Sunday, October 31, 2010

October - Rest and Relaxation

For the last few months I've talked about how crazy our lives have been. This month however, was a nice break from the constant rush. Don't get me wrong, we were busy, but it was a different type. Here's what we were up to:

The beginning of the month started with my trip down to San Francisco. It was a blast on all accounts. I got to drive a van, help some people in the city, and see my family. I've already shared a lot about the trip and you can read more about it here.

Then Jessi and I began leading small groups, with some friends, for the freshman high school students at our church. Jessi's group of girls sounds fantastic. They get 6-8 showing up each week and are talking about lies girls tell themselves. The girls have a lot of fun while at the same time holding deep conversations. The intent is to work with these students through their graduation - so for four years. It's very exciting.

I've also already shared about us joining the Mac family. Jessi is loving the Mac life. She's constantly telling me she loves her MacBook. It's actually pretty funny. I also think my iMac is fantastic. For me, the transition to iWork has been an interesting one. I've been playing around and learning a lot. I think Pages is just as good, if not a little better than, as Word. Keynote works differently than PowerPoint, and over time I'll learn all the tricks, but right now they seem to be on par. Though, I'll be honest, I was asked to help with a PowerPoint project and I chickened out - I used PowerPoint on my work computer to make it. Finally, Excel is clearly more powerful than Numbers. Besides the apparent lack of pivot tables, the formatting controls just don't seem as good. How do you copy styles of multiple cells? I can't figure it out. I'm sure over time I'll get more comfortable, but I'm glad I have Excel close by on my work machine for now. I also need to find a good Photoshop replacement. I'm thinking about checking out Pixelmator because it's gotten good reviews.

I turned 27 on October 18th. That was a lot of fun. My parents got me a Superman lunch box (like the one you would expect a 1st grader to be carrying around - yeah, it's awesome). Jessi pampered me for the weekend. I wrote a while back about spending on experiences instead of stuff. So that's what Jessi gave me - a wonderfully relaxing weekend. It was perfect.

Finally, a sports update. This month, my friend David and I received our third stripe in Jiu Jitsu. What does this mean? It means we're one step closer to fulfilling our dreams of getting our blue belts. Assuming we continue at our current pace, we'll be able to test for blue belt in February. When that happens, you won't want to mess with us because we could put you into a vicious arm bar or choke! It's been a blast getting to go with David.

I also wanted to share two items I found while playing on internet this month. The first is a venn diagram showing the relationship between the internet and privacy.

Internet VS Privacy - A Helpful Venn Diagram

The second is a video clip showing how ink is made. This is different than printer ink, but fascinating to watch. It's also inspiring to see someone else's passion about what they do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

San Francisco Mission Trip

Watching a musician play on the wharf
On October 6th I had the opportunity to head down to San Francisco with some high school students from church for a weekend full of serving. I talked about it earlier, but mostly just reflected on being about to drive the van. This time I'd like to share about the actual trip.

As a leader I mostly hung back, watched and made sure they didn't do any too foolish. That's a relatively new experience for me, but it was good. Also, because of the type of helping we were doing, it wasn't always appropriate to take pictures. So the few I have are mostly of us just hanging out.

Sixteen of us headed down to SF. It took about 10 hours of driving (4 the first night, 6 the next morning). The first day we got there, we were early, so we headed down to the wharf to hang out and let the student buy some souvenirs. What made it super awesome was that it was Fleet Week at the time. So while we were driving across the Bay Bridge there was a jet doing laps and tricks around the city. Once on the wharf I couldn't help but just stare up in the sky in amazement. Then, as we were leaving, the Blue Angels came out and were practicing their moves. It was so much fun to watch!

Playing air hockey in our living area
That night we headed out to the House Of Chicken & Waffles. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised - mixing fried chicken with a waffle is actually pretty good. Afterwards, we headed on a prayer tour. For the tour we drove around while our host told us about the city, it's struggles, it's uniqueness, and how we can pray for it. It was an eye opening experience.

The next morning (Friday) we headed to the SOMA district (South Of Market Street). Lots of Internet start-ups are here because it's close to the financial district, yet is relatively affordable. Being "affordable" also tends attracts many homeless and disadvantaged people. We got to do something called a City Search where we walked around and talked to people on the street. We asked about what they like about SF, what they dislike, what problems they face, etc. It was a great learning experience. The group was also given $2 per person for lunch. We pooled our money so we could get something cheap and then be able to buy food for someone else.

