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July 25 2019

401k to IRA Transfer and Changing My Investment Strategy

[Disclaimer: before you read about my experience and decisions made below know that I consider myself a novice investor with limited knowledge but thought sharing my journey and what I’ve learned along the way would be helpful to others.]

401k Rollover to IRA

Last year I left the company I was working for. It wasn’t long after that I began thinking about what to do with the 401k I had built up over 9 years while working there. I knew from my previous research that there were very few reasons to keep the 401k for my situation and weighed my options to transfer it out of there.

If you weren’t aware, you have the option of rolling over your 401k to an IRA after you leave an employer. I had already done this once before. For me the main benefits were that I could avoid paying many fees that are taken from a 401k account including the exhorbitant administration / service fees as well as the higher expense ratio fees that you pay for your investments. If you consider the compounding impact, these fees end up costing a tremendous amount of money over time.

401k Rollover IRA Within the Same Institution is Better

So after deciding to roll my 401k over to an IRA, I had another decision to make. I currently had my IRA at Schwab but the 401k was held at Fidelity. So I learned that if I wanted to go through the process of moving the funds to Schwab it would involve some paperwork and take about 2 weeks. This meant that most of my investments would be liquidated and I’d be out of the market for that time until the transfer was completed. I also had the option of doing the rollover and staying with Fidelity. In this case there were several advantages. The process would only take 1-2 days. Another benefit was that if any funds in my 401k were also available to the general market (which I did with one of my index funds) those could be transferred directly without me having to liquidate them and choose another investment option. I decided to go this route so I could test out Fidelity but eventually plan on consolidating my accounts between Fidelity and Schwab at a later date after deciding which brokerage I like better. The other advantage of doing this is that in that case an IRA to IRA transfer is a lot easier and quicker than a 401k to IRA transfer.

Changing Investment Strategy – Diversification and Allocations

Now that I was moving to the IRA I had to decide on what I wanted to do with the investments that I couldn’t carry over. With the broader market available to me I had many more options. My existing investments were based on the 3 fund portfolio which kept things simple with varying allocation percentages across a total stock market, an international and bond index funds. Over the last few months though I have been researching other options and after listening to this Listen Money Matters podcast I decided I wanted a little more diversification and move a little closer to an “all weather portfolio” with a set it and forget it approach that while not an aggressive strategy, provides some very consistent returns regardless of market conditions. As I get older I’m more concerned with being safer during market volatility and willing to give up some gains to achieve this. This eventually got me to switch to a golden butterfly portfolio strategy.

So the last thing I had to do was research to determine which 5 funds at Fidelity would be best matched to ones that adhere to this golden butterfly portfolio strategy. I ended up choosing the following:

FXAIX: FIDELITY 500 INDEX FUND (.015% expense ratio)
FSMAX: FIDELITY EXTENDED MARKET INDEX FUND (.045% expense ratio)
FUMBX: FIDELITY SHORT TERM TREASURY BOND INDEX (.03% expense ratio)
FNBGX: TREASURY BOND INDEX FUND (.03% expense ratio)
FSAGX: FIDELITY SELECT GOLD (.86% expense ratio)

I’ve only had this strategy implemented for a few months but so far feel it was the right decision. The market has been fairly stable bu I’m happy with the returns thus far and the lack of any major swings. It will be interesting to see what happens during some major volatility or a big downturn.

I hope sharing this information provided some helpful information or insights. I find the investment world to be very complicated but there are many good resources out there (especially podcasts) and I encourage you to spend some time learning and finding them to get better educated.

May 21 2019

On Discovering Lost Memories

The photo above is of my Wife Esther and I in November of 2001. It was our 3rd wedding anniversary and I had written the poem below for her to mark the occasion.

A while ago I was in an intense work mode running tests on some new functionality we built for a website. I was head down, with eyebrows intensely clinched working. In the background I was running Plex randomly playing songs from my music library when suddenly I heard what sounded like spoken word with ambient music in the background. Normally that might not have caught my attention as I have some of that in my library but the audio was clearly shoddy in quality so I paid closer attention and then soon realized that was my voice reading one of my poems. I immediately lost my train of thought and came to a screeching halt on what I was working on.

The gears in my mind turned for a while trying to recollect this piece of lost digital audio. I had completely forgotten I created this. I decided I had to investigate further and my first step was to find where this file was located. I found the mp3 file in an appropriately named folder called “loose”. I looked for any other tracks I may have created in the folder but couldn’t find any. I then began to think back about when I may have recorded this. I then remembered a period long ago when I thought about creating audio files of all my poetry. I think I loaded up an audio editing program, recorded my voice (poorly as you will hear from the file) and then mixed in a short ambient looped audio track to add some atmosphere. I also remembered the crappy microphone I bought for this initial experiment. I searched for more files but couldn’t find any. So my best guess is that I recorded this one track and decided to scrap the idea. Here’s the audio:

My Poem: A Million Ways to Say It

I then remembered a friend of mine that I enlisted in this experiment at the time as well. He was learning about midi and playing with new synthesizers and other gear and was looking to try something different. I vaguely remember asking him to pick one of my poems and surprise me with what he could create. He chose one of my darker poems and recorded the modified audio himself along with his own musical arrangement. Here’s the audio

My Poem: The Lost Ones

In the end I think that if I spent more time on improving the production quality, I may re-visit and record a few more. This also makes me think about how many other old digital artifacts are sitting on my hard drive. All with the power to elicit memories and emotions that are strong and meaningful. I plan on going on a digital scavenger hunt at some point and find the files hidden away in the deep recesses of my folder structure. Just waiting to be rediscovered and fill the gaps in my memory both good and bad.

A Blog Prompt / Challenge for You

Are you personal data hoarder? Do you have old dusty folders on your hard drive filled with memories from your past? I challenge you to go find a file and write a story about it. If you do tag it #digitalmemory and / or share it in the comments below.

