Monday, December 22, 2008

Prayer Request For Jessi

This is one of those posts you never want to write, but thankfully there's a community we can reach out to in these types of situations. Thank you everyone for your prayers.

Today Jessi was diagnosed with two blood clots in her right calf. Thankfully, they're small and not at risk to move and become bigger issues, but it's still a concern. Jessi will be starting treatment tomorrow which is supposed to last 6 months. Hopefully, by the end of that time they'll be gone and Jessi will be back to normal. We're still learning a lot about the implications and this will probably result in life-style changes.

We were tipped off to something being up when Jessi's right leg was in constant pain with no physical difference between it and the left leg. According to Jessi, it feels like a muscle ache that gets worse when iced or stretched. We decide to see the doctor and it turns out that was a smart decision.

Again, thank you for your prayers and we'll keep you posted on what happens.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let it Snow!

I am doing a few things around the house today and I opened up the blinds to water some plants and this is what I saw:


video

I haven't seen snow as think as this since I was living in Colorado! I love it! I felt just like a little kid running to the window shouting, "snow!!! yay!!!" There is a little girl running around in the snow outside our window now, in fact. Brings back the memories of life's simple pleasures. *sigh*

Enjoying hot coacoa and marshmallows,

Jessi

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas


I have decided that my number two favorite holiday is Christmas. I love Thanksgiving the most because it is right next to my birthday, or in this year's case on my birthday, and because it is so much fun to get everyone in the same place and eat really good food. Christmas is similar because everyone gets together but the traditions and meaning behind Christmas are so special.

I think it hit me when we were putting up our Christmas decorations this year and I realized that they were MY decorations and not my parents. This is the first year I have really ever put anything up for my own house. It was really fun to go out shopping with James and make our home special and cozy and Christmasy.

I am looking forward to going to Colorado for Christmas to visit my family and also to begin new traditions and carry on old ones with my new husband. We usually eat Mexican food for Christmas at the Christian household. I don't know why, I guess we had just gotten tired of turkey and ham by then...and my Grandpa really loved the extremely spicy green chili my mom made each year. This year we are going to teach James how to make tamales...homemade tamales.

Even with all the Christmas hype, buying of presents, and the multiple fun traditions of the season...I have been reminded often this year of the meaning behind everything we have the freedom to do. It is not because of anything we have done or made for ourselves. It is because God loved us so much he renewed the relationship with us through his son. It was truly the beginning of our reason to celebrate when Jesus was born.

Enjoy the pictures!

Jessi

p.s. we have a balloon tree because we will be out of town for Christmas day :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend



This thanksgiving Jessi and I flew down to Los Gatos, California to visit my family. It was an awesome weekend with the whole family. My parents really liked having everyone visit especially since this is their first year without anyone in the house. The weekend was marked by three main events: lots of eating, visiting my sister's college and cutting down a Christmas tree.



My sister, Lisa, goes to San Fransisco State University. Matthew, Jessi and I went up to SF to check it out. The campus is very nice. There's some large trees in the middle of campus that helps hide the fact that the school is in the middle of a huge city. We also went to Twin Peaks which are a set of hills looking over the city. It was a little foggy, but there were still a ton of tourists checking out the view. We then went down the winding part of Lombard Street and drove around the Warf. Going over the Gold Gate Bride is up to $5, so we decided to simply view it from a distant.







Then we went out for our annual Christmas Tree hunting trip. This is the first year we've gone without Scoter. I won't lie, it was tough not having him around to "help". I threw a big stick in memory of him - then I told Jessi to fetch the stick... let's just say I miss Scoter.

One of the fun part about my family is that we have no problem doing weird things and accepting it as normal. For example, we found three potentially worthy trees. In previous years we would simply pick one, but this year we decided to put it to a vote. At first we were going to do a secret thumb vote, but some family members had trouble with the concept. So Matthew, being the president of his fraternity, decided to implement Roberts Rules of Order to the process. The winning tree had to have 50% + 1 votes to win (or 2/3 majority, or 4 votes). We started down the path of making it a secret ballet vote, but quickly realized we didn't have paper or pens. Then someone called "Roll Call Vote" which means we had to go around the circle and publicly state our vote. It took a few rounds, promises were made, deals were brokered and we finally picked a tree.







We also watched Los Gatos High School win their football game, saw friends from church and generally relaxed. For Christmas Jessi and I decided to go to Colorado and hang out with her family. I'm hopping for a white Christmas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pirates!





Lately I've been reading headlines about pirates. Pirates! Are you kidding me? Yep. I guess they still exist and have been quite active lately. Here' are a couple articles that caught my attention from the LA times:

Indian Warship Destroys Suspected Pirate Ship Off of Somalia

Pirates Hijiack Another Merchant Ship Off Africa



The stores themselves are not that great, but it was my reaction that caught my attention. It went a little something like this:
  1. Wow - pirates that's pretty cool.
  2. No seriously, there's still pirates? That's awesome.
  3. Man, they're getting a ton of money. How fun would it be to be a pirate?
  4. Seriously, how hard could it be to become a pirate?

And then I realized something. I had a glamorized view of what a pirate actually is. I was imaging being a Disney Pirate. These pirates are probably closer to the Smokers in Waterworld - mean, violent, dirty, angry and not a ton of fun to be around.

It's actually quite sad and I feel bad for the sailors who get attacked. Still, I can't help fight this urge to smile every time I think about pirate attacks. Thanks Disney. How else have you done this to me and I don't even know it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Watch Your Thoughts

I came across this today and thought I'd share it:

Watch Your Thoughts

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

adapted from George Eliot

This gets right to the point of positive thinking. I'm not going to go as far as talking about "The Secret", but positive thinking does work and can improve your life. This is why businesses have mantras - they want employees noodling on their mantra in their subconscious.

This is powerful! We are such creative and driven people that even when we don't think we're thinking about something, we are. This begs a very important question: What are you doing to influence your thoughts?

Jessi and I created a dream board - a board with pictures of things we want to do or buy sometime in the future. We've also written down our financial goals in a place we'll see it every day. This feeds our thoughts, words and actions.

What are you doing?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pictures are in!

After the long wait...the wedding pictures have finally been sifted through and I have made a file of the best of the best. Feel free to peruse the pictures and download/print any that you like!

Here's the link:

Wedding Pictures

I will be printing most of the ones on this page for a wedding album/scrap book! I am so very excited to get that started soon. I will post again to share the progress of that project later.

Jessi

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Strategy

Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, was recently at a conference in the UK and was quoted saying that growth is Facebook's primary focus is growth, not revenue. Here's the link to the article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?MLC=/connected/technology_news&xml=/connected/2008/10/10/dlfacebook110.xml&CMP=ILC-mostviewedbox

I'm not sure how I feel about this strategy. Is it smart? He must know something I don't, because I don't get it. It seems that Zuckerburg is operating on one of two principles. Either he figures once he gets big enough he MUST be able to make a profit because... well... he's such a big website. I actually think this is what he's secretly hoping, but not telling anyone. More likely, he doesn't know how to make money withFacebook, but he does know how to grow Facebook, so he's focusing on what he knows. Fair enough... I guess.

