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Camp Recap: Week One

So it's been just over a week since I've arrived at camp.  I feel like it has flown by.  I'm having tons of fun.  And it's been pretty busy too.  LOTS of work to do.  I've come up with a new system for tracking all the requests.  Definitely fine tuning things much better than they were last year and any other year prior.

One of the things I've been meaning to do for years is revamp the proxy server virtual machine that I use to filter traffic for the camper email system.  I recently updated my VMware Fusion software and that combined with my new MacBook Pro solid state hard drive... It's blazing fast.  I can open and close/sleep virtual machines super quick.  And I can create machines in a hot minute.  I'm using Ubuntu combined with Squid and Dansguardian to create the virtual machine.  Then I'll just move it to a windows machine running virtual box where it will run all summer.  I set the original one up in 2008 ish?  I think.  It's definitely due for an upgrade.

I'm also pretty excited about deploying some new wireless hardware to enhance the capability of the wireless network around camp.  EVERYONE WANTS WIFI!  It's an in-demand commodity.

It's been a bit of a whirl wind here as far as all that is going on.  Work projects and training.  Just getting things setup for the campers to arrive.  Weather wise we've had some sunny days and rainy days.  Today was very nice weather, just kind of warm, but not hot.  The staff are all training for the campers to arrive.  Everyone has been working and playing and making new friends all at the same time.

The first night I got here I went to see Jurassic World.  That was pretty awesome.  Saw it at a tiny little theater that I used to go to as a kid.  It's been rebuilt since, so it's not quite as tiny as it was back in the day.

Then I found my office desk.  Which I'm typing this from now.  I'm definitely going to get a new desk when I get home.  Probably not the same desk as I have here, but I've been desk shopping a bit between projects.

I've just kind of been hanging out with old friends and making new friends.  Last night was camp lip sync.  Everyone had a great time.  Some of the lip sync songs were pretty hilarious.  Today I played some tennis instead of going on a run.  I've been enjoying going on a run every day around the camp property.

I also got some ice cream from the place down the road which is always delicious.  I got the tiny size and it was still as big as my face.  It's basically 2 bucks for a serving of more ice cream than you can wrap your mind around.

Speaking of which, the food is pretty fantastic.  I can't even begin to describe how awesome it all is.

I enjoy coming to camp for so many reasons, making new friends, meeting with old friends, getting to play around with tech and try new things in a fun working environment.  It's interesting because there's always new stuff.  Every year I think, I've done it all... but then there's a new experience.

Tomorrow night is a night out on the town for everyone.  We'll be heading into downtown Portland Maine.  It's a nice break to head out and relax with everyone outside of camp.

The next week will be just trying to finish up all the projects that I'm working on and then it'll be time to head back home.

I'm writing this in a very drowsy state after a long day, so if it's not completely coherent I apologize.

Well that's about it for now... Until next time.


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Maineward Bound

It's that time of the year again, already.  It always creeps up so fast anymore!  I feel like the years are just flying by.

Actually, I was listening to a podcast tonight where the one guy was talking about planning and he was saying you should plan as long ahead as you've been doing whatever you're doing previously.  So if you've been doing something 5 years, you really should think 5 years ahead.  If you've been doing something 1 month, you should only really think 1 month ahead.  Interesting concept.  I suppose I've been going to Maine most of my life, so I guess theoretically if I plan ahead, I'll be going to Maine the rest of my life.  Perhaps.  Or maybe I'll explore some new uncharted territories one day.

I'll be heading up to Maine in the next couple days.  My first stop will be over night in Connecticut to visit some friends there.  Then I'll continue on to the land of Moose and pine trees.

Things have pretty much gotten to the point where I can do the entire trip with my eyes closed.  Of course I'm speaking figuratively and not literally.  That would make for some tough driving.  But, though I've done this trip more times than I can count, I do still enjoy it. Every year is similar, but slightly different.  There is always some thing new and I meet new friends as well as connect with old ones.  I also will end up learning new things.  There's always new music, phrases, games, cool little gizmos, snacks/candy/treats that people bring.  It's a wonderful experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

My mom has a friend coming in to stay with her while I'm gone, so she can assist with daily things that I usually do.  That's a bit of a relief.  So I'm glad that worked out.

What else?  Nothing super interesting.  Along with being in Maine I'll still have to do some work things remotely, ever year I do that.  I'm the accounts guy, so I log in remotely and create accounts while I'm up in Maine.  It's not too bad.  I've managed to automate some of the processes required since I took over that task many years back, so I don't have to spend hours and hours with Excel and the program I use to get the accounts into Active Directory and Email and the other systems that we use at my job.

