Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Newest Furlo: Vinnie

Meet Vinnie, the newest member of our family. We picked him up on Friday so we got to kick things off with a long weekend. He's a short-hair red dachshund (though, he's really closer to brown). At 14 weeks, he's about half the size of what he will be as an adult. I wanted a large dog, Jessi wanted a wiener dog, and so we compromised with a full-size doxie.

One of his hilarious characteristics (I almost wrote "features"... I must be a marketer) is that he eats fast. Really fast. He's nothing short of an organic hoover vacuum when food is around. Here's a 2 minute video I took of him inhaling his food. No joke, he doesn't even chew.

Being a puppy he also sleeps a lot too. Plus, it's pretty much the only time I can get a picture with my iPhone that isn't blurry. Here's Vinnie and Jessi relaxing after playing outside.

He also has the ability to mold his body to fit snugly up against you. This also makes him excellent for dodging into small spaces. He really likes this one corner where all my AV equipment used to be. I say used to be because after his 5th adventure (I'm a slow learner), it all got moved temporarily into the backroom. Here he is totally sprawled out in Jessi's lap.

Yes, for those of you keeping score, that is a Lego pirate ship and the Death Star II featured in our fireplace. Hopefully Vinnie decides that Lego piece don't taste as good as speak wires and they'll get to stay.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Windows

Jessi and I had new windows installed on the tenant's side of our duplex this week. Originally there were windows that looked to be at least 30 years old: thin, single plane, aluminum, and practically zero efficiency. When we bought the place and were fixing it up, Albany had a cold front come in and we literally had sheets of ice covering each window.

The benefits of these new windows are many:
  • More efficient/economical: less heat transfer in and out = less energy costs
  • Safer: The bottom part of those big windows are tempered glass, bring them up to code
  • Better noise reduction: we live near heavy traffic, hearing less of that is better
  • Better circulation: The large windows can now slide open letting fresh air in
  • Safer still: the old windows didn't slide great and were a pain to lock properly. These are easy.
  • Prettier: The new windows just look and feel modern.

Right now we're just doing the tenant's side. We save a little more money because we can write off the expense and doing the whole project at once was outside our budget (especially given all the other updates we're doing - more later). So for now, our tenants will be the only ones who get to enjoy the new windows.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I've been fascinated by Google's Chromebooks. They are essentially a computer with nothing but the browser. Since it's only a browser, there are certain hardware set-ups they can have which enable it to boot up fast and use batteries more efficiently. It also means that programs (websites) will always be update to - no need to upgrade. Same goes for the operating system (again, just a browser): Google will automatically push updates to your computer and they will happen almost instantly.

Furthermore, you can straight up buy one for pretty cheap (~$400) or sign up on a business plan contract (3 years @ 28/month, you get a new Chromebook every 3 years and keep the old one, plus the ability to manage each device through a fancy web portal).

That's the what's what on the Chromebook. I've also been lucky enough to receive Google's beta unit, the CR-48. For the last few months I've been using it on and off. I own an iMac, so it's nice to have something portable. For example, yesterday Jessi and I had downtime between our soccer and softball games, so we went to Starbucks and I brought my Chromebook to play on. Last night I showed Jessi a funny Muppets video on Youtube while we ate artichokes for dinner. Then I used it for a little more online research while we were both in the living room. All of this was done on a single charge and it'll probably be a couple of days before I actually plug it in again.

Perhaps my favorite feature is that Google's chat client is built into the browser. So a little window pops up at the bottom of the screen when you start chatting. Then it will stay there no matter which tab or site you switch to. Very, very cool. I would love to see more meta-applications like this.

The CR-48 hardware is only OK (though the new official models should be better). It struggles to run flash and the track pad is still buggy at times. I'm also still bummed that Netflix isn't supported. Even though I have a Dropbox extension so I can see my files, I still miss the ability to actually edit them (I guess the fault would be with Dropbox for it's lack of a usable website). Unfortunately, the web doesn't support a lot of the native apps I currently use and so there's lots of work I can't do. This means it's mostly relegated to a play device for me.

OK. Lots of background. Now my internal debate:

If all this computer is, is a play device. Why not get a tablet, like an iPad? It has the web, plus a bunch of native apps which tend to perform better than the web anyways. The base prices are similar enough (not that I would settle for the base model of course). In either case, a full blown laptop (or desktop) does everything I want - including the ability to use the Chrome browser. One of the benefits Google touts is that they Chromebooks start up fast. It's very true, but my iMac takes less than 30 seconds to boot up. How fast does it need to be?

Then I think about our property management business. One day we'd like to hire somebody (office, maintenance, and/or sales person). What type of computer would make sense for them? Would a tablet work? Would they really need a full blown computer? Does the Chromebook make the most sense? I suppose, if we set up all of our systems to work on the web, then it wouldn't matter. Of course, this begs the question of how to go about putting our system on the web. Do we use off-the shelf SaaS set-ups? Build it ourselves (and what hardware would be needed for that)? Is there value in having everyone on the same type of system, which means taking it to the highest need? Currently, there are a lot of native apps available, not so much for the web.

