On Death, Jumanji and Baader-Meinhof

“You get what anyone gets – You get a lifetime.” – Death – “The Sandman

Before I make you Google again, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is somewhat similar to a deja vu.  Except, instead of your brain tricking you into thinking you’d been somewhere before, it makes you aware of things that were always around you but you might not have noticed.  It’s something I enjoy pointing out to friends and family.

It’s a truism that people who work with machines (and the instructions that drive them) are a superstitious lot that tend to personify our creations.  Having muttered incantations and curses to no one in particular while chasing yet another bug, I’m no exception.  As such, I like to embrace these superstitions and the cool moments that follow from them.

This little experience started with a trip to see Jumanji (the remake/reboot) this past weekend.  Really fun movie and I do recommend it.  There’s an interesting message scene where the characters compare having a limited number of lives within the game world to the fact that we ‘really only have one life’ and the responsibility to spend it wisely.   This is something awfully deep for a recycled movie where the leads spend a lot of their time making dick jokes (literally).

Queue the next day where I’m idly citing the perky goth trope and am reminded immediately of Death of The Endless and her oft repeated benediction, cited above.  This character comes from a series frequently labelled as a masterpiece which has spawned entire universes from its base material.   It’s fascinating that one of its themes shared common space with a completely unrelated movie, at least in my head.

What does any of this mean?  Not much.  Just the mind making correlations where none really exist.  Still, I enjoy the small thrill of making these arbitrary connections where none were probably intended.  It’s not like anyone owns the idea of wise living or wasting time.  But it is a fun realization to feel both common and special in the same breath, with all of your decisions, experiences and time reduced to a single unit.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Happy 2018!

“Do you seriously think I’d explain my master stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty-five minutes ago.” – Adrian Veidt as Ozymandias

Not to disparage New Years posts, but it’s almost cliched how they’re all about renewal and hope for the upcoming year. When I made up my mind on what I was going to pursue this year, I made a commitment to get started immediately rather than wait until January 1st. Needless to say, I started a couple of weeks ago.

I’m sure my throngs of readers are distraught that I haven’t posted in a while. (Please be distraught!) The truth is, I’ve been working on a major writing project that’s taken up most of my spare cycles. It should release around March of this year, after which I’ll be back to boring the shit out of you on a more frequent basis.

As far as resolutions go, here’s where I’m at for this coming year:

  • Exercise Every Day
  • Write Every Day
  • Code every day

In that order 🙂 I’m proud to say I’ve stuck with this over the past couple of weeks and plan to continue throughout the year.

I invite all of you to share your own resolutions or plans for the coming year.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Thanks for looking in!

I Want To Look Good Naked


“Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat-bastard cream there is not.” – The Full Monty

I spend quite a bit of time over at The Art Of Manliness.  Some great tips on health and style as well as a wealth of inspirational writing, mostly in the form of fanboying on Theodore Roosevelt.  In looking for my next big challenge, I’m drawing inspiration from this article on Rites of Passage.

Speaking of TR, I remember being interested in him from a very young age.  The main connection I made was that we both had asthma.  Not like I’d ever stack myself up beside TR.  Where he made a point of seeking out adversity and testing his shortcomings, I’d often take pride in taking the shortest and easiest path possible.  Sometimes this is a virtue, but not when it comes to taking care of the self.  As such, I need to settle a long standing debt.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been at an unhealthy weight for my entire adult life (and longer).  Carrying around what is essentially another person has negatively impacted my activities and general quality of life as well as put me on multiple medications.  Rather than keep this as a ‘Someday’ kind of goal, it’s time to put together a plan and get to work.  By doing so, I intend to improve my own health, extend my life and improve my self-image and self-worth dramatically.

Here is my goal:

Success is : I record a weight of 178 or below on 7/27/2018
Failure is : I record a weight above 178 on 7/27/2018

Here’s my plan:

– Use LiveStrong – Record weight daily and keep a food diary
– I will keep my daily calorie intake 500 below my BMR
– I will supplement my calorie deficit by 500 a day with daily exercise
– The data for the above will be maintained publicly here as a widget

I’ve always known what was required but never really applied myself.  But if I follow this plan, I should be able to lose 100 pounds over the next year at a healthy 2 pound a week rate.  This is perfectly reasonable and attainable.

I’m inviting everyone to encourage me.  Even more so, I invite people to hinder me and try and fuck me up.  For my own health and well being, this may very well be the most difficult and the most important thing I’ve ever attempted.  Bring it on!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Thanks for looking in!

When Wisdom Is Your Dump Stat

And now for something completely different….