Other than the work, I'll be able to socialize, enjoy the fresh air, maybe get a swim in, and just enjoy myself.  It's a nice break each year from my life here in PA.  Well, I'm off to sleep.  I've spent some of my night packing and sorting things.  I'll do more of the same tomorrow night.  Tomorrow is going to be my "running around all day" day, to take care of all the things I need to buy pick up before I head northward.


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You Win Some, You Lose Some

Today I sold an investment I'd been holding on to since 2008.  The investment was for just under a thousand dollars worth of shares in a publicly traded company.  The total amount that I bought the 10 shares for?  Close to 100 bucks a share.  The total amount that I sold the shares for?  About 70 cents.  Yes.  Ouch.  That means after commissions, I got 2 dollars back on that initial investment of nearly a grand.  Would have been better off just booking a few nights at a luxury hotel.

Something like a 99.9 percent loss.

But here's the thing, I'm actually ridiculously excited about it.  Why?  Well, it's because this year I was able to make the trades to cover the loss.  When you sell a stock at a loss, you actually get to use it against your capital gains to pay less taxes, it's called Tax Loss Harvesting.  So why would I be so happy about that?  Let me explain...

Waaaaaay back in 2008, I really had no idea what I was doing when I would buy stocks.  I'd just kind of make trades based on... Actually I almost have no clue what my trades were based on.  Looking back at some of the trades I made I'm just like, what was I THINKING?  I have no idea.  Apparently I wasn't.  I mostly just let others do the thinking for me and followed whatever website had trades listed.  Mostly I was getting my ideas from this one site that traded on a trend, but the problem with that is, when you get a market crash, like we had in 2008/9... Trends tend to reverse.  This, by the way, is the worst way to trade.  Just getting your stock tips from some website, or in my case, a web TV show made by some random guy in Canada, isn't the best idea.  Especially when you are trading with your hard earned cash.  If someone ever tells you about a "hot stock tip" even if it's a web TV show that was featured on various money news sites ...

Don't listen to them.  Trust me.  And especially if it's a friend or coworker trying to tell you a hot stock...  Just, do your own research instead and decide if that company is actually a company you'd want to won shares in.

Well the fantastic news is that I think much better now.  Nearly every trade I've been making in the last couple years has turned out to be pretty solid.  I've still had a few rough ones, but nothing that ended in a loss at all actually.  I just didn't get the price gain I wanted in the time frame, but I did collect some dividends for waiting it out and being patient with the stock.  Now, I've tweaked my trading and investing process over the years, and I'm really getting excited at how well it's working.  In fact, it's working so well, that I was able to finally let go of this bad apple stock that I purchased back in the day and I'm still ahead as far as capital gains go, even with a 99.9 percent stock loss on one of my trades, I'm still in the green.  And that's what excites me.

When you can start to see how well you are evolving and how much better you are getting at something...  That's super cool.  I remember seeing this when I first started playing guitar.  Or recorded songs.  Listening to the old compared to the new... It's really neat to see positive changes happening.

There's too much for me to cover as far as how stocks work or how trading works, or how investing works (maybe a whole other series of blogs), but I will simply say that even though I lost that money, I'm actually glad that I made that specific trade.  It taught me a lot about how to effectively evaluate which stocks will most likely turn out great in the future and which ones could sour.  This trade in particular is an interesting stock.  Many factors were at play to push the price from nearly 100 dollars a share in 2008 to 70 cents today.

This is kind of a quick little analysis of what happened...

First was the financial crisis in 2008.  That clobbered the stock market in general.  This company then saw further trouble and never recovered for a few other reasons... one reason has to do with the price they can charge for their product.  They are in a highly competitive industry with lots of other companies all doing the exact same thing they do, so unless you can do something that absolutely no other company can do, it's tough to really charge a premium on the price of your product.  Every industry is different as far as something like supply and demand goes for setting a price, and of course there are other items that factor in, like how much it costs to make the goods or supply the service in the first place.  But some industries are stuck selling at what's called a commodity price.  This is basically... a generally agreed on price (it's a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of this little blog post we'll just say that) for how much that product will cost on any given day.  One example of this is a barrel of crude oil.  Another is a bushel of wheat.  The price for this particular commodity, which has to do with those big cargo ships that transport goods around the planet, plummeted.

To make matters worse, the company is based in Greece.  So because of their financial problems as a country, there is a lot more fear and uncertainty surrounding the company and its shares driving the price even lower.

Anyways, the long and the short of it (Get it?  Long and short...  Long and short are types of trades... Annnnnyways) is that I learned a TON about looking at companies on the micro and macro level.  Looking at how world events might effect their business model, and how governments can pressure businesses, or prices of commodities can turn a very profitable business into one that is just barely able to scrape by on the bottom and top lines.

