Monday, August 27, 2012

Fence Project

With summer coming to a close we're finishing up a bunch of projects. One big project this summer was a building a fence. We installed 250 feet of wood. It was a couple tons of material! Since we finished, I wanted to share some pictures of the work.

This is the wood for the posts and framing.

The concrete for the holes. The pile of wood in the back are the slats.

A cool tool we rented to drill the holes. We drilled 31 holes total!

Here's what the whole drill/auger looked like.

And our 2 foot deep hole. Exciting. :)

Here's what the fence looked liked before we poured the concrete.

We wanted to make sure we marked the occasion.

The back part of the fence is complete. We still need to do the middle at this point.

One of 2 gates. This one is between the yards. It's wide enough to fit a riding mower through if we so desire one day.

Our side of the fence with the middle complete.

We also put bark all around the parameter to give it a more completed feel.

We also barked the front yard. Once the grass grows back in it'll look snazzy!

So that was our big summer project! It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Our tenants love it and Vinnie thinks it's OK.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beach Olympics

Ah Beach Olympics. A 30+ year history at our church. For one Saturday 100+ Middle & High School students come together to form 8 colorful teams and compete in a bevy of events. It's a jam-packed day that starts at 7:30am and goes until 10pm when we return home from the beach. I've talked a lot about the event and I thought it would be cool to share some pictures in an attempt to capture what the day is like.

Thanks Steve Gress for sharing your photos with me.

The Teams
Students learn what team they're on a couple days before the event. That gives them time to find the perfect outfit to wear for the day.

China Dig
Dig a hole as deep as possible and create a pile as high as possible. The biggest difference wins. This year it was 6'4". The trick is to use the flag as the center for the pile.

Build & Destroy
The first person builds a sand castle at least 12 inches high. The next person destroys it. Do this 7 times. And yes, there are style points when destroying. First team to finish wins.

You know how this works. The only twist is that it's held over a river running to the ocean. So the loser  gets a little wet.

Red Hot Poker
I don't know who comes up with these games sometimes. Everyone has an end of a small rope and there's a trash can in the middle. If you let go of the rope or touch the can, you're out. Last person remaining wins. In this picture, the two guys in pick are trying to get the kid in yellow out. It didn't work; he ended up winning the whole thing.

The Gantlet
A team runs through section of sand where balls are being thrown at them. The goal is to make it through without being hit. Good luck with that.

Tennis Ball Launch
About 100 yards away are some cones. Get the tennis ball to STOP in the middle of the cones. Each team is given a bucket of balls and the one with the most wins.

Biblical Sand Castles
This event is held right after lunch. Each team builds a scene from the Bible. Then they read the passage it came from and sometimes include a skit to go with it. Bonus points are given for creative use of beach materials.

Bucket Ball
One of the crazier games. It's kind of like water polo, but you give the ball to the other team if they pull your flag. The goal is to get the ball into your bucket. There always seems to be a surprise team when we play this. Strategy is critically important!

4-Way Capture The Flag
It's capture the flag, but the area is split into 4 quadrants and teams are paired together. So there are people running all over the place on this one!

Steal The Bacon
Students are around the edge of a square. In the middle are a bunch of balls & noodles. They announce who will go (ex: "middle school girls!") and they run out to collect as many items as possible for their team. Everything is worth 1 point. The large ball is worth 5 points. The guy in the middle is worth 25 points!

Surf Relay
Team leaders stand in the water with a bag of noodles. Each team then runs out to grab a noodle. It finishes with a lap around the area. First team to finish wins.

Closing Ceremonies
Once it's done, we head back to the grass area, clean up, eat dinner, and announce the winner. This year Orange team won. The winners then get to spray paint the trophy. Yes, it is kind of a creepy trophy, but that's tradition!

After that, the students get to hear a message about Jesus and are given an opportunity to give their life to Him. This, of course, is the big reason for the event. Every year we get to celebrate new people coming to Christ!