That afternoon we got down to some old fashioned work at the SF Food Bank. We sorted bell peppers and packaged up spaghetti. Their mission is to feed the hungry in SF, and so far they are succeeding.

On Saturday morning we got to serve in Oakland. We headed out to St. Vincent de Paul's where they provide free meals to people in the community. We helped to prepare and serve the meals. I got to walk around the outside and clean. Then I got to stand around and watch for anyone causing a problem (then I would report it and let someone else deal with it).

Taking a break at the SF Food Bank
Saturday afternoon we headed back to SF near the Gold Gate Park. The students were given $20 with a simple task: Find someone in need and figure out a way to meet that need. They could help one person, or many people. For this task I really hung back, so I'm not 100% sure what the students did, but I know they fed a couple people and bought a blank for another person. It was fun watching them as they became more comfortable in the city.

Saturday evening we ate at the Red Sea Restaurant. There you don't use any utensils. You use your hands with food that's on a shared family platter. It's a fun experience! Also, since my parents live in the Bay Area, they were able to come up to Oakland and have dinner with the group. It was so nice being able to see them, even though it was very short.

Sunday was marked by waking up early and driving all the way back to Corvallis. 10 hours of driving after a long weekend wasn't easy, but there were some fun conversation to help pass the time. We hit topics from favorite Disney villain to what the student's dating plans are. It all ended in a game of Uno (no, I didn't play, just listened) and much loud singing.

Mr. Jones standing on Jones St.
It was a great trip and I'm really glad I was able to participate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome To Mac

Back in March I talked about entering the computer market. Jessi's computer had just crashed and she didn't want to replace the hard drive for a third time. Furthermore, we had always dream of one day switching to Mac. I grew up using Macs and Jessi loves her iPhone - it seemed to make sense.

The original plan was for me to buy a Mac Mini because I already owned a mouse, keyboard & monitor. Then Jessi could use my current laptop until we saved up enough to get her a new computer some time in the future. Funny how plans work out.

In the mean time, we still had to save for the Mini. So, we decided to share my laptop. A laptop, which actually gets used like a desktop: I had an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, hard drive and a printer hooked up to it. For the amount of time I spent on my computer, I had decided it was worth investing in better hardware to make using it more comfortable. The only downside was the loss of mobility, but after I graduated school my computer hadn't moved anyways.

Anyways, there we were: sharing an older computer. This went as you might expect. My laptop slowed down to a crawl and we constantly gave each other the [loving] stink eye when we came into the office it find it already in use. Then, things really went downhill: The power brick failed.

I don't know why it broke. I hadn't moved the computer in a very long time, but it did. The place where the cord and the brick connect would start sparking and the monitor would flicker. Yeah, not great for many reasons. Jessi made a quick fix that involved blue painter's tap, but was still a fire hazard.

So, here we are: down one computer with another one quickly fading. I still have my work computer, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want me sharing it with Jessi. At this point, we had only been half-heartily saving. I wanted a new computer, but we had always found other excellent things to spend our money on (lots of camping and trips). This time round we got serious.

On one of our trips up to Portland we stopped by the Apple Store to see what our options where. I went in thinking I would get a Mini and Jessi might be interested in the iPad, whiling syncing her files on the Mini. I think we spent 45 minutes of the sales person's time debating over what would be the best solution given our needs. When it was all done, we decide the best options were a MacBook for Jessi and an iMac for me.

Jessi wanted portability, the ability to check email/calendar/facebook, do general web surfing, watch Hulu/Netflix (including the DVDs), and write the occasional document. The iPad actually came at a close second, but Jessi also didn't want to manager her files on my computer and feel like she had to ask permission to get on my computer. I don't blame her.

I wanted to do everything Jessi wanted, plus make complicated spreadsheets, play games, program for the web/iOS, and have plenty of storage (having an external drive as your main drive isn't fun). I needed to increase a few of the specks on the Mini to get everything I wanted. For a couple hundred more, I could get all of it with the iMac. Since it already came with a monitor, webcam, keyboard & mouse, I could sell all my accessories and maybe even come out ahead (I didn't, I just repurposed everything, as you can see in the picture).

