Power On

You know, on those power toggles where it’s represented by an I and an O? I remember which is which by saying “O for Off.” Try not to think about it too much.

So I got my Fitbit surge about six months ago, and the goal it sets for you is 10,000 steps per day. I hit that one time, in April on Nutanix day.

I’ve hit it three times in the last three days.

In fact, I’ve only hit the “5 miles walked” goal for the first time this week, which I’ve also done three times in the last three days. Critically, the goal for calories burned was getting met less than once a week, probably 0.3 or 0.4 times a week by eyeballing it, and only over 3,000 calories burned twice in six months. Except, you know, for the last three times in the last three days.

I woke up yesterday feeling half-dead. I preemptively let myself off the hook if I didn’t increase my cardio numbers or even hit 10,000 steps. My legs were worn all the way out. My right calf felt like there was a rock in it. But what surprised me is what a good mood I was in. I think there’s some serious biochemical changes happening, more testosterone if I had to guess. I feel, and this may be out of character for me, significantly more alive. More mentally sharp. More friendly. It’s wild. And despite half-dead, rock-in-calf feeling, I ended up walking over 13,000 steps for 5.5 miles.

I did end up buying some new shoes. It’s not an area where I spare expense but I actually found the low-end of the Asics product line to be more comfortable than anything else. Low-end here meaning about $70 on sale. Prior to that I’ve been wearing some Olukai slip-ons that were little more than dressy skate shoes. I didn’t plan much of this out very well, it’s been rather spontaneous.

Yesterday was also the first day in recent memory where I went all day without any stomach issues. I think we’re onto something. Outside of being lactose intolerant, I was still having a lot of problems. It’s looking like the Clif Builder’s bars I’ve been eating are out. They’re lactose-free, but soy protein isolate is notoriously hard for the body to digest, and it’s the first ingredient in said bars. I picked up some Kind bars and had one yesterday instead. It still did a good job as an afternoon snack and while it has soy protein isolate, it’s towards the middle-to-bottom of the ingredient list. That amount seems doable for my body.

I gotta say, that makes the protein bar section of the grocery even more of a word search. Probably 75% of the bars are out right off the top due to the use of whey protein isolate. Now the ones with soy protein isolate high up the list are out too. You don’t see a lot of casein whey bars. Maybe I’ll give up and go to jerky or something.

So in other news, I’m turning over all the info I got on the SNSLocker ransomware to the FBI. It was a particularly inept job of ransomware, and the final result is I have the guy’s full name, age, email address, IP address, the source code to the payment & decryption website, a dump of the database of victims including their IP address, and a number of them are in the US, meaning the FBI can at least start the ball rolling. I’m supposed to meet a couple agents for lunch in a week or two, whenever they can squeeze in the hour trip up from Albuquerque. It’ll be a nice attaboy to put on my list of accomplishments. The Trend Micro blog covered the story and at least linked the tweet that I wrote at the time of the initial research.

There will be a full post-mortem of SNSLocker on bluesoul.me after I finish the disclosure process.

One of my self-serving complaints that kept me from getting anywhere fitness-wise was that “I don’t have that much time when I’m home, so I want to spend it how I want.” Which is partly true, I don’t have a lot of time when you subtract dinner and a shower. But I was not using the time in a productive manner, and I’m using productive very loosely. Anything that would make me happy could be considered productive. It was mostly time spent dicking around on Reddit. The last 3 nights, I’ve been on the computer for maybe a total of 15 minutes. I do not feel deprived. Right now the plan is for the weekend to be the time for rest, recuperation, and fucking around. We’ll see what happens, the weekend isn’t too far away at this point.

Five Green Rings and Two Dead Doves

So, let’s get this out of the way. I exceeded expectations yesterday.

Crushed yesterday, for real. #fivegreencircles

A photo posted by @bluesoulsez on

I’m making use of every function of the app now. I went ahead and bought the Aria scale as well, it’s not too overpriced for including body fat percentage (even if only a rough approximation) and I know myself well enough to know the integration with the app will make me actually use it. I’m using the food log and tracking water consumed. I’m pretty sure it’s everything the app offers outside of run tracking because I’m not running yet.

