Posts tagged autobiography

10-Year-Old Me, What Can I Say

My first-grade teacher, who I remained close with throughout elementary school, added me on Facebook.

At ten years old I was dead set on becoming a fantasy writer. That's when I wrote The War of Lord Capani. I was just... so different.

I knew you have to accept a Facebook request like this. But beyond that I wasn't sure what to do.

If we meet, get coffee or whatever, I think I'd disappoint. I was supposed to become an author of Stephen King magnitude.

When do I write now? Blog posts (hello). Software documentation.

Never fiction. At ten years old I wanted to tell stories about imaginary characters. Now I struggle to tell my own.

This led me to a question I'd yet to ask myself. Several times, a friend and I have chatted about "what would your 17-year-old self think if they could see you now?"

What would my *10-year-old* self think?

What do we have in common? I remember this internal dialogue I had to express on paper. Again, at the time it came from my imagination, now it seems to come from consciousness. The human struggle. 😏

I put so much effort into The War of Lord Capani. My younger self would be thrilled to know it got published.

I'd break it to him that the book sold 200 copies. The publishing company was shady. His/my second book would do much worse.

More people will read these words than will ever read those books combined.

Not only will you not write fiction, you'll hardly ever read it. You still get books for Christmas but not one of them was fiction this year.

He'll ask if he/I/we now write for a living. Now obsessed with the capitalist pursuit, I'll smirk and explain it's difficult to do that. Most that do write for the Huffington Post or some other unrespectable outlet, living in poverty.

What you do at the moment is engineer software for underwater vehicles, I'll say. You wrote about robots so much and now - kind of - write robots.

He'll say that sounds really cool then I'll emphasize the word 'sounds'. Whether I extol the quiet desperation of cubicle life is TBD.

Maybe he asks why my face is scruffy or I have a tan in the winter or my back is relatively big. I'll give an overview of self improvement, and girls, then explain his chubbiness.

"Protein, carbs, fat - pick two and make one of them protein." He won't get it.

I haven't even gotten into the trouble he faced at 17, over computer mischief. How much duress he caused our parents. Mom's tears. At least there was the upside of cybersecurity skills.

I know one, maybe two, people from grade school that have changed as much as me. Everyone else you could predict how they'd end up.

10-year-old Randy wouldn't like me. I'm not sure about my first-grade teacher either.

2016 in Review

This year, more so than any 2013-15, has been a lot of ups and downs.

Take my review of 2015 - the only bad thing was my grandma passing. I wouldn't even call my time at NYCM bad. It was kind of funny, I'll never forget it.

In 2016, I spent a good amount of time unchallenged at work. The moments when that was worst, I had job interviews at places I'd much rather have been. They didn't work out.

I didn't travel as much as I'd have liked. When I did, Selena Gomez didn't fall in love with me.

I was breaking weightlifting PRs then suffered a debilitating back injury.

Someone lied about me to the police after I cut them off in traffic. State police tracked me down at my parents' house, scaring my mother as they tried to intimidate me.

But the good outweighs the bad.

The really dull project at work got canceled right before Christmas, causing reassignment for everyone.

I reconnected with friends I'd fallen out of touch with. I appreciate people in my life that moved away more when I do see them.

I'm set to travel more in 2017.

Maybe my deadlift isn't as heavy, but I'm in overall better shape than ever. I found a great personal trainer, whose gym and workouts I look forward to as post-workday therapy. Most people I went to high school with have gotten fat by now.

I spent a summer rowing, figured out I wasn't bad at it, and had a lot of fun.

Job interview failures pushed me to "choose myself" and circle back to my personal brand. I have a stronger vision of where I have to go.

I finally formed my own LLC. A close friend did too. We both scored some freelance work, and things might really take off this next year.

(If you're interested in cybersecurity see our site War and Code)

I'm probably forgetting more on either side. The point is, there was resistance with swings the other way too.

