Cheap LED Grow Lighting

Today we have widely available and excellent cheap LED grow lighting, but there are far more scams than good deals. I have done a great deal of research on the best and most cost-effective, efficient ways to light indoor growing spaces. Here is what I have learned.

Avoid anything with “grow” or “plant” in the name. These products are essentially identical but often up to an order of magnitude more expensive for no reason.

Look for “shop” or “utility” in the name instead. Modern broad spectrum cheap LED grow lights are interchangeable. Anything with white light, whether warm or cold is going to work just fine for plants. If you get into industrial grow operations at large scale, then eventually, it will make sense to do further research on exactly which spectrum your plants need and to use more specialized lights. This will probably provide a single-digit increase in output. That makes sense at large scale but for home grow operations, regular white light works just fine.

 

High lumens are key. LED Grow lights should be at least 3000 or 4000 lumens. Three or four of these will keep dozens of plants happy and let them grow. This can be achieved with a single spotlight like the one pictured below which I love, or with linked fluorescent-style lights which illuminate a larger area.

Another important thing to keep in mind whenever you are using led grow lights is that they need to be on some kind of timer. There are two main ways of accomplishing this. The old-school way is to use a mechanical timer. These are cheap and simple to set up and use but they have several drawbacks compared to the other way of solving this problem…

Personally, I recommend using smart plugs instead of the old fashioned mechanical timers. They accomplish the same timing for your lights, but they have several advantages. A big advantage for me is being able to check on them from elsewhere to be sure they are working. For example, if the power goes out for an hour, mechanical timers will have their cycle thrown off. This may confuse your plants into thinking the seasons are changing which can have negative side effects. Smart plugs check the time when the power comes back on and everything continues as normal. They also tell you how much power the lights are using over time. This is helpful for budgeting and diagnostic purposes.

I did a lot of hunting around online and testing with my own grow operations using both mechanical timers and smart sockets. I really like the cheap chinese smart plugs on Amazon which can be had for under $15. These are actually cheaper than the old fashioned mechanical timers depending on where you get them. I can’t recommend this strategy highly enough.

smart plug

 

Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast: The Edge of Humanity with Yuval Harari

This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard. They cover the history and future of humanity, and the current transition between two different kinds of cultural conflict. In the past, humans fought oppressive tyrants who exploited them. In the future, humans face the new prospect of being completely irrelevant, while the tyrants saunter on as though nothing has changed.

Billionaires+AI are the new ruling aristocracy, further than ever from the reach of the average person. What can we do about it? What does it mean for democracy? What does a realistic future look like and how do we get there?

Check it out for yourself!

Transgender History by Susan Stryker

I read this book as part of a LGBT studies class at Sierra College for my degree in Social Justice. It’s a great read and eponymously covers the history of an important marginalized group in America; transgender people.

As always, I am happy to share the audiobook with any friends who want a copy.

This book is an excellent introduction to many of the concepts and terms related to the history of transgender issues in America. There is a big focus on intersectionality and the related history of the women’s movements and the LGBT movement.

One thing I especially liked is the way she compares gender and sexual orientation to language. Humans are definitely wired to have language, but we are not wired with a particular language. Likewise, we are wired for sex, orientation, and gender, but not for a specific sex, orientation, or gender.

Plan: DJ-CJ

I have owned this company for 15 years since I started it at age 14. My strategy has always been to accept essentially any work. I want to narrow my focus and think more strategically. Different types of gigs come with enormously different amounts of work, reward, and prestige.

I’m done with schools. These are stressful jobs which don’t pay well. I may outsource this to a contractor in order to continue to leverage that segment, but I don’t want to work school gigs anymore. The kids are always mean, and I spend all my time mediating between the opposite wants of kids and their parents. It’s not worth it.

I want to focus primarily on two weekly residencies at dive bars. I want to set up an 80s dance party which benefits a worthy cause, as well as a weekly hard techno night (In the Berghain sense) which more closely resembles San Francisco’s underground sex party scene. This is a very complex and challenging pair of weekly events which should prove a very challenging and engaging project. Currently I am looking at Wednesday and Thursday nights but I do not have venues in mind yet.

