Don’t Stair At Me–Help Me Fight For Air

Hey friends, I could really use your help! Please help me fight for air, so others don’t have to.

On Sunday, March 4th, I’m going to climb 52 floors of stairs for the American Lung Association to raise funds for healthy lungs and healthy air. When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.  

The funds raised will help provide patient education and support important research and advocacy efforts for everyone living with lung disease including COPD, lung cancer and asthma.

As I Step Up to the Challenge, I would love for you to help me! Every amount, no matter how small, would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your generosity! 

You can donate by visiting http://bit.ly/JeromeyClimbs

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Raising False Internet Hysteria

Reacting to some neighborhood drama:

“Hey Water Valley friends, neighbors and taxpayers. There has been a lot of Internet hysteria and hubbub about Water Valley changing the lake ownership to ‘public.’ Please relax and remember YOU as metro district taxpayers OWN the lakes. NOTHING is changing. The PTMD board is simply housecleaning the rules to properly define ‘non-resident’ use.

Please come to the 9 a.m., Thur. April 27 meeting in the Pelican Lakes Banquet Room and learn the truth and facts about how this beautiful place operates.

Enjoy your weekend, don’t allow false Internet hysteria to cause you any concern. Water Valley is a proven winner and its districts are ridiculously successful in preserving your values and amenities!

Enjoy the weekend see you next week.”

Martin Lind
Water Valley Land Company CEO & PTMD Board President

I really appreciate Martin Lind’s reply and addressing these issues that have concerned many of us. I also am grateful for what he’s done to ensure we have a very nice place to live and play. However, I am disappointed with the disdaining implication that residents like myself generated “false Internet hysteria”.

The lack of context surrounding the introduction of these policies set the stage for vast confusion. The lack of communication, followed by vague statements fertilized the confusion into concern and conjecture. With little information available, concerned residents were forced to resort to speculation based on the limited information they could find.

Nextdoor wasn’t responsible for this. Facebook wasn’t responsible for this. The lack of information, communication, and the challenging of long-held assumptions are the culprits in this confusion.

This document isn’t perfect. My primary concern was surrounding the wording around alcohol usage. The PTMD acknowledged it was a mistake and has committed to correcting this. It’s crucial that all residents review all aspects of the policies – especially those that potentially impact them – and send concerns and comments through the appropriate avenues. Some residents have sacrificed their own time and money to ensure their neighbors are aware of these proposed policies and have their opportunity to comment. To encourage people to participate in the process and ask questions is not raising hysteria.

I am glad that the PTMD is encouraging people in attending their board meeting and moving it to a larger location, although I do wish that a meeting so crucial to the residents could be held at a time that would enable residents to attend and learn the truth and facts.

At the end of the day, we can all agree that our community is best served by informed and involved residents. The PTMD has requested review and comments, and it’s my hope that every resident is aware and supportive of perfected proposed policies, as we’re all expected to abide by them.

Is the Ninja Coffee Bar A Dud?

2017-04-05 23.03.19

Last Christmas I got my wife a new coffee maker and settled on the Ninja Coffee Bar (ours was Model CF081).  When we first bought it, we were extremely happy with it. It was consistently making great coffee.  Now about 4 months later, we’ve seemed to have stumbled into what’s becoming a common issue with the coffee maker.

Recently the display has gone to display “CLN” (which stands for Clean) and has really prevented the coffee maker from working or brewing consistently. After following the directions to clean the coffee maker, the clean notification never turns off.  I tried to Google this information over the last few days but hadn’t seen anything definitive on the web. I had to dig a little deeper to find numerous comments on their Facebook Page and on Amazon Reviews.  There seem to be a significant amount of users complaining about the issue, and each comment on Facebook has been met with the same canned response, asking users to private message them a number on the plug prong and that they’ll email you specific instructions on how to clean it.  Presently I’m awaiting those instructions, but I have my doubts that there’s a magic sequence that solves the problem.  Based on updates from other commenters, it seems they are recommending that people clean with their specific cleaning solution (now that’s convenient), and in some cases, they are sending out replacement units (although I’ve heard that some users are being charged a $20 shipping fee).  I’ll provide an update once I hear from their support.

 

If you are experiencing this issue, be sure to click on the comments on the above Facebook post.

This is starting to seem like a systemic problem, something that only is now appearing to really manifest itself with these coffee makers being in the wild for a few months.  I’m not sure if this has been fixed in later models, but people are presently commenting on the same issue in the Amazon reviews of the current for-sale model. I’m not sure if their cleaning sensor is malfunctioning, or if there are genuine issues with calcium buildup that is not being solved by their cleaning methods. Nonetheless, this is pretty disappointing.

