Category Archives: seattle

Ada Developers Academy and Life Pivots

I had the amazing fortune to meet the charter class of Ada Developers Academy students when they took a tour of my office today.

Ada Developers Academy is a tuition-free programming school for women. The only pre-requisite (other than “for women”) is that you can’t already be a programmer.

In other words, every woman I met today woke up one morning and said “I’m going to quit my comfortable job (or education-path) and become a programmer.”

In addition, the software industry is dominated by males (unfortunately, for everybody who uses software), so not only did these folks make a risky life-pivot, they also pivoted into an industry where the deck is stacked against them.

This takes an amount of moxie that I may never comprehend, and meeting the class was very inspirational. It got me thinking about how the metaphor of startup pivots (i.e. a course-correction designed to test a hypothesis about the business) can be applied to life.

The common (and incorrect) definition of a startup’s “runway” is “the amount of time a startup has until it runs out of money.” A more accurate definition is “the number of pivots a startup can make before it runs out of money.” In other words, the number of new things it can try, the number of experiments it can run.

Perhaps the “runway” of your life isn’t the amount of time you have left to live, but it’s the number of interesting, experimental things you can do before your time is up?

Just as a business should structure itself to get to each pivot faster (by finding ways to learn at lower cost and in a shorter time), one should structure one’s life to get to get to the interesting parts faster!

How can you structure your life like this? There are probably countless ways, but here are a few that come to mind:

  1. Have interesting friends (and the harsh corollary: don’t waste your time with boring or uninspiring people)
  2. Live someplace interesting where you can make lots of interesting friends (and do interesting stuff with them)
  3. Double-check your life assumptions every once in a while. Who knows what you’ll find?

PS: Registration for the next ADA program is almost open. Check it out if you’re a female in the Seattle area (or willing to relocate).

(I tried something new on this post and didn’t spend much time editing it. The result is probably more raw and train-of-thought, but also closer to the original vision in my head. What do you think?)

Get your tickets to the first ever Camp Mustache

We rented out this lodge
We rented out this lodge

Update: SOLD OUT! See you in May!

I’ve been writing a series on planning a retreat, but it fell to the wayside, because I’ve been pretty busy planning a retreat!

It’s been hard work but very rewarding. A few things are still up in the air, but the main deets are already locked down, so I can share them now:

May 30 – June 1, 2014
On An Undisclosed Lake in Graham, WA
$200 for adults, $100 for children

Tickets are on sale here:
http://campmustache.brownpapertickets.com/

Here are a few of the many reasons that this retreat is going to be awesome:

  1. We rented an entire lodge on a picturesque lake, along with some adjacent cabins (for those who need a bit more privacy).
  2. The price includes lodging, activities, and a weekend of meals prepared by experienced chefs, including James from How Pickle Got Out Of A Jam.
  3. Friday night interactive entertainment hosted by Ben from Yawp Club.
  4. This is a non-profit event, so every last penny is going towards making it an unforgettable weekend.
  5. Attendees include Mr Money Mustache, JD Roth, and other surprise guests.
  6. Space is limited to 50 attendees, so everyone will get the chance to get to know everyone else in an intimate setting.
  7. Mustaches
  8. A mix of structured sessions, nature activities, and free time for chillin’

This is going to rock! MMM and JD Roth are both going to blog about the event, which will probably cause it to sell out, so if you want to get tickets, you should get ’em while you can!

Let me know if you have any questions!

How to Plan an Awesome Retreat – Step 1: Get pumped about something

camp cabinAlong with a few internet friends, I’m planning a retreat for fans of Mr Money Mustache and JD Roth, two awesome bloggers. It’s going down in the Spring of 2014, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

This isn’t the first retreat I’ve planned, but it has been a while. As a teenager, I planned a retreat for my youth group. Like any large event, it went off with only a few snags, that were mostly invisible to participants. I still get ribbed by old friends about the schedule for the weekend. I made a silly one as a rough draft and turned it in as a placeholder. Whoever was in charge of photocopying thought it was the real deal, so they made copies of it and handed it out to all attendees.

What that old retreat and this new one have in common is that in order to put in the time and energy to making any dream into a reality (whether it’s a retreat, or a startup, or making balloon animals), it’s essential that you pick something you’re really passionate (or pumped) about. For me, that’s financial badassity. Or whatever you want to call it.