May 14 2019

Update on My Focus List

Here’s an update on the focus list I created for myself back in January. This was a collection of things I wanted to prioritize in my life this year. Ok here goes. The photo above is the literal monkey on my back as a representation of this list and my current progress.

Meditation
This is something I tried a bit in 2018 and wanted to make it more of a habitual behavior in 2019. I started out well consistently doing this daily for a week and a half or so. Then I just well… lost focus and only have mustered up a few sessions over the last few months. I can’t quite pinpoint what caused this habit to deteriorate. I actually enjoy the practice and have seen the value. I think part of the problem is just doing it at a consistent time each day and I’m hoping I can get back on track.
Grade: F

Traveling
This has been a bit easier to realize as it requires some planning and I already had made a commitments to a trip to Spain last year and another family trip to Hawaii is coming up in June. My new role at Virto Commerce has also afforded me with opportunities to go to Lithuania and Tennessee, where I was able to sneak in a visit to North Carolina as well. Several other travel opportunities are presenting themselves so this is definitely on track.
Grade: A

Experiential Events
More sporting events and concerts have been planned. Also trying to find more new events to experience. This is an extension of both my Travel and Friends and Family Time focus as well which weave in nicely. On our Spain trip we had a crammed itinerary with many great experiences filling our days.
Grade: A

More Friends and Family Time
I’ve been doing a pretty good job of achieving this goal. I’ve found myself saying yes more often to outings with friends whenever they ask. I’ve also tried to pro-actively reach out as well. I find that even if I’m tired or not necessarily in the mood to go out that I always enjoy myself and never regret it. I’ve also tried to spend my time with different people so this experiences, discussion and emotions vary. I find this to be valuable by taking myself out of my comfort zone is good and experiencing things I otherwise may not have considered.”
Grade: B

Writing
Unfortunately this is an area that I haven’t focused on at all since setting my initial goal. Finding motivation to write has always been a challenge of mine. It seems I always am triggered to do this by some internal mechanism and often don’t force myself to write unless I feel this compulsion. I need to change that. I came across this motivational piece and perhaps it will inspire me to do so. I also feel guild having neglected my new Digital Legacy site and hope to spend more time on that helping both myself and others plan for how our personal data will live beyond us.
Grade: F

Cooking
I’ve done an ok job in this area considering I didn’t have huge expectations so I’ll give myself a passing grade but won’t pat myself on the back too much. I continue to find good recipes and surprise myself with the quality of the food I’ve cooked using my instant pot. Now I just need to find myself not using it as my only crutch to make a meal.
Grade: C

So my overall grade is a barely passing with a “C”. Not very good, so I’ll have to try and improve and then revisit this at the end of the year. Hopefully my overall grade can get a bump.

January 26 2019

On Tribal Thinking in the Age of Social Media and its Affect on Me for Covington

I don’t discuss politics on social media. In fact last year I greatly reduced my social media consumption to avoid the proliferation of content that began to dominate it.

I’ve watched as the timeline of commentary has unfolded around the Covington Catholic controversy and have noticed how it has affected my thinking. Sure I’m already in a bubble based on my circle of friends and those I follow that help shape my thinking and reinforce my feelings but this situation felt a different as the story began to unfold. It has made me question both my assumptions and comfort level of continuing to consume blindly in my feed both from individuals and other trusted outlets.

Today I came across an article by Andrew Sullivan that I discuss below that struck me in a more general way around how I feel my circle, and in turn myself, feel like we’re just on autopilot now finding the negative to continue to justify our thinking while ignoring context, analysis, and many other factors simply to continue weaving the narrative that we’ve become comfortable with.

After reading the article I was going to just let my thoughts stay with me but then I realized that I had committed to myself at the beginning of the year to write more and in doing so shared that one of the things that has held me back has been fear.

“I too think that exposing more of my own thoughts without fear of judgement would remove obstacles that hold me back.”

I wrote this a few weeks ago

When the initial coverage and subsequent reaction to the Covington story broke I saw the outrage. It seemed so easy to condemn what happened and vilify the kids for their actions. I saw countless posts on social media each showing a greater level of disgust than the last.

Then a few days later I came across this article by Julie Irwin Zimmerman which discussed a longer version of the video that told much more of this story and brought a new light to the situation. She too had reacted with indignation at the initial reports of the incident but then as she learned more, realized it was more complicated and not as cut and dry as it first appeared.

“The story is a Rorschach test—tell me how you first reacted, and I can probably tell where you live, who you voted for in 2016, and your general take on a list of other issues.”


“If the Covington Catholic incident was a test, it’s one I failed—along with most others. Will we learn from it, or will we continue to roam social media, looking for the next outrage fix? Next time a story like this surfaces, I’ll try to sit it out until more facts have emerged.”

From the I Failed the Covington Catholic Test by Julie Irwin Zimmerman

So that brings me back to the article I read today by Andrew Sullivan titled The Abyss of Hate vs. Hate. In it he puts a spotlight on how the media downplayed the other aspects of the full event.

“To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

“How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question.”

From The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate by Andrew Sullivan

Andrew goes on to cite several instances of the media’s skewed coverage of the incident. I then found the following sentiment eye-opening as well.

“What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general.”


“This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us.”

From The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate by Andrew Sullivan

This situation was very complicated with so many perspectives and I simply wanted to share my thoughts on just how social media and the circles we form really influence us and that isn’t always a good thing. I also felt that the news media did a disservice during this event helping stoke the angry fires without all the facts and knowing the full story.

It’s important to try and keep an open mind and continue having a curiosity to question what we see and hear. It’s easy and lazy to be quick to judge and leave the thinking to others as we scroll, tap, like, click, share and all the other gestures that are so easy and automatic for us in this age of social media.

