Minimalism: Putting My Stuff To Use

In recent months I’ve seen a number of articles with critiques of those who adopt a “minimalist” lifestyle. While the idea of minimalism is hardly welled defined, you can sum it up by saying the minimalist lifestyle is one of reducing the stuff you own in an attempt to simplify life and focus less on material things. The two main criticisms I’ve seen are that (1) there is an element of privilege with a minimalist attitude, and (2) it’s expensive to try to implement minimalism in any meaningful way. This blog covers most of the thoughts that have been echoed by folks on the issue, as well as highlighting positive aspects of it.

I have somewhat of a natural tendency towards this lifestyle. I don’t like clutter and I am all about the utility of the things I own. I think this comes in part from growing up poor (Grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side) and reading Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill as a teenager.

That being said, I find great joy in many of the things I own. I love the wealth of pots and pans I have to cook in, I enjoy having diversity in the clothes and shoes I wear, I enjoy watching programs on my television, I enjoy playing my guitar (I might play it for 20 minutes a week these days), I love my 3 pairs of headphones, and I even love my two smart phones and 2 messenger bags. Each of them has a purpose, and I use them in their respective element. I’m not actively trying to reduce the stuff I have, or get to a place where I feel I’ve reached some imaginary optimal amount of stuff. I just want to make sure I use the stuff I have.

Over the years I have taken care to buy nice things and take care of them. That being said, my interests have changed and some things I own I will never use again. Why hold onto those things? Why hold onto the purple button up I never wear? Why keep the 6 bottles of cologne I haven’t used in years? Why keep stuff I bought with the idea that “it’ll be cool to have some day?” I don’t want stuff to have stuff, I want stuff to put to use. Stuff that I find ascetically pleasing, stuff that i’ll file a police report if they were stolen. That’s all I mean by minimalism, and maybe that is more utilitarianism than anything else.

Here’s to getting more stuff I love and giving stuff I don’t use to people who will love them. 

Trying GGVIS


As an R User I’ve used ggplot2 for years and so I was naturally reluctant to give ggvis the attention it deserves. GGVIS is the new kid on the block and while I’ve seen a few articles written about why it’s cool, I still haven’t seen many blog posts utilizing it.

I decided to redo a graph I created for a blog post about Freemason membership in order to highlight some features of GGVIS and some struggles I’ve experienced with it.


The syntax is similar to ggplot2, I used the pipe operator (%>%) instead of the (+) operator because I just wanted to try something new. The one syntactic thing I found was the use of the (:=) operator. I can’t remember seeing that operator in the context of creating graphics, but it took only a short time to get used to.


I think the output of ggvis is elegant in its current form and will become increasingly elegant with time. I love the ability to embed an SVG of a plot and I also love the ability to add interactivity to the plots. There’s room to grow but where it’s at now is impressive.


I had two unexpected hiccups when using ggvis. The first was the offset of the text on the Y axis. With the larger numbers the text of the y-axis were automatically covered up by the values on the axis. I had to use the offset option (see below) in order to fix that issue.

Without off set:


With off set:


The second hiccup I had was with using years on the x axis. When I tried to use a date format I got some pretty wonky results. I followed along the documentation but that threw an unknown type error. When I kept it as an integer it worked as expected but the x axis has commas in it instead of looking like a year.

Final Thoughts

Overall I like ggvis, I think it’s a great addition to the graphics capabilities in R and It is visualization for the next generation. I’m planning on using it in upcoming projects.






Paleo: The Diet For Me


Over the past 9 months I’ve experimented with the Paleo diet. After months of eating mostly Paleo (eating out has been a problem area but I stick to it as hard as I can and eat out very little these days) I’ve decided that this is no longer experiment anymore but a lifestyle that I want to stick with for a long time. I just jotted down my thoughts on the diet, what it is, and how I see it fitting in my life.

Diet Basics:





Paleo is often referred to as the “Caveman diet” which does the diet a huge disservice in my opinion. Calling it a diet that the Cavemen (whatever this is) ate is simply not true. Show me a Caveman enjoying asparagus and top sirloin and It’ll be in a novel (a terrible one most likely). As an alternative view, I look at it as a diet of foods I feel good eating. I know I don’t feel great when I have rice, I know I feel even worse if I have cheese or other diary products. I know I can’t digest legumes, and my gluten allergy makes it so that eating bread puts me in a temporary coma. In contrast, fruit, vegetables and lean meat are all easy to digest for me and leave me feeling better than where I was before.

Between my lactose intolerance and gluten allergy transitioning to this diet was simple. I found all the recipes I wanted to save falling under the Paleo Umbrella. I followed a handful of Paleo and “Whole 30” folks on Instagram and Pinterest and have been making delicious food at home for months now. Here are a few recent dishes I’ve tried and the recipes for them:

Sweet Potato Spinach Bacon Burgers:


Zucchini Noodles & Turkey Meatballs:


Grilled Peaches with Coconut Cream:


I certainly don’t think Paleo is the answer to all human concerns when it comes to food, nor do I think that I am eating “Food that was made for humans.” Those claims are far too reaching and are not really supported by empirical or historical evidence. Furthermore, many people are uncomfortable with eating meat for animal rights/ethics reason. While meat isn’t a complete necessity, it’ll be hard to get protein without looking to items on the “bad” list.

