Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Home Sweet Home

We bought a house!

That's right, it's a cute 2 bedroom 1 bathroom place with an attached garage a little over a mile away (~20 blocks) from downtown Albany. It's definitely a fixer-upper with some funkiness, but that's the kind of place we wanted. We're doing some minor repairs this week, packing next week and moving on May 5th. Then we'll turn our attention to fixing up our duplex unit to rent. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyways) that we'll be busy the next 6 weeks.

Here's a panorama of the kitchen:

We're super excited about having more counter-top space and a dishwasher. Ah, the simple pleasures in life. :) By the way, this place was actually Jessi's fault. We were at a restaurant waiting for our food and decided to flip through my latest listing alerts for entertainment. This listing came up because of a recent  price drop. I read the price and description and then moved on.

Jessi practically yelled at me to stop. I looked at her quizzically. In my opinion it was a dump that needed a lot of repair and she said a few months back that she didn't want to move into another fixer-upper. Well... apparently it can be a fixer-upper if it looks cute.

Here's a panorama of the living room:

BTW, that plastic on the floor is straight, that'll give you an idea of the kind of curve the panorama has.

Fast forward a short month later and we're now the owners. It definitely needs some TLC, but most of it can wait a few years. That'll give us time to finish paying off our student loans and plan out the bigger projects.

Here's the view out our front window:

The price we paid was excellent and it means our monthly expenses will actually be less than if we rented in Corvallis. That's a big win. Plus, through some financial wizardry the cash required to close was pretty close to what we expected to spend to start renting. I have another post already in the works talking more about the financial logic.

The bathroom:

I'm a little concerned about the counter space... Oh wait... There is none. I guess there's nothing to be concerned about. One of the perks of downsizing in home size is that everything is smaller.

OK? Ready for the funkiness? Feast your eyes on this stair case:

First, yes there is a door that opens to the side of the stairs. I guess we'll use the space below the ladder err... stairs for storage.

Second, I'm pretty sure those stairs are not up to code. We would like to do something with the second floor in the future and the biggest hurdle is going to be figuring out what to do with the stairs. We have some ideas, but we'll take a few years to feel it out.

Speaking of upstairs, we're not sure what to call this. I like "unfinished bonus room":

That's right. It comes with its very own model train set. The real train is a block away.

Oh! before I forget! If you know anyone into model trains who might have a use for old tracks, send them my way. I just recently came into a treasure trove of model train tracks.

Unfortunately, I'm not a trained conductor (get it?!) so I couldn't figure out how to get it to turn on.

We'll leave it alone for now, but some day in the future, once our student loans are paid off (really!) we'll rip all this out to make space for another bedroom and bathroom.

I did think this picture was cool. It probably won't survive the wrath of Jess though...

Super fun! We've been talking about moving out since October... Then I hurt my finger... But now it's happening for reals! If you want to help us move, you're more than welcome to come help. Also, if you have any experience building a new countertop or replacing a window (for our duplex), I'd love to pick your brain. I know I can do a functional job, but if I could make it look good, that would be a bonus.

Fun fact: Bonnie and Clyde died in 1934 during an FBI ambush of their hideout (the address number of our home is 1934).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Slight Edge #BookReview

When a friend hands you a book and says, "You have to read this, but return it when you're done." You know you're in for a treat. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson lived up to that promise.

The punchline of the book is right in the sub-title: Turning simple disciplines into massive success. Like I talked about during the Furlo Bros Tech Podcast a few months back, the idea is to take small, simple actions every day towards a goal. Those actions compound over time to create extra ordinary results.

For example, you might decide you actually want to be able to do a crazy amount of push-ups. You decide to start with 1, but every day add another 1. If you do your push-ups every day, you'll slowly build the required muscles to do 365 push-ups by the end of the year. Of course, it's just as easy NOT to do the push-ups. At first, you won't even notice, maybe not even for the first couple months, but slowly you'll start to notice the impact of your decision.

Another classic example is saving for retirement. Just save $5 a day and 40 years later you'll retire a millionaire. It's easy as a young adult to put off saving for retirement. It's only $5! You won't notice this simple error in judgement at first. Most don't notice it until they're 40 or even 50! By then, that simple error has compounded into a big problem. On the positive side of the curve, that effortless decision means you'll be able to retire and enjoy life.