I am taking what has transpired as something I will learn from and modify my behavior as a result. I’ve felt continuously negative emotions over the last year around politics. This situation made me think that I don’t want to continue to wallow and fuel those emotions. It’s important for me to continue keeping an open mind and not be driven by the narrow-thinking that continues to propel on both sides of the political landscape.

I also like the perspective that Joe Rogan brought to this situation contained in the quote I pulled below from his talk with Bari Weiss. Full video can be viewed here.

“I think its a very unique moment because it’s so public and it’s so prevalent…It sort of embodies everthing that’s wrong with a lack of nuance and with people taking one side versus the other and sticking with it…With not confronting their own personal biases…With looking at these things through the yes of this is the enemy, I’m on the good side, they’re on the bad side, let’s get them.”

Joe Rogan’s thoughts on the Covington Incident

I also came across this video by the Washington Post which provides a summary capsule of the events that transpired with several interviews that is worth watching.

Featured photo courtesy of John Duncan via YouTube

January 13 2019

My Focus List for 2019

It’s the beginning of the year and time to reflect on last year and changes I want to make for this one. No, I don’t want to publicly declare a list of resolutions and set myself up to fail miserably attempting to adhere to them. However, I do want to look back at some of the positive things I did last year that made me happy and try to focus on doing them more often. So to that end here’s my list of things I want to focus on more this year.

Meditation

Many of the podcasts, articles, and books I’ve been consuming over the last few years have all reinforced that meditation is an exercise that can provide many benefits. Last year I had several periods where I tried to learn the practice. I began by using Headspace, but then switched over to Calm which I liked better. Then closer to the end of the year I began trying out the Waking Up app as well. I’m also reading 10% Happier by Dan Harris which also discussed meditation. My limited experiments with this have shown some positive effects and I plan on dedicating myself more to it in earnest this year.

Traveling

Visiting new places across the world has become a priority for me. I’m writing this post to you from my hotel room in Vilnius Lithuania. This has been my first visit to Europe and its clear I waited far to long for venturing to this side of the world. Last year Esther and I upped our travel game having spent much of our time at locations in Mexico including this journey to Mexico City which lead me to write about the experience. In March I’m going to Spain and plan on trying to venture on several other trips this year.

Esther and I at Teotihuacan Esther and I at Teotihuacan

Experiential Events

Just as I’ve read about the benefits of meditation I’ve seen many signals from articles I’ve read that the road to happiness is paved much more by experiences than acquiring physical possessions. Last year Esther and I attended many concerts, many of which were of bands I was fond of in the 80s. These concerts not only created a memorable event when attending, but also re-kindled memories for myself and friends we attended these with to wax nostalgia and reminisce of many great past memories. Traveling weaves perfectly into this goal as well.

Finding ways to experience the outdoors and nature are also high on my list. Esther and I love to go hiking and we’ll have to find new locations to explore here. Racquetball has provided me with a way to enjoy competition and meet many new friends. Last week I competed in my first International Racquetball Tour event which is something I’ve wanted to experience. I look forward to competing in more events this year as long as I can keep my knee in tact.

Me and my doubles partner Jamie after winning our first match in the California Open IRT tournament

So I will continue to find things I can exchange money for that will only provide me with a mental voyage and I can continue to re-live in the future.

More Friends and Family Time

I haven’t done as much of this as I would have liked to last year. Being in the company of friends and family triggers a tingly dopamine in my brain that always brings a smile to my face. Sharing experiences and memories neatly ties in to my last goal, but also sharing toughts, learning from and mostly laughing with friends and family brings me great joy. Esther and I have also expanded our experiences that have exposed us to many new friends over the last 2 years which have exposed us to many new thoughts and perspectives.

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.


Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert

Writing

My last post discussed the barriers I had setup for myself that have limited my writing but I plan on changing that this year. I’m already off to a great start and hopefully can keep it up.

Cooking

I’m definitely not one to cook too much. My menu is very limited but last year I was seduced by the stories of easily creating great meals with an Instant Pot. Well I acquired one of these fine culinary tools for Christmas and I’ve already created two dishes with it and sure it may be a bit boring and cheating to use one of these but it may be a gateway for me to expand beyond its simpleton culinary method.

Well that’s pretty much it. Do you have your own list of things you want to do more of in 2019? Do you have any thoughts or tips on mine? Share them in the comments.

January 07 2019

4 Glorious Days in Mexico City

Esther and I took a spur of the moment trip to Mexico City in late September of 2018 which has been a destination I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. The reason for the impromptu planning was two-fold. I had recently begun a bit of a sabbatical from work and subsequently got an email alert from Scott’s Cheap flights about a deal to go there for ~$250 round trip. The stars had finally aligned.

After booking the flights began my personally arduous process of meticulously planning my itinerary for the duration of my stay. The first checkbox was to find accommodations. But before I could do that I had to narrow down the neighborhood I wanted to make my home for the short journey. After creating a short-list down to three locales I chose Zona Rosa over Polanco and Roma Norte. It sounded like a pretty central location with quite a bit of action that could be had by roaming the streets by foot.

Next up was choosing a hotel. I wanted something that was mid-level in cost. I chose NH Collection which seemed to provide that balance well, not to mention its #1 best value designation on Trip Advisor. 
Now that flights and hotel were out of the way it was time to plan our itinerary. We were going to be there for four days and I was intent on planning every possible minute to cram in as much as we could during our short visit. I will describe this process as I describe the experiences.

So we had a 7AM flight that would get us there from Los Angeles at 12:45PM local time after an almost 4 hour flight. This was conveniently right around lunch time so the first priority was tacos. I had scoped out a few places that were walking distance from our hotel so we could rush over after checking in. We ended up at Tacotento which didn’t disappoint. I sampled the tripas (tripe) which is one of my favorites along with arrachera, al pastor and suadero which was by far my favorite. We ate there again a few days later and besides having great food it was very reasonable. As an example one meal consisted of 6 tacos, a quesadilla, chicken soup 2 beers and a fountain drink which cost about $15.

