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I met Gary Sinise!

1 week ago

I fiiinally met Gary Sinise! I’ve very briefly written 2 other times about seeing him at the Museum, but I never talked to him. Well, today was my lucky day.

Today at work another Soaring Valor, a partnership between the Museum and the Gary Sinise Foundation to bring WWII Veterans here, was scheduled. I walked in and talked with Dave about it for a little. He mentioned Gary Sinise would be there, and I freaked out a little. I told him I was going to talk to him this time because I swore to myself after squandering so many attempts to talk to celebrities I would do it the next time I saw one. This was my chance! Dave even offered to take our photo if given the chance, and I accepted.

We then experienced another Soaring Valor. I truly love being a part of this. Welcoming the Veterans really is something else. It truly is an honor and a privilege to get to do this. After they were all escorted into Solomon Victory Theater, Dave signaled to me. IT WAS GO TIME.

We walked in and looked for Gary in the preliminary room before Beyond All Boundaries; and we didn’t see him at first, so we walked out. Right as we were walking out I SAW HIM. I was like, “Wait, Dave. He was in there!” So we went back in. Then Dave was like, “Now’s a good time!” And I was like huh?, what?, oh no! But I found myself walking over to him, smiling way too big already. I walked up to him and started introducing myself because I was so nervous I couldn’t think of how to say, “Hello, Mr. Sinise.” I raised out my hand to shake his, and whispered, “Hi, I’m Marshall. I’m the Developer here.” To which he said, “I’m sorry, what was that?” I WAS SPEAKING TOO SOFTLY BECAUSE OF MY NERVOUSNESS. So I repeated what I said, and he heard me this time. Then I told him, “I’m a huge fan, and I think what your foundation is doing for these Veterans is amazing.” He was genuinely thankful, and I could tell he meant it and could see his appreciation. Then I asked, “Would it be okay if I took a picture with you?” He said, “Uh, sure.” Upon further reflection, I believe there were 2 reasons for this. 1) He didn’t want to get taken away from talking with these Veterans, which I totally get. 2) It was dark where we were. Luckily we found a little light and walked over there. Dave was there to snap the pic. I remember how big my smile felt while taking the picture. I told him thank you and shook his hand again.

After, my adrenaline was pumping, and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone! I’ve been so starstruck the past 2 times he was there, and I didn’t even meet him. This time I was HYPE. Anyway, that’s the story about how I nervously met Gary Sinise! He seemed like a genuinely nice person, and he’s doing amazing things for WWII Veterans.

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Latest Post URL

2 weeks ago

Ever since I created the social media accounts for Bloganueva, I’ve wanted to find a way to direct users to my latest post. I thought it’d be a good idea to have something like this, especially for Instagram since you can only have links in your bio or stories (if you have more than 10,000 followers). Users would be able to go straight to the corresponding post from Instagram or wherever, and it would always be correct. Here’s what I did:

$post = App\Post::orderBy('id', 'desc')->first();
$slug = '/posts/' . $post->slug;
Route::redirect('/latest', $slug);

This code is in my web.php file with all my routes. The first line grabs the most recent post from the database. Then I set a variable for the URL in the second line. In the last line I use Laravel’s Route::redirect method to redirect /latest to the variable I’ve set for the most recent post.

This code is simple; however, getting here was pretty annoying. I was trying to use my PostsController with this. However, no matter what I did, I figured out for some reason that this route required authentication for it to work. I believe this had something to do with the Auth changes made in Laravel 5.7. When I created Bloganueva Laravel was at version 5.5. If I wanted to update my authentication to the 5.7 structure, I would have needed to basically remake a lot of stuff; and I do not want to do that at all. I decided I needed to find a new solution for this problem. That’s when I came up with what I have above. I’m so excited about this. I think it will make my Instagram account’s user experience much better and will prove to be more useful than I know in the future.


