Use location-based reminders to remember gate codes

In Las Vegas, gated communities are common and increasing in popularity. Supposedly it’s a way to keep crime and loitering down. That’s the positive side of it. 

The negative aspects include constant repairs paid for by HOA fees. Also, it’s a pain to constantly ring friends/family/deliveries/etc through the gate when they arrive. And it’s not fun for your guests either as most people have to call the home or look up the gate codes. Until now, I’ve just kept the gate codes in the notes section of the contact card of the person that lives there.

In Las Vegas, it’s also common to find the gate code written with marker on top of the gate code box. 

For a long time, I’ve wanted a notes app that would be location aware. With this feature, I’d be able to pull up to the gate and the note with the gate code would automatically show up on the home screen of my iPhone. 

When I asked for this app on twitter, it was recommend to use the location aware Reminders app. I’ve done that now, and it works wonderfully. I thought I’d share the setup and steps:

  1. Setup a new list called “Gate Codes” so that all of the items will be easy to find.
  2. I found it easiest to list the location (ie, TPC Summerlin) and then the gate code. With this setup there isn’t any other information getting in the way. Find a naming scheme that works and stick with it. 
  3. In each reminder, use the extra option to “Remind me at a location.” In that search field you can put an address, search your contacts, input an intersection, or even the name of a business. For instance, if you need the gate code for work, try searching for the name of your company. Each location could be setup just a little different depending on how it’s most useful.
  4. Once you find the location, be sure that “When I Arrive” is selected. Also, the blue circle can be enlarged or made smaller. I like to include just a little of the street so it will show up just before I arrive.

That’s it. Now, every time you drive up to that location, the reminder will show up on your screen as a notification. 

A couple other tips that might be helpful:

  • When the notification arrives, don’t mark the item as complete. Instead, you can swipe the notification and clear it. That way it will still be there in when you arrive at that location in future visits.
  • In your iPhone notification settings, you might set the notifications to show on the lock screen, but not stick around in the Notification Center. The info is really only useful right when you need and doesn’t need to be around later.
  • If you have a list dedicated to just these codes, you can easily share this list with others. For instance, if I make this a shared list with my wife than she won’t need to do all the input work on her own.
  • I use this for gate codes but it can be setup for a number of other things. One person has a list just for airport food that he likes. That way, when he has a layover it’ll pop up that he liked a certain plate from his last visit.
  • This takes a little setup, but luckily you can setup the location for the reminders from anywhere. So, next time you have an hour to kill on a plane or in a doctor’s office, you can do them all from there.


Millions shall know…

This week I turned 14,066 days old; the exact same age as Joseph Smith when he was martyred for his faith in 1844. It’s amazing to think of all he did in such a short time. He was a prophet and so much more. He built cities and temples as he built women and men. Most special to me is the knowledge that communication with heaven remains open on both a general and a personal level.

The inspiring true story of the Restoration

There is a popular phrase that warns not to “miss the forest for the trees.” It implies that someone might be missing the bigger, more grand picture because they are obsessed too much on a minor detail.

For instance, I recently took this picture while visiting Cuba. All I see in this picture is the hose despite the background looking like a place you could extract dinosaur DNA for a theme park.

This sort of strain happens often in life when it comes to business, family, church and politics. I think it comes with a world that is more contentious and a population that is more easily distracted. It takes effort from all of us to keep focused on the big picture.

In a couple weeks, a new book called “Saints” is being released. It is “the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” It is the first book in a four part series. It’s written in a very simple story that’s easy to read. It follows well the advice of Brigham Young:

“Write in a narrative style,” he advised, and “write only about one tenth part as much.”

Brigham Young

While we wait for the full book, the Church has published the first seven chapters online and in the Gospel Library app. I studied them right away and I’m now reading them to my kids before bed.

As I read these first chapters, I realize that I’ve heard most of the details before. However, I also realize that it’s been too long since I really appreciated and pondered on all it took to restore the church. The simple majesty of the restoration, the polishing of a very rough stone of people, and the absolute care and planning of the Lord in his patience. 

I know there are some things that people worry about in Church history. The church has written about many of them but there are still many people yearning for answers. Like you, I study to understand.

However, this book has been refreshing in that it carries me out of the trees and reminds me of the beauty of the forest. I especially love the examples of  good men and women who asked for and received the truth, then gave all they had to help and establish the forest.

And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.

2 Nephi 25:17
A photo from my trip to Kirtland, 2009

Update: The book has now been released. I finished it in just a few days and really loved all that it taught me. Learning more about the time and the people was enlightening. For example, this part below occurred in the Kirtland Temple and reads like a Hollywood movie, but these are real people with real passion:

A snippet from the Saints book

The official site has all the places that you can purchase or download the full book. I hope you’ll find a way to read it. 

