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The Trouble With Programming

I find that programming provides me with two great challenges.

The first challenge is to write a program that completes the task required of it.

The second challenge is to stop writing when you’ve achieved the first goal.

Sometimes, the second challenge is much harder than the first.

Posted in Tech.

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Beverages: Baja Fog

Hey, that’s me!

Posted in Personal.

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DerbySec

That’s supposed to be a pun on InfoSec (Information Security) and Derby, which is what my life is right now. The first part of this post is about derby, the second half is security.

Today was another derby practice, led by none other than B-Stroyer. I got to spend this practice as a newbie derby skater, rather than a ref, so I joined in on having my ass kicked in endurance, skating and derby drills.

A lot of practice involved being deliriously exhausted and still having to react quickly and/or think. At least, that’s the lesson I got from it. The first part of practice was a quick warm-up of skating fast while doing stuff, followed by 15 minutes of skating fast, stopping suddenly and then sprinting before once again, skating fast. Later on we practiced jamming, blocking and assisting.

But seriously, it was a lot of fun. Exercise like that and the “Wall of Pain” (so aptly named) we did at the end of practice really gets you into shape. Planks, push-ups, squats and other various quad/glut/core muscle exercises… It actually makes my own exercising seem kind of weak. I’ll have to work on that, although practice has been making my attempts at getting back into running a LOT easier. My knee has been doing pretty well, to the point where a 1 mile run this morning and a 2.5 mile run the other day at the track didn’t leave my knee hurting at all.

When I’m not at derby or trying to run, most of my time has been dedicated to learning more on IT security. I’ve been studying Shon Harris’ All-In-One CISSP Exam Guide and loving it when it’s not boring me to tears. Really, I find security (especially IT security) fascinating, but the CISSP material is rather broad and reading 200 pages about risk analysis makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Especially since it seems like it could be summarized in about 10 pages.

The chapter on cryptography has been pretty cool so far, though.

One other aspect I’ve been working on is learning specific products and technologies. Knowing the overall landscape is uber important, but if I don’t know the details I won’t really do anyone much good. Or get any work. So…

Metasploit is a pretty awesome product, especially when coupled with BackTrack. Both of them (BackTrack is actually a compilation of products into one OS / suite) are pretty hacker-y and are almost essential when it comes to pen-testing and the exploit / attack side of IT security. Honestly either of them could span multiple articles on their own, but know they’re really cool.

On the defensive side of security, or as I like to call it “Where there’s actual work”, Symantec is a gold mine. Especially since my company is a partner of theirs, I’ve been studying and learning Symantec Endpoint Security (SEP), Symantec Network Access Control (SNAC) and PGP, a long time security company / product also recently purchased by Symantec. Between those three products you can secure your network (SNAC), secure your workstations and servers against rogue applications, viruses, malware and OS exploits (SEP) and encrypt your data and email communications to prevent eavesdropping attacks (PGP). While no system is perfect, this comes a long way in removing common points of failure.

I have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long ways. I’m not sure there’s a point where I’ll ever feel satisfied with my current level of knowledge. I think that’s a good thing.

Until then, I’ll keep studying, keep getting certifications and keep expanding my knowledge. Oh, and keep skating :)

Posted in Personal, Roller Derby, Security.

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Resolutions? Pshaw

So… not 100%. The first two weeks of the year have passed and I’ve already fallen behind on a few resolutions. But, hark! Not all is lost.

1/01/2011 – 1/17/2011 (Two Weeks)

  1. I will skate at least twice a week. I will strive for four.
    Current: 4, Total Needed: 4
  2. I will exercise at least four times a week.
    Current: 11, Total Needed: 8
  3. I will write music at least once a week.
    Current: 0, Total Needed: 2
  4. I will practice music (instrumental or vocals) at least three times a week.
    Current: 4, Total Needed: 6
  5. I will spend time programming at least once a week.
    Current: 0, Total Needed: 2

There you have it. Overall, despite falling behind in things I think this is a good tool for me. It lets me know where I need to pick up the pace and where I’m doing alright.

Obviously, I have completed any of the year end goals yet (they’d be pretty crappy goals if I had). I’m looking at doing a Sprint length Triathlon sometime in April or May. If not, there are triathlons in the area in June, July, August and September so I really have no excuse.

Posted in Athletics, Personal, Tech.

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Keep on Rollin’ in the New Year

Screw having meaningful posts with significant updates. If I’m going to write in this thing, I can’t wait for my life to be interesting. That would take waaaay too long.

Except, some cool stuff has happened. My company had its yearly conference / drinking competition (as I think of it) this last week. We are at a very cool point where we’re small enough that I personally know almost everyone in the company and big enough and cool enough that we get partners like Symantec, Novell (Attachmate?), Citrix and IBM. Hell, I got to go to London and get paid. See what I mean? Pretty cool.

