Monday, May 31, 2010

May Update

I'm trying out yet another series. This one is a monthly recap. I'm planning on sharing things we've done and then share a few interesting items I've found on the web in the past month.

What we've been up to
The first half of the month was spent hanging out with friends. We watched Iron Man 2 and ate out a ton. We probably ate out too much. I haven't created our monthly financial summary yet, so I don't actually know. Though, I think it was worth it because we got to be with friends. This time also marked the finish to a very long planning process at work. In previous years it only lasted two weeks, but this year it was closer to two months. It was a long process, but we had the best review with senior management that I've ever heard of.

Jessi has been putting on monthly Women's Health Nights. I hear they're going great. They're all learning how to live healthier amidst busy lives. Jessi really likes giving fun little tips and tricks to make women's lives easier.

The second half of this month was characterized by a lot of travel for me. I went to Boise for a few meetings. It was good getting to see my team. I especially liked our team-building activity: go kart racing. Then I got to go on the Meat Retreat with our church's youth group. I talk about that exploit here.

Information of interest
I saw this article and shared it with Jessi. It shows you how to make bags out of old shirts. Jessi went ahead and made a couple and they turned out great. She has photos somewhere. I'll try and get her to upload them to Facebook.
Quick Grocery Bag From an Old Shirt

I'm kind of attracted to graphs and I really like Back To The Future. So, when I can combine the two together, I really have something special. So this article isn't really an article as much as it is displaying visually a great line from a great movie.
Famous Science Fiction Quotes in Graph Form

Videos I liked
This first one is inspirational. It's a Nike ad which makes you think. (link)

The second one should blow your mind. It's Back To The Future I & II running together (I told you I liked it). A couple splits were made to make it work, but it's pretty fun to watch. (link)

That's it for this month. I hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meat Retreat

This last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in something truly unique: Meat Retreat. This is an event put on by our church where a bunch of high school boys go on a camping trip and eat pretty much nothing but meat all weekend. It was a ton of fun, and also tested my insides. We camped at Tumalo State Park in Bend, OR. Here's what we did:

  • I started off the trip enjoying a root beer float from A&W.
  • Friday night was horrible. By 2am I was so cold I couldn't go back to sleep. My toes were frozen and all I could do was toss and turn while I waited the night out. When I got up, I found I wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep (almost everyone froze).
  • Brauts for breakfast.
  • Frisbee golf at Sister's High School in the morning (another group went mountain bike riding. It sounded like they had fun too).
  • Turkey cold cuts for lunch.
  • An epic softball game in the afternoon. Imagine getting up to bat and seeing 18 people sprinkled across the field. Surprisingly, the final score was 18-12 despite the plethora of people. I also managed to slip and fall while trying to stop at second and tore up my left knee.
  • Played the weirdest game of Texas Hold em Poker ever. One person's strategy was to keep his chip stacks even. It made for massive bets before any cards were laid out.
  • A Bacon Explosion for dinner (more later).
  • Went to Safeway to buy ice cream (I got Ben & Jerry's S'mores). Sat in the eating area and watched Chopped. It must have looked weird to see 40 guys glued to a small TV watching a cooking show.
  • I put Little Hotties in my socks to keep my feet warm the second and it did the trick.
  • On Sunday, more Brauts for breakfast.
  • Went on a hike up Smith Rock (more later).
  • Had our final meal at Panda Express (their Lemon Chicken is great).

Bacon Explosion
Right before the Meat Retreat, I was shown a site that detailed how to make a Bacon Explosion. It really is over the top, but given that this was a Meat Retreat, I made it. I'll let the pictures and video tell the story of this one.

Smith Rock
On Sunday we went for a hike up Smith Rock. As the picture on the left shows, it has some pretty steep edges. You can't see it, but there are rock climbers all over the place. There's also a trail off to the left that we hiked up. It took about a half hour to get to the top. The day was absolutely beautiful. Below are some more pictures and a short video showing the view from on top. It would be fun to hike up to the top again and have a picnic lunch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I guess I should add to my 2010 goal list: I'd like to make 52 posts this year (or average one a week). The closest I got was back in 2008 when I had 50 posts, and I probably would have made it if I didn't slack off that November with only one post (about pirates no less). Still, I'd like to maintain some semblance of quality instead of only going for quantity. Now, in order to write once a week, I need a topic. Unfortunately, I'm not great at that part. I mean, I could talk about what we're up to, but most of the time it's really boring to read about (I worked this week... on lots and lots on graphs that I'm not allowed to share). So, my standard fall back has been talking about things I'm reading and I've got a nice book review series going. Today, I'm expanding that. For some of you, it will be very helpful. For others, it'll just make you jealous. Sorry.

Today I'd like to talk about an iPhone app I've found really useful called TripIt (iTunes link). My boss shared this app with me and it's pretty sweet. It helps you easily manage your travel information. It can handle flight, car and hotel information all together in an easy to use interface.

