Why you should hire/befriend my wife Michelle

As part of a branding exercise, my wife Michelle asked me the following:

What would you say if you were trying to convince someone to work with me or to be my friend?

Michelle (colorized, February 2020)

Let me count the ways.

She will care about you more than you do.

Maybe it’s a commentary on self-love, but Michelle is genuinely the most thoughtful and caring person I have ever met.

At every moment of every day, she is evaluating what she can do, create, buy, or say to make everyone she loves happier.

Are you having a baby? She found this neat, handcrafted product on Etsy, thought of you, and shipped it to you with Grubhub gift card because you’ll need food those first few weeks and she knows it will be tough.

Did you start a new job? Instead of liking your status, she’ll call you and ask how it’s going. Having a tough time with the new coworkers? She’ll vow to slay them and their first borns if they ever hurt your feelings again.

Interested in anything at all? She’ll ask intelligent, engaging questions to allow you room to express your passion even if she doesn’t care about cryptocurrency flash minted tokens at all.

Did you mention off-hand that you enjoyed Bob’s Burgers? In eight months, you’ll be receiving a Bob’s Burgers recipe book for your birthday and handcrafted decorations that include Linda’s fucking face made of construction paper. You’re in her birthday calendar now, motherfucker!

She knows her shit.

It’s one thing to hire someone to complete a task for you.

It’s another to hire someone who will not only consider the larger picture that the task falls into, but also leverage that wider lens to advise on additional routes of attack.

Sure, she can assemble a go to market strategy for your product, but have you considered how this new products fits into your suite? Are you positioning it well for your current market? Have you considered how you could leverage it within your pitch decks? Are your sales teams prepped? Do they even know you’re about to roll it out?? Are you CRAZY?!

Sure, her wealth of experience is useful, but I argue that the mindset is far more valuable. Creative problem solving can extend itself to issues that have never come up. An average marketer can build you a textbook pitch deck based on experience; Michelle can build it for the business your business will become.

That’s the type of player you need on any squad.

She’s creative af.

It’s not enough that she’s smart and thoughtful, but she can take all that and package it up in a beautiful dress presentation.

Whether it be through sheer mastery of Powerpoint (no, like forreal mastery – not bullshit “put it on the resumĂ©” mastery) or whipping up concept art in Indesign, she can take the info, make the words digestible for the audience, and then design the fuck out of it.

Honestly, it’s super annoying because I think I can pick out a decent Powerpoint theme and move things around and she puts me to utter shame like honestly it’s a real problem in our relationship.

Do it.

So, do you want a thoughtful, creative, intelligent, hella fine, masterful marketer to be your friend/contractor?

Make her tweet.

Why I’m glad my D&D character died (and yours, too)

Last week, I joined my first in-person D&D 5e session at a local gaming store that hosts organized play events every Sunday.

Much like the taverns most parties quest from, the room was full of adventurers of all ages and skill levels; some starting out with me at level 1 at the tier 1 table.

In fact, only three of us comprised the party assembled to quest through the first parts of Descent to Avernus.

For some of you, that sentence alone tells you everything you need to know about why we were TPK’d in the first dungeon. We only made it to level 2.

Accepting death leads to better gameplay

Death is weird. Whether it’s someone we know or the thought of dying ourselves, death is this looming inevitability that our brains try to hide from us lest we succumb to nihilism.

And so, sensibly, the death of a D&D character whose backstory and kit were carefully crafted over hours and days is something we want to avoid. Nobody plans for their PC to die; well, nobody new.

So, I’m glad I’m dead because it rips that bandaid off. Death is a part of the game (and life) and coming to terms with that outcome enables us to pull our own fears out from the character so we can better play them as they would be played. Instead of drawing from the personal attachment to life, I can inject realistic flaws and behaviors that my character would do that would get them killed, rather than an ever-present desire to flee to save their life at all costs.

I am not my character; if my character dies, it’s okay.