A look at Smart Saver from Betterment

I’ve been using Betterment for a little over two years now. I like it as a long term investment platform and the results have been very good so far. (Granted, it’s also been two years of a great economy. Beyond that, I like the way it works.)

To me, personal finances are broken up in three parts for planning:

  • Short term cash and expenses are kept in a checking account and are very liquid.
  • Long term investments (for me) are kept in Betterment goals lasting 5+ years.
  • Savings and possible investments is the hard part for me. Savings accounts at banks offer very little interest that doesn’t come close to inflation. In other words, by keeping the money in a savings account, you are actually losing money. Also, Savings accounts limit the number of withdrawals you can make in a month without penalty 

Introducing Smart Saver

This morning, Betterment announced a “Smart Saver” option that is a low-risk account for unused cash. For me, it’s the perfect option for my third part listed above. 

This allows me to earn good interest on idle cash while I continue to wait for more investment opportunities. It’s the perfect mix for me.

Smart Saver’s built-in portfolio is the Betterment Portfolio Strategy’s allocation at 0% stocks, 100% bonds. In our recent optimization of the portfolio, we’ve developed an ultra-low-risk yield composed of two asset classes:
U.S. Short-Term Treasury Bonds – SHV – 80% of the allocation
U.S. Short-Term Investment Grade Bonds – NEAR – 20% of the allocation


This two-fund portfolio has an ultra-low volatility profile, so we expect performance to be almost entirely comprised of income yield, rather than price changes. At present, the expected yield is 1.78%.

Betterment

If you’re a current Betterment customer, you’ll see this new option the next time that you log into the service. If you aren’t yet a Betterment customers, feel free to use this link to signup and have your first 90 days of service free

I’ve already initiated the transfer of funds to this new portfolio option in my account. Just as I did in my other post, I will track the performance of Smart Saver here over time so be sure to check back. 

Take the time to understand and organize your tech

I attended the Apple Developer conference in June where they introduced a new feature called Screen Time. Primarily, this is a way for iPhone users to understand how much and how often they use their phones. It’s a much needed update that will be released this Fall.

There have been a number of other apps and services that have done this sort of monitoring, but this one is the most ideal:

  1. It’s free on every new iPhone and on all iPhones from the last handful of years.
  2. It’s built into the operating system, which means it has more access and automation to all of the phone software, including apps that are installed and technology like WiFi and cellular.
  3. The service will run on your own phone, as well as anyone in your family.

It’s that last point that I’d like to cover a little bit here.

If your family has had iPhones for more than a few years, there’s a good chance that you have been using a shared Apple ID. This was the ideal way to buy apps, music and video so everyone in the family could access it.

A few years ago, Apple introduced family sharing. It takes a little time and effort to setup, but it’s worth it. Family Sharing will allow you to share calendars, purchases, your location, and also storage. This means that you can pay for just one iCloud storage account and everyone can back up their phones to it. Each family member would have their own password, address book, etc but will be recognized as a group.

In addition to all these other features, Screen Time will also be available to those registered as Parents on the family account. This means that you can work with your children to set some guidelines and use technology with intent in their life.

Once released, you’ll be able to set app limits, determine times when the phone will not work other than essential apps like making calls and sending messages. You will also have a daily and weekly report on how often phones are picked up and for how many hours they are used.

I highly recommend taking the time to understand technology and it’s use in your family. I’m not a fan of slyly monitoring activities of children. Talking with your kids can help them use this powerful tool in just the right way. It will help them understand balance in their life, mange better sleep schedules, and enjoy all that the real world has to offer.

I’ve been using the beta of Screen Time in our family. We use it to make the iPods in our home productive tools to include messaging with family, writing in a daily journal, and sharing fun family photos. Games and social media apps are disabled and only available for travel during vacations.

As the release of Screen Time nears, I’m considering presenting some free public workshops on how to use this free service in your family. Let me know if you’d be interested.

In the mean time, take the opportunity to line up your Apple ID situation in your family. To move from an individual iCloud account to Family Sharing is not difficult, but it takes a little organization.

Even in difficult times we can become better people

If you prefer pessimism, it’s easier than ever to find reasons for it. If you go seeking (or if an algorithm decides to bring it to you), you can find sadness and plenty of divisive issues. As if that’s not enough, it compounds when you find a difficult issue and also learn that some friends and family fall on the other side of it from you. So now along with agony you have a side of anger.

The more iniquity, the more despair. It’s easy to see what Joel meant when he warned of “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains.”

