Ultra-cheap DIY Pool heater – $50

Pools are a lovely thing, but my crew and I are a bit particular when it comes to the temperature. At least, most of us (I have a couple that will almost break the ice to get in the water!). Regardless, 78 degrees wasn’t cutting it even though it hot/humid enough to feel like melting.

GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater, Made for Intex & Bestway Above-Ground and Inground Pools, Includes Intex Adapters, 2 Hoses & Clamps

There are tons of options out there, ranging from gas to electric to solar.  We didn’t want an ongoing expense, and most solar are well over $100 for a 2x4ft surface area. Thing is, my other half is a bit more on the frugal side than I am, which I take to be a challenge … can I make it cheaper and better than “the other guy?”

Better is fairly easy. It’s not hard to compete with a whopping 8 square feet of surface area, which is the key to anything solar.  More surface = more Sun = more potential heat to absorb.  But it’s the cheaper aspect that sometimes eludes me. Better for more expensive is always doable, but it’s just not quite the same.  Even better for same price just doesn’t feel as much of an accomplishment.

So back to the dilemma at hand.  My big is is hook-ups. Since we have an above ground Intex, it uses some funky-size threads that don’t simply connect to threaded PVC, etc.  And I don’t have my normal supplies with me at this location.  But it’s okay, I grew up watching MacGyver (you know, the actual decent version with Richard Dean Anderson – I didn’t even know he had a real name until Stargate: SG1).

I started with 500ft of black drip irrigation hose for $45.99.  My original intent was to tie them in using standard garden hose connectors. That’s another $12, but it’s a three-pack, so you’ll have a spare (and technically, it’s $4 each.  The beauty of these particular adapters is the sizing of the external components that fit perfectly with my Intex. Some quick math tells us that this tubing, with a .634in outer diameter immediately offers 26.4 square feet right off the bat ((.634*500*12)/144).  That’s pure hose surface areas (the commercial heater also has gaps between its tubes).  Total win.

However, I was still left with the “How do I tie it into the system?” conundrum.  Now, if I was doing this long term, I’d figure out a PVC connection or perhaps use a Beluga conversion.  The Beluga attached to you output connection and converts it to a garden hose adapter.  That’d be perfect, except that it’s an extra $47 and, for Intex, requires a conversion piece for another $20.  It’s eloquent, but more than doubles my current costs.

But it got me thinking.

Turns out the output shroud on the Intex has a hole big enough to allow the tubing through, but not the garden hose adapter, which fits snuggly inside the inner piece.  Voila! I put it on in the morning and take it off at dusk – I get a few extra hours since the entire pavement heats up and continues to radiate heater.

I’ll likely put it all on a neater looking piece of plywood and cover with clear plastic to keep the wind from turning it into a radiator. It will end up looking something closer to this:

Tag: DIY Solar Pool Heater Black Hose | Half Ass Craftsman

That said, it may get so hot here in the Summer that I have to use it as a radiator at night to cool down the pool!

The pump runs a lot in the evening and overnight to filter water. It’s dedicated to solar heater duties during the day. Given its an impeller pump, I’m not too worried about it overheating.

Water in: 78 degrees.  Water out: 95 to 120 degrees (depending on the sun, cloud cover, etc.).

Future upgrades: I have a submersible bilge pump that runs on 12V. I suspect that will be a long term solution given I can put a timer on it and I have a small solar panel that should keep it running with the help of an old battery.

NOTES: Throughput is very low, but it’s enough. Running non-stop continuously pulls heat out of the tubing. Some argue that you should pulse and let the water heat up more – it shouldn’t matter.  You could help by grabbing a few T’s and splitting things up to reduce the length of the tube sections.  Also, no reason to not get another 500ft of tubing! 🙂

Getting Started with Crypto

Three things are certain in life. You already know about “Death and Taxes.”  Many will simply state that “Change is inevitable.”  I think we can add one more to the list: “Crypto is here to stay.”

You may not understand it. You may not like it. You may not understand it (yes, this one bears repeating!).  But in one what or another – it WILL be a part of your life.  You can choose to stick your head in the sand; you can choose to fully embrace it; or you can try to learn enough to at least see the currents taking place in the world around you.

