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Articles by Josh Niederer...

What I'm Doing Now Q2 2018

I want to start posting quarterly “What I’m Doing Posts” here on Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much abandoned the site. Most of my work these days is posted over on Dev-eryday. It’s amazing that the site has been online for almost five years now. This was actually the first ASP.NET MVC site I ever built. It’s been great having the site online, but I need to start using it more and take advantage of it. So, in the spirit of Derek Sivers, I’ll be posting quarterly “Now” posts that discuss what I’m doing. Here’s what I’m up to at the tail end of April 2018.

  • Taking on Monthly Challenges

    For the month of April I did a challenge where I ate vegan all month. I haven’t had any meat, dairy, or any other animal product. I thought it would be hard at the onset, but it really hasn’t been difficult at all. The world provides us with an amazing assortment of foods that are natural and taste good. I don’t think I’ll be keeping the practice indefinitely, but it’s been an enjoyable challenge. Now I need to find a new challenge for May. Monthly challenges keep me on my toes and push me to grow through discomfort.

  • Starting to Drink Matcha

    A couple of weeks ago I read about the benefits of matcha. Alleged benefits include: detoxification, calms the mind, increases focus, prevents disease, lowers cholesterol. It’s too early for me to say whether I’ve seen any benefits yet. I know one thing though, it doesn’t taste good. I’m taking it straight with water and it’s strong. It’s like if you took 10 bags of green tea and used it for a single cup of tea. Each time I take it, it tastes better though so it’s more of an acquired taste.

  • Writing an IdeaList Each Day

    I’ve been writing an IdeaList each day for well over a year now. The lists are usually centered around a single topic and think up at least 10 ideas that are relevant to the topic. This practice has led to more creativity and a willingness to push through even if no ideas are coming. The mind will do anything we ask of it, but you must ask. Making lists every day is the perfect way to bake a creative challenge.

  • Developing IdeaListz Web App

    When I write the IdeaLists I’m doing it in OneNote. It’s a great app to write with but I want to get the data in a structured format. Right now, it’s plain text. I’ve written a tool to convert and write it to a database, but I need to build out the interface for adding new lists. I’m building the app as an SPA using React on the front end and ASP.NET Core on the backend. Since the backend is a REST service, I will be able to use it when the need to build a native app arises. I’ll use React Native probably because it’s the natural progression from the React web app I’m building right now.

  • Dev-Eryday

    Dev-eryday has been going strong for over a year now. Each day I make a check in to GitHub and either watch a tutorial for something I’m learning or read from whatever technical book I’m digesting at the time. This daily practice of improving my craft each day has been core to how I live my life over the last couple of years. It’s not always fun, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

  • Mastering Fitness

    I reached my standard health goals a while ago. Now I’m just working on fitness for aesthetic appeal. There’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to fitness, but I’m moving towards that. However, I define it that day at least.

  • Reading

    All the greats read. Buffett, Gates, Bezos, and Munger are all constantly reading. Books contain knowledge. People who read will generally have more than those who don’t. Knowledge isn’t everything but acquiring can be a great way to pass time.

  • Writing Code Each Day - I’m writing code each day. Projects at work, projects at home, sometimes for fun, sometimes for profit, I’m getting it done through 0s and 1s.
  • Working in Central Illinois

    I’m currently serving as the lead developer for a government entity in Central Illinois. There are lot of interesting problems to solve and it’s rewarding to spend my weekdays working to help the people of Illinois through technology.

  • Writing Every Day

    I spend a lot of time writing. I’d estimate that I’m writing upwards of 1000 words a day at this point. Most of the words are part of the IdeaLists I’m writing, but there are so many places where I’m writing. Writing is so important right now. We communicate so much through the written word that any time spent getting better at writing is worthwhile. Everyone needs to be able to write well.

So that’s what I’m up to this quarter. We’ll see what I’m up to again in July. Until next time.

Published on 4/28/2018 11:09:58 AM

Cubs Predictions 2017

2016 was the best season the Chicago Cubs have ever compiled. I don't think it will ever be able to be topped, by any team. It wasn't a dream, the 2016 Cubs won the World Series. I'll repeat that again: the 2016 Cubs won the World Series. A 108 year world series drought is the perfect recipe for the best season ever. The crazy postseason, with the amazing game 7 victory in Cleveland, just makes it all the more special. Now that we've acknowledged that, there's a new season on the horizon and for the first time in 108 years the Cubs will start a season as defending champions.

I'm going to throw out some predictions for the 2017 Cubs. Some will hit the mark, some will not, either way, the 2017 Cubs will be a formidable team. The fruits of the lean years through the early 2010s have finally come to fruition. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the rest of the front office have carried out their plan and are poised to build upon it for the next half decade. It's a fun time to be a Cubs.

