wielding bike gangs making their way up to Washington are floating around, and Trump continues to stoke the flames.

I'm more scared of a disproportionate response from outside my city than anything we'll do to ourselves.

Fox News was literally modifying photos of CHOP to insert gunmen on its CHOP news stories. The President is encouraging racial hatred by playing to his white supremacist base. The dog whistles are easy to hear, and sometimes he says the racist stuff out loud with zero filters. The leader of our country is directing the weight of his troll army at a small section of a single neighborhood in one large west coast city.

At this point, I've got a little bug-out bag and am ready to leave my neighborhood at a moments notice, especially if Trump does something idiotic like deploying Troops to "take care" of CHOP.

Final Thoughts

This was a rambling post. I know my lack of sleep is nothing compared to the tragic loss of life from one of the shootings this weekend. I'm hoping the investigations can find the perpetrators and they can be held accountable.

Some people might call me out as a hypocrite, since "investigations" sure do sound like police work, and I'm all about abolishing the police.

But many people misunderstand what "abolish" means.

It's not that we don't need people in the community to enforce laws, resolve conflict, and protect our communities. We absolutely need all of that! But the institution of policing was originally started to round up slaves. Many officers have a toxic masculinity problem, and many are flat out racist. Many officers are also wonderful people, but the system is what enables the violence and racism to flourish, which implicates all cops.

Abolishing the police would help us reconcile the past. To finally admit, as a nation, that it's time for reparations. Abolishing the police is a chance to start new, with new names, duties, and procedures. A complete reformation, starting with burning down the old police ideologies and practices.

Think about the abolition in terms of renaming or reclaiming hateful things from the past. Names are powerful things. It's why Black people reclaimed the N-word. It's why the LGBTQIA+ community does the same thing with homophobic slurs. It's why my county, King County, in Washington renamed itself after Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of a slave-holding racist plantation owner fucktard.

Policing in the US is just too toxic. Too much racist history. Too much pain. It's too far gone.

Finally, despite all the craziness and violence and lack of sleep and panic attacks, I'm still 100 percent in support of CHOP and their goals. I'm hoping they can learn from past protests, like Occupy Wall Street, so CHOP can keep being a safe, welcoming place for the community that pushes Seattle towards a brighter future where all its citizens are treated equally under the law.

Catastrophizing for Good

So my friend and I were talking about how crazy 2020 has been. Both of us can be pessimistic at times about the direction our country is headed (or as I call it, being realistic), so we did some catastrophizing with over-the-top things so we can be wrong about some of the bad stuff coming up this year.

I ended up writing a short story! I really enjoy creative writing and need to do it more! The story below could use a bit more substance, dialog, descriptions, and all the stuff that makes a story great, but until I get around to fleshing it out, I thought I'd share the texts I sent!

The Hairpiece

I bet that Trump loses, refuses to step down, and the military backs him.

we go full on "man in the high castle"

and you and I join Antifa

we plan an ocean's 11 type adventure to steal Trump's hairpeace, removing all his power

*hairpiece lol

turns out, Trump is actually a really good fighter

so we fight him and you tear his hairpiece off

and it

turns him into a lizard personnnnnnn

and so then we're like, oh shit, Alex Jones was right

and Alex Jones bursts through the wall, Kool-aid man style

so we join his elite lizard fighting team, which we take into space

turns out they have a moon base

well, thankfully the hairpiece has the key to stopping all the lizards

we reverse engineer the cloaking technology in the hairpiece and use it to disguise ourselves while we infiltrate the moon base

we learn their customs, live among them

eventually we realize, they're just people too

but we have mission

we discover where they keep the nukes, and go plant some malware (turns out, they LOVE Windows systems so it was easy to write a good malware bot)

but we get discovered!

AHGHHH!

we fight our way back to the ship

I lose an arm in an epic sword match with the biggest lizard man we've seen yet. I dispatch him, but the move costs me my arm

we get back to the ship and launch, taking our little lizard puppy Spiky along for the ride

and it blows up epicly in the background

we take the hairpiece home and display it predominantly. Thanks to its powers, we have wonderful new tech to lead us into a peaceful, new world.

