Favorite Things – NEST Thermostats


nest-thermostat-featuredThe Nest Learning Thermostat automatically adapts as your life and the seasons change. Just use it for a week and it programs itself.

If NEST learns that I wake up every morning at 5:30 and immediately hit the thermostat to raise the temp by 5 degrees, then NEST will begin AUTOMATICALLY having the temp adjusted so that it is the temperature that I desire at 5:30 am.

As NEST learns that the house is empty by 8 a.m. each day, it will automatically adjust itself so as to not run while no one is home.   Sure, I can program in a schedule, but why?  I let NEST learn our patterns and schedule itself to be the most energy efficient possible.

Let’s say I am leaving work on a cold cold day.  Before leaving, I can use my smartphone and tell NEST to have the house at 75 degrees before I get home.   It’ll do it!

Or why should I even have to tell it.   I can program NEST to automatically adjust to my desired temperature whenever my car leaves my office.   It knows I am on my way home, so let’s get the house comfortable.

NEST can also communicate with my other home automation systems.   NEST senses when no one is home, so I can have all my lights automatically turn off when NEST senses no one is there.

If I tell my Amazon Echo that “Alexa, I’m Hot”, it will automatically lower NEST by 5 degrees.  Or “Alexa, I’m Cold” will automatically raise the temp by 5 degrees.

The Nest Thermostat is just one part of my heating and cooling system. But it can keep an eye on the rest of it. I get an alert on my phone if there’s something wrong – like temperatures are so low my pipes could burst. And if it looks like my furnace is acting up, the Nest Thermostat will send me an alert.

Nest shows you how much energy you use every day in Energy History and every month in your Home Report. So you can see when you use more energy, like on weekends or Monday nights, and how to use less.

NEST not only saves me money by programming itself to be the most energy efficient possible, but it also makes my life more comfortable.

 

Favorite Things – Schlage Door Lock


Schlage Door LockAs I continue my quest to fully automate my home, one of my favorite things is my Schlage Door Lock.   This door lock connects to my other home automation devices and works in conjunction.

For example, when my car pulls into the driveway, In addition to my lights coming on, the back door will also automatically unlock for me.  This is great when you have your hands full with groceries or work stuff.

Whenever anyone leaves the house, the door will automatically lock itself.

In addition to working automatically or by a key, it also has a digital keypad.  This allows me to program in a combination so that if I don’t have my house keys with me, I can still get inside my house.    Vonnie loves to lock a door.   So often, I’ll step outside and when I return, the door is dead bolted.  Now, I can simply enter the combination and get inside without having a key.

If the exterminator calls me and tells me he is standing outside my house and needing to get in to spray, I can simply unlock my door from my smartphone from anywhere in the world.  After he leaves, the door will lock back automatically.

Or maybe I have a friend or family member that I know is stopping by at some point this week to pick up something that I am loaning them.   I can give them a temporary passcode that will allow them to enter – but the code will only work for this week.

Ever head off on vacation, get 50 miles from home and then suddenly worry, “Did I lock the door?”.  No worry now, as I can simply log in and check the lock condition or just click a button to make sure it is locked.   Really cool!

 

 

Favorite Things – Phillips Hue


Lumen-bulb-w-appMy family is constantly rolling their eyes at me.  Yeah, I like technical toys.   Phillips Hue Lighting System is a wonderful technical toy.   Basically you replace any light bulbs in your house that you wish with these energy efficient LED bulbs.   The lights can then be controlled by your smart phone or by very simple programming through IFTTT (google that if you don’t know what it is).

So, what’s the advantage?  I have my lights programmed at the house for the following:

Whenever my car pulls up into the driveway, the outside backdoor patio lights automatically turn on to light my way.   Also the indoor dining room light turns on as well.  As I walk into the house, all the lights will quickly go through a complete rainbow pattern to simply celebrate the fact that I am home. (This produces the biggest eye-rolling from my family).

At 2:00 am. each morning, all lights in the house automatically go off (in case we left any turned on).