Bloganueva Has Tags

3 weeks ago

I finally added tags to my website! I’ve tried 2 separate times before, but I never could get it to work. I encountered everything that was stopping me before on this most recent attempt, but this time I was able to get past them. Something just clicked this time.

I’ve previously been able to use php artisan tinker to add tags to posts, but I couldn’t translate this action and related ones into my PostsController and blade file. No matter what I tried at the time, it didn’t work. This time, I got back to the tinker part. I approached it one step at a time.

I followed different tutorials to help me every time I tried. I used different approaches because none of them were working. I was really confused because, if I followed the instructions for the most part, it should work, right? WRONG (lol). The tutorials I was using had different code than each other and myself; so it made it more difficult. What was tripping me up was for some reason in the previous 2 attempts was my code wasn’t retrieving my post’s ID from my database. I determined that this was the problem in my second attempt, but none of my code worked. This time, I was able to figure out a way to do it!

$post->save();
$post = $post->latest()->first();
$post->tag()->sync((array)$request->input('tag'));

In the tutorials I was using, you would just see some version of the first line and the last line. In my situation I needed the middle line for everything to work. I needed to explicitly retrieve the latest post from the database AFTER it was saved. Once a post gets saved to my database, that’s when it’s given an ID. With this second line, I’m pulling the post after it’s saved, therefore also pulling in it’s newly given ID. Then the last line attaches the tag(s) to the post!

With this code, I FINALLY ADDED A TAG TO A POST. Before I got really excited, I started testing out other things to try and break it. Once I figured out this step and nothing else broke, EVERYTHING started falling in to place.

It sucks knowing how close I was the last 2 times, but I’m just glad I fiiinally figured it out! For posts to have tags on a website, you need to have a polymorphic relationship. That means posts can have more than one tag, and tags can belong to more than one post. This makes it a little bit more difficult to do than say, categories (which I also have). Categories can belong to multiple posts, but posts canNOT have multiple categories. Most blogs and websites have this tagging ability, so I sort of felt left out, even though I was putting that feeling on myself. Well, not anymore! I’m heeere with everyone else, and it feels great to have conquered this problem after nearly 2 years! I literally love coding so much!


Weekly Artifacts | James Willard Oglesby

1 month ago

This collection of artifacts shows how somber and almost uncertain losing a soldier is. You would only get the belongings he carried during war. You didn't "get" his body. You received a letter that said your son died, but it didn't give specifics; how can it? Over 400,000 US soldiers were killed during this war. I can't imagine the administrative effort that would have been required to be able to give every family the exact reason and location of death for each soldier. That certainly must have been hard for the families to know their family member died without specifics. You just needed to accept that they're dead, and it's because of this war. In the chaplain letter the funeral is scarcely described. I started thinking while reading it, how similar if not exactly the same these sorts of letters must have been because of the sheer quantity that were sent out. A lot of the time, you weren't allowed to properly grieve for this person. Tangible things like a gravestone or casket weren't available to the soldier's family. You had to grieve off the abstract thought that this person you loved is just no longer with you. Getting the chance to think about this collection reminded me how this world does not need another war like this. We need to remember how the world got to that point back then and never repeat it. It's too much and too costly.

This collection of artifacts means a lot to me. My future boss showed it to me on my interview day at The National WWII Museum. He took me around the Museum after my interview was over, and this was the first stop we made in Rode to Tokyo. He told me this woman kept her marriage a secret so that his family could get his life insurance. I thought to myself how selfless and hard that must have been for her. That's a huge reason this artifact sticks out to me out of all of the artifacts in the entire Museum. I'm never going to forget it. I really appreciated that after my interview I was shown around. That made me want this job even more. I wanted to be a part of spreading the mission of this institution. Now I get to do that everyday.


