Monday, October 31, 2011

A Super Halloween

Yup. We are those people. But you gotta admit he's super cute.

Oh yeah, it gets worse. We matched him.

Well, I went the subtle route.

At the church during the high school maze event.

You'd think this is a super stylized photo. Nope. The front camera on the iPhone isn't that great.

And, beyond cute. Personally, I'm super impressed with Vinnie's patience with us.

How I Would Teach A Class

Happy Halloween! Here's a non-Halloween topic for today.

I have a secret dream of one day teaching a class. If I had a choice it would either be marketing, strategy or math focused. Maybe "Quantitative Strategic Marketing" - I don't know what that is, but I want to take that class! Maybe it's a practical strategic marketing class that involves some sort of data synthesis?... Anyways, that's not my point in this post.

If I were to teach this fantastic class, how would I structure it?

First, I would host my class on a blog.

Second, I would record my lectures ahead of time and post in an archive for consuming any time. Then, at the appropriate time I'd set up a blog post embedding it. It would probably be video because that's cool. For homework, the students would watch the lectures. There might also be some reading as well.

Then, they would be able to comment on the post. The comments could be asking a question, which could then get voted up (or down) Digg style. Students, and I, would be able to reply back and start a discussion. Hopefully, the "good" questions float to the top. Making it real time would be awesome.

Third, meetings in the classroom would be a time to answer any remaining questions and then work on homework assignments. If it's a math class - work on math problems. Students would be able to help each other and I would roam around to help as needed. Talking and using the white board would be highly encouraged.

Fourth, depending on how long the class time is, I'd love to provides some snacks, drinks and music so it feels more like a gathering than an official lecture session.

Fifth, in following years, I'll be able to reuse/improve the lecture series - freeing me up to focus on other tasks for the class. I would also be able to point to previous discussions as well so new classes can build upon it. As Bill Gates recently said, it's kind ridiculous that we're not already recording every single lecture. Storage is very cheap, and the content is very valuable.

In a lot of ways it's the Khan Academy structure: lecture at home, homework in class. It also takes advantage of current social networks to better enable conversations outside the classroom. If I had to do some sort of in-class lecture, I would want to use something like Google Moderator to allow students to ask/answer/vote on questions. Maybe a chatroom/Facebook group would be enough...

Wouldn't it be amazing to have a class you never had to show up to? You could do everything on your own, at your own pace. Plus, the t would be there to help along the way if you needed it. What's also really cool about this vision is that it's completely possible given today's technology.

Actually... now that I think about it... there's nothing stopping me today from doing my own mini-lecture series and posting it (except time...). Let's see, I could give resume advice... explain marketing concepts... share personal finance thoughts. Ha ha. I guess I already do all of this, just in the written form... Still, it would be fun to have an actual class full of eager learners.

Anyways, that's my vision for a classroom. I think it would help students learn and free up teacher's time in the long run. It's a class I would love to teach someday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Networking Events: Love 'em or Hate 'em, Here's How To Make It Worthwhile
I just finished an email exchange talking about networking and I thought this would be a good companion piece to my thoughts on finding a job. Here's the advice I gave when networking.

First, read the book The Fine Art of Small Talk. It's a quick read and inside is a list of Do's and Don'ts. I wrote down the list and have a printed sheet in my car. Each time I arrive at a networking event, I review the sheet and think of topics. My full review is here.

For me, it becomes a game: Using my learned small talk skills I try to figure out ways to help people. Sometimes it's information, sometimes it's a connection. Besides being fun, it's feels great to help people. What's also happening is I'm becoming valuable to them and they will want to connect with me. It really is all about yo mindset and using some simple learned communication skills.

When you meet someone who you like and/or you think you can help, follow up with them. Do it that evening - don't wait. In the follow-up make sure to at least include 3 things:

  1. Thank them for the conversation about __________________ (you might need to take notes during the event so you can remind them what you talked about - they won't remember. I write on the card they hand me).
  2. Invite them to connect again, either over the phone or in person, for a specific purpose (probably related to what you talked about).
  3. Add your picture at the bottom of the message (just to doubly make sure they remember who you are).

