I feel like I can be a pretty cynical person, but occasionally I will open up social media and go hoooboy. This happened to me yesterday after reading some posts on NextDoor (NextDoor seems to be even worse than Twitter and I don’t understand why) after a pretty big and exciting development project got approved in our city. There’s a lot of posts about how poorly our city is run and how this project is going to fall apart and, well, yada yada yada.

Now, I have my own cynicism about this project myself. There’s a lady on city council that is absolutely obsessed about the dirt that is going to be displaced from this project and where is it all going to go. Like, lady, you don’t think a construction company is going to know what to do with a pile of dirt? She has brought it up at every city council meeting I’ve listened to in the past 2 years and I just don’t understand why that’s her main concern about this project or why the developer’s answers the previous meetings are forgotten and we have to rehash how moving dirt is expensive and they will find good uses for it as efficiently as possible.

But if you were to listen to the people on NextDoor you would think we live in some sort of poorly run hellhole that is one or two steps away from total societal collapse. Do we live in the same place? I moved to this city for a lot of reasons but one of them is that it’s pretty well run. Is it perfect? Of course not. Could it do better? Always. And calling out where we can do better is often how we do better.

But there seems to be a pervasive hopelessness or cynicism about almost everything. Have you been to other places in the world? It’s not perfect and we have some things we really need to work on — but there’s a lot to celebrate too.

Yesterday as I was driving home from a volunteer meeting I was getting pretty cynical about something someone said in the meeting. I was getting really frustrated. And I stopped myself to really analyze why I was getting upset. Were there things that happened imperfectly and I would have liked to see happen better? Yeah. If I were in charge and did the same thing, would I want to receive more grace then what I’m currently giving this person? Yes, that too. And, in the grand scheme of things, are things going really well and am I hyper-focusing on one little thing and blowing it way out of proportion? Yes, absolutely.

And recognizing it, I stopped doing that. I moved on to other things.

Life’s too short.

Back on the e-bike

It’s been about a year since I’ve ridden my ebike, my new bike has taken most of my energy. But I finally fixed the flat tire and went for a nice and long 30 mile ride on a very hot day.

I love all sorts of bike riding. The ebike is really great for going longer distances and exploring paths I don’t normally ride. The extra power gives me a lot of confidence to try routes I may not be comfortable with on my acoustic bikes. I always know I can make it home with the battery power.

Today’s ride was so great because I explored a new path, and of that 30 miles, easily 26 miles were on dedicated trails with zero interaction with cars. Heavenly!

Filling Others Up

Every now and again, I need to revisit this amazing section from King’s Cross, a Tim Keller book.

There are a lot of wounded people out there. They are emotionally sinking, they’re hurting, and they desperately need to be loved. And when they are with you, you want to look at your watch and make a graceful exit, because listening to them with all their problems can be grueling. It can be exhausting to be a friend to an emotionally damaged person. The only way they’re going to start filling up emotionally is if somebody loves them, and the only way to love them is to let yourself be emotionally drained. Some of your fullness is going to have to go into them, and you have to empty out to some degree. If you hold on to your emotional comfort and simply avoid those people, they will sink. The only way to love them is through substitutionary sacrifice.

Or think of an even more dramatic example—parenting. When you have children, they’re in a state of dependency. They have so many needs; they can’t stand on their own. And they will not just grow out of their dependency automatically. The only way that your children will grow beyond their dependency into self—sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so. When they are young, for example, you’ve got to read to them and read to them—otherwise they won’t develop intellectually. Lots of their books will be boring to you. And you have to listen to your children, and keep listening as they say all kinds of things that make for less than scintillating conversation.

And then there’s dressing, bathing, feeding, and teaching them to do these things for themselves. Furthermore, children need about five affirmations for every criticism they hear from you. Unless you sacrifice much of your freedom and a good bit of your time, your children will not grow up healthy and equipped.

King’s Cross by Tim Keller, page 142.

