I’ve been thinking a lot about this day. In a lot of ways I have been looking forward to it, yet in other ways I have been fearing the memories of this date one year ago. I am choosing to embrace this day as the day that I was given a second chance. I will not ruin it.
One year ago, I got really sick; I had been sick for a few weeks, but it got really bad a year ago. Piper and I went to the doctor’s office before they closed. It was there that the doctor told me I had acute pancreatitis and needed to be admitted to the hospital.
For brevity sake, I will say that three days later I was in UNMC in Omaha for what would end up being almost a month.
The doctors took great care of me during this time and it is only recently that I have really come to understand the seriousness of my illness. Sepsis took hold as memories faded; there was a very real chance that I might not have made it.
Thanks to the care of the doctors and the nursing staff as well as a strong will to survive, I fought off my illness and about 6 to 9 months later, was back to full strength. I feel better now than I have in years. I have embraced a healthier lifestyle which includes giving up alcohol, eating healthier and exercising. The stress I put myself through has vanished as I picked up a healthier mental health lifestyle.
I would like to thank all of you who were thinking of me, praying for me or visited me. Without all this support, I don’t think I would be here now. It was not just my doctors, nurses nor myself alone that was responsible for my recovery but instead, all of you who gave me the strength to carry on and fight.
As most of you know, I love quotes so as I close, I want to leave you with this one that I try to remember every time I have flashbacks to that time in the hospital or have fears that I am going to get sick again. Thank you once again one and all.
“Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.”
― Naguib Mahfouz
Simply put, hate is so much more than an emotion or a reaction. To me, hate is a contract one makes with something, be it a situation or a person or something else, in which they will do absolutely anything immoral, unethical or illegal to eliminate that something from not only their own existence but from existence in general.
From a Christian point of view, hate violates almost every commandment laid out in the book of Exodus in the Bible. I won’t specifically lay out violations here as that would make this rather quick post so much longer than it needs to be.
Lately, hate has seemed to grow in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that hate groups in America have grown to more than 900 in the year 2017, an increase of over 100 from the previous year. Again, this is not a post about hate crime, it is more about my perception of hate.
The word “hate” is greatly overused by people who are unaware of the weight and meaning that it carries. You hear people all the time say, “I hate these jeans.” or “I hate this person” when they don’t really mean hate. They don’t care for a piece of apparel or a person, but they would generally not go so far as to take measures to destroy these things they claim they hate. One of the things I try to avoid in my life as much as possible is the use of the word “hate”; in fact, I cannot remember using it in recent history because of my interpretation of the word.
First of all, I am alright, just some bumps and bruises. Now for the story.
Setting the Scene
It was a dark and dreary Friday the 13th, not really, but it sets the mood, and I was on my way to work at a little after 7 travelling a well traveled street in my hometown. The street is a four lane with no center turning lanes. Traffic was heavy on account of parents ferrying their clones and clonettes to one of the local middle schools that bounds this street. Occupying the inside lane was little ole’ me in my nice (read: nice to me) Chevy Cobalt, proudly flying my new geek stickers in the back windshield. Minutes away from work, I was cruising along the flow of traffic, an SUV to the right of me began to slow and turn onto a side street that leads to the previously mentioned middle school. That’s when it happened.
The second SUV, the bringer of curses (note: I am not saying the driver was a bringer of curses and I am neither accusing nor abdicating the driver of any responsibility outside of the fact that they were cited for the incident while I was not. I am not going to air my grievances here, that is what Festivus is for. Continuing…)
The SUV of curses decided it would be a good time to turn left in front of me while I was going straight. Adreneline coursed through my veins as I went into superhero mode. Time slowed, threats became real and a quick, instinctual evaluation told me that my best course of action was to slam on the breaks and veer left towards the oncoming traffic lane (there was no traffic oncoming at the time).
Microseconds before the impact, a few things ran through my mind not necessarily in the following order:
At least I don’t have to worry about my appointment tomorrow to get the slow leak in the tire taken care of and the oil changed.
Some of those were probably post factual thoughts well after the accident, but the first one definitely did run through my mind at the moment of impact.
The impact was nothing like I expected; I was not jolted and jarred the way I thought I would be, the airbag did not hit my face or chest like I thought it would and I appeared relatively unscathed. I got out of the car and I was in shock.