Best Position Player

Kris Bryant won the 2016 National League MVP and is the odds on favorite to win the award in 2017. Bryant was the best player on the best team in the league in 2016. A big part of his value is his amazing versatility. He can play third, first, and all the outfield spots and Joe Maddon can write him into the lineup where ever he is needed on any given day. In addition to that, he will probably hit around 40 home runs, show off elite base running skills, have an OBP close to .400, and be the most marketable player in the league. He's also going to be the best position player on the Cubs in 2017. Kris Bryant is an absolute force and he will be even better this year.

In the offseason Bryant worked on hitting the ball the other way with authority. Power to the opposite field was something that he lacked in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016, Bryant's goal was to flatten out his swing in order to make more contact. This change was extremely successful as he lowered his K% from 30.6% in 2015 to 22% in 2016. I wouldn't be surprised if KB hits 15 opposite field home runs this year. The guy is driven to be the best baseball player he can be and he won't disappoint in 2017.

Best Pitcher

Picking the best pitcher for the Cubs is quite a bit more challenging than picking the best position player. The last two years the Cubs have had Jake Arrieta win the Cy Young in 2015 and then Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks finish 2nd and 3rd respectively in 2016. Any of these three could step up and be the best pitcher on the team. From seeing his first three seasons I think Kyle Hendricks will lead the staff in 2017. Hendricks has improved in each of his first three big league seasons and he will improve upon the heights he reached 2016. Hendricks won't overwhelm hitters with his stuff, his fastball rarely touches 90 MPH, but he will break them down through technique and strategy. It's almost as if Hendricks is playing chess while the hitters are playing checkers.

Position Player Summary

The Cubs are loaded with premium position players. Baez, Bryant, Contreras, Rizzo, Russell, Schwarber, and Zobrist are all elite talents and would be the single best position player on as many as 10 teams. The Cubs have them all. To hammer home how loaded this team is, Javier Baez is the most exciting player in baseball and he doesn't even have a full time starting position on this squad. This is a great problem to have.

Probably the biggest story about the Cubs lineup is the plan to have slugger Kyle Schwarber leadoff. Schwarber replaces the great Dexter Fowler, who is now a Cardinal. Schwarber, who hasn't played even a half season in the big leagues, will thrive at the top of the lineup. With all the at bats he will get, Schwarber will challenge for the home run title. I'd also be surprised if he didn't lead the league in runs scored. A high on base percentage and having a pair of 30+ home run guys batting behind him will do that.

On any given day, Joe Maddon can fill out a lineup card that can not only put up a lot of runs, but is filled with gold glove caliber players on the field. Both Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo won gold gloves in 2016. Addison Russell and Javier Baez were both worthy of taking home hardware as well. Rookie Albert Almora has shown gold glove potential in his short career too. Teaming Almora and Heyward up in the outfield would mitigate any deficiencies created by having Schwarber in left field. The end result of having so many elite fielders on the diamond is less hits allowed and fewer runs scored against. Combine the fielding with a bunch of pitchers who give up a lot of weak contact and success will follow.

The only notable addition that the Cubs made in the offseason was to bring in Jon Jay. At this point in his career, Jay is best suited for a 4th outfielder role. Jay will bring a professional approach at the plate and can play passable defense at all three outfield positions. Jay's biggest impact will probably be as a mentor to Almora and as a good clubhouse guy. Other reserve players Tommy LaStella and Matt Szczur are both solid fill in options.

Standard Lineup:

  1. Kyle Schwarber LF
  2. Kris Bryant 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist 2B/RF
  5. Addison Russell SS
  6. Willson Contreras C
  7. Jason Heyward RF/CF
  8. Pitcher
  9. Albert Almora CF/Javier Baez 2B/SS/3B

Pitching Summary

The starting pitchers are a major strength. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks are all top of the rotation pitchers. All three of these guys could be a 20 game winner this year. Arrieta has a lot to prove in his free agent year and I wouldn't be surprised if he looked more like his 2015-self than what he showed in 2016. John Lackey, though old and potentially an injury liability, keeps on putting up great stats. Lackey is a true horse. Rounding out the rotation is lefty offseason free agent acquisition Brett Anderson. Anderson, when he hasn't been injured, has been a very good pitcher. Anderson produces a lot of groundballs which fits perfectly with the infield he'll be pitching in front of. Should any of these starters struggle or get hurt, the Cubs have Mike Montgomery ready to pick up the slack.

