Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Posts Of 2012

I'm a total sucker for all those end of year reviews and lists. The Furlo Bros Tech Podcast this week had to split into 2 parts because Matthew and I got totally engrossed in it. I thought I'd keep the fun going with one last post this year doing a round-up of my most popular posts. I'll start with the most popular, and then finish with the "least popular" of the popular group.

Apple's iPad Mini will compete on price NEXT year
This is easily my most popular post of all time. The trick, it appears, is to get mentioned in another popular tech blog. This also goosed a bunch of previous posts and a couple follow-up posts. In the post, I explain Apple's pricing strategy.

Harbor Freight Tools Heavy Duty Foldable Utility Trailer
I attribute the popularity of this post to good SEO (the title is nothing but keywords), and a relative lack of good posts on the trailer in general. I knew it was a "big deal" when a friend from church called me because he was looking for a trailer and my post was the first search result. That's got to be worth at least 10 Internet points.

Are You Sure You Have A Strategy?
At the beginning of the year I got on a business marketing/strategy kick. I shared some general concepts I learned in school, and that I still use today to evaluate business ideas (for myself, and the podcast).

PC vs Tablet Shipments: Fun With Data
My brother and I got into a debate during one of our podcasts about whether the iPad is a "PC" or a "Tablet". I decided to dive into the data to see if purchases were replacements, or additions to their computing life. I enjoy using this blog to form my thoughts for the podcast.

Made To Stick [Book Review]
The best business book I read this year. The book talks about making ideas stick. It really is excellent. In the post I summarize what I learned.

Mortgage Payments Once A Month Or Every Other Week?
Because I'm a math geek, I like to create mini-spreadsheets to answer analytical questions. In this post I was trying to figure out if we should change up the frequency of our mortgage payments.

How To Do a SWOT Analysis
A title like that is guaranteed to be popular. What marketing person doesn't want to know how a SWOT analysis works? Of course, it could also be my Back To The Future hover board reference.

First World iPad Problems [Twitter+Flicker Mash-up]
I only did one of these, but given its popularity I should do more. The problem I had was coming up with appropriate photos.

Why I Quit Netflix
There are days when I miss Netflix. But then I think about all the time I got back to write blog posts and do other fun activities.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

iCopter Christmas Present

Today I wanted to share a video of one of the Christmas presents I received. I've been doing some experimenting with video editing for another project and have been looking for an excuse to make a personal video. My Aunt Ruth gave me an iCopter for Christmas which had the potential for a cool video. So I made one thanking her for the present.

This is one of those "explaining" types of videos. The goal is for you to understand how the helicopter flies, not just a highlight reel of cool tricks.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal

Jessi & I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

We've been enjoying some fun holiday movies this year in an attempt to create some sort of Christmas Movie Tradition. It's been awesome!

Here's what we have on the list:

  • Home Alone (1 & 2)
    • "I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including inbetween my toes and in my belly button, which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just-washed shine. I can't seem to find my toothbrush, so I'll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I'm in good shape."
  • Elf
    • "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"
  • It's A Wonderful Life
    • "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1994 version)
    • "We invite you to ask yourself this one simple question: Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol
    • "Come in, and know me better, man! Did I already say that?"

I originally wanted to include Christmas Vacation, because there are some hilarious lines: "Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."  But it just didn't make the list.

We hope your travels are safe and you get to spend some quality time with your family. See you next year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Am Addicted To Endorphins

According to Wikipedia (significantly paraphrased):

Endorphins are produced during exercise, excitement, pain, consumption of spicy food, love and orgasm, and they produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being. It consists of two parts: endo- and -orphin; these are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean "a morphine-like substance originating from within the body." The term "endorphin rush" has been adopted in popular speech to refer to feelings of exhilaration brought on by pain, danger, or other forms of stress, supposedly due to the influence of endorphins.
A publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called "runner's high", which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. Runner's high has also been known to create feelings of euphoria and happiness.