Lots of questions, not a lot of clear answers. Though the right answer is probably closer to: pick one and be consistent. Then the workflow and tools will be developed around that.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding

This last weekend Jessi and I got to participate in my best friend's wedding in Columbus, OH. It was inside the Franklin Park Conservatory which is like a large green house with many, many different types of plants from across the world - similar to Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI. The event was a ton of fun and very well put together. I'm honored that I got to be part of it. Here are a few photos from the event:

Revisiting the place of the proposal

This glass work is all over the place

A good lookin' best man

Kissing the bride

The happy couple

Monday, May 09, 2011

Figure It Out by Mark Speckman [Book Review]

Mark Speckman was my college football coach at Willamette University. Two characteristics about Coach stand out to me:

First, he was hilarious. I laughed all the time around him. It's rare to find someone that can have such a deep focus and passion, yet be able to find humor in almost every situation.

Second, he had no hands. Born without hands, Coach had to figure out how to live in a world clearly designed for people with hands. As a result, his ability to figure things out is better than most people. It helped him figure out how to drive, win football games, and even play baseball. So far, the biggest challenge he hasn't overcome is figuring out how to tie his own shoes.

So, when I heard that Coach had a new book called Figure It Out, I got it. Sure enough, it's full of hilarious stories and inspiring lessons. I think one of the interesting aspects of his book is how he was attracted to football because it didn't matter what you looked like - just how you performed on the field. As such, he was able to play linebacker and started in 40 college football games. Now he's the head coach at Willamette and enjoying success at that fine institution.

To really get a feel for the type of book and person Coach is, I recommend this 10 minute video of him giving a talk. Even if you don't buy the book, this video is worth watching.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

No Go For Hellcats Across the Pacific

Yesterday I tried to install Hellcats - Across the Pacific on my computer, and failed miserably. Let me explain.

It all started with a trip to Best Buy to spend a gift certificate. While shopping I saw a copy of Microsoft's Flight Simulator. Oh boy did the memories starting coming back. I used to hook my computer up to a projector, grab my joystick, plug into my stereo system and fly the skies. What fun! I liked to set up longer flights and trying flying only by instruments.

However, I now own a Mac and this game is only for Windows. So I started doing some online research to see if there were any Mac compatible flight simulator games. The clearest winner was X-Plane. It's just like MFS, but goes across all platforms. They even have an iPhone and iPad app. I'll definitely be getting the iPhone app once I upgrade my phone. The iPad app looks insanely awesome too.

While doing my research I also came across a comment about Hellcats. Again the memories came rushing back to me. I remember spending HOURS DAYS flying in that game. Oh my, it was so much fun. It was so simple, yet nailed the gameplay aspect of it. I also remember never really being able to land consistently, and I hoped this would be my chance to figure it out.

More research revealed I could download Hellcats for free - and it worked without a joystick. Awesome. But wait, I saw another link to an emulator. Oh boy. I knew I was in for an adventure. I've been successful with emulators before, so I was hopeful. I have the patience to read multiple tutorials and experiment with configurations to make it work. My most resent foray was getting Day Of The Tentacle and Full Throttle working on my laptop.

Basically, the game only worked on older versions of Mac OS (7-9). Luckily, the download site linked to a comprehensive guide for installing the emulator. I decided to experiment first on my old PC laptop, and if that worked consider doing it again on my Mac.

I had to download a bunch of files, save them in various places, and change a bunch of settings at each step. After an hour of messing around, I successfully had Mac OS 9 running my on laptop PC. Kind of cool in its own right. Then the moment of truth to see if I could get Hellcats running.

First I had to figure out how to unzip a .SIT file. Not easy apparently. It took downloading two programs, from THE SAME COMPANY, before I successfully unzipped it. Even then, I wasn't sure if it really worked because the program files looked really small. OK. OK. The game came out in 1991 -  all files from then look really small I bet (remember 1.44 MB floppies?).

Unfortunately, this is where all my tutorials fell short. They all kind of assumed it would just play... It didn't. Further trouble was that OS 9 wasn't the best at describing the reason for the error. I did a little more research to find little to no advice.

So, after investing two hours of my life into playing a game that probably isn't as good as I remember, I gave up. I uninstalled the emulators and went for a walk to contemplate the meaning of my life. :(

Monday, May 02, 2011

April in Pictures

I thought for this month's update I would give the recap primarily in pictures. I'm also going to cheat and start with our Mexico trip which was technically the end of March.

We went to San Felipe and served. It was a blast.

The whole group
Lots of digging on this trip
This saw has seen better days

Looking over San Felipe and praying for it

A dune buggy with a handicap sign!

Family Visit (Well... a Business Trip for Work)
I had to pick up my travel Visa in San Francisco and therefore got to hang out with my family a bit. It was great seeing them.

Going for a drive with my dad

Playing at the Apple Store with my Mom

Corvallis Half-Marathon
Jessi and I completed our first (of many) half-marathon. I also made a fun infographic of the race.

We finished and earned medals

India Business Trip
While on business I really got to see India's culture first hand. Here are some of the fun things we got to do.

We went inside a 1,700 year old temple

We got to visit Mysore Palace

The Taj Mahal

Relaxing at the hotel's pool

Stretching out with Video-On-Demand during my trip home

Duplex Projects
Our tenants have moved out, so Jessi and I have been busy doing some projects on the other side of our duplex. It's a lot of work, but it feels great to know we're adding true value to our property.

Jessi repairing a drawer

Showing off our new ladder

Doing a minor repair on our roof

So, the majority of my travel is over. I still have one more trip in a couple weeks, and Jessi gets to come with me, which will be great. I hope you enjoyed the photos.