I’m gonna do a few posts while I figure this retreat-planning thing out (again). At least I know how not to make retreat schedules this time around.

Leave a comment if you’re interested in attending and want the deets when they’re available. Or if you have questions about planning your own retreat.

Meet Your Meat

My friend Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings posted her version of our trip to the farm to buy our cow. She’s a food blogger, so her article focuses more on the nutritional aspects of grass-fed beef. It’s a great compliment to the articles I’ve written on the cost-savings potential in buying an entire cow.

For instance, here’s her take on grass-fed vs. whatever-junk-they-use-on-feedlots beef:

Taste and Nutrition – We would rather not eat greasy food. Compared to factory raised grain fed beef, grass fed beef is extremely lean. We prefer the more meaty and slightly gamey flavor of grass fed beef. Studies have shown grass fed beef to be higher in nutrients, minerals, and “good” fats.

Go read the whole article, it’s interesting.

Cow Number 2

car full of meatLast weekend we bought our second full cow from 3 Sisters Farms. We kept 1/4 of it (about 150 lbs) and divvied the rest up between a few other families. The first one lasted us 18 months, which means we ate just over 1.5 pounds of beef per person per month. I’ve heard a healthy red meat portion is 6-oz, so if we were eating right-sized portions each time (I probably ate more than my fair share), that comes to 4 servings of meat, or once a week. That’s probably about the optimal frequency for consuming red meat. However, we often brought the meat to potlucks and entertained guests with red meat dishes, so not all of it was actually consumed by our family.

If you compare the picture above to the one I took for the blog post about our first cow purchase, you can see how much better I’ve gotten at efficiently loading up the back of the car with boxes:

18 months ago

You can also see the difference between an old camera-phone, and Mrs. Foundry’s nice DSLR.

This year, the farmers weren’t making trips into the city so we drove to Whidbey Island to pick up the meat. Originally, I thought it was going to be a hassle (and negate the savings of buying bulk meat), but we made it into a fun day trip with Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings and her son who’s about the same age as our youngest. We had a picnic lunch at Deception Pass and rode the ferry, so even though we logged over 150 miles onto the car (more than I drive in 3 months) I think it was well worth it to meat…I mean meet the farmers and the future hamburgers. The animals were well treated, and seemed very happy. The pigs had an unobstructed view of Puget Sound, and as much as I love the view from our back deck, I must admit I was a little jealous of those porkers.

The price went up compared to 18 months ago ($4.25/lb vs $4.00/lb last time) but that’s about the pace of inflation. To make it an even better deal, they threw in the organ meat (heart and liver) along with some dog bones that we gave to the other families who have dogs (and kept some for ourselves to make soup stock…shhhh).

Maybe I should have put a warning at the beginning of this post for vegetarians to skip over it? Nah.

PS: Happy Birthday to my sister, Mindy! I won’t divulge her age, but as of today, it now ends in a zero!

MMMMM (Me Merrily Meeting Mr. Money Mustache)

mustache bearMonday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bloggers, Mr Money Mustache. Along with blogger pal Erica from Northwest Edible Life, he hosted a little get-together here in Seattle for his readers. There was even an offer of free beer if you rode your bike, but unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of it as I rode the scooter to get home in time to take the Foundry Boys to Cub Scouts.

It was really fun to see MMM and watch him dish out advice face-to-face. I didn’t hear it all but the most commonly repeated refrain of his was that everybody should be riding a bike. I wholeheartedly agree! As I told someone there Monday night, replacing most car commuting with bike rides is the 2nd biggest improvement to my quality of life (marrying Mrs Foundry is #1 of course).

I knew I was among my own kind when someone in a group asked how many people love making spreadsheets, and everyone proudly agreed “I do!”

I got a warm feeling from being able to give some investing advice, based on the Gone Fishin’ In the Foundry portfolio.

But mostly it was great meeting others who share a passion for frugality, finances, and good beer. Hope to see you again next time!

Hang Dry Your Laundry: Just Do It!

Speaking of laundry… Hang-drying your laundry is so easy, it’s something everyone should do! The sun is just sitting out there waiting for some laundry to dry for free. Even in Seattle, we keep the clothesline up year-round (though it doesn’t get much use from October – May).