When I hurt myself, I stopped working out. I literally sat on a couch and watched movies. It wasn't until last weekend that my hand actually felt good enough that I thought I could go on a short run.

And I needed to!

You see, I'm addicted to endorphins. I get exactly what Wikipedia describes when I work out: happiness (some call it optimistic). But here's the deal, I tend to workout a lot, so I tend to always have a steady stream of endorphins. Like coffee drinkers, it means that I only really feel the effect when I STOP working out.

Which is exactly what happened.

My observation has been that the effect takes a week or so to wear off. Then slowly, my attitude and mood becomes more and more gloomy, to the point that I start arguing over small things (it tends to sneak up on me). As a kid, I remember times when I would get angry with my parents, and getting into a massive argument about something stupid. Suddenly, my parents would realize what was going on, and require me to go on a run. By the time I got back, life would be fine again. It's almost like magic.

This last week I experienced the same thing. My mood really took a dive and I began questioning all sorts of decisions and plans we have - mostly thinking they were horrible. Not surprisingly, Jessi wasn't expecting that and we might have exchanged some words over it. Like I said, it sneaks up on me - I normally don't realize it until it's too late.

Then I watched the Brian Williams interview of Tim Cook. In the interview, Cook said that he hits the gym every day at 5am to workout. For him it's a way to stay in shape and relieve stress. Here's a guy who's running the most valuable company in the world, and somehow he's figured out how to make time to exercise. If he can do it, so can I! And that was when it hit me that it's been a while since I worked out.

3 miles later, life is good again. I'm excited for our plans again, though I think I revealed some real risks
we'll need to handle, but now I think we can actually handle them! I also feel good about getting up early and getting a fast start to the day (literally).

So, I'm addicted to endorphins, and it's great!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lessons From Getting Injured

Since my power tool accident, I've had some time to think about the lessons I've learned. I'd like to share them.

Always wear gloves when working
This saved me from a VERY serious accident.

The cost of short-cuts
I took a short cut with my tool to save time and money. I knew I was taking a risk and wasn't using the machine the way it was designed, but I wanted to finish fast. I made speed a priority instead of safety. What I should have done was buy a belt sander and replace my broken orbital sander. In the end, what seemed like a short cut, ended up costing me much more. Time-wise: this sets us back WEEKS instead of the hour to go buy a new tool. This will also cost us HUNDREDS financially since we won't be able to move out when we want to (see the next point).

I know this lesson (don't take short cuts), and have applied it effectively many times. But it got the better of me in this moment because I let my priorities get out of balance. I think the same principle applies to other habits: speeding in your car, eating fast food, and drinking caffeine. Sure, we can get away with these short-cuts for a while, but at what inevitable cost? Besides, my experience is that I really don't "save" very much when I do take the short-cut.

I also want to re-evaluate other short-cuts in my life. I found myself asking the following questions: Am I'm skimping too much on my relationships? My financial generosity? My time reading the Bible and praying? Reading books? This injury has really brought my priorities and choices back into focus. I don't have answers for these, but it served as a great reminder to not take short-cuts, no matter how innocuous it seems.

Make Plans, but be flexible
We had plans: Refinish the cabinets over Thanksgiving. Make other repairs during Christmas. Move out and finish repairs in January. Then teach a finance class and prepare for a Mexico Mission trip. We knew it was a tight timeline, and now it's impossible. As a result, of my injury we now won't move out until after March. I won't lie: It's frustrating, but I'm working on being flexible and creating new plans to guide us. The act of creating plans isn't bad. As a matter of fact, I highly encourage it since it serves as a road map. However, it's also important to remain flexible, realize plans do change, and be OK with it. I'm still working on the "be OK with it" part.

Jessi is awesome
Not only did she tie my shoes, cut my food, and do all sorts of other daily tasks for me. BUT she also continued working on the cabinets while I sat on the couch watching James Bond movies! The entire time she kept a positive attitude. She would even build me up because I felt like a total loser for getting hurt. I am blessed beyond belief!

