Author: Dennis

  • Money. As explained to me by the director of the SFCC community band, it would cost literal thousands of dollars to have the entire orchestra coordinate to show up early before a concert to tune off stage. 100 some musicians, and the director, would all have to arrive, set up, and tune, to then go set up their instruments on stage, some of which would need to be tuned again. It’s much easier to set up once in place, tune in place, then perform. It’s also much cheaper.



  • I was starving, and I decided to call in an order for burritos (you can usually save a few bucks calling in person, instead of using ripoff middleman services like doordash and uber eats.) when I was connected instead to a Sprint customer service line. The problem was I was a boost mobile customer. So began my march to the horrible realization that my boost mobile account had been compromised, and that the party that had done so had ported my number to sprint. Then came the deluge of emails, all asking if I was trying to reset my account. I had to act quickly, so I made the call to treat my old number as compromised.

    The first step to reclaim my accounts was to call boost and get a handle on this. This is where they lost my business, because at first they tried to tell me they had no record of my number. I told them to check again, and I talked to a rep one more time. I was then put on hold, and the next person to pick up the phone was a paralegal from boost saying they’d filed an injunction to get my number back.

    The second step was to change passwords on all of my banking services, and to replace my contact phone number with a trusted number temporarily. This is huge, as SMS password resets are a popular strategy for hackers attempting to access monetary information. Then, I reset my email account passwords for extra security, and began keeping an eye on incoming reset emails. The attackers even tried to break in to my Etsy account. I’m still having some difficulty with services that I was only logged in to over mobile, and it’s turning out to be a minor headache to changing your phone number w/out access.

    My third and final step was to replace both my phone and phone number, in the case my phone had been compromised by malware as well. I’m with a new carrier, and they allowed me to restrict my account so that in order to make any changes, I have to show up in person with photo ID. This is a huge relief, and massive peace of mind compared to the pathetic 4 DIGIT PIN and phone number combo “security” that Boost mobile has.

    I have never experienced this before, and I have to say, I never want to again. I’ve been reminded of the importance of cyber-security, and I would go so far as to say that Boost Mobile is actively criminally negligent in their account security practices. I was extremely lucky; to my knowledge, I haven’t had anything stolen as a result of this security breach. I have rethought my position on SMS 2FA, and I deem it an unacceptable, restrictive, vulnerable, and antiquated method of identity verification.

  • Just wanted to share my current work setup.

    • 2019 MacBook Pro 16″
      • Linux without the hassle, and I get great integration w/my phone and watch
    • daskeyboard 4 w/gel wristpad
      • I used to hate the wrist pad, but it’s necessary for me when I’m standing, and it’s not bad while sitting either
    • Logitech M510 (with Logi Options driver)
      • Using Logi Options, I almost prefer this to a magic mouse. I can change workspaces and open mission control through a Logitech mouse that’s comfy.
    • Dell 43″ 4K monitor
    • beats studio3
      • They came with my iMac, but I was really surprised by their comfort, sound, and longevity. I have no plans to replace them

    All of this sits atop a 48″ standing desk. My butt is kept off the ground by my own two feet, a standing chair, a kneeling chair, and a classic office chair. Humans weren’t made to stay in the same position for 8 hours!

    Another important aspect of a work setup, and one not often discussed, is distraction prevention. I listen to familiar or background music w/noise cancellation, and I’ve isolated my work space away from any visible distractions. I use a browser extension to keep me on task and not spend too much time on reddit or ycombinator.

    I’m usually rocking a t-shirt and pajama/lounge pants and slippers. That was before and after COVID when working remote.


  • The Bastard Brigade – Sam Kean, 2019

    Despite being released in mid-2019, this book makes my favorites list for 2020 because that’s really when I got around to reading it. You’ll have absolutely no problems finding at least one story from this collection that will stick with you forever. Whether it’s the love of the Curie family, the sorrows the Kennedy’s faced, or that amazing feat of skiing/sabotage that the allies used in destroying a heavy water manufacturing facility – this book has the most intense science stories that you’ve never heard of. 