Knit Bag for Sarah

3 weeks ago

After I finished the scarf, I immediately started knitting something else. I didn’t want to lose steam after finishing a project. I didn’t know what this something was going to be when I first started. I cast on 30 stitches using some yarn Sarah didn’t explicitly need. I soon decided I wanted this project to be a bag. I thought it would be an easy thing to make to help me practice the stockinette stitch. The yarn I used was a little larger than the scarf yarn, so I was able to see results more quickly, and I really like that. It helps with my motivation when I’m making something. This project also helped me practice more joining from a new skein and binding off. I even whipped out some crochet skills that I haven’t utilized since I made my keyboard bag 2 years ago. When I started this bag, I didn’t have the size picked out. I truly was just knitting until the skeins ran out. Luckily, it was exactly enough yarn for the bag to fit Sarah’s Chromebook! She told me that it fit, and I was so dang pumped! Overall, it was a relatively well-rounded project for me to practice on, and I’m incredibly happy with the results.


Knit Scarf for Sarah

1 month ago

I finally finished the scarf I've been making for Sarah since before Christmas. I was almost halfway done before Christmas, but then I just got lazy. I procrastinated a lot--a few months to be exact. I just didn't feel like knitting during this time. Sarah and I weren't going to the knitting group we go to for a few weeks, and that's usually at least one day out of the week when I knit, but I wasn't even getting that time. We eventually started going back, and I picked up this project again. I got halfway in it, joined a new skein, and kept pushing through. I started off knitting a row at a time and putting it down. I wasn't going to make any progress doing that over and over. It would have taken me way longer. I kept telling myself not to put my needles down and to keep going. I could feel how close I was getting to being done, and that motivated me to not stop this time. I bound off, sewed in the loose ends, and was DONE! It felt so good finishing another project. It looks really good. I know it's summer right now, but it's at least ready for her to use later this year.


Hap Tim Laptop Backpack Review

1 month ago

I’ve had the same orange L.L.Bean backpack since I was in high school. There’s a lot to like about it. It’s rugged. It’s water resistant. The design isn’t too bad. It has enough pockets. It holds everything I want it to. It’s a good backpack. However, I figured it’s about time I got a new one. My friend Trey got me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and I decided to use it for a new backpack. I wanted to make the most of the gift card, so I looked and looked and looked for a well reviewed, sick looking, modern bag. Then I found the Hap Tim Laptop Backpack.

First Impressions

When I first opened the box, I was very impressed with the design. Pictures can make a product look nicer than it actually is, but this bad boy is the real deal. I was not let down at all. I put the bag on immediately because of how excited I was about it. It felt lighter and is more compact than my L.L.Bean. It felt comfortable on my back, and I couldn’t wait to pack it with my work supplies. I thought about going through everything to keep it minimal just in case this bag couldn’t handle it because sometimes a bag can be TOO minimal, but I decided against that. I’m glad I did because it handled everything like a champ. Everything1 fit and fit with ease. Every single one of the pockets still has space. This is key because I don’t want an overly stuffed bag that makes it difficult to put stuff in and get stuff out. I was ready to put it to the test.

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Everyday Carry LMAO

This bag exceeded my expectations all week. It feels good when I wear it. It stands up on its own as advertised. The zippers are very nice and feel so smooth. The handle at the top comes in clutch. Since the two straps can be grasped together, the balance of the bag is more centered when I lift it up compared to a bag with the one loop sewn on to the back of the bag. That makes it easier to lift this bag. The general compactness of this bag also contributes to its ease of lift.

I also seized the opportunity to push it to its limits. I used it as my only bag for spending the weekend away. I kept all of my work stuff in it while packing it with all the clothes I needed. Everything fit! I was so psyched about this because I love this bag so much, I literally want to use it as much as possible for anything at all. I’m glad it passed this self-imposed test. I’m so hyped on using it all the time now.