At whatever time each morning I need to get up, my bedroom lamp will softly begin illuminating brighter and brighter.  Calm.   It’s like waking up with the sunrise.   And the color of the light is a soft orange (sunrise) color as well.

As I step out of my bedroom into the hall, I notice my hall light.  If it is BLUE then I can expect rain that day.  If it is orange, I can expect it to be hotter than normal.

Whenever my Ga. Tech Yellow Jackets win an event, all the lights in the house will flash and then go through a rainbow pattern in celebration.

When it’s movie time, the lights are lowered for a more theatre like effect.

Whenever I leave the house, after I exit the property, the back door patio lights will turn off.

If we are away on a trip, I can program the lights via a schedule or a random pattern to turn on and off to give the illusion that someone is home.  Or I can just control individual lights from my Iphone at any time from anywhere.

If I am REALLY in the party mood, I can even have the lights sync with the music I am playing on my Amazon Echo and the lights will dance with the music.

Since each individual light is fully programmable with millions of color combinations, I can set the mood that I want.  From a soft blue or soft red for romantic climates to a soft white in order to read a book.   Maybe a little brighter if I am writing in a journal.

I love my toys.   Phillips Hue is one of the best!

Valentine’s Day Post: On Love and Death!


sad-quote-5Someone recently commented in a joking manner that they were not ready to die.   Well, of course none of us really are.  Valentine’s Day is a reminder of Love that we have yet not given.   We have loved ones here and things left to accomplish.  I have LOVE yet to share with Vonnie.  I have love to yet be shared with my children.   I have grand babies that have yet to be born that I want to spoil.  I am still working on my second million dollars (I gave up on the first million).   There are goals and dreams and bucket list items that I have not checked off yet.   Of course, I am not ready to die.

But in reality, that comment got me to thinking.   And actually, I am ready to die.  At least in a way.   You see, I am a Christian.   I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that I am certainly not ashamed to talk about.   I gave my life over to Jesus long ago and it is due to this relationship with Him, that, well, yeah, I AM ready to die.   For you see, to die simply means to move from this world into the next.   The next world (heaven) is basically a place of no suffering, agape love, and the very eternal presence of Jesus!   God loves me.   And due to this love, He wants only my best.  He wants me to be happy, joyous, and experience no pain and no suffering.   That is what the next world will be like. And to be reunited with my loved ones that have gone on before!   So why would I NOT want to be there?

Now, I know what some skeptics might be thinking:  If God wanted that for you, He could do it here on Earth!   Well, yes and no.  God is all powerful and certainly He can do whatever He wishes.   But let me explain….

God created me (and you) for basically two reasons:  For worship and for fellowship.   God’s very nature is one that must be worshiped.  Not because He needs it or probably even desires it, but it simply must be.  One who is total love, total power, total mercy, total Justice, total sovereignty, simply MUST be worshiped.   It can’t be helped.  That is one of the reasons that we were created – to Worship Him!     And since that is our PURPOSE, we can never be truly fulfilled, truly happy, truly content, truly at peace, until we are abiding in the purpose that we have been created.   So to Worship Him, well, it’s good for us also!

And God also created us for fellowship.   He loves us and that love demands a response.   We love Him back.  We love Him because He first loved us.   But He wants our love to be given freely to Him, by our choice.  That is why He gave us Free Will.   Free Will gives US the OPTION to choose to love Him or not.   It’s not true love unless we CHOOSE to love Him.  The only way to CHOOSE is to have an OPTION.   So God had to allow EVIL in the world in order for there to be an OPTION.  We can choose love or we can choose hate.  We can choose good (God) or we can choose evil.

