Dismissed from App Academy

Sometimes things are black and white in San Francisco

I was dismissed from App Academy for failing all my exams on the 28th of November 2016. Ugh…

I am writing to inform you that due to your performance on the retake assessment it is our obligation to dismiss you from the course.
– App Academy

I tried as hard as I could to get good and pass the tests, but it wasn’t good enough.

After two retakes on the first two tests, I could never get the correct results on more than 85% of the specifications. Without exception, I found myself at the bottom of the class.

It really hurts, but I feel like it’s actually for the best. After the fourth examination, I wrote an email to my pod leader and let her know that I was leaving the building to save them the headache of asking me to leave. The last two weeks of my life had been spent in that classroom from 8:30 A.M. to 6:30 P.M.

For the next four hours I walked around San Francisco as my mood fluctuated between devastated defeat to excitement for a new chapter. It kept going back and forth. Now a few days later, I’m comfortable with it all. Here’s what I learned.


Things I Learned:

A LOT about Programming

App Academy (and Hack Reactor*) are excellent schools. They boil down the learning process and teach a lot of very challenging concepts quickly. Even though I’m happy I’m no longer attending a bootcamp, I wouldn’t tell anyone not to do them. They are great. I just wasn’t the right fit.

Office Life is Not for Me

My body started deteriorating in the first two weeks. Since being dismissed, five days have passed and I’ve gone to CrossFit three times. I’m back to feeling strong and healthy. The first day back, I was in very sad condition.

Since being dismissed I’ve spent the day outside, I’ve gone to movies in the middle of the day and I’ve taken sales calls whenever I wanted to. It was great to have this freedom locked up for a pair of weeks so I could reconnect with the value of freedom.


My Current Position is Great

So my friends and I run a podcast production company where we are very free to do work we care about while traveling the world and never stepping foot in an office.

Spending two weeks in an office learning very dense material helped me to realize that I loved the position we have built for ourselves at Freedom Podcasting. Before the class, I had a magical view of working in a tall sky-scraping building with people that are highly sought after. After two weeks in App Academy, I’m happy to not be in an office anymore.

Programming Skills are Hard to Learn

On my last day at a/A we learned SQL in a day. It’s impressive that a/A has such an intense learning curve, but I feel like I’m happy to slow down a little bit and learn these skills at a deeper level.

Gender Neutral Bathrooms?

I’m not a big fan of gender neutral bathrooms or announcing our gender pronouns as a new way of communication.

I’m skeptical about organizations where social/political initiatives are institutionally forcing people to speak in a specific way. There was a great podcast with Jordan Peterson where he discusses the dangers of this movement.


That’s it

I’m really sad I failed out. But I’m going to spend my time going to programming conferences, learning different technologies, lifting weights and growing Freedom Podcasting.

App Academy is an excellent program. It was just too intense for me at this point in my life.

Thank you for the run a/A -> Keep up the great work.


Learning Recursion in Ruby

“In order to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion.” – Source Unknown

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re an App Academy student, the answers are listed in this blog post so don’t read any further if you want to develop answers on your own.

How it Clicked For Me

visualizing factorials
Subsets Factorial Example

The key to understanding recursion is to get the base case.

To find the base case, define the easiest result.

Then think about the second easiest result.

As soon as you can get the first, second and third value, you have the solution for infinity.

It’s important to focus on the simplest case because when learning recursion, your mind can wander in the possibilities.

In the subsets example one can find a lot of strange patters when looking at all the subsets. Things like:

  • Could we work on this based on array length?
  • Is there a pattern in the order?
  • Perhaps we could shuffle the arrays and ask if they are in the range?

These sorts of thoughts can go for infinity. I think this is what recursion is seen as such a challenging thing. There is a lot of room for thinkers to develop ideas that get more and more complex as the program gets longer.

In the end, recursion will win.

Let’s start with the easiest implementation to understand, factorial.

Election 2016

Election 2016 – Things I’m grateful for:

Here’s a TLDR list. The longer version can be found below.

  • Peaceful, professional transition of power
  • The voting process was easy and the ballots were balanced
  • Excellent open data provided quickly by a portfolio of media sources:

Fox News | CNN | Google | New York Times

  • Referendum to decriminalize Marijuana in my home state passed! Less people in prison, less government involvement in an individuals choices (which don’t effect others) and the state government is likely to see a tax revenue injection that will surprise us all
  • Lessons Learned

Peaceful, Professional Transition of Power

non-peaceful transition of power
While living in Chile, I witnessed violent elections. It’s not preferable.