With all the extra walking yesterday, I consumed 2100ish calories, but that’s fine because I burned over 3,000. That’s a significant deficit, enough to average 1.3 pounds of fat burned in a five-day work week.

I was talking to Diana about this yesterday, from an evolutionary standpoint, we’re good at a lot of things, but out biggest strength might be walking. Early man would bring down a yak or a goat or what have you by walking behind it, never letting it rest, pelting it with stones and throwing spears until it got back up and the chase began again until the animal finally keeled over from exhaustion. We’re not the best runners, but we’re the best walkers on the planet.

So when I got the scale set up (hey Fitbit, make your applications respect Windows text scaling, please.) I got my first number back. 173.2 pounds and 24.7% body fat percentage. I did some mental arithmetic on where I wanted to be, which is 135 pounds as I was when I was about 18, and let out an audible “Fuuuuuuck.” That’s like 40 pounds. But I did a little more math, 173.2 less 24.7% is 130.4 pounds of “lean mass”. 135 pounds would be 3% body fat which is a great number if you’re a hypertrophy bodybuilder. I’m actually looking for something around 14% body fat. That works out to about 149.4 pounds. So a little under 25 pounds to lose assuming lean mass stayed the same. That seems much more doable not only from a mental standpoint but from a physiology standpoint. I couldn’t figure out where 40 pounds would come from. That’s like, a leg.

I feel pretty good this morning, could’ve used some more sleep. Still fighting heartburn and general stomach discomfort in the evenings. That’s one of the things I’m hoping gets solved along the way.

I received a reddit message this morning that I was made a moderator of /r/ransomware, which I requested about a month ago. That’s exciting, I have big plans for it since /r/malware isn’t really suited for discussion on removal. I’m gonna work on that for the rest of the morning ride.

Dead Dove Dot Jpeg

I don’t know what I expected. I didn’t expect it to go well, this thought of exercising at work. I’m fairly blown away at how well it went. I had a few things I wanted to accomplish.

I wanted to walk at least 250 steps each hour. I almost accomplished that, I did so in 7 of the 9 hours. One hour was entirely taken up by a meeting, and the other was where I had substituted additional resistance band exercise. I don’t think there’s honestly much that can be done for those hour-long meetings, call it a necessary evil.

I wanted to do my exercises, the full 3 sets, 15 reps each, six exercises. That didn’t happen, I only managed one set. It’s going to take a little balancing of my time to manage more. Also, dress pants are not condusive to doing squats. Impossible.

I wanted to try incorporating Pomodoro better in my day. I’d bookmarked Tomato Timer a while back but never really got into it in earnest. Oh, I’ve got way too much to do, I can’t be splitting my day into 25-minute chunks. I used Pomodoro all day today, and I was far more productive than a typical day. During those 5 minute breaks, I figured out a path in the building that not only involves just over 250 steps, but also incorporates four flights of stairs. All total, I climbed 29 flights of stairs today, and I’m going to end the day at about 33 flights. The exercises take about three minutes, so I can actually fit both the walk and the exercise in one five-minute break. I also managed two walks between 15 and 20 minutes.

I need to remember this day, remember how I’m feeling right now, 9400 steps into the day. Because I’m not going to feel this optimistic some days, hell maybe even most days. Ten thousand steps sounded unreasonable not even twelve hours ago. Now I’m going to hit 11,000 before all is said and done. This is coming off of short sleep and bringing earplugs to the train thinking I was going to sleep. I can do this. I can look forward to this. I feel really good. And I wish I could bottle up the sensation.

It’s going to work just fine in these warm months, that Florida upbringing has me saying the hotter, the better. I’ll have to figure something else out in the winter for the long walks. Maybe I’ll be able to do some sort of routine within the office building. Even if I was willing to face the cold (I’m not), there’s the matter of typical pileups of snow and ice around the route.