Are you a Ninja Coffee Bar user and experienced this problem? Do you have any tips in how to solve this?

Update: Ninja Support did send me a link to a PDF that had cleaning instructions that differed from the manual, that had specific details of how to execute post-clean flushes.  The key was that the flush had to executed within 15 minutes after a clean cycle, or it had to be started all over again. We’re a few days into making coffee again.

Trypod–My Favorite Podcasts 2017

For nearly 10 years I’ve been a huge consumer of podcasts and have been elated to see it come more into the mainstream over the last few years.  The two biggest virtues of Podcasting are the long-form and in-depth conversations that take place, combined with the variety of content. This results in a utopia of great content, no matter how diverse or obscure your interests are.

Some of the biggest podcasts have been involved with TryPod all March, where they ask listeners to invite friends to check out some of their favorite podcasts.  I’ve been meaning to post my list of favorite podcasts all month, but what better time to get around to it than the last day of the month?  Better late than never I guess.

First you need to know that my podcasting obsession may be a little out of control. I currently subscribe to 87 different podcast fees, and this is after recently pruning my subscriptions.  It’s certainly not practical to listen to 87 different podcasts (although some of those are currently dormant or don’t produce content on a frequent basis), and so over the years I’ve adapted my podcast listening strategy. Typically I am an obsessed completion-ist, feeling that subscribing to a podcast meant a commitment to hear every episode. That then evolved into a “must listen” list, where I selected the top podcasts that I wouldn’t miss. Today, I treat my Podcast feeds more like a radio dial: there are shows that I’ll always grab as soon as they’re available, and have developed a lower tolerance for entertaining content and may stop listening to a podcast mid-episode if it doesn’t interest me, some shows I’ll just skip all together and wait for the next episode.

As I’ve said before, there are great podcasts for just about every interest that you have, and as such I listen to podcasts about Politics, Sports, Pop Culture, Photography, Drumming, Music Business, Comics, Technology and Development, News and Comedy. Currently the majority of my listening is steeped in news and politics, where I’m striving to get a vast array of opinions. I politically consider myself a fiscal conservative and socially moderate Republican, that is currently questioning my party affiliation. You may notice that many of the political podcasts are more mainstream or left-leaning, in my attempt to understand different viewpoints.

So without further ado, here are 31 Podcasts for 31 Days (in no particular order):

1947 Meet The Press Podcast

News, Politics Interviews – Weekly

Why I Listen: Hosted by Chuck Todd, the podcast enables him to dive deeper into compelling topics that interest him.

 

Accidental Tech Podcast

Technology (Mostly Apple)  – Weekly

Why I Listen: Geeky tech talk that dives deep into mainly Apple issues, isn’t afraid to go deep in the weeds with nerdy topics.

Can He Do That?

Politics – Weekly

Why I Listen: This Washington Post podcast is focused around Donald Trump, with a fair analysis of recent controversial decisions and behaviors.

Comic Geek Speak

Comics – 2-4 Per Month

Why I Listen: One of my oldest podcasts to remain at the top of my rotation. Some really passionate and nerdy (and I mean that affectionately) discussion-based podcasts.  They cover a wide array of comics, but my favorite episodes are their deep-dive “spotlight” episodes on characters and their eras.

Ctrl Walt Delete

Tech – Weekly

Why I Listen: Really thoughtful discussion on the latest technology topics. Essentially Nilay Patel and Walt Mossberg discuss Walt’s recent column. This podcast has grown to be one of my favorite tech podcasts, and has really made me develop a significant amount of respect for Walt Mossberg.

Deadcast

Sports – Weekly

Why I Listen: Recently back from the dead, this NSFW Podcast gives hilarious discussion on sports and some pop culture.

DIY Musician Podcast

Music Business – Weekly

Why I Listen: Put on by CDBaby, this podcast gives me a lot to think about when it comes to musician marketing, outreach and growing our band. I appreciate that their topics are varied, yet apply to working musicians.

Exponent

Tech/Business – Weekly

Why I Listen: These guys are probably the smartest and most insightful analysts I listen to. My mind is always blown by the richness of their discussions. Most of it is based in consumer technology business models, but I’m left with a lot to ponder after each podcast.

Fatman on Batman

Comics – Weekly

Why I Listen: Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin talking all things comics. Despite the name, they’ve branched out far beyond Batman and talk all things comics/geek culture.  The language can be NSFW, but is often my go-to podcast when I’m trying to catch up on the latest comic news.