Adrenaline was receding from my body and refusing to work anymore. In my dazed state people asked me if I was ok and I told them I was. The driver of the Bringer of Curses came up to me to make sure I was alright and apologized admitting fault. I was trying to remain calm about the situation and told the driver that I was but I had no desire to talk to them at this point, maybe later after all of this is settled, but I was understandably upset about the situation. I called 911
I must have still been in shock because I don’t remember much of the conversation with 911 except for the fact I told them that I was in an accident, gave them the location a description of the vehicles, and the fact that my airbags deployed; for some reason, this detail seemed extremely important to tell them but I don’t know why.
The Waiting is the Hardest Part… Thanks Tom Petty
I stood on the sidewalk for a short while until the police arrived. It was not until after they arrived on scene that I began coming out of my shock. Details are a
little more clear after that point. Itried to call my wife but there was no answer so I left a message. I asked the officer if any of this was my fault to which he told me that they don’t determine fault, but that the other driver, the driver of the Bringer of Curses had been cited for failure to yield. I watched as they measured the distance of my skid marks (the ones on the street, not in my underwear). It was then that I noticed that mine were the only skid marks, the Bringer of Curses had apparently hit me at full acceleration. Perhaps it was distraction, perhaps the last remnants of shock, I did not mention this to any of the officers.
I watched as they towed my favorite car away, that is when my wife called. She was understandably upset but I assured her that I was ok and that the officer was going to give me a ride home. It took a little bit of convincing but eventually she seemed to agree.
On the way home, I talked with the officer for a while, he was a really nice guy, been with KPD for five years. I told him of the time in a previous life when I was dispatcher and 911 operator and that my bachelor’s degree was actually in Criminal Justice. He spoke of his internship with the Omaha Police Department and the air unit which he described as a blast. Side note: I was accepted to do an internship with OPD but had to turn it down and write a thesis instead because of my previously mentioned job as a dispatcher/911 operator.
Once the officer dropped me off, my wife thanked him for bringing me home in a tone that sounded like a mother thanking an officer for bringing home her drunk son. (No, I was not drunk at the time of the crash, I know some of you may think that after the previous sentence). We shook hands, that’s when I noticed the burn on my left wrist and my brand new Xpanxion fleece jacket (note to self: Look into getting a new one). The officer said that that was common after an airbag deployment because it is deployed via an explosion and the vent in the bag opens on the left side of the bag.
My wife gave me a hug in the drive and we walked into the house. The bruises began to hurt and I took a nap.
RIP Chevy Cobalt 0 – 133354
The next morning, we went to retrieve my belongings from the car and really noticed the damage. The SUV hit me hard, we couldn’t even open the passenger side door and somehow, the back of the hood on the passenger side was bent up at a 90 degree angle, who knows what kind of devilry caused that.
The current status of things as of now is that I am waiting for a rental vehicle until the insurance is all settled and I am in a new ride. Until them, I am chilling and resting my weary, bruised and burned bones.
I don’t really believe in curses and Friday the 13th is just one of 365.25 days out of the year that this could have happened. I am going to make the best of this and not dwell on the negative, for a while now I have come to the conclusion that things happen for reasons and I would not be where I am at now if things haven’t aligned in certain ways throughout my life. I just need to sit back, relax and wait to see how this will positively impact my life.
Anyone whose ever worked with data driven web applications will already know that user input is to never be trusted. Sanitizing data is always necessary before working with it in a data driven web application. There are many different ways to sanitize user input such as escaping special characters on input and using prepared statements. I am not going to get into the nuts and bolts of that right now. This article is an argument for treating input into generic fields as untrusted in the fact that it could potentially contain PII.
For the purposes of this article, generic fields is a term that I am using for any field that is not for a specific type of information. Fields labeled as “Notes”, “Additional Information”, “Descriptions”, etc. fall under this term.
Many times development organizations will not encrypt these generic fields and instead trust that training will be provided for the end user to not input PII information into such fields. We should never trust user input. Handling PII through policy instead of technically is equivalent to trying to stop a leak with a screen. Some of the water will stop, but it only takes one hole for a data leak. Relating this to the issue at hand, it only takes one person forgetting what a policy is. This can cause catastrophic PII issues for your application. This should be handled at the development level.
