10 Micro-electronics Projects that Aren’t Robotics

There’s more to educational/hobby micro-electronics than building robots.

If you or your kid can’t muster up excitement about robotics, go take a peek at these 10 projects. I’ve included a variety of different projects that do different things, run on different platforms, require different knowledge levels, and have different price points. Some of them also include the opportunity to learn about enclosure fabrication.

1. The Pimoroni Grow

https://learn.pimoroni.com/assembling-grow

This handy widget is a Raspberry Pi “HAT” (that stands for “Hardware-On-Top”). It connects to a Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins, and is compatible with any Raspberry Pi model that has 40 GPIO pins (so, not the very earliest Pis). It is easy to connect to a Raspberry Pi – you just (carefully) plug it in so that all 40 pins are seated in the Grow’s GPIO socket. You can separate the two boards later if you need to.

The Grow uses connected capacitive touch sensors on custom-designed plant marker sticks to detect the moisture level in potted plant soil, and then gives a visual indication of moisture level for up to 3 sensors.

2. SparkFun OBD-II UART board

https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/obd-ii-uart-hookup-guide

Learn how to read vehicle diagnostics over a serial connection. Those with more experience in micro-electronics should be able to, for example, create a portable version that runs on an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, features a screen and selection options, is rechargeable, and has a custom enclosure.

3. PiHut RasPi TV HAT

https://thepihut.com/blogs/raspberry-pi-tutorials/how-to-stream-digital-tv-with-the-raspberry-pi-tv-hat

Feed digital OTA (broadcast) TV into this board while it’s plugged into a Raspberry Pi and you can stream broadcast TV to other devices on your network.

4. MagTag Pet Feeding Clock

Does your pet tell lies about not having been fed yet? This project is for you!

You can easily program this lightweight smart display to update the date and time your pet was last fed by pushing the left-most button. While it’s not included in the tutorial, a more advanced version of this would give you the ability to track most-recent mealtimes for up to 4 pets (or food plus 3 different medications).

5. Pwnagotchi WiFi Pentester

Test your home network’s wireless security.

Reminder: hack responsibly.

6. Digital-to-Analog Audio Conversion

https://www.hifiberry.com/docs/hardware/up-cycle-your-vintage-audio-system-what-to-do/

Have you found a nice pair of old analog speakers at a yard sale? Give them new life with a Raspberry Pi HAT from HiFiBerry.

While you’re at it, you can use the same Raspberry Pi board to also host a local streaming music server using Jellyfin. Note that you will need to have music files stored locally.

7. Environment Sensor HAT

There’s no specific project tutorial for this one, but similar tutorials are available, and part of the lesson can be adapting to using different hardware. This HAT would be great for an offline local weather conditions display. It even has onboard motion sensing for those of you who live in places where earthquakes are frequent. For even more experienced programmers, how about including weather prediction by data analysis?

9. Binary Clock Soldering Kit

This Binary Clock project is a soldering kit that also presents an opportunity to custom fabricate a case. It comes with a printed circuit board, board components, and a pre-programmed IC, so no programming skills are needed for this one.

10. E-Paper Badge

Show your name (or whatever else you want) on a small e-paper display you can wear. You can add magnets to the back to attach it to your shirt or connect it to a badge lanyard (tip: make that easier by adding a bezel-type frame with lanyard loops).

Where to Next?

Once you learn the basic concepts of connecting peripherals and programming logic, you can take disparate components and make something completely new! There are quite a few hobby electronics suppliers out there these days, with lots of platform and form-factor options (we didn’t even get into soft circuits, which are electronics built into clothing using conductive thread and sew-on components!). Browse those tutorial sections, follow makers on Twitter, and maybe even write a tutorial of your own!

Indoor COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies for Fall 2021

You know it’s coming: you’re going to be guilt-tripped into attending a family shindig during a major holiday during the part of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) where being outdoors isn’t a comfortable alternative. And maybe some of your family members are refusing to be vaccinated, while others may be immunocompromised. It is a pickle, but there are some things you can do to lower the risk of those gatherings turning into super-spreader events. I don’t know about you, but even though I’m vaccinated, I don’t relish needing to spend an entire week sick, miserable, and in bed!