My GTD article was seemingly finished when this revelation of Pomodoro actually working well came to pass. I’m going to review the article tomorrow and see if it makes sense to include. Then I need to double check all of the links and make sure they work and are sufficiently useful without leaking any data. I’ll end up posting it in a couple of places when it’s ready to go.

Any Place Aimed, Go

Ever have your stomach bother you so badly that you ended up reconsidering your life choices?

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Sometimes I feel like I just pinball from one illness to the next. At least on this one, I don’t have to worry about being a hypochondriac. You don’t imagine almost throwing up, having that acid climb all the way up into the back of your mouth.

I’ve been thinking it over and my best guess is it’s a combination of two things. One is acid reflux, brought on from being overweight and overly sedentary. The other is stress.

Isn’t that odd? I don’t feel like I have all that much to be stressed out about. And yet I notice it, carrying way too much tension in my head and my shoulders. The logical place to look for sources of stress would be my job, but I have trouble coming up with much. We finished one big project, the next one is going to be much slower to roll out by design (we don’t get to start in earnest until August). Maybe it’s impostor syndrome. I feel like I’m over that, though.

Maybe it just has to do with getting up earlier than I ever have in my life. The thing with that, I’ve thoroughly acclimated to getting up by 5:15 and certainly no later than 6. Two weeks ago I worked out of the Albuquerque office for two days, meaning I didn’t have to leave the house until 7:35. Contrast that with my 6:05 cutoff to leave most days. I could not bring myself to fall back to sleep that morning.

I think I’ll solve a lot of problems by losing weight. I also remember that common advice, which is don’t announce that you’re going to lose weight. The idea there is that your brain isn’t terribly clever and will substitute words for actions and reward you with dopamine, even though you haven’t actually done the work yet. At the very least, don’t write about it until you’ve started, which I did last week, adding multiple breaks from my day to get up and take a walk. The long one is about 20 minutes, and there’s a shorter one that’s about 10 minutes.

Fitbit recently updated their app and added a couple of new metrics. They want you to get up and take at least a short walk (250 steps) every hour, from 8 to 5. (I may integrate this with [Pomodoro](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique), doing two pomodoros and then going for a walk, then repeating.) They also want 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. I’m pleased to say I managed that last week. 10,000 steps per day seems quite far away still, which is funny because it was effortless when I worked at Best Buy and I was still overweight then.

I also have some resistance band exercises I’ve picked that I can do in my office. I don’t have the paper handy but I believe it’s six exercises, three sets of 15 reps each, three days a week. I need to figure out the best way to incorporate them into the day.

This is one of those things that should be simplified by moving, as I currently leave the house at 6:05 AM and don’t get back until 6:35 PM, and I’m in bed by 9:15. That doesn’t leave much time. If we were up here, I wouldn’t have to leave the house until 7:30, I’d get home by 5:15 and not have to be in bed until 10:45. One way or another, that’s an extra 2 hours and 50 minutes. I could do an awful lot in that time. I still think we’re making the right decision in the short term by staying in Albuquerque, but I’m aware of what I’m giving up for low rent.

Introducing Service as a Service®.

Introducing Service as a Service.

–NEW YORK, May 23, 2016

Bearpuncher Solutions, LLC, renowned innovative creators of Hypertext Over HTTP and Thursday, have broken the mold all over again with a new service paradigm for the connected world of everything and also things.

Service as a Service® combines the proven demand for service with the modern efficiencies of As A Service. What results is a business model familiar to many.

“Look, I invented Thursday, and if there’s anything I know, it’s that Service as a Service® is way more than just paying an employee to work for you,” was the quote from company CEO Dave Bearpuncher.

Bearpuncher continued, “To start with, you only pay the employees for the hours they’re scheduled to work. And in return, they do work for you, like make the next Facebook. You’d have to be a real [stupid person] to not see the difference.”

Bearpuncher Solutions (NYSE: MAUL) is expected to begin licensing Service as a Service® in Q3.