To sum things up, I feel better than I have ever felt when I adhere to the diet. I can digest all the food and I have the energy to carry out all the physical activity I do during the week. Here’s to life committed to Paleo. 

Random: LeBron James is supposedly on this diet too. 

Using Selenium & Beautiful Soup to Scrape AJAX Sites

I don’t really work in Python very often but I worked on a recent project for a dynamic scraper for a hefty list of domains. Besides the normal challenges of using an unfamiliar programming language, I ran into a series of problems I don’t usually have with JavaScript. These problems were with Ajax. I would use Chrome do my inspections and all of my jQuery would work. I’d check it all out and it worked but none the data from those css selectors were available in Beautiful Soup. After some searching around I found Selenium which was a life saver.

Selenium web driver opens up a browser with a timeout long enough for the Ajax to load and then saves the HTML. From there I save the HTLM doc as a BeautifulSoup object and CSS select my life away.

In this example I just wanted to grab the first image from the carousel in this site:



Dealing with setbacks

I am a cyclist. Not in the competing in the Tour de France sense, but I’ll spend 10-15 hours a week riding my bike and I’m concerned with improving and becoming a better cyclist everyday. I plan my diet and sleep around it because I want to become better. It something I think about often, talk about often and spend a good amount of my free time doing. Over the winter I spent a great deal of time outside, despite the cold weather and bad air because I wanted to improve and do more challenging races come Spring and Summer.


This Spring was an exciting time for me as it would be warm again and I was excited to do some of the rides in some of Salk Lake Valley canyons. I wanted to push myself to be faster, to recover better and to just be happier with where I was on the saddle. Early in the season I had some of the best riding of my life. I was faster, better at climbing, had better endurance and it looked like I was well on my way to being better. I felt even better about it because of my pace of miles— I was well on my way to doubling the milage I had accumulated the previous year. At some point in late April, I started to experience cramping on most of my rides. Cramps were a problem for me the previous year but cramping was related to pushing myself too hard and no being prepared. If I went out on a long climb and didn’t have enough food or drink I would get cramps at the end. It was uncommon for me to ride less than 50 miles and get one. This Spring I started getting cramps after 10 miles into a ride. I found this strange because I bought expensive supplements and drinks, I was in good shape, I stretched and I was doing what I needed to.


It got to a point where I was unsure I could even finish a 25 mile ride. I started to fear getting caught cramped out in the middle of nowhere and slowly working my way back on a cramped out leg. I was so frustrated by this I took issue to my doctor at the time. He did some blood work and told me I should try some potassium/magnesium infusion techniques. At one point I was eating 3 bananas a day and taking supplements. None of this seemed to work, and I ended up getting tired of bananas. The cramps kept coming and no progress was being made.


As my frustration continued to mount I took to Google, searching for any edge cases for why people cramp. I noticed a number of people taking Tums for cramp relief, citing the calcium in it providing them instant relief. I felt wholly uncomfortable taking a medication for heart burn casually, even if it was over the counter but I thought there might be something to me having calcium deficiency. I have been eating a mostly Paleo diet for about 8 months now and calling it low in calcium would be an understatement. I went to GNC and got some calcium supplements and started to take them. I was hoping for a miracle turn around but early on it seemed like they made no difference. About 2 weeks into taking them I completed a 55 mile ride with a substantial climb and did not cramp out. I started to get more daring with mixed results. I decided I should mix leg weight lifting into the mix to try to build endurance as well. Slowly with the combination of riding, weight lifting and supplements I’ve gotten to a point where I feel good. I still get cramps and I’m not sure what the solution is but I’m excited about thinking through the problem and fixing it.

I’ve had many frustrated days and nights working on and thinking about my legs. I’ve eased off riding a bit and I want to talk to another doctor about it soon. What I learned most from this experience is how much I love cycling and my resolve to continue to try surprised me. Not everything is going to be easy, but the lessons learned from hardships will help carry me through my next challenge.

Next Career Steps

Ever since I first entered BYU campus in January 2009 I’ve had a strange relationship with Utah. I love the outdoors, I love my family and I love how affordable it is to live here. I love waking up on a 70 degree morning and riding my bike into the canyons, clearing my mind and challenging my body. I love paying $9 to golf 9 holes and I love living in a modern apartment at an affordable price. I have an equally long list of things I don’t like about Utah and I’ve wanted to see a different part of the country and live in a new place with new challenges for some time now. These are the thoughts that bounced around my mind as I searched for a new job this summer. Not only did I want a place that offered challenging work in a fun environment but in a place I enjoyed living.

My job search was brutal when I’m completely honest with myself. Every time I had an offer(s), I ended up with pro and cons lists that were infinitely long and ended up talking myself in and out of every scenario. This was all compounded by personal and family events taking place, making the decision even tougher. Ultimately, one place/position made sense and so I’ll be working at Adobe as an Analyst on the Digital Index team starting next week. I’m excited to utilize my skills in development and statistics and to work with great data set and tools. This also means I get to stay in Utah, continue to ride my bike and continue to play golf poorly.

I have a few other things going on that are career oriented, but I’ll save those for another post. Thanks for all those who helped in this journey.

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