2020: Project Review

    To view other 2020 review posts, visit the main post here.

    Outside of work, I had several projects this year. Frankly, I didn’t have a lot of success. Though I am glad to have been able to work from home easily this year, the workload and stress were extreme this year, even in an industry that is already know for high rates of burnout, suicide, and addiction (that industry being cybersecurity). This will be my most personal post in the series, with the rest being more focused on external reviews, and more personal examens not going on the blog at all.

    Here’s how different efforts turned out (or didn’t):


    Resilient (here) is a project through my consulting LLC (Open & Secure) to share helpful & meaningful insights into various realms of resilience: “security, society, sustainability, and self.”

    I originally thought the main output would be podcast episodes, as several people had asked me to do a podcast. I found it difficult to get through writing, recording, re-recording, editing, etc. in a timely manner. While I am very comfortable with casual conversations, presenting to key or large audiences, and writing effectively…it feels like podcasting combines these communication styles in a way that undermines what makes me comfortable with any of those styles. In conversations and presentations, you can read your audience, adjust, and respond. You also have the grace of it being a “work in progress” and conversational. Yet podcasts go into the world more like the written word: something recorded as-is, lacking the interaction with the audience. Thus, it feels like it needs the more careful planning and precision of the written word…but is still expected to have the conversational tone. Thus, the amount of work it went into making even (admittedly amateur) episodes.

    So, I wrote more instead of recording more. I shared about some security tools. I wrote a few posts about COVID very early in the pandemic. I reviewed a couple relevant books. I started a Resilient book collection. I wrote about watersheds and the importance of thinking about our local ecologies. I made my Roam Research graph (notes) from OWASP and CSO50 conferences available to my full subscribers (all of which are comped, except for one person who was comped and made a subscription anyway!). Even with the conferences, I was able to attend far fewer sessions than I would like, due to work overtaking even my vacation time.

    I host Resilient on a newsletter platform (one which allows for using RSS for the feed instead of email, and also supports the podcast episodes and forum/conversation posts). Like podcasts before, I’m concerned about the state of newsletters, with there being too many of low quality, too many not worth people’s time, and the impact on the medium as a whole.

    I’m not looking to make big money on the Resilient. The primary reason it has a subscriber model at all was to keep some of the content opt-in and not available to the whole web (see concerns around podcasting, above). When I set the rate for subscription, I chose the cheapest option the provider allowed, and then added a discount on top of that via the payment provider. I offer a comped subscription to people that I know who sign up, and to anyone else who asks.

    But I do think about the audience, the reach, and how often and how well I am delivering value to the audience. I’ve not posted enough this year, and not done as much analysis as I would have liked. I keep wondering if I should kill the project and move the items into my general blog.

    Yet I also know there are folks specifically wanting or asking for the kind of material that Resilient provides, and it is the common theme of expertise in my life. So for now, it stays, and I look for ways to make it better as hopefully the stress and workload gets better in 2021. I welcome your feedback!

    Northern Fires

    I started the Northern Fires (Guernica) reading and writing project in May. One of the most interesting bands to me these days, Silent Planet, has a lyricist who includes many intelligent references in each song, and includes those in the liner notes (and YouTube video notes) for each song.

    The idea of the project is to do a read through and discussion of those works for one of the songs: Northern Fires (Guernica). I haven’t found people that are interested in joining up, yet, so I’ve spent less time on this than on other reading.

    It’s a shame I deprioritized this, because there are many lessons from the Spanish Civil War that are incredibly relevant to the world, today. I’m going to pick up reading and writing for this project more in 2021, even if others aren’t reading the works along with me. Maybe some will glean points from my commentary or be inspired to read along with some of the works.