Risk mitigation is when you take an action or put a control in place that reduces the risk of bad things happening. Mitigations are rarely 100% effective, but they don’t need to be, either. When you combine two or more risk-mitigating actions or controls, you combine the risk-reducing effect they have. Combining mitigations that work in different ways (for example, providing both shade and water to people working outdoors in hot conditions) works better than each action alone does.

1. Everyone Wears a Mask

Pick a mask, any mask. As long as it fits well and is worn properly, a mask can reduce the number of viral particles ejected into the air from your nose and mouth while you are breathing, talking, singing, yelling, coughing, or even sneezing. By reducing the number of viral particles that make it into the air, you also reduce the total number of viral particles in the air.

2. Everyone Wears a (K)N95 Mask

Cloth and surgical masks are great at blocking large droplets. Certified N95 masks and their untested-but-possibly-easier-to-find cousins KN95 masks can stop fine aerosols. They also are much better at keeping air from leaking out via the edges – and they don’t tend to push against your nose the way cloth masks do. Make sure you get the kind that doesn’t have valves – those aren’t as effective because they don’t block viral particles and fine aerosols on the way out. An added benefit is that this type of mask works in both directions – it can help keep viral particles out of your respiratory system (though they won’t keep the virus out of your eyes).

3. Monitor CO2 Levels and Cross-ventilate When Necessary

Researchers at UC Boulder figured out that CO2 concentrations in a space correlate to the risk of covid-19 spread. Properly ventilating indoor spaces to reduce viral spread is a concept that dates back at least to the 1918 pandemic. The tl;dr is that you can use a CO2 monitor to tell you when you need to throw open a window or two and let in some fresh air.

However, a pro-grade CO2 monitor may cost you several hundred dollars, something a lot of people just don’t have. DIY electronics hobbyists have an alternate solution for you, though: DIY CO2 monitors.

There are a variety of plans and tutorials available, all the way from source-all-parts-yourself to programmable gadgets (such as the Raspberry Pi) that just need a CO2 sensor plugged in.

4. Add Ad-hoc Filtration

The EPA recommends increasing ventilation system airflow in both homes and institutional spaces to reduce the spread of covid-19. When modifying an existing ventilation system is cost-prohibitive, or you don’t have any control over it, an in-room filtration solution can help out. Some air filters can be very pricey – but some smart people at an air filter company – working with an environmental engineer at Portland State U – came up with an accessible, inexpensive, high-capacity solution: a 20″ box fan and some 20″ x 20″ MERV-13 rated air filters. The design calls for 5 filters, but if one side of the resulting cube is going to sit flush on a flat surface, you can probably do just 4 filters.

5. Maintain Adequate Relative Humidity

The consistently cold temperatures of winter cause relative humidity to drop. Viral particles (of all kinds) thrive in drier air. The solution? Monitor and maintain an indoor relative humidity of 40-60%. Your respiratory system will be happier. It is also harder for viruses to infect people who have sufficiently moist respiratory passages. Some DIY CO2 sensor modules will also report temperature and relative humidity, so if you’re going to build a DIY CO2 monitor, you may be able to add in humidity reporting!

In Conclusion…

The covid-19 pandemic is far from over. Life tries to go on in spite of that, but we can all take part in reducing covid transmission by adopting mitigation strategies. Don’t think your family will go for it? Try making your attendance contingent on these controls being put into place, and stick to that. Or, host the next one, and make everyone else’s attendance contingent on their compliance. Use FOMO to your advantage, here.


Image: Yoga in a Yellow Suit by Cottonbro

How to: Anki SRS + Learning Shorthand from a Manual = Magic

I’ve wanted to learn shorthand for a long time. In the mid-oughts, I bought a physical copy of The Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified – Second Edition by John Robert Gregg, Louis A. Leslie, and Charles E. Zoubek. At the time, I tried following the book but it didn’t take. The book sat on my bookshelf for more than 15 years and moved across the country twice in that time.

