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Let Me See You Stripped (Condo Demolition Rendition)

I don’t know wtf I was going for in the feature picture. I was going for handyman ninja, but not sure I pulled it off right.

I’m not a big Depeche Mode fan, and to be honest, I like Rammstein’s cover of that song better, but anyone who knows me well knows I like to pair song lyrics with events in life. In this instance I’ve been doing some demolition work on my condo so I can remodel it. For this I had to go HAM. Usually when I go HAM on my bathroom, it’s because I ate Mexican food or something of the like, but that is not the case this time. I lost a lot of the pictures, but I’ll use some of the ones I have to show what’s going on.

First, big shout out to my dad for teaching me how to do this stuff when I was younger. I hated it then… well I still hate doing this work now, but I’m thankful for the experience and knowledge that I now have that has enabled me to do this for myself. Plus I’m saving a bunch of dough!

The First Bathroom

In my place, I had a tub/shower combination that came with the surround and everything all made out of fiberglass. That was the hardest part to remove. Here is a picture of me removing the drain. I tried to do this with a pair of needle nose pliers at first and felt like I was breaking them so I went and got a drain removal tool from Home Depot for about $8 to get the job done. After that was removed I could remove the rest of the tub.
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Here is the plumbing for my bathtub. On the cold water valve to the right, the screw got stripped and broken off when I was trying to remove the knob so the knob was stuck. I tried to use a screw extractor to no avail, but this wasn’t a big deal in my case, because I knew I was replacing all of the plumbing anyways to work with a single handle tub faucet, so I took a drill bit and drilled into the screw until I could remove the knob and the screw is still stuck in there.
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Here is the tub spout which I couldn’t remove fully by twisting off, but like I said, the plumbing was being redone anyways so this wasn’t a big deal.
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Here’s what it looked like after the tub was completely removed.
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Here’s the new tub after it was installed. This is the only part I didn’t do myself because I’m not a great plumber at all. I got the American Standard Ovation acrylic tub which is a standard sized 60″ tub, but is a little wider and pretty deep to give you more room to soak. Getting this tub was a pain. I originally ordered a different model tub and it showed up at my place cracked 3 different times in the same spot, so I ended up getting this tub with a HUGE discount and free shipping and everything.IMG_20150509_155404
… and the new plumbing. I raised the shower head a few inches because it hits me right in the middle of the forehead and I actually have pinched nerves in my neck a few times from having to lower my head just to wash my hair.IMG_20150509_155431

The Kitchen

For the kitchen, there was a thin tile backsplash that destroyed the drywall underneath when I tried taking it off, so I ended up having to replace the drywall so I cut sections out of the walls where the backsplash was, exposing the frame, plumbing and electrical.
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On one side of the kitchen there were 2 layers of drywall, I imagine to reduce the noise coming from the unit adjacent to mine. When taking the first layer of drywall off, I accidentally damaged the second layer as you can see to the right of the right most electrical receptacle.
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On the side with the exposed wall I discovered something… if you don’t know what the brown specs are on this light switch, then good for you. It’s actually roach poop. None of it was present inside the wall or on the frame which was a good thing. I decided to replace all the electrical outlets and switches in the kitchen. The one below controlled the main kitchen lights. All of the recepticles in the kitchen are 15 amps on a 20 amp circuit, so I replaced them with 20 amp recepticles to give a blender, juicer, and garbage disposal some extra juice!
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More roach poop. I decided to completely replace this electric box with one of the newer blue plastic ones.
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Here is one of the GFCIs in the kitchen that never worked. There were 2 of them on the wall which was unecessary. I replaced this one and since the load end was wired to the other one, I used a regular recepticle to replace the other one since a GFCI offers protection for anything connected on its load side. I ended up having to borrow a friend’s electric meter to figure out why the 2 recepiticles on this wall never worked. It ended up being because the neutral wire was tied into a neutral wire on another circuit so the GFCIs were automagically tripping themselves because it was reading different currents on the live and neutral wires.
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I ended up replacing both of the light switches for the kitchen with dimmer switches. I’ll be removing the fluorescent tube lighting and going with recessed LED lighting. The one on the right controls the main kitchen area and the one on the left controls the breakfast nook area.
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Here’s the main lighting area. I’ll be getting rid of the inlay and making the ceiling flat and replacing the lights with recessed LED lighting.
IMG_20150423_184801Before I covered the walls I fumigated the whole area  and filled all gaps with this foam stuff in a can called Great Stuff. It comes out thin and stringy and expands very rapidly. Make sure you wear gloves when you use this stuff! It’s a pain to get off of your skin. Take my word for it. I ended up cutting it down after it had cured.
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I also filled gaps and holes inside the wall and the framing.
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There was a huge cutout in the cement for these drain pipes. I filled it with foam.
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To cover the walls back up, I used 3’x5′ 1/2″ thick Hardiebacker which to my surprise wasn’t even 1/2″ thick. More like 3/8″. I also had another dilemma. On one wall, the drywall was 5/8″ thick and on the other wall it was 1/2″ thick. So I had no choice but to shim the cement board on both walls. If you go to Home Depot, you can get paint stir sticks for FREE! They come in 2 sizes. The small ones are 1/8″ thick and the larger ones are 1/4″ thick. I needed both. I ended up going to 6 different Home Depots to get all the ones I needed. On the last one, instead of being sneaky about it, I just sucked up my pride and asked them if I could take a bunch because I was using them for shims for a project and they let me grab as many as I needed. Also, in the picture below, you’ll see my Timerland boots which I’ve had since I was 16… I’m 30 now. You do the math. Also, I didn’t use Elmers glue to glue on the shims, I used Liquid Nails which comes in a caulking tube and can hold denchers in your mouth… FOR LIFE!
IMG_20150422_222350The open wall was the side with 1/2″ thick drywall so I had to use the smaller 1/8″ thick paint sticks to make up for the gap to make the cement board flush with the drywall.IMG_20150422_222410 IMG_20150422_222422
Here is the first piece of cement board up on the open wall.
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… and with all of the boards up.
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and the very important part which is taping and mudding all of the seams! This is very important, because if you don’t do it and you lay your tile on top of it, it will cause the tile to crack. When you tape and mud the seams, it joins the board together and makes them move as one piece. Otherwise your foundation will be like the Earth’s tectonic plates where they grind past and drift closer and away from eachother which causes a lot of stress on the tiles once they’re set. Also be sure to use fiberglass corrosion resistant tape and not the regular stuff that you use for drywall, and mud the seams with mortar or acrylic tile adhesive. I usually use mortar for the floor and the acrylic tile adhesive for walls.
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Here’s the other wall with all of the cement board up.
IMG_20150422_232854  and with the seams taped and mudded.IMG_20150505_213502