Again, implied in those 3 points is that while networking, seek ways to help others. Also, since this requires you to have a real conversation and real follow-up, don't go over board. I'm usually only capable of really connecting with 3-5 people at a networking event. I do usually walk away with 20+ cards, but only a handful are actually meaningful to me.

I suppose you could send everyone you meet a LinkedIn invitation reminding them of where you met. That way you at least keep that "connection". But, I don't know... I've never done that before... but I tend to be more selective about who I connect with (not sure if that's good or bad). Plus, you creep dangerously close to being "that person" at the networking event.

Again, it's not about the quantity, but about the quality. If you genuinely help a few people, word will get around to many people that you're a person worth connecting with.

Two other books I read which helped me are Never Eat Alone (my review) and Endless Referrals.

Monday, October 24, 2011

iPhone 4S Review
When I first announced my intent to buy an iPhone 4S, some friends asked for a review. After a week of playing with it, here it is.

Historically Speaking...
As a reminder, my previous phone was the iPhone 3G, NOT the 3GS, 3G. In terms of smart phone lifespans, mine was a dinosaur. I actually stopped downloading apps because the new ones were too advanced, would completely grind my phone to a halt, and could only be fixed by doing a restart - a process that took 10 minutes to complete. So, I was ready for the upgrade.

Features I Love

Faster: Remember, I'm biased coming from the 3G. Still, this phone is fast. I tap, it opens. No thinking. No waiting. I love it.

Camera: FANTASTIC. I can now take a picture, use it as a wallpaper on my desktop, and it doesn't look pixelated. AWESOME. I also like the camera button also acts on the volume up button... wait... reverse that. It doesn't replace my Canon SLR yet, but I won't be bringing it along anymore for "regular" trips. This phone is all I need.

Game Apps: Again, 3G user here. I started playing Infinity Blade because a friend bought it for me. After playing for 15 minutes I easily came to the conclusion that Nintendo's DS is in trouble. The graphics are AMAZING, the gameplay actually complex, and all at a reasonable price. I love Nintendo and my original Gameboy, but I will never buy a DS.

WiFi Sync: I used to regularly sync my 3G. It helped that I worked from home, so it wasn't too inconvenient, but it was an effort to remember. Now, I get this kick out of plugging in my phone and watching the little rotating arrows indicating that my phone is syncing. More importantly, Jessi NEVER sync'd her phone. Now her's syncs every night too. This is good, very good.

Siri: Ah yes, the sassy assistant. Here's what I've determined. Siri is genuinely useful while driving. I'm sure the other drivers appreciate it too. Speaking text messages is easier than typing, though not always faster. However, I don't like that I'm not allowed to take a break when speaking to Siri because she/it (?) thinks I'm done and starts processing what I said, but I'll eventually adjust. I also think it was absolutely BRILLIANT to make Siri sassy and include pop-culture references. That sass is EXACTLY what will keep people talking about and that sharing of Siri's sass is going to sell MILLIONS of phones. See my previous post if you don't believe me.

Good Features, but not life-changing

Notifications: I tend to turn off notifications on my phone so they were never really a problem for me. I realize I'm in the minority on this one, but I really don't need to know about every new email, every single football game score, when games release new features, or when someone leaves me a comment on Facebook. Furthermore, and this actually bugs me, just because I clear a notification in my Notification Center, it doesn't necessarily mean that the little badge disappears (thankfully it does work the other way... most of the time).

