The Virgin Diet: Week 1

Over the past week my wife and I have been doing The Virgin Diet. As a guy this sounds…odd.  Well at least it does for me.  Any how that’s not the point of this post.


The Virgin Diet is about finding out which foods your allergic to or have a low tolerance to.  The author’s theory, JJ Virgin (this the name of the diet) is that weight loss is hindered (stopped perhaps?) by people eating what they think are healthy foods and while they maybe healthly they are actually very allergenic to what’s in them.  These are things like gluten, dairy, soy etc.  There’s 7 of them that she focuses on.  It’s a three stage diet.

 

  • Stage 1 – 21 days to purge your body of these allergens.
  • Stage 2 -4 weeks to find out what you are allergic to. You do this by adding an allergenic food back into the diet for a little bit (4 days I believe)
  • Stage 3 – Living the good life…or something like that!

So as of yesterday we had completed the first stage.  I won’t say it was easy, but compared to some other diets I found it rather easy.  There are cravings, lustings perhaps, for food that you used to eat but you’ll soon get over them. I got of them on about day 4 or so.  I’d like to say that I could tell right away that some of my previous symptoms were gone at that time, but I really can’t say that because I’ve been fighting a cold. What I can tell you is that when I wake up I’m not dragging my ass out of bed to get the coffee maker working pronto.  I’m fairly alert and I haven’t had coffee (a few sips as the creamer we like is not on the approved list!) for over a week.  Oh and the kicker…I’m down nearly 8 lbs in 8 days.  Not bad eh?

It’s a challenge I won’t deny that and I’m not sure what we’ll do after the first 2 stages, but I’ve got some pretty bad symptoms of allergies that I want to try and solve once and for all.  So we’ll go through both of the stages and see what we find out.  i’m predicting I’m allergic to gluten or wheat…those also happen to be some of my favorite things to eat!

Have you done or experienced anything like this to find out if you are allergic to anything?

Movie Review and thought: The Watch

This past weekend my wife and I were in need of a movie to watch so I jumped on the Redbox.com site and saw what was available.  It basically came down to The Watch and The Bourne Legacy.  As I had chosen the last few movies we’ve watched I let my wife pick and she picked The Watch.


The Watch stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and one of the guys from The IT Crowd (if you haven’t see this series and are in the tech field you are missing out!).  Although I hesitate to say they ‘starred’ because by the end of this I was thinking WTF?  Seriously.  But before I get to my further thoughts let me give you a quick idea of what this movie is about.

Stiller is a guy who does everything.  He’s the manager of a Costco, sits on the city board, has a running club etc etc.  One night his security guard who has just received his US Citizenship is brutally murdered.  The case remains an unsolved crime.  And then Stiller’s character gets the idea to start a neighborhood watch to try and catch this unknown killer.  Enter Vaugh and the rest of the cast.  Vaughn doesn’t go much beyond what he normally plays. As for Jonah Hill, this was his coming out party for losing all of the weight.  The acting was just okay as I’ve found with most of the Stiller movies I’ve seen.

Now for my thoughts.  This movie was originally called Neighborhood Watch I believe.  But at that time the Trevon (sp) Martin murder happened and they pulled it back and renamed it The Watch and released it at a later date.  I also wonder if they changed the way the script and re-shot the bulk of it.  Most of the previews I saw were of these guys walking down the street and looking bad ass and doing what I’d consider neighborhood watch things.  It really did look like a good movie from the previews.  And then I saw a preview that made me go hummmm (it’s a fairly large part of the movie so I won’t spoil it!).

Since from time to time I’ll be reviewing movies and books on here I feel like I should give it my rating.  I’ll do the typical 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, 1 being the lowest (I’m not a movie snob…I watch movies to be entertained as I think most people should).  For this movie I give it 4 starts out of 10.  Yeah it was that bad.  There are parts that are pretty funny, but over all at the end I kind of felt like I had wasted my time.  Not like the last Resident Evil, which is horrible by the way, but still kind of wishing I had those hours back.