I am mortal
I turned 29 in October. It wasn't that big of a deal. I don't feel older, and most importantly all my annual medical tests indicate I'm actually healthier than last year. One can't help but feel immortal when his vital signs actually improve!

But now...
Staring at a scar I earned in less than a second...
Wondering if I'll ever get my full hand strength back...
I know I'm going to die.

I know that I'm inside a fragile body, and that I'm not really immortal. More importantly, I FEEL like I'm not immortal. You know how they say young people feel immortal? I fully acknowledge I was in that camp. I was proud to be in that camp. And now I'm no longer in that camp. It's horrible.

I'm sure that eventually my hand will fully heal, and I'll slowly forget about my mortality, but I hope I don't. I hope I remember that I am fragile, that I need to be safe, and I also need to make the most of each day, with no short-cuts, so that I have no regrets when my final day comes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

I Got Into A Fight With A Power Tool

I'm back!

Well... Kind of...

Warning: if you're slightly squeamish, close this now.

Over the Thanksgiving break Jessi & I decided to refinish our cabinets. Progress was going well. Then, our sander started acting weird. I took the machine apart and figured out the problem: the main bearing had worn out (this is the part that allows the sanding pad to spin freely). As a result the screw holding everything together had wiggled loose. This caused, not too surprisingly, the machine to (1) make a weird sound, (2) wobble uncontrollably and (3) soon stop working.

I figured out a way to stick the screw in, and keep it really tight. Unfortunately, the side effect was the pad no long spun freely - instead it spun at the same speed as the motor (aka. really fast!). Of course, the other side effect was it really took the paint off. What was taking a hour to do, suddenly only took 10 minutes.

I used the modified sander for a while and completely finished the first pass on the inside. Then I moved on to get the doors. At this point, we were ahead of schedule, usually a fantasy when it comes to projects.

And then I slipped up.

At 4:15pm, I used my right hand to rotate one of the doors while still sanding with the other hand. I lost control of the sander and in flash the sander bit my right hand. I dropped the sander, and tore off my glove. I instantly knew it wasn't good. I then realized the sander was still spinning like crazy on the ground. I managed to turn it off while not further hurting myself. Then headed indoors to get help from Jessi.

Since she's a teacher, she's a trained first responder. It still didn't stop her from slightly freaking out when I surprised her with a bloody hand. :)

We went to the doctor's office and they cleaned out the wound. I guess there was a ton of dirt, rock, and dried paint in there. I could also see my tendon moving around when I wiggled my finger. The one thing I did right was wear gloves. Had I not done that, it would have hit my tendon and I would put me into surgery with a much longer recovery period.

Enough writing. Onto the pictures.

While driving to the doctor's office. See the dirt?

 Washing it. The danger is that the wound is right next to a joint. If it's not cleaned out, it could cause major problems.

Here it is. It's not huge, but pretty deep, and in a bad place.

Thanks Doc! There are 4 other stitches inside that's connecting the muscle together.

Healing up

Looking better, but still really swollen.

Top 4 stitches are out. Now the bottom 4 stitches will disintegrate in a few weeks.

I took this today. There's still a ways to go, but at least I can do computer work again.

So, I've gained enough strength that I can type again. But, I still can't make a fist or grab objects. Plus, at the end of the day my whole right hand is sore. It'll probably be until the start of 2013 until I have full use of my hand back.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm Thankful For...

Well. I'm sitting here as a gimp, not able to use my right hand, because of an accident while re-finishing some cabinets. More on that later (with pictures & video). For today, I wanted to share what we're thankful for.

  • First, I'm thankful for my iPhone. I can do all sorts of things on it one handed, including type a blog post.
  • My job. I love being able to work from home and complete projects at my own pace.
  • My family. Jessi has been a particularly big blessing in my gimp-like state. And she's willing to do construction projects and discuss business ideas. Vinnie is wonderful too. I'm so thankful that he loves to cuddle.

