We are fan(atics) for Amazon’s Echo technology. It is a low cost way to replace radios, clocks and ipods with a single device.
However, this morning (March 12th 2017), our Echo dot did not automatically adjust to daylight savings. Alarms went off an hour late and there was a stern set of inquiries asked of Alexa, including the all important “Alexa, what are the laws of robotics? ”
After much searching for a solution we started fidgeting with the thing and found that going to the Alexa application and switching the time zone to Amazon time adjusted the device time to match the correct Eastern Standard Time. This shouldn’t work (as Amazon Time should be Pacific Time since they are based in Seattle) but it did. Until the bug is fixed on the server side this is a work around for our fellow east coast folks.
To try this on your Amazon Echo dot,follow these steps:
Start the Alexa Application on your tablet or computer
Every 26 seconds a child drops out of a public school in America
In many of our nation’s largest cities dropout rates exceed 50%
America is lagging behind more than a dozen other nations in math and literacy.
These are astounding numbers.
Their proposed solution is to introduce choice via charter schools and her appointment is a clear support of that philosophy in the public education system.
I have no idea if a voucher approach will work but I suspect (acknowledging I am the least qualified person in the world to talk about this) that a sudden switch to a voucher approach will leave areas where no education options are available.
The result would be similar to food deserts. These have occurred in cities with big box grocers understandably focusing on higher income areas. The under served areas are left with few if little options and lose access to fresh produce.
I hope a new national approach results in improved academic achievement for all students but urge caution.
Slow and careful changes with an exploratory approach may make sense here. For example, can the power of the internet remove geographic barriers to educational access? How can they assure that there isn’t a generational gap for specialty programs such as special needs programs, programs focused on the arts, STEM and vocational studies while they experiment approaches?
We will watch this closely from the lens that every child deserves to use their time in school to have the opportunity to grow to their full potential and be an active part of the broader community.
There is a very subtle multiplier effect which is essentially a tax free income booster that can help you pay for a private school tuition. Here is how it works.
In November my wife was looking for a tree to plant on our very (very) small yard as a screen for a nearby street. The tree had to be fairly small given the constraints of said small yard.
She happened upon one that was ascetically pleasing with a maximum height and width of 30 feet by 30 feet. Measured from the location of where we would place it with a yard stick (it’s a small yard) at full size the tree will expand 15 feet each way. Perfect!
Method Tip 1: Avoid having to earn as much income on the purchase by purchasing a lower cost item.
The ten foot tall tree, while ideal in form and habit, was half bereft of leaves with a bit of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look going on. The tree was originally $120 but was marked down to $30. A sale!
Enter step one of the multiplier effect. She saved $90 dollars on the original purchase.
That saved amount removed the need to earn that extra $90. Let’s assume a 40% cumulative, federal, state, sales taxes and mystery fees on the income. That extra $90 would have cost $126 in earned income to cover. Whew!
To restate- that is $126 in earnings we didn’t have to make to actually end up with the $90 extra we would have needed for the full price of the tree.
Method Tip 2: When making a purchase, have it solve multiple problems at once.
My mother told me that her grandmother had a purpose for every plant around the farmhouse, in addition to looking nice.
In our case we were looking for a small tree that provides a summer screen from the nearby street but still looks good and drops leaves in the winter for additional sunlight in the colder months. This works for both screening and sound attenuation in the winter as it is quite dense with branches.
What else could it do for us?
In our case the tree selected is a Granny Smith apple tree! It should produce about $20 bucks of
organic apples every year (ok, more like $50 but I want to be conservative here to make a point).
What about having to pick the extra apples that we won’t eat, giving bags of them to neighbors, family, coworkers and the local food pantry and then still having to pick busted ones off the ground? What a hassle right? Sure, but we have arranged our lives such that we get regular physical activity with this sort of money saving effort all year long. Annual gym memberships were cancelled long ago but we will only count the month of apple picking and leaf raking mayhem here for another $50 saved.