Nitty-gritty

Now I’d like to talk about the nitty-gritty about this bag. The outer fabric feels tough, and I’ve already utilized the water resistance (WE’RE GOOD). The inner fabric is slippery, which is nice because that makes it easier to move things in and out. The hinge mechanism of the main compartment is metal. It feels really solid, and that gives me confidence in this bag’s longevity knowing that I probably can’t break/bend it too easily. The front magnetic button has a solid click to it when it closes. It’s relatively easy to open, which I like because sometimes I need to get something out of it quickly; but I can also tell that it’s secure and won’t open without explicit action. The tiny strap that holds the top straps together comes in handy. I was able to hook my hat and knitting bag around the handles so I didn’t have to carry them separately. Unfortunately I haven’t needed the luggage strap yet, but I’m definitely glad it’s there. I love being able to see directly into the bag when I open the main compartment. I don’t have to do a bunch of stretching to the bag to view any compartment really. I had to do that a lot with my L.L.Bean when I was looking for stuff. Everything is just so much more accessible in this bag, and I appreciate that so much. Truly the use and accessibility I’m getting out of this bag makes my life just that much better.

Conclusion

All of these little things help boost all of the features this bag already has and raises it to another level. This is definitely the best backpack I’ve ever owned. It has quickly become my favorite. This bag has everything I need and want. I can’t say anything bad about it. I’ve enjoyed using it since day one. It has presented absolutely no problems and has surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend this backpack to anyone looking to purchase a new one.


Everything: 1 pair of khakis, 2 shirts, 1 button down short sleeve shirt, 1 button down long sleeve shirt, 2 basketball shorts, 1 pair of Chubbies, underwear, socks, 2 really long charging cables, toothbrush, razor


Journaling in DayGram Diary

1 month ago

I started journaling in 2016. Before I continue, let me define journaling for me because I know people have different purposes for it and ideas about it. When I journal, I just write down parts of my day and more recently my feelings about them in DayGram Diary. That’s it. Journaling has solely been for the purpose of posterity and remembrance.

I wasn’t very consistent with journaling until 2018. I would journal every now and then, maybe a few times a week. Sometimes I had spurts of nothing. In 2018, I made a goal to journal everyday. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach that goal, but I do have a journal entry for every single day that year. Luckily, DayGram lets me retroactively input entries, so I can always go back and fill out days I missed.

This is the only journaling app I have experience with. I know there are plenty, but I wanted a very minimal one. DayGram is exactly what I need. It has a simple design that encourages short journal entries. I originally would write down the most significant thing that happened that day. Jotting down a single thought or event was very appealing to me in the beginning. However, I recently started writing down how I felt that day in addition to a more detailed account of what actually happened. I think it will be useful for me to be able to reflect on my emotions along with ensuring a more accurate recollection of the day. I want my journaling to start having more than just a cataloguing purpose.

Journaling is already very rewarding. I just went back to when Sarah and I got engaged and remembered how that was the best weekend of my whole life. It was perfect. It means a lot to be able to reflect on past experiences. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t write things down. I’m definitely able to remember things without this, but there are little things I’ve written down that I’ve forgotten about. You need to enjoy the little things (Rule #32).

Journaling has been such a nice practice for me to make a habit. I really like being able to look back at my life. If you’ve been thinking about doing it, I’d definitely suggest starting now. You never know what could happen today.


Renewing Let's Encrypt on Linode

1 month ago

In today’s world of constant hacking, sites need to be as secure as possible. That’s why one of the steps I took to help ensure Bloganueva’s security was to install Let’s Encrypt on my Linode. It’s free and very easy to do through the terminal. However, every now and then I’ll get an email stating my Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate is about to expire, but I always forget to renew it before I get an invalid certificate screen in my browser. I’ll eventually make it automatically renew by itself, but for now I just need to manually renew it. Here are the commands I use:

  1. sudo systemctl stop apache2.service
    • I receive a Problem binding to port 80: Could not bind to IPv4 or IPv6. error if I try to use the renew command first. I need to stop Apache before I can do anything.
  2. cd /opt/letsencrypt
  3. sudo -H ./letsencrypt-auto certonly --standalone --renew-by-default -d bloganueva.com -d www.bloganueva.com
  4. sudo systemctl start apache2.service

After performing these steps my certificate is valid once again, and Google Chrome hates me no more! Now, my personal Linode setup may be a little behind the times in terms of Let’s Encrypt’s documentation, but these steps are working for me. I hope this short guide helps anyone who is constantly letting their certificate(s) expire!