The last couple of years, the Cubs have filled their bullpen full of former starting pitchers. Guys like Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, and Clayton Richard are all gone. Having these versatile swing man type arms was largely a success but this year's pen is more of a typical bullpen. The only guy who will typically pitch multiple innings will be Montgomery. Stalwarts Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm are all back and should continue to lock down the middle and late innings. Carl Edwards Jr. and closer Wade Davis rack up the majority of the saves. I'm expecting big things from Edwards. The pen will be a strength this year. Both Davis and Rondon have been awful this spring but they have too good of stuff to keep running into bats they way they have this spring. Look for Davis to have a season in his walk year in 2017.

Final Record

101 Wins 61 Losses

The 2017 Cubs are going to be really good. The only reason I can see them missing the playoffs is if they're decimated by injuries. The core group of players is largely the same and too good to experience a major letdown. The loss of David Ross and Dexter Fowler hurts, but it shouldn't have too big of an impact on performance. The Cubs will win at least 100 games again this season. The playoffs, as unpredictable as they are, will pose a challenge to the Cubs. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants all would be tough to beat in a playoff series. The 2016 Cubs proved they can win the World Series, I wouldn't bet against them to repeat it in 2017.

Published on 4/1/2017 10:16:06 AM


2016 has been a nice year. I’ve published more work here on than I ever have, I created SimpleHealthTracking, and the Cubs won the world series! For 2017, I’ve been planning an ambitious project. I want to improve my software development skills every day in 2017. As I improve, I want to share my progress and creations online. In order to do that I’ve created the website The goal is to learn as much as possible and share anything that’s interesting.

Through working on SimpleHealthTracking this fall, it reenforced how important it is to chip away at something with dogged regularity. I checked in code for that project every single day until it had every feature I wanted it to have. Some days there was a lot of code, others not so much, but every day I was a little bit closer to the end goal. I want to take this same approach to building my professional skill set.

There are several different types of content I’ve got planned including all of the following: Best Way to Learn A Subject, Book and Course Reviews, Tips, Tricks, Tutorials, Programming Practice, and thoughts on how to improve even while away from the keyboard. You can read more about planned content in the welcome to Dev-eryday post. This list is non-exhaustive and the project could evolve along the way. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Along the way, I hope to come up with multiple projects to build out from zero to a production solution. This will be the fun part of the process. Another interesting part will be going from unknown to known in emerging areas of computing and also revisiting old concepts. With the volume of material online to day, I’m going to have to be sure to rein in on the concepts that are both interesting and important. There’s more info out there than I could ever imagine being able to learn so the scope will have to stay fairly small. I’m going to take it one idea at a time and see how far I can get.

So that’s my big project for 2017. I want to reach new heights and see how great I can become at my craft. Dev-eryday will help in achieving this goal. I still plan to write articles over here. So be sure to check regularly. Dev-eryday will definitely have more action, but there will certainly be a lot of quality content right here.

Published on 12/29/2016 8:57:29 PM

SimpleHealthTracking Update

SimpleHealthTracking is now live and useable! Check it out here. The site has actually been accessible for a couple of weeks now, but I hadn't had the time until now to put out an update about it. The site has really come along quite nicely over the last couple of months. I've been using the site every day and it's a lot more enjoyable than using a spreadsheet to monitor these metrics. It's also nice to be able to add features on a whim.

Home Page


This is the standard landing page for the application for logged in users. The homepage can be used to enter checkins, sleep entries, and medicine taken records. Checkins from the homepage do not have the full list of fields but can be edited later to add fields that aren't set initially.

Checkin Entries


Checkins are the most general purpose entry the system supports. Users can enter the following fields: weight, heartrate, blood pressure, personal feeling ratings, and notes.

Sleep Entries


Sleep entries are used to track sleep patterns. Each sleep record needs a start time and an end time. The system will calculate the minutes slept off of that. Users can optionally enter a sleep quality to signify how good the sleep was.

Health Stats


This is a cool page that shows some basic statistics that are generated off of the user's data. It's great to be able to take all of the historical data and summarize it like this.

To Do

Charting tools, via D3.js, still need to be developed. I'd like to have line graphs showing heartrate and weight over time. Another one I'd like to see is nightly sleep over time. Once these data visualizations are added, they will really pull the product together. Spending some to time improving the UI would enhance the application too, as some of the pages are very minimal. Outside of that, I plan to add incremental improvements as I think of them or they're suggested. Another thing I'd like to do, is to move the application to ASP.NET Core. That'd be an opportunity to not only learn the latest .NET development platform, but also make the application faster than it already is.

Through working on this project, I wanted to show what could be built through a simple daily commitment. I'd estimate that I didn't average over 30 minutes a day working on building SimpleHealthTracking. My goal was to make a little progress every day and see what happens. Using the GitHub contribution streaks feature, it shows the sustained effort level day-in, day-out:


I plan to continue checking in code daily until the charting features are completed. If you want to check out the project on GitHub, here's a link to the repo.

Published on 11/22/2016 10:20:45 AM