The biggest problem with this stance is, of course, the money. As Facebook grows it's going to cost more and more to operate - cost he can't afford without significant revenue. The site already loads slow and, quite honestly, has enough bugs to regularly crash my browser. How does he expect to keep improving without sustained money? Maybe he's also betting that Microsoft won't let their $240 million investment go down the drain and will do what it takes to help Facebook financially.

The bigger problem for me is Zuckerburg's refusal to say he needs to face his revenue problems head on. Of course they're working on it by experimenting and acknowledging he can't just put ads on the site, but how is paying the bills not his number one priority? I guess if you're a private company you can do whatever you want...

Unfortunately, as the article describes, top people are leaving his organization and growth is slowing. Revenue, it seems, would fix these two issues. With revenue Zuckerburg can offer real incentives for people to stay and can afford to spend the money necessary to grow his site. Just think: if Facebook loaded faster because they had more servers and came out with more features because they had more engineers working for them, Facebook would continue to grow and thrive organically - exactly what he wants.

Bottom line: Growth is nice, but revenue is what sustains a business and fuels growth.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Marketing 101: Why Microsoft Shouldn't Offer Prizes Or Cash For Searching

I was reading the TechCrunch  blog and found this article: Microsoft Throws Prizes At You For Searching. The basic idea is that when you use Live Search Microsoft will give you tickets which, I guess, will be put into a drawing to win prizes. Oh yeah, and to participate you need install a piece of tracking software which is only compatible with Internet Explorer. Earlier in the year Microsoft came out with a Cash Back program that gave you cash back when you bought a product from an advertiser on Live Search. It worked like a mail-in rebate, with just as many hoops to jump through.

I've had similar discussions about this with TalentMover. We're thinking about community tagging and how that can improve resume and job post matching by providing a human touch. After all, the accuracy of multiple human eyeballs is exponentially better than any algorithm an engineer could write. Anyways, we started to get into discussions about rewarding people for tagging more resumes than our minimum requirement (because more input provides more accurate results - like increasing the sample size of a survey). However, we quickly dismissed the idea for one very basic reason.

By offering incentives above and beyond the value of the product/service you are inherently saying: What I'm asking you to do is not compelling on it's own. If I didn't offer this, you wouldn't do it. Therefore, I need to entice you to do something you really don't want to do because the reward is not good enough. I'm admitting my product is at parity with, or inferior to, other alternatives.

This is really bad.

When your product/service reaches the point of parity, there are two options you have. You can lower prices, because you're no longer special, or you can improve your product/service to make yourself special again. Since search is free to users, Microsoft chose lowered their price to a negative number to generate business. This is not a sustainable business model for two reasons: 1) They're losing money and 2) Prices changes are the easiest thing for competition to match.

At TalentMover, we decided to improve the tagging process to make it easier, faster and more enjoyable. In addition, we're kicking around some other ideas to make tagging other resumes even more valuable. The point is that we decided to improve the service rather than lower our price and Microsoft should do the same.

I'm not 100% sure what this would look like, but improvements can be made on the quality of results and the ease of use. Microsoft could also focus on different ways to deliver search results (Not just in a browser?, Not as a list?). The bottom line is that to compete effectively you need to offer more than a discount for the same product. Until then, Microsoft is going to struggle with search. Hopefully, this is just a quick fix until Microsoft can actually offer something of value.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Heart Breaker

Scoter as a puppy
I was looking through some photos Lisa shared with me from her graduation. She took the time to scan in many pictures (Thanks!) for a memory board. This one in particular is just awesome. This is Scoter when he was just a little puppy. What a little heart breaker!


Oh, and this marks post 100 - I guess that counts as a significant milestone.

This is probably a good time to take a pulse on how we're doing in the rat race.
  • Jessi is working part-time as a teacher so she can focus more energy on her business, Univera. Like any start-up it's a slow start, but Jessi is making progress. Thankfully we have a team in place to provide moral, tactical and spiritual support.
  • We're deep in the process of looking at real estate (know of any good duplexes?). We've really only looked at 30 or so places, so we still have a ways to go. According to Dolf de Roos, the law of large numbers is 100-10-3-1: look at 100; submit offers on 10; have 3 actually considered; and buy 1. Our goal is to purchase something in '08 and with October just around the corner we need to pick this up.
  • I still have an unhealthy level of enthusiasm for creating a profitable website business.
  • I'm slowing down with Bob the Autographer. I met my goals for the company and don't think I have the energy to scale it to a level where it becomes a self-sustaining business. The rat race is about creating passive income and the economies of scale required to reach that level are quite daunting.
  • 401Ks and IRAs are going strong
  • We're both eating healthier and exercising more
  • We've both been able to volunteer at our church.
Overall, I say we're making progress, though it seems slow from day to day. We have a great foundation set and we really need to start focusing on our projects to help them grow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top ten cookies

After dinner tonight James and I got into a discussion of our top ten favorite cookies. Not together, but we each had our own top ten lists...It was deliciously fun to talk about the best cookies in the world so I decided to share them. Here it goes...

Jessi's top ten favorite kinds of cookies

(Keep in mind this list could probably go on forever. These are just the kinds of cookies I could eat mountains of.)

1. Danish butter cookies with sugar crystalsThese cookies are so buttery and delicious. I find myself always saying, "Oh, I will just have one or two" and before I know it the whole tin is gone :)



2. hot peanut butter homemade

I pretty much love anything with peanut butter in it. My favorite food is banana's with peanut butter, but these cookies are so good when they are just falling apart. I like to wash them down with icy milk.





3. fudge stripe cookies


For store bought cookies these are probably the ones I buy the most of. I like them cause they are slightly crunchy but still smooth.







4. pecan sandies

Crunchy, sweet, nutty, great dipped in milk. Nuff said.





5. fudge dipped oreos

I actually haven't had these in years, but I remember as a kid always wanting to buy them and we only got them one of two times. And I probably ate most of the package by myself. I don't even know if they make them anymore...but I should look for them...yum.





6. mexican wedding cookies

My sister used to make these when we were younger for potlucks and bake offs...they are so powdery and tasty. I think the recipe is pretty much butter, flour and powdered sugar...nothing bad about it.





7. warm, soft molasses cookies

This is probably the one cookie I am particularly picky about. I like them only homemade and they can't be overdone or underdone at all. It has to be the perfect thickness and chewyness and I only really like them just out of the oven. But if all those things are just right...it is totally worth it.





8. girl scout samoas

I know most people think I am nuts, but this is the only girl scout cookie I really like. That's all I have to say about that.








