Friday, January 20, 2017

Smart Home Adventures: Amazon Echo (And Alexa)

For Christmas my parents gave me an Amazon Echo. It's pretty cool and we've been using it for a while. Since it's a voice activated system, I thought I'd record a video of my review. It's 10 minutes long, and that was to give you a good flavor for the types of things it does. The game of 20 questions is particularly interesting. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2017 Goals: The Maker Year

This might sound weird, but I've been looking forward to 2017 starting for a while. It's mostly because there's a handful of things I want to make and I didn't want to start them until the year started so I could have them as goals.

That's weird, right? Why wait to do something I want to do?

Well here we are and it's time to kick things off officially.

(While writing this Elinor figured out how to open her room's door all by herself... it's going to be an amazing year)

Given all the things I want to make, the theme for this year is "Maker".

1) Get Sore 4 Times Each Week
My first two goals are around health. I signed up for a Tough Mudder with my brother in June and I'd really like to be in shape for it. It's a half marathon plus an obstacle course, so I need to do more than run. According to various sources, you don't need to have 2-hour weight lifting sessions to get 80% of the benefits of lifting. Instead, you can spend a short amount of intense time. The trick is to take your muscles to failure. When you do that, they tear a little bit and then rebuild. How do you know if you went to failure? Your sore the next day or two. So that's my goal.

Furthermore, our bodies operate by the "use it or lose it" rule. So I want to regularly send my body signals that I'm using my muscles. Since sitting is the new smoking, I need to do something to offset it.

2) No Desert or Treats for 1 Month
To stay healthy you need to do two things: stay active and, limit your sugar & carbs. I tired the "scale it back" approach, and that didn't last long. So I'm starting out the year, Jan 1, with no desert or treats. I have a calendar based on Jerry Seinfeld's "Don't break the chain" concept to help keep me motivated.

3) Send 1 Thank You Each Week
This one is back from last year. I tried to go only paper last year and I never built momentum. I'm going to try again this year, but allow myself to use any medium to send the thank you. That should reduce the barrier enough to actually do it.

4) Complete a bevy of home projects
Here's the part where the maker year comes to play.

4a) Wood / Classic Construction
I plan to finish the bathroom remodel. It's turning out to be a large project, but it's slowly coming together nicely. I also want to build a standing desk so I'm sitting less often. Normally my wood projects are functional without any finish. I'm plan to have both function and finish this time. Then I'm going to take what I learned and create a new family dining table because our current one is too small to host large groups of people at our house.

4b) 3D Printing
3D printing (aka additive manufacturing) is the future and I'd like to understand it better. Plus, it just so happens that I work for a 3D printing company and have access to 3D printers (and the software). So I'm going to do 3 simple projects to learn more: an iPhone holder, an Apple Watch stand with integrated charger, and a case to hold my different watch bands.

4c) Internet of Things
I have a desire to better understand how software and hardware interact. Plus smart home things are cool. To learn more, I have 3 projects in mind: 1) get notifications from my laundry machines when they're done, 2) Automatically open and close windows, and 3) a digital photo frame that automatically pulls new photos from different social sources. I know very little about these, so it's going to definitely be a challenge.

4d) Food
Finally, I want to improve the food I'm regularly eating. So I'll be taking an online cooking class which should be fun. Plus, our current cooktop is not great (pots and pans don't sit flat on the burners), so I'm going to research and install a new induction cooktop.

Those are my goals for the year. I'm excited for each of these. It feels like a lot, but the trick will be to focus on one thing at the time for #4.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 Goal Review

Well... Well... Well... 2016 is gone and was a crazy year. It should have been called the "unplanned year". Here were the big unplanned happenings:
  • I travelled to Indonesia in March for 3 weeks. I didn't know about the trip until February.
  • We moved. We stopped looking the end of 2015 and put the search on hold because of another unplanned thing (see the next point). Then a property found us and we had an accepted offer within 8 hours of seeing it.
  • We had a another kid - a pleasant surprise - but not planned.
  • I got a new boss at HP and my team merged with my former team. I'm still adjusting to this change.
  • A friend approached me with a business idea based on some research I did. We're in the process of launching it now (more later).
Given all of this, my life looks significantly different today than it did at the beginning of the year. All that to say, from a goals perspective, I did a horrible job of staying on track.

It's kind of embarrassing and I'd rather gloss over it and move onto next year, but I won't.

1) Memorize 52 Bible verses
It turns out that adding verses on top of a lot of existing verses is hard. It started taking significant time to just maintain what I already memorized. It didn't help that after we moved I lost my system. This is my biggest disappointment.

2) Weigh 160lbs
I started P90X and counting calories in February. Then I lost momentum during/after the Indonesia trip and never got it back. Then we moved and I lost my workout space. I actually ended the year 5 pounds heavier. Yikes! 

3) Complete a 1 week water fast
I actually completed this and it was epic! Fun fact: it was during the fast that I landed on the name Samson.

4) Grow ProDIYLandlord
It's all bad news from here on out. I didn't write 26 posts. I didn't even write one every month! This is for a couple reasons. 1) I usually write in the morning, but have been finding it difficult to wake up early enough to write. I also sleep much heavier than I used to. Jessi can get up in the middle of the night and I don't notice. It used to be that Vinnie and I would go on adventures in the middle of the night and Jessi was the clueless one. Now that I'm writing it, this is something I should probably investigate... 2) My research indicated that landlords struggle with one thing: property maintenance. Actually, ALL homeowners struggle with this. My new venture aims to help with this problem. That means less time was spent writing and more time was spent on the new idea.

5) Send 52 thank you notes
Sending physical cards was surprisingly hard. I failed for 2 reasons. 1) I didn't have a good system in place to actually write and send the cards. 2) I felt like it had to be a "big deal" to send a paper card. This goal might come back, but in a slightly different form so I can actually gain momentum.

6) Read 12 books
I only finished 6 books and am in the middle of 2. One of them is "The ONE Thing" which is all about only doing one thing at a time. Keller says that next year I should only have 1 goal and put all my focus on that. After last year, this might not be a bad idea.

In the end, progress is better than nothing: 6 books is better than none and the new venture came about because I was writing for landlords. So in that sense, it's still a good year. Still, I'm ready to move on to 2017!