Here's a quick and dirty post on the bands that I've discovered so far in 2019. To have discovered all of these in January alone feels like quite a feat!

Camp Cope is loud, aggressive, and articulate. My favorite lyric: "If I was hungry then you were starving. And he was so sick but you were dying." An ode to narcissism.

boygenuis is earnest and beautiful. I categoically don't like folk music -- boygenious approaches folk, but (at least for me) elegantly sidesteps the genre in the nick of time. My favorite lyric: "We had a great day. Even though we forgot to eat."

Billie Eilish is super interesting. Her music (and videos) are mesmerizing and unique. At first I had the urge to dismiss her as trying too hard -- the deeper I got, the more I realized that she deserved to be taken seriously. There may be something pretty special here. My favorite lyric: "If teardrops could be bottled. There'd be swimming pools filled by models."

Seoul makes you feel like you're floating. I discovered them walking through the awesome lobby of the Hudson Hotel in New York -- it was quite the combo.

2018: Year-End Review

Much like Nicholas Felton's totally awesome and inspiring Annual Report, I've always wanted to write up a personal year-end summary of the things that I did, consumed, and accomplished that year. Below is my first attempt, which summarizes 2018. Hopefully I keep up this tradition and, 60 years from now, my kids have many of these to read.

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What’s better than a Drake song? An awesomely executed Drake cover from an unexpected source. I’ve come across a many a Drake cover on the YouTubes -- below are my three favorites.

Yesterday I rewatched The End of the Tour for probably the fourth time. It's fast becoming one of my favorite films. Interestingly, I've never read a David Foster Wallace book. Like so many people, I've started and abandoned Infinite Jest numerous times (I also once tried to read The Broom of the System but didn't succeed). Nonetheless I love the idea of DFW. I particularly love listening to him being interviewed, and also hearing other people talk about him. Both are endless interesting to me.

Below are two of my favorite DFW videos. The first is of a New Yorker panel where DFW is the topic. The second is a fascinating interview DFW did with Charlie Rose in the 90s. I have probably watched both of these videos five times each.

My Three Day Water Fast

Three days. No food. Only water. Whoa. This was the adventure that I embarked on from August 18, 2018 until August 21.

But why, you ask? Primarily to lose a few stubborn final pounds. At that point I had lost about 19 pounds in 2018, but I still had seven pounds to go to hit my goal. I had been stalled for a couple of months and I was looking for something new to get me across the finish line.

I never would have tried a three day water fast unless I had heard about it on Kevin Rose's podcast. The idea of fasting always seemed attractive to me, but not eating anything for three days seemed pretty dangerous. After I heard Kevin introduce it as a thing that people did though, that lead me to do some research, and finally convinced me to go for it. In addition to the weight loss possibilities, I was also attracted by the concept of autophagy (which seems valid, but then again, what do I know).

Below is a hodgepodge of thoughts from my experience.

  • Mild initial panic on Day 1. After about 18 hours or so or not eating, realizing that I had another 50+ hours to go I did feel a low-level sense of initial panic. This didn't last long and was very manageable, but if I hadn't done some research before starting I would have probably bailed at this point, fearing that I was about to do some serious harm to myself. Other than this issue though, Day 1 was pretty easy.
  • Smooth sailing on Day 2. This was far and away the easiest and best day. I had no mild panic, completely manageable hunger pangs, and an overall sense of "hey, look at me, I'm doing it!". It definitely helped that I dropped three pounds by Day 2.

  • Feeling poopy on Day 3. By the third day I felt pretty bad. When I woke up in the morning I felt weak and light headed, and it was difficult to pay attention to multiple things at the same time (more on this later). It helped though that I was now down five total pounds (in less than three days). On my way to work, with 12 hours still left to go, I definitely considered bailing and calling it quits. Then however, I realized that I hadn't had any water since the night before. As soon as I slammed some water down my throat, I felt better -- not great, but mangeably better. Even so, by around 5pm I had a splitting headache and I was ready for it to all be over.