9. safeway cookies with inch of frosting

I can really only eat about one of these cookies before I feel sick...but it was totally delicious while I was eating it. I think it is the excessive amount of frosting on the top. I wish I could eat more...it is just too good.







10. circus cookies

Circus cookies...classic...I could eat a whole bag of these if I wasn't paying attention.






So, there you have it. The best cookies in the world according to Jessi Furlo.

Thanks for reading.

Jessi

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Transparent Screens

Jessi was using Stumbleupon this evening and came across a cool slide show where this person had images continuing out of a computer screen. It's very well done and Jessi wanted to know how it was done. So, we decided to play around and following are our two results. Not bad.

Our first attempt:

Our second attempt:

Here's the link to the original art. His is much better.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/w00kie/sets/180637/show/

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lasagna mania

Ok, I know that when I post I really post...this is the last one for now...I promise.

I was just going though some pictures on the camera and noticed some that James had taken of me making lasagna recently.

This is not just any old lasagna though...this is lasagna from "My Treasury of Recipes" Volume 2 written by James' Grandma Furlo. I was so excited to get the collection of recipes when James and I got married...I felt like I was truly being initiated into the Furlo clan. I did not however, fully experience the initiation until I actually opened the cookbook in order to cook something.

On first glance I noticed several things about the recipe and the cookbook in general that tipped me off that this was not going to be a "novice recipe".

Number one, after each line in the recipe it said "see instructions on attached page".

Number two, the red sauce to be layered in the lasagna called for "1 gallon of tomato sauce (pureed tomato could be substituted)" as well as several other things. At this point I stopped and thought to myself..."oh my gosh, how much lasagna is this going to make?"

Number three, there were no step by step instructions to be found anywhere...not even for other recipes in the book. James' response to this one was, "by the time you get to the level of cooking in my Grandma's cookbook she assumes you already know how to cook."


Having never made lasagna before I was a little worried by this time. I decided to throw all caution to the wind and try it anyway. After going to the grocery store and buying enough lasagna supplies for what seemed like would feed 30 people, I began putting the ingredients together. I am still not sure if I did everything "correctly" but the lasagna turned out to be delicious. We were able to share it with our good friends for dinner that night. And I can say with confidence now that, yes, I am truly a Furlo and can't wait to try the next recipe.

Thanks for reading,

Jessi

p.s. No, I will not share the lasagna recipe with you...you will have to become a legal Furlo (with proof) before you will get anywhere near these recipes...believe me, I know.

Art day

Since beginning to work part time I have officially claimed Fridays as "art days". This could mean a variety of different things but in general it means I get to research and do things related to painting, ceramics, sculpture and pretty much any other form of art that distracts my interest. On my first art day I researched pottery wheels and kilns. Let's just say I will have to wait a few more art days in order to save up for the equipment that I want. Which for the time being is ok since our apartment is kind of small and I really would like a separate art studio before I go all out.

I have currently been entertaining myself with two on going projects. One is a scrapbook of our trip to Paris...I must thank one of our good friends, Kellie Parry, for getting me into scrapbooking...I always watched from a distance when others put together projects like these while secretly hording paper memorabilia in hopes of someday making something great with it. I have started down the long and addicting path of scrapbooking and don't feel compelled to leave it anytime soon.

My other project is a series of miniature black and white acrylic paintings that focus on religious clip art. I noticed the clip art in one of the bulletins from James' church in California a while ago and I liked the idealized images that represented passages of scripture and messages throughout that week's bulletin. The images were simple, concrete, black and white and yet somehow they looked so broken almost like a puzzle that was not quite put together all the way.

Anyway, I just liked looking at them and thought it would be a fun project to capture some of them in paint for a small series. I am sure when I am finished I will notice more profound things about the images and how they go together, but for now it is just nice to be painting again. The pictures are a preview of two of the paintings I have finished so far.

Jessi

The haircut

Hi...

I guess it has been a while. You might go as far as to say that I am a new person since the last time a wrote. I got married. I am working part time. I got a haircut. That's what this post is supposed to highlight. So without further ado...pictures of the finished product. That's if for now. I better add some more blog posts to make up for lost time.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

A World Without Microsoft and Apple

Sometimes I really feel like I'm slow to pick up on things, but then suddenly it hits me and strategies other companies have been working on make complete sense. I mean, I always thought the strategy was a good idea, but I typically didn't see the undeniable compelling reason for the strategy... until later. Today it revolves around the World Wide Web.

The web is an amazing thing. Yes, it's amazing because of all the user generated content, the copious amounts of tutorials, the ability to buy something from the other side of the world and much more. However, the most amazing part is that they're all built off the same language: HTML. Unlike current operating systems, everyone uses the same language when programming a website. Sure, sites get to HTML differently, but in the end it's all displayed exactly the same. That's amazing!

Thanks to this standard, this means is that if you create a product that can display HTML, you can display web content. That's why there's Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, Opera and many more browsers. However, we're also starting to see browsers on other systems as well, like our cells phones, Unix and our gaming consoles.

This means that you don't need Windows or OSX to view web sites.

Furthermore, as bandwidth becomes faster and web programming becomes more advanced, we'll be able to do more and more within our browser. We can already do everything Microsoft Office offers (though not as feature rich... yet) and even Adobe has aPhotoshop capable website now. Eventually, we'll be able to do 90% of we normally do on our computer within a browser, and then the device we use won't matter.

Furthermore, the browser itself might become antiquated for something more robust. Widgets are already starting to blur the browser line and I'm willing to be that something else will come along which will act as the tipping point for the death of our Microsoft-Apple Duopoly.

So as the web becomes more advanced, I fully expect to see competing operating systems that only offer a browser. I expect Microsoft and Apple to specialize in high-end programs while people do regular activities on a myriad of other devices andOS's. For consumers this is awesome.

This is why the strategies of these companies suddenly makes sense:

Microsoft wants to establish itself on the Internet. They realize that the value isn't in the browser, as I just showed, but in what people view through the browser. Now, I don't think Microsoft is executing their strategy very well, but I like where they're headed.

Apple is trying to establish their operating system on other devices with iPhone and AppleTV. They've also created MobileMe which is an attempt to bridge the gap between their operating system and the web. I think they'll do a good job establishing an ecosystem for media, but beyond that I'm not sure.

Google realizes that they are rooted in the web and are trying like mad to create similar applications found on desktops. They want to be that driver of change in the hopes of neither Microsoft or Apple catching up. This is partly why Google is making Android - they want to show people that it's about the applications and they can be operating system agnostic.

Of course, then there's XML which is an open-standards way of saving data. Imagine this: I can view my data (say, email) on any web page that will accept my data (Gmail,mobileMe, MSN , etc.). Then the competition will be for browsers that perform the best and websites that let me work with my data the best. I should be able to flow freely between browsers, websites and devices without any change in my data.

Obviously, current website owners, and operating system owners, don't want this to happen because there's value in hooking customers in. Of course, this raises an even more fundamental question: Who does the data belong to anyways? Gosh, this sure sounds like the same question the music industry is facing...