And for the grand finale, our nearby park has crab apple trees. These can be used to cross pollinate Granny Smith apple trees (they self-pollinate but word in the fields is that a nearby pollinator will help with yields). That is a second $30 tree we didn’t have to buy (nor had space for) because we selected a compatible tree for our neighborhood.
Total economic impact
The first year we saved $90 on the tree and $30 on a second tree we didn’t need to purchase. The tree (fairly big already) should produce apples about three years hence and provide the shade to assist with house cooling.
Lets look at the numbers using the Granny Smith multiplier method.
Year 1: $120 saved
Year 3 on: $50 saved on gym membership, $20 on apple costs and $5 on AC costs for an annual savings of $75.
Ten year economic output: $645
And remember this is all tax free after the initial $30 we spent. That is a money tree that offers $60+ annually in savings, builds community as we gift organic apples, screens the street and provides a beautiful tree to look at. Plus it is pretty cool to have an apple tree.
Let’s assume my conservative numbers are *still* too high and it only saves us half that, or $30 a month.
Fine. An investment with a yield will take a hit of 15% on the income so I would need $34.5 in monthly income ($414 annually) to produce that same value.
A typical safe stocks yield 3%. We would need a stock portfolio with a market value of $13,800 to produce that same income. And to purchase that stock we would have had to earn $20,010 in gross income to purchase that investment.
Oh, and the yield on the Granny Smith Apple Tree is $30 a year or 100% of its original purchase price, annually.
We just trounced the stock market and avoided having to earn an additional $20,000. Thanks Granny Smith!
Don’t overdo it
The multi-purpose mindset does have its limits. Spending an extra $10,000 on a fancy pick-em-up-truck because you might need to haul a jumbo pack of toilet paper someday is just a slow way to lose money. Just think about it first and run the numbers is all I am saying.
Get into the multi-purpose mindset. You can do this.
Breaking news in our house – the 25 year old leaking bathroom faucet has been replaced!
I know, huge!
Why is this breaking news? I am glad you asked! The news is that we saved money in two places – the $5 on the Amazon Prime movie rental we were going to watch instead of fixing the sink as well as on the labor to install the replacement faucet.
To get this double benefit we followed the instructions (repeatedly) and after extreme highs (it works!) and equally bad lows (nope, the new connections leak) we got stuff disconnected and the new stuff reconnected. There are only three connection points – hot water, cold water and the drain but I assure you for a novice like me it was a slow and laborious process. Let talk benefits in order to convince you to consider in sourcing before hiring someone.
First, we changed from passive consumers to active producers (and I use that term loosely). From observers to doers. This mind shift is more important that the actual money saved.
Though we did save a chunk of change. According to HomeWyse.com, this would have normally cost us $331 in labor for an expert. And to earn that we would have had to earn $479 in income to pay for it (not to mention asking someone to work a holiday weekend).
$300 bucks might not seem like a lot but ten of these $300 do-it-yourself gigs adds up to $3000. Combined with other habits this can help out with the tuition bills.
Of course safety is paramount and we double and triple checked to make sure the circuit breaker was off and that the dishwasher was off before we did anything else. Start small with something simple that you are comfortable with but would normally hire out to someone else.
Expect complaints. And comparisons to what other kids received. Be ok with that. Instead, you are giving your kids a great education and the tools, later in life, to buy stacks of material goods if they so choose.
A benefit of private schools is the ability to select a school that matches your child’s needs and your value system and for the school to do the same. And a charter system is an excellent alternative to fee based private school. It has many of the advantages; open competition, selection
and flexibility for the teachers and administrators.
If you find you can’t afford a private school consider getting in the lottery for a charter school education instead.
An educated citizen starts with the education of children where a diversity of thought and training only enriches the discourse. Your job, with the help of others, to educate your children.
If you are considering, or already sending, your children to private school – great job! On paying for private school we discuss motivations, financial approaches and the down sides of electing to send your child to a private school.