So now I knew what we wanted and we began the saving process. Finally, at the end of September we decided to pull the trigger. Shortly after we had our new machines. We've been playing with them ever since. I've mostly been slowly adding my music, pictures and videos. Jessi has been loving her computer. Of course, now I've found myself in a strange position...

When we used Windows machines, Jessi would ask me a question and I knew the answer. Often I didn't even have to look at the screen to tell her what to do. However, whenever she asks me how to do something on her Mac, I honestly don't know. However, and this is what makes Macs so awesome, my answer has been a question back: "How do you think it should work?" Jessi would tell me, and I'd say to give it a try. In EVERY SINGLE CASE, it as worked exactly the way Jessi wanted it to.

Here's a simple example: We wanted to play our Netflix DVD. Jessi asked me how to do that, to which I gave my question back. Jessi said, "I want to put the DVD in and have it start playing." I told her that sounded reasonable and give it a try. She put the DVD in and... wait for it... the movie started playing right away! I half expected to see a window popping up asking to play, but nope, it work exactly how Jessi wanted it to. This is one of many examples (setting our our wireless HP printer was 1,000 times easier than on my HP work laptop!). It's obvious that Apple spends a significant amount of time watching how customers use their computers and then make changes to fit their customers.

So, we're now living in the Mac ecosystem and loving it. Given the amount of time we spend on our computers, it made sense to get something that we would both be happy with - and we are both really happy. Personally, I'm really excited to start diving into the iOS SDK and make a couple fun apps for my iPhone.

One last thought: I now find myself in another strange position. On October 20th Apple will be holding a special event to talk about new things for Mac. I find myself excited about what they have to share, but also hoping it's not too crazy so I don't feel like I have something super old. It'll be fine no matter what. I'm still glad we are in the Mac ecosystem even if it is a little out of date. I mean, I still have a 3G iPhone and it still works just fine.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Crazy September: Tractors, Cars & A Cabin

I thought September was supposed to be a down month, but as it progressed it quickly become clear that the busy-ness would continue. Rumor has it that October is supposed to be much calmer... we'll see how that goes.

We started off the month in California visiting my family. We celebrated my grandma's 80th birthday with a surprise party. It was great seeing everyone and getting to be with my family for a short while. We definitely need to make it a point to visit more often. I drove down for a week and worked at my parent's kitchen table. Right before labor day, Jessi flew down and we drove back up together. I always forget how wonderful the weather is down there. Now if only they could fix the traffic problem!

We then got to work on re-grading our yard. I already talked a bit about it earlier. The tractor was a blast and the results look good. The grass is growing strong and we've gone back and filled in spots we originally missed with more seed. By the time winter hits, our grass should be looking good. This grass is "self-repairing" which I think is a fancy way of saying it grows like a weed. So hopefully after a full season of growing it'll cover everywhere no matter what.

Right after we finished with the yard, Jessi's car stopped working. That's when I had my man moment and fixed it. That was a definitely learning experience that I hopefully won't have to repeat for a bit (knock on wood). You can read more about it here.

Then, Jessi's dad came to visit for two days. We picked him up at the Portland Airport, visited Willamette University and Honeywood Winery. We also made pizza and delicious hot chocolate for dessert. We really enjoyed seeing him.

Then, we went to Sunriver for a weekend in a cabin. We went with a couple friends and relaxed quite a bit. Jessi and I also hiked up Smith Rock which has an amazing view of the surrounding area. You can read more about it here.

Finally, at the tail end of September I went to Boise, ID for a meeting. It was a fast trip, but well worth it. I got to see my team and learn more about how my job fits in with the larger organization. I must admit, Boise is a pretty nice place. If it didn't take me further way from my family, I might consider living there someday.

This month though, is surprisingly devoid of lots of activities. The only thing we have going on now is a trip I'm taking to San Francisco with our church's high school group (10/6-10/10). We'll be spending a couple days helping the homeless and needy. It should be a memorable experience. I'm particularly excited because this will be the first time I get to drive a church van. For years (since I was in high school) I've been sitting in the back seat wishing I could help with driving. I've reviewed all my driver rules and am ready to get everyone there safely. Please pray for a safe trip and that we touch the hearts of those around us.

That's it this month. Lots and lots of activities. I'll leave you with a short, but awesome video.

A quick insight into the difference between Jessi and I: I watched the video and thought the kick was awesome. Jessi saw the video and only felt sorry for the kid who got kicked. Weird.