Like many of you I prefer to find the good as much as I can. I like to hear of and participate in kindness and improvement. I believe that the capacity for kindness in each of us can not be overstated. We can all do so much for each other and for ourselves.

I like to understand new research that will motivate me to be better. Perhaps some of you do as well?

To combat all the negative that is available, I’d like to list a few things I’ve recently read. I hope that it will help some of you like it did me.

Despite what you see on TV, many dads are parenting better than ever

After a national study of 2,194 fathers of children ages 2 through 18, the results show that a majority of fathers today are relatively involved in their children’s lives. This is great news. When dad joins mom in emotional support and spending time with children, that’s a recipe for happiness.

The study also shares how we can be better fathers with tips on balancing “masculinity” and tenderness. These scientific tips include:

  • It’s OK to show and feel your feelings. Doing so will help you be a better, more involved and engaged father.
  • Be an example. Children learn by example and demonstrating beliefs and attitudes that are supportive not only benefit the father-child relationship, but they also teach children positive behaviors.
  • There are many ways to be a man — being a “tough guy” is associated with poor parenting, which can negatively affect children.
  • Fathers should not be afraid of being nurturing, caring and hands-on. Children and families all benefit when they do.

I couldn’t agree with all of these suggestions more. Being a good father (and partner to my wife) is, by far, my greatest joy. If I’m not careful, I’ll let the stresses of the day undeservedly distract me from my highest priorities.

Social media allows for negative feedback, learn from it

Those who ask for feedback are much more likely to succeed. However, when you ask, you should be prepared for the negative feedback. A recent article I read suggest the following:

  • Don’t rush to react on the feedback but give it time to settle in a bit
  • Get more data from other trusted sources to tell you if it’s accurate
  • Find a way that will broadcast real change and desire to help
  • Share what you are learning with others so you don’t struggle alone

I’ve learned that holding a grudge can be among life’s heaviest burdens. Understand what you can learn from the situation and move on.

There are so many ways to improve

The Scientific American put together a strong list of things we don’t know about ourselves. Much of this resonates with me (though some of it does not…and that’s ok too.) Some highlights and short comments:

“We are frequently blind to the effect we have on others because we simply do not see our own facial expressions, gestures and body language.”

This is true and very interesting to me. I sit in front of large groups often and I have no idea how I come across at those times. It’s difficult to read your own body language but so easy to see it in others.

We too often think we are better at something than we are.

It’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Speaking of children, they are a great antidote for this poisonous pride.

People who tear themselves down experience setbacks more frequently.

In our effort to show kindness, building people up is among the best work that we can do.

Conclusion

Life can be difficult. If we’re not careful, we can make it even harder (and a whole lot less fun) if we dwell on the negative. I know I have much more I can do in showing kindness and becoming a better person.  I do believe that difficult times like these can speed up that process. As James Allen wrote:

“Circumstance does not make the man, it reveals him unto himself.”

 

Investing without great intelligence

Each year, Warren Buffett (the third richest man in the world) writes a letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Usually, it is a recap of the preceding year for the company, an invitation to the yearly stockholder meeting, and some insight into the mind of the world’s greatest investor. I always look forward to reading his advice.

The letter (PDF), which is always released late Friday evening or Saturday morning so as to not influence irrational trading on the market, was released today. The whole thing is worth reading if you’re interested in long-term investing. (That’s the investing I prefer as well.) Below are some of my favorite parts of the 2017 letter:

Each year, Mr. Buffett gives the numbers up front, plain and clear but this year is a little different:

The format of that opening paragraph has been standard for 30 years. But 2017 was far from standard: A large portion of our gain did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.

The $65 billion gain is nonetheless real – rest assured of that. But only $36 billion came from Berkshire’s operations. The remaining $29 billion was delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the U.S. Tax Code.

He also talks about a new accounting rule that will affect how reports are done in the future. One of the best tips I can give parents, church leaders, bosses or coaches is to give experienced foresight to those who learn from you. It not only allows the learners to prepare but also increases their trust in you:

I must first tell you about a new accounting rule – a generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP) – that in future quarterly and annual reports will severely distort Berkshire’s net income figures and very often mislead commentators and investors.

It reminds me of a talk I recently heard of a father who would talk to his son each year and tell him things that he might expect in his life for that year. After a warning, he’d encourage that “when these things happen—or anything else that troubles you—I want you to come and talk to me, and I’ll help you get through them. And then I’ll tell you what comes next.”