What I do know, is that the web is enabling standards to be set which will enable data to be shared freely. This will promote innovation to improve web applications because they can't lock customers in, but instead must genuinely offer a better product consistently. As applications get better our dependency on Microsoft and Apple based applications will decrease. Good-bye Duopoly.

For consumers this is the best outcome. For businesses, it's probably scarier because it's not as easy, but it'll be good for them too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Internet of Things

The latest tech concept I've heard is being coined as "An Internet of Things". The basic idea is that items in our lives will, in some way, become connected to the Internet. The items will share and store information via the Internet. It's actually a very exciting idea. So, let me give a couple of examples to help explain the idea.

Your TV
An obvious item to be connected to the Internet is your TV. Yahoo is currently working on an idea to bring widgets to your TV. So you'll be able to watch your favorite show while a news feed, weather, clock, and stock ticker are across the bottom. That's a cool idea.

Let's take this to the next level. When you see a commercial you like (those of you who haven't discovered DVR yet), you can click a button to have an email sent to you to print off a coupon or simply serve as a reminder for the commercial you saw.

Oh yeah, and a browser is mandatory.

This could all be achieved though a set-top-box, but eventually these should just be built into the TV, allowing me to do the following at a minimum: Watch and DVR TV. Download movies, TV shows, pictures, music from anywhere. Display widgets, photo feeds from anything with an RSS feed. See who else is watching TV and share items with them. Basically, combine the TV with Xbox Live and AppleTV. I'm waiting.

Your Car
I believe this is already starting to become connected to the Internet, but just imagine the possibilities. For starters, there should be a website you can visit which displays data your car has been sending to a server in the cloud. It provides you with statistics such as: how far you drove, when you drove, average trip length (time and distance), what the weather was at the time, etc. You could learn when you like to drive, under what conditions and so on. Let's take it a step further.

When you fill up with gas, the amount you paid, how much gas you got and what your mileage is should be sent to the server. You could then view stats around gas costs and use. When your miles/gal drop below a certain threshold (you get to set it, not just the manufacturer) you get an email saying it's time for a check up.

Furthermore, other diagnostic information should be sent to the server: Tire pressure, spark plug timing, etc. You could set an alert to send you an email to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles (or whatever interval you set), and you should get a txt message on your phone so you'll get it when you're in the car, when you actually need it.

How cool would it also be to connect your car's GPS to the Internet? Lost your car? Use your phone to locate where your car is. Also, be able to view on a heat map where you travel the most. If you have a smartphone, write a quick review of a store you visited, which will be paired with your location.

So, imagine you take a trip from Michigan to California. You could write a review at each Harley-Davidson dealership you stop at. Friends could subscribe to your trip and follow you. They'll know where you're located, where you're shopping and sleeping. They could leave comments (maybe?) on an automatically generated blog of your trip (to be set as a widget on their TV). Then, if they ever decide to take a similar trip they know to ask you and could potentially view your stats of the trip too. You too could analyze your trip on a myraid of statistics. Beautiful.

Even More
Another great device that makes sense to connect to the Internet is your refridgerator for your shopping list. Here is where RFID tags can come in handy to identify what food your missing. To a limited extent your washing machine and lights could also benefit. What else makes sense to you?

Soon, some of these concepts will start to be a reality, which is pretty cool. Though, this does introduce a new concept/problem to be covered at another time. It's the idea that to enable greater personalization requires greater transparency, or less privacy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Quick Video from the Jordan River

A friend of mine spent a couple weeks in Israel. He traveled all around and even got to play some basketball while there. He's posted many videos, but this one really struck me and I wanted to share it. So... Here it is.



Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Red Lights Without a Phone

So the other day I left my phone at my apartment. Jessi had a conference call and my phone was the only one that could conference all five in (yeah, iPhones rock, but you knew that already). Anyways, because of this I had to drive without it.

While driving, I noticed the red lights were extra long. Gosh, they were taking forever to change! Then I realized that I've actually gotten into the habit of checking my phone while stopped. I figure I'm not moving and I get bored easily. I read a few emails, twitter, check on blogs or do whatever.

I guess I didn't realize how pervasive this phone has become in my life. Honestly though, I'm not sure if I should be concerned or excited. On one hand, I'm able to be more productive and do small things I normally wouldn't take time to do. On the other hand, I'm constantly plugged in and distracting myself (even though I'm stopped). What do you think? Is this a good or bad thing?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Vertical Storage

So I ran my idea about one surface for all activities by Jessi and... well let's just say we came up with a compromise. Now I've got another idea. Let me know what you think.

I got this idea from airplanes and the way they handle storage. Their main problem is a lack of space and I'd argue most people have that same problem. So... how about this:

What if storage was built into the ceiling and floor? You press a button and a shelf comes out of the ceiling or pops up out of the floor. This way, you won't need to have shelves up against the wall - effectively creating more space. Yes, your house might be a little taller, but it's so much easier to build up than expand sideways.

I don't think I'd make the shelving hydraulic, but instead use counter weights - mini elevators if you will. I'm also not sure how many I'd have. You could, theoretically, have then all over the house, but maybe in the middle of the room would be best (because you'd put other stuff near the wall). Maybe I should go watch Back to the Future II again to get more ideas...



PS. For you worriers out there, I'm not blogging while on my honeymoon. When I write, I tend to write a few at a time (I can't control it). So I schedule them to go live at later intervals. This one happens to make sense in the middle of our honeymoon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

First Ajax Script

I had a mini-land mark happening recently. I was creating a web page that allowed a user to scroll through images of a photo library. Now normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal because they're just new links/pages. However, this page was different because there is music playing in the background. I couldn't have the entire page refresh because then the song would start all over. Lame.

There are a couple ways to tackle this problem and I decided to try doing it with Ajax. Basically, Ajax allows you to update only parts of a page without reloading the entire thing. It sends a simple command to the server which returns only that part. This has two benefits. First, once the page is loaded, updating information on the page is really fast. Second, it allows for cool visual effects including, like I'm doing, letting things continue to run while other parts change. If you use Gmail, many parts use Ajax.

So I found a good tutorial and followed it. To my surprise, Ajax is extremely easy to use. The cool part about it is that it's not a new language, it's simply a new way of using existing languages (javascript with PHP, Perl, ASP or XML for those keeping score). So, from now on, I'm sure almost all my web pages are going to be using Ajax just like many of my pages currently use javascript and PHP.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ready to Get Married

Welp, I'm ready to be married. The big day is on Sunday and it looks like it's going to be great. Jessi and I had our last date before being married. We went to a nice restaurant, got ice cream for desert and watched a movie (Batman is a must see, by the way). We dressed up and really had a good time. It kind of reminds me of getting closure. We were able to "finish off" that part of the relationship officially and now move on.