It’s that Free Will that opens the door for bad things here on earth.  With our free will we CHOOSE not to follow God’s commands and therefore we must live with the consequences.   God tells us to treat our body like a temple.  Yet, we fill it up with processed foods, poisons, and then wonder why we get sick.  We blame God for our own choices.   We ignore the Spirit’s gentle pushings in one direction and go another.  And then we blame God when the road that we pick is not the best choice for us.   So yeah, this world has problems, but they are problems that OUR pride, OUR sin, and OUR choices have brought about.  It’s really not fair to blame God for that. So life here can’t really be the perfection that Heaven is.

God is a JUST God.   He has to be.   He is perfect.   An unjust God would not be perfect.   Since He is just, then good must be rewarded (fellowship with Him) and evil (sin) must be punished (no fellowship with him).   He is perfect.  Therefore Heaven is perfect, for He cannot reside in Sin.   But if I, being imperfect, died, I could not go to His presence because I would “corrupt” the place.  It would no longer be perfect.

But God desires fellowship with us, yet, we are all going to sin because we are not perfect.   And we can’t be perfect because we are not God.  WOW!  What a dilemma.   God created us for fellowship, but in order demonstrate our love to him, we must make a choice.   And since we are not perfect, eventually we will always choose sin, which means we cannot abide in his presence.   And He knew this would happen when He created us.

Now some would argue, that He could just forgive us and that’s that.   Well, no.   Again, He is a Just God.   Justice demands a price.   Plato once philosophized that “Deity may can forgive sin, but I see not how.”   See, Plato understood.   While God can forgive, still Justice must prevail.   Again, God knew this dilemma when He created us.  So what is the answer?  Spoiler alert:  The answer (as always) is Jesus.  

Before the foundation of the world (before He even created the world), He had a plan to resolve this problem.   God Himself, (the creator), would enter His creation as a man (Jesus).   He would live a perfect life.  Then when Justice demanded a price be paid for my sin, HE would offer to pay that price.   Only HE could do that.   You could not do that for me because you have your own sins that need to be paid for.  You can’t pay for mine when you need to worry about your own.   But Jesus was sinless.  He could offer to pay for mine.   So Justice was served on the cross.  Jesus paid the price for my sin.   Mohammed could not do that for me.  Buddha could not do that for me.   Even my family could not do that for me.  Only Jesus – 100% man, yet 100% perfect (God)!

Isn’t that awesome!!   He took my sin and covered me with HIS righteousness.   So when God looks down from heaven at me, He does not see a worthless sinner.  He sees His Son’s perfection. His Son’s righteousness.   Not because of ANYTHING that I have done, but because of what HE has done.  Justice has been served and fellowship restored!

So the God that loves me.  The God that created me for fellowship with Him, made a way (Jesus) to reconcile me and Him together.   There is no other way!   He loves me and wants only the best for me.   So yeah, I can’t wait to abide 100%, forever, in that fellowship without my own sinfulness getting in the way.  That’s what death is.   And as great as things CAN be here – family, friends, joys, successes, triumphs – Heaven will only be better.   To be able to see Him clearly, to abide with Him, to love him without ME getting in the way.   WOW!   Yeah, I can’t wait.   I am NOT afraid to die!

And the exciting thing is that God is eager to be with me also!   Can you imagine that?   So, He could just take me home to Him at anytime and it would make us both happy.  So why doesn’t He?  Well, I think it is because He also loves everyone else that He created as well.    And not everyone has put their faith in Jesus.   So He is leaving me here (and other Christians here) for a while longer with the instructions that we are to tell the others about Him.   If we tell them, then they also can reside forever with Him and enjoy that same fellowship.  It’s OUR job to tell them.   He could tell them, but then wouldn’t that violate the free will?  I mean, because if He urged us, could that be resisted?  (Okay, I am getting into Calvinism vs. Armenianism  arguments here – beyond the scope of this post).

My point is this:  If you are a Christian, Heaven will be wonderful and I can’t wait to experience that LOVE and that perfection and that AWESOMENESS without my own sinfulness getting in the way.    I am ready!   BUT, first, God has given us (if you are a Christian)  a job to complete.  We must tell others about Him.