Twitter Integration: This isn't life changing since I've been tweeting from my phone for a while. But here's what happened: I used to tweet using SMS, and I would add Facebook and Google+. Over the last week, I didn't use the SMS option once. Instead I used some version of the built in function (like tweeting right from a photo). Here's the kicker: after I tweeted, I did NOT go back and do the same for Facebook or Google+. It was just too much effort. We'll see if that changes over time, but in the short-term it's a HUGE win for Twitter.

iMessage: Since I have unlimited texting, I never really saw a difference. However, the ability to see if the message was read is a nice addition. I also noticed that messages tend to send MUCH faster. I'm not sure why, but I like it.

iCloud: I managed my email, calendar, and contacts via Google. All my docs with Dropbox. Todo list with Remember The Milk. So the only things iCloud is in charge of is Bookmarks, Photos and backups. I'm sure if it managed all the other things it would be fantastic, but for now it's nice to not need to think about syncing those.

Features I'm finally happy to have (aka New To Me, Old To iOS)
Since I only had the 3G I was elated to get a few "old" features:
  • Multitasking
  • The Retina Display: Sometimes I just sit and stare at the screen in disbelief
  • FaceTime: already used it a bunch of times this week, much better than my computer
  • GameCenter
  • A real video camera: which is awesome
  • Did I mention a speed boost already?
  • A front facing camera: I'll admit that I used it once as a mirror (I'm so vain!)

Honorable Mention
  • Reading List: Think of it as a temporary bookmark. I've used it and the device syncing is nice.
  • Custom vibrations: More fun than actually useful. What I really want to know is how to turn off vibrations for text messages.

New Phone, Old AT&T
The one and only downside to my phone is the carrier. Despite Apply playing up some new antenna sorcery, I still drop calls. I dropped 2 this week while in work meetings. I don't get it. Sometimes I'll go weeks without an issue, sometimes I'll drop 5 calls in a single day. The only difference is that with my old phone it would start to go fuzzy and break up before dropping - usually giving me time to warn the other person and call back. On the iPhone 4S call quality is excellent right up to the drop. So... that's better, right?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Duet With Siri (iPhone 4s Song)

So, I was going to make a video of Siri reacting to funny commands like "I love you" and "What's your favorite color?" Then I saw this video and it's easily 10 times cooler than anything I could do. So here's a video by Jonathan Mann showing off the sassier side of Siri.

I honestly still can't decide if Siri is genuinely useful or if it's just going to provide great entertainment and never ending memes. In the mean time, here are some particularly sassy replies:

Q: Can you tell me a joke?
A: I can't, I always forget the punch line.

Q: Beam me up
A: Energizing...
A: Sorry Captain, your TriCorder is in Airplane Mode.
A: OK. Stand still.

Q: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A: It depends on whether you are talking about African or European wood.

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: My favorite color is... well, I don't know how to say it in your language. It's sort of greenish, but with more dimensions.

Q: Siri, what are you wearing?
A: Aluminosilicate glass and stainless steel. Nice, huh?

Q: What is the best phone?
A: Wait... there are other phones?
A: The one you're holding

Q: Knock knock
A: Knock knock. Who's there? James. James who? James, I don't do knock-knock jokes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

28 Years Old

Visiting CA for Lisa's birthday
For some reason, 28 doesn't sound as scary as 27 did. I don't have any real reason for it - it just sounds nicer.

First off, thank you everyone for all of the birthday wishes! I really do appreciate it. Today should be a relaxing day. I don't have anything planned and so today gets to be a day of hanging out. Now for a couple pictures of my past year and then I'm off to enjoy the day.

Christmas Tree Hunting

Trying on some PJs for a Man-Jama party.

Visiting Singapore

Earning my blue belt in Jiu Jitsu

Mustache March!

Corvallis Half-Marathon

Visiting India

In Ohio for my best friend's wedding

Dressed up for Brian's wedding

Running to the beach with Vinnie

Watching hot air balloons lift-off

Flying in an airplane as James "TC" Furlo (T= Top Gun. C = Macaroni & Cheese; Or Top Cheese)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Storage Wars: Crystal Lake Public Storage

Ever seen Storage Wars on A&E? It's streaming on Netflix if you want to watch it. It turns out that similar storage auctions are going on right here in the Corvallis/Albany area. I got invited to tag along with a friend yesterday and it was a hoot.

