What To Do With Money by /r/PersonalFinance

I love this guide on what to do with money from /r/PersonalFinance. Money is complicated so it’s nice that they lay out each step in order. Top priority is to have an emergency fund, then getting 401k match, and so on.

They have flowcharts too for the more visually inclined too. Here’s the simple version: (there’s a detailed one in the linked page)


Entrepeneurs on Obamacare

If you aren’t aware of how the Affordable Care Act makes small business and startups possible, you might want to read these testimonials from Y Combinator startups. The ACA makes entrepeneurship easier. It is a job creator.

Our tax dollars should go to healthcare not just because it is the compassionate thing to do, but also because it is cheaper and more efficient than medical bankruptcies (which we wind up paying more for).

Even if you don’t have a marketplace insurance plan, the ACA has provided some important benefits.

If you oppose the repeal of the ACA, please call your representative and make your voice heard.

If you are indifferent, ask your friends and family whether any of them are at risk of dying or bankruptcy if the ACA is repealed. You may be surprised to learn how important it is to those with pre-existing conditions. I can name a handful off the top of my head that are at risk of never having health insurance again due to pre-existing conditions.

The ACA isn’t perfect (or even that great, compared to most first world countries), but it is better than the Make America Sick Again plan of repeal. Let’s improve it instead of turning back the clock. After all, isn’t iterating & improving what great entrepeneurs do?

My Home Automation Rules

In my last post about smart homes, I promised to outline what I have automated. A lot of home automation talk is about the gizmos and I don’t think enough is about the actual automation. These are actual automations; things a computer does to my house for me.

Our front porch light turns on at sunset. It turns off when we go to bed – I don’t want to contribute too much to light pollution by leaving it on all night. We manually hit a “Good Night” widget in iOS’s Notification Center to trigger this.

We also have interior lights come on at sunset if no one is home, as determined by the location of our phones, so that the dogs don’t get stuck alone in the dark. They don’t seem to mind the darkness but I feel bad enough to have created a rule to automate this.

We do not turn on the lights automatically when we are home. Sometimes it’s dark before sunset, sometimes it’s light after.  It’s less weird to manually turn on the lights. I might try to use some luminescence sensors to do this in the future.

The thermostat goes into energy saving mode when we are away from the house. High temperature in the summer, low in the winter. It uses less energy to return the house to normal temperature than it does to maintain normal temperature when no one is home. If you are going to do this, be sure to create a “Guest” mode for when you have a babysitter / houseguest.

The thermostat also changes to cooler temperatures when we go to sleep. It’s like having a programmable thermostat that is based around us instead of a clock.

I have an app that turns the furnace fan on for 10 minutes every hour, to even out the temperatures in the house. Our bedroom is closed off during the day so it’s extra warm in the summer and extra cool in the winter. It’s nice to come to bed and have the bedroom a normal temperature.

Our door from our house to our garage (as opposed to garage door) unlocks when we arrive home. This is awesome because we have an RFID key on our Honda, which means you can get in the house without ever having to take your keys out of your purse or pocket.

If the garage door is open when we go to bed, we get a push notification. It’s a handy reminder for when we accidentally leave it open.

If the smoke alarm goes off, all the smart lights in the house come on.

I’ve been purposefully vague about how I set all this up. Partly its because its in SmartThings and my goal is to move to Home Assistant. Partly its because you can do this stuff with most smart home systems.

I’m happy to answer questions in the comments if anyone wants to know how I did something. I’d also love to hear other automation rules that you love.

Notes from Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup, January 2017

Last night I got downtown for the Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup. As an aside, there is a fun art installation downtown called LuminoCITY. I spotted it on my way in and recommend you check it out after dark.

The meeting topic was Productivity Tools & Workflows, with 4 quick talks:

I took notes, but the talks are pretty well documented by Andy Melichar on his blog and Eric Malcolm on the Meetup’s blog. If you didn’t make it out, read those to get a good recap. I do have some thoughts though.

Anthony’s getting started tips were great. He uses a Flic with IFTTT to tell RescueTime to lock him out of time-wasting site and disable notifications. e uses a dedicated voice recorder to remember things. I’m interested in the implication that single-purpose devices lend themselves to higher productivity. I have been reading more since I got my Kindle. I wonder how much of that is tech novelty and how much is from having a dedicated device.

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Eric’s presentation on Trello was eye opening. I know people love Trello but never had much luck making it a part of my workflow. Seeing someone use it helped me understand what it’s capable of. I’ll also have to check out the recommendations for Trello’s blog and their inspiration page.

I am going to try to adopt Eric’s process of having boards for each “project” in his life as a backlog and then moving those things onto a board with daily columns to schedule his day. It might work well with the 1-3-5 system Anthony advocated.

The other talks by Deborah and Amit were great too, so great I don’t really have anything to add. Next month is Quarterly WordPress Q & A Workshop, come on out!

R.I.P. Marvin


Marvin Yagoda, founder of Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, has passed away.

For those who have never been, Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is a hidden gem of the Detroit area. It is hidden behind a strip mall and overflowing with cool stuff. There are the standard video games, classic and current, but there’s so much more:

One of my favorite displays is P.T. Barnum’s Cardiff Giant – a fake of a fake.

I hope that Marvin’s legacy lives on. Once my kids are a little older this place is high on my list for family outings.

Photo Credit: Jukie Bot (CC Licensed)

Detroit Beer Press Podcast – Blackrocks Brewery

If you’re looking for a beer podcast to listen to today (and I know you are), check out this one from Detroit Beer Press. The hosts interview a couple of the brewers from Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, MI – Alex Leckie and my brother Charles Hotelling.

The Handmaid’s Tale

I love a good dystopia. 1984 painted a vivid picture of a surveillance state, but also showed us people controlled with a common enemy and fake news. Neuromancer and Snow Crash mixed the computer revolution with the 1980’s “Greed is Good.”

I recently finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood and I’m surprised it took me this long to find it. I picked it up when it went on sale shortly after the election (I can imagine the thinking behind that pricing decision). Wikipedia summarizes the plot:

The story is told in the first person by a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept for reproductive purposes and known as “handmaids” by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Offred describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as “The Commander”). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead’s society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.

There were some things that stuck with me. Women being reduced from people to simple hosts for unborn children. As Offred recalled a time when she had rights, like the right to work or own property, I kept remembering a picture I saw online:

Iran in the 1970s before the Islamic Revolution

That’s a group of women at a university in Iran, pre-revolution. I imagine many of these women are still alive. I wonder if they knew how quickly things could change? Do they feel more free in an Islamic state than they did in a Western one? Do they envy our freedom or pity it?

“Freedom.” That’s always been a word that caught my eye. When it shows up, it’s usually lacking specifics and trying to appeal to emotions. I think about this quote from the book a lot:

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

I guess that’s the idea. In America, authoritarianism would have to come wrapped in the word “freedom.” Readers of history can probably point to examples where that’s exactly what happened.

The book is beautifully written and I highly recommend it as a story, a message, and a work of literature. I also just found out that Hulu is adapting it into a show with Elizabeth Moss, if you aren’t the reading type.

Good thing this is just fiction, right?