Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday! Maybe this is more of “EV Tuesday” but we’ll go with it.
Let’s talk about energy efficiency. We know that 30-40mpg is good for an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. But how good is it when you consider all the available energy in the gasoline? The EPA says that a gallon of gasoline is equal to 33.7 kWh. That’s a huge amount of power but the engine only converts 25-30% of that into useful energy. The vast majority of the energy in gasoline is lost to heat.
To put that amount of energy into perspective, there’s theoretically enough energy in a gallon of gasoline to power our house (minus EV charging) for 1.5 days. When full, my F150 has almost a megawatt of power in the gas tank!
EVs on the other hand are more like 80-90% efficient. That can vary more widely though because, for example, in cold weather, heat isn’t free like it is in an ICE vehicle, so you have to use extra energy to generate heat. In an ICE vehicle you’re generating way too much heat year-round whether you want it or not.
Our Model Y LR is one of the most efficient EVs you can buy, and over the first 37,000 miles, it has averaged 278 Wh/mi (Watt hours per mile) or 3.59 miles/kWh. With the energy in one gallon of gas, it could go 121 miles.
This is exactly how the EPA generates their MPGe metric. It’s a bit of a silly calculation because you’re never going to build a car that can extract 33.7 kWh from a gallon of gasoline, but I think it is useful to understand how all those calculations work. And when you hear about how efficient a particular car is, remember that 70% of the energy it’s consuming is lost as a byproduct.
A relative is going through a class in school where they are picking stocks to see who can make the most play money over the course of the class. On the surface, I think it’s a fine idea, but if this is the only exposure that the students have to the stock market, it might do more harm than good. Picking individual stocks is risky at best and pure gambling at worst. It can be a fun hobby but it should almost never be used as a real investment strategy. So what to do? I sent them some thoughts and figured I would post it here as well.
John Bogle, the visionary behind Vanguard, shares his wisdom in the book “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” which I’ve written about before. It’s concise, backed by research, and a must-read for anyone thinking of investing their money. Bogle’s book dispels common myths about investing. Here’s the bottom line: picking individual stocks or relying on mutual funds managed by others is a losing game over the long haul. Sure, there might be temporary hot streaks, but consistently beating the market over decades is effectively impossible. The market wouldn’t work if it was possible to consistently beat it.
So, what’s the winning strategy? Low-cost, total market index funds.
Total Market Index Funds: These funds bundle everything in the stock market. When you invest in them, you’re effectively buying a slice of the entire economy. It’s the ultimate diversification.
Low-Cost: The fees associated with these funds are ridiculously low—around 0.03%. Why? Because there’s no human actively managing them. It’s all math, ensuring that the fund mirrors the composition of the entire US market. If a company represents 3% of the total US market, its stock will constitute 3% of the fund.
The only thing left at that point is to figure out which actual funds to buy. This is where strategies can vary a bit, but they’re generaly fairly similar. Here are two popular strategies:
VTSAX and chill. This is the simplest version of investing. VTSAX is as low cost fund that covers the entire US economy. Buy this one fund, don’t touch it, and reap the benefits when you need the money.
Split between US, international, and bonds. You can vary the percentages based on your stage in life, but here’s a good starting point:
70% VTI – Low cost, total US market index ETF.
10% VXUS – Low cost, total international market index ETF
20% BND – Low cost, total bond market index ETF
Of course it’s important to remeember that all of this investing has a bigger tax burden than tax-advantaged accounts like a 401k or IRA. Investing directly in the market is generally only something to consider after you’ve maxed out your better options. Financial health can feel overwhelming but as I’ve written about before, this flow chart does a great job of breaking it down. Or if that’s too much, start with Dave Ramsey’s 7 Steps.
I’m no expert and you shouldn’t blindly follow anything I’ve written here, but you should have your own opinions about this. If you’re going to rely on individual stocks, you should read Bogle’s book and be able to explain why you think he’s wrong. It’s so easy to get sucked into thinking this has to be complicated, but the complicated route will almost always lose you huge amounts of money down the road.
The San Juan Islands are a gorgeous place to visit and half the fun is the 1+ hour ferry ride that it takes to get there. However, the islands are a popular destination and it can be a bit of a challenge to plan a trip there. Rather than write this up multiple times in various emails to people, I thought I’d capture it all on a single page that I can share in the future.