Todoist: My Task Manager

2 months ago

I’m an extremely small-scale influencer (not really)! My brother recently asked me about task managers. I suggested the one I’ve been using for a couple of years now, Todoist, and a few other apps. My argument for Todoist put him over the $36 yearly subscription edge. He’s been using it for 2 months now, and he loves it! He says it’s been a lifesaver. It really is a great way to help you organize your life and accomplish tasks. I’ve tried several task managers and notes apps to help me get things done, but I’ve always come back to Todoist.

DISCLAIMER: I will only be talking about my experience with the fully paid version of Todoist.

My Productive History

I’ve tried writing this article a few times over the past 2 years. My first attempt was in January 2017 when I first started using Todoist. Then I tried again last summer. I had just stopped using Todoist, and I replaced it with Things 3CARROT, and MinimaList. My idea for having 3 apps was to split up certain kinds of tasks into each app. Things 3 was for larger projects that had hierarchies. CARROT was for quick tasks. MinimaList was for recurring tasks. Trying to keep up this conscious compartmentalization got old real quick. After that brief stint with other Things (lol), I returned to Todoist and have been using it ever since.

Features

Todoist is incredibly flexible. It’s as robust as you want it to be. You can have so many projects. You can create filters based on project(s), time(s), or label(s). It can also be as simple as possible. If you really wanted, you could just input all your tasks into the Inbox. However, I’ve found out this approach doesn’t work for me. My Inbox would be so full that I would feel overwhelmed with things I have to do that I would just do nothing. Now upon task entry I give everything at least a project and more often than not a time. Using this approach means I don’t need to go in later and sort everything in my Inbox into their appropriate projects.

Natural Language & Symbol Recognition

This combination of features is almost the sole reason Todoist is my favorite task manager. I love only needing to type in what I’m thinking in my head and not needing to go through configuration steps when creating each task. All I have to do is type Update website tomorrow at 10am #Work_Tasks, and the task will be entered with a due time at 10 a.m. tomorrow and will be added to my Work_Tasks project. It is so convenient and intuitive to do it this way. I canNOT use task managers that don’t do this, which is basically all of them (I haven’t found another one that does this). I do not like needing to click extra buttons to enter times or choose projects or labels. It’s so much quicker to input everything in the same field. I like this feature so much that I use Fantastical 2, a calendar app, because it also offers this feature.

Organization

Like I stated above, I immediately put a task into a project. This is just scratching the surface of organizing everything. Todoist lets you do so much more to help keep your ideas, thoughts, and reminders neat and tidy.

Nesting

You can nest projects under each other. This enables me to categorize my tasks more granularly and keep my projects list from getting too long. A project with subprojects becomes a dropdown on the left sidebar. This collapsibility helps me with information saturation on the screen and keeps my anxiety at bay.

Headers

When you create a task within a project, you can turn it into a header by ending the name with a colon. You can then create subtasks to nest under this header task. The header, like projects when nested, functions as a dropdown to help keep your list nice and clean. It helps you organize your tasks even more without needing to create another project.

Labels

Labels are yet another way to categorize your tasks. It’s not a project; it’s more of a tag. You can attach different labels to tasks in the same project if you’d like. It provides more granularity.

Filters

Filters are queries you can put together to get certain tasks based on projects, labels, due dates, etc. It enables you to see a more specific task feed, if you will. For example, I have a filter that displays literally all of my tasks. I have another one that displays tasks that don’t have due dates. Filters are very powerful.

Tracking

Todoist offers great tracking of tasks via Karma and Activity. Both have great looking graphics to see how you trend over time. It’s a nice touch if you like being able to visualize progress.