    40 for 40

    I turned 40 this year, and expected to have a nice vacation and get a start on a project where I would dole out 40 bits of experience. The vacation never happened (for obvious reasons) and between that, stress, and concerns about hubris, I abandoned this project. Much of what I’d started collecting will probably make it into the next project…


    DearKiddos was something I started doing to process my lessons-learned and offer them to the next generation. For nieces, nephews, friends of kids, and youth at church.

    This one was well-received by several folks, and I plan to periodically do more. I have many topics queued up to write, and will plan to get more out over the next year. I am purposefully avoiding writing too many too fast, so that I don’t get burnt out on the project.


    I had some vacation in October this year and thought it would be a good way to join this tradition. I made a few entries and catch-up entries which were frankly pretty bad…but I knew that going in. Though I wasn’t consistent and didn’t finish, I learned a lot (both about the drawing and the photography!) through the process. I’m not sure if I’ll do it in 2021, or not.

    Home Office

    My spouse and I used to have one room that was storage and a shared office. Since both of us are working from home full time now (and for a while still to come, it looks like), we converted that room to her office and the guest room to my office.

    I’m happy with how my office is turning out, making it serene and suitable for focus. I installed two shelving units (including this one). I have one more item I’m still trying to get from Ikea, and I hope to get a reading chair when it seems safe to go shopping for those, again, but otherwise it’s been very good. I have a south-facing view, which means I get some nice views of the outdoors and sunlight.

    Wet & Wild

    (OK, this title is a joke. I wasn’t sure what to call this.)

    I’ve been looking for acreage within an hour and a half our our home. Something with at least a few acres (hopefully 10 or more) and some water (like a pond, or lake or creek access). I’d like to have a place to camp and eventually build a cabin/cottage to our unique specifications. I want to preserve some of our ecology and plant some trees, maybe even re-wilding a space, depending on it’s current state. I also see it as an investment when a lot of investments are problematic, these days.

    I’ve found a few things that sorta work with our criteria (including one I need to investigate further), but nothing yet that has made us move on a purchase. I’ll keep my eyes open still in 2021, and am open to leads!

    I’ve also been getting prepped to go camping more, which I miss quite a bit. I got my Biolite stoves tuned back up, am preparing to remediate my dad’s old cooler (it has a crack in the internal lid), replaced our old tent, and got a cold weather sleeping bag.

    What projects have you had this year? How did they go?

    Happy birthday to all my cybersecurity colleagues!

    2020: News & Magazines Review

    To view other 2020 review posts, visit thee main post here.

    Newspapers and News Magazines

    I tend to prefer “slow news”, focusing on quality over quantity & speed. Most “breaking news” (or even daily news) I don’t need to hear about, and the net effect of rapid-fire news is to introduce more interruptions and unnecessary stress into our lives. I also try to mix both broad (global) perspectives and local reporting.

    I reserve most news reading for Saturday mornings, where I usually peruse the following sources, reading just the articles that are relevant to me or challenging to my perspective:

    • The Economist weekly magazine - This is a very high-quality global-perspective news magazine, though a bit limited in topics of focus. I often read from the app, exporting articles to Pocket that I want to highlight or annotate, so that they enter Readwise, where I keep all my reading notes for review. If I have errands to run before I get through reading, I switch to listening to the articles.
    • The Guardian (US edition) weekly news magazine - This is another high quality global-perspective news magazine, and will often hit the important topics that would not have made it to The Economist. I get the actual physical edition of this, only. The puzzles at the back are a nice bonus.
    • Anabaptist World - This year, The Mennonite and Mennonite World Review merged to become this news magazine. It’s published triweekly or so (16 issues a year), and covers various USA and global anabaptist news and commentary.
    • The Indianapolis Recorder - This is my local news and the best source in Indianapolis. Even though it is labeled with the purpose of continuing to “support and empower African Americans”, it has the broadest and best reporting for all.
    • Delayed Gratification - This is a quarterly news magazine that looks back over the quarter. Though I love the idea of this one, and they create a beautiful product, I will probably be dropping it when it is renewal time, as the topics tend to be a bit too pop for my tastes.