If I have known you for any length of time, and I have NOT told you of my Savior, I apologize.   I would love to introduce you to Him.   Since you were created for Worship and for Fellowship, if you are NOT abiding in those purposes, you will never be happy or fulfilled here on earth or in the hereafter.    You can be.   You can be full of peace here and now as well as the hereafter.   Being full of peace does not mean that troubles won’t occur.  Remember, we live in a fallen, sinful world and there are consequences.   However, He promises to be with us through those troubles.  He promises to love us.   He promises to love YOU!    Just ask Him to be your Savior.   Ask Him to forgive you and to take your sins upon Him and to put His righteousness upon you.  That’s really all there is to it.   Call me, email me, whatever, and I would love to tell you how – step by step!

Many of you may know me through my job or through family connections or through other social interactions.   And I take pride in those connections. I love my job, I love my family, I love my friends.   Many of you only know me through my silly postings on social media.   But those things are SOOO secondary.  First and foremost, I am a Christian.   I am not perfect and I often fail to demonstrate that reality.   I often fail to live a life that reflects positively on Jesus.   But He forgives me and I ask you to do the same.   I want everyone to know, that I AM A CHRISTIAN and I AM NOT AFRAID to die.  For as Paul said, “to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ!”

If you would like to explore these topics in more detail, I would love to invite you to attend my Sunday School class at Broad Street Baptist Church, in Hawkinsville, GA.  I teach every Sunday at 9:45 am.   Just come in the back door, and our classroom is the second door to your left.   We have 15 to 30 people each Sunday.  Men, Women, Singles, Couples, Young and Old.  You will fit in and feel welcome there – I promise.  It’s a great group of imperfect sinners, just like me and you.   Yet, we are all striving to learn more about our creator, for to KNOW Him is to LOVE Him.   Come learn to KNOW Him better with us!  If you’ll text me – 478-230-3538, I’ll meet you at the back door and walk you to the class!

 

 

Favorite Things – Amazon Echo


amazon-echoAnother of my favorite things is the Amazon Echo.  Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device from Amazon.com. The device responds to the name “Alexa”; this “wake word” can be changed by the user (to also “Amazon” or “Echo” at present.).  The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real time information. It can also control several smart devices.

I use Alexa everyday.   “Alexa, tell me the news.”  “Alexa, Tell me a joke about Hillary Clinton!”, “Alexa, add Milk to my shopping list.”  “Alexa, turn on the back door lights”, “Alexa, turn up the heat.”, “Alexa, play me some Rod Stewart Music.”, “Alexa, what is the weather going to be tomorrow”, “Alexa, add fix outside light to my to-do list”, “Alexa, what is on my calendar for today”, “Alexa, read me from my Kindle Book”, “Alexa, When do the Ga Tech Yellow Jackets play next?”, “Alexa, wake me up in 30 minutes.”  These are just a few of the commands that the Amazon Echo responds to.   More are being added weekly.

Basically, Amazon put a Siri-like assistant into a tube that lives on your coffee table. After connecting it to Wi-Fi, it can answer simple questions like How tall is Barack Obama and Who are the members of Run the Jewels. Additionally, Echo is a voice-controlled speaker for listening to tunes and talk from Amazon Prime, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Pandora.  If you prefer to listen to your personal music collection, you can beam it over Bluetooth.

 

Favorite Things – WAZE


wazeWAZE is one of my most-utilized, favorite apps on my Iphone.   I use it all the time.   It is a GPS mapping program, but so much more.

Get the best route, every day, with real–time help from other drivers.

Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.  If there is road construction ahead, WAZE will warn you.  If there is a Policeman ahead, WAZE will warn you.   If traffic is slowing down, WAZE will re-route you to compensate.   So it is extremely productive, but it’s also fun.

The voice navigation can be customized with voices from Stephen Colbert, C3P0, Jay Leno, or others.   The voice commands can be set for long detailed descriptions, to short TURN HERE descriptions.

Navigate to the cheapest station on your route, all powered by community-shared gas prices. By working together to report prices at the pump, Waze drivers can always save some gas money.