It was so nice, mostly because we just took a break on our crazy schedules to reflect on where we've been and dream about where we're going. We recalled funny stories and talked more about our plans for the future.

We've really been laying the groundwork this last year and have a solid foundation in place. We've been doing research on different business and investments (and putting our feet in the water a little). We've also been bringing people onto our team to help us achieve our goals. In this last month we put the final pieces together to... You know what? I'm going to stop because this is starting to sound more like a business merger instead of a marrage.

Where was I? Ah yes. I'm so thankful to have met Jessi. Besides helping me dress better, she has been a blessing in my life. I'm ready to marry her and it's going to be great. Family starts showing up today and the party will last until Wednesay and then we'll be off to Paris for our honeymoon. Very, very exciting!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Clothes Tranformation

I met Jessi on a blind date our freshman year at Willamette. It was a mass blind date where older girls on the cross country team set the freshman runners up. I was told we were going to go bowling and to "wear something casual".



I really like the super-casual look.



At the time, I didn't own a pair of jeans, but I did own a suit for church on Sunday. So, I showed up wearing workout shorts and a t-shirt... Yeah, great impression. I know (now).

Eventually a polo shirt was given to me. So I wore that around with my workout shorts. At one time, Jessi's roommate, only seeing the top half of me congratulated me on finally getting respectable clothes. Of course, then she saw my shorts and proceeded to attack me for my poor fashion sense.

Believe it or not, it gets colder in Oregon than central California. So I bought a couple pairs of jeans to keep warm. Man, my stock sure shot up fast! Suddenly I almost looked respectable.


When I got accepted to grad school I decided it was time to really up my game. I bought some polo shirts and some khaki pants. I even went all out and got some dress shoes. For the first time in my life I had "business casual" outfits. Thankfully my mom and Jessi took the time to explain what worked together and what didn't.

Once I graduated and got a job in Oregon I decided to splurge and bought some khaki cargo shorts. I didn't actually get them because they look better than workout shorts. I got them because I wanted pockets. Yes, before graduating I had my wallet and keys hanging from a lanyard which I swung around my neck - no pockets needed.


I'm sure my wardrobe will continue to transform, but it really stuck me when Jessi and I were flying recently. We were traveling - a completely casual situation. Historically, I would wear warm-up pants with a sweatshirt while flying. That day I was wearing my khaki shorts, a polo shirt and flip flops. I sure looked a lot different than my "kid" self.

I like to think my choice of clothing has come a long way despite me being such a slow adopter in the clothing space.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Kenny Loggins Concert

Jessi and I had the pleasure of seeing Kenny Loggins live at the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene on Sunday (quite a busy weekend indeed). The concert started at 7:30pm and went until 10pm. It was so much fun! He played many of his classics (Pooh Corner, Conviction of the Heart, Danger Zone, Footloose, etc.) and a few new songs. Here's a pretty sweet music video of Danger Zone.

The best part was Jessi's reaction. She knew I liked Kenny Loggins and had all of his CDs. She had also heard him on the radio, so she knew he wasn't some no-name artist. The fun part was when she realized she knew all of his songs and was able to sing along with me. Ah yes, it was a blast.

Now we have to rent the movie Footlose so she can watch the whole thing with Kenny Loggins' song. Here's a picture of the night:

Saturday, July 05, 2008

4th of July Celebration

Jessi and I got to hang out with the Parry Family this 4th of July. It was a ton of fun! We went to a parade, played Rock Band, had a Bar-BQ, shot off fireworks and watched Independence Day outside on a projector. Needless to say, it was one epic event. It started at 11am and I didn't get to bed until 2am. Below is a little video of the day's events. There's also a slide show with more pictures detailing what happened. Is this a sign of things to come with the new camera? We'll see.





When it started to get dark we really started playing the with camera. So, some of the pictures are... well... weird. Some, like the pictures of the fireworks, are pretty cool.



Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Camera


Jessi and I just got a new camera in preparation for our honeymoon in Paris. It's a Canon Rebel XTi. In just the few hours I've been playing with it, it seems like a great camera.







Here's one picture that Jessi took.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

One Surface, All Activities

The count down is on: 26 days until the Wedding! So in preparation Jessi and I have been looking at apartments for "our new life together". It's really exciting and has also got me thinking.

This is an opportunity to rethink the way I live my life we live our lives. I mean, there are going to be so many changes it may not hurt to experiment a little bit. Right? :)

Here's my idea: What if we did everything on one surface? One surface, all activities. I think of it like my computer screen where I have one desktop where I do everything. I don't switch computers or go somewhere else - I bring the file to the front, to me. What if we just had one big table where we use our computers, eat food, watch movies, play board games and fold clothes. I almost added sleeping on it, but that almost seems a little extreme.

Now that I think about it, this wouldn't be much different from the way I already live. My living room and kitchen are one room and that's also where I use my computer, watch movies, cook and eat. As a matter of fact, that's also where I sleep since I started sleeping on the floor.

I guess the biggest difference is the size of the table. Currently I have a small card table which barely fits my computer (thankfully I have a TV tray right next to it). I'm thinking of a table that is closer to a piece of ply-wood: huge! That way both Jessi and I can be at the same table with multiple things on it for each of us at the same time.

Of course, there is the issue of where such a large table could go. Would it just overwhelm the living room and leave the kitchen under utilized? Maybe the solution is to have two or three large work areas (like an extra computer monitor?) we move between. What I'm really trying to get at is not having "dedicated" areas I suppose.

What do you think? Is this really a revolutionary idea or are people already doing this? How can I tweak this idea to really shake things up?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Califonria Trip

Jessi and I have spent the last week in California hanging out with my family and it's been a lot of fun. We came down on Friday to watch Lisa graduate from Los Gatos High School. We got to the school early and spent the day saving our seats. We had great seats and the ceremony was excellent. On Saturday Jessi, Lisa, Matthew, my cousin Tyler and I went to Chuck E. Cheese's to play. It's been a family tradition to go there after the last day of school to celebrate the end of the school year. I know, it sounds kind of goofy, but it's a lot of fun. On Sunday we went to church and then had a party for Lisa. There was good food, lots of good friends and a pinata! We all had a really good time.

The rest of the week I worked at the Cupertino campus while Jessi hung out with my mom and sister. He got to do some shopping and, most importantly, sleep in until 9:00 each day. On the evenings we hung out and simply enjoyed each other's company. It really was nice to just hang out for a little bit.

Jessi and I will be returning tomorrow, Sunday, to Oregon. I'll keep working and Jessi will continue her summer break. I sure hope she doesn't go nuts! To stay busy she'll be finishing up some wedding plans, finding a place for us to live once we're married, and doing some art. It's been a ton of fun in California, and now I'm ready to get back to normal life.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why I Love iPhone

My affection is rooted in the device's versatility. You can do so much on such a small device it's amazing. Let me give you this morning as an example.