Stayed tuned for more! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

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I’m Officially an “Aspie”

I guess I’m writing this as a “coming out” in hopes that friends and family will understand me a little better in addition to me understanding myself a little better as well. So, I’ve been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in addition to having ADD, and dyslexia, and being left-handed (there are studies on left-handedness and AS and whether there’s a correlation. They say it’s more likely for a person with AS to be left-handed, but this has not been proven). For those who don’t know, having Aspergers puts me on the autism spectrum. For you adults, you can take the AAA (Adult Asperger Assessment) diagnostic test to find out your likelihood of having it although I suggest seeing a psychologist or psychotherapist. I actually think it’s dope. It puts a lot of things that have occurred in my life into perspective in a way which makes a lot of sense now, especially in terms of my interests and career choice (IT).

For starters, I’m more of the pattern recognizer type: high mathematical and spatial intelligence. During my school years, I can remember 3 distinct times being recognized for my math abilities. The first was in second grade. I always finished tests way before other kids and my teacher Ms. York at Redan Elementary recommended that I be put in the gifted program starting with 3rd grade. The next time would be in 7th grade. My teacher Mrs. Smith at Salem Middle recommended I skip ahead to advanced math classes. At that time, I was the kid who would say the answer to a double 3 digit multiplication problem before everyone finished punching in the keys on their calculator or solved it on paper. The 3rd time would be in college when I was learning how to convert IP addresses between binary, decimal, and hexadecimal. I would do the conversions in my head while others had to draw it out on paper. I fought with my professor on this one and won.

Dyslexia

I’ve known that I was dyslexic for a long time now, but it’s officially confirmed. 7th grade was also the same time that I started to realize that I was dyslexic. At the time, I didn’t know there was a name for it or that it was even an issue. I could move numbers around in my head and make plenty of sense of them and was still the kid who finished math tests ahead of everyone. At the same time, I was the last one to finish reading a chapter in a book during an in class reading assignment. It took much longer to read than other kids. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no interest in the fiction books I was reading either. I developed my own ways to cope with this as the years went on so I never told anyone. ‘Til this day, when I write on paper, it’s in all caps because it’s easier for me to read. The same way I could move numbers around in my head, letters and words would moved around when reading. Unfortunately, language loses its meaning when manipulated in such a manner. After going back and reviewing all of my standardized test results from school, I saw my math results were consistently off the charts while my reading and linguistics were not nearly as good.

When it comes to reading, it takes a lot of effort and time, so naturally, I only read about what I’m deeply interested in and never had time for fiction books. I considered them a waste of time. Not to say that they are. I’ve come to appreciate fiction books as works of art, but still do not read them. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even read them for school. I would only read the cliff notes online and somehow got by. At that time, space and airplanes were really exciting to me (and still are), so that’s all I would read about until we got our first computer in the house when I was about 11-12.

Prosopagnosia…

comes along with Aspergers sometimes. My case isn’t too severe, but in short, I need familiar context to recognize yo’ face son. The more I see you in different environments, the better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with friends in a crowded place and could not recognize them even when they were walking directly towards me, even waving sometimes. It wasn’t until they were in my face saying “Hey! What’s up? Are you blind?” that I would recognize them. It doesn’t stop me from looking for you though. As much as I care about you, I regret to inform you that you’re just another face in the crowd. Much love though.

Empathy and Emotions…

confuse the fuck out of me. I feel them, but am horrible at expressing them. They aren’t as vital to my well-being. I like to say that I’m a cactus and emotions/affection are water. I only need a few drops to get me through the year. I have to remind myself that most other people are not like this and need a greener thumb. This obviously makes relationships a bit difficult but are definitely doable with much understanding from the other side. I’ve gotten better, but I used to have to be heavily cued if an emotional response is desired. When someone is being emotional or needs emotional support, I have to pick up on other cues and process them through logic instead of intuition. It has to go through a rigorous algorithm in my head. Here’s probably the best example I can give you. In one relationship, my ex came home frightened, distraught, and crying nonstop. She was walking on the street next to someone, and right before she was about to cross the street, she stopped for a brief second because she thought she heard someone call her name. The next thing she knew, the person she was walking next to got hit by a car and she saw his head get busted open on the street and he died on the spot. She did not know this person. I had no idea how to respond. I only realized something was wrong because she was crying, but did a horrible job at consoling and comforting her. She had to ask me to hold her, and even when I did, the only thing that I could think was “why the hell are you crying? It wasn’t you. You should be happy you’re still alive.” Of course I didn’t say that, but that’s how I think. Things have to be processed and calculated. I even have a couple of friends that call me a robot. This post is probably no surprise to them. I take no offense. I just respond with popular quotes from movie robots or say “does not compute” in a robotic voice. I’m not completely void of emotions and empathy. They are just weird things to me that throw off logic which is the only thing that makes sense. If you’re a Star Trek fan, I’m like a combination of Spock and Data (before the emotion chip upgrade). I can be programmed though for those willing to take the time.