And you can even allow other WAZE users (like your friends or family) to see where you are and/or an ETA for meeting up with them.

I love this app.  It has saved me from hitting potholes and possibly even saved me some speeding tickets.   Try it out today!

https://www.waze.com/

 

Rocket Book Wave


RocketbookPaper Notebooks aren’t at risk of being completely replaced by laptops, tablets and computers just yet, but they could still stand to be a little smarter.  In comes RocketBook Wave!

I take notes in this notebook, just like any other notebook.   However, when done, I can open an app on my cell phone, take a picture of the page and the page will be instantly sent to either my email, another email, my dropbox, my evernote, my google drive, or other cloud service automatically.   Or it can be sent to any combination of the above.   It’s pretty awesome.

At the bottom of each of the Rocketbook’s pages is a set of seven icons, what the company calls magic buttons. Each button can be assigned to a location in the cloud, meaning that all your scribbles on that particular page will be sent directly to wherever you’d like them to go. Need those lecture notes compiled neatly in your university Evernote folder? Or perhaps that inspired series of illustrations sent to Dropbox? Then just mark the relevant magic button.

Best of all when my Rocketbook Wave Notebook is full, I don’t have to buy another: using heat-erasable Pilot Frixion pens to write, microwaving the notebook for a few minutes (and until its blue cover logo turns white) will erase all of its pages for a fresh start.

That’s right.   When my notebook fills up, I just nuke it for a few minutes and it’s empty again.    But since I saved everything to evernote and/or dropbox, my musings are safe forever!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rocketbook-wave-cloud-ready-microwavable-notebook

 

Favorite Things


Listed below are posts regarding my favorite things.  These are items, gadgets, places, or people that I absolutely love and adore.   Maybe you’ll like them also…..

Yeah, I really don’t like UGA….. But…..


 As a graduate of Georgia Tech, it is instilled in me not to like UGA.   From the liberal academics to the overrated football team, I just don’t like them.    But even this Yellow Jacket will have to admit it when something good comes from that school.    Hawkinsville / Pulaski County is one of only a few ARCHWAY PARTNERSHIP COMMUNITIES within the state of Georgia.   The Archway Partnership is a program of the University System that aspires to help communities solve problems, reach goals, and do transformative work by allocating the resources of the University System and partnering to help the communities utilize their own resources as well.    The program is a win-win for all involved.   The Communities get resources that would otherwise not be feasible from either a logistical or a financial limitation.   The University gets to provide students with real-life opportunities to better education and train them.  The students get to do important work to show to future potential employers.

We have been involved in the Archway Partnership for over 5 years now and the benefits are real and noticeable.   In the area of Leadership, Archway has led an adult leadership program that has now trained over 200 residents and got them involved in all aspects of our community.  The adult leadership program has been such a success, that they are now self-sustaining with their own 501-C3 organization.  In addition to training, each year’s group does a community project that does GOOD within our town.   From providing protective armor to our Sheriff’s department, to providing defibrillators to community venues, to providing rural water pumping equipment to our fire department, to providing trash cans to our downtown and much more.    The leadership initiative also includes a youth leadership component that is providing insight to community concerns as well as getting feedback from this demographic as we seek to improve our community.

In the area of Economic Development, Archway has helped with many RFP (Request for Proposals) that different companies or the state of Georgia sends out to highlight what our community has to offer to potential businesses or industries.

Also under the heading of Development, Archway has been instrumental in helping revitalize our downtown.  From Beautification efforts (through developing a Master Gardner’s program) to helping develop a Downtown Merchant’s Association, Archway has led the efforts.

Archway is a vital partner (with our Family Connections Program) in bringing the TEEN MAZE to our schools every other year.   TEEN MAZE provides a gaming environment where students are presented with real life situations that often complicate their expected path to graduation.   Over 200 volunteers (from our community of slightly over 10,000 people) help make this event a rousing success.