Oh well. Time to go forward. Here's to 2017.

That 2017 New Year’s Resolution

Typically I don't do New Year's resolutions. Stuff like "lose 10 pounds of bodyfat" is stupid and chances are you'll fail.

This year, though, here's mine... (is this one or two)

Take more risks, make more adventure.

Is that corny? I haven't done an ideal amount of either this year. You can read about it - my self-centered review of 2016 will be out soon.

But, hey, my head is up. I'm still winning.

If you care, this was my 2015✌️

The Software Interview Breakup

Some three months ago I decided I wanted a new job, that I was going back to New York. And this time I was serious.

I got all the usual books but did most of my studying on InterviewBit.

After a good month of that I landed a phone interview with a prestigious New York finance company. That was perfect because finance, like security and game theory, is a big side interest of mine.

It was exciting. I got super nervous for the phone interview, and that went kind of shaky. A first date.

Three weeks went by - I thought it wasn't happening. Then I got called for an on-site. I had a month before that and went really hard preparing.

The night before and the morning of were really stressful. But I knew what to do. I took some nootropics, practiced algorithm fundamentals, rehearsed my explanatory and behavioral answers.

I listened to I Believe I Can Fly and The Time is Now like four dozen times.

Then I put on a tie and walked uptown. Got there appropriately early, noticing there were some other people there for a software interview... then that turned into 16 people.

That's okay, they're probably hiring a lot of engineers. I talked with this one guy from Canada and we became temporary buddies for the tour.

Then it was showtime. We all sat in this big conference room, employees coming to get us one by one.

The setup was an hour's interview with an initial person, then a lunch break, then another hour with someone else. Okay.

Person 1 and I got off to a good start. I went through my resume, my rehearsed answers paying off. Then I initially struggled with the first algorithm, but got through with a few hints. He asked about optimization and I got that. He asked another, shorter algo question and I got that.

Lunch break. Don't throw up.

Person 2 came in and I completely pwned everything he gave me.

I walked out of the building feeling really good. I texted my parents and a couple good friends that I thought I made it. I was elated. I went out for prime rib that night.

Except, almost two weeks later, no, I didn't get it. Mentally all my eggs had been in that basket. Now they were scrambled. It would've been the perfect career move, for my career and otherwise.

I'd felt this way before, when my first serious girlfriend and I stopped talking. Then I started developing mental systems for dealing with things, I guess. And at this moment in life I care more about myself than girls.

Part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to have the Air Force whisk me away to work cyber command, part of me wanted to move back to New York anyway and try to make it work. I didn't end up doing any of those.

After about four hours I got it together. (Gorilla Mindset)

A friend was having a tougher time. He was about to leave town too, was all set up, but got a DWI. It's (likely) closed the door to his opportunity entirely.

We'd gotten together to talk because of the parallels to our situations. At least I didn't have a charge like his floating over me. The legal bills, the car damage.

For me, it'd just take longer than I thought to leave my cubicle.

2015 in Review

My posting frequency here has slowed considerably, and some of my readers may be wondering what I've been up to.

In regard to this site - professional obligations ramped up. I am presently working in the defense industry, where end of fiscal year is an especially busy time because of how project funding works. Career and real business come before this website (hobby).

In regard to me - I'll provide an overview of the year. A little unusual as I tend to not write strictly about myself here.

Like to start posts with a picture. Here's my chin
Like to start posts with a picture. Here's my chin

TL;DR

2015 was my best year yet, life/I improved on all fronts. Career, social, financial, travel, gym, learning, etc etc. The foundations for 2016 to be even better are already in place.

Get better every year and every year gets better.

January

Most of January I was in Syracuse - snowmobiling, lifting weights, programming the backend of now-defunct Ging Casino, and spending time with my grandmother (who would pass away early February, RIP).

Pointing at me - 1/1/2015
Pointing at me, turning 93 - 1/1/2015

At the end of the month I flew back to New York for my last semester at St. John's.