    I actually wrote the author of The Bastard Brigade to thank him. Looking back, I had a history teacher once tell me historical non-fiction could be way more entertaining and exciting than fiction ever could be, and I wanted to thank the author for writing the first book I have read that might make me think he had a point.

    Letters from an Astrophysicist, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, 2017

    I was a little unsure of this one when I picked it up. Mostly, it seemed like this was a cheap way for Dr. Tyson to make a quick buck, shelling out correspondances. What I found instead was a rich repository of interesting questions from the general public – some were unconventional, perhaps even “crazy”, but Dr. Tyson always responds in a manner which always made me feel he respects and understands his fans, even if their questions or responses were less than polite.

    I have never met or written Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, nor will I probably ever get the chance to meet him. Even given this distance, his unrelenting search for and obsession with the truth of things is what I admire about him. He makes me want to teach in the same way he teaches – with the end goal being not to change the life of your audience, but to illuminate the means by which the audience can change their way of thinking, and in turn allow themselves to better their lives.

    …That’s it

    I spent the better part of 2020 working for a coding sweatshop – I seriously didn’t have the mental energy after work for anything more than reading a few news articles then going for a workout. I listened to a lot of podcasts:

    • Science Friday
    • Star Talk
    • Science Rules
    • The Laracasts Snippet

    Even with the podcasts, I wasn’t absorbing the amount of extra information that I’m used to, so in 2021 I’m definitely making it a point to put aside at least one hour, 4 days a week, to make progress in reading. I’ll be listening to podcasts for sure, but for the most part I plan on moving back to traditional literature for 2021.


  • Like many in the tech industry, I’ve had the following conversation:

    Me: Hey boss, I want to work from home. Here’s how I can do all aspects of my job remotely. 
    Boss: No way, letting employees work from home would be disastrous for the company. 
    Me: Yeah, ok. Thanks anyways.

    If that conversation sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve either tried to ask to go remote in the past, or you’ve been the boss in this scenario, unwilling to even try. Hey, who’s going to blame your boss for sticking to tried and true? I know I’ve worked for my share of bosses left over from the Reaganomics era[1]. If you’re like me and early on got a taste of working for a non-traditional company, then you know there is more to life than wearing a cheap suit to a 9-5. The truth is, at least for the last 5 years, we’ve been able to work remotely all along.

    Software development was already very web based. Download the repo from source control, make changes, consult the myriad of help sites, and push your changes. Make a pull request so your boss can review your changes online. Test out deployment by pushing to testing and staging servers. Update your scrum tasks, take another one… you get the idea. Software developers already used a setup ideal for remote work prior to 2020, in fact, prior to 2010! So you can imagine the frustration of being denied the permission to work from home, when in fact, the nature of our work made it perfect for that.

    Tools like Slack, Jira, Trello, and video conferencing have been not-so-quietly laying the foundation for remote work over the last decade. Each one has it’s own part to play, and just through combining a few cherry-picked vendors, you can have a remote work ecosystem in place in hours! I say it in jest, but it’s really true. We’ve been ready for remote work since Slack, really. With built in file sharing, voice/video conferencing, and all manner of communicating via text, you can run a lot off just one program. It seems that we, the workers, have been artificially held back over the last two to three years. In reality, companies and managers were mostly likely too scared to try going about work a new way. Fear of failure significantly curtails progress, and how the workforce does their work is no exception.

    I haven’t even touched on the benefits of remote work.

    • Improved mental health
    • Fewer commutes, saving time, gas, and the environment
    • It’s greener, as you’re not paying to heat/cool and office
    • Not paying for an office space saves money
    • The ability to attend meetings in casual clothes that would otherwise have been in business attire
    • The ability to work for a dream company that’s in another city

    That’s just to name a few. I myself have benefited from the last item on that list – I’m lucky enough to have landed a Tech Lead role at a New York company, something that I never dreamed would have happened. It’s a better work/life balance. It makes employees happy, which in turn makes them better workers, which in turn will make managers happy.