There was a single locker going up at this place - a 10' x 10'. The manager came in with the cutters and opened it up. What did we see? Stuff. And lots of it. If I had to guess, at one time it was all in an apartment, and everything was jammed in here all the way to the very top.

We were given 5 minutes to look - no going inside, no touching - and then bidding began.

This auction was a verbal one. The other style is silent - you write down your bid, then they open them all up and choose the highest. For this one, the manager stood at the door calling out numbers while the rest of us stood back calling out amounts. He didn't talk super fast like the guy on the TV show, but I could still feel the excitement as people started bidding.

From what we could tell, there were a couple items potentially worth something, but most of it was just household junk. Still, you never know - there could be that rare multi-thousand dollar find lurking in the back! ha ha.

In the end, my friend won the bidding. Super exciting! He threw on his lock, paid the manager and filled out the paperwork. He now has until the end of this weekend to get it all out.

We spent a few minutes poking around to see if there actually was anything of value. Thanks to smart phones, we were able to look up a couple items on eBay to see what going rates are. This sub woofer shown below could probably go for $50-$70 if it's in working condition. The telescope, turned out to not be worth as much as he thought, only $35, but that's the gamble.

It was fun getting to tag along and watch the process. To be successful, even as a hobbyist, you need a few things:

  1. The cash to pay if you win
  2. The transportation and storage if you win (unless you want to keep renting the unit...)
  3. An eye for the value of a large cross section of items
  4. Patience to list and sell everything

Will I ever get into it? I'm not sure yet. Part of it depends on Jessi. :) Something like this would never replace my current job. So it would always be just a hobby.

My dad recommends I at least bid a couple times and see what it feels like to win, on a smaller unit of course. He also said I should check out a construction vehicle auction because the bids are in the thousands instead of the hundreds. Now that would be a rush!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Duplex Painted - A Business vs. Self-Employment

A little bit ago I quickly noted that we were getting our duplex painted. Well, it's done! See above for what it looks like now. See below for what it used to look like.

What do you think? I think it looks MUCH better - especially the huge wall in the front.

In my previous post I talked about our "Great Experiment". Basically, which hurts more: putting in a ton of work on a project (physical/time pain), or writing a big check (financial pain)? The main reason behind this experiment is a general lack of both (time & money). If we had copious amounts of either one, the choice would be easy.

Also playing into our decision is our desire to be business owners. As a Robert Kiyosaki fan (see Cashflow Quadrant), I make a distinction between being self-employed and owning a business, and I want to own a business. Jim Collins makes a good analogy in Built To Last: You can either build a clock, or say the time out loud. Both have the same result - reporting the time - but one is building a system (business) while the other is a job (self-employed).

We want our real estate activities to be a business; a system where we hire excellent people to help with the activities. Hiring people to paint our place and install windows is an example of us treating our duplex like a business. We also have dreams of hiring business development people, maintenance staff, and tenant service representatives.

The trick to being a successful business is to provide enough value to our customers that we can actually afford to hire others. This is where Jessi and I get into long conversations about competitive advantages and value propositions. I love it; Jessi just wants it to be profitable without taking up all her time.

So, eventually we want to figure ways to only be writing checks. We're actively figuring out ways to do that. However, I think for the short-term, we'll have to use our time for most projects. Thankfully there's only one large project left (new windows on our side), and it'll be at least a year before we even think about attempting it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

3rd Annual Parry-Furlo Camping Trip: Yurtin' For Certain'!

Every year we go camping with the Parrys, it gets better. Our first year we went to Sandbeach and listened to ATVs all day long. Our second year we went to Beverly Beach. We were too close to 101, but right next to the beach. This year we went to Cape Lookout State Park. We were once again right next to the beach and so that was what we heard all night - the ocean.