  • Fast Breaking Meal: I had done a good bit of research about what food to eat when breaking a fast. There was lots of competing advice but I ended up going with fruit and rice cakes. I went to Whole Foods right after work to grab the food and I started eating it before checking out. I probably had about 900 calories and I felt 100% better immediately.

  • Overall it wasn't that bad. The whole process wasn't nearly as bad as you'd think. There were many times when I felt great, in fact -- better than normal. While I found that it was hard to context switch or multi-task (e.g., I had a hard time talking to someone and typing at the same time), I found it easier than normal to deep focus on one particular task. Also, one thing worth noting is that by Day 3 I felt pretty sore inside my stomach and chest -- similar to if I had done a ton of sit ups (that feeling went away within 36 hours of breaking the fast).

  • Final weight loss results: I lost almost exactly five pounds in three days. I'm typing this now four days after the fast ended, and the scale says that I've added back 1.5 of those pounds. As a result then, I probably legitimately lost 3.5 pounds in three days. That may not sound like much, but if you've ever done serious dieting (where "aggressive" means losing two pounds in a week), these results are phenomenal.

    Update (September 3rd, 2019): It's roughly two weeks later now and I'm back down to a full five pound loss from the water fast. Since I broke the fast I've eaten mostly low calorie (though I've had some cheat days). Point being: I think I really did lose (and keep off) a full five pounds from the fast!

  • I'd do it again. Aside from Day 3, the process was pretty darn easy. I do think that I'd do another three day water fast in the future, and next time be more strategic about drinking water as soon as I wake up (and maybe even once during the night). Or, I might only fast for two days next time. Overall though, the whole adventure was mostly postive and worth repeating.

Disneyland 2018

Up until this vacation, the Powers Family had been on the run, basically driving in the sun, looking out for ourselves (that's number one!). But then, we made a decision, to head back to California, right back where we started from.

And it was epic. We did two days in Anaheim at Disneyland and then a week in Laguna Beach at the Ritz! Here are some of the more choice moments.

A welcoming gift from our awesome travel agent: two delicious Mouse-themed cakes. These were waiting for us in the room when we checked in.

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I've long thought that "Lost in Translation" had the all-time best ending to any film. That said, I just saw "Call Me By Your Name" and I may need to change my answer.

Without any context at all, below are both endings. Both are gutting.

I finished Netflix's revival of The Staircase and it was excellent. What struck me throughout was how unsentimental, unstylized, and overwhelmingly grounded the series was. It felt less like a long documentary series and more like I was an invisible member of the Peterson family, silently going through the events with them. There's tons of minutiae and detail -- the series isn't afraid to show you long and mostly uncut courtroom scenes or legal strategizing scences, or even just scenes of the family hanging out in silence, anxiously day-dreaming.

After I finished the series I came across The Owl Theory, covered many places on the Internets, including in this Wired article and in the YouTube video below:

Much like Making a Murderer, I don't claim to have an informed opinion on whether the series' subject is innocent or not. I do, however, feel strongly that Peterson is not guilty. And not guilty and innocent are two very different classifications -- a point that I've only recently come to appreciate.

I have no topical reason for posting three The National videos today -- it's just something that I feel compelled to do. I find myself returning to these videos over and over -- this band is devastating.

Of note: The first video (above) features Sufjan Stevens singing backup. Also related to that same video: I was convinced for a few minutes that Eric Clapton was playing the weird harmonica/piano-hybrid thing.

Learning Ruby on Rails: Part I - The Language

Most of my programming experience has been in PHP, JavaScript/JQuery, and VB.NET. When I worked in Support at Code Climate, it became obvious to me that I had picked the wrong languages, and that Ruby was the better choice. With its super simple and legible syntax, Gem support, and stellar framework, I was excited to dig in!

A few years back I dabbled in trying to learn Ruby on Rails, but I made the mistake of trying to teach myself both the language and the framework at the same time. That led to mostly confusion and frustration. I've heard many different opinions on this subject, but I now strongly believe that you should have a firm grasp of the language before trying to learn one of its frameworks.

For the past year or so I've been focusing solely on Ruby, primarily by consuming Team Treehouse's Learn Ruby track. It's a 20-hour course in all and I'm stoked to have finally completed it! Next up: Rails!