“This Service as a Service® is gonna be a real game-changer for the DevOpsese and Cloudmen. Everyone is going to service their business using a service-driven service model,” said Jim Bearpuncher, Director of Marketing.

“Other financial people ask me, ‘Jimmy, why would we want to license Service as a Service®? It seems awfully similar to what we’ve been doing.’ And I tell them, I tell them, look at this watch. That’s no Folex, brother.”

Many analysts have raved about the new service model, improving guidance on Bearpuncher Solutions to a Strong Buy. Some are less convinced, however.

“If someone can explain to me in twenty words or less what Bearpuncher Solutions does and how Dave Bearpuncher is a billionaire, I’ll give you a hundred bucks,” an anonymous financial advisor wrote.

“Utter rubbish. They’re trying to copyright the practice of working for money,” said another unnamed source.

Bearpuncher Solutions is confident that they are in the clear here.

“A lot of people have called us bad things in the past,” said Dr. Ronald Bearpuncher, Ph.D., Chief Theoretical Engineer for Bearpuncher Solutions. “But you know what those people don’t have? A professional baseball team, and a 380-foot yacht off the coast of Santorini where I can get drunk and yell at the fish. They’re losers. We will continue to defend all of our IP, including Service as a Service®, and enforce licensing compliance.”

Bearpuncher Solutions ended the day up $5.73 at $376.80 per share.

Don’t make these people mad.

It’s been a good week. I want to get the gaming stuff out of the way because I have something entertaining to talk about. I picked Diablo 3 back up over the weekend and man it feels like a whole different game compared to launch. Fantastic. Got a new wizard from 1 to 70 and cleared my first rift without a death. Only on Hard, mind, which is like the 2nd easiest difficulty out of 10. But I think I’ll be down that rabbit hole for quite a while.

Anyway, what I really wanted to get into. I wrote two weeks ago that I wanted to get into malware analysis and research. So I have been, meeting new people and getting in some circles. Twitter is the go-to community for this line of work, as the rapid response time and ability to talk to people you’d never met before both work in its favor.

My experience with trying to get into the inner circle of a new community is to bring something to the party. So I did, in the form of the Practical Malware Analysis starter kit, which has been a smash hit and got me a little credibility for the cost of about five hours on a Saturday morning getting the stuff I would’ve gotten at some point anyway. I also wrote up a piece on using GPOs to neuter some malware. So it got me a little cred.

That’s led to good things. I can’t be specific yet because the virus is still live and the author isn’t aware, but thanks to a community-provided sample, me and a few other guys and girls got our hands on some new ransomware, before any large campaign got underway. We were able to extract data from the software sample, and with a combination of internet sleuthing, intuition and a little luck, we’ve accomplished two big things:

  1. We added a backdoor to the ransomware, to decrypt any infection when we desire.
  2. We were able to identify the man’s name, age, and the university he attends. Unfortunately, said university is in Morocco, so I don’t think the FBI is terribly interested.

What’s crazy is that this isn’t some sort of test, something from the Practical Malware Analysis lab questions. This is real malware with real consequences for the people that get infected with it. The whole reason I wanted to get into this is to make a difference and I think I managed to do so in my first week.

Don’t misunderstand, I got a bit of a break getting something this easy to crack in my first week. I still have a ton to learn. I said this is pretty much all new content and that’s been true. Learning assembly and the whole world of unpacking, decrypting, and generally breaking open a black box is a new world. But it’s still significant, because it showed the community at large that I’m worth training. Now I can ask questions and I’ll get answers, or at least pointed to the right resources. I can’t overstate how important that is. Nobody learns alone.

We’re approaching a four-day weekend. That’ll be my first one since my first week on the job, almost exactly six months ago. I’ll be down half my staff and my boss after Wednesday, so read-only Thursday as well as Friday. We’re also approaching what is essentially a read-only month, the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July. The last machine we were going to bring into Nutanix was done last week so we are fully on that platform and the monolithic task we’ve been calling Nutanix since November is done.

This is gonna be a great week, too. I can feel it. My GTD article should come out this week too.