It truly was

a haripeace

Open Source

Pull Requests

I primarily contribute to open source through coding. Anytime I complete a PR of note, I'll be listing it here!

Clap.rs

Clap is a powerful argument parsing library that I've started contributing to. I use clap on the majority of my Rust projects, so I thought it would be fun to give back!

Projects

I've put a lot of code out there that isn't great, but any project I finish will be here!

Surviving the Pandemic: Part 2

Time has no meaning during an eternal present.

To mark its passage, I might as well write about how things are two months after my last post.

How am I

Overall, I'm doing okay. Between minor bouts of depression and copious amounts of self-care, I'm keeping my head above water. I'm even being productive in my free time (which I'll talk about in the Rust section of this article). I did get a 20 percent pay cut due to the economic shock of shutting down the country. That did not feel nice, but I've coped by re-prioritizing my budget and making a few tweaks to my life.

At this point in the lockdown, I have a few go-to hobbies. I read books, listen to podcasts, take long, physically-distant walks around Seattle with Kaladin, play video games, and attend online happy hours and game nights. There's nothing too exciting in any of that, but I have been loving the opportunity to voraciously consume content. I'm going to be hitting my book/movie/tv show/video game goals for sure this year!

Every so often I'll have something interesting pop up in my life. Like yesterday, I took Kaladin to the dog park. A husky stole his ball, and the owner stood there and watched as his pup tore holes in the ball, removing all the bounce. At that point, Kal and I had to go home because there was no more ball to play with. It sucked, and it was annoying that the owner didn't stop their dog from destroying someone else's toy, but on the other hand, I had a social interaction with a person! Wooooooo! Haha

That's how starved I am for people. I'm an introvert, but even this 60+ days of isolation is getting to be a bit too much.

Current State of Things

Living in Washington, I'm feeling pretty good about how things have progressed in Seattle, which I'm extremely grateful for. Our governor, Jay Inslee, isn't perfect, but he started taking this seriously early on, and Seattle and Washington in general has so far weathered the storm well. I think we're floating at around 1000 deaths right now, which is far less than our "fair share" of the current death count. That's a morbid win for my state!

My biggest concern are for friends and family in other states. Some states haven't really taken much action and are already "open" again, and those infection and death numbers keep ticking up because their state government didn't take the threat of a virus seriously.

On that note, it's been interesting to watch President Trump change his tone over the last few months and finally recognize that the virus is a real threat. Unfortunately, there's been little coordination from the federal government, especially from the President himself, who frankly shows more concern for the S&PO 500 than the health of the citizens he's meant to protect as he avoids questions from the media and issues information contradictory to the CDC and other organizations.

Outside of all the political happenings, the American people are at least doing a decent job at pulling together and supporting one another. There have been gun-toting idiots protesting in crowds to have their states opened up though, so we do have some stupid people out there spreading the virus, which will make this last even longer! Wish they'd think for a second before making big crowds...

Anyway, Seattle hasn't had much (if any) of that ridiculousness. Instead, we're getting beautiful art painted on the window coverings of buildings. It's been a wonderful splash of color in my otherwise drab life. Spring is on its last legs, and seeing all the petals falling and flowers blooming make walks around Seattle for Kaladin and my daily exercise a really nice experience.

Despite the good things, I still need this to be over sooner than later. Thankfully, it seems like Washington is on the downward slope of this thing, but even that is hard to say because this virus can scale up so quickly. It's weird thinking it's been about 2 months since the lockdown stuff started. And the virus was already on my radar for a few months before that.

This pandemic is basically a year-long natural disaster. I still think it's going to get worse before it gets better, but I would love to be proved wrong on that.

Rust

Finally, to wrap up the second of what is to likely be many "Surviving the Pandemic" entries, I wanted to talk about the Rust programming language.

As I've mentioned previously, I love Rust. It's been my hobby language for all of quarantine, and I actually have something useful to show for it!