In fact, some characters should die with the right circumstances. Think to yourself, “what would my character die for?” when building them. To protect the innocent? To save a companion? To complete an evil ritual?

Plan for their death – even with your DM – and embrace it when it comes.

Besides, your PC’s twin sibling can always show up at the dungeon entrance with the same stats 🙂

Three Practical Tips for NOT Killing Your House Plants

Yep! I blog about tech and plants 🙂

So, you seem to “kill every plant you own,” huh?

Somehow, the magic balance between sunlight and water eludes you and you end up with toasted leaves or wilted stems.

Fear not, comrade! In just a few paragraphs you’ll have a better understanding of how to take care of your house plants.

Let’s dive right in.

Tip One: Drainage.

Most of the time, when people water their plants, they don’t have proper drainage.

This means that water will sit inside the pot and drown the plant when watered (instead of dispersing into the ground like in nature) and leads to overwatering which can cause rotting and other issues.

Check out these signs of bad drainage and overwatering:

  • Leaves dropping off the plant while green
  • Soft spots or rot on trunks & stems
  • Buds not opening

To be fair, most plants are sold in a piece of junk planter with no drainage. This immediately sets the new plant-parent up for failure.

Typically, you’ll want to have a planter with holes in the bottom along with a planter saucer beneath it to collect the drainage water. This allows you to remove waste water and lets the plant breath.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

This is the fundamental step to watering your plants because most plants should soak for a short time. The trick is being able to drain the plants after they are done soaking.

Without drainage in your planters (and a saucer to allow for water removal), you will not be able to properly water your plants and might be killing them.

Tip Two: Soaking.

The second trick to watering plants is to give them an appropriate amount of time to drink water. This comes in two steps.

First, check if the plant is dry. For some plants, this will be easy to tell with the top layer of soil. Other plants will need a bit more dryness, so you’ll need to check deeper. A good rule of thumb is probably “halfway deep is dry”. Over time, you’ll be able to better time this.

Pro tip: this timing changes during seasons as air becomes hot/cold and dry/humid.

Then, once you detect that the plant needs water, continue to water your plants until you see water fill up the drainage basin. Sometimes this occurs quickly – you’ll get the timing.

It’s important to note that during soaking the plant may consume that overflow water.

Over the next hour, check in on your plants to make sure that they continue to soak. This means refilling water if they have consumed their reservoir.

Once the hour is over, discard the waste water.

Tip Three: Sunlight.

Depending on your plant, it will require more or less sunlight. Be sure to look up the general needs of your plant for this information.

But, in general, more sunlight is not a bad thing.

Here are some common symptoms of a plant that needs more light:

  • Light/yellowing leaves from chlorophyll disuse
  • Wilting / weak stems from insufficient photosythentic energy
  • Intense leaning from plants searching for more natural light
  • Wide space between leaves as the stems grow longer for the search

For example, I have a Philodendron that doesn’t require a whole ton of light to survive. Typically, I house it in a north-facing room away from the window. This was fine in the summertime, but the winter lighting was impacting its health – leaves were dying off and the plant was looking very weak.

So, I pulled it out from the darker room to my bright east-facing window. This led to immediate response and results: tons of new growth and 100% perkier!

However, the extended light seems to be over-illuminating it now that the summer light has returned, so I might pull it slightly around the corner from the window to reduce direct sunlight or possibly back to the north room.

Try different positions with your plants over the next few weeks to see if more or less sunlight impacts their perkiness.

Good luck!

And that’s it! With good drainage, proper soaking, and enough sunlight, your plants will live thrive!

Most house plants will only require attention once or twice a week.

Get into the habit of feeling the soil’s dryness. This will be the key to ensuring proper water consumption.

Good luck!

Let me know how your plants are doing in the comments below!

How to change your password on every account you own

When I was a young warthog, I created my first Gmail account.

It was a time of AOL Instant Messenger, Koolaid Jammers, and learning how to bypass school internet blacklists with proxies to play flash games during comp sci.

