Thursday, October 24, 2013

Keeping a Car Log with Google Calendar

Keeping a log of all activity related to your car is very useful. Without needing to rely on memory, a concrete record can make it easy to answer questions about your car, such as how many miles you drove in the past year, when your last oil change was, or what was done in your last service appointment.

Originally I kept my car log on paper in my car, as you can see below:

However, once I got my Android smartphone, I found an even neater way: to use Google Calendar. This has several advantages:
  • You can access the car log on your cell phone (= anywhere) and on your computer
  • You don't need to worry about misplacing it
  • You can search for specific events (like "oil change")
  • You don't need to take up space with a pen and paper
  • You can set up reminders for appointments
    • On my phone, I can set it up so that I get notifications before every event

Creating your car log calendar

1. Open Google Calendar in your web browser
2. Click on the drop down arrow next to My calendars and select "Create new calendar" 

3. Name your new calendar something like "car log" or "Lexus ES350 car log"
4. Give your calendar a color
5. Sync the calendar on your smartphone. Below is a screenshot from my Motorola Atrix 4G:

Repeat this for each car you own. In other words, one calendar per car.

From here on...

Just keep updating your calendar. With every event, it is also a good idea to note the mileage of your car (even the PSI of each tire could be useful).
  • Every time you have an appointment
  • Every time something goes wrong ("bumped back left bumper into tree", "car vandalized at office parking lot", "car engine light came on")
  • Every time you renew your DMV paperwork for this car
  • (optional) Every time you fill up gas, including the cost of the gas and number of gallons

Sample event

4600 miles, 32 PSI all tires

Stepped on acceleration very fast a few days ago and heard sounds similar to as if I was going over speed bumps.
My check engine light came on today.

I called the dealership. Susan says the acceleration probably did not cause the issue and asked me to tighten my gas cap. I did so. She says that if I wait a day, the light should go out. If it does not, I should call back.


One area this solution does not address is receipts and other car-related paper documents. If you got a receipt for an oil change, for example, how would you integrate it with this solution? Currently, what I do is digitize all paper documents (scan or take a photograph) and keep a separate folder in my computer for them. Of course, the downside is that you can only access these files from your computer (unless, of course, you maintained this folder in the cloud, such as in Google Drive).
Folder containing receipts for E320

Google Calendar Attachments

Google Calendar actually does have a beta feature to attach documents to calendar events. However, the Android app currently does not support this feature (as of 2013/11/4). Anyways, this is another option to keep in mind.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sources of Physical Mail

When considering a Change of Address, it is important to know that certain mail and packages may not be forwarded to your new address. For example, an important document your bank is sending to you through UPS will not automatically be forwarded. For this reason, it is a good idea to manually update your mailing address with each of the organizations sending you mail ASAP.

Here is a list of common sources of physical mail:
  1. Friends and family
  2. DMV
  3. IRS
  4. Online stores such as Amazon or eBay
  5. Advertisers
  6. Medical providers and insurance companies
  7. Dental providers and insurance companies
  8. Vision-care providers and insurance companies
  9. Motor insurance companies
  10. Car dealership and clubs
  11. The company you work at
  12. Banks
  13. Financial investment companies (401k, stocks)
  14. Airlines
  15. Hotels
  16. Credit card companies
  17. Shopping stores
  18. Utilities
  19. Internet
  20. Cell phone
  21. Educational institutions
  22. Debt collectors... don't worry they will find you!
  23. If you own a business:
    1. your clients
    2. the city your business is registered in

Personally, I prefer to have everything sent to me electronically where possible and most companies are happy to provide this option. However, even in this digital age, physical mail is still important.

Also, note that there do exist programs to opt-out of junk mail, spam phone calls, among other things. Some of these programs can be found on this page maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Google Calendar: Repeating Events on Every 5th Sunday

The Trick

Click on the first day of the series in Google Calendar and type 'My Event, fifth Sunday of every month, 12:30-3:00' in the "What:" field:

Modify details as necessary.

The Story

I use Google Calendar as my primary calendar. Having an Android phone, this is quite convenient, as I can not only pull up my calendar at any time, but am also able to set reminders which deliver notifications to my phone.

Just today, I ran into a problem: how do I get an event to repeat on every 5th Sunday of the month? Through the Google Calendar interface, the only options for repeating seemed to be on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and last Sunday of the month.
At this point, I decided it was time to consult Google... Looking through different forum posts, I found this solution and posted it here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Your Own Business

Business time
Having been in the working world for a few years, I have often heard from others how powerful having your own business could be. This came in the form of phrases like "freedom from the job" and "storage space for one's own ideas." With this document, I would like to make sense of this concept as part of the foundation for my own business.

Having started my career as an independent software consultant for two and a half years and now having transitioned to a full-time software development job at HP for 8 months, I have had the opportunity to experience both sides of the spectrum. From this experience, I can say that there are quite a few differences between running your own business and working as an employee for another company.

Below, I list what running your own business means:
  • You can choose the field you want to work in based on your interests and skills.
  • You can choose who you do business with.
  • You can structure your own working hours.
  • You are in full control of the integrity and standards of your business.
  • You are more prone to lawsuits from clients.
    • Much of this relates to who you do business with.
    • There are ways to protect your personal assets, such as forming an LLC.
  • Your tax situation is more complex (self-employment tax, business deductions, etc.).
  • You are responsible for marketing your business and finding clients with whom to work with.
  • You are responsible for your own medical insurance and other benefits.
Job freedom
In short, your own business is the storage space for your own ideas, while other businesses are the storage space for other people's ideas. Running your own business grants you a great deal of flexibility and freedom, but, at the same time, requires a lot of "smarts." To be successful, you need to not only understand your field, but to also understand the business world. For example, I could work as a software developer at HP solely with my knowledge of Computer Science, relying on the managers to deal with business. However, for me to run my own software consulting business, I would need to open up to the big world, keeping in mind things like customer support, marketing, business law, business taxation, product documentation, quality assurance, and company reputation.