An HR organization has a database of employees. They need to make a note that Jon Doe has a peanut allergy and that there is an epi-pen in the first-aid kit for emergencies. There is no specific field to denote medical conditions so they place it in the “Additional Details” field. Furthermore, the person making the entry adds another emergency contact (name, phone, etc) into the same field for this particular allergy case. Due to a security issue with the SQL server, hackers capture a dump of the database. Almost all the data containing PII is secure except for the generic fields. Now the hackers know Jon’s medical condition without having to decrypt the database. Not only is this a privacy violation, but also a potential HIPAA violation. Again, we should never trust user input.
The recent data breach at Equifax reminds us of what can happen with PII information once released to the world. While the Equifax breach is probably related to a hacker or group of hackers gaining access to an account that has legitimate access to this information and (hopefully) not one in which they had direct access to unencrypted data in the databases at Equifax, my argument for protecting generic fields still applies.
In this case, the solution to storing data in these generic fields should be simply to encrypt these fields. Through good database practices, such as the holding the PII data fields is in their own table and using primary and foreign keys, then encrypting them should have a minimal impact on performance.
For the last week or so, I have been reading “The Nerdist Way” by Chris Hardwick. I was happy to add it to my library. So far, it has made a positive impression with me. It speaks to me as a nerdist, a productive, working professional and from a personal point of view. Though I am not finished with the book yet, I believe that this book will be getting at least a four star rating on Goodreads. This will definitely be a book that is pulled from the library shelf to read again.
About Chris – The Original Nerdist
Incase you don’t know, Chris Hardwick is the brains behind the Nerdist web empire. In the words of the website, “Nerdist was started by CHRIS HARDWICK and has grown to be A MANY HEADED BEAST”. In addition to being a comedian, he currently hosts no less than six different shows on television. He is one of the hardest working people in the entertainment industry.
About the Book
Reading “The Nerdist Way” has revealed to me that, in many ways, Chris’s life experience is very similar to mine. I can relate to the stress and anxiety he lives with and how he coped with it in the past to how he copes with it now. He decided on his own that quitting drinking was the best thing for his life while I had to come to the same conclusion after a bout of pancreatitis. Both Chris and myself are now sober although he has a few years on me.
On Stress and Anxiety
His account of experiencing stress and anxiety was almost exactly what I experienced; it was like he was crawling around in my head, that is rather unsettling if you think about it. One of my favorite parts of book with respect to this was his account of looking up medical symptoms on the internet”
THE WEB: A HYPOCHONDRIAC’S LIFEBLOOD Please do me a favor. We’re friends now, right? OK, good. NEVER go online to self-diagnose. EVER. Don’t fucking do it. You might as well just ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to kick you in the solar plexus. Sites like WebMD should just change their name to Enjoy YourCancer.com
YES! Finally someone came out and said what I have been saying for years! I feel vindicated!
The Ever Working Brain
As a fellow nerdist, I understand the way he described the head always working, always thinking and always making connections to things that may not necessarily be correct or even healthy. Whether it be worrying about that strange ache on the back of your right earlobe or worrying about where you are going professionally, the voices in your head (not literal voices, that’s just crazy) whisper the worst case scenario; that only helps make things worse.
In a lot of ways, I think this contributes to the reason why many of us have chosen to quiet the voices in our heads (again, we’re not crazy) with alcohol. When there is nothing telling you that you are dying of some horrible ear lobe fungus, you are actually a much happier person in the short term but not in the long term.
The Professional Nerdist
As productive, working professional, I appreciate Chris’s work ethic. Once your mind is free of the voice-muting alcohol, it needs to turn to other outlet avenues. For both Chris and myself, that seems to be work. I am not saying that I am as hard of a worker, as productive or as successful as Chris, I am just relating my experience compared to his and the similarities. Take this quote from the book for example:
The fortunate or unfortunate occurrences that befall you most of the time are the direct result of attitudes you employ and the choices you make.
This expresses almost the same set sentiment as one of my favorite quotes by Khalil Gibran. Chris is constantly reenforcing the formula for success in that there is no simple formula. Success is made from hard work, not something lucky you find by chance.
As I write about resolutions for this week, my mouth is on fire! These puppies are HOT! And that was after only three. That being said, this weeks new resolution are the Paqui Haunted Ghost Pepper Nachos. I love hot things. Hot buffalo wings, hot chips, hot sausages, etc. I used to devour the Lay’s Flamin’ Hot chips all the time, now they are too hard to find. My order of Chinese food would always include the terms “extra spicy”. This is not me being braggadocios here, I am simply laying the foundation for the scale as to exactly how hot these nachos are.
