And Like That, We’re Nearly Back To Work.

I’ve been off work for the better part of a week now, and it has felt amazing. In fact, if I’m honest, I really do not want to go back to work.

My week off was only possible thanks to an incredible effort from everyone at work, allowing us to get as much work done as possible before the holidays. But we did it, and, save for about an hour on Wednesday when I had to go back into work mode to file some paperwork, the server has remained off, there has been no video editing, and I’ve not had any guilt about it.

I really DO need to work less.

This year has, frankly been fully of work-related shit. Stress, long hours, and the fear of never being quite in control of everything. I’ve been gaslit more than a little, and in my darkest moments, the hateful comments got to me. The comments that said I was a fraud, a liar, and subhuman.

Believe me, without those comments, I’ve felt like an absolute fraud, and I’ve felt irrelevant and untrendy. And when I stopped working last week, I had some serious doubts about the future. But… maybe, just maybe, after ra week off, things are looking up.

Looking up a little, at least.

Next year is the U.S. Presidential Election Year. Lots could go wrong, and lots could metaphorically blow up. As a trans immigrant, I really, really do not want you_know_who to get back in, because if he does, and he sticks to his stump speeches, I, and others like me, might not see the end of his reign of terror. second term. It does keep me awake at night, and combined with the crap we get every single day on YouTube… It fu**s you up.

You know though? While my mental health hasn’t been the best, I’m actually starting feel like there’s some good stuff coming. So let’s go there.

This holiday season, we spent it mainly at home. ‘Amerikate’s been working on insulating the garage (aka, finishing it), and the space is already starting to look amazing. I’m so proud of what she’s accomplished, and frankly, I’ve had very little to do with it.

Our garage ceiling, with R38 insulation. It needs to be finished, but we're making good progress.

So far, the only thing I’ve really done is help ensure some cables are hidden away, as well as make sure that an old power socket the previous owner had put in got replaced with something safe.

Safe? Yeah. Safe. They’d taken a 14/2 cable run for a lighting circuit and simply spliced a metal box in the middle of the run, adding two outlets that, it turns out, weren’t properly grounded. I didn’t find this out until I actually started to take the box away from the rafter it was screwed to. It was bad. Those with knowledge of electrical code should look away… now…

A metal electrical box that had been screw to the rafters. It had been installed by simply cutting the cable in half and twisting the earth wires together. It was not grounded. And when we removed the outlet, the live wire snpapped off.
The replacement - a junction box, proper wire connectors, and a new 14/2 wire joining the two halves of the cable together. Oh, and a properly installed socket for lightning.

In addition to the amazing things ‘Amerikate is doing, I’ve been slowly moving away from Phillips Hue and toward ESP-home equipment (I’ll show you how in a second) But first I want to say why. First, Phillips has changed its policies concerning user data for Phillips Hue, and it’s also pushing back against its users using things like Home Assistant to have true control of their home. And second, it’s the latest in a long-line of companies looking at changing their user policies, including Chamberlain, which has cut off access to its MyQ product for any third-party application.

I’ve used Home Assistant for many years, and so having companies like this change how we can use our data – and use their products in our home – was a bit of a final straw. Add to this EnelX, the company that acquired the JuiceNet range of products, which has managed to take a very good, usable product and make it unusable. Worse still, they’ve forced customers to migrate to a new software platform that’s worse than what came before, and lacks as many features. It’s shitty. (And yes, I have plans there, but that’s for a future post).

So, this week, I’ve been going from Phillips Hue bulbs (which are expensive, unreliable, and now gleefully share your usage data over the Internet), to a completely in-house system using open-source software.

Behold ESPHome, and the various adaptations that exist to allow you to take devices built around ESP chipsets and make them run under your control. Muahahaha.

So far, I’ve been using Sonoff NSPanels flashed with ESPHome and displaying data thanks to NSPanel HA Blueprint, as well as various relays from Shelly that have also been flashed with ESPHome.

Flashing isn’t for the faint of heart, but with a little programming know-how, and the right jumper leads, you can easily flash both of these with ESPHome, and go from the stock firmware they each shipped with (that relied on the Cloud) to something that works on your local network (and that you control the data of completely).

An NSPanel running ESPHome.

So far, my office and the master bathroom have NSPanels in them, and the Master Bedroom has Shelly2 Dimmer control. Then, the dining-room and Kitchen area both have the Shelly Dimmer AND NSPanel integration, and hopefully by the end of this holiday, more panels will be up and active.

I’ve also been digging into the YAML configuration file and learning about automations. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s been fun. Oh, and we also used ESPHome to flash Emporia Vue2 energy monitors to… you’ve guessed it, dump their stock firmware (firmware that calls home to their cloud service) and use a new firmware that doesn’t.

Our main breaker panel, with all our circuits wearing fancy current clamps...

I know. It’s a bunch of stuff. It looks like a mess, but honestly, it’s neat, because I can take that data (I LOVE data), and I’m already making smarter choices – like making sure our servers are completely off when we don’t need them. If you want to know a little more, watch this video (shameless plug)

PowerFlow Plus card from Home Assistant,t showing where our power is going - and where it came from.

Outside of the nerdy, I’ve finally started my prep work for the new growing season. I’ve got my garlic in, and I’ve also weeded one of my herb planters. It’s happening, yo.

Finally, let’s look at the dogs, who are doing amazingly well, and are always happy of a ball, regardless of the time of day.

River, a yellow Labrador, Ghost, a trim-colored blue merle Border Collie and Skye, a black and white Border Collie. They love their play time, regardless of the time of day.

Anyway. Enough. I talked a lot and said nothing. But hey, the year is nearly over, and… I’m glad. Here’s hoping next year isn’t as tough.


P.S. If you’re in the U.S. and can vote, now is the time to make sure you’re registered to do the thing.