Welcome to DevChat #12!

Here's what's we've got for today:

  • 👟 Standing Desk!
  • 🏠 Mortgages Aren't About Ownership

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👟 Standing Desk!

My major project this weekend was a complete overhaul of my workstation. I'm exhausted.

Everyone around me has been using standing desks for quite some time. I've been meaning to do the same for eons, but it's just such a project and can get quite expensive. But I've been cheap with my workspace for my entire life so it was time to do things right. Plus, you know, business expense.

(Using pre-tax dollars is like having things always be on sale 🤑. But then you have to pay employment tax. So... eh... 🤷‍♀️)

I went with Uplift since that's what everyone around me has and they seemed great.

TL;DR: Here's my review. The Uplift desk is stellar, the instructions were easy, and I'm glad I got it.

My new Uplift desk setup.

New Uplift desk setup from behind, showing cable management.

I've found it to be less about standing than it is about having ergonomic height freedom. Being able to have the desktop be at any of a huge range of heights allows adapting the desktop to how tall I am, limitations of other aspects of my space, and simply how I want things set up. I have the seated height a few inches lower than standard desk height so I can finally sit flat-footed without a footrest... Plus I can put it at max height while I'm gone to keep the cats off of it.

The other discovery I made was about height staging. The monitor must sit so that the top is roughly at eye level, and your keyboard must sit so that your elbows are at roughly 90°. This creates a constant height based on your own physiology, but exactly where that puts things relative to your desk depends on how you set it up.

You could have your keyboard on the desk, or mounted under the desk on a tray, or even have it on top of something sitting on your desk. The height of your monitor in all cases is relative to where your keyboard is.

Ther is always the same amount of vertical space between your keyboard and the bottom of your monitor then, too. That vertical space ends up mostly unused because you have to reach over your keyboard to use it. But if you add another level in between the height of your keyboard and the bottom of your monitor, you can have other stuff that's easy to access!

I'm trying this out with my Wacom tablet. I got it last year so that we could do virtual whiteboarding. I ended up barely using it, because it was off to the side. To use it I had to lean over and down, moving my head out of view of my webcam, and my mouth away from my mic, all while being physically uncomfortable.

Now my tablet is on a slightly raised platform in front of my keyboard, so it's an easy reach that will be comfortable enough for short stints.

This strategy of creating a sort of stairway of levels from the keyboard to the bottom of the monitor creates a lot of useable space. This is a particularly good way to organize if you're in virtual meetings all the time since it prevents you from having to move away from your camera and mic.

Speaking of mics, I splurged and got the official Rode boom for my Rode Podcaster. I mounted it through one of the grommets on the desk, which gives it a huge range of motion. Being able to move the mic to wherever my head is is a wonderful life improvement. The fact that it doesn't take up any desk space (by floating above) makes it even better.

And the full desk details, if you're in the market:

On Uplift's site, they have you start with a base choice and then give you a jillion options and possible add-ons. If you're not careful the price can really get up there. The rest of this section is about the choices I made and why.

Desktop: 30" x 60", standard material. That's quite a bit bigger than my previous desk, but still not enormous. I only do things digitally, and almost all of that is programming, so I don't need that much stuff on my desktop. This size is bigger than I need, so I end up with whitespace. That's good for reducing the anxiety I get around clutter and small spaces.

Freebies: They have you choose from among a bunch of "free" accessories. I'm pretty sure that's mostly a psychological trick to make you more likely to spend big bucks on other accessories. I went with the bamboo rocker (so that I can fidget in place while standing) and some other random stuff I don't really need.

Grommets (holes): Regular grommets (those holes you can drop cables through). You can get ones with outlets, but then I'd be plugging stuff into the top of my desk. The whole point of this is to hide all that crap, so plain holes for me!

Casters (wheels): I bought some off Amazon based on the specs. They're not as nice looking, and also smaller (therefore harder to get over bumps), but it was worth saving $30. These desks are heavy, so casters are a good idea.

Power Management: I've grown fond of managing my cables with cheap split-sleave mesh thingies and velcro ties, so I did my own thing for cable management (the pics above show my temporary management, while I await various longer cables and other accessories). My wife has an Uplift and wasn't impressed with their powerstrip, so I found a fairly flat one that looked like it would be easy to mount (with a 10-foot cord -- I'm quite glad I didn't go shorter).