Some people can’t handle spicy food and that is ok. For me, I think it is the endorphins released when I eat spicy food; it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I can feel the fire dragon tickling my stomach when I eat spicy food and that makes me happy.
Of course, it is not just the spice for me, it is the flavor as well. I don’t really care for something that is spicy just to be spicy. If that were the case, I would just pour myself a glass of Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce and drink it straight. That is neither appetizing nor is it smart.
The flavor of the nachos is like that of other chili peppers. Behind the heat, there is a hint of sweetness. Overall, the flavor is enjoyable. This is a flavor that I would chose even if there was no heat to it.
Recap from last week’s resolutions
Last week, as part of the resolutions series, I tried Kame Rice Crackers. I went two weeks in a row of something that I did not care for. The crackers were just the opposite of the nacho chips above. There was no flavor at all; they reminded me of Rice Cakes, remember those? I believe the phrase “Eating packing peanuts” came to mind. I would not eat these again, but hey, if eating paper is your thing, go for it.
I was looking over some software tests today and they had different testing addresses such as test.com or email@example.com. This got me to thinking, isn’t there a standard site or address that we should use for testing? It didn’t take me long to find my answer; example.com. More on that in a bit.
A couple of thoughts that came up while thinking about this; where is my information going while testing with made up sites and what kind of data am I sending? From a security standpoint, using unknown sites for testing may reveal flaws, sensitive data or PII to parties that may not have the best intentions in mind. Let me throw a hypothetical out there. Suppose I am a party that sees an opportunity to purchase the domain name tester.com. My reason for purchasing such a domain is not for legitimate reasons but rather as a honey pot. With that honey pot, I harvest the information by pulling in emails that come to that domain. Once that information is in hand, they could sell it on the dark web. Thankfully, my honor is paramount to me so I will not do such a thing.
Real Life Examples
A quick search on whois found the following: test.com has a private registration in the United States. We don’t know who owns this site. The question here is what are their intentions for the data they gather? Registration for somewhere.com is private in Panama. Nowhere.com redirects to a media outlet in Germany that looks like a simple front site. The last update for this site? 2012. I’m not saying that this one is, but its suspicious in the very least. A web advertising agency owns the site Test-site.com. There is a potential that the owner of firstname.lastname@example.org may add emails gleaned from tests to spam lists. How would your clients feel about a sudden influx of spam?
A less evil, but realistic concern using random sites is that some of these sites could be real and legit. Take, for example a company named Pinacle Associates; I have no idea if such a company exists and please don’t bombard them with emails. Tes Thompson is an SVP for Public Relations for this company. For emails, this company decided on the naming scheme of first name last initial. In this case, Tes’s email would be email@example.com; again, I don’t know if this exists, so please be kind and don’t spam it. Imagine the amount of mail she must get if a test team decided to use her email address for testing?
The Solution: Example Domains
So what is the solution then? Set aside for the very purposes of testing and documentation are Example.com, example.net, example.org and example.edu. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN owns and manages these domains. These are the folks that give out and manage domain names.
So the moral of the story here is that you should always use one of the example domains. Using a domain such as example.com when testing software will help prevent inadvertently leaking PII data. Your company or client values their data and wants it kept secure.
Wow! What an event. The eclipse of 2017 turned out to be everything that it was hyped to be. As early ago as yesterday, it was still looking a little dubious whether or not we would be able to see it as we were forecasted to have mostly cloudy skies during the time of the eclipse. Would the weather hold true to its promise? As you can see, the forecast was once again wrong, although at the time of this writing, it is now mostly cloudy outside.
I worked to get setup for the eclipse and it was muggy and hot. I thought for sure that I would either be spending a good chunk of the eclipse inside and be outside for the 45 minutes or so before the eclipse but that turned out to not be the case.
Soon after the eclipse started, the temperature began to drop. I knew that this would be a possibility, but I don’t know if it was due to a front moving through or the eclipse itself causing the cool down, I’ll have to look into that later.
About halfway through the eclipse, there was a definite dimming of the sky. Strange shadows from the trees had the appearance of waves flowing over the ground. It was indeed a strange site. I suppose I should define weird. All the shadows of leaves seemed to have a crescent shape to them. It was this crescent shape and the movement of the shadows that caused them to look like water waves.
About twenty minutes before totality, nocturnal instincts of animals started to kick in. The crickets chirped, some other nocturnal bugs started crawled onto the patio. Thankfully, I did not see any snakes. Birds started returning to their nests. Thor went into bedtime mode and retired to his room.
