I finally installed an SSL certificate on my website

Back when I started really getting into web development and coding, SSL certificates and having your website start with https:// wasn’t really a common thing. I helped run a few other websites for e-commerce companies, and they needed SSL certificates to ensure their clients’ information wouldn’t be stolen, but I personally didn’t sell anything on my own website, so I never bothered with it. … This was nearly two decades ago.

Nowadays, having an SSL certificate is considered normal and standard for all websites, even if you don’t sell products. They’re also free now, very contrary to having to pay a decent chunk of money for them a decade or so ago. I like to keep up with modern trends and make sure things are secure, but I hesitated from immediately implementing an SSL certificate – not because I didn’t care to do it, but because I realized there was something I did a handful of years ago that would make SSL certificate implementation extremely difficult.

Namely, when I set up my .htaccess file to have rewrite rules for formatting my website’s URLs, I did so in a very disorganized and makeshift manner that was incredibly inefficient. Basically, I dreaded having to go back and try to understand my thought process from several years ago in order to reverse engineer it, implement the rewrite rules properly, then make sure there were no infinite redirect loops that would keep forwarding the https:// URLs to http://.

It was obviously a waste of time that could’ve been avoided if I did it properly the first time, but I managed to put in an extra 15 or so minutes to get everything fully figured out and for the SSL certificate to work properly. … Or so I thought.

My next problem? When I went to my brand new https:// website, Google Chrome insisted on telling me that the website, although it had an SSL certificate, wasn’t actually secure – it claimed that I was loading stuff from insecure sources. That was definitely reasonable, and I spent an additional 15 minutes combing through the rest of my code and making sure all my scripts and extra includes were being called securely via their https:// versions.

But that still didn’t work.

And here ensured a series of events worthy of Benny Hill music, where I went around in circles trying to figure out why my website kept calling an insecure version of my header font. It ended up being a combination of the font being hosted in an unexpectedly different theme folder for some reason, combined with the fact that I use both W3 Total Cache and Cloudflare caching at the same time for website speed optimization.

After spending yet again an extra additional 15 minutes on that alone, after nearly an hour, my SSL certificate was installed and active on my website.

As for the lesson of the day… make sure you keep a log of notes of all the stuff you’ve done in the past. If not, then at least do things correctly the first time.

 

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Northwest Las Vegas during a rainstorm

Las Vegas was covered in storm clouds today that blocked the sun, but the clouds only extended across the city and not out by the mountains. This engulfed the city in darkness, but the mountains were still sunny. Here’s a view from central Las Vegas facing northwest:

Northwest Las Vegas during a rainstorm

Interesting visual.

 

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Re: “How do you avoid spending all your leftover money?”

Within the realm of finances, one of the more relatively frequent questions I get asked is how to avoid spending all your leftover money. Everyone knows by this point that they need to save money, but with a nice, padded bank account, it can be very easy to “forget” to save a set amount during a particular month, and it’s even easier to feel “accomplished” seeing a large sum in your savings account and thinking that you already have enough.

I am by no means rich, but I personally have fallen into this scenario before, and the best recommendation I have is to “create expenses.” I’ll explain.

I am very attentive and “obedient” when it comes to addressing expenses. I make sure everything is paid on time, but not so early that I miss out on interest yield. I never forget about any obligations, and I plan ahead to ensure that obligations continue to be met even in potential emergency worst-case-scenario situations. With that being said, I’m essentially exploiting the way my brain works by triggering that sense of responsibility by creating fake expenses.

As a preface to this, the “my savings account is big enough” argument should be completely invalidated if you have less than 6 months’ worth of living expenses saved up. A lot of people say 3 months’ worth is enough, but remember, the emergency itself that is causing you to lose your source of income will likely also directly drain your funds as well (for example, an injury that will rack up medical expenses), and there is no guarantee that you will recover and return to normal in a maximum of 3 months.

Going back to the main topic at hand, let’s create an example and say your monthly income is $5,000. Your expenses in this example are as such (heavily grouped and rounded for ease of calculation):

Rent (or mortgage plus other homeowner expenses) $1500
Utilities (power, gas, water, sewer, trash, phone, Internet, etc.) $300
Medical insurance (health, dental, etc.) $300
Vehicle (loan/lease, auto insurance, fuel, maintenance, etc.) $800
Student loans or other miscellaneous installment loans $200
Food (groceries, restaurants, etc.) $500
Personal care (haircut, gym membership, etc.) $100
Household products and other goods $100
Subscriptions (Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, credit card annual fee, etc.) $50
Travel and other leisurely activities $150
Gifts and charitable donations $100

In this example, you have $4,100 in monthly “expenses,” leaving you with $900 remaining – I put “expenses” in quotation marks because you’ve already taken into account a very large food budget for eating out at restaurants, as well as an additional leisurely spending stipend, as “expenses.” Most people know that all $900 should be going straight into savings, but it’s easy to add an extra $50 here and an extra $100 there and end up shrinking your savings amount.

