52 Weekends, 52 Adventures

Last week I started a new full-time job and will not be able to take a vacation for at least a year. It has been nearly 11 months since I had my last break from work, so it will be roughly 2 years of no vacation time which is not going to be easy for me to deal with. My plan is to use the weekends and holidays to do short activities that will hopefully hold me over for this year and allow me to experience new places and things I would otherwise not likely do.

52 weekends with 52 adventures!

A few things on the list so far include:

  • Snowshoe a long hike in the winter
  • Learn to snowboard
  • Visit nearby National Parks
  • Short holiday 3 day vacation
  • Do a 50-mile march
  • Make and camp out in a snow shelter
  • Explore a lot of trails in the area
  • Ride some Jeep trails
  • Overnight backpacking trips

This holiday weekend will be my first weekend to give this a shot. I’ll be heading to Arkansas to spend just over a day on a lake. Really looking forward to getting away even for this short time as a kind of mini-vacation.


Amazon Mechanical Turk Income – Week 1

A good first week of trying to see what the earning potential is for Amazon Mechanical Turk. My goal this week was to spend a minimum of 1 hour each day and work as many HITs as I could during that time. The week ended with a total time of 5 hours and 21 minutes spent on the mTurk website and I submitted 166 HITs. I was hoping I could get to 500 total approved HITs by the end of the week but fell short by 57.

Spreadsheet data for weeks tracked in Mechanical Turk
My numbers for Amazon Mechanical Turk. Week ending April 22, 2017 is week 1 of a 3 week experiment.

Plan for Week 2

This week I will start experimenting with browser scripts. These are supposed to make it easier to find and accept higher paying HITs before they are accepted by other workers, helping to increase the hourly rate of earnings. I will also continue to spend 1 hour a day at a minimum. Should also reach over 500 approved HITs within a few days which will give me access to more options from requesters with higher worker qualifications.

Amazon Mechanical Turk Income Experiment

For the next 3 weeks I will be working on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk trying to maximize my hourly rate. I want to see if this is a possible means of reliable income while traveling. My intention is to spend a minimum of 1 hour each weekday, as early as possible in the mornings, for the next 3 weeks. The timeline below is a rough schedule of my plan.

Amazon has a Mechanical Turk FAQ page if you’re not familiar with the terms used.

Week 1

Complete as Many HITs as I can

I will be doing as many HITs as I can in order to build up my completed HIT count. Having a high count will open up more and better paying opportunities because some requesters require workers with high accuracy and completion rates. Currently my account sits at just under 300 approved HITs from work done in the past. Wanting to get as close to 1,000 in the next 3 weeks.

Week 2

Start Working with Scripts & Continue Building HIT Stats

After I get a good feel for the platform and improve my stats, the next step is to install browser scripts designed for mTurk and learn to maximize my time with higher paying HITs and various techniques for accepting a greater number of these better jobs.

Week 3

Work at it Like a Job and Maximize my Hourly Rate

This last week will be focused on combining everything learned and also trying to spend more time each day working the platform.

My goal is to end week 3 with an hourly rate of at least $10.

Hiking the Fisher Towers Trail in Moab

I decided to go on a quick weekend trip over to Moab just to get away for a day. After work on Friday morning I drove west into Utah and arrived in Moab at lunch time. The streets were pretty crowded with cars and the sidewalks busy with people, I was afraid I might be arriving a bit too late on a weekend and wouldn’t be able to find a good campsite. After searching many of the BLM campgrounds in the area for about an hour, I finally came across an open site and quickly claimed it for the night. I have visited Moab a few times to check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, but never this far out on the 128 to the Fisher Towers area.

Information sign for the Fisher Towers Trail in Moab, Utah.

After setting up my tent I headed out for the Fisher Towers Trail which is located at the campground. The trail is 2.2 miles each way and has a total elevation gain of 984 feet. It took me just under 2 hours to complete a roundtrip hike, the trailhead information recommended allowing 4 hours and also gave an elevation gain of around 600 feet.

Graphs and stats for a hike in Moab, Utah at the Fisher Towers Trail
My statistics for hiking the Fisher Towers Trail.
The trail descending into the canyon.
The trail descending into the canyon.
The trail descends lower before heading up the rest of the way.
The trail descends lower before heading up the rest of the way.
The trail going up and around
The trail going up and around
5 climbers on the rock face at Fisher Towers.
5 climbers on the rock face at Fisher Towers.
Ropes hanging down the rock face. Looked like the climbers went into a cave or hole in the rock about halfway up.
In Moab, Utah hiking the Fisher Towers Trail. Castle Rock can be seen in the center of the picture.
Hiking the Fisher Towers Trail in Moab, Utah.
At the end of the Fisher Towers trail, the Colorado River can be seen in the distance.
Shoes and legs at the top of the trail
Made it to the top of the Fisher Towers trail in exactly 1 hour. This is a 2.2 mile trail gaining just under 1,000 feet in elevation.
Looking east from the top of the trail.
Castle Rock in the distance, looking southwest from the end of the Fisher Towers trail.