While moving through the Ruby course I took copious notes. I thought it would be helpful to share those notes here. Enjoy!

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A buddy of mine did some UX work for Hornet, the gay social network. Having no idea that such a network existed, I checked out their website and became immediately fascinated with their documented guidelines around images uploaded to the platform. The specificity here is unreal.

  • A partial nude ass shot (full nude ass shot is a serious violation).
  • Photos that aren't you (celebs, your ex, that guy you hate, your mother-in-law etc). 
  • Genitals covered up by a towel, hat, tea cup, thimble, bed sheet, emoji, your hand, etc.
  • Grabbing/holding or touching genitals or genital area. That includes through your shorts.
  • Erection or outline of genitals through clothing. This is a subjective one. We allow a 'genital bulge'. But, if the outline shows the shape of the penis and testicles, then it will be rejected. This can be affected by how tight the clothing is and/or how big a boy you are. 
  • Sex toys or props. 
  • Pubic hair or the area of the groin where pubic hair normally grows.
  • Photos with underpants visible. 
  • Photos of any obscene gestures and/or lewd behavior. (Flippin' the bird, the finger etc)
  • Illegal drug use or drug paraphernalia (if it looks dodgy, it's a no-no, such as a 'roll-up' cigarette). Also includes drug use in a State or Country where it may be legal. 
  • Depictions of underage drinking (as we aren't Interpol and don't know the legal age for drinking in each country, anyone who looks young will have the photo rejected). 
  • Drawings, painting, cartoons, artwork or overly stylized photographs
  • Image used to advertise services, goods, events, websites or apps (your profile may be suspended for being commercial).
  • Copyrighted or photographer marked images or illustrations
  • No profanity or curse words on a photo. Includes holding up paper with curse words written on it. 
  • Photo of just the crotch: front, side, back, pixelated, clothed, whatever. This would include a photo taken from the waist down. Just because your legs are in it does not mean it isn't a crotch shot. If the main focus is of the crotch, it's not allowed. As a general guide, if your head is not in the photo, then it is more likely to be considered a crotch shot. 
  • Extreme close-up photos, photos where it is unclear what the photo is of. This includes single color photos.
  • Photos with only, or mainly, text. As a general rule, one word or one line of text superimposed on a photo is acceptable (unless the font is large and dominates the photo). 2 or 3 lines of text will likely result in a photo being rejected. 
  • Photos which are gross, disgusting, nasty, yucky, terrible, abhorrent, repugnant. For example, a person vomiting, or a photo of vomit. 

What I would give to be a fly-on-the-wall in the internal meetings that it inevitably took to document these rules.

I finally found a calorie counting iOS app that I like. It's called CalorieCalc.

It's crazy dead simple, which is what I prefer. Don't give me a giant food database to pull from, don't try to track my exercise, and don't ask me to care about micro-nutrients. Just let me tell you my calorie limit for the day and then allow me to burn down from that limit by manually entering calories for each meal/snack.

I suspect that I'm in the vast minority in wanting such a limited calorie counting app.

OMG! A new single from the utterly flawless Hayden James.

One of my more favorite moments in life: The day Hayden James retweeted me.

Having Rubocop tell me that my Ruby code is stylistically flawless makes me feel very good. No, really.

I did some iPhone house cleaning today, and I'm surprised by how refreshed it makes me feel.

I changed my "lock screen" image:

Best of all, by categorizing all of my apps I forced everything onto a single page.

It's the little things...

How to Rob is a 1999 song from 50 Cent (that I just discovered). It's apparently what initially put 50 on everyone's radar. 