I merged in a Pull Request to a Rust crate called clap, which is a library for parsing command line arguments. You can check out the minor change, but even though the change was small it felt good to make a contribution for a programming language I don't use professionally.

The clap crate is actually one of the top 100 Rust crates out there, so a bunch of people out there will be using my code! I love when I can write things others find useful.

I also published a new minor version of my aws_parameter_update crate. I think there's one or two more tweaks I want to make before calling that library complete, but it's still completely functional, which makes me happy because it's my first little baby library I spun into existence.

My First Crate

If you've talked to me in the past couple months, I've likely mentioned the Rust programming language. Andf if you have any sort of programming experience, I've probably given a miniature sales pitch to you on why you should learn it.

In a word, Rust is beautiful. I've never seen such a thoughtfully crafted language that focuses on the developer experience while still being blazing fast and eliminating entire categories of programming errors that plauge developers (null exceptions and memory management, to name two).

Rust is a relatively new programming language, only reaching it's 1.0 release in 2015. Compare this to languages like C and C++, which were created last century. The creators of Rust took everything that we've learned over decades of programming language design into account, and it shows.

The language is so damn good that I'm absolutely obsessed with Rust right now. Working with it over the last few months, I can easily understand why it's been the most loved language by programmers three years running.

Thankfully, I've had the free time available to be obsessed!

During this global pandemic, I don't have much to do after work, which has let me dive deep into the language, primarily through reading the Rust Book and coding up some tools that I can use in my day-to-day life.

One of those tools I created is the "AWS Parameter Update" tool, which allows the user to update any of their parameters in AWS without having to log into the AWS console.

It's not that great, and there's definitely some improvements I want to make... But it works well enough that I decided to publish it to the world!

I don't expect, or even recommend, that anybody use it, but it exists!

You can check it out here:

https://crates.io/crates/aws_parameter_update

That's about it for this post!

I just wanted to celebrate that I published my very first Rust Crate. I never published any of my JavaScript or C# code (the two primary languages I end up using for work), so already throwing some Rust code out into the world feels like the start of something new for me and my programming career.

I expect to publish more crates in the future, since Rust is now my go-to language for personal projects (and if I ever see an opportunity to introduce it at work, I absolutely will). When those crates come out, they'll likely be a whole lot better than my AWS Parameter Tool and I'll go into much more detail about the actual tool itself when blogging about them.

Until then,

Stay Rusty.

(Lol that's awful. Not gonna use that as a sign off ever again).

Surviving the Pandemic: A Rant

Since we're in the midst of a global pandemic, I figured I should write my thoughts on it. This is a strange moment in world history that I hope we'll all never experience again, so keeping some record seemed prudent for future me to look back on.

Working from Home

It's day ? of working from home. Yup, I've already lost track of the days. I started working from home a handful of days before my company asked us all to do it as well, so I think it's been about three weeks? All the days blend together now.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm not keeping track. My mind has embraced this "new normal" of working from my apartment.

I will say, working remote is difficult if you're not set up for it. I'm in a 309 square foot studio apartment right now, so there's little space to work with. My desk was already pretty packed, so it took some re-arraigning of everything in my apartment and expanding the desk (it has "wings" that can swing up) to its full size.

And now that I got a new plant today (I realized I needed some nature in my house to stay sane. More plants will definitely follow!)

My current desk setup

So now that I'm set up at home, working feels pretty normal. It's not much different than working from an office. The thing I miss most is being in the physical presense of people. The random conversations that happen throughout the day when you pass by friends and co-workers now have to be a deliberate effort in the online WFH space.

Worrying About the World

If you know me, you know I wear my heart on my sleeve. Seeing all the suffering caused by the pandemic, both physically and economically, really gets to me. I've made sure to turn down my news consumption, because things keep getting worse.

And I can't do anything about it. Well, I can't do anything more than continue to "socially distance".

A silver lining of this whole thing is that I am performing a civic duty for playing video games, reading, programming, or snoozing at home!

But other than staying home, I can't help. My skillset as a programmer is more or less useless, outside of contributing to some COVID-19 reporting projects, but all the websites with that information I voraciously consume about the virus already exist.