    So now we’re there. It’s a shame that it took a pandemic for us to realize it. I have to say, there were some stumbles while feeling this new realm out. I wasn’t too hipped on losing out on the office benefits (espresso, snacks, team lunches, frosty beverage Friday) that made office work bearable. As soon as I readjusted my head, however, I began to realize that I get to make the coffee that I like, not the grounds that are at the office. Just on the gas savings alone, I could take myself out to a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner. I missed my teammates dearly, though I have to admit it was easier to work without all the hubbub in the office[2]. Ultimately, I think remote work will stick around. It might even gain traction. All I know is that I don’t think I’ll ever work for a company that requires on-site presence again unless they are willing to pay through the nose.

    [1] I know I’ve worked for some bosses that were just cold leftovers from the Reaganomics era. They’re not leaders, they’re bosses. They say do something, you shut up and do it. They don’t listen to suggestions, they don’t accept any different ways of doing things. <hot-take>They’re sad excuses for humans, as good humans possess ingenuity, and are open to trying new things.</hot-take>

    [2] If you’re someone that brings their dog to work and it barks more than once a day, screw you. Your coworkers that are trying to concentrate on their work are probably thinking the same thing. Also, like me, your coworkers with allergies are probably thinking something a little less polite than “screw”. As a society, we’re good about respecting food/latex allergy boundaries. Those of us with dog/cat allergies get treated like lepers when we don’t pet whatever domesticated critter.



  • I’ve had an echo dot hooked up to some speakers for a while, but it hardly works, and doesn’t like pairing to my iMac. So, I recycled an otherwise dormant Raspberry Pi 2 unit and now it’s an AirPlay receiver .

    Why would you want to do this?

    1. AirPlay is a fairly robust media streaming protocol, and there is open source (unofficial) software for building your own service.
    2. The Echo Dot wakes for odd reasons.
    3. Even when you have the Echo’s mic off and brief mode turned on, it will still blast “NOW PLAYING FROM DENNIS’S IPHONE” at top volume. This happens every single time you stop playing music for more than 5 or 10 minutes.
    4. The Echo Dot keeps making “beep boop” noises if my phone loses connection.
    5. The Echo Dot does not want to pair with my iMac. Whether this issue is just with my setup or not, it makes it semi-useless as a bluetooth speaker to me. I don’t want to manage my music from my phone while I’m working on what should be the all-in-one center of my attention.
    6. The Raspberry Pi doesn’t update itself automatically. It will run the same airplay service, the same OS, and the same way – 27/4 – until it loses power or network connectivity. The same cannot be said about Echos, or Google homes, or even the iHome. It’s something I get to set up once and forget about until I replace it with something else.
    7. Lack of vendor lock in. Slight ironic when talking about anything Apple, but to my surprise more and more non-apple devices are shipping with AirPlay compatibility. This inspires hope that Apple may release AirPlay as an official software kit that developers could use.
    8. Cost. A raspberry pi 3 (can’t buy the 2) kit costs less than $50, and it has the audio ports and more than enough computing power to handle an AirPlay service. Considering that the raspberry pi could handle other common server tasks (perhaps as a smart home brain, file server, media server, etc.) in concert with AirPlay, I’d call that a bargain.

    The list could go on, but you get the idea.

    There are a few articles out there, the one resource I want to point out is the actual software making this possible: shareport-sync at

    The Results

    Now, all my devices see the raspberry pi as an airplay device.

    Appears nicely on all my iOS devices

    The sound comes through just fine for office/background, but I wouldn’t use it to actively listen to the music. This can be remedied by buying sound cards for the pi, but I don’t see the need to currently.



  • Inspired by Elizabeth Irgens’s note, here’s a brief stroll down memory lane where I’ll touch on previous jobs.

    The Upsell

    My first real job was working as a retail clerk for Best Buy. This was in the days before their current CEO (2020) revamped their approach to pricing and customer service. As a checkout clerk, we were held to conversion metrics such as selling a certain number of protection plans, and getting customers to sign up for terrible credit cards.

    I learned that it’s not as hard to upsell people if you instill a little doubt about the quality of the product they’re buying. In all reality, most people didn’t need the protection plans, or the protection plans that were sold didn’t offer the coverage we were told to imply.

