Fluent Forever

One of the reasons why many of us don’t try to learn a new language is because we don’t have the time to commit to months of lessons. We might also think it would be too challenging and complicated.

This infographic aims to dispel that myth and show you how you can learn any language in record time.

If you familiarize yourself with the basics and understand how your brain stores memories. This will unlock the potential to learn a new language at a rate that you might not have thought was possible.

It is definitely worth seeing what you can achieve in a matter of only a few weeks.

I’ve fallen out of practice a bit with my study of Chinese and Spanish, but I picked up skills so much faster than with any other program. Definitely check it out over on Fluent Forever.

The Jesus Story Book Bible

Even if you don’t have children, you should read or listen to the Jesus Story Book Bible every once in awhile. Our son is not even two years old, and we’re already trying to plant some of those seeds of the Gospel in his heart. The way that this version of the Bible depicts the stories we’ve all heard is so poignant. The words cut to the heart in an instant and draw to remembrance the sacrifice that Jesus made because of the heart of his father. Especially during this time of year, I want to remember why Jesus came with the simple and thoughtful story of Christmas.

Buy on iTunes
Buy on Audible

Freeletics

I’ve been a “free athlete” for about three months now, and I’m very happy with the results. As some of you may know, I used to be a pretty avid cyclist. When I was riding regularly, I would clock about 200 miles per week either on my own or with groups. I was in the best shape of my life. I got married and priorities shifted. While I miss riding, I don’t miss the number of hours that 200 miles required to ride. It was great for clearing my mind and creating a space for moving meditation, but I’d created a part-time job for myself.

I forgot how I discovered Freeletics, but I’ve really enjoyed getting back into some form of shape with far less of a time requirement. I started out with the BodyWeight app, then added the Running app later into my training. I haven’t lost a lot of weight, but I feel stronger and more fit than I even did with cycling. Freeletics is a subscription service, so you’re paying for ongoing updates to the service and the AI that the Coach is built on. You can do the workouts for free without the Coach, but you probably won’t get as much out of it as you could with the Coach. It’s also way cheaper than a gym membership and a personal trainer at less than $7/month.

There’s a phrase in the community that “Coach knows best”, and I can confirm that this is accurate. I’ve always felt challenged by the workouts prescribed and more often than not intimidated. I’ll be honest: it’s hard. If you’ve never trained in this way before, you’re going to hate the first few weeks. You will experience pain, discouragement, and sometimes fear of the workout to come. Everyone says it, and I’ll join in: keep going. There’s a sort of mental wall that you must get over in order to prove to yourself that you’re capable. You’ll know when you’ve crossed it. I was in week four or five before I started to really enjoy the workouts. 50 burpees is no longer intimidating once you’ve done Helios. Every workout since leaping the mental wall has been awesome and well worth some of the initial hurdles.

Check it out here if you want 10% off: https://www.freeletics.com/r/stephenw-3dTNDc

Or here if you don’t want 10% off: https://freeletics.com

Refactor or Hack

In my day to day, I often come across code that was written before I arrived. Sometimes it’s great. Easy to understand, abstracted at an appropriate level, maybe even commented (gasp!). Sometimes, though, it’s been written poorly. If the person is still with the company, I can just ask about their intentions or for clarity if something is easily followed. The worst case is when the code is written poorly and by someone who is no longer with the company. Now I have code that is hard to understand, the person that wrote it is gone, and I’m being asked to either fix or implement a new feature utilizing pieces of this existing code.

As I dig further in to understand what’s happened before me, I realize that there are a multitude of issues with the existing code. It didn’t account for this case or that business rule that it was supposed to. It’s duplicating data in two tables or it’s written in an unintelligible way in order to be “fancy”. I like fancy code as much as the next developer, but more often than not, simplicity is best. Me: 0. Technical Debt: 1.

This brings me to the all-important question: Refactor or hack? Should I take the time to refactor the existing code, clean it up, and make it easier for the next person that comes along or should I hack at the existing code to deliver the feature or bug fix on time and on budget? It’s difficult for a developer to answer this question because most of us want to do a good job and create the best possible code base even if it takes longer. We take pride in our work and genuinely want to do a good job. Often the pressure from the business side reveals that they don’t care how well the code works under the covers. They just want it to work and work today.

I’m fortunate to have a great business team that understands the long game and genuinely wants an easily maintainable code base, but I still struggle with “how long has this story been kicked down the sprint road because of other broken places in the code?” I don’t have an answer for this question at the moment. It’s just a thought that’s been tumbling around in my mind as I’ve added at least three stories to refactor large portions of code in an effort to simplify and make go-forward maintenance easier.

App Store Reviews

Maybe it’s just because I’m a software developer, but it just about makes me cry when I see great apps with terrible reviews simply because the owners that own the app are trying to make a living. If you don’t like how much someone is charging for something at a restaurant, the proper response is to get something cheap and get out or don’t eat there. Those are your options. You don’t give it a one star review in Yelp for its pricing alone, do you?

If you download a freemium app, do yourself a favor and “read the menu”. It’s that little section down at the bottom of the app page that tells you what In-App purchases there are. If you don’t like those prices, find a different app.

App Store reviews should be for telling the developers and the rest of the world that the app works really or doesn’t. An app that performs really well that costs a lot shouldn’t be penalized for the owner’s decision to charge whatever they feel is fair. Find another medium to express your dissatisfaction with the pricing model. If the owner wants to put himself out of business by charging too much, that’s his prerogative. He or she will adjust based on simple supply and demand. Remember economics 101?