As such, I did not create a timeless email address.

Instead, I opted for a juvenile one to befit my tremendously small ego: [email protected]

But that was my email address and slowly but surely I used it to create one account after another over more than 10 years.

Facebook, Amazon, MySpace, Soundcloud, Bank of America, WordPress, etc. The list goes on as you well know.

Some years later I wised up and created a sensible email address – only to slap on an email forwarder and continue to use my Gmail-of-youth.

I thought this blog post was about passwords?

Yeah, yeah, I’m getting there.

So, here I was using my old Gmail for all my accounts, when I started to pay attention to the news.

Yeah, data breaches made me fix my email address because, like 73% of people, I was using the same passwords across multiple accounts.

Let me reiterate: my email-password combo was the same for basically every account I own. So, if any of these accounts became compromised, the hacker would have my email-password for all of my accounts.

And I thought, well there are so many accounts out there, mine probably is safe. Nope.

I ran my amazing email address through the breach scanner (yes, it’s legit) and found I’d had my data exposed by Apollo, a company I had literally never heard of.

As the data breaches began to pile up, not only did I become more worried, but I learned quite how easy it is to access this breached data.

Literally, any Joe Schmoe can go and retrieve it from the published list – though, I’m not going to show you how to do that, sorry.

So, I freaked out and changed all my passwords

It’s understandable, really.

It would be foolish of me to continue to trust organizations to keep my data safe, so the least I can do is plan for them to lose it and mitigate the risk of my other accounts.

I resolved to take my security into my own hands by changing the passwords of every account that I owned to one that was unique and secure.

Now, I’m not a lunatic. I didn’t stay up for 48 hours straight trying to remember every account I owned and change its password.

Instead, I took one hour to do the following task list:

  1. Set up a password manager
  2. Change my password (and email) on the most important accounts I could think of.
  3. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) when available

A password manager is absolutely key here.

Without one, you’d end up with a Google Sheet with all your accounts and passwords lined up – now that wouldn’t be very secure, would it?

Though you might be thinking “well then, wouldn’t all my passwords just be stored on the password manager’s servers and equally be at risk”, password managers have deep layers of security and encryption that hinge upon a master password – so even if the data breached, without the master password the information would be useless.

Protip: Master passwords should be long phrases that you can easily remember like “honestly, I still can’t believe it’s not butter” or “long live the flying spaghetti monster”.

Longer passphrases are far more effective than 0bscur3 pAsSw0rdZ! since it takes computers way longer to guess.

Personally, I use Last Password, but I hear excellent things about One Password as well.

Two factor is equally as important since it prevents unauthorized account access even if they have your password. Always choose to use an application like Authy or Google Authenticator, instead of SMS, when available. (SMS has been proven vulnerable, but it’s better than nothing).

Protip: *always* store your 2FA backup code within your password manager – if you lose your phone, you’ll be screwed without the backup code.

After that initial hour, I decided to just update the rest of my accounts as I went along.

In all honesty, I’m still in the process.

The end … of an era

Now, my key accounts

  • All have a unique, secure password stored safely (and handily) in my password manager
  • Have 2FA enabled with Authy (with backup codes also stored in my password manager)
  • No longer use my old Gmail address

On top of that, I added a forwarder from my old email to my new one and made sure to automatically label incoming emails from that account so I could be sure to address anything sent there.

I’ll never delete it though, it’s such a baller email address.

Why you should keep your WordPress site updated (obviously)

Have you ever logged into your WordPress site and seen those bright orange notifications in the sidebar?

“11 Updates!? I just updated this last month!”

How many times have you ignored those notifications, letting them pile up week after week until you finally say “screw it” and update them all in one shot?

Has that ever backfired on you? Some plugin update breaks your site and you’re now scrambling for 6 hours trying to fix it.

Has that caused you to avoid updating altogether?

You’re not alone.