More on emotions, my father was in the military so we moved around a bit. As a result, I grew up with an acute sense of the impermanence of not only everything around me, but myself as well, and I think as a result of that I never really developed emotional ties to people or the places I have lived. I have the capability to up and leave without telling anyone and not give a shit. However, if you have earned my loyalty and/or friendship, then I can tell you I’ll be fiercely loyal to you and help you wherever I can no matter where I am. I’ll even be a shoulder to cry on although I won’t fully understand your emotional turmoil. I’m not a psychopath, I just have some behavioral similarities with them o_O

Patterns, Shapes, Colors, Math, and Numbers

These are a few of my favorite things. They are how I view the world. Even from a young age, I remember making myself and my dad paper wallets. I would make these things non stop. It was my favorite thing to make for a long time. I would take a ruler and draw lines on both sides of a piece of paper so that they would form all kinds of cool geometric shapes and I would fill in those shapes with different colors in a specific pattern. I would then fold and glue the paper in a way that made a 2 pocket wallet that you could fold in half and put in your pocket. I would make a ton of these and give them away to people at school as gifts. A couple of years ago, I visited my mom who I hadn’t seen in several years. She pulled out a photo album and showed me some of my childhood doodlings. Most of them were colors and shapes. She pulled one out. She said she saved it because it freaked her out and she thought I was on something lol. This was a few years before my wallets, but I had taken a ruler, drew lines and made shapes, filled them in with colors and put numbers in a weird pattern in one of the corners of each shape. It took me a little while, but I realized I made my own calendar that made the most sense to me because existing calendars were garbage apparently. I also would take a piece of paper, use a ruler to draw tiny boxes, and just fill them with numbers in some kind of pattern or in other cases make number puzzles in a similar fashion. She had a few of those too. I remember all of my ID numbers and too many IP addresses. I used to memorize my credit and debit card numbers, but stopped doing it although after using them enough times, I eventually end up remembering them anyways along with their expiration dates and security codes. Even during my experimental drug phase (get over it. Obama did coke and smoked weed in his day), I experienced tons of shapes and colors. For example, if I did ecstasy and and smoked weed during the come down, I would get intense closed eye visuals of all kinds of intricate morphing geometric shapes and colors which after asking other people, I found that combination doesn’t do the same thing for them. Those things are how I make sense of the world which puts me at incredible ease.

As an aside, I remember having a fascination with flags (colors and shapes). In 2nd grade. We had a new kid who had just moved in town from Bangladesh. I drew the Bangladesh flag for him as a gift which I remember distinctly (without Google) is all green with a red circle in the middle. I remember his name and everything. I have no idea why this stands out. For some reason after that, I started drawing a shit ton of flags and hanging them up side by side in my room all over the walls. I even remember my dad looking at my wall and being disgusted. Try your best to imagine the look on someone’s face who is African American, and had served in the US military whose son had the nazi flag on his bedroom wall (the red one with the white circle complete with a black swastika in the middle). Hey, I didn’t know better. I think that was the end of my flag era. It no longer made sense to hang up flags which had meanings and ideologies that I did not understand.

Socially Speaking

I FOR SURE prefer solitude. Oddly enough, I feel most at ease, traveling abroad solo. I’m very introverted and prefer the company of a close few, but can do ok in a large setting, especially if I’m with people I know well. When it comes to people, for the most part I’m more interested in their behaviors rather than actually getting to know them. Every roommate I’ve had, I never really got to know them. I can become fixated on people I find interesting in the same way that I find space or computers interesting, but have learned to back off when I think it creeps them out :-/ I’m extremely happy to have deep meaningful conversations, but when getting to know new people, I usually let them initiate deeper conversations because I don’t like making people feel as uncomfortable as I do in social settings. I don’t give a shit about your weather or LA traffic talk although I understand the importance of small talk in the social sphere. Sometimes, I’ll play along. If I enjoy your presence in general, I’ll oblige. Otherwise, most of the time you’ll get my infamous blank stare while I think about something more interesting. Even reading “The Power of Now” and meditating could not change this.

I remember wanting to do the home schooling program in my junior year of high school. I didn’t make a convincing case to my parents at all. I just wanted to do it and thought I should be allowed to explore it. That’s what my logic told me. Persuasion has never been my strong suit. I really wanted to focus on computers at that point and even had a couple of business ideas. School wasn’t interesting and never really made sense to me. I was highly capable of learning on my own without guidance. My parents wouldn’t let me though. My step-mom stressed the importance of social skills :-/ Thanks. Those social skills I learned in high school really came in handy :-/ Not that I blame them. They didn’t really know about me or how I roll.

Career

I guess this was the big telltale sign. I’ve been fixated on computer technology since we got our first computer in the house when I was young. I’ll learn a new programming language just for fun. A new language is just another way to create and manipulate a new world. Inside computer networks is an alternate reality that I’ve made a lot of sense of, and I can manipulate it and make it do what I want. I can give it order. It’s always at my command. I’ve even replaced people with it. Sadly, this is an ongoing joke with an old coworker and is one way we’ll threaten each other (I’ll write a script to replace you). When I was younger and I realized this, it became my escape from reality when life sucked. I became a god in my own right in this place. I could create order within a world of chaos that I couldn’t understand. If you do an analysis of personalty types in Silicon Valley who work in IT, you’ll see a large percentage of them also have AS. Why? I don’t know, but I bet they’ll give you similar reasons if they think about it hard enough. We strive for knowledge and order. It’s easier for us to accomplish that in this artificial world we call the internet that is void of corrupt politicians, and a ruling body that does not have the the betterment of humanity at its best interest. So we take our newly created worlds and use them to interface with and make an effort to bring order to the world we actually live in because that’s the best way we know how, and that’s why Silicon Valley is so “disruptive” yet so elusive to those who aren’t part of the culture. Although I’m jaded at the notion that they are all changing the world as they proclaim, I don’t doubt in my mind that they actually feel that way.