4 out of 10 on The Watch

Being sick and having a toddler

Time must be catching up to me or something.  For the second time in a little over a month I’m sick.  Up until recently I could go a year or more without being sick.  However that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.  The first time was over Christmas and luckily my parents where here to take care of our son while myself and my wife were sick.  However this last week my wife was sick and I made it through, until the last couple of days.  I’ve been fighting a cold that’s got my nose running and a slight headache.  Occasionally I’ll have some body aches, but not to much…yet.

But it does bring up and interesting point for new parents that you probably don’t think about.  There is no rest when you are a new parent.  Especially if you are the stay at home parent (if you can), like my wife.  As someone who has never had a child you’re probably thinking “how could you take care of a toddler when your sick”.  There’s no secret formula.  You just muster on and get it done.  It’s probably not the best parenting, but you made it through.  If your the parent that goes and works then work is actually less work than staying at home.  At least that has been my observation!

So for any new parents out there, just a heads up that you’ll have to deal with this.  If your lucky you may have some family to take care of your little on while you recover, we don’t.  Despite this

3 CMS’s: WordPress, Expression Engine and PyroCMS (the 100,000 foot view)

For my day job, that pays the bills I’ve been looking at a few content management systems (CMS).  Our current CMS provider, in my opinion, has lost their way. So we’ve been looking at other options.  In doing so I have been looking at three CMS’s that I’m most familiar with by name.  There are a ton of CMS’s out there, it’s big business theses days, but here are my thoughts on these three.

 

WordPress

WordPress – This is the big dog in the room. It’s also what this blog runs on! WordPress is, in my opinion, the de facto blogging platform.  Over time they have been transitioning to becoming more of a framework so that it’s possible for people to build web sites upon their framework.  Automattic that parent company of WordPress is making a ton of money off of doing this by hosting the likes of CNN and Sports Illustrated and many other’s that I’m not familiar with.  As part of my evaluation I’ve been trying to build a simple plugin/widget that displays a JSON feed from Rotten Tomatoe’s API.  I’ve ‘hacked’ a few things on WordPress from the plugin aspect, but I wanted to do it correctly.  I found a tutorial here,  here and here and read through it a couple of times.  Things were going well up until I hit part 2 and 3 and I gave up.  I will be going back to this as I think there’s a huge opportunities on WordPress, but compared to what I have programmed with before it’s quite the mind bending trick.

ExpressionEngine (EE) – I’m not exactly sure where I first became familiar with this CMS, but I suspect it was about the time that I discovered CodeIgniter.  I haven’t had the opportunity to write a plugin for this so from that aspect I can’t comment.  But from the aspect of setting this up for a news like site, I think it’s pretty straight forward.  Creating a new section, is done fairly quickly, but also allows for some custom page settings.  My one thing about this is that the company behind EE as of late hasn’t been all that forthcoming with their changes and when they do come they just happen.  I think the latest go around has finally settled down, but it makes me a bit nervous when things like this happen and the community goes into an uproar!

PyroCMS
2/4/2013 – Please see the comments/conversation below from Phil and myself.  Phil has brought up some information that I was not aware of and makes a very good point that merits further consideration.  As I stated above this is a business decision that I’ll be involved in and will have to make for the business that employs me.  Taking that perspective out of the equation, so on a personal aspect, I feel PyroCMS is worth considering as it sounds like Phil has a plan in place that will lead this product forward with as little inconvenience as possible.

For now I’ll leave the original post in contact, which you see below, but I may remove this as some of my opinions have changed with information Phil has kindly commented on below.  Please perform your own evaluations and get to know the products as much as possible. 

This is a CMS that got it’s start as Phil Sturgeon’s personal CMS for his customers.  However as the need grew he released it to the public.  It’s a great little CMS. It is currently mostly built on CodeIgniter, which I like, but is making it’s way to Laravel.  Which brings me to my main concerns on this platform. It’s actually not the platform it’s Phil.  This is nothing against Phil, in the few conversations I’ve had with him, he’s been incredibly gracious if a bit abrasive at times.  Any how my biggest concern with this CMS is that in my opinion Phil tends to chase the shiny and new things.  While this isn’t entirely a bad thing, I don’t think it pays in the long run to make such dramatic shifts in the foundation of the CMS every couple of years.  I’ve asked this to the team and as of yet have not gotten a response.  Despite all of that when I did my plugin/widget/module test, it was quick and easy to write.  A lot of that has to do with my knowledge of CodeIgniter, but I think someone who’s remotely familar with MVC structure would get it fairly quickly.