View my Trails.io track log

Download the GPX File of Fisher Towers Trail


Trades and Updates for February 2017

Not much happened in February, trying to slow down on the frequent buying and selling and instead focus on making longer term trades with the goal of growing my portfolio of dividend producing stocks.

2/2/2017 Robinhood MSFT Buy 16 $62.990 $1,007.84
2/3/2017 Robinhood AMZN Buy 1 $813.600 $813.60
1/10/2017 FID IRA SBX Buy 20 $56.170 $1,123.40 $7.95
1/27/2017 FID IRA FENY Buy 54 $20.985 $1,133.19
2/14/2017 Robinhood AMZN Sell 1 $835.800 $835.80 2.73%
2/14/2017 Robinhood FSM Buy 157 $6.390 $1,003.23

Total February performance for all accounts ended with a gain of 2.63%.

This is only my second month of logging the numbers for all accounts in one spreadsheet, it’s very encouraging to see everything and have an overall picture of how my money is working for me. I will be receiving a sizable tax refund in the next few weeks and need to decide on how to best invest that windfall.

Tracking Monthly Software and Subscription Expenses

It seems like more and more software programs are changing from a one-time upfront expense to a recurring monthly subscription. I’m not yet sure if this equates to a savings for most people, but I am not convinced that it is the best thing for me.

I decided it would be good to setup my budget to accommodate all of the services I am currently subscribed to. Some of these are renewed on a yearly basis and others every month. It was quite a surprise to see everything laid out in a spreadsheet, totaled by year and month, and have all of the figures presented up front. 1

Current list of services I subscribe to. Yearly renewals are divided in monthly cost and totaled at the bottom.
Current list of services I subscribe to. Yearly renewals are divided in monthly cost and totaled at the bottom.

It really changes things knowing that I pay close to $700 a year on all of this stuff, I will definitely have to think about what in this list is important and what things I can do without.

  1. The blurred out item is the domain renewal for my personal website. 

Quality Links and Reads For The Week – 10 February 2017

10 February 2017

Lots of interesting things this week.

The Truth about SSL and SEO

Does SSL actually improve SEO?
After countless hours of research, I can only conclude that the answer to this question is: inconclusive. Here is an SEO study of 10,000 domains, and the answer they came up with was…somewhat less than data-centered: “Yes, because Google says so”.

WordPress SSL Issues
Issues with configuring self-hosted WordPress to work with an SSL certificate.

Incredible images from DJI’s SkyPixel 2016 aerial photography competition

ATM ‘Shimmers’ Target Chip-Based Cards

Is the hashtag over? Researchers reveal Super Bowl ads have abandoned them (and Facebook and Twitter) for URLs

$100 iTunes Giftcard for $85

Google AI adds detail to low-resolution images

4 Top Ways to Redeem 50,000 United Airlines Miles

25 Airbag Rainbow Explosion in 4K – The Slow Mo Guys

Trades and Account Growth for January 2017

Blurred Robinhood account history

Total Account Growth for January 2017: 0.56%

This was my first month of really trying to gain an account growth of 3%. I didn’t even come close to that number this month. Perhaps my target is a little unrealistic? My focus could have been better on my trading days and I also should have spent more time researching my trades before going in. I risk 20% of my account on each position, trying to have at most 5 different stocks at any given time. The first 2 trades 1 of the week ended up gaining just over 3% each and I was able to close them out within a few days of purchase. Took positions in SMG and CME for 2.03% and 1.90%.
Trades for the Month of January 20172

1/3/2017 MEDP Buy 28 $35.70 $999.60
1/3/2017 EBAY Buy 33 $29.75 $981.75
1/4/2017 MEDP Sell 28 $36.80 $1,030.40 3.08%
1/4/2017 WMT Buy 14 $69.35 $970.90
1/5/2017 CME Buy 8 $115.11 $920.88
1/6/2017 EBAY Sell 33 $30.68 $1,012.44 3.13%
1/6/2017 CME Sell 8 $117.30 $938.40 1.90%
1/10/2017 PG Buy 12 $83.55 $1,002.60
1/13/2017 PG Sell 12 $83.96 $1,007.52 0.49%
1/13/2017 SMG Buy 10 $93.26 $932.60
1/23/2017 SMG Sell 10 $95.15 $951.50 2.03%
1/23/2017 UGAZ Buy 35 $27.78 $972.30
1/23/2017 UGAZ Sell 35 $28.00 $980.00 0.79%
1/24/2017 CVS Buy 12 $81.88 $982.56
1/31/2017 UPS Buy 9 $109.40 $984.60