February - May

Last semester of undergraduate. Like the end of high school, I enjoyed the hell out of it and still finished strong academically.

Evan Saez and I finally had a class together. The professor unexpectedly retired afterward.

Best show of the semester was probably Chainsmokers, Bebe Rexha, and Grandtheft at Terminal 5.

Advice - don't take college too seriously. Go to a recognizable school, go for STEM, keep your GPA > 3.0, and focus on your core classes. Don't obsess over all your grades because that's unnecessary stress + energy expenditure.

Throwback to my first bachelor pad, rented out here
Throwback to my first bachelor pad, note the alphacinno

I did job research at the beginning of the semester and decided I wanted to work at Lockheed Martin. For the Syracuse area, nothing comes close for software. I would 100% be living elsewhere if I didn't land my current job.

Also: within LM, Syracuse has the strongest software reputation in our business unit (MST).

Around April they flew me up from New York to interview. I got an interview because of (a) strong technical web presence and (b) not screwing up the initial phone screen. Prepare before your phone screens.

Related post: Developing a Technical Web Presence

I don't get people who just go into interviews cold. Do your homework on the company, find out as much as you can about phone screens and interviews beforehand with sites like Glassdoor. For performance enhancement, I'd recommend at least caffeine (but not before the phone screen). Push the odds in your favor.

Note: will write about less vanilla performance enhancement for the workplace when I am in a position to do so.

In the interview, I had to rely mostly on talking about my software engineering class. However, what definitely pushed me in the clear was technical learning I'd done on my own. I could speak strongly about version control, databases, and several programming languages. Stuff that wasn't covered so heavily in school.

Related post: How to Supplement the St. John's CS Program

Anyway, accepted the job offer with Lockheed then had to do a ton of paperwork for the DoD.

May ended up being a mixed month. I got the news that I couldn't start with LM for about 5 months, due to the Office of Personnel Management hack. That incident considerably slowed down hiring for the entire defense industry. My own records and fingerprints were compromised.

But on the positive side I graduated...

HahaHA / derp, St. John's
hahaHA

... and traveled Italy for 2 weeks. I hadn't been to Italy since 2011 - it was great to be back, see more of the country than last time, and brush up on my Italian. Ho studiato per cinque anne in scuola media.

Being serenaded in Venice
Being serenaded in Venice

June - August

After returning from Europe I spent most of the summer in Syracuse. Tanning, playing loud EDM from my car like a douchebag, being at the mall too much, but also working on open-source projects.

A resurgence of new DGM content would start coming about. That higher publishing frequency has been sustained to the present.

In July I went back to New York to work with Evan and his team at LIFARS for a while. It was my first time formally working infosec, but managed to uncover major session issues while testing a hybrid mobile app.

Professional people
Professional people
Also went to Coney Island for the first time
Also went to Coney Island for the first time - basically East Syracuse Walmart with amusement rides

Following that I interviewed with NYCM Insurance for software development. About a day later I wrote my post 'Stagnant = Obsolete', thinking I was about to embark on some wondrous journey with them.

8/2? - was in Chicago for Lollapalooza

8/16 - turned 21

8/17 - started at NYCM and spent a month being bored to tears. In The Four-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss says something to the effect of "the opposite of happiness is not sadness, but boredom." He was right.

September

During that month at the insurance company, I updated most of their Java ServerPages (there are a lot) to HTML5. However nobody knew this at the time and never received actual instructions.

Paraphrasing boss' boss - "the way things work around here, if you look busy, everyone will assume you're busy and leave you alone." Great policy!

Related post: The Truth About (Most of) Corporate IT

Also wrote a blackjack game in PowerShell, obfuscating the code as I went along. 🙂

About halfway into September I decided to quit. It was going to be super awkward, because everyone thought I was going to stay there forever like them. My plan - to announce my resignation over email, 10 minutes after I walked out that day. I had arranged to leave an hour early so everyone would see it.