First of all, make sure you’re not forgetting about any expenses. Are you an independent contractor who runs their own business like I do and doesn’t get income tax withheld? Even if you’re a godlike optimizer of deductions of business expenses, you should be expecting to set aside at least $500 or so per month for income tax, unless you want to go from tax avoidance dangerously close to tax evasion. Are you saving for retirement? Making maximum contributions to an IRA means another ~$500 per month. Combine those two extra items you forgot, and suddenly, you’re short of money, have no savings, and need to cut back on other expenses.

Similar to how you’re budgeting leisure and luxury as expenses into your spreadsheet, also itemize savings as different, individual expenses instead of just lumping everything together as “savings” or “leftover.” Set specific goals for yourself on where each component of your savings is going, and create different savings accounts (where applicable) to keep track of each individual goal (savings accounts are usually either free or have very low daily balance requirements to waive the monthly fee).

Similar to the expenses above, here are some very simple example savings goals (mostly relevant to someone around my age) that you can tack onto your budgeting spreadsheet in the form of “expenses” to turn up the pressure to set aside money for said goals (as well as their corresponding monthly cost):

Maximum $5,500 yearly contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA $458
Maximum $19,000 yearly contribution to a 401k $1583
20% down payment on a $350,000 house purchase in 10 years $583
$15,000 for a wedding in 5 years $250
$15,000 for the first year of newborn baby expenses in 5 years $250
$35,000 Bachelor’s degree fund for a newborn starting school in 18 years $162

Being able to cover all that pushes you into the six-figure yearly salary range, and then you end up getting more expenses piled on just by the fact that you’re richer – you’ll be pushing a 24% tax bracket, you’ll need to purchase more insurance to protect your life and your investments, etc. As you can see, things can very quickly spiral out of control, and it’s all about perspective – you can always put yourself in a situation where it feels like you never have enough money.

So, coming full circle, how do I personally avoid spending all my money? I expand my budgeting spreadsheet to include items similar to the second table, but custom-catered to me specifically. My personal budgeting spreadsheet goes nearly 100 rows deep, and at the end of each month, I “spend 100% of what I earn” … though after reading this post, you know that that’s just an illusion to ensure I’m financially set for my future.

 

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Things you can buy instead of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition

Ever since suddenly being very interested in pickup trucks out of nowhere, I’ve been following pickup truck and truck modification news pretty closely, and I get excited when something fresh comes into the market. When Jeep announced that they would be releasing a pickup truck of their own, I was pretty excited; even though I personally would never buy a Jeep myself because it just really isn’t my style, having more mid-size trucks available in the market ramps up the competition and encourages other automakers to improve their own vehicles.

Then, I saw the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition pricing. On April 4, they went on sale to celebrate the new pickup truck, and only 4190 Launch Editions are being made (that is paying homage to the 419 area code of Toledo, Ohio, the home of the Gladiator). The price? MSRP US$62,310.00.

… I like going to automobile manufacturers’ websites once in a while to load up the vehicle builder/configurator and see what kinds of options are available. I thought this would be a great time to do that just so I could see exactly what else you can buy instead of a $62,310 mid-size pickup truck.

  • 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor with 801A – $60,540

    Probably the truck that is given most frequently as the answer to the question “what is your favorite pickup truck,” the Ford F-150 Raptor with the 801A equipment package (which includes everything included on the standard 800A package, plus 10-way power heated leather-trimmed seats, power-adjustable pedals, and a power-sliding rear window) is $1,770 cheaper than a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition.

    Yes, the Ford F-150 Raptor, the truck that most truck enthusiasts would call their “dream truck,” and then follow it up by saying “but it’s way too expensive to actually buy,” is cheaper than the Launch Edition. Now sure, a lot of dealerships actually sell the Raptor at prices higher than MSRP, but if you want to maintain the example, you can just take the 801A upgrade down to the standard 800A, then there’s nothing more you can say.

  • 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, fully optioned – $60,290

    Not a fan of the Ford Raptor? Go to the Ram 1500 Rebel configurator and click on literally every single available option for a fully-optioned truck, and you can get it for $2,020 cheaper than a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition. This includes options like the 5.7L V8 HEMI MDS VVT eTorque engine, air suspension, the Rebel 12 package (which comes with the 12″ tablet-like display), Level 2 equipment group, bedliner and tonneau cover, and power sunroof… and literally everything else, because I actually mean fully optioned.