I’ve been in foreign countries and seen ugly elections. One time specifically, I was advised to stay home and not leave the house for the day. It was a violent day where people were hurt, bombs were thrown and arrests were made.

President Obama invited President-elect Trump to the White House. They will work together on details and soon enough, President Obama will have his life back. He can continue to lead afterwards in harmony with the new national leadership.

I would have preferred to see Hillary Clinton win. At the same time, I recognize that the majority of US citizens feel passionately that what she represents, is not the best for the country. That’s how we play the game. The representational democracy picked him and I believe in that process more than anything else.


‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

– Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947


Easy Voting Process with Quality Ballots

Voting was easy. Registering took a few minutes online. At the University of Nevada, there wasn’t even a line to stand in when I voted early.

nevada voter experience

The Nevada Sample Ballot

The sample ballot that arrived was a quick 15 minute read and told the story of the addendum opportunities and the candidates. It did so from both perspectives and had research based arguments. If it was longer, it would have been burdensome to read. If it were shorter, I feel it would have been to incomplete to give a full picture of the questions.

Excellent Open Data and Election Coverage

I watched the election on Fox News, CNN, Google, Twitter and more. Though some were better than others, they all told a very similar story.

Hat tip to CNN. They had the best design and technology on their side.

The New York Times was the first to give Mr. Trump a 95% + likelihood of winning from what I saw.

Overall, there was a lot of excellence happening all over the media. We in the United States enjoy excellent election coverage.

Decriminalizing Marijuana in Nevada

So proud of the referendum outcome for question #2 in Nevada. I prefer beer, but knowing that the pot smokers will soon be free of the fear of imprisonment is PHENOMENAL!

What happened to Colorado may happen to Nevada! What does this mean for the state?

Image #1

Colorado Road Mortality since Marijuana legalization
Data pulled on Road Mortalities in Colorado. I separated it via the red line from when Marijuana was decriminalized in 2012.
Source: https://www.codot.gov/library/traffic/safety-crash-data/fatal-crash-data-city-county/fatalities-by-person-type/view


Image #2

incarceration rates and the effect of Marijuana decriminalization
So crime dropped steadily, while incarceration rates PLUMMETED. All this while population grew! 😀
Source: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dcj-ors/ors-crimestats


marijuana penalties that will go away

Lessons Learned

I didn’t think Trump had any chance of winning and I didn’t want him to. This goes to show that I didn’t have any idea what was going on. My perception last night was that we were sitting down to watch her take the election, but I got it 100% wrong.

Some very smart people had it right.

This election taught me that I need to listen better and try to find the lower level clues as to what is actually going on in the world.

Your thoughts?

I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for this election. Please let me know in the comment section below.

Before the Flood – Thoughts

Before the Flood!

This is a heroic achievement in the craft of storytelling. Even if you’re a climate skeptic and you’re confident in that position, I recommend watching this movie. It’s a beautiful piece of art containing stunning videography, fascinating scientific insights and a look at the global community.

Merchants of Doubt

I’m currently reading Merchants of Doubt. Elon Musk recommended it during his long conversation at the Baron’s investment. This book tells the story of the scientists who fought the scientific community when they concluded that cigarette smoking was bad for your health.

Apparently, this same group of thinkers are selling doubt around climate change. The term, “Merchants of Doubt” was found during the investigation of a cigarette company. The cigarette executive used that term to define how they fought back against the scientific community.

So, if you want to go deeper into this subject, listen to this book on audio.

If you’re a climate denier, PLEASE READ MERCHANTS OF DOUBT. I’ll read any book you suggest and we can share notes. I’m always open to changing my mind on things. Please, it needs to be a book or some other referenced document that is based around scientific inquirt.

Some Strange Pieces of Information

The film is called Before the Flood, but the story of the film uses The Garden of Earthly Delights as it’s visual metaphor.

While doing some research, I mistakenly became nervous after I googled “Before the Flood.” As you can see, Before the Flood is a different painting than the painting which is a center piece for the movie’s story.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights Hieronymus Bosch

The World Before the Flood

William Etty's The World Before the Flood

Respectably, Not a Great Title

Why they named the film Before the Flood rather than The Garden of Earthly Delights is beyond me. Before the flood signifies inevitable disaster. This is a negative emotion. Wouldn’t we better call this movie The Garden of Earthly Delights? It focuses the attention on the abundant future we will continue to work towards.

Politics is the art of the possible.

I think proponents of an environmentally sound future should express excitement, optimism and abundance thinking to invite more into this global mission.