It was really great to see a lot of my coworkers. Since I rarely talk to most of them and only see them once a year, we all get along really well. Aside from solving all the world’s political, philosophical and historical (?) problems one night, during the day time we had a lot of good talks about IT strategies that I hope to see implemented in the near future.

The day after I got back (also known as “today”), some other very cool stuff happened. Roller derby!

Today was skill assessments for the Mission City Brawlin’ Betties! The assessment involved speed, controlled falls, stops, whips and hits. I’ll be honest, speed and hits were my favorite.

Even though I’m a referee, I went through the testing today along with all the nuggets. I daresay, I did slightly better than terrible. I’m optimistic about the results, so here’s hoping! Not passing wouldn’t have meant much (other than that I need to practice a lot more!) but passing may mean more time scrimmaging when I’m not reffing!

Posted in Personal, Roller Derby, Tech.

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New Year, New Resolutions

As 2011 arrives, I can’t help but fall for the old cliche of making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve also added goals, which I’m arbitrarily distinguishing from resolutions in that either they’re complete by the end of the year or they’re not, whereas resolutions need to be maintained week to week.

In the event something says “X times per week” then it’s averaged out over all weeks. If I’m gone one week, I’ll make it up in the future. If a resolution lapses or is behind the average for more than a month, it’s considered broken.

Resolutions

  1. I will skate at least twice a week. I will strive for four.
  2. I will exercise at least four times a week.
  3. I will write music at least once a week.
  4. I will practice music (instrumental or vocals) at least three times a week.
  5. I will spend time programming at least once a week.

Goals

  1. I will complete a triathlon and I will finish in the top 50%
  2. I will write and record three songs I am proud of.
  3. I will earn my CISSP certification.
  4. I will earn more money in 2011 than I did in 2010.

Current Status: No resolutions broken. No goals reached.

Posted in Bottom Fifty Countdown, Roller Derby, Tech.


Across the Pond: Day 5

Routine has set in. My mornings are fairly similar now, although I’ve discovered the client I’m working at has a cafeteria in their building. While I feel like I should be “making more” of my time here, I can’t exactly take the morning off.

Work has been going exceedingly well. We’ve finished what were thought to be the main portions well ahead of schedule. So… that’s good.

Also, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m definitely sick. The last few days have been a drag, but it’s not affecting me overly much. In fact, today I went out to lunch with some of my temporary co-workers again. The food was excellent (as it should have been, considering the price), although prices widely varied from what I’m used to back home.

I was boring again in the evening, mostly in part to being sick. Interestingly, the hotel has a spa which I finally checked out. By spa they mean a sauna and steam room, but it was still very nice. A hot tub would’ve been cool, though.

Oh! The news has been very interesting, lately. In addition to the world news of Wikileaks and Julian Assange that I’ve been following closely, there were riots today in London. Students are protesting a rise in their college fees. At one point, the riots turned violent and property was destroyed, as well as the Prince’s car getting attacked (side note: the police are now under investigation for why the let the freaking Prince Heir Apparent get caught in a student riot).

Interesting times.

Posted in Personal, Politics.

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Across the Pond: Day 3-4

The next couple days after arriving in London went fairly smooth. Aware now of the hotel’s very non-complimentary breakfast, I made use of an earlier shuttle and grabbed a quick bite to eat in one of the many underground shopping malls in the area. By a “quick bite” I was pretty much reduced to either a baguette or sandwich, but the choices weren’t bad.

Work went smoothly despite a web proxy blocking most of my internet activity. I also discovered a very interesting fact (in a purely scholarly fashion) about one of the differences between British and American cultures. My temporary co-workers here very much enjoyed having a beer (or two, or three) during lunch. Interestingly, no one (at lunch or in pubs) seemed to drink much of the “local” beer. Fosters, Guiness and Heineken seem to be very common.

The third night I claimed an evening of relaxing at the hotel, although most of it was spent online. The fourth night found me back in Leicester Square, although fairly uneventfully. For some reason I keep trying fish and chips, despite the fact that the sheer amount of grease leaves me queasy. I think I like the idea of it, although it never quite works out in practice.

On a side note, my shins really hurt. I guess it’s the amount of walking I’ve been doing, lugging around a computer bag, but this was not expected at all!

Posted in Personal.

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Across the Pond: Day 2, Happy, Cold, Tired and Tired

Yesterday, I arrived in London. Ready for my first day of work in the UK, I had called in the hotel’s concierge for a prompt 7am wake up call. Somewhere along the line, they decided I had no idea what I was talking about and I really should wake up at 4am. And boy did they follow through. This was no “automatic wake up call” from some computer script. No, sir. They called three times, determined I would be ready for the day ahead.

An hour or so later, I gave up my futile hope I might actually get some more sleep and decided to be productive. By productive, of course, I meant trying out video chat with people back home, for whom it wasn’t even bedtime yet.

Afterwards, determined to be ready for work on time, I stopped by the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Unsure of the normal procedure here, I assumed it was “complimentary” like back home and nothing challenged that perception. They did ask for my room number, for sure, but otherwise it was a normal, however very English, buffet style hotel breakfast of eggs, meat, breads, cereals and fruit.