Almost 40% of WordPress sites are not running the latest version (aka 10% of the internet) – let alone the countless plugins and themes that are also out of date.

The problem is that this is an incredibly bad idea.

When you leave WordPress out of date, you’re practically inviting hackers to enter your site.

This is because the vulnerabilities of older versions are published and available to the community as soon as the new version goes live (and often times soon).

So, that little orange icon should say something like “hackers literally know how to abuse your old plugins now”.

Scary? It should be.

What’s crazy is that this is completely common.

In fact, WP White Security found that 73% of the 40,000 most popular websites that use the WordPress software are vulnerable to attack.

So, what’s the worst that could happen?

Most likely, your website is an integral part of your business. Whether you’re using Ecommerce or simply blogging, your website is practically the face of your business and probably has access to sensitive customer data.

Leaving your site out of date leaves your site vulnerable for someone to take advantage of you and really hurt your business.

Extortion

This tactic can be attached to basically any of the following issues. Hackers will takedown or defame your site until you cough up some money for release.

And, unless you solve the problem, you’re vulnerable for them to extort you over and over again.

Compromised Customer Data

If you are collecting customer information like emails and phone numbers (or potentially payment information), you’re now dealing with a true crisis that leaves you exposed to customer retaliation and a PR nightmare.

Heard of Experian? Yeah.

Blacklisting

Typically, hackers will publish thousands of garbage posts and pages using your site that all backlink to some scam.

Or maybe they’ll inject malware directly onto your site to try and compromise customers.

When Google finds these pages on your site, it will Blacklist you from Search Results.

In fact, Google blacklists around 20,000 websites for malware, and around 50,000 for phishing each week.

That’s right – no more search rankings or traffic.

Oh, and it’s damn hard to undo, too.

Use in Botnets

Ever hear about “Russian botnets” or “DDoS”?

Hackers will basically put sleeper code onto your server and use it to attack other servers.

Defamation

After gaining access, hackers could take over the design of your site and post some pretty horrific content in its place.

Say goodbye to customers at least.

Takedowns

This is by far the nicest of punishments – taking your site completely offline. No site = no business.

All that, just from outdated stuff?

Yeah, it’s real life.

The simple act of updating WordPress, plugins, and themes protects you from most attacks (and that’s over 90,978 attacks happening per minute).

Naturally, there are other methods of entry, so you should be employing a security plugin as well, but just updating keeps you on a good level.

Even if you just use a secure password, you’ll be protected against 8% of WordPress security breaches.

Ok, I’ll do better to keep my plugins updated from now on.

Well, there’s another problem: plugin updates can crash your site.

Yeah I know, right? Can’t catch a break.

Plugin conflicts are no stranger to anyone who’s worked with WordPress for long, but only the dedicated few really know how to resolve these quickly.

Maybe the plugin you just installed doesn’t outright break your site, but it could still be a problem like the thousands of WordPress websites that were infected with malware disguised as a search engine optimization plugin.

And if it’s a severe break, do you have a backup of your site available? Know how to restore it?

Are you ready to call the amazing tech support at your server host when things go wrong?

To recap, if you plan to do this yourself, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Updating WordPress core, plugins, and themes daily
  • Checking if updates break your site
  • Checking that new plugins are ok to install
  • Resolving plugin breaks
  • Protecting your site against other vulnerabilities
  • Auditing your existing site for malware
  • Keeping an eye on your passwords
  • Backing up your site properly
  • Restoring your site if it goes down
  • Talking with tech support
  • Oh, and the rest of your business

How much are those hours worth to you? You should be doing bigger and better things.

Let me do it for you.

With plans starting at $100/mo, you’ll have a dedicated WordPress expert managing your site for you.

Why “Cryptojacking Malware” is exactly what you want on every website

I’ve only ever clicked on one ad.

Congratulations to the Otter Box social media retargeting team, they reminded me to order a phone case that I’d meant to order for 3 months while I left my iPhone unprotected.