Tacos at Tacontento was a must first stop

I also had scoped out that another short walk would offer us some sweet goodness at the famously popular El Moro were we got the combo package of churros and hot chocolate. The chocolate could be had in many variations but we stuck to the traditional Mexican style. Great stuff and now it was time to walk off these indulgences. We continued walking along this row that contained many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs over a few blocks along a stretch on both sides of the street without vehicles in Zona Rosa. Eventually we headed back to our room to take a nap and re-energize for another culinary treat.

El Moro with a view of the boardwalk

While on our walk in Zona Rosa we decided to try and make reservations at one of the many highly regarded restaurants throughout the city. I was lucky to nab a reservation for that evening at Maximo Bistrot which sits near the top of  great restaurants in the city. So we grabbed an Uber and headed over. (Side note: Uber is a fantastic way to travel through the city and extremely affordable. Most rides that were 10-20 minutes cost about $5).

This octopus ceviche at Maximo Bistrot was amazingly good

The plan for day 2 of our trip has become our go-to plan for discovering new places by jumping on a Hop on Hop off bus tour. The service offered in Mexico City was great providing several different itineraries across 4 different routes. We tried to cram as much as we could in one day but didn’t even complete half of the routes.

Hop on Bus Tour

We stayed on the bus for quite a while taking in all of the scenery that contrasted modern architecture with many older and historic buildings. Our first stop was for a 30 minute break which gave us a chance for a quick visit of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe before boarding the bus again to continue on the road. We later stopped at a connecting bus to take us on another route where we planned on making our first prolonged stop.

Photos from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our excursion off of the bus took us to the Mercado de Coyoacan which was one of several large markets where you can buy local artisan crafts, clothing, souvenirs and of course find many local food vendors. We were hungry so food was on the top of the agenda. We parked ourselves at a stand that specialized in many different types of tostadas and ate a couple each with the chicken mole being the standout flavor.

From there we walked a short distance to the Frida Kahlo Museum. The museum is the historic house that Frida and Diego Rivera lived in. It stands out from the street with the structure’s cobal blue walls that surround the property. You can see many of the sites from within in the pictures below. After the museum we grew tired and decided to start heading back. 

Frida Kahlo Museum

Once back at home base we freshened up a bit and headed out for a quick meal at La Casa de Tono followed by a walk through the lively Zona Rosa at night which was bustling with people and activity along the storefronts and clubs lining the path of Londres street. We headed to Mexico’s answer to Starbucks called Cielito Querido Cafe and I enjoyed a Mexican Hot Chocolate while Esther had her nightly herbal tea. The atmosphere was great with bar stools lining the giant windows providing a view of the activity along the street. We finished our hot beverages and decided it was time to call it a night. We needed rest as tomorrow was to be a the most physical day on our trip.

Day 3 of the trip was the highlight with a tour of the pyramids of Teotihuacan. There were many guides that offered many ways to visit this destination that include public transportation, big tour buses, private tours and small group tours. I chose a small group tour with Urban Adventures that also included another trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We began our tour by meeting our guide at a hotel at 10:30AM. We were the only ones that had booked the additional Shrine tour so our guide chauffeured us in a car directly to the location and gave us a private tour of the Basilica. The grounds are large and require quite a bit of walking with multiple buildings to explore and a large garden area. It’s very beautiful with great history.

After concluding our Basilica tour our guide drove us to meet the other group in a small van to then drive to the pyramids. We met up with 3 other couples and started our short journey which took about 45 minutes from the city. Once we arrived we made our way to an entrance area that had several ruins. From here we were able to gaze at the amazing Sun and Moon pyramids. We first climbed the smaller Moon structure and made our way to the top. I could see a storm cloud in the distance so I snapped a few photos and videos and then we made our way down so we could climb the Sun pyramid before the storm was upon us.

As we made our way to the Sun pyramid our guide told us that is was the second largest one in Mexico. Taller than Chichen Itza, which I had visited in 1996 and only a little smaller than the pyramid of Cholula in Puebla. It was quite the hike up the mountain which was covered by quite a few people once I made it to the top. But the view was mesmerizing the dark clouds overhead and slight sprinkles falling down on us. I gazed in the short distance at the Moon pyramid and imagined what it must have been like around 100 a.d. when the area was active. I took some more photos and just tried to enjoy the moment as long as I could before Esther called to me to return as the rest of the group was waiting for me at the bottom.

Panorama viewing the Moon pyramid

Pyramids of Teotihuacan

Our tour guide then took to nearby home of a family that lived in the area. Upon arrival we were escorted to the back of the home where he had a few large Agave trees. He told us about the aging process of the trees and how he extracted the “ancient sacred drink” of pulque. He explained how after extracting the liquid you let it sit for a few days and it ferments and gains a small level of alcohol. He then grabbed a jug and proceeded to give us all a taste of some he recently had taken from his tree. It was a white milky liquid and tasted a little sweet and pretty good. It reminded me a bit of unfiltered sake. He then took us to another side of his house where had many arts and crafts on display and for sale. There were a few created from black onyx that really caught my eye but were quite pricey and my current minimal nature does not allow me to purchase any more knick knacks for the house.

A local artisan of Teotihuacan invites us into his home

Our last stop was to another home for a locally home cooked meal. We arrived and all sat at a large communal table. Our host and his family brought us each out a bowl of homemade pozole and we all began to eat, tell stories of the day and learn more about each other. Before long it was time to leave and we all packed back into the van for the short 45 minute ride back to the city. This small tour experience was great and I highly recommend it to anyone who goes to visit Mexico City.