In closing…

I guess another reason I wrote this is to show and tell that we all have aspects of ourselves that we have to manage. To most people I seem normal on the outside, but rest assured, I struggle and suffer just like you do albeit in different ways. Yes I’m weird socially, but before out-casting people like me and other types, recognize and understand that some people are wired differently. Who knows, you might gain the most loyal friend you’ll ever have. Suspend your judgement until you’ve come to understand someone. Sometimes, just acceptance and a non judgmental attitude is all you need to help someone who thinks differently. I’ve been rejected many times in social situations. I’ve learned to stop letting it keep me from making the effort to make connections with people outside of my world and I urge you all to do the same.

I’ll say that there is nothing more powerful than fully getting to know yourself and recognizing your own behavioral patterns. To me, life is a never ending journey of self-discovery. We all live a life of duality and I encourage you all to learn what both your blessings and curses are. They both are what make you whole.

Know thyself. Peace.

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13 Life Lessons From an Almost 30 Year-old

I had a long phone conversation with my uncle a couple of months ago who is in his 50s and I asked him if he had any advice for someone who was about to turn 30 (me). He told me something that made a lot of sense to me that is actually occurring in my life. He said that after each decade of your life, you try to correct the things you didn’t do or should have done in your previous decade.

With that being said, I present to you the lessons I’ve learned and things I wish I would have done in my 20s.

Define what success means to you

Otherwise, you will end up chasing something that means nothing to you. When defining success, I ask myself “how do I want to live?” and “how do I see myself in the future?” and the answers change from time to time which is ok. Just make sure you reevaluate your goals and adjust as necessary when your answers to those questions change. Otherwise you end up on a divergent path, that you didn’t mean to go down.

Name your price for that success

What are you willing to give up to reach your goals? This is the part that is often overlooked when creating goals. Life is a huge balancing act. For each success that you strive for, something will have to be neglected. Example, in my teens, I was advised to do all of my hard work while I was young so I wouldn’t have to work hard when I was older. I took it a little too seriously. I was both working and going to school full-time and was making decent money while I was in college. By the time I was 22, I had a house in Texas. To this day, I have only seen pictures of the inside of this house and driven by the outside a couple of times. Then, when I turned 23, I got a condo. It took a lot of work to pull that off while I was in school, but at the same time, I gave up my social life for the most part. I had a serious girlfriend at that time of about 4 years and even that relationship suffered because of how hard I was working.

Meet people

This period of my life mentioned above also should have been the time to build relationships and network with my peers and individuals I admired which I also didn’t do… partly because I am introverted which is a whole ‘nother deal. So while I had some successes in terms of career and owning stuff, there were some things I had to give up to make that happen at an early age, and now I’m making up for the things I didn’t do in my early to mid 20s. When networking, don’t just stick to the people that are similar to you either. Increase your social diversity and learn about and exchange ideas with people who are very different from you. Why do you need to network…?

You can’t make all of your humongous dreams and goals come true by yourself

My dad was in the air force. For those of you that don’t know what it’s like growing up with a military parent, that means I was raised to be very independent… fiercely so I might add. I was washing my own clothes and cooking at 7. And although it wasn’t a written rule, the word “can’t” was not allowed to leave my mouth, nor either of its synonyms. So I grew up with an “I can do it all by myself” attitude. No amount of group work at school could convince me otherwise. I’m still fiercely independent and possess that attitude, but at this point in my life, I’m building something much larger than me and to do that, I’m realizing it takes much more than me to make it happen. Until the day when we are allowed to clone ourselves, I’m going to have to rely on you all and vice versa so we can help each other build our dreams and reach our goals.

Find mentors

Another thing I wish I had done. My independent nature led me to believe I didn’t need any. In order to go where you want to go in this life, you need people who have been there already. Ideally, a mentor should be someone you respect and admire who has excelled in an aspect of your life where you are lacking. I wouldn’t dare take advice from anyone who hasn’t been where I’d like to go. Mentors are like extra parents for other areas of your life. They are good guides. Having a mentor doesn’t mean you have to take all of their advice, but they’re there to help you along your way.

Don’t work for people or organizations that you don’t respect

Not only is the work you do for these people unfulfilling, but it ends up being a waste of your time on this earth because it didn’t mean a damned thing to you. Sometimes you will respect the new people you start working for and over time, it fades for whatever reasons. It’s important that you recognize when it does. There was a point in time where work was just work so people could take care of their families which provided meaning. For whatever reason that is not this generation’s case any longer. Our sense of work has evolved to something that requires meaning and purpose. Why? I don’t know. Hasn’t our work as always had meaning? I think it has something to do with that fact that we don’t have to worry as much about meeting our most basic needs anymore. We no longer have to hunt. Hunting was work and it had meaning. It was your means of survival and there were rituals that took place before and after hunting. Now that our food for the most part is massed produced for us, we now strive for other ways to provide meaning to our lives. That’s just my take, but it’s in our nature to have meaning for our existence and what we do. Otherwise we get stuck with the dreaded question “why am I here?” It’s no longer necessary to go down that rabbit hole when you do meaningful things in your life. It gives your life a purpose.