Weddings are a very high ticket gig which is also a high stress gig. It’s worth it, and I really should be doing more of these. I usually gross about $1k/gig. Stress is no excuse for ignoring such a lucrative market segment.

Third, I want to expand my probono work. I have some of the best sound equipment in the world, and I can literally give a mic to worthy groups in need.

Revenue Goals

My first goal is to make $200/week in revenue from these two weekly diverbar events.

My second goal is to do one wedding a month at that $1k price.

These two goals make up $1800/month in revenue. This is just shy of half of my overall monthly revenue goal for the open revenue project. In order to fulfil my overall goal that each of three project should supply at least 20% of an overall revenue of $4,000, this means I should have two other projects grossing at least $800 each. This still leaves me $600 shy of the $4,000 goal.

Plan: Bolt Action

I had the worst time trying to source a set of lag bolts for Burning Man online this year. I found them listed on Amazon for as much as $50 a set. This is absolutely insane. I went to the hardware store and put together a set from scratch which cost about $6.

I intend to put together sets like this and list them on Ebay and Amazon at prices which dramatically undercut the competition. The beauty of it is that I can use JIT to eliminate all startup costs by simply waiting until a set sells to purchase the parts.

I have the strong feeling that this will be a seasonal business which peaks just before Burning Man, but there is no harm in starting now.

Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky

This was a great book. I think it pairs naturally with Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People,  Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, and his other book, The Art of Seduction.

Hillary Clinton famously wrote her dissertation about the work of Saul Alinsky, inventor of community organizing. Obama famously made this his career before politics. This book is Alinsky’s magnum opus. There are lots of great and timeless examples for organizers who want to be effective at making change happen. The book boils down to this simple list of rules;

  1. “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
  11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

My Open Revenue Dashboard

Following as I often do, the example of Pieter Levels, I have decided to create an open and public page to show progress towards my revenue goals with several of my projects. This allows me to hold myself accountable and to show hard numbers related to the writing I’m doing.

Dashboards are a valuable tool which helps us to define clear and measurable metrics for concisely tracking and communicating progress towards goals. This is an excellent tool for business as well as for our personal lives.

Methods

I have seen several different approaches to accomplishing this type of dashboard. Many of them have included attempts to develop the dashboard itself from scratch in order to prove the ability to do so. Instead, I have decided to go for a serverless approach. I will simply use a Google sheets document and then publish a connected graph onto the page. I will simply add data to the spreadsheet and then Google will update the graph pictures automagically. No reason to overcomplicate this.

I want to follow two main metrics; total monthly revenue by project, and revenue mix.

You can view the dashboard here: cjtrowbridge.com/open.

2018 Goals

We have only a few months left in 2018, but I have one simple goal to track on this new platform I have put together.

  • At least three projects have monthly nonzero revenue numbers.

A major abstract goal for me this year is diversification of my revenue sources. They say that the average millionaire has seven sources of income. Too many wantrepreneurs today are spending a huge amount of time and effort on a single project. Any failure or challenges in that project have an outsized impact on the livelihood and security of the entrepreneur. If the goal is to build a lifestyle business, it doesn’t make sense to spend so much time on any one thing. Thus entrepreneurial diversification is a no brainer.

I want to have at least three significant sources of income by the end of the year. Each one should produce at least 20% of my total revenue. This means problems in one project can not have an outsized impact on my livelihood.

2019 Goals

  • Each of three projects produces at least 20% of total revenue.
  • Total monthly revenue exceeds $4,000.

Here is where I track the total amounts generated by each project. The difference here is that I am showing the top lines, not the mix. Most entrepreneurial thought leaders advise starting with a number for how much profit you need to live. This number is often called MRR or monthly recurring revenue. I am currently a student who does not need to have any income. Thus, I am less focused on the total than on coming up with a steady nonzero amount for each project’s revenue. I have set an arbitrary goal by the end of next year of $4,000 MRR which is how much I was making at the dead-end job I had about a year ago.