    Remember that Ram was the first manufacturer to introduce the oversized center console display. That, combined with the black leather interior with tastefully attractive red contrast stitching and accents throughout the cabin, and the fully-loaded Ram Rebel feels like you’re driving a top-tier luxury vehicle off-road.

  • 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon with Level 2 Equipment Group and 12″ display – $62,385

    Don’t forget that the Jeep Gladiator is a ¼-ton, mid-size pickup truck, and the two examples I gave above are ½-ton, full-size pickup trucks. But is that still not enough for you? Then take a look at the ¾-ton Ram 2500 Power Wagon – you even have the luxury of tacking on a Level 2 Equipment Group and the iconic Ram 12″ display and only exceed the cost of the Jeep Gladiator by $75.

    All of these trucks are still very off-road-capable vehicles – that’s not unique to the Jeep Gladiator. But, beyond the obvious increase in payload and towing, keep in mind that the Power Wagon actually feels like a luxury vehicle on the inside, as opposed to the Jeep Gladiator that seems a bit too committed to the off-road look-and-feel.

  • 2019 GMC Canyon Denali… AND A 2020 TOYOTA COROLLA – $62,245

    Being the owner of a 2018 GMC Canyon, I felt like it would be appropriate to include it as an example in my list. A 2019 GMC Canyon Denali with 4WD is currently $43,240, and the starting MSRP on a 2020 Toyota Corolla is $19,500; combined, they are $65 cheaper than the Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition.

    Yes, this does indeed mean that you can get a Denali, the sub-brand recognized among pickup truck enthusiasts as the “luxury GMC,” as well as a small daily driver sedan that gets over 30 MPG in fuel efficiency, and you’ll still have money left over for a little cargo tote for your trunk straight from the Toyota dealership.

  • A 20% down payment on a $311,550 house

    … You get the point.

Honestly, Jeep has to know that the Gladiator Launch Edition is overpriced. They might have been able to pull off something like this for the Jeep Wrangler, because the only “competition” to the boxy off-road vehicle is basically the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and those two aren’t really that com­pa­ra­ble. With no competition comes market control, and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Launch Edition at the $60k+ price point might have worked.

But entering the already-very-competitive pickup truck market, then proceeding to price themselves to compete against full-size trucks as well… they’re really preying on Jeep fanatics who like driving with the doors off and top down, because once capitalism kicks in, I foresee unbelievably high dealer discounts off MSRP for the Jeep Gladiator.

 

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Today, I went grocery shopping…

But apparently Smith’s Food & Drug no longer accepts Visa credit cards,

So I returned home from grocery shopping with no groceries.

Fantastic.

I used to be a loyal Discover credit card user, but I ended up running into two main problems. The first is the bit more obvious one that had begun ever since I first created a Discover credit card, and it is that Discover is not accepted in as many places as Visa and Mastercard. Discover claims a rate of 97% merchant acceptance, except I’ve run into that 3% in quite a few instances. When I’m with someone else, I can just have them pay for me, but when I’m alone, that becomes a bit problematic because I would only ever carry the one credit card and never carry cash.

The second problem I had was that Discover doesn’t have any credit card options that come with “luxury” benefits. The no-annual-fee Discover It card was great, and it had pretty good cash back options, but I wanted a high-end credit card that offered lavish and over-the-top benefits. Discover only had the basic credit cards and nothing that catered to an elite audience.

To address these two problems, I got myself a Visa Infinite Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card back in the middle of 2018. It came with a $450 annual fee, but $300 of that would always come right back to me in the form of a travel credit, and being able to get 4.5% of travel and dining and 1.5% of everything else back in travel redemption meant that I got a lot more value for everyday spending. The card also came with free elite status for car rentals and offered lounge access at airports, along with tons of other perks like extended warranty on purchases and insurance on travel-related incidents.

Since getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I ran into literally no problems. Visa is one of the most wildly-accepted credit card brands, and unless I was going to a place that does cash-only transactions (which usually meant I would just leave, because I don’t carry cash and don’t agree to giving business to people who don’t offer the convenience of cashless transactions in today’s age), I never had any payment problems. As you can imagine, having my grocery store stop accepting Visa credit cards was quite a shock after getting so accustomed to it.

So yes, this does mean that I will end up having to drive about an extra mile in each direction to and from the grocery store, because I’ll be shopping somewhere else other than Smith’s. It’s a little disappointing because of the extra time and mileage I’ll have to put in just to do basic grocery shopping, but I guess there isn’t really anything else going wrong in my life right now, so I can’t really complain.