Controller: You can choose from a handful of options for how you'll control the height of your desk. I followed the recs others gave me and got the one that stores 4 positions in memory. I highly recommend it, since you can then just push a button for each working scenario instead of having to fiddle with it.

PC Holder: This is the only accessory I splurged on. My wife has one, so I got to see it in action. It consists of some hardware to hang a PC tower from the bottom of the desk, so that the tower travels with the desktop. This was the right move since the alternative would be some wild cable management issues. My main issue with the holder is that it wasn't designed with gamers in mind: my big-ass case is wider than can fit stably. I've got some ratcheting tie-downs on the way to fix that right up.

My goal with my setup was to keep it reasonably cost-effective without missing out on things that would dramatically improve my workstation life.

🏠 Mortgages Aren't About Ownership

Most of my weekend went into building my new desk and then re-re-reorganizing my workspace and cables. The rest went into trying to make the final decisions about a mortgage refinance I'm working on.

If you're wondering if I'm truly going to get into the weeds about mortgages right now... you're correct. We'll only take a few steps into the thicket.

(I'm not a financial advisor so, you know, be careful when listening to me about this stuff.)

My wife and I have been going through the refinancing process for a couple of weeks now ("refinancing" is literally just "getting a different mortgage"). I've found it difficult to reason about. There are a lot of variables moving at once and so it's hard to know what choices to make.

In general, for a mortgage you'll be choosing the term (e.g. 15, 20, or 30 years), how much to pay up front, whether or not you want to pay "points" (pay now to decrease your interest rate), get paid "credits" (the bank pays you now to increase your interest rate), and some other factors. Some of those choices are made for you by your circumstances (how much you can afford to pay upfront, and per month, etc).

In looking at my options, it seemed obvious that the shortest term and the lowest interest rate would always be best. Shorter terms cost more per month, but in the end a lot less goes to the bank. So... the shortest term for which I could afford the monthly payments, right?

And then someone told me that, well, if I instead went with the longest term to get the lowest monthly payments, then I could invest the difference every month. Compound interest is an incredibly powerful thing, so even though I'd give the bank a lot more money over the term I'd potentially still come out ahead.

But that's assuming I did make those investments, and otherwise wouldn't have, and that I'd be doing so over the entire duration of the loan...

Anyway, the point still stood: it's all about opportunity cost. The question isn't how much money can you avoid giving to the bank, it's what are all the things you could do with the money being discussed?

This is all to say that the right move depends incredibly strongly on your circumstances, in particular how long you'll be in a home before selling and then getting another mortgage.

I won't go into all the wild spreadsheeting I've been doing to figure out how compound and amortized interest interact, but there was one realization I had that helped clarify how to approach this problem in general:

Mortgages aren't about home ownership.

A mortgage is a financial tool that:

  • Lets you live more cheaply (renting adds a middle-man). You get more home for your dollar, or the same amount of home and more dollars.
  • Lets you keep part of your already-cheaper monthly housing costs. Part of your monthly mortgage payment goes into equity in your home. That's still yours.
  • Lets you capture the upside if you sell. The bank doesn't own your home. They've given you a loan, with your home as collateral. If you sell your home for $10k more than you got it, all of that is yours. (But you also capture the downside if it sells for less!)

When I stopped thinking that the goal of getting a mortgage was to pay it off, and instead that it was a financial tool to reduce the cost of housing in order to free up money for other purposes (like investments) it all got a lot easier to reason about.

It was still super hard though. Compound and amortized interest are like oil and water. My spreadsheets are complicated.

(Note that this way of thinking about mortgages also helps underline the idea that "poverty is expensive". Being able to afford a mortgage makes housing cheaper, which in turn frees up money for other purposes. In particular, when that freed-up money is allowed to grow with compound interest the gulf becomes enormous (generational wealth).)

Until next time

That wraps DevChat #12!

It was sort of a weird one, I admit.

I've been having a great time hearing from readers. If you haven't said hello, please do!

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Have a great week!

❤ Adam