Another panorama viewing the Moon pyramid

For our last day we got up early jumped into an Uber and headed out to the water canals of Xochimilco. Apparently there are several different “docks” that you can access and our guides from yesterday had recommended that we visit the one at Cuemanco that isn’t as crowded and popular as the one most people visited. We got there and sure we were one of the few people there. We talked to one of the guides there who explained the different boat tours of varying lengths and times. We agreed that a 1 1/2 hour tour would be good for us and took agreed to a path he mapped out for us. We then boarded one of the large boats and to our surprise had the boat to ourselves for the journey.

We made our way through the canals which was a very nice and tranquil journey on a beautiful day that was very comfortable. Our trip took us past to a man-made pyramid on a little island that also served as a location to have parties. On the ride back to the dock I watched an oncoming boat and noticed a young man and his girlfriend standing near the front of their boat. He then bowed down on one knee and I knew the drill about what was to transpire next. I grabbed my camera to record the moment. Minutes later his girlfriend became his fiance and I had captured this glorious moment on camera.

Determined to pack in as much as we could on our final day Esther and I then headed to the national museum of anthropology. There we learned more about the history of all of the ancient cultures that roamed the area through very elaborate representations that recreated many of the scenes of the time. From there we crossed the street to visit the Bosque de Chapultepec which was a huge park that was filled with people and street vendors. There was a large lake within it that had people floating across it in their paddle-boats and then we came to find out there was a zoo within the park as well. But alas we were getting tired and it was time to head back to our hotel so we could rest up for one last special meal before leaving.

Rested up and hungry we were lucky to have been able to make a last minute reservation at Rosetta which opened in 2010 by chef Elena Reygadas. We had learned about the restaurant watching the Mexico City episode of Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. The restaurant specializes in Italian style cooking and didn’t disappoint. I had a ravioli platter that was great with a slight sweet taste to it that made it very unique. Esther had a short rib platter that she wad was the best she’d ever had. We made room for dessert because Rosetta is known for their baked goods and have a stand-alone bakery nearby. After that gluttonous experience it was time to roll back to our hotel and get some much needed rest before our journey back the next morning.

Looking back it was a tremendous trip and we barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in the city. We had a fantastic time and will definitely return in the future with another planned itinerary of places to visit and new foods to taste.

January 04 2019

It’s Time to Reduce Consuming and Start Writing Again

Let’s cut to the chase. I won’t use the dreaded “R” word used unapologetically by so many people at the beginning of the year. But there are a few things I want to focus on this year with the first item on that list being writing more. So I’m off to a good start just by writing this post.

There’s been a slow storm of events that have started to lead me down this path. Last year I began reducing my consumption of social media and I continued to do so. I know I’m happier when I try to improve my balance of creating content versus consuming it. A few weeks ago I came across this article titled “We should replace Facebook with personal websites” which seemed to strike a nerve with lots of folks in my Twitter inner circle based on the Nuzzel responses. I’ll let you read some of those below… don’t worry I’ll wait.

Reminiscing about the good ‘ol days

Lots of thoughts from folks similarly to me that got their social start like me by blogging. Sure the title of the post is a bit sensational and I doubt that even 5% of the folks I’m friends with on Facebook would do this, it’s still a nice notion. Anyways for me it lit a small fire in the back of my mind.

Then yesterday I came across this new service on Product Hunt called 200 Words a Day. I visited the site and poked around a bit and again re-kindled that little fire with another sign that I should be doing more to stoke the ideas in my brain instead of just continuing to binge feed it. While the idea of the site is great I’ve already got this blog and syndicate all of my posts to Medium for community distribution.

Then today I came across this blog post by Garry Tan (that I saw on Twitter) proclaiming his resolution to write more. His post resonated very strongly with me. It touched on many of the reasons why I don’t write so much anymore… or perhaps the little voice in my head that so convincingly talks me out of it and urges me to relax and consume.

The same blockers that have kept him from writing have also caused me pause. He states Vulnerability as a reason and I too think that exposing more of my own thoughts without fear of judgement would remove obstacles that hold me back.

With Novelty he feels that he didn’t write as much due to the pressure of adding a new perspective or unique view to a topic (at least that’s how I interpreted it). I have felt the same way in these regards. Often if I were planning to write about a topic or review a piece of software or hardware I would read other reviews and question whether I could add any additional value. This often held me back when it shouldn’t. It’s always as the fingers hit the keyboard that the mind begins to turn the gears that are so unique to each of us. Then those new thoughts begins to simmer and eventually materialize into something we hadn’t considered before.

I’ll add a few other blockers to Garry’s that I pondered on and will continue to struggle with as I also try to increase my writing output this year. Perfectionism is something that often stops me cold. I’ll review and edit my posts ad nauseum (I even had to Google this to make sure I used it correctly as WordPress flagged it as wrong. God help me.)

I’ll often do lots of research with links and quote pulls from posts and images and embedded videos…and, and, and. In other words I do lots of things that detract from the words and take me forever to complete a post. I really do try to often be thorough and articles where I do that serve me well but this is more about trying to just take my unfiltered thoughts to exercise and sharpen my mind.

This post was originally titled “Aspirations and Ramblings Heading into 2019” and I had grandiose thoughts about other things I would discuss that I would be adding or improving on during this year but alas instead of saving this as a draft only to never come back to it again and publish I’m shelving those ideas for now. Who knows, I might even write about them tomorrow but for now this is something I will finish now and release into the wild. Looks like I’m already winning in 2019.

September 14 2018

Create a Minimalist Journal with Mood Tracking and Analysis Using Daylio

Create a Minimalist Journal with Mood Tracking and Analysis Using Daylio

The most popular article ever written on this site was a comparison of the best Smart Journal apps. I limited that comparison to apps that allow usage both on mobile and desktop as well as several other criteria. I felt it was necessary to have that flexibility. But in Daylio I’ve found a hybrid app that tracks my mood and activities and have seen several benefits over a traditional Journal.