    Other Magazines

    On the “not news” front, I enjoy a few other magazines. All of these are no (or almost no) advertising. This is important to me, as ad-free means the subscription price represents the truer cost of the writing, doesn’t prejudice the editorial stance of the magazine, and helps free the writing to do much more than “get a reaction”.

    • Plough Quarterly - this is another Anabaptist magazine. It is published by the Bruderhof (rather than Mennonites), and has a broader scope & appeal and is not just for Anabaptists. It has both current and historical essays and material.
    • New Philosopher - a high-quality magazine, with each issue being like a symposium on a certain philosophical topic or question.
    • Offscreen - a physical product for digital people. This magazine brings humanity to technology. (warning: this one does have supporter ads, but they are minimal and minimalist.)
    • Ernest - I just started reading this one after learning about it from @adders. It’s a beautiful journal of adventure.

    Doing this examen helped me to cull a handful of magazines that I’ve not been reading much.

    In the next post (here), I will cover Feeds (RSS, etc.) and Newsletters that I subscribe to.

    What are you reading? Anything you recommend?

    Response to @joshuapsteele re: books on hand


    Honorable mentions:

    Preview of the complete minimalist day/adventure/survival-pack for @lukeforis @odd @pilchuck

    It may look bulky, but this is a small pack and very light.

    (Pack is the Osprey Daylite)

    2020: 📺 & 🎥 Review

    To view other 2020 review posts, visit the main post here.

    When it comes to screens, I prefer to do something that requires engagement from me. Thus, when I’m in front of a screen for enjoyment, I’m often reading or playing. When I’m watching, I prefer something humorous, challenging, or both. I generally don’t like passive entertainment.

    With the diffusion of shows and movies across streaming services (and Netflix & Apple TV not playing nice together), I started using [JustWatch] ( to track “to watch” lists. JustWatch let’s me have a single watch list, and go to wherever I can stream (or rent or buy) the show or movie.

    This year, I continued my quixotic quest to “watch all the sketch comedy”. Here are some of the new (to me) ones I that I recommend:

    We like to watch “funny news” at our house. My favorites are:

    • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: the in-depth segments cut deep but also discuss opportunities to do something about it.
    • Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj: a little less what-can-you-do-about-it and a little more in-depth. These could be heavy, which is probably why it’s now cancelled.
    • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: I would occasionally watch the previous night’s intro portion of this show while having my breakfast. I find Colbert (& his writers) to be the funniest of the late night hosts. Also, lately, the moments where you can hear his wife (or their interactions) are charming.
    • Late Night with Seth Meyers: Like the above, it was an occasional morning watch of the intro portion of the show. He pulled no punches on calling out problems in the USA presidential administration, to the point where I’m frankly surprised he’s been able to stay on the air.

    At our house, we also enjoy some murder mysteries and “police procedurals”. Here are the couple that stood out for me this year:

    • Endeavour: It’s Inspector Morse when he was younger, and they do a brilliant job of creating the setting of each episode (which is really a movie): visually, historically, and audibly.
    • Criminal: the premise of these series is that it’s a very sparse set of the interview rooms and a couple hallways, yet they are able to do so much with it. ( note: check for 4 different countries and languages; there are multiple versions with different stories)

    Here are other shows that I recommend:

    • Ted Lasso: this is my top recommendation from this year. On top of being very funny, I appreciate how much maturity and humanity people show each other, even in the face of most of the characters going through something incredibly difficult.
    • The Repair Shop: this is an incredibly charming show about a shop where people bring in their antiques, family heirlooms, and broken items to be reconditioned. It’s a brilliant spot of light in a throwaway consumerist culture, and there are wonderful moments of joy.
    • The Good Place: a hilarious show that introduces and mashes up a lot of philosophical concepts and questions
    • Watchmen: full disclosure, I hadn’t seen the movie or read the comics before watching this spinoff TV show, but am familiar with their basic story line and themes. This was an incredible production that explores a number of both contemporary and timeless problems.
    • Fargo: like Watchmen, I haven’t seen the movie, but I am riveted to every season of this show. What I like most about this show is the juxtapositions: beauty & horror, fortune & reversal, education & gallows humor, and much more.
    • The Mandalorian: yes, it’s full of fan service, but it’s really well-done fan service that re-explores many tropes in fresh ways.
    • The Boys: these comedy-horror comic book characters made it to TV, and it presents a scathing critique of various power structures.
    • Community: I wrapped up this series this year. It’s intelligent and funny, but you really do have to watch from the beginning in order to understand the characters and their dynamic. Troy & Abed will always have a special place in my heart for the way they portrayed nerdiness in a more authentic and laughing-with rather than laughing-at way.
    • Alone: I generally shy away from “Reality Shows” due to vapidity, repetition, and manufactured melodrama. I will often check out survival shows, though (hey, Eagle Scout here!). What I like about this one compared to some others is that you can see how they setup for the long haul, giving us a chance to see how challenges and priorities shift over the duration of their stay. (Of course, it’s also relevant to my theme of Resilience.)

    The Big Screen: I didn’t watch a lot of movies this year (who did?), but here are the two that stuck with me:

    • Knives Out: as I mentioned earlier, we enjoy murder mysteries in this house. This was a great twist on those tropes. (I feel like it’s this generation’s Clue)
    • El Hoyo (The Platform): this minimalist dystopian horror film offers several critiques of the current age.

    What did you watch this year? Any recommendations?

    Krebs covers Krebs

    Nobody is surprised, but it’s still sad.

    Experts: Gobble All You Like, But Do It With The Turkeys In Your Own Household)

    And if you are getting together:

    “do pickup of groceries, rather than going grocery shopping in the store”

    “Making sure you’re practicing really good hand hygiene”

    “if you can get tested, you should”

    “A 14-day quarantine period could prevent transmission — especially for asymptomatic cases.”

    As Trump’s creditors hope to salvage more from his outstanding obligations, these last months of the presidency could be even more swampy than the rest.

    So: let’s help each other endure the death throes of this administration. Practice compassion. Engage in mutual aid. Offer sanctuary and healing. Make plans and build support systems for a freer, healthier, brighter future.

    Masks are such an easy, powerful way to reduce the number of lost lives, both directly from the virus, and indirectly from financial impacts. Wear them, please.

    Universal Mask Wearing Could Save Some 130,000 Lives In The U.S.

    Sunday Quote:

    The recommendation is for several reasons, including: a better fat profile (omega ratio), better micronutrients, and better carb profile (fiber over simple).

    #DearKiddos: A Vaccine for Cruelty


    I was reading this article today from the Economist: “No Vaccine for Cruelty” (image).

    It’s about how people in political power have done nastier and nastier things during the COVID-19 crisis, and have largely gotten away with it.

    The article says “no vaccine”, but I want to try to give you one, anyway. A vaccine is a medicine you take to make it so that you can get through it when a nasty infection comes your way. So let’s give this a shot.

    How authoritarians rise

    First, by “authoritarian”, I mean someone who takes away power and choice from the people, and keeps that power with threats and violence. They’re sometimes called strongmen (and yes, they’re almost always men) or tyrants.

    There’s a pretty well-know path to getting this kind of power. It goes basically like this:

    1. Make everyone afraid
    2. Blame someone for it
    3. Claim to be the savior

    Let’s break that down a bit, and talk about what we can do ahead of time to prevent getting sick from it (that’s the vaccine!).

    Make everyone afraid

    There are several ways the strongman can go about this. Sometimes, they will simply put lots of attention on something that’s genuinely scary (example: financial problems, pandemics). Other times, they will create chaos by encouraging people to fight amongst themselves (example: encouraging racism). Other times, they will create boogeymen (example: conspiracy theories and communist scares). Other times, they will allow things to get bad via neglect (example: climate change). Often, they do more than one of the above!