You’re probably wondering, “Is it legit?” Well, did you know the IRS allows you to invest in cryptocurrencies just like real estate? It’s considered a property (like real estate or stocks/mutual funds), and it comes with all the bells and whistles, to include short-term and/or long-term capital gains.

The cryptocurrecny scene is much like the wild wild west right now. Like the internet in the 90’s. It has a lot going on, it’s yet to be regulated, and each person need to be aware and conduct due diligence. Awareness is the goal at this point.  I’ll cover exactly what cryptocurrencty (and blockchain technology) is in a different post.  The purpose of this post is to simply help you get started? There are a few steps to take.  At a minimum, you’re going to need:

  1. A way to purchase cryptocurrency. We start with an exchange.
  2. A place to store your crypto. We call this a wallet.

Crypto Exchanges

Crypto Exchanges are a lot like stock market exchanges in that you can exchange your fiat (USD) to Bitcoin or one of many other types of cryptocurrency.  There are hundreds, but for now, let’s just focus on Bitcoin, often simply referred to as BTC.  This is the first cryptocurrency and is often referred to as “the gold standard” of crypto.  So how do you “get Bitcoin?”  You can either mine it (a different post) or simply buy it.  Let’s do the latter!


Coinbase is the first/oldest Bitcoin exchange.  While its fees can be quite high, there are ways to minimize (or completely eliminate) most of them.  You can sign up for a Coinbase account by clicking on this link.  If you use this link, Coinbase rewards both of us with $10 worth of Bitcoin.  They don’t really advertise, so this is how they grow.  But if you don’t feel comfortable making ten bucks, then just go directly to their site.

Coinbase has some distinct advantages, but its drawbacks are fees (again, avoidance will come in a later post) and the fact that it only trades in four of the major cryptocurrencies (out of hundreds).  You might be following the news and find yourself wanting to purchase a different crypto like Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), or Monero (XMR). For those, you’ll need a different exchange. Advantage: Convenient purchase of BTC via credit card or bank transfer.

It’s a good idea to register an account with several exchanges, even if you don’t plan on using them right now. Why? Two reasons.  First, with the onslaught of millions of folks registering each month (e.g., December 2018), exchanges sometimes have to pause new user registration. Better to get an account while they are available. You can always just let it sit there unused. The second (and perhaps bigger) reason is that some of the newer coins are often debuted on only one or two exchanges, so if you want to maximize availability and access to different coins, you’ll want multiple options.

For now, I recommend the following two accounts.  That way, they will be available to you when you want to use them. (Note: some exchanges have extensive verification processes that can take a few days; this is to maintain IRS compliance.  Some exchanges allow you to be responsible for submitting your own information to the IRS.  If you’re simply purchasing and holding, they all work acceptably. We’ll cover the Tax Man in a separate post!).


GDAX is actually owned by the same company that owns Coinbase.  You’ll want to  head over to there and create an account with them because GDAX allows you to move your Coinbase funds around (e.g., to your offline wallet) with zero fees. I’ll cover how to do that in another post.  If you’ve verified your account with Coinbase, you won’t have to do it a second time with GDAX.
Advantage: Move/send funds from Coinbase with zero fees.


Binance is often ranked as the number one exchange in the cryptocurrency world, especially for trading in altcoins (alternate coins (to BTC)).  It has experienced exponential growth and it carries a great many cryptocurrencies. Sign up here.
Advantage: A great place to exchange your BTC for other cryptocurrencies.




PAXFUL – Don’t want to use your credit card? Wondering what to do with all those pre-paid gift cards you received for your birthday? Paxful acts as an escrow service and allows you to use prepaid gift cards to purchase bitcoin. You also have the option of Paypal, Western UnionAmazon, Apple, etc. that you can get at CVS or Costco). From what I see, Amazon gift cards are the most effecient with .85 on the dollar ($100 gift card will get you $85 worth of BTC).

Advantage: Purchase BTC anonymously or without bank/credit card.


