Lessons Learned in 2018

1.  Cord cutting step 1 – Replace DirectTV with streaming service(s) – As one of millions who decided to ditch cable and/or satellite TV providers, our move to YouTube TV (w/ local channels, 6 accounts and unlimited DVR) was one of the best decisions of the year. While a plethora of options exist for your replacement, be prepared for the shyster-y tactics of the behemoth providers to keep you hooked on their overpriced offerings.

2. Cord cutting step 2 – Replace landline with VoIP – A major benefit of converting our landline number to Google Voice (using ObiTalk) was NO MORE SPAM CALLS! We retained our home number of almost 20 years and now have phones (along with 911 service) in almost every room of the house. As a bonus, our voicemail is always transcribed into an email, and our “landline” can now send/receive texts.

3.  Cord cutting step 3 – Replace security system with Nest – While I shouldn’t be documenting this on the Internet, the Nest experience (Secure w/ Hello) is well worth the extra $$. The camera and alarm combo is quite useful for deliveries and visitors, and the built-in cellular option with battery backup allows operation even if the power and/or Internet are out.

4.  Hanging pictures with ease – The hands-down easiest way to hang something on the wall is with the Beehive picture hangers (available via Amazon). Two tiny screws attach the hanging bracket, and leveling is accomplished by making tiny adjustments of the picture frame. Long gone are the days of tape measures, stud finders and sheet rock anchors as hanging becomes a hassle-free 5 minute task.

5.  Curtailing identity theft – Over the past few years, we’ve had our credit card number hijacked more than a dozen times along with a falsified tax return filed in our name. With a few simple tweaks, we’ve minimized our risk and the associated headaches.

a.  Have you been hacked? Look yourself up and fix your identity on the dark web.

b.  Freeze your credit report at all three credit bureaus. Yes, you can temporarily unfreeze it as needed, and no, it won’t affect your credit score.

c.  Get a separate travel credit card. Use it exclusively when out of the country (or w/ small vendors in the states). First, you’ll have a backup while traveling, and second, there’s no need to re-establish all of those recurring charges on your main card, if/when your travel card gets jacked.

2018 Second Half Publications

My latest postings elsewhere on the Internet from the second half of 2018…

Zenoss Blog

Industry Articles

Notable Mentions / Contributions

2018 First Half Publications

As previously promised, here’s sample of my latest postings elsewhere on the Internet during the first half of 2018.

Zenoss blog

Industry articles

Part IV – Advanced Strategy – Words With Friends

First and foremost, following these techniques is an acknowledgement that WWF is not a word game; it’s a strategy game. If you want to play for laid-back fun, skip this part, but if having a higher score than your opponent is what drives your enjoyment, keep reading.

Target Audience

  • Competitive (but not psycho) player with 10+ simultaneous games, a smaller set of serious games, or interested in playing tournaments
  • Acknowledges WWF is not a word game; it’s a strategy game
  • Winning games drives the enjoyment more than making words
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part II – Intermediate Play
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)


  • Memorize the 3 letter words, starting with the words that involve J, Q, X and Z.
    Sure, this is tough ask, but even the smallest effort in reviewing these combinations will speed the process of finding words that allow you to improve your rack and/or avoid having to swap tiles.
  • The all-consonant and all-vowel words are especially useful when your rack is less than ideal. NOTE: Using the listing while playing is cheating, IMO, so find a time to review it when not in the game. Plus, when playing 5-10 games per day, there really isn’t time to look at a listing.
  • Play your opponent and become disciplined in defensive tactics.
  • Determine whether your opponent is a big word player, highly defensive, or a balance.
  • Sacrifice points to prevent your opponent from playing TW or two DW’s.
  • After each turn, research the meaning of any words you or your opponent played which were not previously known. This not only helps increase your vocabulary, but it helps you remember the word for future games.