Always poop BEFORE you shower instead of right after

Otherwise, you just negate your shower. There have been a few times where I actually ended up taking showers back-to-back. So try to drop that deuce before, even if it feels like you don’t have to.

Travel

I don’t think there’s any bigger eye opener other than a(n) epiphany/near-death/out of body/transcendental experience. Learning how other people get down in life is good for you. It makes you a more tolerant, understanding, and loving person when you can appreciate and embrace how other people live instead of simply separating yourself from them because they are different. The more you get to know people, the more you see yourself in them. I know it sounds like cheesy, hippie “we are all one” bs, but it’s true. I had a lot of friends who graduated during the the financial crisis in 2008 and had a hard time finding jobs so they just went and traveled for a year. To be honest, I was envious. I was hoping to get laid off so I could do the same. This is also one of those things I’m making up for because I didn’t do it in my early 20s.

Be careful who you associate yourself with

I wish we lived in a world where reputation didn’t matter and we could see each other for who we really are upon first glance, but it takes time for us to get to know one another in order to establish trust which is a huge life lesson in itself. This is also why you need to network. So when you have “bad” associations, your reputation is already ruined and when you meet someone new who knows of this association, you already have a hole that you need to climb out of to make a decent impression.

Learn to laugh at your misfortunes

Definitely allow yourself to grieve when “bad” things happen, but do your best not to let it turn into a downward spiral. One thing that helps me to do this is when I look at all the events in my life (both good and bad) as learning lessons. When something “bad” happens, I say to the universe “haha, you got me.” Recently my laptop got stolen while visiting friends in the bay area. I could have looked up at the sky, cursed in a rage, and had a bad attitude about it, (It was in Oakland so whoever did it decided to live up to their NFL team name… Raiders) but instead I looked at it as the universe giving me a clean slate. I was in the process of rebranding my company. I had a lot of old stuff in the way, pictures of old girlfriends and other crap. I was going to replace that laptop anyways because it was pretty old. Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook wall right after it happened: “laptop got stolen from my rental car in Oakland, but it’s all good. They can’t stop my hustle nor steal my joy and love for life. ‪#‎cantstopwontstop ‬‪#‎takethattakethat‬ ‪#‎diddystyle‬ ‪#‎hashtagabuse‬” I hope that whoever stole it gets what they need in life so they no longer feel the need to commit these kinds of acts. I took this clean slate as a gift and moved on. There are much bigger things in life to worry about.

Stay fit and eat healthy

Another thing I didn’t do much of in my 20s that I’m doing now. I never worked out at all. I have good genes fortunately and stay in shape naturally. I didn’t develop the ethic of working out and that’s the hardest part now. In my early 20s, I didn’t eat well either. I was too busy hustlin’. Once I’m in the zone and ultra focused, sleep nor hunger can stop me from finishing what I’m working on. I’m still like that today except I force myself to take a break and eat which I still fail at sometimes. Whatever woman I end up with is going to need to make sure she has sandwiches ready. Horrible sexist joke, I know. Don’t get offended. Seriously, though, I only eat when I’m hungry and I work on computers A LOT so I’m sitting down and don’t burn a lot of energy so I don’t eat a lot. Working out has definitely increased my appetite and I make sure that when I do eat, it’s usually something healthy.

Connect with family

Growing up, I never lived close to my family. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20 that I actually lived close to them. And even then, I was too busy working to connect with them.That, coupled with an independent nature meant I barely saw them after I moved out of my aunt’s place within a few months of living there. Connecting with family is important because no matter how crazy your family dynamic is, they are usually the ones who have your back when things go wrong in your life. It makes it easier to do so when they actually KNOW you. Aside from family, they say the best way to tell who your real friends are is to look around and see who’s still there after you’ve fucked up really bad. The people you call your family are usually your main source of support even if they don’t understand you. So try to make yourself understood by them as much as possible by making the effort to connect with them.

Don’t become obsolete

Stay on top of your game. Whatever it is you love and love to do, keep doing it and keep learning about it and ways to improve your skills. I work with computer technology. Technology changes every morning when I put on my draws. The longer I sit at a company that’s not doing anything to stay up to date, the worse off I am. Even when that does happen, I have to make an effort to stay up to date with the latest trends and try out the latest technologies just so I don’t become obsolete myself because it can happen very quickly in my field.

That’s all I got for now. I hope this advice was of some help to someone out there who needed it, and if you are already in your 30s and have some wisdom to share, please do! I wish you well in your journeys. Peace!

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Traveling for FREE with Credit Card Offers!

I didn’t realize it at first but I discovered that I LOVE traveling. I blame it on my childhood. We moved around a lot. I went to three high schools for example. Naturally, I’m just curious though. I enjoy discovering things that are unknown (to me). Reading books on historic places is cool, but what’s amazing is getting to actually see these places and hearing stories from the locals who live near them.

International travel isn’t cheap, but thanks to a few banks it can be. One method to gain free travel besides being a commercial pilot’s child is to signup for credit cards for their bonus miles offers.

Warning: If you’re planning on a large purchase such as a house in the next year, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. Also you should have a decently high credit score (700+).

I signed up for two from Chase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer cards.

The MileagePlus Explorer card came with 50,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $2,000 in the first three months and 5,000 extra miles for adding someone else on your account and making a single purchase. The miles accumulated with this card can only be used for United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program. You get 1 mile for every dollar spent and 2 miles for every dollar spent on United flights purchased. There is no foreign transaction fee which is amazing and there is a $95 annual fee. You also get priority boarding, 2 United Club passes each year (I haven’t used them yet) and your first checked bag is free. When it’s all said and done, I’ll be closing this account before the first year is up.