I left for work feeling good. I’d been awake for quite a while, the hotel provided a shuttle (avoiding the aimless wandering of the day before) and I was well ahead of schedule. Honestly, work went quite well also. Everyone I met was competent (!!!), we outlined what needed to happen and the day ended productively.

Leaving work, however, I realized how amazingly tired I was. At this point I felt like it was at least four hours later than it actually was and by the time I got back to my hotel I was almost ready for bed. Freezing cold, by the way, because I’d decided to walk and save money. At least this time I made it in one go.

Hanging around the hotel, I decided to relax for a while and mess around on the internet. I checked into all the normal social media sites I couldn’t access while at work and finally realized, an hour or two later, that playing on the internet is not the same as sleep and I was not getting any less tired. Also, the hotel room, while not exactly “cold”, was not warm despite setting the thermostat to 24C/75F degrees.

The day before I had stumbled back into town, gotten food and stumbled home. That wasn’t going to fly tonight. After all, I was in London! This was not a time to “hang out” at the hotel. After some quick internet research, I was going to Leicester Square!

Not wanting to be any colder than I already was, I caught a cab to the tube station. When I got to Leicester Square… it was awesome! Bright lights, dozens of restaurants, theaters, musicals and more (much more) lit up the streets. I walked for a while, enjoying everything despite the cold when I decided to check out the Trocadero.

The Trocadero is an interesting thing. It’s like an arcade, casino and carnival thrown together in a labyrinthian architecture with a few bars and a bowling alley thrown in. It spans a city block or so, mostly underground and goes up and down at least five stories. The use of escalators and displaced stairways meant that however you got up to a level would not be the same way you got back down. Also, there was an entire area that looked like a parking garage dedicated to break dancing. It took me at least an hour to find my way back out to the street.

Having escaped The Labyrinth, I needed some food. I found a pub, distinguishable by the exact same architecture, paint and sign font that every other tourist pub in London uses. After debating hanging out in the bar first, I headed upstairs to the dining area and immediately ordered some bangers and mash. I was slightly disappointed that the menu didn’t call them bangers and mash, but what can you do?

My lust for adventure momentarily satiated and realizing that now I was falling-asleep-tired, I headed back to the hotel. The entire trip one-way took about a half hour on the tube and I caught a cab at the end. At last, sleep.

Oh, and that breakfast? 17 pounds. Yeah.

Posted in Personal.

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Across the Pond: Day 1, Cold and Confused

Usually, my work requires me to travel. Generally it’s some not so far away town in Southern California; sometimes it requires getting a hotel for the night; occasionally it’s in another state (Louisiana was fun). Most recently, it’s taken me a bit farther. As luck would have it, I’m writing this post in London!

I think England is fantastic. There is a ton to see, the people are great, the cameras everywhere are a little creepy, but the food is good and transportation, more or less, is easy. I’ve been here twice before, but never alone and never for work.

The flight over was long, but uneventful. I left early Saturday afternoon and arrived late Sunday morning, thanks both to the 9 hour flight and the 8 hour time change. I made the effort to sleep so I’d arrive refreshed, but only managed to pull off an hour or so. Also, I’m sure everyone already knows, but the airline food was terrible. There was literally no consistency change from the “chicken” they served or the “brownie” dessert. The taste was minimally different.

Arriving in London, they miraculously let me into the country despite my ‘Business’ answer to the ‘Reason for visiting’ question. From there I navigated from Heathrow to my hotel; the tube is wonderful and easy. Upon reaching the final tube stop before my hotel, I figured I’d save some money and walk to my hotel. At this point I should mention that I had flown in from California, where the temperature dropping below 50 degrees is a major concern. It was hovering somewhere below freezing in London.

I did manage to walk to my hotel. I also got hopelessly lost, turned a half mile walk into a four mile quest and arrived partially frozen.

At this point, my body thought it was around 4am. It was actually early afternoon. However, to fight off jet lag and sleep a normal night’s sleep, I decided to stay awake until at least 8pm or so. That didn’t actually happen. I think something happened sometime after I took a hot bath to warm up and maybe while I was “inspecting” the bed. Three hours or so later, I remembered I wasn’t going to sleep until the evening and I got back up, now slightly hungry.

Setting out from my hotel, I was smart and got a map from the concierge to guide me to the nearest shopping area (coincidentally also where the tube stop was located). Setting out from my hotel, I took a wrong turn and my short half mile walk again turned into a four mile quest, this time in the other direction. I’m normally not this bad with maps, I swear. Also, while I wouldn’t call it “snow” I do believe the fog started to freeze.

By the time I reached the safety of my hotel room to thaw, my first day in London had ended exhausted and with some delicious chicken tikka masala. I slept amazingly well, ready for work the next day.

I woke up at 4am.

Posted in Personal.

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