    The Internship (absolutely nothing like the movie)

    My second job was during Sophomore year of college, and it was one of the best ever. F5 Networks offers technical internships, and I was lucky enough to land one. 

    I learned a lot of what I know about working with bash, building and maintaining server racks, and web development. I also learned a bit about office politics, and that internships don’t always lead to job placement in a company. That was a rough lesson to learn.

    The Warehouse

    Shortly after my internship was over, I started working for a medium sized business in stores/receiving, later to switch to shipping. Here I learned what a hard day’s work really was, how to stand for 10 hours on end working through freezing temperatures.

    My takeaway was that I’m not really cut out of blue collar labor on the regular. I’m an office man, through and through.

    The Money People

    I worked for a time as a database/server admin + general IT guy for a small financial advising firm. It was a stuffy business, both the clients and my fellow coworkers were mostly super conservative religious types. In fact, my boss even tried to get me to join a church so I could get free health insurance through them.

    I didn’t, and I learned a powerful lesson. These guys paid me $10 / hour in 2014 for skills that took me a long time to hone. Just because a door is open, doesn’t mean you walk through it – and if you do and the room isn’t to your liking, walk back through that door.

    The Medical Field

    After a struggle of conscience and will, I decided that I needed to dip my toes in the medical field to see if it was right for me. I became a CNA and worked in an assistive living facility. It was all pretty hands off, save getting to help with med pass.

    I highly enjoyed my time at this job, and I learned compassion for those struck by degenerative disease. I also feel pity for all people in nursing homes / assistive living whose highlight of the day is to go down to the dining room an hour early to just sit and wait for a mediocre dinner.

    The Addiction Recovery Center

    Much like my work as a CNA, working to help addicts through their recovery process was a very pivotal point in my life. It taught me compassion and understanding for those suffering from addiction, and changed my perspective in a huge way.

    Triad Behavioral Health

    Once I completed web development certs, I started to work for an e-learning company. This was my baptism by fire for Laravel, and I was really able to flex my PHP skills. I also learned how to work with people who were remote.

    I would have stayed with this company longer, but they shut our department down.

    The Dev Shop

    Almost immediately after I left TBH, I started working for a development firm in Spokane. They were on the small size, 12 employees in total, with about 7 full time developers. I learned about networking, and how to work remotely with other companies on a daily basis. Ultimately, I found that I wasn’t happy jumping from project to project, being unable to take long term ownership of any products/projects, and having to kiss ass to rude customers. 

    And onwards…


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  • I just got back from a long weekend in Portland, one of my favorite cities. I drove around downtown twice that week, Friday and Saturday night, picking up takeout food both times. Both times, all I saw were a few individuals holding up signs. I also saw a few boarded up windows, as well as lots of posters and graffiti. I blame social and mainstream media for blowing the Portland protests way out of proportion.

    I stayed with a good friend of mine, and enjoyed takeout sushi from San Sai, walked to Flavor spot and enjoyed a breakfast taco (eggs, bacon, ham, and maple glaze all folded inside a Belgian waffle) twice, and enjoyed takeout Thai from Luc Lac. Normally I’d prefer to dine in, but with COVID concerns it seems prudent to grab takeout and go.

    Saturday we drove out to Tillamook bay, and hiked around the peninsula. You start on the bay side, and around the tip of the peninsula the ocean comes into view. It was windy as hell, and sunny. I got so burned that my skin is flaking, and that was with sunscreen. The drive from Portland to Tillamook is really something. This nice twisty two lane road through a shaded forest. It would be the perfect motorcycle ride to kill an afternoon.

    Things were pretty normal. The only danger to my life was when I almost got smoked by a semi truck going around a corner along the Columbia River.


  • Recently on HN, Reddit, and even the New York Times, I’ve been reading articles and comments discussing whether or not COVID-19 is the death knell of in-person universities. They make some decent points:

    • Colleges did make the transition to online
    • Students were able to learn
    • Especially in America, large groups of people in a small room won’t be medically feasible given the continued pervasiveness of COVID-19.
    • Some students say they even learn better online than in person.