Kevin Kelly

If you’d like to fall in love with science, watch this movie about why Kevin Kelly loves science.

Kevin Kelly is confident that the earth is NOT doomed. I believe that we can win the climate conversation when we focus on optimism and abundance that Kevin talks about.

Taking Action



It’s easy to start. The best thing we can all do is to stop eating beef and pork. Chicken is delicious anyways!

Brined in Buttermilk, and dredged in two coatings of seasoned flour.
Brined in Buttermilk, and dredged in two coatings of seasoned flour.

Going Deeper

So at the end of the film, the following URL comes up:


When you go to the above URL you take a quick 30 question survey that helps us get a sense for the carbon impact of our day to day lives.

The website then suggests an amount that you can pay to offset your greenhouse gas emissions.  But is it ok to trust them with funding? How could I feel safe in knowing the money will be well spent?

Can we Trust Our Payment?

First off, the money goes to The Forest and Sea Fund which appears to be a pass through organization for Natural Capital Partners and the Sustainable Markets Foundation (guidestar). Jay Halfon seems to play a critical roll in the finances of the organization. They use REDD funds as a way to implement carbon credits. REDD is a smart model developed in partnership with the United Nations to fund carbon emission reductions.

There are some harsh, well referenced critical thoughts for the Sustainable Markets Foundation, but the arguments have a political tone rather than a scientific tone. Most of his arguments were unconvincing to me.

So I’m going to say it’s trustworthy enough for me to make a substantial donation to feel that I’m doing my part (and my podcast production company’s part) to become carbon neutral.

I hope you join me in doing that.

Unfortunately, I’m a big part of this problem. Click below to get your score.

Offsetting the carbon

At the end of the day, I think Before the Flood was a great film and the world is better to have it here. Thank you Leonardo for the great work. Also, please go visit our friends in Australia. They are experts on the Great Barrier Reef.


Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is my favorite of the national parks in the USA. This is a bold statement when we consider Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands and hundreds more. The contrasting look Zion has is the most astounding in my experience.

If you’re planning a trip to Zion, check out the video below. I tried to make it interesting for those planning their trip.

Zion National Park Camping

Finding official camping in Zion National Park is expensive and there is a very low inventory with a lot of demand. Making a reservation through the Federal Government’s reservation website is also a painfully slow process.

Zion National Park Camping

It drops queries all the time and I couldn’t find a single opening this year. Also, I think it’s kind of a bad deal to spend $30 to go camping. The good news is that this doesn’t matter.

It’s 100% legal to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The government calls it dispersed camping and you can learn about the specifics of the regulation here. The area around Zion in Utah is full of BLM land.

Camping Near Zion National Park
The Yellow Overlay Signifies BLM land, which you can camp on for free.

BLM Land SignsWhen you’re getting close to the park. You can pull off the main road and drive down a road with less traffic. From that road, you can pull off to a dirt road. Many of these dirt roads have signs like the one pictured to the right. If you find these, you’re in good shape and can camp there legally.

We did our backcountry camping about 15 minutes outside of Zion for free. It was quiet, we heard coyotes and owls and in the morning we drove into the park and were able to go to the Narrows and Angel’s Landing.

That makes for a really good trip.

Zion National Park Images

Angels Landing Hike - Zion National Park Tossing a stick in the narrows - Zion National Park Springdale just outside Zion National Park From Angels Landing Zion National Park Zion National Park Virgin River - Zion National Park On the way to Angels Landing in Zion National Park


Zion National Park Hikes

I’ve only done two hikes at Zion National Park, but they were both two of the best hikes of my life. Here’s my breakdown of both.


To do the Narrows you need to go to the last stop on the shuttle. To get to Narrows you take the Riverwalk, which is a lovely walk alongside the river. Narrows is a river hike so be prepared as you will get your feet wet. You can rent shoes at the park which are specifically for trekking through water, get your own sneakers wet, or do what we did and go barefoot! It’s beautiful and it’s alot of fun. We hiked deep into the canyon, just beyond the first fork in the river.

If you watch the video above, we mention the specifics here.

Angel’s Landing

When hiking to Angel’s Landing you’ll experience a very fast change in elevation. The reports say it’s a 1,488-foot (454 m) climb. It’s a very well trodden path so there is little to no chance of getting lost or going the wrong way. Even though there are some REALLY scary spots because of how tall the cliffs are, there are no places where you need to be an expert climber.

There are chains on the last .5 miles, along all the portions that are more dangerous, but I don’t think I ever actually needed them. You can easily walk the whole thing without using the chains.

