Random geekery since 2005.

Husband, father, programmer, speaker, writer, blogger, podcaster, collector, traveler, golfer.

#5: Email, Exercise, and Elevators

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My Secret To Email

Every time I give someone my email address, they give me a funny look.  As an example, I mentioned in a previous letter that I recently purchased some appliances at Sears.  When I was checking out, the sales rep asked me for an email address to send my receipt.

Me: “sears@jeffblankenburg.com”
Rep: “Really?  That’s your email address?  Do you work for Sears or something?”

I get the same reaction at Best Buy, State Farm, Huntington Bank, Home Depot, and every other retailer that asks for your email address.

SPOILER: None of those email addresses even exist.

The real truth is that you can send an email message to anythingyouwant@jeffblankenburg.com and it will arrive in my inbox.  Some of my friends have taken to getting pretty creative with this freedom, and if I weren’t blessed with a healthy amount of self-esteem, some of them might even hurt my feelings.

This email system provides several benefits:

  1. I actually know where my email is coming from, because the “to” address lets me know.
  2. If a company sells my address (or has their data stolen), I know instantly, because I start receiving email from someone other than the company indicated by the “to” address.
  3. If someone really starts spamming an address, I can just filter that “to” address to the Trash, because I never gave anyone my actual address.
  4. I never have to give my actual email address to anyone, ensuring that I’m buried in a world of unwanted email forever.
As most of the world is aware, anyone can buy a domain name for about $10 a year.  In my case, I bought jeffblankenburg.com.  (Some of you with more common names probably didn’t buy yours.)  As part of the cost of that domain, I also get a number of free email addresses as well as email forwarding.  I decided to set up a “catch all” address that forwards ALL email to my Gmail address.  (This is a very simple process, I promise.  Nothing technical.)  By doing this, I can give a new, made-up email address to every single company I interact with, without actually having to set up the actual addresses.

Now, you may be thinking: “But what about the times when you need to send a message FROM one of those addresses?”  I’ve got you covered there too.

Gmail has an excellent feature built-in called “Send Mail As…” which allows you to pretend you’re sending a message from some other email account.  The only requirement is that you prove you own the address.  To do this, they send a verification email to the address, and if you click on the link it contains, you then have permission to send as that address forever.  You can see I have done this a few times:

Where this has led me, however, is also into the world of username and password management.  One of the key ways that people get their accounts compromised is by using the same username and password on every website.  Then, when a hacker steals all of the username and passwords from someone like Target, they immediately set up a machine to test those usernames and passwords against places like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, eBay, and Amazon.  If they find a match, you’ve got some trouble on your hands.

With my email approach, your username can be your email address (which it already often is), so that it’s unique on every website, and you don’t have to remember a single thing.  To add a password strategy (assuming tools like LastPass don’t appeal to you), consider this simple strategy:

Come up with a simple phrase, like “NotMyCircus24!”  At each website you register on, use this passphrase, plus the name of the site.  In this example, it might be “NotMyCircus24!

If you have any questions about how to do this, feel free to email me at ineedhelpwithmyemail@jeffblankenburg.com.


Let’s face it.  I’m not the slender athlete I remember in high school.  (Yes, I was actually a slender athlete in high school.)  There are many contributing excuses I use for this fact:
  • I sit in a chair all day.
  • The gym is too far away to be convenient, and it’s boring when I’m there.
  • My food choices would be better if I had more time.
  • My travel schedule for work makes it impossible to get into a scheduled rhythm.

All of those excuses are complete crap.  But they’re the ones I’ve been using for years as I continued to pack on 3-5 pounds a year, every year.  That was, until 2015.  I decided this the year I actually make some changes, because what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

Late last summer, my friend Ryan Lowdermilk pointed me to a set of products called FitDeck.  I use the bodyweight deck, because let’s be honest, I’ve got plenty of it to use, and it doesn’t require equipment.  The basic concept is that you have a deck of cards, you shuffle them up, and each card is designed to be 1 minute of exercise.  They have different levels of effort on each card, and you just do your 20-30 cards each day.  It provides variety, requires zero equipment (other than the cards), and provides a heck of a workout.  There’s also many variations of FitDecks, including Pilates, Kettlebell, Stairs, Basketball, Golf, Office, Soccer, Pullups, and more.

This gives me no excuse to get out of my chair for at least 30 minutes a day, doesn’t require a trip to the gym, and is tiny enough to fit into my suitcase for when I’m on the road.  It certainly doesn’t help me make better food choices, but I’ve been tracking every calorie using MyFitnessPal, and it has made all of the difference.  Once I realized how many calories were in that bagel with cream cheese, I just stopped ordering it.

I’m not going to say that FitDeck is doing anything transformative to my body just yet, but it has transformed how I think about exercise.  I’m down 10 lbs. already this year, and I have another 35 to go before the summer hits.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Elevators Have Been Lying To Us Always

This past week, I dove back into my collection of podcasts that I hadn’t listened to since before the holidays, and there were some great ones.  My current lineup includes:
  • Serial, a podcast that investigates a high school murder case, and shows some incredible inconsistencies.
  • RadioLab focuses on interesting stories (usually science related), and it is an auditory wonderland.
  • This American Life chooses a weekly theme, and tells 3-4 very interesting stories on that theme.
  • Freakonomics looks at very creative perspectives based on economics and data analysis.  Way more interesting than this explanation.
  • 99% Invisible looks primarily at the unnoticed architecture around us, and how it influences our lives.
  • Windows Developer Show, a weekly show focused on topics Windows developers would like.  I’ve appeared on this show several times.
  • MS Dev Show, another weekly developer show focused on building technologies using Microsoft’s products.
This actually has nothing to do with podcasts, though, except that I learned something from listening to a recent episode of RadioLab, called Buttons Not Buttons.

You know when you’re in a hurry, and you get on an elevator, and you can see people coming in the distance, so you start pounding on that “Close Door” button in an elevator?  It turns out that about 80% of those buttons are never even hooked up.  There’s generally three reasons for this:

  1. Many elevators rely on timing.  In the morning, most of them are kept on the bottom floor for people arriving to work, and in the afternoon, they’re distributed among the top floors to accommodate those heading home for the day.  The close door button can mess with that timing, so many elevator techs just never hook it up.
  2. In many states, there are laws that state an elevator must stay open long enough to allow someone in a wheelchair to have time to enter the elevator.  Even if your “Close Door” button is hooked up, that timing might prevent it from working in the time you’re hoping it will.
  3. Elevator technicians just didn’t feel like hooking it up.

There supposedly is a hack, however, but it will be pretty obvious to those folks you’re hoping to close the door on.  Stick your arm out of the elevator, breaking the laser sensor, and quickly bring it back in.  This will make the elevator think someone has entered, and trigger a door close event.  Give it a try the next time you’re in a hurry, maybe with your middle finger extended to really communicate your motivation.


One response to “#5: Email, Exercise, and Elevators”

  1. eburke Avatar

    +1 to MyFitnessPal (yes, I’m biased.) Also +1 to FitDeck. I’ve also used Runtastic PushUp (and others), which are easy and fun.

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