1. Plan Ahead for the Ferry Ride
Ferry Costs: The ferry ride to the San Juan Islands isn’t cheap, but keep in mind that you’re paying for a round-trip ticket. You’ll pay to get to the island, and the return trip is free. Check the fares ahead of time to avoid surprises. We recently paid $90 for a car, two adults, two seniors, and one child.
Anacortes Ferry Terminal: The Anacortes Ferry Terminal is busy. Multiple boats operate from here, so expect queues. Reservations are highly recommended! You can make a reservation for free, and there’s no charge for canceling up to 5 pm the day before. Just ensure you’re in line within 30 minutes of the scheduled sailing time to avoid a no-show fee. Remember, you pay the actual ferry fare when you arrive, not when you make the reservation.
Ferry Schedules: The ferry schedules are limited due to the approximately 1-1.5 hour ride each way and multiple destinations. Sometimes, your ferry might even stop at another island along the route. Check the schedules in advance to plan your trip effectively.
2. Timing Your Day Trip
Be Prepared for a Long Day: With less frequent sailings, it can be challenging to make a day trip. For instance, we left home at 8 am, got back at 7 pm and had about 4 hours on the island.
3. Transportation Options
Driving vs. Walking On: While it’s cheaper and easier to walk onto the ferry and park your car at Anacortes, this option limits your mobility on the other end. If you drive your car, you’ll have more flexibility to explore the island, but be prepared to carry your supplies.
4. Choosing Your Island
Shaw Island: Shaw Island is more rural. I’ve never been there and I don’t think that it’s generally a day-trip tourist spot.
Lopez Island: We once stayed at an Airbnb on Lopez Island. It’s a bit busier than Shaw but still maintains a laid-back vibe.
Orcas Island: This is a big island with plenty of tourist activities, but they’re not very close to the dock. Figure out your transportation in advance. (We always drive our car onto the ferry.) There’s a decent-sized town and a state park with great camping but make your reservations for the campground early.
Friday Habor: Friday Harbor, technically part of San Juan Island, is full of tourism options. Many attractions are within walking distance of the ferry terminal. If you have a car, explore three excellent park options. Don’t miss learning about the “Pig War” historical event. There’s a National Historic Park on both ends of the island (one American camp and one British camp). Additionally, Lime Kiln State Park in the middle is renowned for whale watching from shore. Right by the ferry terminal, you’ll find food options. San Juan Island Brewery is a favorite stop for us, offering a variety of good beer and a substantial food selection (including pizzas, soups, burgers, chicken, and sandwiches). They have around 10-15 beers on tap, and it’s kid-friendly. Most entrees are priced at about $17-20.
I had no idea about the incredible Washington State Ferry system when I moved out here, but it’s the second busiest ferry system in the world (second only to the British Columbia ferry system.) They make for fantastic day trips!
I haven’t regretted cutting cable in 2018. We’ve saved well over $3000 by not having that bill. I thought I’d miss it for sports, but honestly, I found that I was happy not watching as many random sports. Rather, I found specific sports I wanted to watch and paid for their streaming services. It’s interesting how much the price of those services vary though! I did some research to try to figure out how much it would cost to stream various sports leagues. I expect this will be out of date even before I finish researching it.
Full Season Cost
If you watch the races delayed by a day or two it’s only $30.
$350 (out of market games) $400 (in market games)
Out of market through NFL RedZone and in-market through Fubo for 5 months.
NFL+ is an interesting option too for only $40/year. You get access to replays of every game shortly after it ends plus live local games, but it’s only on a mobile app.
$130 (out of market games) $480 (in market games)
Out of market through MLB+ and in-market through Fubo for 6 months.
$150 (out of market games) $480 (in market games)
Out of market through NBA Leage Pass and in-market through Fubo for 6 months.
$70 (out of market games) $560 (in market games)
Out of market games through ESPN+ and in-market through Fubo for 7 months.
All games through MLS Season Pass add on to Apple TV Plus. This price includes 10 months of Apple TV Plus.
All events through the Golf Channel on Fubo for 12 months
All events through Fubo for 10 months
Alternatively, you can watch many of the events for free with commentary on Jomez Pro’s YouTube channel.
