Monthly Update

September 2021 Update

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We love celebrating Labor Day by going camping. We call it our “not back to school” camp and have been doing it for years. It’s intentionally timed when all the other children across the country are back in school. Less crowds (or none!) and cooler temperatures. My second youngest was born at the tail end of one such trip, but that’s a story for another time.

This year we headed out to Swallow Falls State Park in Maryland for three days/two nights, enjoying the many waterfalls along the Youghiogheny River. A highlight of the trip was hiking the Rock Maze Trail and exploring the rock maze at the end. It was fascinating seeing the rhododendrons climbing the rocks with their roots super exposed.

Temperature Sensor Update

A few days after installing the sensor in the basement freezer, I was able to catch the freezer being left ajar after a Costco run. An item was blocking the door from making a seal. One of the kids said “I heard a beep but didn’t know what it was.” Disaster averted.

Post-Costco trip disaster averted!

Another benefit of these sensors is that I now have something to monitor the temperature in our cooler when we go camping. I simply pop the sensor into the cooler and can read the settings from my phone, giving me peace of mind about the state of medicine buried deep inside the cooler.

Here’s the readings from our cooler after our recent Labor Day camping trip. Ignore that it says “basement freezer”; I didn’t bother to rename it for it’s short vacation from the freezer:

Temperature in the cooler while camping

As a side note, before leaving on our trip, we loaded a bunch of room-temperature apples into the fridge to keep them from going bad while we were gone. A couple hours after we left, I got an alert that the main fridge temperature was soaring. At first I was worried, but then we realized it was the fridge working hard to cool down all the apples. Took it a couple hours to get back down to the right temperature.

I’ve been tweaking the temperature alarm, shifting it up/down a few degrees as I dial into the sweet spot with low false positives. 


This month I reached 1,000 consecutive days on Duolingo. I promptly uninstalled the app and haven’t used it since. I was tired of the constant gamification and shifting goal posts. I enjoyed increasing my vocabulary using the app, but it wasn’t really doing it for me with grammar. I just need more time practicing with native speakers. Maybe it’s time to join the rest of the family on Italki.

The other thing that I found annoying with Duolingo was the advertising. When I first started using Duolingo, I could predict exactly where the ad’s “close” button would appear and hit it before the ad displayed. They fixed that bug months later, but I could still choose to look away and mostly ignore the ads. This summer, the ads completely disappeared, but then earlier this month, right before I reached my 1,000th day, the ads returned. But this time they were full audio, “can’t ignore me now!”. I immediately stopped using the ap and started using my laptop where I had full ad-block support. And then once I reached 1,000, I stopped altogether.

An additional irritation with the Duolingo app is the disk space bloat. The app slowly bloats and I would periodically need to clear it. The app should probably store lessons in the cache instead of user space. It’s a bad experience to have to completely reset the app to reclaim bloat.

I didn’t care for the hearts and the constant upsell to Plus.

1,000 days of Duolingo!

Other Odds and Ends

  • I filed my taxes. I do my taxes by hand, but then plug data into TurboTax to double check myself. This year I found several bugs with TurboTax. And as with every year, I learned a couple new things. I’ll save that for a future post.

From the Bookshelf

I usually have four books going at a time. If you like what you read on this blog, one way to support my writing is by clicking on one of my book links. It won’t cost you any more and I’ll get a tiny referral fee. /mendication

This month, I finished a couple books that didn’t make this list, mostly because they were technical in nature. Here’s what was on my queue:


How was your September? Read anything interesting this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hasta luego!

4 thoughts on “September 2021 Update

  1. As a personal finance geek, your use of TurboTax prompted a question.

    I’m curious if you have any real-estate syndiation deals that generate K-1s which require state income tax return filings. Any experiece with this and whether TurboTax is a good self-prepare choice?

    1. I don’t file using TurboTax. I just enter my data and then use their 1040 view to see if I’m making any egregious mistakes. They won’t show you all the forms unless you pay, but the preliminary 1040 view is enough to let me know where I should pay more attention. Usually my numbers match with their calculations, and when they don’t I know I need to understand something better.

      I have no experience with real estate syndication or K1s, so I can’t tell you whether TurboTax is going to be a good choice or not.

  2. Great update. I’m looking forward to the lessons learned in your taxes this year.

    I wish you a swift recovery from the trauma of someone attacking your 529 “baby”!

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