So instead, here is a picture of twilight that I took this morning at around 5:30 AM – a time when my life was simpler because I had not yet discovered my new Visa credit card conundrum.

Las Vegas at twilight

 

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I just finished moving for the 7th time in the past 2.5 years

View from a high-rise condo on the Las Vegas Strip

  1. 2016-11: Hometown in Chicagoland suburbs → Tempo Storm’s 1st SoCal team house, to start my full-time esports journey
  2. 2016-12: → Tempo’s 2nd SoCal team house (I was setting up these team houses while I was living in them)
  3. 2017-01: → apartment in SoCal, because the team houses were full with players
  4. 2018-01: → back to Tempo’s 2nd SoCal team house, after the conclusion of my one-year apartment lease
  5. 2018-03: → penthouse at The Mercer Las Vegas, because I wanted to live in Las Vegas
  6. 2018-08: → Tempo’s Las Vegas team house, because H1PL Split 2 was postponed and the players moved out
  7. 2019-03: → high-rise condominium complex on the Las Vegas Strip, after the conclusion of the team house lease

I’m hoping I’ll be able to stay at my new location for more than just a short duration, because the view out of my unit is pretty amazing. My unit itself is extremely efficient and fits what I need perfectly.

Yes, I realize that if you’re familiar with Las Vegas, I’ve essentially given away exactly where I live, because there’s literally only one building that could possibly have that exact view from the photograph. But, considering just how many units are packed into this building, even if you already know that I live on an upper floor, you’re still looking at a number of possibilities that almost rivals the size of an average American subdivision… so I’m not too concerned.

Right around two months ago, I posted a blog post titled “My desire to live in a high-rise condo has been rekindled,” after my co-worker Jordan King and I went to visit our lawyer’s office in a high-rise building in Los Angeles.

Well, if you know me, you know that there aren’t many things that I want, but when I really want something, I get it. So that’s how I ended up here, and I’m glad I did.

 

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2018 GMC Canyon & AutoNation GMC Henderson: ½-year owner’s review

Do I still adore my truck? Yes.

As much as I did before? No.

Making a stop at the Grewal Business Center in Baker, CA after driving through the Mojave Desert from Las Vegas in a rainstorm

Back at the end of July 2018, I purchased a 2018 GMC Canyon mid-size pick-up truck from AutoNation GMC Henderson. I’ve owned the truck for just over 7 months now, and here are the experiences I’ve had owning the truck.

  • The seat is incredibly uncomfortable for long-distance driving. I have the SLE model (yes, I am sure it is the SLE, it’s just that the exterior is modified to look like the all-terrain) and it does not come with lumbar adjustment. I’ve been on multiple trips across the Mojave Desert from Las Vegas to Southern California and back, and I usually have noticeable back pain if I don’t stop a few times to take a break and stretch my back.

    I’ve resorted to sitting half cross-legged – that is, I take my left shoe off and fold my left leg under my other leg to give my lower back a stronger base of support – to ease the pain during long-distance driving. I’ve also tried a variety of different lumbar pillows, but none of them seem to fit just right.

    If you also have lower back problems, I would recommend either purchasing a different truck (I’ve driven between Las Vegas and Southern Cali­fornia in both the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier via rentals from Enterprise, and I’ve had no back problems with either of those trucks) or upgrading to a higher trim with adjustable lumbar support.

  • Right around 4,380 miles on the odometer, the vehicle just randomly shut off with no warning while I was driving. Luckily I was cruising at approximately 20 MPH (30 KPH) because I had just turned out of my cousin’s neighborhood, but I noticed that the accelerator had stopped working, and when I checked to see what was going on, I saw that the vehicle was off.

    I continued cruising to the side of the road, stopped, put the vehicle in park, removed the key normally as if I was turning off the engine, waited several seconds, then started the vehicle again, and it worked perfectly fine. I’ve driven a couple thousand more miles since then and haven’t en­coun­tered the problem again.

    I brought the vehicle to the dealership to get it checked up, but the mechanic could not find any error codes in the history, and he was unable to replicate the problem (which was expected, seeing as I had already driven about 2,000 miles since the issue without the vehicle randomly dying again).

  • The transmission is slow and lurches the vehicle when the fluids are still cold. There’s an option to display transmission fluid temperature in the gauge cluster, and whenever it’s below ~100°F, the transmission takes longer to shift to different gears. This is particularly noticeable when you’re just starting up the vehicle and making your first stop of the day. If you do not come to a complete stop then wait a few seconds (and instead just slow down and roll through a stop sign), the vehicle will hiccup and lurch when you ease your foot off the brake and begin accelerating again.