Discovering Anki

I read Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever last Autumn. This book provides specific instruction on how to leverage spaced repetition systems (flashcards with a system for how often you should see each card) for learning languages. I am in the midst of rebuilding my French language vocabulary using Anki, a computer-based spaced repetition system mentioned in Gabe’s book. While I was adding my first cards to Anki, it occurred to me that I might be able to use Anki to finally learn shorthand at the same time, so I loaded in the first lesson and gave it a shot. I now have a shorthand “vocabulary” of about 250 words and brief forms and have entered all of the individual words & brief forms in the Gregg book up to and including Lesson 11, with over 250 words & brief forms (566 cards) not yet seen.

The purpose of this post is to go into detail on how I set up my Gregg shorthand Anki deck. You could use any shorthand system you like, but you will need access to images of letter, word, and brief form outlines to compare against.

Setting Up Anki for Learning Shorthand

Let me begin with an important bit of Anki terminology: a note is an information pair – a question and an answer. From one note, you can have Anki generate one or more cards, which is what you’ll see when you review. If your question/answer pair is structured to allow reviewing in reverse (so you see the answer and have to recall the question), you can have Anki automatically create a second card from the same note that does this.

Repurpose as Needed

In card templating, I am cheating a bit and using the “Picture Card” templates that are available for free download from the Fluent Forever website’s “Gallery” page. These card templates are set up to produce two to three cards per vocabulary item “note” (letters, words, brief forms, practice sentences, etc). The note creation template has five fields: word, picture, information, pronunciation, and spelling-check. This template can create the following cards: a card that shows you the word and you must recall what is in the “picture” field and speak the word correctly; a card that shows you the picture and you must recall what is in the word field and speak the word correctly, and; a card that shows you the picture and plays a recording of the word being spoken (you provide the recordings here) and you must correctly spell the word. The “check spelling” field is a y/n question that defaults to no.

Let’s Get Down to Brass Tacks

So how did I leverage this card template for shorthand?

  • I extracted images of the example shorthand outlines in the book:
    • I used my phone to take photos of the shorthand outline examples in the book, starting with lesson 1
    • I copied the photos over to my computer and used the Windows Snipping Tool to collect grabs that only include the shorthand outlines – one for each long-hand vocab item.
    • For letters that are similar (s/f/v, r/l, k/g, etc), I took a grab of the entire example row, blotted out the alpha identifiers, and saved multiple copies, each with an arrow pointing at one of the shorthand outlines.
    • Save yourself some future headaches and name your snipped images after the words they represent, and put them into either a single folder or a set of folders organized by lesson.
  • I sat down with Anki and my book and added notes in the order that letters/words/brief forms appear in the book. You can drag/drop images from a folder into any Anki field if that makes it easier.
  • I put the long-hand letter, word, or brief form in the “word” field. Letters and brief forms are labeled as such in this field to differentiate cards (because most letters are also used as brief forms). I add the same label to the picture field as well because I also need to know this information when shown the reverse card.
  • I dropped the matching image into the “picture” field
  • In the “extra info” field, which only appears on card backs, I included a glyph of the letters/sounds used and any section notes for that outline type. I formatted the glyphs like this:

thorough

[th-e-r-o] the e represents the obscure o/u sound

  • Each individual letter/sound in the glyph is separated from the others either by a dash (most of the time) or a space (for disjointed strokes).
  • And finally, I add some tags at the bottom.
    • Each note in this deck is tagged “gregg”
    • Each word is tagged “words”
    • Each letter/sound is tagged “letters-sounds”
    • Each brief form is tagged “brief-forms”
    • Each item from a particular lesson is tagged with that lesson number.
    • Each comprehension sentence is tagged “reading-comprehension”
    • Each non-alpha symbol (numerals & punctuation) is tagged “symbols”

Time to Learn!

Once you’ve loaded a bunch of notes, it’s time to study! I have this deck set to introduce 10 new cards each day I study. Because it’s spaced repetition, I also review the cards that are due at the same time. On average, I see 5 reviews each day (but remember I’m studying other decks, too).

If you add notes in book order, you’ll also see them, new, in the same order. If you mess up and add them out of order, you can reorder them in the browse view. This is where having lesson number tags is valuable.