There are already some great in depth reviews of the app that I will reference below but i’ll focus on a few unique aspects that I found to be great that may not have been covered.

Using one of the aforementioned Smart Journal apps (For example Journey below) can feel a bit overwhelming. You basically have a blank slate for writing which you can supplement with items such as location, media, weather and other metadata. I struggled to journal daily feeling the pressure of filling that open canvas with text. Daylio gives me a concise prompt every day that is very simple to complete and I can optionally add text in small field if I want but it’s not required. I usually just add high level details to support the activities and mood I selected. Also, by doing this on mobile it’s easy to dictate using my voice. This has made it very easy for me to consistently add daily entries.

(comparison of Journey vs. Daylio entry screens)

Besides its ability to add custom activities, I added 2 activities to track quality of sleep by adding “slept good” and “slept bad” activities. With this I can both see how my sleep quality may affect my mood and other activities as well as compare that to my Fitbit sleep data to see if I can find any correlations. I’m sure there are other positive / negative activities that would be useful to add as well.

Daylio has excellent statistics provided in their reporting features which is where the app really shines. You can easily view your mood over time in nice visual reports as well as filter the data by individual or multiple data points to find correlations. Here’s a good review regarding this which also has many screenshots.

As being someone who wants the ability to have an external archive of my data, I was happy to see that Daylio offers exports in both PDF and CSV formats. The exports are also very good with the PDF report displaying the data similarly to the app and the CSV providing all relevant data in a clean column output.

(Daylio PDF and CSV exports)

I had tried another mood tracking app in the past. I loved the simplicity but just having a single data point wasn’t very valuable. By adding activities as well as text, the additional context really adds value and provides a way to review how you’re doing over long stretches of time.

Here’s a review by someone that provides a very detailed use case on the value he was able to glean by using the app for a long period of time. I also love the sub-text of his article which was to determine whether his life was in balance. He also pointed out that the National Institute of Health reviewed the app and I found this excerpt to be quite interesting:


Mood-quantification applications can be useful in many ways. People who suffer from mood disorders such as depression, bipolar and anxiety can use such applications to have better understanding of their moods, for example, which activities trigger negative moods. Mood quantification can also help those who want to understand how a certain medication is affecting them. Women who want to track their moods and behaviors around their monthly cycles can also use this application. Finally, patients can share their mood data with their providers for diagnosis and better treatment decisions. Applications like Daylio may have several limitations but their simplicity can help people generate useful data that can lead to better understanding of problems and issues in the long run.

National Institute of Health

If you want to see a walk-through of the app here’s a great review by TWiT

I’m really enjoying Daylio and highly recommend trying it out if any of this resonates with you.

May 24 2018

I’ve Launched a New Digital Legacy Resource Website

I’ve Launched a New Digital Legacy Resource Website

Over the last few years I have focused a large part of my attention on the digital legacy aspects of our personal data. I’ve struggled deciding whether to try and expand this site and change its structure to accommodate that information in a better way. Ultimately I decided to launch a new site at DigitalLegacyManagement.com.

I have moved, updated, and added quite a bit of information related to the digital legacy resources I had on this site. I will continue to operate Lifestream Blog and this new site for the foreseeable future. Digital legacy content may initially be duplicated across both sites but I haven’t yet decided how this will be handled in the future.

As always I appreciate your thoughts and comments on this decision and transition.

March 22 2018

Dave Morin Teases New Social Networking Successor App to Path

It appears that in recent days with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica story breaking, Dave Morin has been “overwhelmed with requests to rebuild a better Path”. Yesterday he sent out this tweet:

This outpouring is surely due to the continuing fallout from the #DeleteFacebook campaign and the growing concern of our trust being compromised with regards to sharing of personal data. Dave Morin is an alumni of Facebook and was a co-founder of Path which aimed to be a much more personal social networking app. One of its founding principles was to limit the number of people you could follow on the network citing Dunbar’s number. The app originally limited you to 50 friends but later expanded that to Dunbar’s 150. [You can read the history arc of Path on TechCrunch here.]

I was an avid user of Path. While I restrained my personal sharing on Facebook due to its nature of a more open network that I also used to share professional achievements, I shared more intimate thoughts with a closed circle on Path. After Path’s sale in 2015 my usage started to dwindle and I eventually stopped using it.

I recently wrote about the importance of decentralization and it continues to pick up steam amidst continuing news about how our personal data continues to be compromised. I responded to Dave’s tweet and a short time later he responded:

While I don’t understand how the complexity of such a project wouldn’t allow it to be created as open source, it was nice to see that decentralization is a consideration. In fact in a later tweet he mentioned possibly using Blockstack which confirms his thoughts.

I’m sure choosing open source would present quite a few challenges but I feel that it would ensure that a community could be built around a project to ensure its longevity. What guarantee as users would we have that this new project wouldn’t just be sold again like Path? An app as intimate with the amount of personal data we devote to it deserves our guarantee of trust and survival. The mere fact that that data has value to someone for purchasing it, removes the trust of having single entity owning it. We need to re-think the business model around such an important app. It’s time.

I guess by decentralizing it, the data could become portable to other apps but open source just seems like glue that would bind that. There are currently great business models in content management systems such as Automattic as a for profit entity building apps on top of open source WordPress as well as the same model in Acquia for Drupal. I’d love to see a similar model developed for a social network.

I responded to Dave’s tweet with the following, but haven’t gotten a response:

I just feel that we’re past having a private entity having ownership of something as important as a social network and there has to be a better way to create such a system that allows those who build it to make a profit while keeping the integrity and longevity of it guaranteed. I’m excited about Dave’s announcement regardless and look forward to following its progress.