Mark’s Feed Bag, to be precise.

I gave a little mention to GTD on the NBA subreddit yesterday, noting how it would’ve made a big difference in college had I not been double-majoring in whiskey and pulled pork, and encouraged people to ask me questions about it. I got one this morning and I gave an answer in lieu of a blog post. Here it is.

Hey, if you have any spare time I’d love to talk to you about the book especially how you would do things differently back when you were studying. I haven’t read the book so I’m wondering if it will suit me.

Hey, sure. I’m on the train into work right now so I can give it a little thought. Like I mentioned, I was too concerned with keeping up appearances. GTD would’ve been a very useful tool, if I wasn’t too stubborn to take the advice. Good chance that I might’ve been. But I was doing a lot of stuff, going Greek, student council, freshman leadership council, intramural soccer, and then the actual studying for an engineering degree. My organizational system was pretty much nonexistent, if I happened to get a scrap of paper telling me when something was happening or due I kept it in my laptop bag, otherwise I tried to keep it in my head.

What that turned into was the laptop bag became a cluttered mess, and when I finished my classes for the day, I would know vaguely that there’s a lot going on, but I couldn’t think of anything specific that was due the next day, so I’d go to the fraternity house and shoot pool.

I give freshman me a lot of shit, honestly. But just having the capturing habit, to keep track of everything I have to do, would’ve given that year a fighting chance. As it was, I made a real mess of the year, lost my scholarship, and I never got a degree.

The book is honestly aimed at professionals that are engaged in what he calls “knowledge work”, where many times the end of a project is vaguely defined. But I believe it can be just as useful for a student, if that student is willing to admit that they don’t have all the answers to life yet and a self-help book is a totally acceptable thing to have.

I think these kinds of books are suitable for anyone. Even if you don’t end up using much of the content, understanding how a successful person organizes their day-to-day can always be useful. We all think differently, and drawing on the life experiences of others is a very handy shortcut for many things. When you get down to it that’s most of education, absorbing the experiences of others.

If I were doing it all over again, it would be a matter of capturing homework assignments, appointments, meetings, and so on in OneNote. For firm appointments (E.g., student council meeting), it would also go in Outlook. Between classes, I would consult my lists and make a determination on what needs to be the next task to complete. After all the classes for the day, do the same, determine what the most important thing is to do next. Sometimes the most important thing is to relax and shoot some pool, the system expects you to be aware of your mental energy remaining.

I kind of wish I could have another try at college but I make too much money now to take myself out of the workforce for years. If you’re going in, give yourself a fighting chance at succeeding.

Sorry for the wall of text, this is usually time I spend writing in my blog. Let me know if there’s anything else you’re curious about.

Also Because “Bounty Hunter” is a Rad Job Title

The last two days have involved driving to work rather than taking the train, hence a lack of writing. I did put up a post over on bluesoul.me that might give a little clue as to what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been involved with fighting ransomware before, if only from the position of raising awareness. At the same time, I’ve been really unsure as to what I want to pursue as my next “deep” hobby. This week, it clicked. I’m going to be a malware researcher.

There are a number of things about this decision that really appeal to me. I have that innate desire to help people, and this is an opportunity to leverage skills that not a lot of people have to do so, potentially to save people from losing what might amount to their life story in digital form. From about the age of 13 on, I’ve had a fascination with hacking, and I can actually take the gloves off as a white-hat, working with teams to dissect viruses and help neutralize the source. There’s a fair amount of press (I’ll stop short of calling it fame) that can come with being a security expert. I’m not planning on leaving my job any time soon, mind you, I just like being renowned for something. It gives me an opportunity to learn an entirely separate field of computing than I’ve ever been exposed to. I’ve got about a 900-page book called Practical Malware Analysis that is pretty much all new content for me. That’s exciting for me. I also have the ability to do something that’s rare in the malware analysis scene right now, which is to quickly translate the research findings into something usable for sysadmins. I did this yesterday and it went over very well.