Aside from being a great track, its approach is interesting: 50 envisions himself robbing the world's biggest hip hop and R&B artists (at the time), one by one. The song's Wikipedia page even lists out each artist that 50 targets (in the order in which they are mentioned):

  • Lil' Kim
  • P Diddy
  • Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston
  • Brian McKnight
  • Keith Sweat
  • Cardan
  • Harlem World
  • Mase
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard
  • Foxy Brown and Kurupt
  • Jay-Z
  • Case
  • Trackmasters
  • Slick Rick
  • Stevie J
  • Big Pun
  • Master P
  • Silkk The Shocker
  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Timbaland and Missy Elliott
  • Joe
  • Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat
  • DMX
  • Treach
  • DJ Clue
  • TQ
  • Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and RZA
  • Sticky Fingaz
  • Fredro Starr
  • Canibus
  • Heavy D
  • Juvenile
  • Blackstreet
  • R. Kelly (though not by name, is referenced within the lyrics)
  • Boyz II Men and Michael Bivins
  • Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
  • Mister Cee
  • Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad
  • Kirk Franklin

My favorite two lines turn out to both be fat jokes (which I normally don't condone). On Big Pun:

I'll rob Pun without a gun, snatch his piece then run
This n____ weigh 400 pounds, how he gonna catch me, son?

And on Missy Elliott:

Run up on Timbaland and Missy with the pound
Like, "You, give me the cash; you, put the hot dog down"

The song apparently won 50 both a bunch of admirers and a slew of enemies, which is not surprising. All of the lyrics are on Genius.

Today I finished the Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty podcast. I enjoyed it.

If you're not familiar with Lighty, he was a "500 pound Gorilla"-level manager of major hip hop artists. When I started the podcast, I didn't think I had heard of him, but it didn't take me long to recognise him as A Tribe Called Quest's manager that is a talking head in Michael Rapaport's outstanding documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (I vividly remember Lighty from that documentary, because he used the term "esoteric" in his interview in referring to Q-Tip, and I remember that was the first time I had heard that word used before). Lighty's was a true rags-to-riches story, which ends in a tragic suicide.

Aside from being a well-produced, thoughtful deep dive into an interesting subject, I was struck throughout the podcast by how wonderful it is that someone would take the time to tell this story. Lighty isn't a big enough name to carry a film documentary, and that's where the podcast medium really shines. It allows you to do deep dives into subjects that have (seemingly) small audiences, but using a richer medium than long-form written journalism.

Below is a trailer of the podcast.

Childish Gambino's new music video This is America is something special, to say the least.

Provocative, disturbing, and dense...while somehow still catchy. Donald Glover continues to surprise me.

I quickly surged through the entire Heaven's Gate podcast. I had obviously heard of the group before, but I only knew the big broad strokes. Below are three new things that I learned from the podcast:

  • While Herff Applewhite was the face of the group (and the face that I remember from news coverage), the group's dominant leader/founder was Bonnie Nettles (who died 12 years before the mass suicide). Nettles and Applewhite were known as Ti and Do, respectfully
  • A number of the male members castrated themselves while in the group. From a Rolling Stone article:
    Applewhite and other members underwent the procedure to help ensure they remained celibate. Applewhite, who had been fired as a music professor at the University of St. Thomas in 1970 after administrators learned he had sex with a male student, sought cures for his homosexual urges. He wanted to find a way to have "platonic relationship where he could develop his full potential without sexual entanglements," said one reporter who infiltrated the group in 1975. Castration, Applewhite believed, could make that easier. Ultimately, the group instituted a strict "no sex, no human-level relationships, no socializing" rule.

    Though decisions like this were always left up to the members, eight followers were castrated voluntarily, including Applewhite. "They couldn't stop smiling and giggling," former member DiAngelo told Newsweek. "They were excited about it."
  • While 39 members committed suicide as a group in March 1997, four additional members (who weren't present during the group suicide) killed themself later, on their own.
Below is a trailer for the podcast. I recommend it.

Below is a good example of someone brand new to Ruby (me!) and someone with Ruby experience (not me!) solving the exact same problem. These two methods have the same goal: accept a string, reverse and return it.
def solution(sentence)

  sentence_as_array = sentence.split(" ").reverse!

  reversed_string = ""
  sentence_as_array.each do |x|

    reversed_string = reversed_string + x + " "


  return reversed_string.chop


def better_solution(sentence)

  sentence.split(" ").reverse.join(" ")


It's crazy how much more elegant the second method is.