To see how it works, let's pretend you're traveling to Boise, ID (which, as luck would have it, I'm doing right now). Here's what you do:

First, sign up for TripIt at I choose to use Google, but you can also sign up with Facebook, or create a whole new profile just for this service. Then, go to the upper right hand corner and select your user name -> "Settings" -> "About You". In the very first section is a spot called email. Since my travel is through HP, I added my HP email (you'll see why in a second), but your normal email should already be there. Now your one-time setup is done.

Then book your travel just like normal. Make sure you have whatever you book it with send you an email. Then, add your trip to TripIt. When adding your trip to TripIt, you can either manually enter the information or email the itinerary that was sent to you earlier to TripIt will take that email and parse out the details of your trip. Then, you can login and edit the details and fix any mistakes that might have been made. I have found it to be extremely accurate. The only editing I've done is remove information I don't care about it. Here's what your trip looks like:

OK, now the really cool part. Download TripIt and login. The app will automatically sync with your account and list all your up coming trips. Clicking on a specific trip will display the details of that trip. You can see your flight information, your confirmation code and more. You can also see your rental car and hotel information - with links to the map app to easily get from one place to another. You can also sign up for the pro account and get additional up-to-date information (like if your flight is delayed) and even check in right on your phone.

I've used the app a few times and find it really helpful. I no longer have to carry paper around or keep old emails in my inbox when I travel. I highly recommend trying it out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Duplex Update

With May in full swing, I thought I'd take a break and give an update on our duplex. I think the last time we talked explicitly about it was back in November when we shared a video us of installing a Water Back Flow Prevention Valve. We're 6 months later and much has happened.

Kitchen Remodel
If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you've probably noticed I've discovered Qik. The video quality isn't great (because I only have the iPhone 3G, I hear the 3GS is much better), but it's so easy to capture and upload video with a device already in my pocket, I can't help but use it frequently. Here's a video we made of the final product. It's my brother giving a quick tour of what we did.

As described in the video, here's what we did for the kitchen remodel:
  • Created a dinning area by replacing carpet with bambo lamenent flooring.
  • Added a dish washer
  • Added a garbage disposal
  • Added a Microwave shelf
  • Doubled the counter-top space
  • Added more storage for larger pots and pans
It was a wirlwind project that took 3 [long] days. My dad brother and sister drove up Thursday, we worked Friday, Saturday & Sunday, and they drove back home on Monday. Jessi did paint and replaced all the cabinet hardware the following day just to finish it up.

New Tenants
We had already moved over to the other side (remember the garage?), and so once that project was done it was time to put it on the market. We ended up finding an excellent family who were able to move in right away. I think it's been a good match. With the weather turning nice, it's been fun to watch their two sons playing in the font and back yard.

New Toys
Speaking of nice weather, Jessi and I have gotten two new toys. The first is a lawn mower and the second is a weed hacker to get the places the lawn mower misses. The following Qik video shows off the lawn mower.

You can't see it in the video, but by the time we bought the mower our grass was out of control. In some places the grass was as high as my knees! As you can imagine, it took a while to cut the grass our first time round. In this next video of our weed hacker, I point out some grass which is super long. Now imagine having that for your entire back yard.

Future Plans
This summer we have 2 major projects and a couple minor projects planned.
  • We need to regrade the font and back yards. Currently it's either flat or towards the building. If we can figure out a way to get a small tractor in the back, I think that'll be the easiest instead of us trying to do it with shovels and rakes.
  • We need to paint the outside. This will be good to seal all the cracks and change the colors.
  • Once we regrade the yards, Jessi wants to plant flowers and even start a garden.

So, that's the update on our duplex. It's been a lot of fun and we're learning a lot.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Go-Giver

Both Jessi and I read The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It's a short book and a very fast read. You could easily finish it within a week, and day if you have a 2-3 hours available. Our real estate agent share this book with us and we are so thankful he did. It's been a blessing in our life.

The subtitle describes the book well: "A little story about a powerful business idea". So, as I'm sure you guessed, the book is written as a short story. It starts off with a man who is a "go-getter" - very driven, works hard, but just can't seem to get ahead. More importantly, something seems to be lacking in his life. He asks another man in the office how he is so successful without looking like he's working hard. He gets directed to another, this time famously successful, man and his journey begins. It's the classic story where he gets spoon fed information and you get to grow along with him. It reminds me of The One Minute Millionaire which was co-authored by Mark Victor Hansen (the Chicken Soup guy). So if you liked those, you'll love this story.

By the end of the book, you learn about 5 laws. These are guidelines to help you conduct yourself in the workplace. I won't go into the five laws (you have to read the book to see them), but they all revolve around giving more of yourself to others. And not because you expect them to pay you back, but because it's the right thing to do.

Jessi, who is a natural gift giver, loved this book. I think she might have read it twice just to make sure she got it. The book laid the framework for us to talk about our business - to make sure we are giving instead of taking. It was a great conversation and resulted in a change of how we conduct business. I know it made Jessi's last Women's Night a success.

Like I said, it's a fast read and worth your time if you're looking for a way to reach another level of success in your life. Almost oddly, you won't find a reference to God and talk about how he blesses those who give. But I would say the message is implied throughout the book.