On the way home we stop at Dairy Queen and enjoy some celebratory ice cream. I can't wait for next year!

Monday, August 13, 2012

100 Miles Per Gallon

Jessi and I drove the 200 mile Hood to Coast race course this weekend. I'm a driver for one of the teams and I wanted to make sure I knew which turns to make.

The course starts at Timber Lodge at Mt. Hood. Surprisingly, there were a ton of people there! Who knew you could still ski in the middle of summer?!

Going down is pretty much 100% coasting. So much so, that I was able to achieve the dream of all Prius owners: 100 MPG across the board on the consumption screen.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

How Many Spaceships Does It Take To Get A Gold Medal?

I've been reflecting on the big news this week: Usain Bolt winning the 100m & 200m dash for the 2nd time at the Olympics and a rover named Curiosity landing on Mars. Both celebrate profound human accomplishments, but clearly both are different. Warning: you're about to to witness my pessimistic side.

What really caught my attention were two quick stats:

Cost to land Curiosity on Mars: $2.5 billon
Cost of the Olympics in London: At least $16 billion

Let's think about that for a second. To send a machine to a distant world... Something which travelled for 8 months... Which was in development since at least 2004... And survived a completely automated landing... Cost 1/6th of the Olympics, which happens every 4 years.

What am I getting at here?


I don't want to diminish the amazing feats the Olympic athletes accomplished, because let's be honest, it's truly amazing.  Again, don't get me wrong. I think sports are critically important for society: It teaches us how to play fair in a highly structured situation. It teaches us the value of hard work and commitment. It also teaches us poise under pressure and how to lose gracefully (I'm still learning that one).

What pains me is our willingness to spend $16 billion to watch athletes compete. You'd think new technology would enable the host country to save money, but it seems to have the opposite affect. Instead, countries & broadcasters spend more and more to entertain people. And instead of being content with what they already provide, we cry for more (show live footage!)... I'll admit to being guilty of this one.

Just think... if they could host the games for $2 billion (the cost of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics), 5 other rovers could be sent to Mars. Side note: Atlanta profited $10 million. London is expected to take a loss.

Of course, landing on Mars isn't nearly as exciting because the ramifications are not instantly obvious. Photos are pretty, but photos of rocks don't conjure up the same level of emotion as Usain Bolt crossing the finish line of the 200m while quieting his doubters (seriously, he could not have a better name).

Perhaps if we sent a man to Mars it would garner the same level of support? I'd be OK with Nike sponsoring the space suits and Harley sponsoring the rockets to help pay for it.

I think what really bothers me is that we, as a society, have voted with our wallets to favor entertainment instead of research. We reward things that provide an immediate gratification. This is why millions of people sit around cheering on the Olympics while at the same time the number of people in poverty continues to climb, obesity rates slowly tick up, and programs like NASA & public schools scramble to stay alive.

I'll admit to being part of the problem too. I spent money to watch Avengers (twice!), Spiderman & Batman this summer. I didn't donate a penny to my University or any research institute.

Combine this with the recent news about Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur, giving away $3 million each to 9 of the world's best-known physicists. He did it without any expectation of a return; it's literally a thank you to physicists for being awesome (Physics is what he studied originally). You have to admit that's pretty awesome, and puts us to shame.

Perhaps after I finish paying off my student loans I can take part of my money and create a little scholarship to award to someone studying economics? $1,000 a year is easily doable. Imagine if countries decided to do the same thing. Just a thought...

Why Exploring Space Is Important

For completeness, I wanted to cover why I think exploring space is important. I'll lean on an article from for help.

There are inventions like Teflon, Velcro & Tang, but that's really not the point.

Instead, history provides a great example of what's to come. When Columbus sailed to America (despite it not being on purpose), discoveries were made. Those discoveries lead to knew territories and newer discoveries and inventions. In this particular example, the US was formed and many great new discoveries were made. Places like the Moon and Mars provide that same potential. Sure, Mars isn't a wooded forest like the Pacific Northwest, but that just means that different discoveries and inventions will be made.