In any case his original tweet has garnered quite a bit of positive interest and excitement with over 200 responses as of this writing. Here’s some additional notable ones:

Several former Path team members came out of the woodwork showing their support for building a new app. Here’s one of them.

Looks like Ryan is ready and willing to help.

I like this idea and it plays into my integrity and longevity concerns

Looks like the first investor is lined up.


Several tweets discussing a new business model. Dave says subscription only but also likes the crowdfunding or indie vc model.

And finally…

Dave Morin Teases New Social Networking Successor App to Path

February 08 2018

Return of the Decentralized Web

image courtesy of personal data ecosystem consortium

Recently I’ve seen signs that are promising in the pursuit of returning focus to a decentralized web / internet. There are still many hurdles to get us there, but we have a good foundation to overcome the technical obstacles. There has been a surge of many prominent people working towards this goal. However I feel that making a compelling argument for the average person to care and adopt the concept is lacking. The prospect of moving their online activity and personal data investment will be the greater challenge. So with that preamble I’ll list a few of the reasons why I have a positive outlook and feel progress is on the right track.

The Background

This Wired article provides some great context as to why we should return to a decentralized web. It discusses how big companies now control most of the web along with our personal data. It then provides thoughts from the web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee on how he wants to change things through his open source project Solid. From the article:

On the better web Berners-Lee envisions, users control where their data is stored and how it’s accessed.

This is something I’ve always felt passionate about. It was the promise of the now defunct Locker Project which I’ve written about extensively which was supposed to allow us to create and store all of our personal data on our local machines and provide us with controls for where and how we wanted to publish it. It’s a similar concept to what has been modeled by the IndieWeb group (another big proponent for a decentralized web) with their POSSE (Publish on your own site and syndicate elsewhere) with regards to websites.

The Framework and Tools

Besides Solid and the concept of POSSE there are other technologies that can help with the underlying framework of getting us back to a decentralized web. IPFS is a peer to peer protocol that aims to make data distributed, making it more permanent and not as susceptible to current limitations. IPFS can work in conjunction with the Blockchain which is another rising technology that you primarily hear about with regards to cryptocurrency but has also been mentioned quite a bit with regards to web decentralization. Hell, even Richard Hendricks wants to create a “New Internet” so that’s obviously a sign that we should do it. Right?

Every year Mark Zuckerberg takes on an annual challenge. This year’s challenge is to fix Facebook. He acknowledges how abuse of the service has negatively impacted people and his goal is to change that this year. In his announcement he stated the following:

…one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization…Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force… many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens

The fact that Zuckerberg acknowledges the issues and points to decentralization as important is a good sign. Time will tell how Facebook implements changes but ultimately it will continue to be a centralized repository of silo’d personal data.

The People

Dries Buytaert is another person I follow and respect who has been a strong advocate for the decentralized web. This article details his thoughts on its importance and his 2018 resolution re-iterated it as well. In it he discusses how he wants to reduce his use of social media and increase his blogging. In it he states:

The web we build today will be the foundation for generations to come and it needs to remain decentralized. It’s true that a decentralized web is harder to build and more difficult to use. Frankly, it will be difficult for the open web to win without better data portability, more regulatory oversight, better integrations, and more innovation and collaboration.

Dries mentioned data portability which is another initiative related to decentralization and personal data ownership which I began following in 2008 but has been dormant. However, this Tweet from Chris Saad (One of its founders) suggests interest in reviving it. Dries also recently blogged about beginning to use POSSE as well.

Earlier I mentioned how the Blockchain could be used as part of the framework for a decentralized web. Just yesterday a video was published with insights from many prominent people in the space including engineer Preethi Kasireddy, and VC’s Mark Suster and Fred Wilson among many others. Preethi discusses the benefits of decentralization over centralization. Fred talks about how Facebook and Google own our data and how decentralization’s greatest potential is returning control of our identity and data back to us. Mark sent out this tweet specifically citing how Blockchain’s potential for fueling a decentralized internet.

Here’s the video

Lastly, on the heels of Zuckerberg’s challenge was the announcement of the Center for Humane Technology created by a group of former Facebook and Google employees (among others) that understand how these companies leverage all of our personal data and in turn manipulate us. Their initial goal is to focus on educating people on the harm that social media sites are playing in shaping children’s behavior. They also will work on a “Ledger of Harms” which will be a resource for engineers who build sites and tools on the health effects. While this group hasn’t mentioned decentralization, I feel we can expect that it may be an initiative in their future.

What Now?

As you can see there seems to be some momentum taking us to a good place. This is all very exciting but it also brings me back to identifying what may be the compelling reason for people to buy into the need to embrace a decentralized web and stop entrusting all of their personal data to the private silos of Facebook, Google and other services. I think the answer will be by providing the value in owning our personal data and planning our digital legacy. It will also be extremely important to do this as seamlessly as possible. I feel that much like how previous generations may have clung to photos, letters, and other heirlooms to pass on to future generations we’ll realize that we need to take the same care with our personal digital data. People need to be educated and hopefully come to realize that outsourcing the ownership of their data will make it cumbersome, if even possible, for their ability to pass that data on to their families in the future.

[Update 2/13: Here’s an article describing how Microsoft plans to use a Blockchain to provide decentralized personal identity for users]

[Update 2/16: I came across this great article: Why the Web 3.0 Matters and you should know about it by Matteo Gianpietro Zago which provides a great history of the web as it relates to the current movement towards decentralization along with the framework being created to make it happen.]

[Update 2/18: Chris Dixon makes his case on the importance of decentralization and its challenges in his article on Why Decentralization Matters]

I’d love to hear more thoughts, resources, and projects related to web / internet decentralization. Please share them in the comments.