For each due item, I am either presented with longhand or shorthand. If I see shorthand, I must correctly identify the letter/word/phrase (and remember, if it’s a letter or brief form I’m supposed to be identifying, there’s a label with the shorthand image indicating that). Conversely, if I see longhand, I must take a pen and paper and accurately write out the shorthand. As I progress, I increase the threshold at which I find my shorthand outlines acceptable – because this involves learning new penmanship, not unlike learning calligraphy.

Be the Judge of Your Own Work

After I give or write my response, I click the answer button and am shown the reverse, which includes my letter/sound glyphs and notes about how certain sounds are written. I rate the card’s difficulty: if I got it wrong, it gets reviewed again the same day; if I had to think about it or my penmanship wasn’t great, it gets rated “hard”, if I got it close enough, it gets rated “good” and if I got it quickly and very right, it gets rated “Easy”. Those ratings determine when I will next see that card (Anki shows how much wait time each button adds) and you should do it in whatever way works for you because you are the only person who matters in this situation.

At first, I was also including the reading practice sentences, but that became tedious both in adding new cards and writing out the sentences, so I suspended the writing cards, left the reading comprehension cards, and haven’t added any more – especially as the comprehension examples grow in size from sentences to entire passages.

What I Might Do Later

For reading comprehension exercises, I may just create single cards that reference exercise numbers and keep the book nearby. I might record or download clips of vocab words being spoken and enable “spelling test” card creation to help train myself to write what I hear. Or, I might go find some podcasts with spoken English recorded at a slower pace intended for English-language learners and use them to practice writing what I hear – and then set a delay timer on those transcriptions for me to use for reading comprehension later on (because it’s important that you can read what you’ve written, amirite?). Lesson 11 isn’t even 1/4 of the way through the Gregg book, so I may hold off on transcribing live native speakers speaking at normal speeds, and before I start practicing on those, I might go and transcribe uncaptioned videos played at half-speed – and after I transcribe my transcription into longhand, I might just post the transcription as a comment on the video, because why not also do some volunteer work that helps people?

Grocy in the House

I installed and began using Grocy a few days ago. Grocy is a household food inventory manager application with lots of bonus bells and whistles. It is available in multiple forms: a desktop application, self-hosted PHP (flat file SQL by default, which I assume you could change if you wanted to), or Docker container.

This post memorializes information about how I have set my instance up for my household. I’m running the PHP/SQL version on a Raspberry Pi on my own local network. We don’t need access outside of our local network, so no port forwarding is set up at this time.

Display of Information

Grocy helpfully makes it easy to print out lists of items grouped by location, and I’m making good use of that by posting a list at each location. This is especially helpful with freezers and refrigerators – as long as you keep the posted list sheets updated, you can see what’s inside without opening the door.

I’ve also found that we have quite a few food items that are way past due. Some have even been moved cross-country twice. So I printed out a list of everything that is past due, and wrote, ‘The “Most Wanted” List’ across the top in red marker and posted it on the pantry door, where most of the items on the list reside. I aim to refer to that list regularly and work on using up those items whenever possible.

Kits and Mixes

Any product you take and combine with staple ingredients like water, milk, butter, or fresh meat to make a meal, side dish, or dessert is included in this category. This can also be complete kits with no additional ingredient requirements. This allows me to filter just those kits/mixes when doing meal planning.

  • Use “Kit” or “Mix” at the beginning of the name for sorting. 
    • Kits have multiple separated ingredients (packets, loose pasta or rice, etc)
    • Mixes have all the ingredients already mixed together except what you add
  • Add to “Main Dish”, “Side Dish”, or “Dessert” product type, as appropriate.
  • Product measuring unit is any kind of “each” (box, can, bottle, bag or just “each”)
  • Exception: canned soups have their own category, and should be named with a leading “Soup,”

Products Used “All at Once”

Any product you can reasonably expect to use all at once (canned products, single-serving snack items, etc)

  • Enter in “each” (or similar appropriate) units
  • Multipacks should be entered by individual pieces on purchase
    • Example: fruit cups entered in “fruit cup” units, Lipton Noodle Soup in “packet” units
    • Price will be “total purchase” – ie the cost to buy the pack, while you’re entering multiple “items” that were purchased as part of the pack into the inventory. Enter the entire pack, then “consume” one if you are using one right away, or the price calculation will be off.
  • Single-serving items that come in multiple flavors can be grouped together under one product name, with “multiple flavors” in the product name and every barcode in the barcode field.
    • As long as the goal is to have a minimum quantity in stock no matter which flavor (you can always examine the actual items in the pantry to inform your shopping list)

Condiments

Because we consume condiments in very small increments, we will treat them as whole items until they suddenly aren’t.