My favored card of the two is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You get 2 points for every dollar spent on dining and travel (plane, train, bus tickets, Airbnb, uber, taxi’s, etc). If you book your plane tickets and hotels at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Store, then you get an extra point on top of that. No foreign transaction fees, you get a person as soon as you call the number on the back of the card. The bonus for this card is 40,000 miles after $3,000 spend within 3 months and an extra 5,000 if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase. There is a $95 annual fee, but I don’t mind. You can take the points and transfer them to many different airline mileage programs including United, Korean Air, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and others. You could use your points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Store, but you get much more value by transferring them. Each point is pretty much valued at $0.01 in the store. So here’s an example:

My favorite destinations right now are in Europe. For $1,076, I can fly round-trip from Los Angeles to London on United Airlines. If I use my points in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Store, I will need 107,600 points, but If I transfer 60,000 points to United’s MileagePlus program, then I can take that same trip saving 47,600 points.

If you are interested in the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can apply here (Disclaimer: I get 5,000 points if you are approved so let me know if you use this link. I’d be grateful).

Both of these cards are Visa Signature cards, so they come with a suite of purchase protections and insurance when you use them including auto rental collision, trip cancellation, travel accident, lost luggage, and more.

Later this month, I will be applying for Chase’s Ink Cash card for business and using it to remodel my condo. This card only has a 20,000 bonus right now and isn’t included in the Ultimate Rewards, but since I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I can transfer these points into Ultimate Rewards points :) I originally planned to apply for the Ink Plus, but this is a purchase that I won’t be paying for in full and the Ink Cash comes with 12 months of 0% interest so I can rent out my condo and take my time paying it down after it is remodeled. I’ll get the Ink Plus later for another bonus :) After I’m done with Chase, I’ll probably move on to Citi or Barclays. Stay tuned on that one.

How does this affect your credit?

You’ll see a slight dip in your credit score initially, and it should rebound within a couple of months. You get dinged for the credit pulls. It rebounds because it increases the amount of credit available to you and the more accounts you have the better your credit profile looks (it’ll seem like you can handle more credit without any issues). Your average age of account will cause your score to go down a couple of points, but this is a very minor factor on your score overall. Since June when I applied for both cards, I lost 12 points and gained 8 back as of today.

You really shouldn’t do this if you don’t plan on paying off the balance immediately. You’ll end up negating the value of the points you earn simply by paying interest on a balance. Some might consider this as gaming the banks, but if you live in America, then you should know the banks have gamed the general public for a very long time – so call it payback. I did however, open a checking account with Chase so it doesn’t make it look so bad (there was a $300 bonus for setting one up… why not).

If you need help monitoring your credit, you can do so at Credit Karma for FREE.

I have to give credit to Million Mile SecretsTravel Sort, The Points Guy, and Nerd Wallet for cluing me in on this tactic in much more detail.

If you have any tips for free travel outside of getting a sugar daddy/mama, then by all means feel free to drop me a line and share.

Why Blacks Aren’t Prevalent in Tech

wholenewworldI’ve been asked to chime in on this topic many times. Why aren’t there more blacks in tech? The answer is clear. To me, it’s the equivalent of “Why aren’t there more whites in the NBA?” Maybe not exactly the same, but let me explain.

First I think we should define tech. Tech today seems to be synonymous with silicon valley, startup culture, and entrepreneurship. When I say tech here, I mean any computer science field – software, systems, network, etc.

I’ll start with my background and my introduction to computers outside of school. I grew up in a middle class family. If you walked into our family room, you would see Jet and Ebony magazines on the coffee table (remember this fact). At the same time, we also had an office with a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, and a couple of other scientific based encyclopedias that had topics ranging from physics to biology and aerospace engineering. I spent many Saturdays watching cartoons and music videos on BET, and to be honest, I think my father was disappointed that I wasn’t too into sports. Our first computer in the house was a Macintosh Quadra 610. My father got an investment from my grandfather to start a graphic design company and Macs were the way to go. It was about 1996/97. I was 11 years old then. It was all about America Online dialup and those ugly 56k modem noises when you wanted access to the internet and I loved every bit of it. I made a lot of friends in the America Online chat rooms. I still talk to a couple of them to this day. This would also expand my taste in music beyond what I listened to on BET and the radio. The first songs I ever downloaded were a bunch of drum ‘n’ bass remixes of Björk songs. Luckily, my father grew tired of me spending so much time on the computer that they needed for work, so in 1998 he bought me my own computer, It was an e-machines with an Intel 800Mhz Pentium || processor and Windows ’98. The first day I got it, Napster and I had a good time together, and I started making my first websites on Angelfire for myself and my online friends when I was 12/13. I understood the magnitude of the internet when I was chatting with people from around the world and I instinctively wanted to know more about how it was all possible. For me it was a natural progression. I wanted to learn how to build dynamic webpages and work with databases so I learned to code. When that wasn’t enough, I wanted to learn about the systems my code was running on so I learned to dual boot my computer with linux. Then I wanted to learn about how all of these systems were connected together so I learned about network engineering which was what I went to college for. With the exception of network engineering, I’m all self-taught. My dad had no clue about the things I was doing on that computer. He considered it a toy until I was much older and he saw and understood what I was doing.

Fast forward to about 3 years ago. I lived in Los Angeles. A good friend and I took a trip to San Francisco. She was going to see her brother run at a college track meet and I was going to meet my friends for the Bay to Breakers footrace. Her parent’s house was being renovated so they were house sitting for a couple they knew. My friend showed me around the house briefly when we arrived, but I was tired from driving so I didn’t pay too much attention to the details in the house. I wake up in the morning and have some time to check out the house before I leave and… WOW! In the family room, there were multiple scientific and intellectual magazines on the coffee table. Browsing the bookshelf, I remember spotting a series of books and essays written by Napoleon Bonaparte in the 1700’s-early 1800’s – first run editions I might add. I was afraid to open one because it looked like it was about to fall apart. There was a music studio in the basement. I walked into the foyer and looked at the artwork on the walls only to discover a few original Picasso drawings and in this moment it felt like Aladdin had taken me on his magic carpet and started singing “A Whole New World” to me minus the lovey dovey crap. The wealth of sheer knowledge and art and anything else you would need for inspiration and to pique your curiosity was there in that house.