And whatever exchange (or account) you use – I recommend two-factor authentication (2FA), if available, via an app like Google Authenticator (available for both Android and iOS)


A wallet is where you “store” your cryptocurrency.  Think of it as a safe deposit box. The bank manager has a key (your public address people send funds to) and you have a key (that is required to open it). Crypto-wallets simply store both of these keys. Each crypto currency has its own designate wallet, so you can’t put Bitcoin in your Ethereum wallet or vice versa (that tech is coming, though!).

WARNING: If you lose your private keys (and forget your backup passwords), you WILL NOT be able to gain access to your cryptocurrency.  It’s like chucking cash into a fireplace. It’s gone.  Thankfully, there ARE back-ups, but you need to take them seriously.

There are a few places to store your cryptocurrency, often simply categorized as Hot (connected to the internet) and Cold (not connected to the internet).

Hot Wallets

Exchanges – You can leave your money sitting on the exchanges.  The risk here is that the exchange servers, themselves, might be hacked. It happens to banks, department stores, etc.  For trading and small amounts, it’s probably not a big deal, but this isn’t a preferred long-term solution.  That said, it’s one more reason to have accounts at multiple exchanges since you can diversify your risk. Imagine you had millions of dollars – most millionaires don’t use only one bank.
Advantage: You money is available for fast trading.

Software – You can install wallets on your phone or computer.  This is a LOT safer than exchanges, but if your computer is compromised … well, it’s like banking on your PC.  The difference is that, unlike banking, you have to think of cryptocurrency like cash.  If someone breaks in and steals your cash, it doesn’t matter how good your bank is – they won’t be any help. It’s gone.  If you keep your computer updated, secure, etc., then this option is decent. I wouldn’t trust all of my life’s savings and retirement to it, but you get the idea.

While there are many software wallets to choose from, I personally recommend Exodus.  It is  It’s considered secure and its interface is very intuitive, which is helpful for beginners. It also displays assets in a pie chart on launch, which is convenient to see at a glance – especially since it gives you a fiat estimate based on current prices.  Exodus currently supports nearly 20 different currencies (it maintains a wallet for each behind the scenes), with more on the way. It encrypts locally, for your eyes only, and it has a great development team behind it. Oh, and Exodus has Shapeshift technology, which allows you to exchange different cryptocurrencies without actually having to to to an exchange to trade them (be cautious of fees, however). You can download it here.
Advantage: Secure, intuitive, and multi-currency support. Shapeshift built-in.

Cold Wallets

Hardware Wallet – These are USB devices that support several cryptocurrencies and store your private and public keys on the device. They feature a 2FA (2-factor authentication) with a small LCD screen on the device, itself, which means you could actually use them on a compromised machine without the risk of someone learning your private keys. There are backup procedures, as well, so you’ll want to follow the set-up steps carefully in case something happens to your USB device. The two most reputable hardware wallets on the market right now are the Ledger Nano S and the Trezor.


Advantage: Secure, offline.  Built in 2FA.

Paper wallet – You can actually create a “paper wallet” that stores your public and private keys, referred to as “cold storage,” and which acts much like a bearer bond.  While you can make multiple copies (store one in your safe, one at your parents, and bury the third), when you “sweep” the paper wallet to withdraw from it, the other copies immediately become obsolete.  Imagine having $100 bill in three spot simultaneously. You have the safety of redundancy, but you can only spend it once. You could use paper wallets as a one-way piggy bank, or for long-term investment storage.
Advantage: The ultimate, non-hackable storage option. Think “Bearer Bonds” (with an ability to add more money to them even while they are in a secure location).

Looking for a last minute gift? Make a paper wallet and gift someone .001 BTC (currently worth $12).  Who knows … by the time they cash it, it might be worth $10,000 … or maybe $2. While we will cover creating and using a paper wallet in a later post, one of the more popular sites to create them is https://www.bitaddress.org.


Like we said – this is the Wild Wild West of the 21st Century. I’m not a financial advisor – but I AM interested in helping education people in this new sphere of activity!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with those you know. If there are any corrections you see that need to be made, I’m interested! And, as always, general comments are welcome!


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Hack Your Education – the launch of an uncommon guide to saving time, effort, and sanity with school, papers, research, and more

dinosaur-computer“Welcome to school – where the age of dinosaurs might be ahead of your technological expectations!”