Inspirations

Pieter Levels

Several figures are main inspirations for this project. Chief among them is Pieter Levels. His open revenue dashboard shows his several projects and monthly revenue, along with a graph. His dashboard also shows the status of many serverless bots which perform tasks to facilitate his projects. This is an interesting idea which I will look into once my projects are better established.

Andrey Azimov is another interesting case, and a friend of Pieter Levels. I have been following his progress on a very similar open revenue dashboard on his site. His dashboard also includes the interesting feature of an overall progress bar towards his MRR goal. I may incorporate this at some point, but I believe it would require a refactoring of my serverless strategy for this project. Andrey’s dashboard also includes a countdown to the deadline for his MRR goal. I think this is an interesting approach which could enable additional analytics about trends and progress.

Blueprints and Cost Projections

Blueprints

As you can see here, four side-facing murphy beds are at the rear of the trailer. These can fold up and down to allow lots of extra storage while in transit.

Two Ikea 2×4 Kallax shelves are mounted to the walls just forward of the beds. These allow plenty of personal storage for campers.

The very front wall of the trailer is covered with storage and appliances. These include a battery bank, a microwave, and a portable travel toilet as well as pantry space and a flatscreen tv.

 

 

Cost Projections

The biggest cost is the trailer itself at around $5,000 new. I am planning for a 7×14 trailer. This will also serve as storage and transportation for my DJ gear and other projects while not in use as a travel trailer.

Next is the power bank. I want to get a Yeti GoalZero 3000 for this project, at $3,000. This will be able to store the power I am expecting to produce from the roof-mounted solar panels while also providing enough continuous power for all the lights and appliances I am planning for. Several small redundant power banks will run things like lights and air circulation, just like I did with my grid at Burning Man 2018.

The solar array is less pricey than the batteries. Nine panels fit neatly on the roof. I plan to get these from the highly reputable company Renogy at a cost of just $1070.91.

Next is the beds. I want to get four memory foam twin-sized mattresses at a total cost of $1,134. I have back problems, so I prefer to only sleep on memory foam mattresses.

I also want to include a microwave. Using these to boil water and heat up hungry man meals is a simple solution which is well within the power production I have planned for the solar array. This will cost just $50.

In the future, I may add refrigeration.

Takeaways

Another amazing year at Burning Man! The man burn was amazing as you can see in this video…

 

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The man has burned! 365 days until the man burns.

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Probably the most dangerous thing I saw was this installation which I did NOT climb…

The Temple Galaxia was beautiful as expected. What a stunning homage to the incredible work of Isaac Asimov.

 

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Your days are numbered, Temple. Tonight is the night!

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My camp stunned as well. I am so proud to call Comfort and Joy my home.

 

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Missing home.

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Winner Is

Of everything I brought with me, my favorite possession during the burn was definitely my blender bottle. I actually got it for free from Soylent when I first started but they are just a few bucks on Amazon. (I took the mixer ball out before heading to Burning Man.)

I found that this was the perfect drinking vessel on playa. It doesn’t hold flavors between drinks. I dropped it many times and it never came open. It snaps easily to anything with a carabiner. And it rinses clean with no hassle.

Lessons

The two-tent strategy was a complete failure. If anything, it just made it hotter in the mornings, and it was way too big. I felt like I was hogging half the playa with my set up.

I’m very glad that I brought my own power in the form of a battery. I didn’t need any grid power the whole burn. I will certainly do this again, though I may get something bigger because….

I want to bring a swamp cooler next year. I have plans to build something very efficient and solar powered. 😀

Having a self-inflating mattress was nice, but I think I’d rather just use a cot. Topping off the mattress pressure every night was a hassle and made me feel like an obnoxious neighbor. Also it takes up a lot of space, and I don’t like the squishiness. I would prefer something firmer next time (Like a cot).

Next Time

As is a common theme on my blog, I feel like I brought too much stuff.

I think I will ditch the mattress next time, and both tents. Instead, I want to do either a Shiftpod 2 or some kind of stealth trailer. Everyone had a lot of positive things to say about Shiftpods, and I have never heard anyone complain. Also, the fact that they are impossible to find used tells me that their owners like them.