1) I woke up this morning using the alarm clock (I might have pushed the snooze once...)
2) Checked my email quickly (nothing super important)
3) I called Jessi to say good morning and wish her a good day at work.
4) I checked my work calendar to review when my meetings are today.
5) I looked up where I was having breakfast with some friends using the map.
6) While going to breakfast I listened to my audio book (a Walt Disney Biography).
7) I saw a sign I liked and took a picture of it (of a ninja school).
8) I then emailed that picture to Flickr and Facebook (which is also linked to Twitter) to share with friends.
9) Finally, I checked Twitter and Google Reader in Safari for any cool news.

This is just one morning and these are very diverse activities! I would even go so far as to say none of these were just plain goofing off - they all had a purpose that enriched my day. So yeah, the device looks cool, but the real attraction is all the different uses. Now if it can just replace my keys and credit cards (plus shave my face) I'll be set.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Wedding Rings

Yep, it's getting pretty official. We just picked up our wedding rings and it's fairly exciting. For me, it really hit home that we're getting married. I mean, I know what's coming, but this just took it to the next level for me.

Also, now we're telling people, "We're getting married next month." Part of me is excited for it to get here... The other part would be OK with a few more weeks of planning. Oh well. It's going to be great!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If I Owned Facebook


I would do 5 things:

1) Real Email
Email within Facebook is nice, but I should be able to get email outside of Facebook. As a matter of fact they should make it real email where I can send and receive email just like normal. I just looked at www.facemail.com is available. Buy it and give everyone an address like name@facemail.com. Email has got to be the number one activity on the Internet, this is your virtual address. Facebook will create real staying power by giving people their address to call home.

2) RSS Reader
This one is such a no brainer I can't believe it. Now, I'm talking talking about an RSS reader application that posts feeds to your profile. I'm talking about a program like Google's Reader where I can import feeds for me to read. Then if I like something I can either star it (then it shows up on my profile) or share it with my friends. When I share I should be able to leave a comment and then allow others to comment back. Again, I see this as tool for me, not just to show off on my profile. Inside this reader I would embed the normal news feed within Facebook. I might even include email and notifications. Then this becomes the homepage where I consume and share content. This is content from all over the Internet, not just what I do on Facebook.

3) More Servers
Facebook is slow. Really slow. Honestly, it's not getting faster and even though they are buying servers they really need to ramp this up. People get frustrated with this and they need to get rid of this problem.

4) Universal Search
Facebook has a ton of information. They have pictures, hobbies, wall conversations, email. Well, I want to search this! I want to be able to easily find old conversations or events. With all this information inside of Facebook, in a formate they control, this should be easy. Heck, team up with Microsoft's Live search to get this done. Furthermore, Facebook (via Live Search) should be able to pull in search results from the outside world. Can you image finding my LinkedIn profile result when you search my name? With all the demographic, behavior and interests information these pages should be perfect. Oh yeah, the ads on the right hand side of these search results should also be the most relevant of any search engine.

5) Make nice with Google
Look, I know Microsoft owns part of facebook. I know they think they're competing with Google to become the backbone of the web. I know these things. However, this doesn't mean they can't work with Google to make something even more awesome. It just isn't worth making enemies in a virtual world where open source and sharing is become a fundamental tenet of the web.

It's a tall order, I know. However, if Facebook can accomplish these I foresee a great future where Facebook truly becomes a power player worth multiple billions. If Facebook doesn't figure these out, I don't know how long it will be before they become out done by someone else. Being a one-trick pony at the level they're playing at just isn't good enough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good, Fast, Cheap - Pick Two

I'm sure this concept has been around for a while, but I saw it for the first time today and really liked it. The premise is that projects are made of up these three elements, but you can only choose two of them. Let me spell it out.

Fast + Cheap = Bad
If you do a project really cheap and still want it to get done quickly you're going to suffer on quality. It just won't be a good finished product. A good example is of Monster Garage where they need to finish a project fast and cheap which is why the finished product is never really polished.

Good + Fast = Expensive
Now, if it has to be high quality but on a short time line, it's going to cost money. I run into this with my shirt business. Customers will run to me asking for a bunch of shirts in a short amount of time. My answer is yes, but it'll cost more because I have to rush, give up other things and work off-hours. Another example is American Chopper's OCC: they have nice bikes which they build fast, but you pay for it.

Cheap + Good = Slow
I must admit, this is my favorite. Lots of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects fall here. People don't want to spend the money to put someone on it full time or pay a professional. As a result it's done on free time which takes a very long time. Typically though, the products comes out pretty nice in the end. An example is Professor Joe King of Pacific University who made a model of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks. It took him 5 years and 110,00 toothpicks, but the end results is awesome.

So, given the project you're working on, what's the right mix? Knowing this simple framework will help you set your expectations and hopefully lead to more successful projects.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ear Plugs

This last week has been fairly busy for me. I've been working pretty hard at HP trying to get some work done. I must say, working hard, even if it is just typing at a computer, is really tough. It's a good thing my work load is cyclical otherwise I don't know if I'd make it. It's at times like these my respect for what Jessi does every week magnifies.

Also, I've started sleeping without ear plugs lately. This is a big deal for me because I've been sleeping WITH ear plugs since I was just a kid. I mean, I got to the point where I couldn't fall asleep without ear plugs. So why the change? Well, for a little bit now I've been wanting to ween my way off of them. I don't know why I want to. It's not like it's an expensive or self-destructing habit. Perhaps it has something to do with getting married and subconsciously I think it would be weird. Who knows?

At any rate, this time I just decided I was going to make it without them and so far it's worked. It's amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. I literally had them in my hand one night and decided to put them down and not pick them up. I've actually tried this before and then around 2am I realize I'm still awake, and miserable, and I throw them back in. Maybe it is that feeling of an addiction I don't like - the idea that I HAVE to sleep with ear plugs. Well, it looks like that will no longer be the case. Yes!

So there you go. Insert some mind over muscle inspiration here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Job Identity

I have been struggling recently with the concept of titles defining who I am. For example, am I a teacher, or do I just happen to be teaching at this point in my life. I think it is very much the latter option. Although I have the correct skill set to accomplish the tasks set forth in educating a group of students and I am gaining experience, I still do not view myself as a teacher. James said it best this morning when he reminded me of a scene from Stardust. (which by the way is a fantastic movie that you should watch) In the movie there is a boy who is looking for so much in life, for love, for passion, for success. He works as a shop boy taking orders and money from customers day in and day out. At one point in the movie he says that he is not a shop boy, he just happens to be working in a shop for the time being. I love the potential behind that statement. He is not bound by the title of "shop boy" even though that is how he is making a living. Instead he has the freedom to be a shop boy for the moment and something else maybe tomorrow or maybe next week.

There are so many things I want to do, so many things I feel called to do in life that it is unfair to limit my potential by saying "I'm a teacher". My struggle has been fueled by many sources the past few weeks and it has caused me to think about my profession, identity and future.