That’s what I sometimes feel like sitting in class.  Well, folks, it’s time for things to change. Surely there’s a better way, right?  Just so happens there is… and that’s what HackYourEd is all about.  I want to help you “hack your education” to help you save time, effort, and money, so that you can focus on what matters: learning and content.

I refuse to date either Kate Turabian or the APA Manual, and since I’m entering a doctoral program (admittedly, for the second time), I’m determined to help my fellow sojourners join the 21st Century.

Mimicry is our goal.  We want it to “look just like” the sample paper your school gives you.  Identical output in every way.  It’s the input we’re changing, and that’s where we reap the most benefits.

To get us started, we’re going to look at a short list of programs & tools with thumbnail sketches – it’s my top five.  I’ll eventually identify more tools, and we’ll discuss quite a few others and why we’re not going to use them in upcoming weeks.  I’ll come back to each of these soon with some in depth posts on how to hack them and make them work better for us, but for now, this should get you started.  Note that most of these programs are either Open Source Software or their free versions are useful, which means they won’t cost you any money!

Top Five Tools to Use

Libreoffice_icon_mix1) Word Processor: LibreOffice – Think “free office suite.”  LibreOffice (LO) can do 99% of everything Microsoft Office (MSO) can do plus another 15% Microsoft only dreams about.  And let’s face it… Microsoft changes layout, buttons, and file format stuff more often than a white unicorn changes colors when flying through a rainbow.  It’s frustrating, to say the least.  A bonus is that LibreOffice will open and save .doc files (better than MSO in many cases) and it has some nifty features regarding formatting, better large file handling, one click export to PDF, and more.  I recommend the native file format (.odt) since it is an “open” format and not proprietary like .doc and .docx.  MSO will (finally) open .odt files, as well, even though it took some time for Microsoft to determine that opening a free, open standard format was a good idea. I have .odt files from 15 years ago that, when I open them today, still look the same.  Try that with a .doc file! (Good luck!) Relax, because if you can use MSO, you can use LO. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org (OOo) – they are essentially the same, though LO continued development a few years back when OOo stalled.  OOo has recovered, but LO still has a few advantages, IMHO.  You risk nothing to download it and take it for a spin, so go for it!

2) Bibliographic Management: Zotero – If you’ve ever used RefWorks, EndNote, or ETurabian.com – welcome to your new best friend. Zotero is freedynamic biblio-manager (unlike many others that are either copy-paste static methods, or they cost money).  First, to enter books, use your web browser and gsticker,375x360.u1o to Google Books, Amazon, WorldCat, or any online database (e.g., EBSCO) and pull up your reference material.  Click the Zotero button to import all pertinent information (bonus: you’ll also get a backup, offline copy of any pdf articles you’re reading).  Boom! You’ve got it in your own database.  From within your word processor (LibreOffice or MS Word or OOo), just “insert” a Zotero citation.  Start typing the title and hit enter (you can specify page number here, suppress author, etc.).  WHAM! The footnote is automatically inserted.  When you reach the end, “Insert –> Bibliography” and BAM! You’re done. You read that right… it automatically inserts it ALL.  And if you ever correct something in the database, it can automatically update and correct every reference to that work.  Think on that for a bit. Stylesheets exist for everything from Turabian 8th to APA 6th to SBL 2nd and much, much more.

3) Note Taking: Evernote – Think “digital-filing-cabinet-and-admin-assistant-on-steroids.”  Use Evernote to “Remember Everything.”  This is the first apevernoteheaderp I install on any device, thereby syncing notes across my phone, tablet, pc, and the web.  I jot and tag notes on conversations, articles or books I’m working on, sermons and prayers, etc.  It has built in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which means you can take a picture of text and later search, copy, paste, etc.  This is great for when you see a quote in a book or even on a projector screen presentation! Snap and go.  Business cards, receipts, people, things to remember, etc. – Evernote is your friend! The free version is awesome, but the $50/yr premium is unbelievably awesome and worth every penny to support development! NOTE: The link I’ve provided provides some extra kudos for both you and me.