 

FiveThirtyEight Politics

Politics – Weekly

Why I Listen: Extremely insightful analysis on political numbers, polls and recent political happenings.  The analysis is very fair and the hosts do a great job of taking a dry subject and making it entertaining and accessible.

 

FoKnowsPhoto Raw Talk

Photography – 2x Monthly

Why I Listen: I’m a huge FroKnowsPhoto fan. Honestly a lot of my photography approach is shaped by Jared Polin.  What I most appreciate about this show is that it covers photo news, happenings and issues that professional and budding photographers face. The show doesn’t get too far into the weeds, but is extremely entertaining. Their newest format with Todd took a while to grow on me, but it’s really matured into an insightful and entertaining show.

Here’s The Thing

Interviews – 2-4x Monthly

Why I Listen: Thoughtful interviews done by Alec Baldwin – yes, that Alec Baldwin. He goes to great depths with celebrities from all over. I leave each show learning more about both Alec and his subject.

 

Jay & Miles X-plain The X-men

Comics – Weekly

Why I Listen: This is probably my favorite podcast. As a closeted X-men fan that got into comics in the early 90’s, this is definitely in my wheelhouse.  The level of depth in the recaps and analysis is impressive and entertaining. It’s easy to take for granted just how much work Jay and Miles put into each episode.

Mission Log

Star Trek – Weekly

Why I Listen: A weekly Star Trek episode recap show.As a Trekie who’s seen every episode at least 4 times, I love revisiting the show each week and thinking about the show’s messages, and whether it holds up.  If you love Star Trek, you’ll be deep-diving into their archives.

NPR Politics

Politics – Weekly

Why I Listen: Insightful center-left analysis of the latest political happenings.  I appreciate the context that is offered for the current issues.

On The Media

Politics/News – Weekly

Why I Listen: A left-leaning look on the ways culture and media impact each other. This show is well-done and thought-provoking, although it’s definitely gone to a darker place since the election.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Pop Culture – Weekly

Why I Listen: Witty and insightful discussion on the latest movies, TV shows, and pop-culture happenings.  The shows are the perfect length and provide the perfect depth and analysis of the topics.  This show is basically Cliff-Notes for Pop Culture, so you can give the illusion that you’re still hip.

S-Town

Narrative – One-Time

Why I Listen: This is the newest edition to my feed, recently replacing the Missing Richard Simmons podcast. This is done by the same group that put on Serial once upon a time, and is done in the same story-telling format.  I would call this a cross between “human interest’ and “guilty pleasure”.

Whistlestop

Political History – 2x Month

Why I Listen: Hosted by John Dickerson, this podcast provides some historical context to recent political events. This helps you figure out whether you should freak out about latest political developments.

Startup

Tech/Business – Weekly

Why I Listen: A fantastic narrative-based podcast that covers the world of starting and growing a business.

Talk From Superheroes

Comedy/Comics/Movies – Weekly

Why I Listen: An extremely funny show where comedians discuss and recap new and old super hero movies. What starts off as hilarious observations ends up with some very insightful reflections on the movies.

 

The Axe Files

Politics Interviews – Weekly

Why I Listen: Former Obama advisor David Axelrod interviews political figures from all sides of the political spectrum.

 

Bill Simmons

Sports, Pop Culture – 1-3x Per week

Why I Listen: One of my longest-tenured podcasts dating back to the BS Report, Bill ;Simmons has some very entertaining interviews.

 

The Daily

News, Politics – Daily

Why I Listen: A new New York Times podcast that I listen while showering each morning. It’s short, well-produced and very topical.

The Talk Show w/ John Gruber

Tech/Apple – Weekly

Why I Listen: Interesting Apple-focused tech discussion.

West Wing Weekly

West Wing TV Show – Weekly

Why I Listen: An entertaining and insightful recap of West Wing episodes, with Hrishikesh Hirway and Josh Malina (who was on the West Wing in Seasons 4-7). They land interviews from various cast members, including Aaron Sorkin himself.

 

TWiT

Tech Analysis – Weekly

Why I Listen: One of my longest-tenured podcasts for tech news discussion and analysis. I have to admit that I listen to this one more out of loyalty now, with my listening being determined by who’s on the week’s panel.

TV Avalanche

TV Pop Culture – Weekly

Why I Listen: A TV critics podcast about the latest and best shows. I’m a big fan of Alan Sepinwall and am glad to have him back in Podcasting.