All events through MotoGP VideoPass
Existing laws and contracts make it difficult to stream the major US sports because in almost all cases, in-market games are not available on the league’s streaming service. That requires you to buy into something like FuboTV which is combines all the braodcast and cable sports channels. Alternatively you might be able to use an antenna to catch your local games as long as they are on a broadcast channel. Leagues that completely control their TV writes are in a much better position (F1, MotoGP, MLS, etc.)
I currently pay for the F1 TV package and then I watch disc golf tournaments for free on YouTube. Every once in a while I’ll toss in a Seahawks game recorded from our antenna or a Purdue basketball game streamed on our free (through Comcast with ads) Peacock subscription.
A big key in all this is deciding whether you want all the games in the whole league, all of the games for your favorite local team, or just some random sports to have on in the background while you take a nap. The prices for those three can vary wildly.
I belong to a national church body called the “Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” Every month, they put out a video called “WELS Connection” to share what’s happening around the rest of the synod. The videos are short and are usually shown after church. As a kid, it was always fun to see the TV wheeled out and the VHS tape popped into the VCR. Each video started with a very 90s song called “Come to the WELS.” (Any of you fellow members over the age of about 25 now have this song stuck in your head.)
The videos use a different song today, but it got me wondering how long that song was used. It’s fairly difficult to find any information partly because there isn’t much available and because there’s a more popular Counting Crows song called “Come to the Well.”
After searching around on YouTube for more time than I’d like to admit, I realized I should check the WELS website and sure enough, they have an archive that goes all the way back to 2009. In September 2009, the videos switched from “Come to the WELS” to “Jerusalem the Golden” and then in June 2013, they switched to “In Christ Alone” which is still in use today.
But I still have unanswered questions. Who wrote “Come to the WELS”? Who sang it? Who decided to replace the flutes at the end with kids singing? Was the whole song rerecorded for that change? What does Pastor Rosenau think when he looks back at his Jan 2009 appearance? What’s Pastor Bill Burnhardt up to? What would happen if you listened to that song for an hour straight?
Now that pretty much all entertainment is available to be streamed at a moment’s notice, it has become increasingly hard to keep track of what we have watched. We also try to only have one streaming service at a time so when we switch to a new one, we’ll sometimes stop in the middle of a season. I started keeping track of this in the Just Watch app but it bothered me that the data was not exportable from their app. Enter trakt.tv.
Trakt.tv is a platform specifically for this purpose. Anyone can make an app on top of their database so you just make one account with them and then pick whichever app you like the best. You’re in full control of your data.
I ended up paying for a year of “VIP” service which, among other things, removes adds and lets me see which services are streaming a specific show. We’ve had it for a few months now and I expect we’ll keep paying for it. (Note that they do have a free option which is very good too.)
Here’s a tip: the next time you’re on the phone with your internet provider and they say “For $10/month, I can offer you X bandwidth”, just say no. You almost certainly don’t need it. Another common way they start this conversation is by asking what you do with your connection or how many devices you have connected. No matter what you say, they’re going to explain why you don’t have enough bandwidth.
I have over 30 devices connected to my network, work from home, do frequent video calls and screen sharing, stream multiple TV shows at the same time, and play online video games, but I’ve lived for a couple of weeks with 10Mbps down and 10Mbps up and it didn’t impact life at all. (My service was busted and it took them a long time to figure out why.) But of course, as soon as I was back to the 240Mbps down, 10Mbps up service that I was paying for, the sales guy insinuated I was dumb for not paying $10/month more to get 400/10 service. They’ve overselling you. Basically the only time you’ll notice that extra speed is if you’re trying to download enormous files like new video games or operating system ISOs. I’d only pay for more than the base package if a slight increase in price would get me higher upload speeds. That’s rarely an option though.
So go for whatever the cheapest package is and I bet that the only difference you’ll notice is that you have a little more money in your account each month. And even if you decide I’m wrong and you need more speed, they’re always going to be happy to bump you up to a higher package with no change fees.
Didn’t I just write one of these? Do I really have a years worth of events to summarize? Let’s see what that looks like…
I felt like I had a lot fewer blog posts this year , and while it was down about 20% from the previous years, it wasn’t that far off the numbers I’ve done since coming off my “post every week day” routine. I think the difference I’m feeling is that a lot of my posts this year were on a single topic (Tesla.) I have no plans to change anything about my posting schedule here. I’ll continue to post when I have something that I think is worth sharing/documenting and I’m not going to worry much about gaps between posts.