Some Favorite TV Shows

Now to counter-balance my whining and complaining, on the flip side of things, here’s some stuff I’ve really been enjoying lately:

Apple TV+. I wouldn’t ordinarily subscribe to yet another streaming service, but it’s included with our Apple One subscription so it’s basically a freebie. The search and highlighting of shows within Apple TV+ suuuucks but there’s some really hidden gems in there. Some of these you’ve maybe heard of, but maybe not:

  • Defending Jacob. I binge watched this entire series on a single ~11 hour plane ride. It was SO good, highly recommend it. A student is murdered and one of his classmates is the main suspect.
  • Hijack. We’ve been watching this show every week after it gets released, and it’s so good! The series finale is next week, and I can’t wait to see what happens. There have been a number of twists and turns.
  • The Morning Show. The first season was phenomenal, my wife and I binge watched the whole season in a little over a week. The second season we didn’t love, and we’re excited to see if the upcoming season three brings back some of the magic of the first season.
  • For All Mankind. We all know that the US won the space race by landing a man on the moon first, but what would happen if we the Soviets did instead? Really interesting premise that gets pretty thoroughly explored.
  • Tehran. A really great show all about Israeli spies in Iran. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? It’s hard to say because you want each character to win. Season three is coming soon!
  • Trying. Maybe I’m biased because we are an adoptive family, but this series follows a couple who want to become parents through adoption. There are some hilariously good moments in this one. And one of my new favorite songs was written for this show.
    • The family and friends of the main characters are all extremely supportive, in their own way, and try to help wherever they can. One of my favorite scenes is where the grandfather shows up with a bed he made at 8am and he gets asked: “You made a bed before 8 in the morning?” And he responds, “No, I made two beds. After making the first one, I knew I had a better one in me.”
  • Ted Lasso. Everyone has heard about this one. It wasn’t my favorite show, but I really enjoyed it. The redemption arc in the second to last episode in the final season makes the whole show worth it, in my opinion.
  • Shrinking. I really enjoyed Harrison Ford in this show.
  • Loot. Loved this one, every bit of it. I kept joking it’s the MacKenzie Bezos story, and honestly it’s probably not too far off.
  • Invasion. Here’s another plane-binge show, one that I binged on a few long flights last year. Season two is coming out in a couple weeks and I’m looking forward to where it’s gonna go.

I’m really looking forward to Strange Planet which is coming out soon. This makes it seem like every show was amazing, and there have been some duds. But I’m pretty consistently impressed with the diversity and quality of shows on TV+.

Some Complaining…

I just want to write this to get some of my recent gripes out of my system, and maybe someone that works for these companies will address these.

“Smart” Home Gadgets

I really think some of the smart home gadgets are really, really overrated. We have a MyQ garage door opener and I sometimes can’t believe how poorly it works.

  • The app takes forever to open. Sometimes I’ll be on my bike and I would love to open the app and open the door as I approach my house. It consistently takes 60+ seconds for the app to even launch.
  • The most basic feature I would want is missing: with careless kids, we keep having situations where the garage door is left open. All I want is a feature where I can automatically close the garage door if it’s been open for more than X minutes. Nope! Not possible. I can schedule the door to open or close on a regular basis (why would I want that?), but there’s no way to automatically close the door if it’s been open for a long time. I would settle for a notification if that’s all they could do, but they can’t even do this. As a result, our garage door has been left open overnight or for several hours during the day numerous times and it makes me so nervous for my bikes. I’m this close to just setting a schedule and having the door automatically close every hour, but what a pain.
  • The app functions mostly as a giant advertisement for their other products or for other services they want me to use. I don’t use the app that often (because it sucks) but every few times I launch it I have to dismiss some new popup trying to get me to try Amazon Key, or Walmart+ or something I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever.

I recently replaced our Google Nest with an Ecobee thermostat. I had two motivations for doing this: 1) to stop sending data to Google, and 2) to integrate into Apple HomeKit. Honestly, I kind of hate the Ecobee.

