The Red Wristband

(From July 2016 – Edited February 2018)

We’re not supposed to like things. Things are, well, shallow.

But sometimes, things do bring us comfort. It might be a nice car or a beautiful house. Maybe it’s your favorite coffee mug or a pair of jeans. It could be a red wristband.

My bone graft went well – a portion of my jaw known as the alveolar process was getting replaced. It turned out to be more daunting than anticipated. My first bone graft, similar to this in another area, was “quick” to quote my wife. She wasn’t in the chair. But yes, the first one was easier.

This one, taking 90 minutes, not so much. Your head is below your feet pretty much the entire time. For much of the time, I felt as though the roof of my mouth was split in two. I seriously contemplated getting up and leaving, but I thought, “what then?”. The pressure and difficulty breathing normally were quite unexpected. There’s no pain. It’s just weird, uncomfortable.

The procedure ended well. We headed to the local grocery store, Jewel, for drugs. I tried not to focus on how anyone was driving — apparently, I don’t play well with others after surgery, and this was number 5.

The surgeon, gifted, young and smart did a great job.

“The David”, as he is sometimes called, is my incredibly supportive and very athletic personal trainer.

Like the formidable Muay Thai trainers that I get to train with, Chuck Pilcher and Cory Galloway, “The David” doesn’t yell.

I’ve never heard Cory yell. It’s just a calm — “here’s what you need to work on next.” “Good, good.” “Don’t drop your hand. Yeah, that’s it. You know what your problem is. You need to turn your shoulder over. Work on that.” None of it is ever personal; not even “you know what your problem is.” It’s all factual. No sarcasm; no snide comments. Ever.

They are all extraordinarily patient and gifted.


Cory Fighting


Cory and Chuck – Not Fighting

With Chuck, it’s the same thing. “Phase 2,” he said to me one day. He began telling my sparring partner Chris and I about Bruce Lee and removing unnecessary motions from our fighting. “It will make you twice as fast with no extra effort.” Chuck was calm and deliberate, and as always enthusiastic to share this information. “You need to do this,” is the simple directive. You get a morsel every time. All of this all goes well beyond fighting and well into the realm of philosophy. “Cut out what’s not necessary.”

It’s as if he has a great secret that he wants to share with anyone interested.

Chuck doesn’t necessarily look like a philosopher. On the street, he probably doesn’t look too much like a Muay Thai fighter. He is both, and then some. This is a great picture, and he looks older here than he is. It shows his passion for helping others.


With “The David”, there’s no yelling. It’s quiet and confident. “You can push this weight,” or “yeah, we’re going up.” When I start to weaken after many reps, I hear a quiet, confident “you’re strong.” It gives me that little extra juice. So, I push more weight than I think I can handle and he’s there — he has my back. And so, I’ve made more progress than I thought possible. Everyone does with him.

David works with a number of folks. There’s a group he used to meet with before my session on Saturday mornings.  He had a box of wristbands out for class. I haven’t seen those since the 70s. “Would I like one?” asked David. “What color?”

“I’ll take a red one.” I had a red car at one point; I have a red couch; I have a reddish truck now. Red is a thing. It is a good color. He tossed a red wristband my way.

It was a great gift.

I came back from my bone graft beat up. No pain, but I felt like I was in a heck of a fight.

Despite access to some good drugs that I wouldn’t take and did not need (didn’t need since clearly this surgeon is very gifted) — but, I was beaten down. Tired.

I walked into the kitchen with a sack of drugs and sugar-free chocolate pudding; there was the red wristband on the desk in the kitchen. I put it on. Better than drugs. A little “you’re strong” reminder to give me a little extra juice. This thing brought comfort. The memory of work and the goal of getting back to that work was a comfort.

Working hard is a joy, and brings more than just some increased physical strength.

I was back with “The David” a few days after writing this post (in 2016). We pushed some weight. I don’t remember what we did, and it didn’t really matter. I did what I could. And when I did it, I had my red wristband.

Feature Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels


Red Ribbon Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash


A First Dressage Show Experience

I’ll admit it. I was a bit of an elitist.

Dressage, a French word meaning “training”, is what I did and do. Train, train, train.

Not only in dressage, but Muay Thai and strength training.

Especially with horses, we may get taught along the way, by other elitists, that it’s in the best interest of the horse to not compete. My “concern” was simply for the well-being of the horse. Now, I am not so certain that was entirely my motive. Ok, I’m convinced it wasn’t.

Competing has a way of focusing us and making certain we are training toward a goal. Your horse may not care about the specific goal, but he does seem motivated to please his rider.

For him, it may not matter much whether the circle is 12 meters or 15 meters. However, how many times are we not as precise as we should be when training? We convince ourselves that it’s in his best interest not to care.