 

Return of the Decentralized Web

Return of the Decentralized Web

image courtesy of personal data ecosystem consortium

Recently I’ve seen signs that are promising in the pursuit of returning focus to a decentralized web / internet. There are still many hurdles to get us there, but we have a good foundation to overcome the technical obstacles. There has been a surge of many prominent people working towards this goal. However I feel that making a compelling argument for the average person to care and adopt the concept is lacking. The prospect of moving their online activity and personal data investment will be the greater challenge. So with that preamble I’ll list a few of the reasons why I have a positive outlook and feel progress is on the right track.

The Background

This Wired article provides some great context as to why we should return to a decentralized web. It discusses how big companies now control most of the web along with our personal data. It then provides thoughts from the web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee on how he wants to change things through his open source project Solid. From the article:

On the better web Berners-Lee envisions, users control where their data is stored and how it’s accessed.

This is something I’ve always felt passionate about. It was the promise of the now defunct Locker Project which I’ve written about extensively which was supposed to allow us to create and store all of our personal data on our local machines and provide us with controls for where and how we wanted to publish it. It’s a similar concept to what has been modeled by the IndieWeb group (another big proponent for a decentralized web) with their POSSE (Publish on your own site and syndicate elsewhere) with regards to websites.

The Framework and Tools

Besides Solid and the concept of POSSE there are other technologies that can help with the underlying framework of getting us back to a decentralized web. IPFS is a peer to peer protocol that aims to make data distributed, making it more permanent and not as susceptible to current limitations. IPFS can work in conjunction with the Blockchain which is another rising technology that you primarily hear about with regards to cryptocurrency but has also been mentioned quite a bit with regards to web decentralization. Hell, even Richard Hendricks wants to create a “New Internet” so that’s obviously a sign that we should do it. Right?

Every year Mark Zuckerberg takes on an annual challenge. This year’s challenge is to fix Facebook. He acknowledges how abuse of the service has negatively impacted people and his goal is to change that this year. In his announcement he stated the following:

…one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization…Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force… many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens

The fact that Zuckerberg acknowledges the issues and points to decentralization as important is a good sign. Time will tell how Facebook implements changes but ultimately it will continue to be a centralized repository of silo’d personal data.

The People

Dries Buytaert is another person I follow and respect who has been a strong advocate for the decentralized web. This article details his thoughts on its importance and his 2018 resolution re-iterated it as well. In it he discusses how he wants to reduce his use of social media and increase his blogging. In it he states:

The web we build today will be the foundation for generations to come and it needs to remain decentralized. It’s true that a decentralized web is harder to build and more difficult to use. Frankly, it will be difficult for the open web to win without better data portability, more regulatory oversight, better integrations, and more innovation and collaboration.

Dries mentioned data portability which is another initiative related to decentralization and personal data ownership which I began following in 2008 but has been dormant. However, this Tweet from Chris Saad (One of its founders) suggests interest in reviving it. Dries also recently blogged about beginning to use POSSE as well.

Earlier I mentioned how the Blockchain could be used as part of the framework for a decentralized web. Just yesterday a video was published with insights from many prominent people in the space including engineer Preethi Kasireddy, and VC’s Mark Suster and Fred Wilson among many others. Preethi discusses the benefits of decentralization over centralization. Fred talks about how Facebook and Google own our data and how decentralization’s greatest potential is returning control of our identity and data back to us. Mark sent out this tweet specifically citing how Blockchain’s potential for fueling a decentralized internet.

Here’s the video

Lastly, on the heels of Zuckerberg’s challenge was the announcement of the Center for Humane Technology created by a group of former Facebook and Google employees (among others) that understand how these companies leverage all of our personal data and in turn manipulate us. Their initial goal is to focus on educating people on the harm that social media sites are playing in shaping children’s behavior. They also will work on a “Ledger of Harms” which will be a resource for engineers who build sites and tools on the health effects. While this group hasn’t mentioned decentralization, I feel we can expect that it may be an initiative in their future.

What Now?

As you can see there seems to be some momentum taking us to a good place. This is all very exciting but it also brings me back to identifying what may be the compelling reason for people to buy into the need to embrace a decentralized web and stop entrusting all of their personal data to the private silos of Facebook, Google and other services. I think the answer will be by providing the value in owning our personal data and planning our digital legacy. It will also be extremely important to do this as seamlessly as possible. I feel that much like how previous generations may have clung to photos, letters, and other heirlooms to pass on to future generations we’ll realize that we need to take the same care with our personal digital data. People need to be educated and hopefully come to realize that outsourcing the ownership of their data will make it cumbersome, if even possible, for their ability to pass that data on to their families in the future.

I’d love to hear more thoughts, resources, and projects related to web / internet decentralization. Please share them in the comments.

 

Return of the Decentralized Web

January 27 2018

Incredibly Entertaining Analysis of Unknown 80s Bands on the Deviate Podcast


The Shadow History of 1980s Rock podcast by Rolf Potts provides us with a unique and amazing way to reflect back on music from the 80’s. The premise is that Rolf stumbles upon a stack of records from unknown bands of the 80’s that he bought 5 years ago from a thrift store in Kansas. […]

Incredibly Entertaining Analysis of Unknown 80s Bands on the Deviate Podcast


The Shadow History of 1980s Rock podcast by Rolf Potts provides us with a unique and amazing way to reflect back on music from the 80’s. The premise is that Rolf stumbles upon a stack of records from unknown bands of the 80’s that he bought 5 years ago from a thrift store in Kansas. […]

January 08 2018

The Best Way to Build a Single Page Website


I’ve been a user of CMS (content management systems) building many websites for over 10 years. In that time I’ve primarily used Drupal and WordPress for most of my projects and tested many other systems along the way. For my most recent work project we’re using a new methodology for building our site called “headless” […]

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