    This problem did not happen right away, but became an issue a few months into ownership. After a few months, it happened with a 100% replication rate. Unfortunately, when I took it to the dealership for warranty service, the mechanic said that he could not recreate the problem, and said that the transmission is working as intended. The worst part about it is that it literally only happens after the vehicle sits overnight and completely cools down, so because the mechanic had already driven the vehicle earlier in the day, I couldn’t just get into the truck and show him myself.

    I plan on bringing the vehicle back for warranty service, though I need to figure out a strategy to actually show the problem to the mechanic my­self (which will be difficult unless I literally drop off the truck, use rideshare service to come back home, use rideshare service to go back to the dealership the next day, then drive the truck with the mechanic in the passenger seat the next morning on a cold start).

  • The climate control was fickle and often would not fully shut off, even though the center console claimed it was off. As a result, I couldn’t just set the temperature to very cold or very hot, blast the climate control until it was a comfortable temperature, then turn it off. Instead, I had to actually select exactly what temperature of air I wanted, because even in the “off” position, it would still blow out air of that particular temperature.

    The mechanic apparently forgot to write comments about this problem after bringing it in for warranty service, but after I tried to recreate the problem, it no longer happened, so I presume that they ended up finding some problem somewhere and fixed it.

  • The dealership, AutoNation Buick GMC Henderson, was great right up until my actual warranty service began. My salesperson was awesome, and my service consultant was probably the only service consultant I’ve ever seen who seemed like they actually cared about the customer. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, I’m extremely dissatisfied with the mechanics.

    Not only did they fail to recreate a very basic transmission problem, even though I went as far as to drop off my truck and let it sit at the dealership overnight so they could drive it from a cold start, but for whatever reason, they decided to disconnect my dash cam part-way through servicing my vehicle. This was apparent far before I actually looked at the footage – I knew right away because, when they reconnected it, they didn’t even bother mounting it properly again, and instead left it dangling by the wires from the headliner (I have the dash cam hardwired).

    As far as I’m aware, the only reason to actually disconnect a dash cam then literally mention nothing about it when I went to pick up the truck (and also leave no mention about it in the service notes) is if they were up to something suspicious that they didn’t want me to know about. There’s another AutoNation GMC on the other side of the Las Vegas Valley, and I’ll likely end up taking my truck to the one on Sahara for a re-check on the transmission problem, hoping that the mechanics there know what they’re doing and opt to not disconnect my dash cam (or at least tell me if they need to).

So, do I regret the purchase of a GMC Canyon? Absolutely not. But would I do it again? … Absolutely not.

My decision was a toss-up between the Toyota Tacoma and the GMC Canyon; the Canyon won because it had substantially better styling for the price (both on the exterior and interior) as well as interior luxuries and conveniences. With the mid-size pick-up truck segment evolving with vehicle redesigns in the coming few years, I’m hoping that Toyota can up the quality of the Tacoma enough that it becomes the leader in the segment in both looks and reliability.

As for my Canyon, I was originally planning on keeping it for about a decade – and if I had gotten a Tacoma, I almost definitely would’ve kept it for a decade, as those things tend to run buttery smooth for a long, long time. However, at this point, with electric vehicles poising to take over the market, I’m almost glad that I have a semi-unreliable vehicle, as it will likely encourage me in the next 4-5 years to just trade it in and upgrade to an electric pick-up truck (while if I had a Tacoma, I would likely hold onto it forever).

 

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To everyone who said I was stupid for moving to Las Vegas because “it’s always 100°F there”

Yes, it is snowing in Las Vegas.

No, I did not Photoshop in the snow.

Snow in Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV

Snow in Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV

Snow in Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV

Snow in Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV

I haven’t been around in Las Vegas for that long, so I don’t have any prior first-hand experience with snow in the desert city, but I’m hearing that there is usually noticeable snow about once every 3-5 years. However, I’m also hearing that having this much snow piling up and actually sticking to the ground is extremely rare – closer to happening once every decade or so, most recently in December 2008.

So, as we can obviously see at this point, just because Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert and is one of the (if not just straight-up the) least humid cities in the United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get cold and there isn’t precipitation. People still wear coats in Las Vegas in the winter, and on occasion, have the privilege of building snowmen.

Unfortunately, after the snow stopped falling and it became midday, temperatures rose to the mid- to upper 40s in Fahrenheit, and the snow melted pretty quickly. I captured a final photo later on in the day as I was headed back to the house after getting some food, and the only remaining snow was high up in the mountains.

Snow in the mountains in Las Vegas, NV

 

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