Archway helped grow a local at-risk teenager program – Life League.   Life League is now in multiple counties and strives to teach at-risk students real life situational events such as How to perform in an interview, How to tie a tie, why work-ethics and being on time are important.   While using basketball to attract the young people, real education is being conducted.

Archway has brought the resources of the Pharmacy School of UGA to help our local Hospital research problem areas such as why people are not taking their medicines as prescribed.  They have helped our hospital with IRS requirements to keep / prove their non-profit status.

Archway has helped with the city / county relationships by being an unbiased middle man.   They provide a safe non partial environment to iron out differences in tax equity and service delivery areas.  So much so, that now Hawkinsville and Pulaski county have served as models for other communities on city-county relations.

They have helped us rebrand ourselves and helped design a new website to promote the new brand.

Archway has helped with Design Charets, signage design and placement, and more from the college of Environmental design.

Archway has even helped area businesses such as Hardy Farms look at ways to promote Agri-Tourism.   They are helping Lamar Pecans develop a Pecan Cracking machine.

I could go on and on.

The reason I am writing this post is that I am currently attending the annual Archway summit at UGA.  The Summit allows us to interact with other Archway Communities so that we can see their best practices and understand what has worked for other communities.  It also allows us to see “behind the curtain” to the staff and students behind the Archway Partnership.   I sometimes just think that our own Michelle Elliott (our local Archway Professional) is the magical OZ that gets it all done.   The summit allows me to see the people backing up Michelle to pull off these extraordinary efforts.

The picture below is the UGA Men’s choir entertaining us at the summit.   Except for the UGA fight song, they were pretty good.   So, while I still don’t like UGA, I’ll have to admit, the Archway Partnership is a great program.   Even UGA gets it right occasionally.

2016 & the City of Hawkinsville


I am looking forward to 2016 being a great year for the city of Hawkinsville.   A Whole lot of items are on our agenda to accomplish this year.  I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know some things to expect this year.

Accounting:  We hope to drastically improve our accounting software.  This improvement should result in the City Commissioners getting much better information to utilize in making financial decisions for the city.    The improvements should also allow us to begin allowing ACH Drafts for payment of utility bills.  As well as online payments and Credit Card payments.

Downtown:  We hope to focus many of efforts this year on improving downtown.   From revamping the Classic Main Street Program to energizing the Downtown Development Authority to concentrate on bringing business to our community.   Efforts will include improving parking, clean up efforts, and offering incentives to locate in our community.

Fireworks:  Last year the state legislature passed laws allowing fireworks to be used and sold in the state of Georgia.  However, the law did not allow local governments to set up restrictions such as the locations of these sales, the locations of the use, and the times of the use.   This year the state legislature is revisiting this issue and we are hoping that they will add code that will allow local governments to have more say in these issues.

City Hall:  We hope to begin design and possibly even construction of a new city hall in Hawkinsville.   Our current one is too small and is falling down around us.   We have purchased the former Blount Warehouse on Broad Street and plan on building a new City Hall at that location.

SPLOST:  We will begin planning the next SPLOST.   SPLOST money goes toward capital projects that we could never find funding for by any other means.   Road improvements, Water and Sewer improvements, Recreation Department Improvements, etc.

Audit Changes:   We hope to be able to do more of our audit work in-house thus saving a small fortune that we spend with outside accounting firms.   D.M. Vickers & Associates will be working with us to streamline and improve our accounting methods to accomplish this goal.

Economic Development:  Working with our Chamber, United Pulaski, and the local Industrial Development Boards, we are striving hard to better the economic situation in our community.   We want to attract new industry as well as work with existing industry and businesses to compel them to expand.

City / County Cooperation:  We plan to continue to look for ways that our city and county can work together.   Cooperation should either bring about increased savings or increased inefficiencies or an increased level of customer service.

Public/Private Developments:  We are working with the new owners of the Old Taylor Regional Hospital.  Helping them to apply for state funded Tax Credits in order to fund the renovation of this building.

 

 

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