This is a very high level over view of three CMS’s that I think are all worth considering. Some good, some bad.  No decision has been made at my place of work and I’m not sure when it will be made.  Right now, if the decision were up to me, it would come down to WordPress for the fact that there is so much already built but would take a TON of hacking to get into a news site (beyond a blog).  And ExpressionEngine is the other one.  I need to explore it more, but it just feels right and something that could be put into play very easily.

Do you have another CMS that you’d recommend?

 

 

cpanel and e-mails sent as user nobody

mail-delivery-errorBy default, at least on the cPanel server that I run, the user nobody can send e-mails.  This is both good and bad.  It’s good from the aspect that most any type of PHP script that e-mails will work out of the box. Setting up WordPress sites, your e-mails will get thru for new user registration, comments left and whatever else you might have it e-mailing.  It’s bad because someone who knows what they are doing can start using your server to spam (how they do this will be something you’ll have to find elsewhere!), which is not good.  I found myself in this situation late last week and early this week.  However I’ve taken some steps to curb the issue and I thought I’d pass this along to anyone else that might be looking for help on this.  This image is what my mailbox looked like for a few days while I was researching the issue.

  1. Go into your WHM panel and go to Server Configuration->Tweak Settings.  Click on the Mail tab and go down to the line that says “Prevent ‘nobody’ from sending mail”.  By default this is off. Turn it to on and save your settings.  If you still continue to get Mail Deliver System messages give it a bit of time.  You should see them begin to tail off so you are not getting any of them. At least this has been my observation to date.
  2. Also in the same area turn on Track email origin via X-Source email headers.  This will allow you to see if the scripts are coming from a php script and where.

However by turning the prevent nobody from sending mail, your WordPress will no longer send out e-mails because user nobody, who it was ending from previously, is not allowed. Additionally any custom PHP scripts that send e-mail, think contact forms, will need to be modified as well.

To fix WordPress you’ll need to install a plugin of some sort.  The one I ended up selecting was WP Mail SMTP.  It’s pretty straight forward to setup, but it helped right away with all of the bounced messages I was getting for WordPress.

For those PHP pages that send an e-mail I went with using the Swiftmailer package.  You can install this into your own directory if you have very few sites, or if you have access you can install it as a PEAR module, which is the route that I took.  I setup a script that I can copy and place into each site with a few modifications.  The one thing I haven’t tried yet is setting up the script outside of the public folder. If you’d like a copy of that please leave a copy and let me know.

There are a couple of other things that have been recommended, but as of yet I haven’t tried them yet.  If and when they do I’ll post an update here.

Sometimes it’s staring you right in the face

I’m not knocking it, but it seems like all you hear about these days on these sites that are supposed to help you reach fame and fortune, well at least fortune, is passion.  For the longest time I’ve been trying to figure this out.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spent my drive home thinking about this and trying to figure it out.  I never did figure it out until a couple of days ago.  At least I think I have!  Here’s the problem and I think others, like me, might be going through this.

I have a lot of interests, but none of them that I’d say I’m really passionate about.  Yes a lot of them I’ve really dug into, like cycling. But that phase has come and gone (did the century (100 mile ride) a couple of times, did a couple of road races). I really got into stock investing a few years back and although I still do it (dang Facebook stock is down…grr) I’m not super passionate about it (well…I do have some passion about it.  Mainly that I don’t lose my money!).  But one thing I’ve always wanted to do is write.  And I never stopped to think that this was a passion until a couple of days ago.

I’m still not sure if it is a passion, but I figure if I keep telling everyone my dream job is to be an author, I should at least look further into it.  And that’s what I plan on doing here with this blog.  I published my first piece of fiction yesterday, I know it’s not as good as I want it to be, but you’ve got to start somewhere right?  So I’m hoping over the next year, and beyond, I will continue to refine this craft and maybe with a bit of luck and prayer I’ll actually make that dream happen: become an author.