The rest of the 5005000 ads I see per day are simple wastes of screen time, my attention, my battery, my data, and my patience.

I am literally paying to see ads when up to 79% of a webpage’s size could be advertising and tracking codes.

Months and months of phone bills and overage all for the sake of that one single advertisement that might make it through and convince me to purchase.

We gave ourselves no choice

Publishers continue to struggle with monetization of their content.

Every day I consume content from bloggers, web cartoonists, photographers, videographers, gurus, and more and I don’t pay them anything. Nothing.

In exchange for free content, publishers hosted advertisements on their sites to help monetize their crafts.

I don’t pay anything, but they still get paid. It was a win-win.

But somewhere along the line, we got fed up with advertisements and installed Ad Blockers.

Faster load times, less eye strain, no distractions – an excellent content consumption experience.

All at the expense of the publisher of course who now struggles more than ever to make ends meet.

On top of that, if they try to block our access and ask me to whitelist their site to allow ads, I either don’t bother, actively avoid, or even treat the brand with disdain.

So how can we have our content and eat it for free?

What if you spend that same 79% of ad load… no, make it 10%…

What if you could spend 10% of a page’s load and a bit of battery generating a small amount of cryptocurrency for the publisher.

You get no ads, smaller data fees, and support the publisher without pulling out your wallet.

Seems like a no brainer…

Sounds cool, but what is it?

In general, this process is called cryptocurrency mining.

Specifically for websites, it’s just called browser mining.

In short, the mining script (aka miner) is doing a whole bunch of math and needs computer (CPU) power to do it. The more power the better.

It doesn’t use any private data, it doesn’t download anything to your computer, and it certainly isn’t stealing your money.

So, if all it does is use some of your unused CPU power, what’s the problem?

Well, like anything, stupid people are ruining it.

Now labelled as a ridiculous “Cryptojacking Malware”, this type of simple monetization strategy has been stained repeatedly by people trying to abuse consumer trust.

Typically, they introduce it with high CPU rates and without user consent.

Mining at too high a rate will cause your electricity bill to increase and your computer to slow down, freeze, or even crash.

Also, let’s stop for a minute and address what a terrible misnomer “Cryptojacking” is. It makes it sound like cryptocurrency theft. NO ONE IS STEALING YOUR CRYPTOCURRENCIES. Though abusers make be taking a disproportionate amount of your data limits and CPU speed, nothing is compromised or stolen. It’s not even malware – it doesn’t live on your computer, only in the browser.

So, it makes me so furious to see people abuse it and then media following up blaming the technology with this misnomer.

And now, these mining scripts are just being outright banned by the Ad Blockers they are meant to work together with. Ironic really.

This is a real solution that needs to be guided and implemented in a fair way for everyone.

What needs to happen next

Ideally, browser mining needs to integrate with the browsers.

Chrome has already begun throttling tabs that cause resource burn, but what we need is a browser hook that allows a site to say “hey, I’m running a browser miner, allocate me resources according to protocol or user’s settings”.

Instead of a hard ban on browser mining, we need browsers to include options for consumers to opt-in to this amazing and liberating feature.

Think of settings like:

  • Enable/disable browser mining
  • Set max % CPU power allowed for mining
  • Whitelist/blacklist publishers
  • Select priority of publishers
  • Mine for publishers while not engaged in their content
  • Mine in the background and use payments later

Help me Chromey-one Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

Though Chrome is set to block annoying audio ads, Google is still a member of the Coalition for Better Ads and their primary income by far is advertising.

Since advertising is directly threatened by browser mining, don’t expect movement from Chrome anytime soon.

And though Mozilla Firefox has at least started to build in ad-blocking, we have a long way to go before these types of browser mining integrations exist.

At the very least, we need to share a better understanding of what exactly “Cryptojacking” is so we can support better online experiences and even support charity.

Comment below with your thoughts and questions!