4) File Security: Dropbox – There are two kinds of people in this world: a) those who backup, b) those who’ll wish they had!  Oh, and if your files are not in three locations (one of which is offsite and all of which are verified) they aren’t really backed up.  That said, Dropbox is really considered a syncing program Dropbox-Logo(and not a backup program). It uses the cloud and syncs files between all your devices.  Though not a “backup” program, the beautiful thing is that you can access earlier revisions of files, restore deleted files, share particular folders with others, annotate, and more!  Use it for all your critical files and never lose a paper again!  I love being able to pull things up on my phone when I have a quick question, too. I also use this in my publishing company to share files between dozens of authors and editors in 8 different countries. NOTE: The link I’ve provided gets you kudos – more free space!

5) Websites: These various websites will save you tons of time.  You likely already have databases to access through your school, but sometimes it’s easier to use a tool you know and love to speed up the initial search.

  • Google Scholar – If you have Google-fu (don’t worry, we’ll get you trained up on this if you don’t!), Google Scholar is one of the fastest ways to figoogle-scholar-logond articles related to what you’re searching.  You can search via author, title, subject, DOI, etc. and sometimes even access the article directly with no database login.  It’s a good way to comb through abstracts and get a feel for a topic before databasing specifics.


  • Google Books – I think the search giant is up to about 50 million scanned books (full content). In theory, you could read an entire book here, but the google-books-logobeauty is that you can easily pull up a direct range of pages from a reference or footnote in a paper you’re reading to see exactly what the original material contains (this is a goldmine for context).  Another feature is the ability to electronically search the hardcopy of many of the books sitting on your shelf.  You can usually access 10-15% of a book with no difficulty.  That said, log into another computer and access another 10-15%, etc.  To be fair, I don’t recommend abusing the system, but in a pinch, one could, say, accidentally forget a book at home they have to review, have a deadline, and read the entire thing to write said review while their spouse is driving down the road on the way to family vacation. Um, or so I’ve heard.


  • Amazon – Crazy, but true, Amazon isn’t just about buying books!  Don’t knock the “helpful” reviews people leave here, or my favorite – “people who amazonbought this also bought…” that shows up at the bottom.  Also, this is a great way to find your specific book by ISBN and “one-click import to Zotero.”  Oh, and as an author, I’m begging you… please leave reviews on books you buy.  They are more helpful than you know!


  • Online Writing Lab (OWL) – Faowl_logoster than a book to find examples of proper formatting, Purdue’s OWL also gives examples you might not find elsewhere.  Need a sample annotated bibliography? They’ve got you covered.  Need some obscure citation format for a reference you’ve only seen once? They’ve got you.


  • WorldCat.org – I’ll be honest: I normally only use WorldCat for Zotero imports when Amazon fails me!  That said, it allows you to find almost any book in WorldCat_Logo_V_Colorlibraries around the world!   You can enter your zip code to see if any are local, but if none are to be found, you can put in for an Interlibrary Loan (ILL).


  • Crossref.org – Another free search opticrossref-logo-150pxon with some easy filters. It’s also a straight up way to find articles via their DOI or find a DOI via it’s link. Helpful for synergizing together a bibliography.


That’s the short list!  Coming down the road, we’ll discuss other areas like books, mindmapping, outline management software, operating systems, and much, much more!

How about you? What tools do you find most useful?

Please let me know in the comments below!

A Working Definition of Worship

I do not take credit for this, but I do agree with it!
A working definition of “worship”:
Worship is communion with God in which believers, by grace, center their minds’ attention and their hearts’ affection on the Lord, humbly glorifying God in response to His greatness and His word.
1.         Worship is communion with God. (Genesis 3:8-9, Revelation 22:1-3)
2.         Worship is an enactment of faith. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
3.         Worship is an appropriation of grace. (Exodus 33:18-23)
4.         Worship is centering attention on God. (Romans 12:2)
5.         Worship is expressing love to God. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
6.         Worship is servant-ministry to God. (Romans 12:1)
7.         Worship is glorifying God. (Philippians 2:10-11)
8.         Worship is response to God. (Isaiah 6:1-8)


cursingCursing is an odd duck in human behavior.

Will Smith’s grandmother once caught him writing a rap song with cursing in it. Her disappointment was apparent, and she simply said, “Curse words are for people too ignorant to express themselves by any other means.”