So if you’re like me and searching for a passion that just doesn’t seem to be there, my advice would be to take a step back and look at simple things that your saying or your doing.  Chances are it’s staring you right in the face.  You just don’t know it because you’ve tossed it aside or haven’t considered it!

The Trillion Dollar Blunder: Part 1

Visit Spain

This is a work of fiction that I’ve been tossing around in my head since it was first suggested by someone I follow on Twitter. I’m not sure where it will go, I do hope to finish it, but only time spent on creating it will see where it takes us. I hope you enjoy and I look forward to your comments and thoughts. I should also mention that this is unedited and is nearly stream of conscious, so pardon the mistakes!

Part 1

“Come on in Tara,” Ethan said looking up from his three computer screens.

“Sir,” Tara said.

“What can I do for you this morning?”

“We have a problem.  A big problem.”

“Oh.  What would that be?”

“That money we were supposed to transfer to Spain last night?”

“Yes.  Trillion dollars and something,” Ethan said waving his hands as if a trillion dollars didn’t matter.

“Well it’s gone missing.”

Ethan coughed for a few seconds while he caught his breath.

“How the hell can we loose a trillion dollars?  It was going to a country.  Not some poor schmuck that’s out of work and on the street.  Please explain that to me.”

Tara shrugged her shoulders and looked at single sweat bead that was on Ethan’s forhead.

Ethan took a deep breath.  “Do you have some good news?”

Tara shook her head.

“It actually doesn’t get any better,” Tara said.  “We can’t find the money.  It’s like it’s disappeared.  Gone history.”

“Oh my god,” Ethan yelled out loud.

A few heads popped up from the cubicles behind Tara and looked at Ethan.

“Find me my fucking money,” Ethan yelled out to everyone.

Visit Spain!

Madrid Spain, 12 hours earlier

“So I just click this button here and the money is transferred into my business account?”

“Yes,” James said as politely as he could after the 10th time.

“That’s incredible,” Johan said.

“That’s what technology does now.  It should save you a bit of money and help your customers out.”

“Thank you so much.  My customers will really appreciate this.”

It was a far cry from what James had been doing a year earlier, but helping people set their business up in the 21st century was as good as it got for the time being.  The investment banking field, at least in Spain, was still demolished and when bills had to be paid James wasn’t to prideful to do what needed to be done.

“Thank you Johan.  Call me if you need anything else,” James said as he pocketed the cash and put his computer over his shoulder.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the traffic was relatively light for this time of the day so James made his way down the street to an ATM that he knew accepted cash deposits.

“Come on you stupid card,” James said after he swiped his problematic ATM card.

It took a few seconds for the ATM to read it, but the first time was a charm and he had his options.

Due to a couple of issues with deposits he’d made before he made it a habit to check the balance before putting any money in. And after the money was deposited he checked again to make sure it was all counted.

“Ummmmm,” James said after seeing the balance of his account.

 

Facebook Stock Options


I started out investing in mutual funds.  It was cheap and long term it looked like the the way to go.  Then I bought some stocks.  I still have stocks and trade in an out (not a lot of trading mind you), but I’ve been giving stock options some thought and doing a bit of research.  A lot of what I’m about to put down here is for my own education and for a place to go back and look in June of 2013 (more on that later).

Facebook LogoSo most of my stock buying has been straight up shares.  For instance on on the 3rd of January I bought some shares of Facebook (symbol: FB).  So far I’m up approximately 14%.  Which is very nice, but then I got to talking to my brother who has done a different type of investing.  He’s done options investing which I have heard of, mainly from the aspect of the risk involved, but we talked a bit about it and I’m intrigued.

I’m not even going to begin to begin to try and explain an option as I”m still not 100% sure exactly what it is, other than 1 call option is worth 100 shares.  Additionally there is a time option which comes into play.  Regardless, here’s what I’m watching and looking at.

I don’t have historical option quotes on Facebook but for the sake of argument here’s what I’m looking at.  I had picked 3 call options for June of 2013 (this is just paper trading and one that looks like I’ll be kicking myself on here shortly!).  One at $35, one at $36 and one at $37.  The respective prices when I started this are below.