Upgrade

Tech News, Apple – Weekly

Why I Listen: Another Apple-focused tech discussion podcast. I’m starting to see a trend with most of my tech consumption being Apple-focused. I’d like to think this is more coincidental in my search for insightful tech discussion, but some may be influenced by my tech consumption as an iOS user.

The Weeds

Political Policy – Weekly

Why I Listen: Intelligent left-leaning political policy discussion going in “the weeds” on issues.

 

The Weekly Standard

Political Discussion – 1-2x Weekly

Why I Listen: Conservative political discussion and analysis of current events. The Weekly Standard is definitely pro-Republican, but not necessarily Pro-Trump, which makes for some insightful commentary.

 

I would definitely invite you to give any of these 31 podcasts a try, especially if any of the interests are in your wheelhouse.  If you’re already into podcasts, I’d love to hear any recommendations you may have.

Educating my home

Over this Christmas we took the plunge into the smart home craze.  This started with the purchase of a Google Home, which I bought as soon as it was available.  We ended up loving it so much that we bought a second one during a Black Friday sale. We then ventured into getting a smart thermostat, a smart door bell, smart switches and smart lights.  About a month into everything I’m mostly satisfied with our purchases, although I would say that few have crossed the line of “luxury” into “necessity”.

There’s still a lot more we can do to smarten up our home, but here are the products I got to dip my toe into the water (in the order they were purchased):

  • Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)
  • Google Home
  • Belkin WeMo Switches
  • Lowes Iris Switch
  • Ecobee3 Thermostat
  • Ring Video Doorbell
  • Philips Hue Lights

Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)

We actually began the journey with the Google Chromecast audio last spring, when we bought a device to put into our kitchen.  We love having music on while we’re cooking, which was previously powered by bookshelf speakers I mounted on the wall, then ran off the desktop computer through speaker-wire running through holes I drilled into the adjacent office.  When the office was transformed into Clara’s room, we needed a replacement for the desktop and found Chromecast to be a great solution.

The Chromecast audios, combined with a set of speakers and a digital amplifier similar to this one, makes a good poor-man’s version of the Sonos.  We ended up buying a second Chromecast Audio and have it running from another amplifier to outdoor speakers on our back patio. The beauty of the Chromecast is that you can push audio from most major services/apps (like Spotify, Pandora, podcast players) and create zones inside your house that synchronizes that audio.  This has been awesome for parties we host, or those summer nights when you’re cooking outside and in the kitchen.

Google Home


Enter the Google Home. I was intrigued by the Amazon Echo and had multiple family members who raved about the device, but I held off getting one because it didn’t have the one killer feature I wanted – the ability to play music to the Chromecast.  After going to the trouble we did to find the Chromecast Audio, I didn’t want to have to choose between decent speakers and not-so-good speakers coming from the Echo.  We bought the Google home as soon as it came out almost on the sole basis of the ability to direct audio to Chromecast. It’s great to be able to tell google to “Play (my playlist) in the kitchen” and watch it go to work.  I think Alexa is still an excellent product, but I’m wiling to bet on Google’s AI and ability to interpret voice, as well as it’s openness in having an API that can integrate with technologies. So far that is starting to pay off, with Google now working with WeMo, Philips Hue, but most importantly, IFTT (If This, Then That) enables us to use voice commands to control the devices around the house (as well as customize Google’s responses).

Home is really handy for setting timers (which we use frequently with parenting), add items to our shopping list (it’s great when you’re cooking and can simply call out the ingredients), as well as  answer random questions throughout the day. We ended up getting a second Google and put one in the kitchen with the other on our bedroom.  I think most people could get by with one, but it has been handy to have the other one to provide news in the morning and play music during bath-time.

I still have a lot of wish-list items for Google Home, however.  It really can only be associated with one account, which doesn’t make much sense for a family device.  We’ve tried to get around this by setting up a family account and porting data from both of our accounts, but it still has a lot of kinks. Google still doesn’t support reminders/tasks or random notes. The Chromecast control for Spotify is pretty decent, but the Video Chromecast leaves a lot to be desired.  I would be over the moon if somehow Plex could get integrated with the Chromecast voice commands.

Belkin WeMo Switches

I bought a single WeMo switch the last time it went on sale and use it to control our living room lamps.  The switch was really easy to set up, and with Google Home integration it does it’s job really well. It was easy to set up and does support setting schedules (which we do when we’re out of town).

The only problem with the WeMo switch is that I don’t have many other appliciances or devices that would be handy.  Lamps make a lot of sense since they can remain in an “on” state and allow the switch to control the flow of power, but most other devices are too smart to just remain on all the time. Ideally I would love to have a WeMo that would control the TV setup so we can have it randomly turn on while we’re on vacation.  I know there are a lot of other WeMo devices that may support this, but it’s not a big priority.

