How I Made More Interest with $40 Than I Did with $1000

 

 

Everyone knows that interest rates are abysmally low nowadays, especially for savings accounts in the US. When I was younger, I remember speaking with my grandfather, who recommended investing in Certificates of Deposit for 1-to-5-year savings at 5%.

Now, my TD Bank savings account has an interest rate so low, they just round it to 0.00 on my statements, and the best CD I can find today is 1.10%. The best liquid savings I’ve found is Ally, where I store my emergency fund, at 1%. Our government wants to stimulate economic growth by discouraging saving (they call it hoarding to make it sound bad) money, so the Fed sets incredibly low interest rates for everything (except student loans; can I get an Amen?!).

Terrible economic policy discussions aside, I’ve found a couple ways to help lessen the pain of saving.

As part of diversifying my savings, I have money in a 401k + Roth IRA through my work, and a small percentage in commodities like gold and Bitcoin that I set up by myself.

In May, as an experiment, I set up an account at BitBond, a peer-to-peer lending service, which was advertising an average yield of over 20% APY. Essentially, I view it as a slightly riskier CD. People ask for loans for various business ventures and explain their income and repayment plan, and you can bid as low as .01 Bitcoin (~$4 at the time I bid) on their loan. Each of the loans is assigned a rating based on the history of the loanee and his income, and you can choose to loan in either US Dollars or Bitcoin, with Bitcoin as the source.

I dropped in $40 worth of bitcoin that I didn’t mind losing to see what would happen. Here’s my results, and a comparison to my TD Bank savings account, in which I left exactly $1000 after transferring my savings to Ally, just to keep the account active.

 

Results

After two months, my TD account made 6 cents of interest. Here’s one month’s payment for proof:

 

Now, for Bitbond:

As you can see above, each loan is classified A-F, with A being the highest rating and the lowest interest, and F being the most risky, with greatest chance of reward. I’ve diversified my loans by putting the minimum in most of the loans and spreading out the risk by investing in different classes of loan, A through E.

In the same time on Bitbond, I’ve received 60 cents in interest, or 10 times more interest with 25 times less principal invested. They project that I’ll be getting 23% APY based on my investments spread this year.

 

Final Words

Now that we’ve seen the numbers, I’d like to point out a couple things. This method of investing is significantly riskier than a normal bank account – as you can see above, two of my loanees are late on their payments, which means I’ve gotten no interest on them. There’s a nonzero chance I’ll never get that money back. I justify this by making sure I don’t care about getting this money back, and that it’s a very small portion of my overall portfolio, and by diversifying my loan choices.

 

Secondly, Bitcoin is a relatively new and unstable currency (though, it might be more stable than the Pound right now! Zing.)  It is, however, an incredibly exciting and useful technology that I choose to support with my dollars. There is a chance that the price of Bitcoin will fluctuate enough that the growth of the currency itself might outpace the interest you receive from this investment. If you want to learn more about Bitcoin investment, reddit.com/r/bitcoin, reddit.com/r/cryptocurrencies, and reddit.com/r/bitcoinmarkets are fantastic resources.

Also, I’m not sure if these results will scale linearly with more money invested. There might be a point of diminishing returns with P2P lending, and I might put in some more money to test the waters, but I don’t want to be overly optimistic.

Finally, I want to reiterate that I am not, by any means, an expert in finance, Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency. This is just something that I’ve been studying on my own for a while and wanted to share with you.

 

Thanks for reading! Stay smart. Stay healthy. Peace.

Happy Saturday!

Good morning everybody! I strongly recommend you let this song melt into your ears while you read. 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me! I’ve been working on a big feature release at work, and in my free time, I’ve also been working on arkWatcher and ojo, two open-source Javascript projects. I ran into an issue with some of arkWatcher’s functionality that I posted to StackOverflow, and ended up getting some excellent guidance from my brilliant coworker Michael Timbrook. He suggested using Reactive Extensions to solve my problem, so I’ve been reading up on it the past day or two. It’s really cool, and builds quite simple functions into complex functions to solve big problems. So far, I’ve found this awesome YouTube video and this guide to help me learn more about it.

 

In other, non-programming, news, I’ve been swimming a ton lately. I love it, and it’s fun, but it’s made me noticeably more tired and hungry lately, so I probably have to eat more.

Speaking of eating more, check out this breakfast sandwich I custom-ordered at Lucky Donuts and Deli. Two glazed donuts, scrambled eggs, excellent bacon, and bubbly cheese. This was, without a doubt, the most craving-satisfying, stomach-filling, rich, delicious thing I’ve eaten in a long time.