In a previous post, I’d mentioned that I’ve struggled with health and fitness for most of my adult life. In response to a co-worker’s call to action, my fat self signed up for the 2017 Wichita Gladiator Dash! It’s a 5k obstacle course in the local county park which includes climbing hills, fording lakes and creeks, falling off things into waist deep mud along with other assorted playground activities.

Now that you’ve (hopefully) stopped laughing, I’m happy to say I actually completed the course. And since I’ve never done anything like this before, I’m allowed to claim I achieved a personal best!

One thing that people in sedentary jobs like mine must watch out for is our health. And it’s a great thing that fitness and good health has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. However, we must contrast that with America’s love affair with bacon, food challenges and ridiculous monstrosities in culinary fare such as the Quadruple Bypass Burger making headlines. (Where’s THAT race??)

In either event, I’m proud to have made a choice to try something challenging in the name my own good health and the entertainment of others (like my wife). I’d love to hear any of your stories about your own health and fitness goals.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Thanks for looking in!

Blogs I Follow

And now for something completely different…
 
I’m assuming most people have a set of sites that they check or frequent on a daily basis.   This post is a list of favorites that I have on my feedly app.  I generally sift through these and save some interesting articles to Instapaper for easy access wherever I happen to be.
 
Tech
 
Coding Horror – Probably THE blog that motivated me to switch to software development full time.  Funny and insightful.
 
Scott Hanselman makes the short list of any Who’s Who when it comes to Microsoft solutions.  Posts frequently with either interesting ‘What’s New?’ or other content.
 
Trisha Gee – I had first heard of Trisha during the inaugural HackSummit() conference and her presentation was one of my favorites.  A Java expert and advocate.
 
John Sonmez – I’d first heard about John after taking a few of his courses on Pluralsight.  After following his blog for a while, I took his Create A Blog course and the result is this site.  Daily new content.
 
Humor and Personal
 
Drew Magary – Drew is a writer for several publications including Deadspin and GQ.  We’re about the same age so his posts about parenting and cooking are very relatable.
 
Wait But Why – I ran across this blog a while back.  Posts feature length articles on cool futurist topics like space exploration and AI.  If you read anything on the site, make time for the four part series on Elon Musk.
 
The Art of Manliness – I’ve been reading AoM for a few years now.  Very interesting articles on hobbies, fitness, fashion, traditions and more!  This is the site that got me to drop my cartridge razor in favor of a safety razor.  (Highly recommended)
 
Mr. Money Mustache – Personal finance advice and a must read for anyone considering early (or at least earlier) retirement.
 
The Daily Stoic – A Ryan Holiday blog.  Stoicism has been enjoying some recent popularity and reference.  This is a good resource for anyone interested in the basics or a deeper dive.
 
I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.
 
Thanks for looking in!

Reading Summary – 2016

Posting book recommendations seems to be a thing when New Years rolls around.  The last time I posted about books, I put together a list of my favorite recommendations.  This time around, I put together a list of books I read over the past year.

Essential ASP.NET with Examples in C# – A bit obsolete.  Vanilla web forms rather than MVC.  However, I did find some useful nuggets around IIS and ASPX page architecture.  Any of you still involved in IIS hosting or legacy support might find some value.

Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life – In depth overview of mindfulness with various case studies and examples or thought experiments in easily digestible form.  A good read for those seeking the value of being present and deliberate.

Richest Man In Babylon – A book on financial health with guidelines packed into parable form.  It’s mostly common sense stuff and a bit repetitive, but still useful.  ‘The 10% Rule’ was most valuable to me.

Clean Code – A classic book on software quality that easily makes most developer’s reading lists.  Some of the most valuable pieces for me were:

Focusing on indentation – The idea that if your indentation is sloppy, you should focus on that before anything else

Boy Scout Rule – Always leaving code better than you found it

Test Driven Development – The principle that tests are always closer to the truth about code’s purpose than comments or documentation

Leviathan Wakes – The novels on which the series The Expanse is based on – I honestly haven’t had a book grab my attention like this in a long time and would highly recommend it to any sci-fi fan. The setting is gritty with enough everyday human concerns to be a believable future state while still having stakes and scope worthy of space opera.

Waking Up – Interesting premises on the nature of the mind, the concepts of self and better living through meditation.

The Analects – A collection of Confuscious’ sayings and one of the core works of Confuscianism, the main idea of which is virtuous living and self development according to The Way.  It’s a decent read but I get the feeling that The Way being discussed is very specific to the author and his students (Upper Class Chinese Nobility)  For the modern reader, The Way may be more subjective but the call to action is not.

The Death of Common Sense – I heard a rumor that this book was an inspiration for the character of Hank Hill (King of the Hill), so I had to take a look.  An indictment of following the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit.