Why I Love WealthFront

In the past I’ve been a TastyTrader. While I whole-heartedly agree with and would continue to trade this way given different circumstances, my account is simply not large enough to get ahead of the ridiculously cheap fees. When most online brokers charge at least $5 per trade, TD Ameritrade has graciously provide fees at $1.50 per contract. For a typical vertical spread this means a total of $6. $3 to open the position, and $3 to exit the position. Not too bad as it’s about half if not more than what everyone else is charging. The trouble is that with a “tasty bite” sized account, you just can’t get ahead. If a position go against you, then you lose money. If a position goes for you, you’re basically making peanuts on the dollar as each $15 win actually amounts to about $8.5. Additionally with a tasty bite account, you’re limited in capital. So not only do you make very little, that very little can only be made every so often because you’re limited to how many positions you can open. You can’t open 30 positions that tie up $400 of your capital unless you have enough capital to cover yourself. Even if you can open enough positions, you don’t get $8.5 all up front. You might have to wait many days or weeks if it’s a winning trade.

That said, with a bigger account1, it’s an unbelievably methodical and profitable way to trade options. If you can remove the emotion from it and not treat it like gambling (which can be very easy to do when you get into the statistics of all it), then it’s a winning strategy to stay small and make calculated decisions that will grow your money.

Which brings me to why I love WealthFront. Use that link and you’ll get an additional $5k managed for free. With a smaller account, in my mind, this is the only way to win. Automatically rebalanced, tax-loss harvested, and low fees chargef for ETFs all speak volumes about how WealthFront is committed to the individual investor as well. Rule #1 in investing is “Don’t Lose Money”. Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet, and their contemporaries all follow this main principal. If you lose money, then the effort your money has to exert to gain it back is far greater than simply getting a decent return. Let’s say you have $100 to invest. A 5% return on your $100 equals $105, right? Now let’s say you lose $10 out of your $100, and now you have $90. What’s the rate of return you’d have to get back to that same $105? 16.67% ! Which sucks. That’s more than triple the rate of return if you hadn’t lost any money.

So, what is an investor to do? Let some great software do all the thinking for you. I’m not saying you’ll never lose money at WealthFront or similar companies, and I’m just some guy on the internet making a case for what I use. I’m not an expert, but for my peace of mind, at this particular juncture in my life, taking a very mentally taxing set of ongoing financial decisions out of my brain is totally worth it.

Referral link if you want to give both of us an extra $5k managed for free: http://wlth.fr/1pVolIs

Non-referral link if you don’t care: https://wealthfront.com


  1. Currently, there is a Federal restriction that only allows certain types of margin and leverage for accounts that have a balance greater than $25k. 

Working with Knockout

Much of the last two weeks has been working with Knockout and Kendo. These two do not play nicely together. The application that I support has seen a lot of “churn” in terms of what technologies are being used which can be both good and bad. As a new person, it’s difficult to know what to use and when and where. The more senior developers are better able to answer the question on a case by case basis and know why you would pick one over the other. They would also know why it doesn’t make much sense to go back and convert everything…

Working with Knockout JS has been a generally positive experience. I’m still trying to grasp the entire flow from DB→POCO→JSON→Browser, but from what I can gather, there’s a bit of plumbing that wires up all the pieces and parts properly. The really nice thing about KO is the provision of a mapping plugin. Get your JSON object back and shove it into a Javascript view model to update the UI. Done.

Own Your Own Business

I’ve had this dream in my heart to be in business for myself for quite some time. For a very short period of time I was in business for myself. I had a Tax ID and everything. I did market research for a fitness product called a kettle bell. This wasn’t just any kettle bell, though. It was adjustable. At the time, there was nothing else like it being sold on Amazon. So, what does any halfway decent entrepreneur do in this situation? Validate the idea. I threw up a simple landing page, put out some Facebook ads to drive traffic to the landing page and started collecting emails. My target audience was 18-25 year olds that liked CrossFit on their profiles. I had about one million potential customers. At $150 per unit, there was potentially a profitable business at hand. After a week, my idea was validated. I purchased 50 of these things, got them through customs, onto freight trucks, and into a fulfillment center ready to ship out to customers. Through some tough lessons learned, margin per unit turned out to be about $20. This isn’t terrible if you’re able to sell dozens each month, but I just didn’t have the cash flow in order to do that. I sold all 50 that I’d ordered and watched the other larger companies in the mix lower their prices to compete and push the smaller companies (mine) out of business.

I have no regrets about this whole experience, but here’s the most valuable lesson I learned during the whole process: everyone is already in business for themselves. There are only two major categories that are sold: products or services. If you’re like me, you are a software developer and you “sell” a mix of both. Software products are sold to clients (internal and external), and services are sold in terms of ongoing maintenance and support of those products. As an individual in the business world, whether as a full-time employee, contractor, or consultant, you sell your own individual expertise and abilities to employers or clients every day. The trick is to constantly look at your job this way and as Shawn Blanc says, “show up every day”. Earn the trust and confidence of your audience whether that be your product owner, manager, or teammates. Conduct yourself on a day to day basis as if you were an individual business owner earning his salary. If you want to own your business, it starts with the mindset at your current job. When the time comes along to strike out on your own with your own business, all of these soft skills will be invaluable.

A New Project

Based on my last post, I was building out a sub-domain for some more professional posts that are full of computer nerdery. I’ve always been one to tinker, deconstruct, reconstruct, and sometimes blow up things in order to figure out how they work. My very patient wife has taught me that people are not the same as computers and other complex physical objects…

That being said, anything technical is now posting elsewhere. I have a handful of items posted already, but consider it a working portfolio of sorts. There were some programming languages and frameworks that I wanted to use and learn more about, so this is demonstration of that skill set. The top level domain here will be mostly for family related stuff going forward.