When I evaluate a stock nowadays I have almost 100 different metrics that I look at.  I also make excel sheets to compare stocks to one another so that I select the best company to trade at the best time.  I now have an entire bookmarked selection of websites that I use to evaluate all kinds of different aspects of a company to decide if it fits for me and my trading strategy.

I'm hoping as I go forward to further tweak this process.  The key is to never stop learning, and to never stop reviewing processes.  To always strive to be better even if you think it's the best it can get.

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Cleaning Tips: PC Edition (2015)

Boxes popping up left and right when you are trying to click on links.  Strange advertisement sound clips playing in the background.  Warning messages taking over your screen telling you that the FBI now has control of your computer and you must Paypal some bitcoins to the Pope to get your desktop back.

Computer infections, malicious viruses or annoying malware, can really make using your PC a pain.  The problem isn't just that you can't get work done, but it's that your might might also being trying to infect new machines.  The image below is just one example of how an infected machine sends out spam email with an attachment to infect new PCs.

So what can computer users do about this?  It turns out there are lots of useful tools that exist to help clean out a possibly infected PC.  I've blogged about this before, but since the computer tech world is full of change I thought I would write an updated post.  I'm only going to cover programs that run on Windows PCs since the various versions of Microsoft Windows make up the most infected of all operating systems, simply because they are the most widely used.  It's not worth the effort to infect 3 machines running some virtually unknown operating system when you can put the same amount of time and effort into writing a virus that will infect 3 billion computers.  This is why WordPress is exploited so often, it's one of the most popular platforms for creating websites.  If you run a site that uses WordPress, make sure to keep it updated!  And you'll want to keep those plug-ins updated too.  It's not just computers that can get infected, websites can get infected too.

So what are these useful tools you ask?  Well, here's a quick rundown of the lineup I use at my job to tackle an infected computer.  This will work about 95 percent of the time.  The other 5 percent of the time I end up just backing up the data and restoring the PC to factory state.  Restoring to factory state is usually the best way to go if you can stomach re-installing all your applications and settings.  If not, here are my favorite cleaning tools and the order that I'll use them.


The first item I like to run is the VIPRE Rescue scan application.  it's self contained and the latest definition is included when you download the application from their site.  So, if you need the latest updated virus definitions, you'll need to download a fresh copy.  I'll usually download a new one every week or two.

I like to boot the computer into safe mode.  Then plug in a flash drive, and double click the exe file.  That will then run a self extracting winzip package that asked if you want to unzip, and also includes options to run after it's finished unzipping.  I just leave everything as default and let it do it's thing.  There are no options with this.  It just scans, detects, and removes.  When it's done, it's done.

{CLEANING TOOL NUMBER 2: JRT - Junkware Removal Tool}

This tool is a bit shady, but I use it anyway because, well, it just works (despite the nagging feeling that it's infecting your machine with even more malware than it's removing).  This is another tool with no options.  Basically you run it, again, a DOS like box pops up and then it does its thing.


There is a pay version of this utility, but the free version will work just fine.  Install the program after downloading it.  Then run a scan and see what kind of goodies (or in this case, badies since these are unwanted programs).  I would recommend uninstalling this program after using it if you don't decide to buy it since, in my experience it does seem to ask politely at regular intervals that you upgrade to the pro version.  I recommend buying either this program, or the next one in my list if you do decide to purchase a solution for anti-spyware/anti-malware.

{CLEANING TOOL NUMBER 4: Malwarebytes}

This utility is probably the most well known out of all of these.  It has been around for ages and it works wonders.  Use this one just the same as SUPERAntiSpyware.  Install it, run it, uninstall it.  If you do decide to purchase either this one or the previous one for preventing future malware/spyware installations (I recommend purchasing at least one but not both, and as well make sure you only have one antivirus solution installed as having multiple installed can actually slow your computer to a crawl) make sure to double check the definition files are updating on a regular basis as well as the scans are happening regularly as well, otherwise the program is useless.

After running those 4 utilities  I recommend running the first scan utility one final time.  Running all of these utilities will take some time, in fact, it will most likely take several hours.  If after these programs have run, you are still having problems with popups or slowness, a full backup of your files and a restore are in order.  A backup and restore will work for almost any software related problem 99.9 percent of the time.  If there are still problems with your computer, it's time to run the built in hardware diagnostics utility, since one of the hardware components have probably failed.  Or as a last resort, take it to your local computer geek.

Happy computing!  Hopefully these tips helped to make things better (and not worse).  Please note that by running these programs and removing a malware/spyware infection, it is possible that the computer can actually stop responding all together.  Some of these infections are actually programed with self destruct code to destroy core system files on the way out...


And back up your data on a regular basis no matter what to as many places as you can.  You never know when disaster might strike.

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