Meditations –  A collection of the writings of Marcus Aurelius and one of the core works of Stoicism.  I’d compare this to the Analects as far as the need for context.  But again, the call to action is definitely not subjective.

Not a long list, to be sure.   This year I’m hoping to double it, but hopefully not just for the sake of quantity.  I think my pile of books to read actually grew more this year.

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

 

Thanks for looking in!

BenedettiTech’s Reading List

I’ve been seeing quite a few book recommendation lists lately.  So, I decided to throw my own hat into the ring with my own list of book recommendations.

While writing this list, I laid down a few ground rules for myself:

  • Only 1 book per author – I did keep a short list of runners up after the main list.
  • No Fiction – Unless the lesson from the book is singular and embedded, you might have better luck looking for a philosophy book with an explicit lesson and a more thorough explanation.  Lessons from fiction to me are mostly subjective and allegorical so I kept a short list of fiction books that I would recommend to anyone.
  • I have to have read it recently enough that I can summarize the book from memory. – My thoughts are: If I can’t throw together a few sentences about the book from memory, it must not have been that impactful.

The List

The Art of War – Attributed to Sun Tzu & Others. My absolute favorite.  Don’t let the title put you off.  This is as much about preparation and choosing your battles as actual conflict.

The Pragmatic Programmer – Andrew Hunt – Great soft skills title that I recommend to all developers.

 
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield – Not exactly an inversion of the first book on this list.  This title is about focusing on and executing on your goals.  It’s about the importance if action and how to not sit idle.

Soft Skills – John Sonmez – I ordered a copy of this to share with my team at my regular job.  It’s surprisingly broad for a work intended for an IT audience. I could even call it a holistic approach to living life as a developer.

 
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People –  Stephen R. Covey – A classic on mindful and focused execution.  The themes and habits of this book are taught in grade schools now.

Choose Yourself – James Altucher – This book is about betting on yourself in the face of adversity.

Purple Cow – Seth Godin – This book was required reading for me in college and is about standing out.  In a world full of developers, services and consultants, what makes you stand out?

Getting Things Done – David Allen – A productivity system that is as much about cognitive load and capacity as it is about efficiency.  I use it daily.

The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan – A good primer on worldly skepticism and critical thinking from the man himself.

The Art of Deception – Kevin Mitnick – Case studies on social engineering and black hat strategies.  Reinforces the point that people are always the weakest link in IT Security.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! – Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton – A quasi autobiographical collection of memoirs from Dr. Richard Feynman.  Reinforces the idea that its possible to literally change the world while having fun and having a life.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki – A basic education in money management and asset growth that should be required reading for every student.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport – Titled with a paraphrased quote from Steve Martin, this is a long form reminder to focus on skill growth in your trade while striving to excel and continuously parlay those skills into more important or valuable roles.

What If? – Randall Munroe – Anyone familiar with the web comic xkcd may already be familiar with this or even own a copy.  An entertaining attempt to answer interesting thought experiments with solid science and fun humor.

This Is How – Augusten Burroughs – A collection of essays that addresses strategies for confronting monumental life events and circumstances that can stop any of our lives in its tracks despite our best laid plans.  Blunt and plainspoken while still being compassionate.

Runners Up

The Warrior Ethos – Another one by Steven Pressfield.  This one is a more general overview of having a code and being worthy of trust.

The Dip – Another one by Seth Godin.  Shares a message with War of Art and Choose Yourself.  The main difference is that this book predicts that there will always be a point in any project or journey where you’ve lost momentum and feel stuck.  This can be both an obstacle or overcome but also an opportunity to stop and ask yourself if the goal is still worth your time.

Pale Blue Dot – Probably a more popular Sagan work than the one I chose.  This one focuses on the imperatives of taking care of our planet and making an investment in a shared future, recognizing that it’s the only one we have (so far) and we’re all in this together.

Fiction

Neuromancer – William Gibson – This is a classic of the cyberpunk genre and is credited with the coining of the term The Matrix for an Internet in the style of shared virtual reality.  Also touches on the concept of the Technological Singularity.

American Gods – Comparative religion and the modern personification of mythological figures is a popular realm for Neil Gaiman.  Expect to hear more about this novel in the coming months as it’s currently being turned into a feature length movie.

The Godfather – Probably the one novel I’d choose to be stranded with on a deserted island.  While most movies based on novels are derided for leaving out key elements, I believe the movie not only honors the source material but also complements it.  If you read it for one reason only, do it for the backstory of Luca Brasi.  You’ll never look at his halting wedding benediction the same way again.

I’m interested in hearing feedback on this list or some additional suggestions of your own.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Thanks for looking in!