Upon leaving the house, on my drive through the hills on the way to San Francisco, I compared this to my own upbringing and the upbringing of others I knew that grew up in impoverished neighborhoods and came to a simple answer. It’s all about access and exposure. A majority of the black population, like other minorities, live in impoverished neighborhoods with schools that don’t have much resources. It’s up to the parents in these communities to expose their children to as much as possible. However, in these communities, black kids are shown that the best way to make it out of their environment is through sports or music. The hunger that is created in these children to get out causes them to pursue sports and music careers with great passion, which white people cannot match – going back to my question earlier, “Why aren’t there more whites in the NBA?” Music and sports are what’s cool in these communities. A career in IT doesn’t even come close in cool factor mainly because there aren’t as many examples. IT won’t appeal to these communities until they see other black people doing big things in IT. Perhaps a better question is, “Why aren’t there more rednecks and other impoverished minorities in tech?” This isn’t a racial matter. It is instead a socioeconomic matter.

Some people believe there is institutionalized racism within the tech community that keeps blacks from excelling and I’ll be the first to call bullshit on this notion. Engineers don’t play games. You either know your shit or you don’t and you will be tested to see if you know what you say you do. If you know your stuff and you know the right people and make the right moves then you can go wherever you want in this field – no matter your race. It’s a highly specialized field, and to touch on another point, it’s not for everyone and learning to code is not as fundamental as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

For me the solution is two-fold:

To the parents of children in these communities, I urge you to expose your child(ren) not just to computers, but to many fields and take advantage of the free libraries and museums that are around. You and your child(ren) may not even know they are apt in a certain field until they are exposed to it. Once they find a topic of interest that they gravitate towards, do your best to nurture that interest. I had no idea I’d enjoy telling computers what to do until we got our first one in the house that I had full control over, and I had been exposed to computers in other environments already. I can’t say I don’t know what I would be doing now if my father had not bought me my own computer (I would be doing something in music, aerospace, astrophysics). As a matter of fact, many black musicians and athletes also know what they would be doing if they had not made it in their career. They’ll tell you that they would be selling drugs, in jail, or dead. A rule that is important in my life is “don’t knock it ’til you try it.” You never know what you will like. Teach your child(ren) to expose themselves to as many things as possible while reserving judgement until after trying something new. This is something that should stay with them as they grow older as well. The more you expose yourself to, the more opportunities become available. Spend time with different people doing different things. You won’t just learn about others, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in these experiences.

To the people with time and/or money who are so concerned with why there aren’t many blacks in the tech scene, put your time/money where your mouth is and invest in black communities and setup tech centers where these children can at least be exposed to a little bit of what goes on in the field (shout out to Ben Horowitz). I’ll come teach some of what I know. Or at the very least, invest money in the schools to provide computers for learning what we do in tech. It doesn’t take long to learn something new, but it takes a while to learn how to do it well. The younger they are introduced to different things, the better.

My role in the solution is to show that blacks can excel in the tech scene as well. If I want to see more blacks in the field then I have to show that learning about computers can be as cool as dunking a basketball or spitting some hot bars on a mic. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it. I do have some pretty cool stories from my career though.

AND BLOCK WORLD STAR HIP HOP! This site is atrocious and does absolutely nothing to help the black community advance. As a matter of fact it reverses advancement. Coon shit like this pisses me off, but at the same time, WSHH gives people insight as to what exactly black children in impoverished neighborhoods are exposed to when there aren’t enough resources in the community and at home to fill in the gaps.

*Mic drop*

P.S. At about 37 seconds into the video, a lot of white people in the crowd say the word “nigga.” I’m not mad at all and neither is Kendrick Lamar. It looks like I have a topic for a future post, but hopefully you get my point in posting the video/song. The world is changing and I believe it’s for the better. Just because black people aren’t prevalent somewhere does not automagically constitute that there is institutionalized racism.

One might argue that the reason these neighborhoods are impoverished in the first place is because of institutionalized racism, but there comes a point where we have to stop blaming racism and expecting handouts from the government to fix everything and do what we can ourselves to uplift these communities and empower them to uplift themselves.

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Dependency Injection using PHP’s Reflection API

So, I had a HUGE problem with my website phanteye.com. Just to give you a little background, it runs on Zend Framework 2 with PHP 5.5. We only use ZF2 for its MVC and I18n components. We don’t use its database functionality. Instead we built our own composer library that contains all of the interfaces to our databases and specialized classes/methods that use them.

We were originally using the MySQL extension. The cause of the problem was because of poor coding that relied on the behavior of the MySQL extension that returns the same MySQL connection link when mysql_connect() is called multiple times with the same parameters. This sounds great until you migrate to the MySQLi extension which does not exhibit this same behavior. MySQLi will create a new connection to your db each time you try to establish a connection. So, when we migrated over to MySQLi, we started getting MySQL errors stating there were too many connections on certain pages… womp womp. Based on this, you can tell another part of the problem was our library was written in a way that causes several of our classes to make a new database connection call whenever it was instantiated… another womp womp.

We have a class called IObject that is extended by other classes and is used for general MySQL functionality (fetching rows from tables, getting column names, etc). It is essentially a model class. It used to look something like this:

Class IObject
(
	public function __construct($objectID = null)
	{
		$this->Db = new Db;
		...
	}
...