The Darkside of the Moon
I am happy to report that my experiment of syncing Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon seemed to be almost perfect. I did take video, but it did not turn out too well for a variety of reasons but the major one of which was that a train was going by at the time of totality. Other night animals started in the form of neighbors shooting off fireworks during totality.
While I did not see any stars, I did see at least one planet, I’m assuming it to be Jupiter. I began shooting away with
the camera at totality, I had just under 2 minutes. The best one I took is at the top of this article. I missed the ‘diamond ring’ image due to taking in the scenery with my own eyes, but I don’t regret it.
This has been billed as a once in a lifetime event, but I hope to get to Texas in 2024 for that one. Based on the cost of hotel rooms in Kearney ($7k+ if booked close to eclipse time) I may need to make reservations soon.
Last week for the resolutions series, I wrote about trying a cold brew coffee by Bizzy Coffee.
Last Week in the Resolutions series
Maybe I misread where it said that you could drink it cold but, bleh! I did not care for it cold. Since we are in the midst of a devil’s sauna, I did not care for it hot either. Perhaps, coffee will never be for me, if it is, it will be a winter drink. I think, however, that it will always be something I occasionally try.
I’ve still got some of this left that I need to get through so I got myself some French Vanilla flavoring to help me through it. That is not what is new this week. This is just an update to let everyone know that the coffee won’t go to waste.
This week in the resolutions series, we move away from caffeinated beverages into the world of snacks, oriental snacks to be precise.
Trying foods of other cultures is always fun to me, even if they are Americanized.
Kame Rice Crackers were calling my name in the small oriental food section of a local grocery store. They looked like something I may like so I picked them up. The crackers look healthy. They have only 90mg of sodium, 0g of saturated fat, 0g of sugar, 120 calories and 2g of protein per 16 crackers. They are also certified gluten-free and non-gmo verified, if your into that. I will let you know how it goes.
I used to think that removing confederate symbols was in some way destroying or rewriting history but then I though, “Huh, You know what we don’t see any? We don’t see swastika statues around; not even the Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist, nor the Native American swastika.” We also don’t see statues or displays of pentagrams around much anymore. We removed those for the most part and yet we still know what they were. We know the weight they carried through news, textbooks, history courses and online resources such as wikipedia.
Power in Symbols
Good or bad, there is power in symbols. A symbol doesn’t care what its intention originally was. People, groups and society in general assign power to objects until they become a battery to charge beliefs. These beliefs can be beliefs that benefit others (good beliefs) or beliefs that hurt others (bad beliefs).
The swastika was originally a religious symbol of many peoples the world over. In some areas of the world, it still is. It remains a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In the Western world, it was historically a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck. It was not until the 1930s when the Nazi regime came to power when its meaning changed.
The pentagram is now widely considered a symbol of ‘evil’ by many religions, including Christianity. The fact is that the pentagram was once a sacred Christian symbol. It represented the five wounds of Christ. Today it is considered a sacred symbol among the Wiccan religion.
We no longer perform the “Bellamy Salute” when saying the Pledge of Allegiance because of its similarity to the “Sieg Heil” of Nazi Germany. Civilians now remove their head cover and place their hands over hearts. Some stand with hands at their side when saying the Pledge or during the singing of our National Anthem. Military members perform a military salute during these activities.
How the Meaning of Symbols Changes Over Time
I bring up these historic examples because I want to demonstrate how a symbol can change over time. This directly relates to what is going on now. We are not erasing our history by removing monuments of generals and leaders. These people fought to leave the United States; to keep their economy, an economy which relied heavily on slavery, the way it was. Yes, they fought brave and strong for what they believed, but in the end, they were rebels. They wanted to break up the United States and create their own country with a major chunk of the pieces. Today we would call that treason.
A Reason for Removing Confederate Symbols
Statues and flags of the confederacy have become magnets for people of hate. People like the white supremacist who gathered in Virginia for a white pride rally. These symbols have been growing in strength in the last few years and not in a good way. Perhaps, like the swastika and the pentagram, we should abandon these symbols as well. We should not abandon them through violence or vandalism, but through a legal process. Lets let the majority agree on what they symbolize and what should be done with them. Perhaps removing confederate symbols is the appropriate thing to do. They are not serving anyone any good anymore; they are only bringing trouble.