Karma

Karma is a great way to gain personal recognition that you’re accomplishing your tasks. You gain Karma points when you complete tasks or add tasks. You lose points if you have tasks that are overdue 4 days. You can set a daily and weekly task quotas (mine are 5 and 25), and if you reach it you get bonus Karma. Gaining Karna doesn’t matter to me that much, but it is nice to see my points increase over time.

Activity

Todoist keeps track of everything you do. Ever. It’s really nice to see how many tasks you’ve completed or added. It also helps to see when you complete something if needed. Activity is filterable by pretty much anything you want–project or action. It’s really powerful way to dive deeper in to everything you have ever done.

Formatting & Customization

If you like your text to look different sometimes, Todoist has your back. You can bold and italicize projects and tasks. You can add links as well. I personally don’t add too many links, but I do bold some items just to help them stand out more.

I’ve picked certain colors for projects based on what they’re associated with or how I feel about them. For example, I work at The National WWII Museum. Blue is in the logo, so my work tasks are blue. I don’t like chores that much, so they’re gray because they make me kind of sad (eh, not really). I also have underscores instead of spaces to enable better reliability when choosing tasks upon keyboard shortcut entry.

Cross-platform

Todoist is available on iOS, MacOS, Android, Chrome, and the internet; basically almost anywhere. Syncing between all platforms is quick and painless. If you think something is missing, you can force a sync; but automatic syncing works really well. On iOS you can create tasks using Siri. I’d use this feature more if my phone weren’t so slow. On MacOS you can create tasks from anywhere on the computer, no matter what app you’re in, by using a keyboard shortcut. I love this feature so much. I use it all the time. It’s probably my favorite way to create tasks. This feature mixed with the keyboard shortcuts and natural language recognition make creating tasks on MacOS incredibly fast. I don’t have Android devices anymore, but if I did Todoist would be available. It’s also available on Google Chrome in the browser or as a web app. I used to not care about cross-platform capability, but that has become one of the most important features to me in a task manager. I want my tasks to be available to me anywhere, not just stuck on a singular device.

Design

I only have one qualm about Todoist–the design. It’s definitely a web-based design since it needs to be cross-platform. There are other apps with better designs such as the very popular Things 3. I believe that since Things 3 is only available on Apple devices, they’re able to think more natively in terms of design than Todoist. They only have to worry about making their app look good and work well on Apple devices and only need to consider Apple software design. However, as I’ve stated above this section, design isn’t everything.

Todoist does offer themes to help make it look better. You can choose to sync your theme across devices which is nice. I like that they give you that option in case you don’t want it to look the same everywhere.

Conclusion

Overall, Todoist has helped me accomplish and remember so many things I know I would’ve forgotten about. It’s helped me stay focused and achieve high levels of productivity. I really cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking for something to help them organize their mental clutter. It truly is a tool that helps me stay in control of my life.


My 27th Birthday!

4 weeks ago

I had the most wonderful 27th birthday! Sarah surprised me the Thursday before with dinner at this restaurant Cavan. I had the "general Lu’s crispy chicken with crab fat fried rice." Sarah had the "spiced jerk fish with sweet potato hash." It was absolutely delicious! We really enjoyed ourselves. It's a nice, cozy local spot, and that helped make it special. Then we grilled birthday steaks and mushrooms for dinner at home Saturday night. Birthday morning Laila gave me a cute birthday card! Sarah got me the cutest succulent potter (Bulbasaur!) and a new succulent! After presents we picked up a cake from Whole Foods. Then Sarah surprised me at brunch with her family and her friend Emily! That was so nice! I was truly at a loss for words. After a fire brunch we all went back to our place, ate cake, and hung out. It really was a great day. Sarah and Laila, thank you for making this an amazing birthday! I love you so much!


I made colored logos!

4 weeks ago

I decided to make 3 variants of my logo since sometimes the white gets washed out by certain things on the web. Their backgrounds are (obviously) the colors on my site. I'm surprised I haven't thought of this before, but I'm glad I now have this resource! I should make t-shirts or something.