So I just chill at home, reading books, learning new programming languages, and playing a lot of video games (like Animal Crossing, which came out at the perfect time!).

Acknowledging my privilege hurts. My life is fine, outside of a little bit of new loneliness, but so many are facing the worst times of their life. I didn't do much to deserve the cushy life I have right now. I can do my job from home. I get paid enough to live comfortably in one of the more expensive cities in the US. I am not currently worried about losing my job (although we'll see how things develop over the next few months!)

But then I see the numbers of people losing their job (3.3 million just applied for unemployment benefits!), and with the average person not being able to handle a $1,000 emergency, we are not prepared for this as a country.

I constantly have a rage smoldering inside for the policies and laws that enabled us to reach this point.

For example, since we've tied healthcare to our jobs, all these folks being let go in the service industry will now lose the very thing that would economically protect them if they got the very virus they lost their jobs over!

It's absolutely bonkers.

I can't believe we haven't joined the civilized world in guaranteeing healthcare as a human right. We should go further, and introduce an economic bill of rights that guarantees housing, healthcare, food, and even internet acceess for all. In a modern society, we shouldn't be gatekeeping the foundational benefits of living in a society.

Right now people are literally making the decision to go to work sick or be unable to buy groceries next week. And a lot of those people are the ones making our food, cleaning our buildings, or facilitating other in-person services.

Do you want to get sick because someone was forced to come to work in order to feed their family? Or would you rather we have guaranteed paid sick leave so sick people will stay home while sick, and flatten the curve so fewer people die.

Even from an economic incentive perspective, making healthcare part of compensation reduces worker power to move to new jobs that they might excel at even more than their current one. Imagine the prosperity we could unlock if we allowed for a more fluid and free workforce! Removing healthcare from the equation would allow more people to find the jobs that fit them best, increasing productivity and job satisfaction.

And what happens for people who need treatment for COVID-19? It's gonna cost a ton, especially for severe cases. We will save people's lives, but then burden them with the weight of un-payable debt. It's asinine. People will literally forgo regular medical visits (which keep you healthy!) because they can't afford them, which leads to worse, more expensive health outcomes down the line.

We need universal health care now. We needed it 50 years ago when many of our allies were setting up similar systems.

COVID-19 is laying bare all the failings of our country.

I truly hope we wake up as a nation and learn from this tragedy. Right now, we all need to get through this together, but just as importantly, we need to consider the type of world we want to live in when this is all over. Hopefully it's one full of compassions towards individuals, and not, as MLK Jr. put it, our current system of socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Hello, New Blog!

I did it! I moved all of my past Medium posts over to my new blog.

It took a couple months of chipping away at it regularly, but I got all 31,996 words moved over!

Now that I can't get away with the excuse of having to move old content anymore, I supposed I should start writing new content. That's always the tricky part.

But I do have a few goals that I'm striving for:

  1. Finish my guide to effective development teams
  2. Publish some of my learnings about the Rust programming lanugage
  3. Comment on current events, political issues, new video games, and basically whatever comes to mind (like many of my past blog posts have been)

We'll see if I can get another good, long-running writing habit going again.

🤞🏻️

Tips to Reduce the Environmental Impact of your Job

Work makes the world go round. Humans putting in time and effort to create amazing things is one of the reasons we have so much abundance in this world.

But the same work we do to create all the cool things many of us on this planet enjoy also contributes to our rapidly decaying environment.

In order to save our planet, we need both systemic and individual change.

This list is compiled from my personal journey to reduce my individual impact, but it can also be used to create corporate policies that encourage a lower environmental impact.

It is still very much a work in progress, as I would like to back up each tip with a source in order to have a better argument as to why we should all be striving for these changes, but, for now, it's a place where I'm developing my thoughts on what I can do personally.

I'm an IT consultant on a travel project, so I'm sure some of the tips make no sense in your job, and I'm likely probably missing a lot of great ideas that don't explicitly apply to my own job. If that's the case, shoot me an email and let me know!