  • A warm, dry place to sleep in. Her eyes were recently opened to how hard it can be to live homeless. With our recent rain storm she kept thinking about how thankful she is to have a dry place to sleep in.
  • Family. Me, because I show her how to be positive and am constantly looking for ways to improve. Vinnie, because he makes her laugh and shows her how to enjoy life & not stress out.
  • Capable of being able to work. Seeing my frustration of not being able do much of anything and knowing there are some people who are physically incapacitated their whole lives. Jessi is so thankful to be able to do anything, physically, she wants.
  • Thankful for our duplexes. It's an opportunity to serve others & earn some extra income.

  • For parents who love him. We know this because he waggles his tail whenever he sees us.
  • Heaters. When I push the heater buttons he comes running.
  • Dog treats & peanut butter. We can get him to do all sorts of tricks if food is the reward.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Google Updates Blogger iPhone App

Well... I was looking for something to talk about today. And Google throws me a bone with an app update.

So, I'm writing this post on my iPhone. Typing seems to be fine, but I'm a little weary about not being able to include inline images. I "attached" one, but what does that mean on a blog? I guess I'll hit publish and find out.

I would also like the ability to see previous tags/categories I've made. Being able to post my location is cool, but I think I'd prefer the ability to schedule when it's published instead.

Ah man, listen to me. All I want is the desktop experience on my phone. How sad is that! Perhaps I'll stick to Twitter & Instagram while on the road and reserve posts for when I'm at home. What does that say about the post-PC era?

And for the fun of it, I've now "attached" two images. Crazy

Friday, November 09, 2012

Buy Assets That Put Money In Your Pocket

Robert Kiyosaki recently tweeted out a couple thoughts I felt were worth repeating. The first one said this:
It's a little extreme to say it's "only helpful", but I tend to agree that buying assets is the best use of your money after you take care of your basic living needs. I'm sure we all have different definitions of basic living needs, but that's not the point. The question is what should you do with your extra money at the end of the month? Kiyosaki's recommendation is to purchase assets.

Note: If you still have consumer debt you're paying off, you don't have any extra money because it should all be going towards that. That's our current situation with student loans, though not technically consumer debt, the interest rates are now high enough it makes sense to tackle them.

So what is an asset?
Got it. Assets are anything that puts money in your pocket. Here are some examples:

Businesses (via stocks or wholly owned): Assets
Royalties (such as from a book): Assets
Rental Property: Assets

Your home: not an asset
A car: not an asset
Video games: not an asset

I want to be clear: I'm not saying non-assets, also called liabilities, are bad. Believe me, we love our dog despite his financial liability. The goal should be to purchase these liabilities with assets. That's what we did with our dog. You're probably doing it too.

If you think about it, that's what you're doing when you save for retirement: buying assets in the form of stocks so that one day you can live off that asset. Unfortunately, many people save so little that it takes them until they're 65 or older to accumulate enough assets to pay for their level of living.

If we could learn to enjoy life on less, it would create a double benefit: We would be able to save more because we're spending less, and we wouldn't need to accumulate as many assets because the costs it needs to cover would be less.

Kiyosaki's plea is to stop buying liabilities and personal effects that you don't really need. You don't need to get radical and make huge changes. Instead, he wants you to simply be more purposeful with your spending and focus on buying assets. He says so in a Facebook update:
The good news is that you don't have to start your own business to find success. Keep your job, but start buying real assets, not liabilities or personal effects that have no real value once you get them home.
So that's my encouragement today. Try some experiments on living with less. Keep it fun. And then invest the money you saved into assets. Start with funding your retirement account and then expand from there.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Old Shirt, New Shirt, Red Shirt, Blue Shirt...

The Idea

James isn't much of a collector, in fact he loves getting rid of things. We even just took another load of stuff to St. Vinnie's yesterday!

That being said, he was going through his clothes one afternoon and had a HUGE stack of shirts he was going to get rid of. I, in my most pack-rattish tone, said "What are you doing with those? You can't just toss them! I could use them for something!" So, I of course put them in my craft room and held onto them for about two years waiting for just the right opportunity.