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I’m of the firm belief that you have to have a cheat meal once in a while, at least. This near-obscene, perfect sweet-and-salty combination is the cheatiest of all meals.

This month is just flying by, and I still haven’t come up with a Halloween costume. It’s weird – being on the West Coast for the first time, it doesn’t feel like Fall yet, so some part of me is in denial about what time of year it is. But the days are getting shorter. My friends back at home sent me tons of pictures of hail and snow and 20 degree temperatures last weekend, which seems a little early, even for the Northeast, although this week was apparently a gorgeous one. Here in San Diego, it’s been pretty nice with some occasional rain and cool temperatures. Here was the view on my porch this morning:

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Yeah, I live next to a freeway. And a construction site. It’s pretty loud sometimes.

Pool’s nice, though.

This month, I really started pushing myself more physically, mentally, and with my work. I’m starting to enjoy and see great benefit from pushing past the limits of my comfort zone and moving as far into the learning zone as I can. I’m working on finding small optimizations that give me more time, and then using that time to get stronger.

 

 

The other day, my buddy asked my advice about which things he should prioritize in his life and which he should drop. The problem was – all the items he wanted me to choose from were equally important. The only answer I could give him in good conscience was that he had to do them all. If they’re all critically important items, what other choice does he have?

Sometimes, it feels like we have the barest illusion of choice;  really, we have no true choice at all. Sometimes we just have to stay awake later than we want; sometimes we have to concentrate longer and harder, and do more, than we ever thought possible. Sometimes, everything seems to go wrong all at once.

Important in my examination of these ideas is remembering how lucky we are to be given these challenges in the first place. How lucky we are that we have people all around us who’ve gone through similar things! I’m starting to treat each challenge as a gift, a lesson, and a test. A way to glean as much as possible from the brilliant and amazing people around me.

Anyway, that’s about it! Enjoy your weekend. Do something new.

Until next time!

Chocolate. Caviar.

Finished Chocolate Caviar
Dessert that pretends it’s dinner.

I cut dates in half and removed the pits. Then, I filled up the date halves with Nutella.

Date halves filled with Nutella.

I crushed up some walnuts with my bare hands and coated them in raw, organic cacao and honey, along with some hazelnut oil. These are our ‘caviar’ eggs. They get sprinkled all over the date-Nutella shells.

Our chocolate caviar.

 

 

 

Some ‘caviar’ spooned onto the date halves

Then, I heated some organic goji berries with water and more hazelnut oil and arranged it all on a pretty plate.

Rehydrated Goji berries

And it was good.

The pictures don’t really do it justice. I need a macro lens.

 

They came out even better than I dared to dream. The Goji berries balance out the intense chocolate sweetness and serve to cleanse the palette between tastes.

 

Please, give me free stuff, Ferrero (Makers of Nutella).

[Tutorial] Taking Automation to the next level

0000159_round-small-sticker-with-the-nfc-wave-logoEven though most of us have an idea about what NFCs are and what they can do, we shun the thought of using them due to their lack
of application in our lives. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s finally changed. With the help of few dollars, you can take automate your mundane activities and have your mobile phone take care of it for you.

No, this does not require any expensive sensors, hardware or fobs, just a few NFC tags that can hold a little “ID” data for you. NFC tags are pretty great. They are small, paper-like and hold 450 bytes of writable memory. Apologies for getting really technical, but I am here to show you that irrespective of your depth of knowledge in technology, you can do some really nifty things with NFC.

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I am going to write a small tutorial on what you can do and how with some examples to make it abundantly clear.

For this you are going to need:

  1. NFC Tags ( I recommend these tokens) $13 for 10pcs
  2. IFTTT Software (If this then that) (Free and paid available) (I recommend Automagic Premium)

 

Once you buy these NFC tags, we need to tell your phone what to do when the NFC is detected by it. Needless to say, you’re going to require an NFC enabled phone. With the help of apps that implement the IFTTT technology. You can set action triggers, conditions and finally, actions for your phone to do. I use Automatic Premium, but there are other free alternatives too. We are going to define a flow for this, which is nothing but a simple, graph-like structure that gives basic instructions to your phone.

Let’s go ahead and tell our app to listen for a particular NFC tag (each NFC has it’s own unique ID)
Reading for a new Tag will simply open up the wizard UI and wait patiently for you to tap the NFC tag gently on the backside of your phone.

Screenshot_2015-04-15-14-50-04

Once you do, the app reads the “ID” data that uniquely defines an NFC tag. For the sake of this demo, let’s give this NFC ID a nick name, i.e. “Sleep”.