    As you can see from these short examples, the fear could be real, made up, or even caused by the strongman. The main point is that they want to increase fear, because fear makes us want to react. When we’re afraid, we want someone to do something, and they want to be the one to offer that something (see phase 3).

    So what’s our vaccine for this stage of the cruelty?

    First, we can practice gratitude, thankfulness, and hope. One simple way to do this is to have a time each day where you think about what you are thankful for. You can even write this in a gratitude journal, or share what you are thankful for with friends, family, or church. For hope, we can build hope by being hope. When we work with others to give and receive help, we build hope for both us and them. We can feel the difference, imagine a better future, and trust in one another. Can you think of other ways you might practice gratitude, thankfulness, or hope?

    Another way we can protect ourselves is to be thoughtful when people are trying to scare us. This is extra true in news and social media. Unfortunately, because most of the places we get our news are driven by advertising (sorry, that’s the topic for another post), they are likely to tell stories in a way that scare us, because it gets us to click, tune in, share, etc. So, our news does a lot of the work for the strongman. But we should still ask ourselves questions like:

    • Who is the original source of this information?
    • Is this mostly facts or opinions?
    • Is this showing things in only the worst way?
    • Who are they trying to scare?
    • Does the story feel inspirational or does it feel demotivational? (Meaning: does it make us want to solve a problem together, or does it make us feel alone and angry?)

    There will always be some truly bad news, for sure. But with these types of questions, you can start getting your news from better sources, and you will more likely know when someone is trying to make up, exaggerate, or misuse bad news.

    Blame someone for it

    The next step of the strongman is to convince you that a person (example: their political opponent) or a group of people (example: a race, class, region, or religion) are to blame. Specifically, that they are to blame for the things that the strongman has been trying to scare you about. You might hear this called “scapegoating” or setting up a “fall guy”.

    This is a powerful trick, because it gives scared people something to agree on, to join together in blaming. It’s a sad way to create fake togetherness. It’s “belonging” through a common enemy. (This is another reason that working together on hope was so important: it creates real unity instead of false unity.)

    Now, it’s true that there may be someone or some people who are partially or wholly responsible for problems that you are experiencing (and it might even be the strongman himself, as we saw in phase 1!). But the strongman is not trying to truly diagnose the problem and work together on a solution. He’s trying to whip up anger, to create a mob, to create vigilantes, and/or to bring in his own forces.

    So what’s our vaccine for this stage of the cruelty?

    One thing we can do ahead of time is to have met or know people that are different from us. We can live in neighborhoods where there are people with different backgrounds. We can go to schools where everybody doesn’t look like us. We can make friends with people with different experiences than us. When we travel, we can learn from and be respectful to the people that are local to the area. We can be part of groups and activities where we meet people who think or act differently. Here’s why: when you know people that are in the accused group, it’s hard for someone to convince you that they are the enemy, because you’ll be able to see that the lies and stereotypes aren’t true.

    Also, along the lines of hope from phase 1, we can build teams, support, and organizations that serve people and solve problems. When we’re used to doing work to make the world a better place, we know that problem-solving is rarely an us-vs-them situation, it’s usually something where diversity actually helps in finding new solutions!

    What other ideas do you have for protecting us against the hateful blame game?

    Claim to be the savior

    At this point, the cycle of blame and fear has ramped up, because the blaming has created more division and fueled fear further. Now the strongman makes the claim to be the savior. They tell you “look, I know what the problems are…I warned you about them” (back when they made people afraid) and “I know how to solve it…I told you who is at fault” (back when they blamed people). See what’s happening here?

    They will tell you they are the only one smart enough to see it all, and strong enough to do something about it. They will often use the language of “law & order”, meaning that they will wield power, control, and even violence over the groups that they setup to take the blame.

