Epic Road Trip Planner 2023 Year In Review

Epic Road Trip Planner  2023 Year in Review Building in Public A few years ago, I set out to plan an extended family cross-country road trip , and was flabbergasted at just how annoying and time-consuming it was to do so. It was a chore. It IS a chore. In early 2023, I founded Epic Road Trip Planner on the not-so-novel idea that both planning AND taking an epic road trip could actually be an enjoyable experience -- NOT a chore.  I firmly believe in building in public, so now that we've got the better part of a year behind us, I'd like to share a bit about how it went and what's next. Bottom Line Up Front In 2023, over 15,000 Epic Road Trip Planner users planned almost 20,000 road trips. I genuinely hope you all took every last one of them, and had an absolutely amazing time! 2023 Timeline The first very basic prototype of Epic Road Trip Planner went live online Monday, March 13. Just a few days later, I took a little trek up to Stemma Brewing Company in Bellingham to atte

It Is NOT Bright Red, It Is NOT Spurting, and YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!

It Is NOT Bright Red, It Is NOT Spurting, and YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE! WARNING: Do not read this story if you are squeamish about blood! Copyright (c) 2009, Timothy A. Johns Be careful what you tell your kids. Not because they might hold it against you later, or they aren't ready for it yet, or you might warp them for life somehow, or all of the other obvious reasons to be careful what you tell your kids. Be careful what you tell your kids because they might remember it with the emphasis on the wrong details... First, a confession of sorts, and I'll just put it right out there (and some of you won't believe me): I faint at the sight of blood. Actually, that's not right. I faint at the sight of MY blood. Actually that's not right either. I faint at the THOUGHT of the sight of MY blood. (and as I write this I quite seriously don't feel so good all the sudden...) I first discovered this little 'issue' at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when my company First Sergeant d

Jumping Back Into the Arena

I've been a bit busy.  That's like the world's most terrible, overused excuse, but I feel like I owe an explanation why this is the first blog post I've written in a couple of years. I was really focused on Tiller Money, so between that amazing company and my own family, the reality is I just didn't feel like making blogging a priority for a while. No more excuses, though - I left Tiller earlier this summer, on great terms, after a truly wonderful five years. I still love that team and the service. Tiller is doing an incredible job helping people with their personal finances, but, to put it concisely, I was getting 'antsy'. I took the summer off to spend with family and figure out what I wanted to do next. Now the kids are back in school (well, sort of, anyway), the leaves are turning, the rain has started falling, AND the furnace kicked in yesterday - all good cues for me to get back to work. I'm not just back to blogging though, I'm straight-up jum

Money For College - Persistence Pays Off. Literally.

I work at Tiller Money , where last week, Ed, our marketing lead, asked me to write up just a couple of short paragraphs for " What is one thing (big or small) you wish you could teach your college-age self about money? " True to form, when I have something to say, nobody can get me to shut up, so I wrote up what was probably WAY more than he needed, and trimmed it down for that post. The result was a concise, honest, earnest bit that fit nicely into that larger piece. The trimmed-down version lost a little of my tongue-in-cheek whiney vibe (which -- perhaps secondary to excessive verbosity -- is also my style). I don't think that style is the best fit for our company blog, but is ABSOLUTELY a good fit for my PERSONAL blog. So here you go; the long form, in all it's whiney, parenthetical, not-terribly- concise glory! Ed asked -- what is one thing (big or small) you wish you could teach your college-age self about money? Well, I was lucky; I happen to

High CPU Steal On AWS Burstable Instances

Seeing High CPU Steal on AWS Burstable Instance Types? At Tiller , we were, too. We have some backend systems that process data offline, using a job processing system that we’ve set up in a one layer of an AWS OpsWorks stack, using a node-based Agenda job processors running on t2.small instances. We’ve been having some subtle problems for a while, that we finally reached a point we could no longer ignore, and so we looked in deeper. The symptoms were that, after a while, an instance in that layer becomes busy enough to start missing deadlines and generating significant numbers of errors. We noticed a high amount of CPU Steal on those instances, at those times, and initially thought we might be suffering from the ‘noisy neighbor’ problem. Turns out it wasn’t a noisy neighbor: it was us.  Spoiler alert: our choice of instance type and job processor algorithm weren’t really a good match. This outstanding blog post by Leonid Mamchenkov was a great help in figuring this out,

A Lesson in Entrepreneurship From Playing Chicken With a Squirrel

The following is a blog entry I originally wrote many years ago, for humor value. Re-reading it again this morning, I realized it illustrates at least one personal, striking lesson in entrepreneurship.  I went to college in the early 90's in East Texas, where a man is often equated with the truck he owns. I say 'often', because if it were 'always', then my roommate John would have been the biggest, nastiest, most gargantuan creature of all time. And he would have smoked and rattled. To get back and forth between our house and school (or maybe it was suggested by their home owner's association), John's family gave him their big, old, 1974 Ford Extended Cab pickup, formally known as The Guck. Now remember in 1974, American automobiles were BIG. 1974 was the first year for the extended-cab, so Ford made that BIG, too. And it had a camper. A BIG camper. This gargantuan beast was so big, we actually measured the carport before his parents brought it up, just t

Google Calendar Chart Visualization of A Day in the Life of My Diabetic Daughter

My 9 year old daughter Darcie has Type 1 Diabetes, and we use a Google Sheet to track her blood sugar, carb intake, and a couple of other important T1 details. She enters data on a Google Form, and it's populated in the corresponding Google Sheet. We have a number (a large number...) of charts we use to visualize what's going on there.  We, along with her endocrinologist, use the log and the charts to help determine what tweaks we need to make to her insulin regimen to keep her safe and healthy. To see a good visual representation of what goes on with her blood sugar over time, and especially to tell if her school routine, summer routine, and weekend routine are all on track, all along I would have loved to have had a Calendar Chart . We've been working on some pretty cool interactive Calendar Charts over at Tiller , and I'm already totally hooked on using this kind of chart to help me understand my spending habits, so also using them to visualize blood sugar checks i