    These are all valid points. I learn better with a hybrid approach, where most days I will sit in class but on the days where I have to work or something comes up, the lecture is still uploaded to watch later in the day. The hybrid approach also has the added benefit of allowing students to review the lecture a second time (or more) if they so desire.

    There is, however, an issue with one not so small portion of collegiate education online: the labs.

    For the Harry Potter fans, consider that taking Physics, Chemistry, Biology, or Geology without any of the labs is analogous to Professor Umbridge’s approach to teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts without practicing what you’ve learned. You’ll have all the theory you need, but have you really reached the full extent of your education if you don’t know how to apply that knowledge in the lab?

    Labs are more than just showing up and tooling around with cool gadgets. They’re a practical application of knowledge gained in the classroom, and invaluable hands on experiences that prepare students for work after college (industry or academia). For the students who learn and understand best by doing, like myself, there is no replacement. 

    Another facet of in-person education: the performing arts. Rehearsals for orchestra, big bands, and large choirs would require massive space following the 6-foot spacing rule, and masks can’t be worn if you play woodwind or brass instruments. Choir would be a disaster, as that’s nothing but people constantly forcefully exhaling in a room with other people.

    The online experience

    Friends and colleagues of mine from Eastern Washington University have, overall, given me the impression that online learning in the Spring quarter was an awful experience. This is OK, and I’ll explain why: high schools, colleges and universities around the globe were given NO lead time to prepare for teaching their subjects online. Students who were expecting fully in person classroom experiences were instead given Zoom lectures.

    So, between poorly prepped Zoom lectures and expectations of the traditional college experience, it’s no wonder people had an awful time of it.

    This can be fixed, of course, and I expect that many teachers will spend time over the summer retooling their lesson plans and lecture setups to accommodate what is sure to be another term spent in quarantine, given COVID-19’s current rate of infection across the US. This still doesn’t address how to handle lab work, which is necessary for a lot of jobs that require graduate education (medical field, research, engineering, and more).

    How can we fix this?

    One solution may be to rapidly develop VR labs, but this lacks physical feedback as well as requiring every student who wants to take a lab to probably spend a cool grand or more in equipment (not everyone already has a VR capable PC). This would be a replacement, but not even close to being as good as the real deal.

    Remember those little science kits for children? Super size and super charge them for the college student labs, and you might be able to carry on with in home experiments. This of course isn’t feasible for any of the more hazardous, and of course more fun experiments that require ventilation hoods, protective shielding, or controlled chemicals and supplies.

    So what can we do in the meantime? The answer is of course to adapt the best as we can, and hope that a viable vaccine is near on the horizon. Wear a mask in public. Keep your distance. Use common sense. We’ll get through these times, and maybe, if we act together, thinking about the welfare of ourselves and one another, these times might just be a little shorter.

    A side note, the massive increase in Zoom usage has resulted in many hilarious faux pas by people unaware their cameras are still on.

    I wrote this post under the assumption that we will be returning to life as we knew it before COVID-19 in the near future.

  • I just jogged for 25 minutes straight. That’s the longest I have ever jogged continuously in my life.

    If anyone ever asks if couch to 5k works, I’m going to give them a resounding yes!

    I’ve been at this for 5 weeks. In the beginning, I was blowing my heart rate up to 176bpm after running for only 60 seconds!

    Today, I ran 25 minutes straight and my heart rate only peaked at 162, with an average of 152. 

    WHAT! I mean, WHAT?!?!?

    Seriously, I’ve never been into running, but I need to lose weight so I thought I’d give it a go. I never thought I’d actually see the day where I could jog more than 5 minutes without being totally winded. Look now, 5 times that and while I was breathing pretty good, I walked home from the track without stopping or sitting down.

    This may be one of those areas where training is everything. I used to get really disheartened when running because I would push myself to total failure. The couch to 5k approach, however, took a measured course towards building running stamina over time. This is something I hadn’t considered, but it’s worked.

    I still have 4 weeks to go on training, but I’m very confident that 30 minutes straight is within my reach. I can then focus on getting to what matters, improving my speed, and eventually start entering some local 5k races.