Awesome quote. In fact, it’s why the Fresh Prince’s music was nearly void of any cursing.

But people – even smart people – do it anyway. Of course, there are also some really smart (and well-respected) people who don’t curse. So clearly, it’s optional.

It’s very common when I walk into a room for someone to “catch themselves” cursing – dropping and f-bomb or some other profanity (isn’t that an interesting descriptive word of what it is – why does society label it as profane?). They quickly recover and usually say, “Oh, sorry Chaps/Reverend/Sir… didn’t see you there.”

My response? “Oh don’t worry about me. I’m not offended in the least. I mean, if you don’t want to be a person of integrity, well, that’s completely your choice.”

That’s when it gets awkward. In fact, they always ask for an explanation. I mean, integrity – particularly in a public venue (even it’s just in front of their friends), is very important to most people.

“If I had my kids with me, would you curse? What if I had a reporter from Navy Times with me? What about if your grandmother was here?”
The answers are always no, no and maybe (hey, not everyone got Granny Smith!”

“Interesting,” and we ponder it together.

“Integrity, in a word, is consistency. Specifically, it is a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and/or principles. It is related to the word (it’s base) integer, which means ‘to be whole and undivided.’ It means being who you are, wherever you are. (While we’re here – doing the right thing when no one is looking is not integrity. It simply requires discipline.)”

“So, if someone curses in one venue, but not in another, they are fractured in their behavior, which means they are not someone of integrity. So like I said, knock yourself out. I’m not upset… just disappointed because I think you’re smarter than that.” I finish with Granny Smith’s quote from so many years ago and call it a day.

So why do so many leaders (and, sad to say, Chaplains) do it? I wish I could say. Perhaps it’s a need to “fit in” – which equates to an unrecognized peer pressure. Perhaps it’s because they think they are above the need to “walk the walk.” Perhaps they just don’t care

Regardless of the reason, as someone who doesn’t curse, I frequently hear about others who do. It’s a conversation the person would never have with those other caregivers or leaders. But the message is clear – and it usually revolves around lack of respect and disappointment. Fun to hang out with? Sure. Someone to go to with serious problems? Usually not… because if they don’t walk the walk with the little things… what will they do with the big ones?

And for those who want to defend the opposing line – I’m not saying people won’t approach or trust them. I am, however, saying that people won’t approach or trust them… as much. And for every engagement, there are clearly many missed ones. Needlessly missed. But go ahead… knock yourself, Mr. or Mrs. Fractured.

Learn a New Language and Become Fluent in One Month

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!  Think learning a new language is impossible?  If it takes 10-15 years to master 100% fluency, it must take 5-7 yrs to master 50%, right?


Besides… who wants to learn just 50%?  The key is to utilize the minimum necessary to acheive the desire results.  And WHAT you learn is far more valuable that HOW you learn… but we can combine both for maximum effect.

If you learn words in a foreign language by frequency, you can achieve:

15 words = 26% fluent
50 words = 33% fluent
100 words = 50% fluent
300 words = 65% fluent
1200 words = 85% fluent
2000 words = 95% fluent (this is truly “conversationally fluent”)

You can get to 95% in 3 month’s (Ferriss’ method) or 1 month (Moser’s method)

You can get to 98% in another ten years.  Don’t know about you, but I’m good with 95%!

Add a couple of hours for sentence structure, but you get the idea (Ferris covers this).


Timothy Ferriss Method – Read this for overview and understanding.

Timothy Ferriss, the author of “The Four Hour Workweek,” “The Four Hour Chef,” and “The Four Hour Body” (all NYT bestsellers for a reason) has some interesting things to say:

Learning Any Language in 3 Months – post (15 min)

Deconstructing a Language – video (10 min)

12 Rules to Learn Any Language in Record Time – post and/or video (1hr total)


Tim Moser Method – Read this to blow your mind

Go from zero to fluency in Spanish in one month (1hr per day).

It’s free. Sign up here.

One you learn the method, you can easily apply it to other languages.


Other Resources

101Languages.net – see word lists and pronunciation

Wikipedia – Word frequency lists

InvokeIt – More frequency lists