I’ve got my first credit in one of the best living documents on ransomware out there and it’s a great feeling. It’s a really fun community to interact with, these are all very smart people, likely very high up in various tech and security outfits. And there’s just something infinitely cool about poking and prodding viruses designed for extortion or espionage, taking them apart to see what makes them tick and how to protect the world from them, and then doing exactly that. It makes me feel really good knowing that my network is better-defended than most of the other networks on the planet, without being overly burdensome on my users.

I’m really excited for this, and I’ve already got a few lab environments set up. I’ve got the OK from by boss to build an isolated lab at work to use for research. I’ve got a nice little setup with point-to-point wireless leading to a Verizon USB modem, totally isolated from our production network.

Now, this is probably going to impact my writing schedule a bit. My laptop is perfectly capable of running the software used in analysis and reverse-engineering. It’s also more than suitable for reading a 900-page book. And quite honestly, it’s really got my interest right now. I don’t know what the end-game is, there really isn’t one in a field like this. It would be awfully cool if I was able to apply the knowledge I pick up to earn some bug bounties. There’s something really intriguing about that world, people get thousands and thousands of dollars for finding flaws and disclosing them responsibly. That’s badass. What a time to be alive.

The Department of Clever Ship Names

I finally got over the hump of one of my harder games, beating FTL Advanced Edition, and did so with only four points in weapons. It took 33 hours on Steam and probably another 10 from the “extended demo” prior. It took probably 40 attempts. Maybe I’m just not very good, and surely if I’d broke down and read a guide on the game and some weapon comparisons, I’d have had a better record up to this point than 1-40something.

Diana and I got some tennis in over the weekend, which did more to make it feel like a weekend than beating FTL did. I’ve got some soreness in my index finger, hopefully from too tight a grip rather than old bad habits involving running the index finger down one face of the handle.

The slowdown in writing isn’t really one, it’s just a question of who is seeing it. I’m about 2500 words into a guide on my new GTD implementation, and it’s been quite helpful to write it out, too. It gives you an opportunity to stop and ask yourself why you did something a particular way.

I really don’t have much this morning, pretty tired even with coffee. It’s just as well Mondays aren’t too demanding.

The Richard Simmons of Productivity

I ended up not being able to get a seat on the train with a table at all yesterday morning, hence no writing. Then on the way back, I had the table and was putting my own spin on a GTD system. ZenDone isn’t going to work out. They gave me a beta pass for their new site and app. It’s an improvement but it’s not going to work. I indicated that the next step was going to a paper-based system, but I lied. There’s one more option, which is Trello.

This will be my 4th attempt at building a GTD system, and each one has been more successful than the last. The big thing this iteration gives me is the ability to task my employees straight from my system, and we are in constant sync on where each of their tasks are. This was the biggest thing I was missing before.

The full article will be a separate blog post. I’m not 100% finished with the plan, I’m about 85% done, the rest is brainstorming if I’ve left out any tags or contexts. The post will go up after I’ve had a few weeks with the system and made any necessary changes. But I’m really excited for it.

Isn’t that a weird grown-up thing? Being really excited about a project management system? Maybe, maybe not. At the risk of badly paraphrasing David Allen, the work has changed. Fifty years ago, most work had a clearly defined beginning and end. Now a lot of what I do, it’s not obvious when I’ve actually started working on something, and it’s even less clear when I can wash my hands of it. Having a trusted system to track the work is, I think, mandatory to be the most efficient, and all the time put into architecting that system can absolutely pay itself back in less stress and easier use.

In hindsight, having a trusted system would’ve helped me years and years ago. (I’m calling my time in college years and years ago. What is happening?) So often I felt buried because there was so much going on, I felt like I’d just be able to mentally juggle all the stuff I needed to do. A full-on solution like GTD would’ve been ideal, but even just using a basic list or two would’ve helped a lot. That was adolescent pride. Those disorganized days happen to be some of my worst from a mental standpoint. Really bottomed out, full breakdown/shutdown stuff. I think that’s why I’m so eager to build and follow those solutions now. I’ve tried the alternative and it was really miserable.