I’m no longer convinced.

And, if it is of little consequence to the horse, why not be a bit more precise? So long as we are respectful of our requests, there is no loss to the horse. If we are a little stronger with our requests, there is still little loss, and perhaps much gain. These are, after all, first-world problems. Many of our horses lead better lives in terms of their feeding, need for water, socialization and medical attention than many people throughout the world. In fact, I would say that given a horse’s desire for socialization and food and fun, this training and focus is a good thing.

My horse seemed to relish in the show experience.

Why are endless days in a stall, or out in the field so much better? Is it not better for any cognizant being to have his mind and physical being challenged.

There are countless people who would have us believe differently.

Perhaps that’s simply because they themselves should not be challenged in any way. And, that’s fine; that’s their choice.

So, my first dressage show began. I prepped for training level and then was told (a week before) that since my horse was competing at other higher levels, that I needed to compete at a level higher than what I originally thought.

I took it in stride trying to stream what I had read in “The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life”. Day One went fine taking second place. Day Two showed an increased score, and second place as well. My trainer was pleased; I was too.

It’s true, I do really just want to train. Tests are a good thing though. Measuring where we are makes us better riders, and better too, I think, for our horses.


grep your EC2 Instances in a Region Using the CLI

Assuming you have the AWS CLI installed, you can easily grep instances in a Region. To see your Default region name, type aws configure and hit Enter twice.

To allow grep to work nicely with the output, enter “text” for the Default output format

aws configure
AWS Access Key ID [*******************]:
AWS Secret Access Key [*******************]:
Default region name [us-west-1]: 
Default output format [text]: text

In this example, we’ll show basic instance information such as the name of the Reservation, the State and the StateReason. We’ll use grep’s OR operator.

aws ec2 describe-instances | grep 'RESERVATION\|STATE\|STATEREASON'

The CLI will respond with something like the following:

RESERVATIONS 123222575111 r-0c1xbac1122y90121
STATE 80 stopped
STATEREASON Client.UserInitiatedShutdown 
Client.UserInitiatedShutdown: User initiated shutdown

At a glance, you can easily inspect all the EC2 instances in your Region.

Feature Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash


Passing the AWS Associate Exam

Looking for advice on passing an AWS Architecture Associate Exam? I had been looking for that advice very recently. Fortunately, there are plenty of good resources out there to help. (And yes, I did pass the exam recently.)

Advice isn’t in the form of exam answers. Well, it is if you’re willing to dig in.

I followed four tiers of study. You don’t need all four. You could do only Tier 1 and likely do great on the exam provided you dig into the tests as recommended.

Tier 1

  • — after each module, take the quizzes. Once you’ve worked through everything,  take the exam either timed or not. The questions are NOT the questions on the AWS Exam, but they are really helpful. The most important thing you can do is dig into all the answers, right or wrong. Two answers are often reasonably good with the detail of one being incorrect with the detail of another being correct. Those details are important for the actual exam! Understand why the wrong answers are wrong. You may not see the question on the actual exam, but digging into understanding why a certain solution for a problem is not right can help you understand when it is the appropriate choice. Lastly, there is no substitute for taking the timed exams — even in the comfort of your home, you feel a little pressure — that’s a good thing to do.

Tier 2

  • — they also have an exam simulator. I found their courses to be just as good as Linux Academy’s course. The exams were good too. I used their course a little less than Linux Academy.
  • (Elias Khnaser’s courses)

Tier 3

Two excellent free videos about VPC from re:Invent. (Yes, you can see a LOT from re:Invent without going.)

Both presentations are really insightful. In both cases, the presenters build your knowledge from the ground up. You could watch either one and walk away with a good understanding. I really do like both, and they are well worth your time. I listened to both several times during commutes — not ideal, but helpful nonetheless.

  • Amazon does guide you, to a great extent, in their book AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide available at Amazon.Before purchasing the Official Study Guide, read Casey Hendley’s review of the book on Amazon’s site. The book is a little dated given, as Casey says, that “Amazon changes things on AWS at a frightening pace”. I would not use this book alone to pass the exam.

Tier 4 – Immersion

If you can afford it, attend re:Invent or a Summit. I’ve done both multiple times. Immersing yourself in the domain is worthwhile, and if you’re a working professional, hard to do on your own. I burn a week of vacation for re:Invent, spend the money and immerse!

Amazon offered a free HA course in NYC. So, I went and took it. Had a great time both with the course and in the city.

I live in Chicago, so I attended the Chicago Summits in 2016 and 2017.

Washington, DC is awesome, so I went to the Public Sector Summit. Don’t work in the public sector — didn’t care.

Went to re:Invent in Vegas twice. Those are more expensive efforts, but for me, well worth it.


(Feature Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)