Time Awareness

Gain awareness of what is often referred to as ‘time’ in chess, which means using various techniques at different phases of the game. Continuing with the chess analogies, there’s an opening, middle and end game, and having this sense of time will allow a player to mentally jump from game to game with minimal brain power used for context switching.

Opening (40-60 letters remain)

  • Always swap letters on your first move to attempt a bingo or a better rack.
  • Avoid playing a first play with a vowel on the DL as an early 30-40 point lead by your competitor is hard to close.
  • Work on creating bingos in these first few plays as this is where the board is most friendly (i.e. open). Bingos often require working your rack while maintaining decent early scores (20+ points).
  • NOTE: WWF-2 now has the ability to swap without taking a turn. This feature is borderline invalidation of the competitiveness of the game, but if someone is willing to pay Zynga to beat you, that’s their prerogative.

Middle game (15-39 letters remain)

  • When playing a defensive player, focus on beating their score by 5-10 each round. While this might sound like obvious advice, a purely defensive game is more about preventing a big play than it is playing a bingo in the middle of the board.
  • A hard-core defensive player will destroy you if you start playing big words out into the middle of the board. Playing a bingo next to a TW or TL needs to be carefully considered.
  • When playing a big score player, defense is still important, but the focus should be on the highest score possible every play.
  • At this point, you might be thinking that getting the highest score every round is a much simpler and effective method, and this is a tough mental paradigm to break. Ultimately, finding the appropriate balance of score and defense will give you the edge in the final score.

End game (0-15 letters remain)

  • If ahead by 30-50 points, don’t make any risky moves that could allow your opponent to even the match.
  • Instead, focus on moderate, defensive moves aimed at possibly preventing your opponent from making a big move on a TL or DL next to a vowel.
  • It’s absolutely key that you get rid of the Z, Q, J, and X immediately since these count against your score times 2 (effectively) if your opponent goes out.

Side note: I recently mentioned to a friend that I was still playing WWF, and he was surprised the game was still in vogue. At the time of this writing, there are 60-65 million games happening at any point in time, which makes it still amazingly popular.

Other Posts

Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

Lessons Learned in 2017

  1. Online banking is a no-brainer.  We never realized how unnecessary (and fee driven) the bricks-n-mortar banks were until we switched to an online bank. For those occasional in-person events (need some Euros or cash a bond), keep a few dollars in a local credit union and get access to on-premise services.
  2. 2 factor authentication – DO IT TODAY!  Ever wonder how your friend’s Facebook or Google account was hacked? It’s because they didn’t have two-factor authentication enabled. It’s a simple setting, and you should do this on your prized Internet accounts before finishing this post.
  3. Global Entry is a traveler’s dream.  After 4+ years of using this magnificent system, we can attest to its ability to save hours of standing in lines – both TSA and US Customs. The program ensures TSA Pre-check along with a simple hand scan to get back into the country, and now, there are some lighter-weight options if flying domestic primarily.
  4. Scrap those scrapbooks with digitization.  After fires destroyed ~25 houses in our neighborhood during a dry spell, we determined our photos were the only non-replaceable item of importance. Pro tip #1: Use a service to convert those hard copies. Pro tip #2: Put those pics in a digital frame, so you actually look a them. Pro tip #3: Do a little at a time.
  5. Allergies and cough – be gone!  Neti pots have been around for literally 1000’s of years, and they still work wonders today in simplified form. At first sign of a sniffle or sneeze, start using this daily to induce a significantly retracted symptom duration.
  6. Life’s schedule doesn’t follow conventional patterns.  There are traditions and then there are milestones. As a family, we strive to never confuse nor confound the two.

2017 Publications

Over the past year or so, I spent more time writing in various forums, and I wanted to find a way to capture these musings in a common place. First, some family and friends have asked to see some of these articles, and second, I wanted to be able to reference this material in a common way. Consequently, I created this follow-up post to provide links to some of last year’s material and plan to make periodic summary posts to capture future writings (possibly quarterly).

Zenoss blog

Industry articles