Before reporting on the acquisitions from last year, Warren explained the simple approach to adding value to the company:

There are four building blocks that add value to Berkshire: (1) sizable stand-alone acquisitions; (2) bolt-on acquisitions that fit with businesses we already own; (3) internal sales growth and margin improvement at our many and varied businesses; and (4) investment earnings from our huge portfolio of stocks and bonds.

And in 2017, there were not many acquisitions made by Berkshire. He explained what they look for in purchasing a company:

In our search for new stand-alone businesses, the key qualities we seek are durable competitive strengths; able and high-grade management; good returns on the net tangible assets required to operate the business; opportunities for internal growth at attractive returns; and, finally, a sensible purchase price.

I love that when the rest of the world is buying, he’s staying true to the founding rules:

That last requirement proved a barrier to virtually all deals we reviewed in 2017, as prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high. Indeed, price seemed almost irrelevant to an army of optimistic purchasers.

Why are the prices so high? Money is cheap and this:

Once a CEO hungers for a deal, he or she will never lack for forecasts that justify the purchase.

Even though Berkshire stayed mostly on the sidelines, the multi-billion dollar train moves on just fine:

Our aversion to leverage has dampened our returns over the years. But Charlie and I sleep well. Both of us believe it is insane to risk what you have and need in order to obtain what you don’t need.

And:

The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own.

That doesn’t mean they won’t buy when the time is right:

…we will need to make one or more huge acquisitions. We certainly have the resources to do so. At yearend Berkshire held $116.0 billion in cash and U.S. Treasury Bills (whose average maturity was 88 days), up from $86.4 billion at yearend 2016. This extraordinary liquidity earns only a pittance and is far beyond the level Charlie and I wish Berkshire to have. Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire’s excess funds into more productive assets.

He also gives another overview of his victorious ten-year bet on index funds. And assures the rest of us that it’s still the right approach, especially to avoid fees:

Performance comes, performance goes. Fees never falter.

And when others hesitate, you move:

Though markets are generally rational, they occasionally do crazy things. Seizing the opportunities then offered does not require great intelligence, a degree in economics or a familiarity with Wall Street jargon such as alpha and beta.

and

And – as has been the case since 1776 – whatever its problems of the minute, the American economy was going to move forward.

I highly recommend the whole letter as it’s full of financial and other advice.

Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

 

President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, came to Las Vegas and spoke to members of the church. The majority of these members are single adults, age 18-30, and are still setting so many patterns and making decisions in their lives. This is an ideal time to hear from a Prophet of God. President and Sister Nelson gave great advice.

I was invited to come and sit on the stand for the devotional.

When the prophet arrives, it’s customary to stand out of respect as he finds his seat on the stand. It was great to watch the room full of hundreds as they stood in silence. He came in and greeted everyone with a smile. He arrived ten minutes early to assure sufficient time to prepare hearts and minds for the meeting. As he sat, he turned around to us on the stand (31 Stake Presidents and 8 YSA Bishops) and mouthed “Thank you.”

After the devotional, he needed to leave the building before the rest of us were dismissed. He again faced us and with his hands outreached he said with a smile, “Virtual handshakes, virtual handshakes.”

President and Sister Nelson spoke with such humor and power and kindness. You can see the recap on the Church Newsroom (there is also video highlights) , but my favorite quotes from the night:

“One attribute that all prophets have in common is they understand the importance of divine law….Divine law cannot be denied or disputed.”

“Serve others with love. Doing so will open your mind to personal revelation and inner peace.”

There was so much more to the evening. Yesterday was a solid journal entry day.

 

Using Technology with Intent

I recently spoke at a conference geared toward families, productive time and eternal values. Part of my message was that technology can be a very useful tool when used properly, but can quickly become idle time.

As a tool, I’ve heard of a cell phone being likened to a shovel. When we need a shovel: we get it,  we use it, we put it down. Then we go back to life.

We don’t take the shovel and hold it in one hand while we’re watching tv and eating dinner. We don’t bring it on every walk, run and outing “just in case we need it.” We don’t take it to bed and set it on the pillow next to us all night or hold it up in the air until we fall asleep and drop it on our head.

Phones and social media are very useful tools. Like many of you, I use  InstagramTwitter, and Facebook  to keep up with family, do business and other things.  However, we should use our phones as intended then set them down and get back to life. Instead we let every ping and pong pull our attention away from real life and back to the screen. Social media, games and other websites are designed to gain and keep your attention as long as possible.

It’s not just the risk of making a bad decision online. The much more common issue is that it leads us to make no decisions at all. All idle, no progress.

A few years ago, Youtube was still relying on recommendations on social media, links sent in emails and a home page of “popular” videos to get people to keep watching videos. They realized that it could be much more specific and created something called “Brain” that would use algorithms to recommend videos specific to used.