Now, on to the list:

Commuting/Travel

  • Live close enough to walk to work to avoid using motorized transport
  • Live somewhere that allows you to take the bus and light rail to avoid using single occupancy vehicles
  • Drive an electric car (or high MPG car) to reduce gas usage and carbon output
  • Carpool when traveling with other employees to reduce the number of vehicles needed to travel to and from airports
  • Avoid flying as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions

Food

  • Eliminate or reduce your meat consumption to decrease land use and carbon emissions
  • Prefer restaurants who source their food locally to reduce food transportation impact
  • Go to restaurants and eat on their silverware instead of ordering take-out to reduce container waste
  • If you have to order out, choose places with compostable or recyclable containers to reduce contributing to the landfill
  • Bring your own utensils to reduce using single-use utensils
  • Apply condiments at the restaurant or at home to reduce the usage of single-use condiments
  • Carry a water bottle with you to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • Use a coffee mug to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • If you don't have your water bottle or cup, choose compostable or recyclable cups
  • Eat fewer processed foods to reduce the energy put into making food
  • Eat fewer packaged foods to reduce contributing to landfill and recycling

Technology

  • Write efficient code to reduce energy and physical material usage
  • Shut down testing environments outside of business hours to save energy
  • Take good care of your devices so they last longer to reduce the number of devices manufactured
  • Use Linux or other streamlined operating systems when your laptops start getting slow and it will feel like new machine to get more life out of it

Hotels

  • Opt-in to green initiatives at the hotel. Some hotel chains (like Marriott) will even give you bonus points!
  • Hang up towels for use the next day to reduce water and energy usage
  • If there is not green initiative, put up the Do Not Disturb sign when you leave so your room doesn't get cleaned daily
  • Look out for greener hotels who don't use single-use plastics for toiletry supplies
  • Choose hotels close to your destination so you can walk

Schrodinger’s Apartment

Every day I come home to a mystery. Sliding my key into the lock, I pause to wonder what kind of apartment I’ll find.

Some days I open the door and my home greets me with open arms. I smile, entering my sanctuary. Where there is a place for everything and everything in its place, even if that place is scattered on the floor or tossed on the table. Living on your own means you can build you own little world exactly the way you want.

On those days my dog greets me with the wag of his tail and a barrage of kisses. I unpack my stuff, throw on some music or podcasts, and cook a tasty meal. I give far too much of it to my dog (I can’t say no to those adorable eyes!) and I savor every bite he leaves me.

On those days, I play with my dog. We do games of hide and seek, tug of war, and wrestle on the bed. We practice some tricks and I fail in teaching him to stop pulling on his leash. Then we snuggle on the couch or bed while I happily lose myself in a wonderful book, movie, or video game.

On those days, I tidy up, knock a few things off my to-do list, and fall into bed, happy to be alive. I fall asleep, relaxed and ready to tackle the next day.


Other days, my door opens into a prison.

I step into a small dark box, my senses on high alert. Loneliness oozes from the walls; a dark, engulfing sludge of nothingness. I have to be careful to avoid it, lest it swallow me up. Sometimes I’m not quick enough and it gets me.

On those days, when my home becomes a cage, I turn on all the lights but it’s never enough. I look around, swearing the space had shrunk since the last time I was here. The mere 509 square feet stands precariously balanced between being cozy and suffocating and I never know which I’ll get.

On those days my dog is a burden, and even when he licks away my tears I can’t find the strength to smile and love him back.

On those days I can barely breathe. On those days I wish I could disconnect from the world. Put it on pause. Hit fast forward. Anything to get out from underneath the sadness.

But that’s not how life works.

So I press on, hopeful for better days ahead. And better days always do come! More and more frequently lately. I know that life won’t always be this strange and dark.

Looking back on how far I’ve come, I’m struck with amazement. I can do this. I’ve already done this. Even when life gets tough, I know that my best years are yet to come. So on days when I am strong, I smile through the tears. I hug my dog. And I let the feelings wash over me in a cleansing wave of emotion.

I will get through this.

But fuck, those prison days suck.