Our classes looked like this:

Class User extends IObject
(
	public function __construct($userID = null)
	{
		parent::__construct($userID);
		...
	}
...

We would instantiate our classes like so:

$User = new User(1234);

There were a few ways we could solve this problem:

  1. Let ZF2 create an instance of the db connection and use the ZF2 service locator in our classes
  2. Use an old class we had called Spawn to inject a single Db instance wherever it was needed. Spawn was used to instantiate all other classes using a method called init().
  3. Create our own service locator

No matter which solution we went with, it would require major code rewriting, but we did have one requirement for whatever solution we implemented:

Our library must retain its independence from ZF2. So immediately #1 was out. Option #3 was more than what we needed at the moment. #2 would quickly solve the problem and at the same time give us the ability to implement #3 easily in the future.

So we re-tooled Spawn::init() like so using PHP’s reflection API:

class Spawn
{
	/**
	 * @var Db connection
	 */	
	public $Db;
 
	/**
	 * construct all other class objects needed for this class
	 */	
	public function __construct()
	{
		$this->Db = new Db();
	}
 
	public function init($class)
	{	
		//get info on the __construct method of the class being called
		$m = new \ReflectionMethod($class, '__construct');
		$mParamCount = $m->getNumberOfParameters();
 
		//get the properties of the class being called
		$c = new \ReflectionClass($class);
		$props = $c->getProperties();
 
		//get the $deps property so we can fetch the other dependencies for the class being called
		if($props[0]->name == "deps"):
			$prop = $c->getProperty('deps');
			$deps = $prop->getValue();
		endif;
 
 
		//find the position of the $Spawn parameter in the __construct method so we can inject this instance into it
		foreach($m->getParameters() as $key => $p):
			if($p->name == "Spawn"):
				$spawnPos = $key;
			endif;
		endforeach;
 
		//inject Spawn instance into the correct parameter position
		$i = 0;
		while($mParamCount - 1 >= $i):
			if(isset($spawnPos) && $spawnPos == $i):
				$arg[$spawnPos] = $this;
			else:
				if(@func_get_arg($i + 1)):
					$arg[$i] = func_get_arg($i + 1);
				endif;
			endif;
			$i++;
		endwhile;
 
		$Class = new $class($arg[0], $arg[1], $arg[2], $arg[3]);
 
		if(count($deps)):
			foreach($deps as $name => $dep):
				if($name == "Db"):
					$Class->$name = $this->Db;
				elseif($name == "Spawn"):
					$Class->$name = $this;
				else:
					$Class->$name = $this->init($dep);
				endif;
			endforeach;
		endif;
 
		return $Class;
	}
}

To use this, we have to implement an instance of Spawn inside IObject’s __construct method so it now looks like this:

Class IObject
(
	public function __construct($Spawn = null, $objectID = null)
	{
		if(!($Spawn instanceof Spawn)):
			$this->Spawn = new Spawn();
		else:
			$this->Spawn = $Spawn;
		endif;
 
		$this->setDb($this->Spawn->Db);
	}

For more flexibility, it was built like this to allow classes to be called on their own without instantiating them using Spawn.

Our classes now start off like this:

Class User extends IObject
(
	public function __construct($userID = null, $Spawn = null)
	{
		parent::__construct($Spawn, $this->userID);
	}
...

Now we call our classes like so inside of our ZF2 controllers:

$User = $this->Spawn->init("\PhantEye\User", 1234);

So when this is called, Spawn::init() uses the reflection API to look for a Spawn parameter inside of the __construct method of the class being called. If it finds it, then the Spawn class injects itself into that parameter’s position inside of that class’s __construct() method and the class then passes it into IObject’s __construct() method.

So yes, we’re using constructor injection, but we also have setter injection using a method called setDb() inside the IObject class which you can see in the code above.

BUT WAIT! For those of you who are wondering how we got Spawn into our controllers:

/config/autoload/global.config
...
	'service_manager' => array(
		'invokables' => array(
			'Spawn' => '\PhantEye\Spawn',
		),
	),
...
/module/Application/Module.php

namespace Application;

use Zend\Mvc\ModuleRouteListener;

use Zend\Mvc\MvcEvent;

use Zend\Debug\Debug;

class Module
{
	public function onBootstrap(MvcEvent $e)
	{
		$eventManager->getSharedManager()->attach('Zend\Mvc\Controller\AbstractActionController', 'dispatch', function($e)
		{
			$controller      = $e->getTarget();
			$controller->Spawn = $e->getApplication()->getServiceManager()->get('Spawn');
...

There are some bits I left out. For example each class has a property called $deps which is an array of its dependencies. Spawn::init() looks at $deps and instantiates them and injects them into the class. A service locator would be useful here when a certain class is a dependency for multiple classes being instantiated through Spawn. All of this is to come later as I mentioned though. Honestly, we’re reinventing the wheel, but it’s necessary for us since our library must be able to operate completely independently of any frameworks we decide to use.

Have any of you been in this predicament? How did you solve it?

Hey, Je suis Marc

So I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for a while now, and finally decided to be like Nike and “just do it.” I plan to use this blog as a creative outlet and to let people know what I’m up to along my journey. I got the domain jesuismarc.com for a couple of reasons. The first being that I’m learning to speak French (by all means if you are learning to speak, then let’s learn together!), and second because of the dope song from Hocus Pocus on this page.

What I’m doing with my life right now? EVERY DAY I’M HUSTLIN’! Working hard ’til I go on vacation in Europe for the Olympics. Then back to hustlin’ and going H.A.M. on a business that I’m bootstrapping which I’ll share with you all soon enough. Getting back to work now. Plus tard!