“Integrating Brain has had an immense impact: more than 70 percent of the time people spend watching videos on the site is now driven by YouTube’s algorithmic recommendations. Each day, YouTube recommends 200 million different videos to users, in 76 languages. And the aggregate time people spend watching videos on YouTube’s home page has grown 20 times larger than what it was three years ago.”

In many ways, we think we are in control when in fact ads, likes, and alerts “cheateth” our time “and leadeth (us) carefully down” the attention tube.

As a followup to my message, here are a few things that can be done with a phone to decrease the likeliness of idle use. While the bigger change comes from a commitment to finding and developing talents and principles, these small steps can be a start.

Manage your Notifications

Take some time to manage which notifications you get on your phone. When in doubt: disable.

On an iPhone these options can be found in Settings -> Notifications. Here are a few recommendations:

  • At a minimum, disable all games and news apps. Your day will go fine without a notification that tells you the traffic level at the Japan fish market.
  • Turn off all notifications for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter except direct messages as those are usually more personal. Also disable the little red notification circles. (As an extra step, take all those social apps and stick them in a folder so they’re not a default tap when you turn on your phone.)
  • Email can be important…sometimes. Turn off the sound notifications for email. I’ve been in conversation with a family member when we hear a ding and like Pavlov’s dog, the phone comes out and now we all know about a 10% coupon to Pottery Barn.

Enable Do Not Disturb

On an iPhone, you can schedule “Do Not Disturb” to turn on every night. Do it. When this is enabled, everything still happens on the phone but you don’t actively see or hear it. For some people, this can be a big step. They’re afraid of emergencies happenings in the middle of the night.

Emergencies may happen but on the other 364 days of the year you’re just hearing random sounds and alerts. Also, you can setup for “Favorite” contacts to ring through and also anyone that calls twice in a 3 minute span. This should cover most emergencies. In the mean time, you get a much better chance at sleeping through the night.

(On a related note: There is almost no good reason that kids or teenagers should need a phone in their room overnight. Buy an alarm clock if you need to. Put all chargers in the parents room where phones can be checked in. It’s not just bad choices this can avoid, but also much better sleep and a safety from the world always being able to connect to them.)

Find a good ad blocker

Phones will allow you to block ads on all websites. You just need to download an app and then enable it in settings. (On an iPhone it’s Settings -> Safari -> Content Blockers.)

I use Purify app though there are a number of good options out there. Firefox offers a free browser that includes a content blocker that can be enabled for the built-in Safari app. In addition to keeping your online time more focused, this will also save on your battery life. Two birds, one blocker.

Filter incoming calls

There are some great tools for filtering out telemarketer and other fraud phone calls. A popular one is Nomorobo which has a low monthly cost. However, if you are an AT&T customer, you have a free option with “Call Protect.” Once installed, these apps will flag potential fraud calls and send them straight to leave a message.

Remember, it’s not just about avoiding the phone call. It also helps you to avoid pulling out the phone at all. So often we’ll see a number we don’t recognize, not answer, but still check all the messages and notifications that we would have otherwise ignored.

Conclusion

These are four very basic and easy steps that you can do on your phone in about 15 minutes. (And these are not just for kids. I highly recommend these four steps for parents too.)

Even though it’s quick to implement, it could save quite a bit of idle time in the future. As usual, I’m happy to give you some pointers if needed. Just send me a message and I’ll get back to you…in time.

Update: The LDS church recently rolled out smartphones to a number of their missionaries around the world. Along with the new phones, they provided a booklet titled, “Safeguards for using technology.” It’s a very useful reference for parents as well.

Informed Delivery: A sneak peek at incoming USPS mail

A little while ago I read a tweet that talked about USPS mail and it’s ratio of usefulness. It read:

Snail mail is the worst.

99% is spam. A waste of paper, delivery gas, and attention.

1% is IF YOU DIDN’T OPEN THIS YOU WILL GO TO PRISON.

While I’m not sure on the percentages, it did make me laugh.

Did you know you can sign up for a free service from USPS called Informed Delivery and it will scan each of your incoming mail pieces and will email it to you the night before delivery. That way, you know which pieces of mail will be arriving and how quickly you need to head to the mailbox.

If you don’t like emails, there is also an app specifically built for the service. 

To receive the emails, it’s a simple signup on the USPS site. Within a couple days, you’ll start receiving emails. If there are any pieces of email that can’t be scanned, the message will notify you of that as well.

Speaking of “go to prison” letters, did you notice that the screenshot in this post includes a jury summons for Candace? It came the first day we opted-in for the service. It was a slow walk to the mailbox the next day.