This is a short one.
What I’m Reading
- I listened to Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War and it nearly brought me to tears several times. One of the best narratives on wartime trauma I’ve read, told from two different perspectives.
- I read The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company in about 2 hours, which means I gathered most of what I needed with a quick scan. This is geared towards big company executive development but there are some good lessons in there regarding the transition from managing individual contributors to managing other managers.
- I’m using Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body to guide my weight training and diet routine. It is a bit late for me to strive for the Ultimate Male Body but there’s always room for improvement, right?
- The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while. Looking forward to reading book 2.
- Don’t bother with Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual as it is a poorly written, poorly formatted, shallow treatment of some simple concepts like “wake up early, eat clean, and work out.”
What I’m Playing
- I worked in two different Advanced Squad Leader sessions over the past two weeks and will be playing again tomorrow. I’m joining an online league for beginners which will allow me to mix up my playing partners more, hopefully leading to more learning and tactical improvement.
- Allen and I snuck in a game of Twilight Struggle after our ASL game.
- Ken, Spence and I took another go at Triumph & Tragedy and we fought it out big time. Whereas last game I won without ever going to war, in this one we were at each other’s throats from 1937 on.
- We invited neighbors over to teach them Tichu and it went over well.
- On Thanksgiving we played Wits & Wagers and Power Grid with friends. Power Grid was a big hit with the 4 new players.
- While Matthew was home we played Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game and the newish expansion to Dominion, Dominion: Adventures. Adventures is not technically a standalone expansion but we played with only cards from it and liked the new (to us) mechanics.
What I’m Contemplating
- A Field Guide to Dudes Who Ruin Meetings – Part and Sum – If you’ve ever been in a meeting, chances are you’ve encountered one (or more) of the following dudes. Whether they mean to or not, they prevent work from getting done and irritate other people while doing so.
- Mr. Money Mustache, UBER Driver – Good insight into the other side of the Uber equation: driver revenue and profitability.
- Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt on How Wilco Became Wilco – My son Jacob pointed me to this rare joint appearance of Jeff and John on a podcast with my favorite rock and roll author.
What I’m Playing
- Of course, more Advanced Squad Leader with Doug. We are in the middle of a German / Dutch early war campaign.
- I played Combat Commander: Europe with my young friend Peter who just shipped off for US Army basic training.
- I taught newbie friend Spence how to play Twilight Struggle and it has reignited the flame for me to play more on my iPad. I also tricked out my 1ed box with some foam core inserts I built.
What I’m Contemplating
- The Senior Engineer’s Guide to Helping Others Make Decisions – Outstanding article here with memorable examples about how we lead (and don’t lead) folks that we are mentoring.
- The Product Manager’s Essential Reading List for 2018 – Can’t argue with most of these, though Gödel, Escher, Bach is a bit of a stretch.
- These 13 Exercises Will Prepare You for Work’s Toughest Situations
- Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds – Raises hand. I use the Overcast app and listen at 2x speed to most of my podcasts. The app allows for podcast-specific settings which is nice for ones that often involve non-native English speakers like Rough Translation.
Skipped a few weeks so there’s a bit more than usual this time.
What and Where I’m Drinking
Overall I’m not drinking much at all – 1 or 2 nights a week at the most, and I feel better for it. I’m two weeks into an intense weight training program and trying to reduce my body fat percentage from about 15% to 8%. Wish me luck.
- Tried the beers Flower In the Kettle and Oathbreaker at Wayfinder Beer, one of my new favorite spots in downtown Portland. Close to Guardian Games and a solid menu.
- Tried the beer Altbier at Verde Cocina Café, with beer being the highlight (16 oz can!). Food was bland.
What I’m Playing
- Matthew was home for about 32 hours total and Julie and I played Small World with him. Big hit and fit into about a 2 hour window.
- We also played Ninety-Nine while at the aforementioned Wayfinder Bar.
- Julie and I dropped by our friend Chuck’s game night to play Honshu. Lite, city building fun.
What I’m Reading
- Via audio I read D-Day: The Battle for Normandy my favorite-so-far telling of this story.
- Found some good stuff in The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, particularly the concept of a tour of duty.
- I suspect Ray Dalio, author of Principles, is a major asshole but there’s no doubt he gets results. There are some tough-to-stomach lessons in this book regarding self evaluation and truth and it is worth the read.
What I’m Watching
- Julie and I watched First they killed my father on Netflix. We both read the book and wanted to see this. Worth it.