Furthermore, we stayed in a yurt. It's a 20' diameter circle (it's in the background of the top picture). With a table, a couple chairs, a bunk bed, a futon, and a heater. So even though there was the threat of rain this weekend, we were going to stay dry and warm.

It turns out though, that the weather was amazing! It was sunny and warm on Saturday, which made for a perfect beach day. Vinnie loved the beach too. He ran around like a crazy dog - totally tiring himself out. Awesome! Here's a picture of Grace and Ethan evaluating all the shells they found at the beach.

There were also a bunch of gnarly tree all around the campsite which were perfect for Grace and Ethan to climb. I actually think they spent more time in a tree than on the ground.

On the way home, we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for some ice cream. I don't know why, but for some reason the ice cream tastes extra delicious here.

It was a great trip and I think we're going to try and go back again next year. We just need to make sure we're ready to pull the trigger 9 months in advance to get a yurt again. Finally, there are many more photos (and much higher quality photos too) on The Parry Family Chronicles Blog.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Flying In An Airplane Video

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about flying in an airplane, here's a video of the take-off and landing. There isn't much to listen to other than the hum of the engine and propeller, but watching the landing is fun. This video is compliments of Scott, who's riding in the back seat. I'm sitting on the right.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Flying In An Airplane

It's time to tick another goal off of my 2011 Goals! I've been doing pretty well so far. I got my Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu. I also ran my first Half-Marathon. This goal requires a little bit of explaining. First, here's what I originally wrote:
5) Fly in a Fighter Jet (I don't know why, but I feel the need to capitalize Fighter Jet)
This is definitely the most exciting and most difficult goal I have. I'm not even 100% sure how I'm going to accomplish this goal, and I even contemplated leaving it off. Then I figured at the very least I'd have some fun stories to tell. So, my plan of action is to start asking if people know someone (who knows someone?) that might be able to do something in the way of riding in a Fighter Jet. I also need to decide how much money I'm willing to spend to accomplish this goal.

After asking around a bunch I learned that this goal is pretty much impossible to accomplish in today's society. If I pursued this goal before September 11, 2001 I actually would have stood a pretty good chance. However, since then all such rides have been almost 100% banned. Bummer.

So, I decided to modify this goal to something more reasonable. I wanted to fly a small airplane. Even if I only got to man the controls for 30 seconds, that would be enough of a thrill.

On Friday I got to do just that. It all started at a Willamette career event. I was supposed to be doing quick mock interviews for students to help them gear up for the year ahead. The first person sat down, named Scott, and we began talking. I noticed him wearing an Air BP shirt. Interesting. I glanced at his resume and saw he had an internship with Air BP. More interesting. So I asked the logical question, "Did you get to fly in a small airplane during your internship?" The answer was no, but his father, who lives in Corvallis, had his pilot's licenses, so he got to go flying a lot. Mega interesting!

At this point in time I ditched the mock interview process and straight up asked about getting a ride. Scott said he had to check with his father - fair enough. After some emails back and forth, and one false start due to a mechanical issue, we got in the air last Friday. Boom!

We flew around Corvallis, Philomath and Albany for about an hour. At one point, I even got to man the controls - what a blast! The city sure does look different when up in the air.

Time for a graphical tour of the area.

Here I am wearing my headset. Very official looking. ha ha. I've been working with my dad to create a call sign. So far, the front runner is "TC". T stands for Top from Top Gun (the best movie of all time). The C stands for Cheese from Macaroni and Cheese (the best food of all time).

Reser Stadium. Home of the Oregon State Beavers.

Our church - Northwest Hills Community Church. Not much happening on a Friday afternoon.

HP's Corvallis Site. It really is a large place. I can see why it's a big deal to the community. I think next summer Jessi and I should try to float down that river.

See that blue house with the white-ish roof in the center just above the field? That's our house.

Many thanks to Scott and his father for helping me accomplish one of my goals this year. It was very nice of them to allow me to ride along. Thank you!