As I teach every day I realize more and more that although I touch my students lives and am an example for them, my influence can only reach through the hours we spend together. They will remember me, at least some of them, but there is so much that I want to fix, so much they need from me and I feel so helpless that I can't give that to them. It is humbling to try to impart knowledge to someone that has less clothing, less food, and experiences less love than you. I feel a conflict when I am asked to teach my students knowledge yet they are holding their stomachs in hunger because their family did not have enough money for food that month. My goal as a teacher according to the state and district is to teach students to perform on assessments and remember lots of information that should be beneficial in their lives, at least it was determined to be beneficial for them by some outside source. If that is who I am supposed to be as a "teacher" then the dissonance between my profession and identity is monumental.

I continue to struggle as a teacher because I feel limited in the potential I have to make a difference. I see opportunities in two other areas of my life to use my passion, creativity and motivation for the benefit of others that have so much more potential for change than teaching does that it is hard for me to continue to go to my classroom each day and fight the ongoing battle that will not be won after one year.

I recently achieved a rank of success as an independent associate for a natural supplements company, called Univera Lifesciences, that I am involved with. The mission of the company is to bring the best of nature to mankind and to not only improve health but to also improve quality of life through their products and programs. One of my favorite aspects of the company is our Serve First Foundation. This foundation provides food, homes and support for communities in the United States. I see the potential to make huge change and improvement for those around me in a company that can improve life, how we experience it and how we live it. My success is sweet and welcomed, but it also motivates me to continue growing my business in order that I might someday affect the lives of my students with change that is permanent and meets the needs that they have on a deeper basis than just treating the symptoms of their poverty.

I also have a passion for creativity and art and hope that this desire can be woven into the other things I pursue. My goal is to open my own ceramics studio and gallery. I have not worked out any details, right now it is just dreams. But I think I would like to include some form of teaching ceramics classes, or having family creativity nights. I am not sure how profits from the company will work, but I would at least like a portion to be used to create renewable income for someone who needs it, be it a family, an individual, a church, who knows.

After all of that I realize, as I have many times before, that I really only have one identity. I am a daughter of the risen king. My purpose is to be aligned with Christ's purpose and plan. Without his plan mine means nothing. I am relieved that my identity is not based on my imperfect titles of "teacher", "independent associate" or "artist". My purpose is to love, to be an example and in this moment I can fulfill that purpose through teaching. I am not a teacher, I just happen to be teaching. Who knows what tomorrow has in store.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Google Documents


OK, I have to love on Google just a little bit. Even though gmail has been loading very slowly lately and taking its time to send emails. Even though Google Talk has been randomly turning off and on the last couple week. Even though Google Calendar doesn't sync updated events from Outlook, but everything else giving me a false sense of security. Even though Google Desktop is such a memory hog I decided to take it off my computer.

Is this going anywhere? Eventually.

Despite some problems which I see as serious flaws, Google does do most thing right, and some things flat out excite me. I think my two favorite (not what I use the most though, interestingly) are Google Notebook and Google Reader. I really like the way they help me aggregate everything I see on the web. It's just so cool to find something neat and save it to Google Notebook. Often times I end up using Google Notebook for making lists which I then share with others, such as birthday wish lists. It's dynamic and therefore I love it. I also like Google Reader because it brings the content I care about to me. My latest habit has been to subscribe to site's blogs where I either use or might potentially use their products. It's so much fun to read about a new update to Twitter and then go try it out instead of waiting until I stumble upon it.

Actually, I've yet to hit my point. Sorry for the delay.

Lately I have been more and more impressed with Google Documents. Every time they come out with something new I get VERY excited. Probably too excited... Here's an example: they came out with offline access and I couldn't wait to try it out and yes, it is that cool. What's also cool is that Google reads my mind. Actually they do because I recently filled out a survey for them and they added 2 of my 3 requests plus a whole bunch of others I didn't even know I needed. My first gripe was that printing something off looked like garbage. I said I didn't like the fact that there was a URL at the bottom of each page. Well, now you can print it off as a PDF, which gets rid of the URL. Very nice. I also said I wanted more control over the format of the page. I made it clear that in Word I could move text around, add bars of color and insert pictures where ever I wanted. Google went ahead and added that feature too (though it's not as easy as Word, but that's OK). Now all they have to do is figure out how to collapse the top part of the browser so I can see more of my work. Currently I have a Code Monkey plug-in in Firefox doing it for me so I guess I can wait a little longer.

Google has added a whole bunch of other features which I'm excited to check out - embedded video into presentations is one. I must be a total office geek because these features are really exciting to me. It's been a long time since I opened up Microsoft Office and it'd be nice if it stays that way.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Effiel Tower Progress Report

Back by popular demand, a Lego update.

I've got to be honest, Jessi and I struggled with this phase. The weird part was the angle. Even though it looks like square, for whatever reason we couldn't line up the Legos with the picture in such a way both of us could see the correct orientation. It was almost like one of those magic eye pictures.

We kept turning the Legos in circles trying to line it up. Jessi would turn it and I'd say, "are you crazy? That's not even close!" So she'd let me turn it and exclaim, "What?! Are you kidding me? That doesn't make any sense!" Eventually we started swapping spots and realized where we sat created a different angle in the picture.

It's weird that we didn't have this trouble with the first part, but I guess we're getting better at building Legos so it's only natural that the difficulty level would increase too.








You can view all our photos so far here:

Legos

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scoter

On September 20th, 1995 (I was 12) Scoter came into my life. This evening, April 20th, 2008 he has passed away.


Scoter (pronounced Scooter, like the 2-wheeled thing you ride) was named after the White-winged Scoter, hence the funny spelling. Scoter was a yellow lab so we called him Yellow-winged Scoter.

It's really hard to lose a loved one, but thankfully God has been at work in my life so I think I'll make it. For the last four weeks at church, the theme of the series has been death. What is death? How do we deal with death? And most importantly, how can we live for God until our death? Every one of those weeks has really hit home for me with Scoter's passing and has once again got me thinking about my life. Am I headed in the right direction? Am I pursuing God's will? Gosh, life is so fleeting - "life is but a mist that quickly evaporates" (somewhere in the Bible, I was never good at memorizing where) - how can I make the most of it?

There were certain things in life Scoter loved. He love to play fetch. Oh my, he would run and run until he literally couldn't stand anymore. He would be breathing so hard I would think he would die on the spot. But the instant he rested just a little bit, he'd be right back at your feet with his ball waiting for you to throw it.

Scoter also loved to be pet. I mean, sometimes it got to be a little much because I'd be typing at the computer or eating something and he'd come over and pull my arm away with his nose so I could pet him. He would also start standing up and then slowly sink closer and closer to the floor to see if he could be laying down and get pet at the same time. I would suddenly realize I was three inches away from my cereal bowl and fully bent over in my chair. There would be Scoter, fully sprawled out on the floor soaking up every bit of my attention. Of course, then I would sit up and he too would immediately pop up and the process would start all over again. What a funny dog.