    So what’s our vaccine for this stage of the cruelty?

    If you’ve been following along, you’re probably noticing that the strongman isn’t really following tradition & law, and is actually creating disorder or at least adding to it. You’re right, the claim to “law & order” is a lie, but that doesn’t really register for the people who are already afraid and bought into the blame game. That means the best way to defend against phase 3 here is to defend against phase 1 and phase 2, as we discussed above.

    That said, if you’re a person of faith (or even if you’re not!), you should be wary of anyone who claims they’re the only solution to your problems. It’s healthy to be a bit cautious (“skeptical”) of power, and one of the things we can do ahead of time is to build our organizations and institutions in ways where power is shared among more people.


    Authoritarians are seizing more power around the world right now, and it will likely happen again in your lifetime. But when you and your community practice some of these defenses, you can help limit the times it will happen, and lessen the damage that comes when it does.

    I appreciated this opinion from Sarah Smarsh in The Guardian:

    How is arguing with Trump voters working out for you?

    📚 Now Reading: Regenerative Agriculture by Richard Perkins

    I still find that there are people not using a password manager (along with multifactor, mind you).

    Here’s another benefit you may not have thought of: they suggest the credentials only when you are on the actual site and not a spoofed one.

    I was on a panel yesterday, kicking off National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (#NCSAM2020), joined by the CISOs for Eli Lily and Cummins, the CTO for Ivy Tech, and the Cybersecurity Director for the Indiana Office of Technology.

    Linda Calvin (our host) shares here and here

    An Alternate Geography

    I live in the:

    • Nation of Ohio
    • State of Wabash
    • County of Patoka-White
    • City of Upper White

    Let’s reverse that order, starting with Upper White and zooming out:

    Upper White:








    Ohio and neighbors:


    images sourced from: [](

    What are these?

    These regions are “watersheds” or “drainage baisins”. They represent an area where all the water drains into one body (stream, river, lake, etc.).

    In the USA, the numbers you see in the above images represent the 8-digit “HUC” or Hydrologic Unit Code. From my example, 05120201 represents Ohio (05), Wabash (12), Patoka-White (02), Upper White (01). As you can see, they are all named after the major river(s) of that region.

    In addition to the 8-digit HUCs, there are also 12-digit HUCs, representing two additional layers of zoom-in and specificity. Using my proposed naming above, perhaps we could call these Townships and Neighborhoods.

    What are mine?

    In the USA, you can find your regions by progressively zooming in via this tool from the US Geological Survey. For each region, they also provide many linked resources.

    To get even more specific, you can check your 12-digit HUC using the community water search from the EPA. This is also a great resource to see the quality of the water in your area, including the safety of swimming in it, the health of aquatic life in it, and the quality of your drinking water.

    (Note: if you live outside the USA, please feel free to share in the comments how to look up watersheds where you live!)

    Why does it matter?

    As the saying goes: water is life. People, wildlife, and the entire ecology within a watershed are all part of the same stream of life.

    In addition, ecological health is tied to financial health, and both are affected by community interactions and governance within the region. Their fate flows together.

    Thus, the thought experiment of using the terms: Nation, State, County, City, Township, Neighborhood.

    Political boundaries can often feel arbitrary, based on agreements or impositions that may have had very little to do with the people that actually live in the area (or were even contrary to their interests, such as in colonial situations).

    But watersheds are based on shared life. Regardless of wealth, ethnicity, or other factors, people within a watershed have shared destiny.

    So what?

    What would it mean to think of our local watershed as our polity, our political unit?

    Could we become better at seeing our neighbors as people in the same boat, rather than as enemies?

    Could we more readily identify how systems are interacting?

    Could it enable more long-term thinking, strategic thinking, thinking that considers not just the current moment but the impact to the financial, social, and ecological health of the region?

    How is the health of your watershed? What might you do, knowing that?

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