Screenshot_2015-04-15-14-50-20

Next, we tell the app what to do when this NFC Tag is detected. This can be done using the IFTTT app. With the help of simple triggers, conditions and actions to perform we can automate simple tasks.
Here’s an example: Every night before sleeping I turn my data and wifi off and enable battery saving mode. This practice helps to improve my battery life.
Like I mentioned before, if there is absolutely any activity that is performed repeatedly it can be automated complete. So I quickly drag and drop some boxes on the app’s graph UI and tell it what to do.

Screenshot_2015-04-15-14-49-45All I am doing is telling the app to perform the following actions if at all the NFC Tag is detected (Trigger). Check if the time is between 9pm to 7am (Condition), if true set the data / wifi state to off and turn on battery saving mode (action).

Trust me when I say this: making these simple flows is one of the easiest things I have ever done. I encourage everyone to at least give it a shot. There are tons of other applications of these tags and tools: Tapping the tag on your car dashboard starts data, location and opens your maps app for guidance. You’re only limited by your own imagination.

Smooth.

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I’m taking a break from the tech-centric stuff today to bring you my smoothie recipe. I play it fast and loose with the ingredients, which pretty much change daily depending on what’s in my fridge.

Ingredients:
1 cup Juice or Milk (I often use Almond milk)
1 heaping teaspoon Creatine, Cacao Powder, Powdered Peanut Butter, and Coconut Oil
1 scoop Vanilla protein Powder
1 scoop Egg White protein powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon Honey
Kale
Some yogurt
Strawberries

Nutrition Facts:
A shit-ton of protein
Lots of fiber
Complex carbs for energy through the day
Healthy fats to lubricate your arteries
Lots of calories

Feel free to add in Bananas or blueberries (I do this often). Blend it all up.

Makes around 3 cups of smoothie. Drink it quickly, or it will start to separate. Enjoy!

Get a site like mine!

My friend and co-worker Ashpak Shaikh asked me to put together a how-to on a personal website like mine, so I figured I’d write it up as a blog post, just in case anyone else wants to do something similar. It’s super simple, cheap, and easy to maintain.

1) Buy a domain name.

I’ve been using nameCheap.com for a few years now with no problems. I’ve been advised to avoid GoDaddy for numerous reasons, so I can’t really speak to the pros and cons of each service. I can say that NameCheap has everything I need at a cheap price. It’s just a domain name, don’t go crazy with it.

Also – if you find a domain name you like that’s open, snatch it up as soon as you can. People have written scripts that buy up domain names after they’ve been searched, then they sell the name for a profit. They’re assholes.

2) Find some hosting.

I use Amazon EC2, which was free for my first year, and has been averaging around $13-15 per month since. It gives you full terminal access for any imaginable kind of server – Ubuntu, Red Hat, CentOS, even Windows. It also scales automatically if more people visit the site, with the ability to limit the scaling to a dollar amount.
There are cheaper services, namely DigitalOcean. I haven’t used them. Again, whatever floats your boat is fine here.

3) Point your domain name toward your new host.

AWS Tutorial
DigitalOcean Tutorial

4) Set up your server. I use a LAMP setup.

LAMP tutorial for Amazon
LAMP for Digital Ocean

5) Install WordPress.

This tutorial is fucking thorough. It actually covers a lot of what I’ve said here already.

6) Add plugins.

Plugins are a fun and useful part of WordPress. My favorites are Jetpack for monitoring site statistics and social media broadcasting, as well as SyntaxHighlighter for showing my pretty code. There are so many out there. You can even write your own!

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.

Working with the TP-Link TL-WA5210G

I recently picked up two TP-Link point-to-point WiFi extenders for my dad’s shop behind his house. This will allow us to view his Uniden Guardian cameras from anywhere we have access to the internet!

Now that I’ve connected to the router and am logged in to the interface, I have 3 options: AP Client Router, AP Router, and AP. However, the guide doesn’t define these well, so I’m looking up which I should use. We’re going to try AP first.

After a bit of haggling, I found this guide which helped a bit.

After 2 hours, we’re still having issues connecting to the house’s router, though, and the lack of manufacturer diagrams for network setup isn’t helping.

We finally got it to work by simply restarting the equipment and running through the instructions we found again. The feed from the cameras is steady, high-speed, and can handle all four cameras with ease. All in all, this wasn’t the easiest setup, but the gear is weatherproof, holds a signal, and should serve for many years to come.

Big news and a great comic

San Diego skyline
I’ve accepted a co-op at Intuit starting January 26th! I’ll be moving to San Diego, California for 6 months for this great opportunity.

Since I still have a few classes to take before I graduate, I have a lot of work to do so I can still graduate on time. I have to test out of three classes and take one class online.

Here’s a great comic about Java vs. Javascript! I love it.