We hung some rope from the house to a spare bamboo pole, and then back again, to provide two lengths of clothesline from which to hang clothes. And we added a drying rack for increased capacity. You can also see stuff hanging from chairs and even toys.

We’re blessed with a large deck that has Southern exposure, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do this inside, or on a small scale if you have a smaller yard.

There are plenty of other tips to increase the space on the clothesline: hang clothes from hangers or even an old umbrella frame.

And the proof is in the financial pudding. Dryers are one of the biggest energy consumers in the house. We just got our electricity bill for June/July (when we’ve been able to hang-dry almost exclusively). We used 387kWh per month.

According to the Government, “In 2010, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,496 kWh, an average of 958 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 16,716 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.”

So we’re at about 1/3rd the national average. Granted, energy costs are lower for us in the summer, so let’s look at our family’s yearly average (the Seattle City Light bill gives you a nice graph of your yearly consumption), 811kWh per month. Lower than average, but we still have some ways to go before we can beat Maine! In February, our most electricity-consuming month, we use over 4x the amount of electricity we use over the summer!

Not only are you saving money, by hanging your clothes to dry you’re also helping save the earth. I love when those two things go together!

PS: Washington state enjoys the 2nd lowest energy costs in the nation (probably due to all our hydroelectric). But that doesn’t mean you can waste it!

One Gallon Challenge: Update

It’s one week into the month so let’s see how I’m doing so far.

Trips: 1
Miles: 16
Purpose: Dad’s 60th Birthday Dinner

(I also took a family camping trip this weekend, which was very fun, but doesn’t count for the challenge.)

So with just one trip, I used almost all of my 20 miles. This is going to make the rest of the month even more challenging! It was worth it though, to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday with the rest of the family. Had I been better prepared, I could have taken the bus to the restaurant and then caught a ride home with the rest of my family, saving half the mileage. Or I could have suggested a restaurant closer to my house, but I thought that would have been selfish. My dad only turns 60 once!

On a brighter note, I’ve managed to do the camp drop-off by bike every day, with only a few minor setbacks. At least I wasn’t ever late. Venessa and I also rode our bikes to a BBQ/pool party Sunday evening. I pulled Lillia (and all our gear) in the trailer*. It felt pretty awesome to get there all warmed up and then jump right into the pool. (Seattle had unusually hot weather this past weekend).

How’s your August challenge going?

* Another great craiglist find. We split the cost of the trailer with a neighbor family that has a son Lillia’s age

Step Up To The August Challenge: Gallon Challenge

It’s August, and that means it’s time for another monthly challenge. This one is really going to stir the pot: the Gallon Challenge. I’m not talking about the fraternity hazing ritual, where you have to drink a gallon of milk in an hour (don’t ask). This challenge is about limiting yourself to a gallon of gas for the month!

You’ll quickly realize that this challenge seriously penalizes those with less fuel-efficient cars. Good! It’s time to feel the pain for making an inefficient car choice. Don’t feel too bad, I’m in this group (our car only gets 20 MPG), so I’m making some pretty major lifestyle changes to make sure I only drive 20 miles this month.

The biggest change is getting the boys to summer camp. The round trip is 7 miles, and there’s 10 days of camp. That obviously won’t work. My first thought was to take the bus, but that would take 40 minutes, with a transfer. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, or shall I say “feet.” I contacted Bike Works, a local non-profit dedicated to getting more people biking. They have a loaner program where they’ll loan out all sorts of bikes. For a small donation, I got this Sun Atlas cargo bike for the two weeks that the boys are in camp.

Riding it is a blast, for me and for the boys. I find that our commute is much more social, not to mention the amazing workout that I’m getting! Isaac looked pretty proud rolling into camp the first day on the back of a cargo bike.

So that’s the challenge. Who’s up for it?

Fine print: Use your car’s average MPG to figure out how many miles you’re allowed to drive (e.g. 20 MPG = 20 miles). Family vacations don’t count (you can consider that fuel consumption to be in the “vacation” category). Decide for yourself if you count being a passenger towards your miles. Maybe you can count that for half miles? Let me know what you decide.