The first thing that comes to mind for 2023 is all the driving we did. Our big family vacation was a ~2000 miles road trip to and from Moab. That trip exceeded my expectations. The scenery felt like the complete opposite of what we get around here, the weather was great, the hike planning worked out perfectly, and the excursions were a blast. So many things could have gone wrong and changed our plans but the whole trip “just worked.” I came back itching to get on the road and do something like that again… which was good because we got the chance again quickly when Tyla’s grandma passed away. We made another ~2000 mile round trip drive to Glasgow, MT. God kept us safe again over all those remote roads and we enjoyed our quick weekend with Tyla’s extended family.
Usually all of our vacations are taken as a family, but this year I took one by myself to attend the PacNW Christian Men’s Retreat across the sound at Fort Flagler State Park. Men from all our affiliated church’s in the area get together to study, socialize, and relax. The speaker this year was Professor/Doctor/Pastor Mark Paustian and he was a joy to learn from. The whole experience was so good that I’m already signed up for next year’s event.
Other than woodworking, my hobby time was mostly consumed with more disc golf, a surprising amount of 3d printing, and a LOT of piano playing. I have been playing more often for church services, and it takes me a long time to practice. I do feel like playing for services has gotten easier as I’ve gotten back into the groove of doing it regularly.
Church was very busy this year too. We now have a fully documented mission statement along with core priorities and goals. It has been great to see people rallying around our defined strategy and contributing to our shared efforts of spreading the good news of Jesus to our community. God has blessed us with a huge number of visitors walking through the door. I’m excited for even more improvements in the coming year as we work on a new constituion and new bylaws. Those new documents will streamline our organizational structure and help get even more people involved.
So that wraps up the “clip show” of my year. I’m very thankful for all the blessings we’ve been given and the relative easiness of this past year. Let’s see what 2024 will bring!
In 2019, I made a sign for my mom that showed how her family was spread across the country. It was kind of a quick project without a lot of foresight, so as soon as someone moved, it was obsolete and there was no way to update it.
I liked the idea but needed something that I could keep up with logistical family changes. I decided to attempt a sign that would use magnetic states that could be attached/detached as needed. Here’s how it turned out:
The states are 3d printed and have magnets in the back. I sprayed them with multiple coats of filler primer to get rid of the printing marks, and then sprayed them with white paint. The stands were also 3d printed. You can see the metal bars in the back and they’re just held in with hot glue. I made the wood there as thin as I was comfortable with so that the magnets would hold. It’s kind of an odd layout as I was experimenting with how many magnets I would need to hold the states on. I’d have a much easier time if I did this again, but it all looks good from the front so I didn’t think it was worth scrapping to start over. (Plus I didn’t have any walnut left!)
Years ago, I added “scrap wood bandsaw reindeer” to my project idea list, and this year I finally got around to making it. One of the big reasons I hadn’t made it before is that the plans call for a big Forstner bit and my old drill press really didn’t like those. This project felt like a fun way to see how well my new drill press would do with it. (Spoiler: it was awesome!)
I bought the plans from that linked video, mostly to support the creator, but as I dug in more, I realized this could have also been done without the big Forstner bit. Using the bit does result in less sanding so that’s a win. The process is a little hard to explain in text, but maybe you have heard the old saying: “How do you carve an elephant? Start with a block of stone and chip away everything that’s not an elephant.” This project is a lot like that. Imagine starting with a 2×4 about 7.5″ long. After drilling two holes in the face at specific points, you glue a template onto the narrow side of the 2×4 and cut it out on the bandsaw. The cutout pieces get taped back into place, the blank is laid flat, and a template is applied to the face. That gets cut out on the bandsaw again and then all the pieces fall out and you’re left with a reindeer.
I first made one out of a scrap 2×4 and then I made a fancier one with different species of wood glued together at specific points. The antlers are mahogany, the body is cherry, the hooves are walnut, and the nose is padauk. I didn’t have a big enough block of cherry so I had to glue one up. The lines are pretty visible but it was still a fun project. I’ll have to do it again when I have some thicker scraps. They require a lot of sanding, but I could see batching out some of these for gifts.