  • Enter into system as “each” counts or equivalent
  • “Consume” when you throw away the container
  • Product type of “Dry Condiments” and “Liquid Condiments” (semi-solids like jelly are classified as liquids in this instance – the “dry” classification is for powdered condiments)
  • If you allow partial units in stock, you can “consume” 0.5 unit when you are approximately halfway through a particular product, which should get the system to identify the product as “under quantity” if the number of units you physically have are equal to the minimum quantity. And that gets the product on your shopping list 🙂

Bulk Products Used Incrementally

Products like flour, bread crumbs, sugar, rice, and beans are set to be managed by weight. 

Whenever possible we store these in permanent containers. 

  • We weigh the container to measure tare weight and mark it somewhere on the container for future reference.
  • We add the tare weight to the master data entry for the product.
  • When we use the product, we weigh the container after we are done measuring out what we’re going to take and enter the new total weight into the “consume” form. The system will subtract the proper amount.
  • When we refill the container, we weigh the container after we have added the new product and enter the new total weight into the “purchase” form. If there is product left in the package, set the package on top of the container and weigh them together. Use up the product in the package first until it’s gone. 
  • Wait to refill until most or all of the new package contents can be added at once.
  • When you physically purchase a new package of a product, but you can’t add it to the container yet, write the price and store name on the packaging so it can be entered into the “purchase” form later. If you still want to track it, you could create a master data product entry for the original packaging unit. When you’re ready to transfer, you consume 1 unit of the product that has the “each” quantity unit, and then you proceed with the “purchase”.
  • Bulk products that have a “basic recipe” printed on the packaging (ex rice, quinoa, couscous) have those ratios/instructions copied into the product’s description box so that if I’m transferring the product from its original packaging to a reusable container, the instructions are preserved and easy to find.

Fresh Meats and Bulk Cheese

These are tracked by the ounce. Tare weight enabled where appropriate (ie bulk shredded cheese or whole blocks that will be used incrementally)

  • First In First Out is especially important here to reduce freezer burn
  • When repackaging meats, write the name, date, and weight on the new packet
    • The “purchase” entry will be the weight and total cost of the purchased quantity of meat. Enter weight in pounds, my copy of the application is set up to convert that to ounces automagically.

Locations, Transfers, and Perishables

Grocy automatically tracks “use by” expirations for perishable items and adjusts the “use by” date whenever you transfer an item into or out of a location that is marked as a “freezer”. When you move anything from one location to another, the system also needs to be updated. This can be recorded on the posted sheets – just write:

  • Item name, from, to, date (important only for perishables), quantity

If you open an item that is shelf stable as long as it is unopened but has a “use by” once it is opened, record the date it was opened, and transfer from/to locations if it was also moved.

Seasonings

Spices and dry seasoning mixes are counted as each bottle/can/jar and consumed when we discard the bottle. All are set to minimum stock of 1, and allow partial, so that when a jar is running low, it can be updated to a value that is less than 1 to trigger the shopping list.

Recipes and Meal Planning

Initially, I started putting meal/side “kits” into Grocy as “recipes” that called for the kit and the additional ingredients needed. I stopped doing that once I figured out that you can add recipes or products to the meal plan. So, now I add the kit and its needed ingredients to the meal plan and don’t bother with the recipes for those (I’m still adding recipes that don’t involve kits).

All told, I think this system will work out well for me. I think I’m going to have to go poke at the backend to see how easy it would be to backup the database. I have been using a declawed CueCat scanner as my USB scanner, but I also have put a more modern $25 USB barcode scanner on my wish list for later. I may even go as far as getting a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a 7″ touchscreen, and a case for them so I can install a scanning station right in the kitchen. Finally, as a stretch goal, I might fork the project and design a separate UI for small touchscreens like the 7″.