  • The app is so minimal and basic, it’s nearly worthless. You can’t even see a history of when the HVAC system was used within the app, you have to login to the website to use their HomeIQ feature—and this view is clunky and barely works on a full computer, and is super clunky and only basically functional on mobile.
  • What equipment is currently running is hidden within the app, and not something you can quickly see like with the Nest which makes it very clear with making the background blue/orange or showing a blowing fan icon.
  • The scheduling is extremely basic. Switching between home/sleep/away is about all the scheduling options you get.
  • I really miss Nest’s ability to schedule the fan to run XX minutes per hour between certain times. I want to schedule the fan to run from 12 noon to 6pm for 15 minutes every hour. There is no way to replicate this functionality within Ecobee. I can either set the fan to run XX minutes per hour for the entire 24 hour day, or set a schedule and keep the fan on continuously for several hours.
  • The Ecobee app also seems mostly like a giant advertisement for all their other products. If their other products are missing such basic functionality — no thank you.

I’m so unhappy with the Ecobee I might get rid of it and replace it with a newer Nest with Matter support, but I still don’t like the idea of sending more data to Google.

I had another category of things I wanted to complain about but that was cathartic enough that I’ve completely forgotten what it was. I’m sure it will come back to me. But in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty easy.

Follow Up On Display Woes

A while back I posted about some of my Apple gripes, one of them being that my MacBook Air M1 and Dell USB-C display wasn’t getting along. A Mac OS update broke it, then another update fixed it. And it remained working until the other day when another Mac OS update broke it again. UGH!

I tried a few things to fix this, until I came across this reddit post which said to cut power to the monitor and plug it back in. I had rebooted the computer a few times but hadn’t thought to do the same with the display and — bam, everything is working again.

Phew! And ugh! Sometimes I hate modern tech.

Whole House Fan Follow Up

After my last post, I really think the answer as to why the house will start to get warmer on its own lies in residual heat in the walls, floors and other elements of the house. I don’t think this effect was as large in our older house because the layout of that house was more conducive to having air pass over floors and walls, and our new house is a one story ranch so I think there’s less air that directly passes across the lower parts of the house. (especially floors and lower parts of walls) This means that these elements retain a bit of heat that gets released back into the house and warms the house up, even just a couple of degrees.

In my research on this issue, I found a recommendation to run the whole house fan at high around bed time to quickly replace all the warm/stale inside air with fresh/cool outside air, then run it all night long at low to keep replacing air and give things a chance to cool down. Then in the morning, when it is still cool out, run it again at high for a while before turning it off and closing all the windows. This allows you to “trap” all that cool air inside and keep the house cooler for longer. So far this has been how we’ve started running the fan, and yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far and we didn’t need to run A/C until about 7pm.

I’m all about that kind of energy efficiency.

Mystery of the Day

This is a screenshot of our ecobee temperature report from last night. We have a whole house fan that we turn on at night after opening a bunch of windows. The white line is indoor temperature, green line is outdoor. You can see that the two lines are decently well correlated through the evening because the fan is running, bringing in outdoor air into the house and as the outdoors cool, so does our house.

Around 3am the time on the whole house fan turns off, and here’s the mystery: within an hour the indoor temp jumps from 71º to 78º.

This is the mystery. Why? It’s 4am, the sun’s not out yet, the outdoor temperature continues to decline a little bit, and we’re obviously not running the heater. Why does it jump 7º?

I have noticed the whole house fan has not been as effective in this house as our older house and I’m trying to figure out why. Even if the outside temperature in the middle of the night is mid-low 60ºs, at best our house will be low 70ºs by the time I wake up, warmer than the outside air by a decent amount.

I don’t think it’s a sensor problem as the ecobee has two independent temperature sensors and both are usually within a degree of each other, and we have a couple of clocks with temperature gauges that register very closely as well.

This continues my obsession to lower our energy use and increase our comfort. But I’m really struggling to understand how to better optimize using the cool outside air to keep our house comfortable longer.