Finding what I really want to do

I want to say that recently I’ve had difficulty finding out what I want to do (right now, tomorrow, with my life, in the universe, whatever). But I can’t recall a time in my life where this wasn’t difficult, except in those blessed moments where I am so focused on a challenging task that wasn’t simultaneously swamped with insecurity.

That is to say, I like when I work on something hard, but not when I have to worry about where I live or if I will eat that day.

Seems obvious, right? Hierarchy of needs and all that jazz.

Fortunately in this moment of reflection I am not freaked out by the idea of not planning my kid’s future; I actually don’t worry too much about it. I am more concerned about the next three months. Three months is about as far as I can plan and still feel like my actions can affect outcome.

Net 30, or how I learned to love doing paperwork once a month

I think it comes from “net 30” and billing cycles. When I got paid on a schedule I had a disconnect that the work I was doing wasn’t paid for that week or so, not until I left and got paid in part one last time. In contrast, I am hyper-aware of how my consulting work is paid out.

When I began freelancing I simplified my billing times to all happen once a month: just track everything, and spend an afternoon invoicing everyone. Actually, that is my version of what I learned that keeps me sane. The person I learned invoicing from basically invoiced when they needed money, which runs in the face of my risk adverseness, but damn if that wasn’t how we paid rent for years…

/me reaches for heartburn tablet

Because a lot of the work I do is formulaic, and I like to be clever rather than a busy worker, a lot of my jobs are queued together and done at once, often at the beginning of a billing cycle, but after I would have invoiced. Which meant I would often do work that I couldn’t plan to use for about three months: wait a month to invoice, wait another month to get paid, and then hope I had rent to pay (sans eviction) next month. So, three months is what I plan for.

Turns out I am pretty good at this. Having a kid helps. I really don’t want to feel what I felt as a kid, and since I am totally projecting, that is probably what it is. Although, if I think about it, I don’t think having to move in a hurry is really a great experience regardless of how unconditional your parents’ love is…

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Capabilities, permissions and access control; does life mimic security features, or vice versa?

Okay, back to what I want to do. How do I stay engaged in my work, but also make enough money to not be constantly stressed out. I imagine a lot of folks think this, and I don’t take it for granted that I have the capacity to think about it. But I’ve hit a wall of sorts: what do I really want to do?

A series of conversations with Susan and my belly button have shed some lights over the last few days. The big one is that I don’t need to be driven by fear. The other is that I can ignore everything I am capable of doing.

I am a capable person. I learn quickly, and have broad experiences. My life has been a series of unfortunate events surrounded by beautiful people, so I enjoy an optimism attached to humans even as I am disgusted by their most terrible actions, which in part mitigates negativity bias and allows me to know a lot while staying happy. Well, that’s my working theory at least.

So I could do anything. And that intrigues me. Why wouldn’t it? But anything is a lot, and not particularly energizing or satisfactory. Mastery has always been an important scaffolding in my knowledge, just as much as breadth of inference and cross-linking overlapping ideas. And part of rapidly learning anything quickly is getting caught up in what others do, or what becomes the mainstream modus operandi. That becomes the bar, the standard one holds their self to.

That has always be poison to me. An addictive concoction in the form of a signpost pointing to the “right” way. The correct path, if it exists, has never stuck to the map of my life. If ever there were a demon I chased, it is the elusive handbook that the rest of you were designated at birth, which was pawned off or tossed out before I was able to right my contact info on the inside cover.

And with that said, fuck handbooks for life. I obviously don’t need them, and if I do I will probably never figure out what I am missing. The key is that I don’t need to suffer their absence. If I look at the moments in my life that provide me with visceral satisfaction they are moments when I fell and was caught by the love of others and when I decided I was going to figure out my own path.

Looking at my work, my skills and my temperament, I think I know what the next leg of my path is.

But you’ll have to wait until another post to find out. ^_~

Support license keys in KeePassX

KeePassX is a password manager, an application that will create, store and make readily accessible strong passwords for your various accounts. I have over a hundred logins to various websites that I host or for services I use, and I don’t worry over much about them being hacked because all the passwords look like this: gZL~T%@Pj\u)o5]Wk:u[4"tQ_

I sleep better at night.

I’ve used KeePassX to manage my login credentials for years now. An update in the last year really added a layer of polish that made it a delight to use. A feature that I really like is setting a global and group-based auto-copy pattern. In the older version this had to be set per login, so I copied this weird stanza in the notes section of each entry.

{USERNAME}{TAB}{PASSWORD}{ENTER}

That allowed me to select a login field on a webpage, switch over to KeePassX and select the login, and then copy (ctrl+v) the login; it would then switch to the login field, copy the username, tab to the password and copy that, and then press enter, which is how most login forms work.

It was great functionality, but kinda tiresome to add to each entry. As I mentioned, the update made that a global feature that could be overridden individually or by group. No more remembering to add it to each login, but also additional flexibility that we will get to in a moment.

I’ll show you my motley collection of groups, but don’t judge! I end up using the search function most of the time anyhow.

KeePassX example

The two groups that get used the most are “WordPress Sites” and “WordPress Services”. Sites is for individual sites, most of which I host. Services are for the couple dozen plugins, themes or services for WordPress that I maintain. Most of the time I don’t need to log in unless a credit card expires or I am upgrading or canceling a support license. But sometimes I need to get a license key to turn on updates to software directly from the vendor. I’ve tried keeping a kanban board for those, or a text file on my computer, but I refer to them so infrequently I forget where they live. And so I look for that login info…

Oh yeah, a place to keep sensitive information!

Today I was about to log into such a site when I realized that I had a centralized place to keep something like a license key! And KeePassX has a specific feature that made it even more useful for my purposes: group-specific settings.

KeePassX group settings

For the “License keys” group I set a different auto-type sequence, simply {PASSWORD}. Most WordPress support licenses are single text fields that validate against their server, so this override makes it so I can find the key in KeePassX and copy it to the field without trouble.

It seems like a simple trick, but when I need a key and can’t find it I lose tens of minutes, which is a bummer, but more importantly I expend a lot of mental energy context switching and losing momentum for the task at hand. This is a very helpful feature in my password manager, and I am sure you could find other uses to make your online experiences more convenient while staying secure. ^_^