Building a Better (and free!) Equipment Inventory – part 2

Since I published my last post on this topic, I have developed the entire application and released version 1.0!

A demo is available at http://cordelya.pythonanywhere.com.

You can grab a copy at http:github.com/Cordelya/mobiliaire. If you are going to run the app on a Raspberry Pi computer, there is a RasPi specific fork available at http:github.com/Cordelya/mobiliaire-raspi.

The main application allows administrators to enter and edit items, boxes, and warehouses individually via a user-authenticated admin site. Admins can also upload data in csv format for easier bulk adding.

The front end displays database information organized into two distinct view types: browse and reports. The browse views display warehouse, box, and item information on tiled cards with associated images (if available) and human-friendly names, descriptions, values, and keywords. You can begin at any level and drill down from warehouse to box to item. The Items browse view includes a keyword filter that allows you to limit displayed cards to items matching the selected keywords.

The report views present the same information in a tabular format and allow exporting of the tabular data to PDF, csv, Excel, or local printer.

The application is built with a lack of Internet access in mind – you can install it on a portable or semi-portable device, transfer the database and static files for your inventory, import the database, and bring it to your event or inventory day where it will function whether or not reliable Internet access is available.

The RasPi fork has built in support for capturing item photos using the Pi Camera – and when you activate it via the “take a photo” link on any item, box, or warehouse detail page, it will automatically name the image file with the associated item, box, or warehouse ID to help the administrator associate the resulting photos with the correct item, box, or warehouse without needing to have an in-depth familiarity with the inventory items.

This application can run on any device that supports Python 3.6 through 3.8. That includes Windows and any device on which you can install Termux or an equivalent terminal application.

Tested on Raspberry Pi, Ubuntu, WSL Ubuntu, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (with Termux). If you get it running on another platform let me know!

Submit your tickets at the github repositories.

Building a Better (and Free!) Equipment Inventory

My local SCA branch, like most branches, owns property. The group collectively owns a cargo trailer, kitchen equipment, tournament field equipment, navigation signs, and more. All that *stuff* has to be documented.

Right now, that documentation is in the form of a spreadsheet, with one sheet for each numbered box in the trailer, one sheet for items stored loose in the trailer, and one sheet for each member who is holding items for the group (because they are frequently brought to practice). It is messy and doesn’t facilitate pulling statistics (for example: the total replacement value of all items should the trailer suffer a major catastrophe). It also doesn’t currently produce nice (or uniform) hard copies.

Currently, a hard copy of each sheet is inserted into each corresponding box, allowing event staff to find items and later repack the right items into each box. Finding an item requires leafing through all pages of the full inventory and scanning down each list until the desired item description is found. Repacking works in a similar fashion – it’s chaotic. I think I can improve this process by creating a web application that is portable enough to be installed on a Raspberry Pi board and served up via wifi at a site that has no native wifi available.

Yes, commercial inventory web-apps are available. However, they cost money, are often more complicated than is necessary, and may require server environments that groups don’t have access to. This application will be written in php (and maybe some javascript) with a mySQL database. All of that software is available for free and it isn’t difficult or expensive to spin up a suitable hosting environment.

As I work through creating this application and its database backbone, I am going to use this blog to talk about features I build (or plan to build) to remind myself of those good ideas for later. I will also use it to share this information with other members of my branch.

When the application is functional, I will advertise it within the SCA – first within the East – for other groups to clone and use the base code, which will be hosted at an online git repository.

Right now, today, I am still building out the database. I’m using this as an opportunity to improve my database structuring skills. I spent a little time populating the database with some item records so that when I write my SQL queries for the app, I can test them and get real and meaningful query results.

After today’s data-entry session, I have already identified another wanted table: consumable item use reports. The property list contains consumable items – plastic storage bags, trash bags, soap, sponges, latex exam gloves, bandages, alcohol wipes – you get the idea. When a consumable item is used, a staff member can report that within the application via a button on the item’s information page. The button brings up a form, item ID, name, and description pre-filled, with new entry fields for the quantity used and comments. A later option can be a quick-fill tabular form for entering multiple reports (when the staffers keep track using a paper tally and the entry is done later).