Something that made Scoter such a wonderful dog was is intelligence. Here's on thing I learned: if you want to enjoy your animals, get smart ones. It makes such a difference when they actually learn quickly. For example, Scoter loved to hunt for pheasants. All you'd have to do was let him sniff a single feature and he was off looking for them. However, we also owned chickens and he regularly ate out of the same bowl with them - he was smart enough to know the difference. By the way, our cat, Boots, will probably miss him the most as she many times ate and drank out of the same bowls as him, and cuddled up with him to sleep.

I could go on and on with stories about him, especially camping stories. His favorite camping pass-time? Hike a pine cone backwards between his hind legs and chase after it. Yes, hours of entertainment for Scoter. Come to find out, he REALLY likes the water too. We once took him to a lake and he did not want to get out. He just paddled and paddled and paddled. The funniest was when he would splash the water with his paws and then try to catch the water in his mouth. Who does that?!

Scoter was a great friend and family member. He will be greatly missed and even though Jessi and I will surly own our fair share of dogs, I don't think any will be able to compare to him.







This video clip is part of a longer movie my brother and I put together. Basically, Matthew is trying to get in shape and I come up with creative ways to help. This one involved Scoter and a tennis ball.




Shortly after the Crock Hunter also passed away, my brother and I put together this video. In this one we are hunting for... the Scoter. Notice how he just lets us mess with him.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

XML and the Future of the Web

Recently a friend let me borrow a book from him and it has really got me thinking. The book is called "Learning XML" by Erik T. Ray. XML is designed to make the structure of data ubiquitous. You see, there's current a problem with the Internet. There are many, MANY different web sites out there and lots of them structure their data differently. This, unfortunately, makes is very difficult to share information. Let me give an analogy. Say you have a grocery list to do your shopping. That list is your data (eggs, milk and bread). On the Internet, someone might have the same list, but it looks like this: AA eggs, 2% milk and white bread. Or, worse yet: fresh bread, 2 eggs and two percent milk. Do you see the problem? Even though the last two lists are technically the same, they differ in their descriptions, order and quantities. Humans are smart enough to figure this out, but computers just get confused. (incidentally, this is why you can name a file the same name in the same folder as another, only change the case of one letter, and have it work. Computers even see those as different).

The purpose of XML is to create rules for how you structure your data (or grocery list). This way each and every time you make a list it will be the same. Even though it takes a little more work during the set up to make sure it's structured properly, the advantages are huge. You see, then other programs can use your data without trying to figure out what it means. Ladies, that means the guys can do all the shopping because they'll understand what's on the list.

OK, so now you know what XML does, but so what? Why is this important? I really see XML as the backbone to the future of the Internet. It will be a way for web sites to share data back and forth easily. That way you won't have to visit eight places to do your daily stroll across the world wide web. Instead, you might only have to visit four... or maybe one day only one place which has everything you want right in front of you. Think about, if all your favorite places use XML, you (or someone who actually likes to program) could write something to bring it all to one place.

The advantages of having everything in one place is huge! Yes, it does save you time which is nice, but it also means there's more information to learn. For example, Amazon knows what books you like to buy, but what if they also knew what videos you liked to watch (from YouTube and or Netflix). What if they knew the music you like to listen to (from Last.fm )? Or who you send email back and forth with, and what books/video/music they liked? Do you see the power here? Suddenly places like Amazon and Google are no longer just relying on one type of behavior, but can pull from everything you do to offer you something you actually want 99% of the time. This is what people are starting to call web 3.0 and is part of the semantic web.

I heard a nice way to sum it all up and it goes like this: web 2.0 is all about helping people learn about, and with, other people. Web 3.0, or the semantic web, is all about computers learning more about us. It's a powerful concept which I think AOL was on to with their AOL portal, but it will be something much more effective and customized. XML is the tool which is allowing this to happen.

It really feels like companies are trying to figure out how to make everything work together and eventually the number of places using XML will hit a tipping point where all the sudden every site will have to use it. Personally, I think it's very exciting and am already trying to figure out ways to implement XML and open sharing on my web projects.

So, "Learning XML" is a good book for those of you willing to swim in the code.




PS. For those of you keeping score, gDocs just added a margin to your documents. I think it looks good and helps it look more like a real document. Also, I just noticed the ability to add comments to the document. This should be very helpful when I'm editing someone's work. Normally I would have to change font colors to let them know I changed something.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lisa's Printing job

My mom and sister came up to visit and my sister made a shirt in my print shop (aka my bedroom). I don't know if I've ever shared any pictures of it, but below is a slide show of what she made. For a first timer and thought they turned out pretty good. Way to go Lisa!



Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sleep Experiment

Sometimes it's fun to change things up and these last two weeks have definitely been different for me. You see, for these last two weeks I haven't slept in my bed once. I started out with a simple policy: when I get tired, grab a blanket and pillow and go to sleep where I am. Sounds crazy doesn't it? There's no doubt that the first couple of nights were a little weird.

Interestingly, I've developed a pattern. Since I spend 99.9% of my time in my living room, the middle of the floor has become my new bed. I've figured out the right combination of pillows so I don't get a sore neck, and the correct combination of blankets so I don't broil or freeze. It's actually gotten to the point where I think I prefer sleeping on the floor over sleeping in my bed. My poor bedroom has become nothing more than a repository for my clothes.

Yes, Jessi does think I'm a crazy wacko.

Why did I do it? I think it really arose out of two issues in my life. First was a general feeling of "blah". I really felt like I was just floating through time and not influencing my daily choices much. I'm not going to say I was depressed, because I wasn't, but more had a loss of motivation to check things off my to-do list (and it was getting long fast). Now I often, like many people, wait until the deadline to get things done, but now I was starting to let some deadlines slip which wasn't normal for me at all. As you can imagine, this also led to a subtle uneasy feeling and mental paralysis.Psychological enough for you?

The second reason is much more practical: I wasn't waking up in the morning when I wanted to. I would set my alarm at a reasonable hour, usually 8 hours after going to sleep, and then not get up. I was sleeping 9-10 hours and still feeling groggy in the morning. Yes, I was hitting my snooze 6 or 7 times in a row. Now I'm typically a morning person, so this was REALLY perplexing.

Now I know this kind of stuff happens in cycles. I used to have a similar issue with homework. I would be really productive and then magically struggle to get my work done on time. My secret to pulling myself back was to change something up, which, when it was homework, was location. If I did it at my desk, I would move to my couch or the floor. Or, I would have to move to a classroom and rotate rooms. Each cycle lasted about two weeks, and despite how little of a change it seems, it worked for me.

This time round I'm applying it towards my sleep and it seems to be working. I've been able to get up when I want, I've restored the perception of control in my life and my to-do list is back to normal length (which is still probably too long). So life right now is pretty good. What "extreme" measures have you taken to change up your life?