Happy New Year

This is obligatory new year’s post, wherein I ponder failures, setbacks, and successes last year and plan goals for next year.

Above all, I want to wish my readers a happy and prosperous 2014 year.  For many, 2013 has been a rough year, and I’m personally hoping 2014 will be better.

If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.  

I empathize with all of the roughly 5 million people who lost their health care insurance due to the “Affordable Care Act” (a.k.a. ObamaCare), and who are now reeling from rate shock.

I received multiple notices that insurance available to me was cancelled or killed.  The first came from the contracting house that I bill through, when the medical insurance plan for consultants was killed because it didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the ACA. 

Next, I received a notice from the University of North Dakota explaining that the student insurance policies were being killed, again, because it didn’t meet the requirements of the ACA.  UND scrambled and was able to offer a much more expensive insurance policy with an exorbitant price tag.

Luckily for me, I kept paying on my high deductible catastrophic medical insurance plan, even though the rates kept increasing every several months.

I’m now paying the equivalent of a lease payment on a luxury SUV every month, for the luxury of having my medical bills paid, but only after I’ve paid $6,800 out of pocket first.

Privacy and Security

I have always seen curious traffic through my Chinese Zyxel DSL modem/router, even with the firewall configured to block everything but a few ports.  I didn’t give it much thought since I had secured my Linux and Mac machines.

Then, my Mac Pro was hacked, shortly before Apple and Facebook announced that an attacker had managed to infect developer’s mac’s with Trojans.  The Mac would wake up at strange hours of the night and I would see network traffic that shouldn’t be there.  I reformatted the machine only to see the infection return.  Looking at Wireshark traces, I would see traffic from odd IP addresses, even with the internet disconnected.  Turns out some of the other laptops were infected and were constantly trying to infect other Macs.

D’oph.

I purchased a Cisco ASA 500 and configured it.  I then nuked each one of my macs and reinstalled each OS by hand.  While I saw an enormous amount of inbound probing and automated attacks stopped by the firewall,  everything seemed normal again.

For several months, I was free from the tyranny of Chinese hackers.

That is, until the Cisco ASA 500 appliance started spewing out multicast packets and flooding the network with packets.  Someone had hacked my Cisco ASA 500 firewall.  Disgusted, I put the ASA 500 on the shelf and purchased a 40Mbps DSL modem router.

Now, my machines appear to be safe.  For now.

In 2014, I’m going to become religiously paranoid and security conscious.

Even More Education

Several years ago, I had been invited to apply for a programming job several times by a technical lead (during a consulting engagement).  Last year, I did apply, and was willing to take a big pay cut for the illusion of job security. 

The Vice President of Engineering flatly turned down my application, because I didn’t have a degree in engineering.  To add insult to injury, at the same time they gave a job offer to one of my friends, who was on a H-1B visa, telling her when she gets her green card she has a job.  I’m happy for her, but I felt snubbed.

After fuming for a few weeks, I thought really hard about it, and I decided that my midlife crisis would consist of me going back to get a second degree — an Electrical Engineering degree (which is definitely cheaper than strippers and a divorce, but not by much judging by today’s tuition).

And I started looking for work elsewhere.  The day I left, they laid off twelve permanent employees.  Since then, lay-offs have become a yearly fixture at the company.

In any event, this semester, I’m taking four courses.  I’ve slowly gotten to the point that I have relearned all of the higher mathematics that I’ve forgotten along the way.

Better Financial Decisions

Lastly, my goal for 2014 is to make better financial decisions.  To keep more of what I earn, and earn more.