Additionally, some of those items have expiration dates. I want to make a report that lists all items that expire, shown with their expiration dates, optionally by order of expiration date to allow timely replacement of expired consumables. This report should be short since it is composed primarily of items in the First Aid boxes, but it’s also a very important routine maintenance task.

Catch up with me later and if you haven’t seen any posts here about this recently, ping me on Twitter @cordelya.

Recently in Making Things – May & June 2019

three glass beads on steel mandrels

I’ve made quite a few things in the past month or so. Here are some highlights.

Adulting 101: Investing

This is part one in a series of posts where I gather resources on Topics you may have Missed Out on while growing up.

Unless you grew up in a household that participated in “investing”, you may not know what it’s all about or how it’s done. It probably looks complicated, difficult, and unreachable – especially if things like investment minimums are personal stumbling blocks. Here I’ve rounded up a series of resources to help you learn how to do it.

From Reddit’s r/PersonalFinance:

Reddit has an awesome subreddit all about Personal Finance. Below are some recent (as of this post’s publication date) threads from the PF subreddit on the topic of investing.

Books

Head on down to your local library for these. If you find one particularly useful and find yourself making return trips to re-read or check it out, that’s when you should think about buying your own copy.

Blogs and Podcasts

Listen up! Here is a small collection of blogs and podcasts focusing on beginner investing and investing when you’re starting with very little.

Wrap it up!

While you were out learning about investing, did you find something awesome that other newbies would find helpful? Share it in the comments and if it is indeed a goodie, I’ll add it to the list and give you credit for finding it!

7 Social Ways to Help Your Agent Sell Your Home

You need to sell your home, and you’ve hired a realtor to help you with the process. They are experts in all things home selling, but there are things you can do to to help them out that may also help your home sell more quickly.

Social media is being used more and more by realtors to get the word out about homes for sale and to find new clients. Because social media is, well, social, it works better when you engage with your realtor’s social media accounts. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Follow your realtor’s social media accounts. If you can’t seem to find them yourself, ask your realtor for links.
  • On each platform, look through your realtor’s posts and like or share some of them.
  • Asking your friends and followers to follow the realtor’s social media accounts as a favor to you can also pack a huge punch.
  • As new posts from your realtor show up in your stream, like or reshare them, as appropriate.
  • Ask your realtor if they can Promote your listing on social media on your behalf. They may ask you to pay the advertising fee, which can be as low as a few dollars per day per platform if the ad is targeted properly.
  • Make sure that any scheduled Open House events get attention a few days before each event. If you’re using Facebook, have your realtor create a public event for you to boost.
  • If you aren’t currently living in the home that is for sale, share a link to the listing and ask your friends to share it, too. If you are still living in your home, go for security through obscurity: make a habit of posting links to local listings you like on a regular basis, and include yours in the mix a few posts in.

All that liking and sharing can have a huge impact. Any time you click that “like” button, your friends and followers may see it in their stream. Sharing does the same, but increases the chances that it will be seen. Plus, with sharing, you can add your own comments! If you’re using Twitter and you retweet something with your own comments added, make sure you also do a raw retweet of the original.

What if your realtor isn’t actively maintaining their social media? Short of asking them to make some posts for you to share or finding a different agent, about the only thing you can do is self-promote the listing.

Once your home sale is complete, be sure to make a post thanking the agent for all their hard work, and maybe also send them a written testimonial. By doing this, you not only help your agent, but you help future home sellers with their home sales.

Frosty Morning Battlefield

A frosty early-morning view of the American rampart at Chalmette Battlefield.

On January 6, 2018, I woke up in a National Park in Southeast Louisiana. The temperature had dropped to just below freezing overnight. Brr! I stepped out of my tent to walk to the (heated) comfort station and took this photo before continuing on my way.

Chalmette Battlefield, Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve, Chalmette, Louisiana, hosts a living history event annually on or near the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815). Camping at this park is restricted to employees, volunteers and participants, and only during specific scheduled events.