Furthermore, given the size of these undertakings, it's turned competition into cooperation. The US, China & Russia are now friends pursing a similar goal. That's amazing! Could you imagine a day when we're friends with al-Qaeda and they supply a couple willing participants to donate their lives to explore Mars (because, let's be honest, that's a one way trip). Unfortunately, the timeline for these events are so long in our immediate-gratification-culture that what I just suggested sounds like a non-PC joke.

Finally, not only do the discoveries and the development of those discovers provide economic gains, but the very journey also helps economic development. Eventually the space station will be a tourist stop, and we'll be creating jobs on other planets. That's exciting!

I'm not sure how athletes would train for an Olympics on Mars, but I'd like to find out and watch the outcome.


Monday, August 06, 2012

The Secret to Making Gas Prices Fall: Buy A Prius

This is a post a month in the making. I've been busy doing other things, but it's mostly because it took me this long to finally wash my car... You know, so I could take a picture of a clean car for this blog. :)

Actually, this post is a few months in the making. Some time in March my dad let me know he would be getting rid of their Prius because their driving situation changed (a company car for Mom - woohoo!). At the time I had been moaning about gas prices being at $3.55 and steadily climbing. Trust me, neither a Jeep or Truck are "fuel efficient".

I was literally to the point where my chest hurt each time I stopped to get gas. I'd never felt anxiety like that before, and I didn't like it. We were already looking at switching out the Truck for something smaller. I liked the Scion xB & we were trying to figure out a way to justify buying one. So, when the option of buying a Prius came up, we jumped on it.

Once we "bought it", we waited until my mom drove it up to visit us the end of June (hence, we've had it for a month now).

If you've been paying attention to gas prices, then you'll know what's about to happen:

We agreed to buy it in April.
On 4/22, I paid $4.01 per gallon

On 6/1, I paid $4.21

Just before my mom arrived, on 6/17, I paid $3.79

My very first fill up on 6/26, I paid $3.41

The lowest, on 7/14, I paid $3.28

Clearly, buying our Prius caused the price of gas to go down. I'm fairly certain this trend won't continue, but I'm still going to take credit.

I like to think of the Prius as a high-tech car instead of a hippie mobile. Yes, saving fuel is one of the benefits of a high tech car, but there are many other perks!

For example, there's a dongle you never need to take out of your pocket. Just touch the door handle and the car unlocks. Push a button, and it starts up. Other cool features include climate control and warning lights for everything (like tire pressure).

Though my absolute favorite high-tech feature is the center display screen. In addition to audio & climate information, when you put it in reverse, it displays a video of behind your car. That's pretty nice when backup late at night.

But my absolute favorite features is the consumption screen! Check this out:

While driving, it gives you real-time feedback on your MPG. In the picture above, I'm getting 100 MPG... Essentially the engine is off and it's 100% battery. It also shows your average in 5 minute intervals. I'm getting better milage every 5 minutes on this trip. It's like a game to try and maximize the green bars. Yes, I have managed to get a couple of the 5 minute intervals to be 100. It's not easy!

Also in the picture are little green leaf/car images. You earn those ("earn" - game language) by using a brake feature on the car instead of stepping on the petal. When you use that brake, it re-captures energy to charge up the battery. The best I've ever done was 3 leafs/cars by using the brake lever while going down a steep hill.

So now we have 2 very fun cars to drive, the Jeep & the Prius. Both are fun for completely different reasons, but still pretty fun.

We're pretty sure this'll be it for a while. We really like both cars and intend to drive them for a long time. As for my Truck, it's currently for sale (anybody want a truck!) and then we'll be out of the large vehicle lifestyle. This, by the way, is the reason why we got the Foldable Utility Trailer. Without the truck, we needed something for those few times we actually need to transport something large.