Lowes Iris Switch

When we bought our Christmas tree Lowe’s had a promotion that made the switch really cheap. It works a lot like the WeMo switch, but has a lot less features. It doens’t integrate with Google Home or IFTT, so it’s really just been relagated to running a kitchen lamp on a schedule.  All things being equal, I would pay extra for the WeMo switch.

Ecobee3 Thermostat


Next to the Google Home, this is probably the most useful smart device we’ve bought. While you can make your thermostat efficient by programming a comprehensive schedule, the functionality with a wifi enabled thermostats really makes it easy to manage and monitor your HVAC.  In our home we only have one zone, with the Theo state located in the living room. The furnace sits below our bedroom, with the girls bedrooms on the opposite end of the house. Often during cold nights the girls rooms would often be the coldest, with us being forced to crank up the heat in our room for most of the night.

I was really nervous about the installation, but it really couldn’t have gone easier (even with installing the little power adapter on the furnace).  The accompanying app has very detailed videos that walked me through the installation.

What puts the Ecobee over the Nest is its  ability to have remote sensors being placed throughout the house (we put one in Mariana’s room, the coldest room in the house). The Ecobee uses those sensors to build an average (or you can configure it to make the sensor the primary temperature gage) and equate that to the heat threshold.  The end result has been that our room isn’t as hot and the heat has been more consistent throughout the house.  Our home energy report claims that we are extremely efficient, but it’s hard to tell how much money we have saved just yet. The Ecobee lets you control everything remotely as well through your phone.  In terms of band-for the-buck, this has been the best device.

Ring Video Doorbell


This device was one of my Christmas presents.  Having recently become a teleworker, my home office is deep with the bowels of the basement, where the doorbell isn’t always heard (and I’m often on calls).  In addition to ringing the normal doorbell, the Ring sends notifications to the phones, tablets, and even my computer through the app.  You can then choose whether you want to view a live video feed and even talk to someone through the doorbell.  The Ring also has a motion sensor that lets you set the detection range, and will even capture video when the sensors are tripped (as well as sending you a notication). The Ring installation was also relatively easy, and we were able to hardware it with ease.

The only major gripe I have about the Ring is that it’s an extremely technological replacement for a very simple and archaic appliance (your doorbell). With houses not being wired to send much power to the doorbell, the Ring is limited in how much power it can use to charge. During our deep cold spell this winter, the Ring’s lithium battery wasn’t able to keep the charge and ended up requiring me to take the doorbell off and charge it in the house – so you need to be careful how often you use the “video” features, especially during cold spells.

Luckily we don’t have too many people coming to our door, so I often forget about the Ring, but it has been really handy for giving piece of mind.  I would say that it’s probably the most frivolous device. I’m glad I got it as a gift because I’m not sure if I could mentally justify purchasing it.

Philips Hue Lights


We bought two Hue light bulbs and placed them in our living room ceiling lights.  We’re pretty happy with having them up there, being able to set different colors and levels of brightness through the app on our phone (as well as Google Home integration).  If you’re looking for a really vibrant way to feel like you’re in the future, having Hue Lights will accomplish that.

On the flip side, the lights aren’t the most practical purchase you can make. While it is convenient to tell Google Home to turn on the lights when you walk in the door, I’m not sure if it saves much more time than the light switch (especially when you’re telling Google Home for the second or third time).  The cost can quickly add up, and really only pay off if you’re able to outfit all the lights in the room (which made the living room the easiest barrier to entry).  Eventually I would like to buy some lights for the outdoors (and be able to change them colors at different times throughout the year, but again it’s hard to justify the cost.  It’ll be quite a while before we outfit our 10 movie room lights downstairs. One thing that’s important to note is that you HAVE to buy a hub for the lights to work, so you’ll be dropping $50 before you even get any lights.  I would suggest that you pay the extra to have the colored lights, the white-only lights can only do so many tricks.

While it has been a lot of fun having all these gadgets and tricks in our home, I think we’re a long way off from having a completely Smart Home.  I also don’t think people who can’t afford to shell out for these devices should be afraid of missing out.  If I were to recommend one device, I would suggest getting the Ecobee – especially if you have tempterature consistency issues in your house. If you’re looking for a device that makes you feel like you’re in the future, get the Google Home.

What about you? Have you outfitted your house with any smart devices?  I’d love to hear your story!