  • June 2013 call option at $35.00 as of January 9th 2013 – $2.21 ($221 for 1 option)
  • June 2013 call option at $36.00 as of January 9th 2013 – $1.92 ($192 for 1 option)
  • June 2013 call option at $37.00 as of January 9th 2013 – $1.65 ($165 for 1 option)

As Facebook has been going up, it’s nice to look at. The bigger question is this. What makes you more money?  You don’t really have to do the math to see that if you are just looking at percentages, the options are the way to go.  It’s also cheaper to get into options.  But pure money wise, if you have the money, buying the actual stock is the way to go.  But back to options.  If you buy more than 1 option, I’m looking at 3 to 5, it can begin to equal the amount of 100 shares.

I’ll update this as time goes by to see where the options would have taken me vs the shares that I bought.  For the foreseeable future it will be just shares, but with the possibility of adding options so I can say “Hey I made 100% return on FB”!!!

 

Where the Amazon Kindle falls short


I’ve gone from loving my Amazon Kindle to thinking about it as just another device in the house.  And here’s why.  With the Kindle my browsing for a book is limited.  You see I like to browse for my books.  Most of the time I do read authors that I’ve already read, but on the few times that I read a new author it’s the cover that has caught my eye or something else.  With the Kindle, at least the one that I have, this is available on a limited basis.

Kindle does have their bestsellers list and various other books that they a promoting.  I’ve found a few books off of that that I’ve downloaded samples from, but it just didn’t have the same feel as if I were in a book store looking.  As odd as it sounds it feels like there’s a lot of work to find a book on the Kindle than there is if I’m in a book store.  In the end that’s not really true, but it feels like that.  That’s not to say don’t get a Kindle, but just be aware of this limitation.  I think that Amazon will close the gap on this and they might have on their other devices.  I have a very basic WIFI Kindle.  I think the Kindle Fire might solve this issue with their book shelf, but I’m not sure.

Another solution is to come up with a Pandora like system for books. GoodReads sort of does this, but once again I find myself not liking what I’m being matched up with.  I think there’s another level of refinement that they need to go to, to match you up with books you might like. Right now it’s a social network for readers which is nice, but not so nice for finding other books.

I will continue to use my Kindle, but my effort to ‘kill less trees’ by using the Kindle has been put on hold.  In the mean time I’m looking for that Pandora for books.  Any suggestions out there?

Your Friendly Tech Person!

I think the words on this can be changed to fit a wide variety of technical or non-technical positions.

Dear former customer,

I’m sorry that you feel like we quoted you to much to redo your website.  It has nothing to do with the fact that you provided us with no idea of what you wanted done to your site, so we threw out a generic number.  It was us.  We are sorry to see you go and we will miss your business, but I did want to point out a few things that, while you didn’t pay for them, you still received them and I hope your new hosting provider will provide them for you.

  • Remember when you wanted your Nokia phone to receive e-mail?  Yup.  You called us to help you do that.  No charge.  We were surprised that Nokia still had phones that people purchased!
  • You got some money burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking to get a new computer.  What do we think you should get?  Yes we helped you out with that as well.  No charge.
  • Oh you got that new computer we recommended and didn’t save any of your e-mail information?  Yeah we helped you with that as well.
  • Your browser won’t pull up certain sites, but it does pull up your own site?  Yup we made sure your site would load in the various different browsers and the different versions even though it’s a royal pain in the ass.

So yes the quote we quoted you may have been a bit high, or we may have been able to make it a bit lower had you given us more information, but that’s a thing of the past and we are sorry to see you go!  We do hope your new web designer gave you a good price on the WordPress theme they bought for your new site (rather than building it themselves).  We hope that when you have issues with your phone or a new computer or a browser they are able to help you as well as we did.

Sincerely,

Your former web hosting/web development/do all things with the computer shop

Despite the post above, I’m not bitter.  Stuff happens and clients move on.  Its the business cycle.  However I think some of the smaller non-chargeable, the addon’s if you will, are forgotten when customers get to looking at the money they are spending.  So customers, keep these things in mind when making those decisions to move to another cheaper host or developer.  And developers/web hosts, take a look at what you have provided for them and ask yourself if you’ve been fair.