That said, it is scary, especially if you’re afraid of heights. V was a bit freaked out up at the top of the landing, being that we were standing on a ginormous rock nearly 1,500 feet high and overlooking the entire valley.

Zion National Park Shuttle

The shuttle is actually really great. There is an audio recording telling the history of the park so you get to learn while riding. The shuttles run so frequently that you never wait more than 10 minutes to get on one. It’s an excellent system and it takes away all the hard parts of driving your own car around and parking. Honestly, I would take the shuttle over driving from place to place. The shuttles are actually the only mode of transport to get to each trail during high season, so this makes things really easy.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Maya

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 is a lot of fun. It’s honestly one of my favorite festivals in the world now, topped only by Burning Man.

Sonkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year. It happens in April and we went in 2016. You can learn from the organizers at the Songkran website.

During the 3 days, Chiang Mai becomes a city that is experiencing the most intense water fighting on earth. You will not be able to walk down the streets without getting very wet. Plan accordingly.

Water Fights and Songkran

Why water fights? This is a holy day right?

The traditional thing to do is to go to temples and pour water on holy statues. My guess is that a little water pouring turned into someone splashing someone a little bit for fun. That evolved into a full on water fight over the past 100 years. Inexpensive plastics and water gun entrepreneurs have created a situation that can only be explained as unbridled war.

I’m being over dramatic. The event is a blast and you don’t actually feel anything other than glee during the whole thing. It’s not really a fight. It’s just a lot of fun.

Golden Guns

Water guns are available everywhere during the festival. Most look like toys. You can purchase gold spray paint and make your guns look like they are made of blocks of gold. This will get you a lot more attention, which might not actually be good. I’m confident we became targets more often because of our golden guns. If you think it’s fun to get attacked in a water fight, then the gold guns are helpful.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Family Water Fight

Party Plans

We didn’t plan anything specific for Songkran Chiang Mai 2016. All we did was get geared up and walk down the street.

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Girls

If you need a plan, here’s a good one:

  • Start at Maya – There is a big cool party happening out front of the mall. It’s fun.
  • Walk down main road headed towards the Old City – There are lots of cool parties happening here. The walk is crazy, but you’ll enjoy it.
  • Old City – This place is great. Feel free to wander around. If you need specific spots, you can check the map, but I suggest wandering

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 - Walking Map

Songkran Chiang Mai 2016 – Be Careful

Make sure to drink lots of water and stop to eat in a restaurant where people aren’t throwing water at you. There are a lot of people drinking so make sure you’re being defensive with where you’re walking.

Also, don’t drink too much. You’ll find beer for sale everywhere and lots of people just give beer to you as you’re walking around. So don’t go crazy. Remember you’ve got to be smart. This is a very free place. The only person who can ensure your safety is you.

Chiang Mai Songkran 2016 - Skill Barber

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Similan Islands Scuba Diving

Similan Islands SCUBA Diving is some of the best in the world. We’ve done a lot of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and in the Carribbean. The GBR is still the best in my book, but the Similian Islands is a close second.

In this video, we go for a 3 day live-aboard dive trip with Wicked Diving: http://wickeddiving.com/

Wicked Diving is a great organization. The purpose of this video is to show the style of the way they do live aboard trips. As part of the trip, we spend a bit of time cleaning up a beach in the national park. That’s great. Also they do a great job of drawing maps of the dive plans and telling the story of the sea life we will see while on the dive.
For more information about diving the Similan Islands, check out wiki:


Be sure to subscribe to our channel:


Want another SCUBA diving video set in Thailand? Check out this video where we went diving off the coast of Koh Lanta =

Music By Hurley Mower. It’s a song called Gem =

Touring the Family I’ve never met in Connecticut

Visiting Hoskins Cottage

In July of 2015 Veronica and I traveled around Connecticut to visit the family that I never knew.

My grandfather was from Connecticut, but he moved to the west coast when my mother was a young child. My entire immediate family is almost exclusively living on the west coast, either in Nevada or California. So it was very strange to be in a place that feels so foreign and talking to family. It was strange, but really great. Definitely worth the trip from New York City.

Worth it

I’m really happy that we took a few days to make this journey. We met my cousin Jason in Redding. He took us for a walk near one of the lakes near his house.

Visiting Family in Connecticut


Learning more about family is a really powerful experience. The video you see above is designed to be fun to watch, but it doesn’t capture the real value of this trip.

To be honest, I don’t know if I could even make a video that expresses that feeling. Honestly, it’s probably best that I travel to meet family more often. That’s the only way I can think of to really get it.

The Hoskins Family Tree