The issue - there wasn't a way to schedule an email to go out with their version of IBM Lotus Notes. Not even writing LotusScript. So I wrote a PowerShell script - with WASP - to effectively resign for me. It was the closest thing to real software engineering I did there.

Note for other upstate NY software guys: you won't starve on what NYCM pays but it's not competitive. In my first 3 months at Lockheed (with OT) I made 8x what I did in 1 month at NYCM.

Busywork HQ

That night I flew to New York to start a redesign of the LIFARS site. By the end of the month it was up, unlike anything I'd ever developed for IgetCOMPED / EventWizler.

Related post: Are you a wantrepreneur?

https://lifars.com

October - December

Opening of October was a little weird. I took a trip to San Juan, where I managed to finish a pen test for LIFARS in between drinking, gambling, and Road to Ultra. Halfway through the trip, my dad flew down and we got lost in the rainforest with the world's dinkiest rental car.

El San Juan Casino to the left. :)
Balcony of my rental - El San Juan Casino to the left 😉

After getting back I started at LM as a software engineer, focusing on unmanned and autonomous systems. I'm surrounded by brilliant people who work really hard.

As a kid I was into robots. Here I've written about Skynet. Now I get to develop what used to be science-fiction.

Related post: How I Published Two Books at Age 14

I worked overtime from week one up until Christmas Eve, hence the sharp decline in posting. Somehow also found travel time for Toronto and New York.

OT is done for the near future, but a new side project will be eating up my free time. Do not expect much activity on this site for a while.

General notes / conclusion

Apply to self-development: what can be conceived can be created.

Improve everything. Maintain if you hit a ceiling. Optimize as much as possible.

And then every year will be better than the last.


For more timely updates on what I'm up to, have been active on Instagram.

How I Published Two Books at Age 14

This is the story of how I hacked two fiction books together and got them published at age 14. Not e-book publishing or self-publishing but real you-pay-nothing-we-send-you-royalty-checks publishing. I'm going to show you how you could easily do the same exact thing - plus why I'd now discourage it.
Google Randy Gingeleski Books
They haunt any Google searches for me.
In elementary school, I learned to write like everybody else did. But I fell in love with it -- as my chubby, nerdy 10-year-old self I would write all the time. My spare time just got consumed by it. I can vividly remember sitting in my bedroom, all dark except for just one desk lamp on, writing in solidarity. Always pencil to paper. I got callouses. What did I write? All sorts of ridiculous things, typically short stories. Always fiction and it would be about spaceships or dragons or robots, the culmination of who I was at that time. So in fifth grade I finally hunkered down and wrote some longer stuff. One manuscript was what would become The War of Lord Capani and the other was my own version of this story I was obsessed with as a kid, The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat. Yes, I was really lame. That summer before middle school, I typed up Capani and started shopping it around to publishers. All the major ones, like Random House, turned me down. A bunch of smaller operations too. Eventually I sent it to this publisher PublishAmerica, now America Star Books. They wanted to put it out, and I was ecstatic. It was my childhood dream coming into realization. When they found out I was 10 years old, however, they quickly wanted nothing to do with me. The floppy disks and stacks of paper that made up the book would get stowed away in my closet. Despite what the local newspaper would write about my "story", that book was always sort of in the back of my mind. As I got older, I sort of thought of it as a golden ticket instead of a dream coming into fruition. My interests had changed, I dreaded any extracurricular writing, suddenly I wanted to be a filmmaker or a fighter pilot. In 8th grade, I decided enough time had passed to send the book back to that same publisher. Lo and behold, they accepted it again and this time I left out any business about being under 18. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.36.00 PM The book came out in November 2008, if I'm remembering correctly. I was now in high school. Family bought it, but that was as far as sales went initially. Then Publish America emailed and asked if they could set up a book signing. I thought that would be pretty neat, signing books in Barnes & Noble and whatever. They arranged a date. My mom got in touch with the school district's newsletter, seeing if they would put print something about it. They thought it was such a big deal that they passed the story along to the local newspaper. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.33.31 PM So, as a result of that, a lot of people actually turned up to this book signing. I met a lot of people I'd otherwise have never crossed paths with, a bunch of family and friends came out, and as a whole that was a good experience. I sold maybe 50 copies just that night. Beyond that, I had no idea how the book was selling because the publisher only tallied sales twice a year to send out royalty checks. Therefore - I quickly wrote and published another book. Another sloppy science-fiction title. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.34.49 PM The grand total I made off Capani ended up being about $200 for all time, and World's Something has literally never sold. I don't even have a single copy of it. God's honest truth. The thing about PublishAmerica (now America Star Books) is that they will publish anything. I get daily emails from them about both books, offering me sales prices to buy bulk or marketing services. For $100 they'll send a copy of my book to a local radio station. For $200 they'll put it at their booth for some expo. It's a sham.
America Star Books Royalty Statement
Typical.
I imagine they made a lot of money off the 100 - 200 Capani copies I sold. If you want to publish a book, send them something. It won't cost you anything upfront. But they will hold the rights to your work hostage, make zero marketing efforts, and overall not really care.
PublishAmerica America Star Books Spam
Daily spam.
Overall, and this will sound corny, but the experience was priceless to me. The book signing was neat, I got to speak at a local elementary school, and for about a month people recognized me in restaurants. I'm glad I didn't do any due diligence because then the whole ordeal might not have happened to begin with. A better idea if you want to publish today would be e-books. Amazon seems to have a solid platform. There are some really inspirational stories out. If that was around when I was first looking to be in the book business, that's how I probably would have done things.