The concept is simple, and probably something you already intuitively know. Olson spends the 200 pages in the book giving examples of it in action (highly motivating!) and diving deeper in the details of how it works. By the time you finish, you'll be able to articulate the concept and act upon it. Check out the image above for a visual representation of it.

My Personal Application
At the end of the book, Olson gives areas to focus on. It starts out with regular goal setting, but then ties them to specific simple actions you take every day. Here are mine since it's also good to write them down and share them.


  • Goal: After I hurt my finger, I stopped being as active and put on an extra 10 pounds. I'd like to lose it. At the same time, I allowed my portions to get out of control. The holiday season is a bad time to lose focus!
  • Action: Go to sleep every night slightly hungry. Eventually it will morph to something else, but for now this is an easy gauge at the end of the day.
  • Action: Floss. Every. Single. Day. This will improve my oral health and is an area I slacked off on.

Personal Development

  • Goal: I enjoy listening to audiobooks, but listening to technical/self-imporvement books is hard to do while just listening because I can't easily take notes and refer back to the material. So, I've been shying away from listening to them. As much fun as it was to say I don't read anymore, I need to get back to reading. Perhaps I can say something about digital vs. paper reading. :)
  • Action: Read, with my eyes, just a little bit of a technical/self-improvement book each day. Olson suggests 10 pages a day. I'm not there yet, but perhaps I will as my actions compound.


  • Goal: I'm leaning on my annual goal for this one. I want to read the whole Bible, which will reveal more of God's will to me and thus improve our relationship.
  • Action: Read 1-4 chapters of my Bible each day. I'm still on track to finish sometime next year.


  • Goal: The BIG goal is to become financially independent. That way Jessi and I can work on what we want, when we want. This involves two parts: money in and money out.
  • Action: Find one way to save money each day. It might be turning the heater off for a couple hours during the day (last month was our lowest electricity bill so far!). Decisions NOT to buy something also count. For example, the power cord on my external drive needs to be replaced. I did a quick search and didn't find a US replacement. So I started looking into a replacement drive. Jessi pressured me to look harder for a power cord replacement. After 30 minutes of looking, I found a US version. I spent $20 instead of $80. I say it counts.
  • Action: Work on my side business a little bit every day. Progress is being made slowly, but at least it's being made. By the way, as my friend pointed out, this is a great companion book to The Go-Giver.

My Life

  • Goal: This one is a little more nebulous. So my actions are more general.
  • Action: Meditate each day. This consists of sitting quietly for ~10 minutes and focusing on a couple things: the greatness of God, nothing, or sometimes just letting my mind wonder. People say good things happens to those who take time to mediate.
  • Action: Wake up by 6:30am every day. I'm a morning person, so the earlier I wake up, the better I feel and the more productive I am (plus, I tend to accomplish all my other daily actions). The problem, is that Jessi is a night person and I like hanging out with her. One of the perks of working from home is that I can be flexible with when I wake up for the late nights. I need to instead focus on limiting the late nights.

Lift iPhone App
That's a ton of information to track! Thankfully, there's an app for that. Lift is an app that provides a simple way to track your progress, and get the support of your friends. The picture shows what it looks like. You create a list of simple daily tasks you want to complete. As you do them, tap the check mark. Finished ones are green. Simple. I actually started using it before reading the book (because I'm cool like that) and the book really helped me focus and be more purposeful on the daily activities I choose.

They're coming out with a web version in a little bit if you don't have an iPhone.

One of the things I love about technology is that it helps us do those things we know we're supposed to do, but never do because it's too hard to get started. Apps like this (and Mint for tracking spending) reduce the barriers to action, which is awesome!

So... uh... yes! I HIGHLY recommend this book. If you're interested in slowly improving your life, this is a great book to show you how to do it. I like to call it a meta-self-help book because it really teaches you how to apply other self-help books. Check it out, you'll be glad you did.

PS. I wrote this post in 3 short writing sessions because I knew I didn't have the time to sit down and do it all at once. As a result, I actually finished it.

Images: & &

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Caterpillar Mustache

According to Jessi, I look horribly disgusting.

According to this photo, I look awesome.

I'll probably hold onto it for a couple more days, but it'll be gone by next week. Thanks for a fun Mustache March!