Robinhood Trading

At the moment I am using Robinhood to make my trades. No trade fees helps with my small account. I am using what they call Robinhood Gold, which is $10 a month and enables instant access to funds when selling a stock, no waiting 3 days to be able to reinvest, and also enables a little bit of margin if needed. The only downside is that it’s only available on mobile devices.

  1. MEDP and EBAY 
  2. Column Info until I can find a better way to post a proper table: Date:Symbol:Number of Shares:Price per Share:Trade Value:Percentage Gain or Loss 

Quality Links and Reads For The Week

A collection of interesting things found throughout the week.

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Elago M2 Aluminum iPhone Stand

Just got this on Tuesday to use next to my computer. It’s really nice to have an iPhone set up and conveniently positioned by a computer.

How Engines Work – (SEE THROUGH ENGINE in SLOW MOTION) – Smarter Every Day 166

reMarkable eInk Paper Tablet

The paper tablet for people who prefer paper. Here to replace your notebooks, sketchbooks and printouts. Paper-like reading, writing and sketching with digital powers.

June Intelligent Oven

iTunes Match Destroyed my Ratings! + Fix

I purchased a subscription for iTunes Match yesterday and all was going just as expected, no issues. All of my tracks got matched or uploaded just fine and I could play and rate them on my iPhone, everything was in sync. Well, this afternoon while I was in town I decided to remove all the downloaded song files from my phone in order to free up some space, I used the storage manager in the settings app to do this. I was still able to play and rate songs as I was headed home later in the day, everything looked and functioned just as it should have.

When I got home and opened up my MacBook Air I started up iTunes, a few seconds later 95% of my songs had the ratings and hearts removed! 6 months ago I started iTunes with a fresh copy and have been adding 1 album at a time, rating every song before going to the next album. So far I had roughly 2,300 songs, all with my personal star ratings, so I was quite upset and nervous when I saw all that work had been thrown out.

My guess is that this had something to do with when I went to remove the files from my phone, although I had done this before when I was a Match subscriber last year.I don’t really know. Thankfully I had both a Time Machine backup and a manual iTunes backup from just before switching to iTunes Match. This is how I was able to restore my ratings and find a bit of relief, I just hope this does not happen again.

How I Restored my iTunes Song Star Ratings

This will work only if you have a backup of your iTunes Library file from before the ratings were demolished, the file is iTunes Library.itl

Screenshot of the iTunes Music Library Folder
iTunes Library File

First, remove all of the Smart Playlists in the current Match library, I have had issues with these syncing in the past. Then sync with iTunes Match (File>Library>Update iCloud Music Library) to make sure everything is up to date, also launch Music on your phone and let it sync up. Just to be sure. After all is synced properly, quit iTunes and disconnect from the internet just to keep things from getting out-of-order.

How to update iCloud Music Library (iTunes Match)
How to update iCloud Music Library (iTunes Match)

Lauch iTunes with the Option key held down, and select “Choose Library”, point it to your backup *.itl file from before the rating issue. This should hopefully open a library with all ratings present.

iTunes library selector
Select your iTunes Backup by holding down the Option key and opening iTunes


Now create a Smart Playlist for each star rating.

Screenshot of iTunes Smart Playlist Creator
Smart Playlist selector for star ratings.


Export each playlist as a *.txt file from the File menu.

Screenshot of how to export a playlist in iTunes.
iTunes playlist export menu.

Once done, quit iTunes and load up your current library with iTunes Match, the messed up one with no ratings, you can also reconnect to the internet before launching iTunes.

Just like you had to export each playlist, go through and import each one. You will end up with a regular playlist for each rating you exported. I put mine in a folder just to keep it organized.

iTunes Rating Restore Playlist
Restored playlists of ratings.

Now just go through each playlist, select all of the songs by using the Command+A shortcut and apply the star rating of the playlist!

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.47.31 PM
Right click after selecting all of the track in the selected playlist.


That should do it, you can also create a list of Loved trackes if you have those in your libreary. Be sure to keep frequent backups, Time Machine worked great for me as I was able to select a backup point just a few hours before the problem showed itself. Let me know if this helped or if you are having any issues, maybe I can help!