- On the other hand, the third movie in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy Heaven and Earth was a waste of time. Book was OK, movie awful.
- We went to a free preview of Goodbye Christopher Robin and enjoyed it.
- Right now we are working our way through The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. I like how they take their time revealing what the true nature of this alternate reality is. Fun show.
What I’m Listening To
- Jazz Friday: Joey Alexander’s Joey. Monk. Live! – This is the sort of stuff I listen to when I’m writing.
- First Listen: William Patrick Corgan, ‘Ogilala’ – If you like his voice, and I do, this will sound pleasing.
What I’m Contemplating
- ‘I could live simpler’: Floods and fires make Americans rethink their love affair with stuff
- Escaping e-mail hell
- If you think financial independence is about money, you’ve completely missed the point
- The Economics of the Office: Why Do We Still Commute?
- 26 time-management tricks I wish I’d known at 20
- When Your Shitty Health Insurance Doubles in Price
We moved into our townhouse in Beaverton Oregon almost exactly a year ago. The smaller footprint and mostly clean slate coming in allowed me to take some steps to automate the home for convenience, safety, and money saving. Here’s what we did.
While I was tempted to go all-in with some high end automated lighting solutions (like Philips Hue and Ikea TRÅDFRI), they all felt too proprietary and costly for our needs. I wanted to automate lights in our main family room gathering area and my game room. I settled for the Wemo Smart Plug (I have both the older chunkier version and the new mini version). These plug right into a normal 3-prong wall socket and are easy to setup and provision. You can control them with a button on the plug, a mobile app, or other home automation hubs like the Amazon Echo.
We have these setup on a timer via IFTTT (see below) that turns them on near sunset and then off after we go to bed. This creates a variability in the lighting automation which is handy as we are out of town for about 40% of the year.
Light Motion Sensors
This is hardly in the category of high tech home automation, but I installed a few motion sensors to control lighting. The first step was a motion sensor switch replacement for the garage light which Julie and I love and can’t believe we didn’t do in our old home. The second step was to install two different battery powered motion sensing LED lights in spots where we had poor lighting but didn’t want to invest in a permanent solution. These take D batteries but are on so infrequently that it seems like they’ll last about 1 year on a set.
We had a Nest Learning Thermostat in our old house and this was one of the first purchases I made when we moved in. I don’t like the automated learning features so we just keep it on a fixed program. This device shines the most though when wired into other services like Alexa and IFTTT.
For security and convenience I was very interested in garage door sensing and automated opening / closing. After some research I settled on the Garadget device, which attaches easily to an existing garage door opener. It hooks into our WIFI network and uses a laser sensor that it bounces off a reflective circle that you put on the garage door. The supplied reflector was too small and would trigger false opening alarms with even a small shift of the sensor, so I bought some extra reflective tape to broaden the hit zone on the garage door and it has been perfect ever since. I get automated notifications on my iPhone whenever the garage opens or closes or is left open for more than 20 minutes.
I’ve been using the IFTTT for 5 years now and it is simply one of the most indispensable services I use. It allows for “if this then that” triggers between dissimilar web services. For example, I have a few home automation related applets:
- Turn on family room lights when it gets dark
- If every day at 09:30 PM, then turn off family room lights
- When my nest auto-away turns on, send me a notification
- Send Amazon Echo ToDos to OmniFocus
USB wall outlet
Rather than plug in a bulky USB charger for our iPhones, Bluetooth headphones, and Kindles we decided to install a High Speed USB Charger Outlet into our kitchen. This was a simple install, replacing an existing wall two-plug outlet.
Amazon Echo and Alexa
I saved the best and most important component for last. I purchased our first Amazon Echo when we were in an apartment between houses, primarily as an experiment but also for the music. Once we moved into this house I started to unlock the power of the Echo as a voice controlled home automation hub. It also serves as a ubiquitous capture device for me when I roam around the downstairs. Some examples of how we use it to control our environment:
- “Alexa, turn on the downstairs”
- “Alexa, turn on the game room”
- “Alexa, trigger open the garage”
- “Alexa, play the album Astral Weeks by Van Morrison”
- “Alexa, play Jeopardy”
- “Alexa, flash briefing” (plays NPR news, BBC news)
All what you read above probably cost about $300-$400, with the major expenses being the Nest and the Amazon Echo (we also have an Echo Dot in our master bathroom).