Reflections on Turning 20

Today I quietly turned 20. Birthdays always bring out a range of emotions for me. They're almost stressful - I get all these thoughts swirling around in my head: I need to jam this day full of crazy exciting things. I have to make a big deal out of the fact it's my birthday. I'm closer to death and I'm nowhere near accomplishing what I want to yet. Usually not a lot of that last one, but on this birthday yes. How can I be 20 already? It's sad. And I can't exactly place my finger on why. It's not like I'm unaccomplished. I've traveled the world, fallen in and out of love, gone on all kinds of wild escapades, published a couple of books (they sucked), met all kinds of people in the weirdest situations, made friends, made enemies, lost touch with most of those, got in a heap of trouble being a reckless kid, had a problem with alcohol, almost had a problem with painkillers, sorted all of that out 100%. I've experienced things that I never dreamed, back when I was 10 or whatever, I would get to experience. I'm blessed. Somehow I sorted out where I want to go professionally in my life. That was back in the summer before 11th grade, watching Las Vegas re-runs. It was such a foreign concept, the gaming industry, because obviously I wasn't old enough to know much about it. But I said "that looks like fun," ended up obsessed. My relationship with my parents has settled. By that I mean, when you're a little kid you think your parents are perfect. That's one extreme. Then in your earlier teenage years you figure out they're not, and you get angry. Another extreme. At this point I appreciate my parents as flawed human beings, like we all are. You learn to accept things. I believe this is the middle-ground, the settling point. I appreciate my entire family more now than I did in my earlier years, honestly. My closest group of friends too. That all came after an accident a couple years ago where I was in the hospital for a week. You realize who cares and what's important in moments like that, you're forced to stop and reflect. Overall I guess not much has changed, becoming 20. I'm grouped with a new age group but I still can't legally drink or get a NY pistol permit. I'm still in college, until May at least. I don't look different. Things are pretty much the same. Cheer up.
If you're approaching 20 I would maybe say, think about what it'll be like ahead of time. Get the "teenager" out of your system if you feel like it. The actual event can be weird and nobody warns you to prepare mentally. My 20th birthday sort of snuck up. Next one I'll be in Vegas. 🙂