The Opportunity

I don't exactly remember how the opportunity came up to turn that pile of old sports, clubs, business, mission trips and souvenir shirts into a quilt...but what I do remember was thinking..."oh yeah, that's a great will be easy."

Famous last words. It is all about perspective when quilting. To an experienced quilter, someone who has spent numerous hours measuring, pinning, cutting, re-pinning, sewing, cutting some more and loosing track of time because they are so  into their project, a t-shirt quilt is easy. However, I learned very quickly that deciding to use all 108 shirts to make the grand-daddy of all t-shirt quilts was just a bit more than I could handle as a novice, no, as a non-quilter.

The Process

Sewing together t-shirt material is an art form. T-shirts are stretchy, which is great when you're wearing them and horrible when you're sewing them. So, step one is to fuse (iron on) a stabilizer to the back of each piece you will be using.
All of the designs cut out and placed
Had I read the directions that my awesome experienced-quilter-mother-in-law had shared with me I would have known that fusing THEN cutting makes your life easier. I however, in all my quilting wisdom cut each piece and then proceeded to fuse each piece and yes, RE-CUT every piece again. At this point I was thinking, "This is step 1?"

Well, I made it through the hard part, so I thought. I was super excited to start sewing things together so I called my mother-in-law and said I was bringing down the pieces on my next visit to put it together. Of course I was very
surprised to find out that you had to have things like "precise measurements" and "same sized blocks" and in order to get there you had to use a "fabric ruler" and "rotary cutter" neither of which I had.
The back laid out and ready to sew

Thank goodness for Dawn, she helped me make a plan and cut and get things in order and she gave me all the tools I would need to be successful.

So, I went back home with a mission. I was going to get all the blocks pieced together for the front and back (Oh, yeah, I added that little step of quilting the backside as well as the I nuts?!) before the next visit so we really could start sewing that time.

The back sewn together
I put in a lot of man hours sewing small pieces together to make the larger blocks. I did math in my head and math on the white board and cut and re-cut, so many times that I needed a vacation from my craft time. But, I did it. I got every block finished and packed for our trip down during Christmas last year.

Exhausted after a long sewing session
My mother-in-law was so excited to finally get started on the sewing she did what she always does and double checked  the measurements. Much to my horror each piece was off by about 1/4-1/2 of an inch. Come to find out one of the rulers I had been using was warped and off by about 1/4-1/2 of an inch.

At this point I was pretty sure the quilt was a goner. Had it been up to me I probably would have forced the issue and just started sewing the thing and hoped and prayed that when I got finished no one would notice the crooked seams or lopsided edges. Dawn, the experienced quilter, said..."That's ok, we can just trim them all to match." Oh, such a simple statement. She proceeded to trim each block...all 149 of them to be exactly the right size. Without her help I never would have made it past this step! Thank you, Mom!

Vinnie "helping" me tie the quilt
Once they were all the right size the sewing actually was pretty fast. We got most of the strips put together that week. I finished putting the strips together once I got home. Then on her next visit up Dawn helped me spray the top and bottom with fabric  glue and stick them to the batting to hold them in place for tying. I decided to tie my quilt since I don't have a big enough machine to do any actual quilting through all the layers.

I turned on some CSI and tied until my finger tips couldn't tie anymore. Then (I know the mind reals that there could be more!) I watched a couple you-tube videos about binding the edge. It took about four 2 hour sessions of Olympic highlight videos to get around the whole thing but I remember that last stitch... I felt like one of the athletes I had been watching...accomplished, trained, practiced, I had put my mind to it and finished and I had gotten the gold, well at least I had gotten a finished quilt and had gotten to be poured into by my mother-in-law about a skill and passion that she adored. That was reward enough.

We love our t-shirt quilt. I think Vinnie loves it most of all. And we will have the memories both from the shirts and making the quilt for a very long time.

The Finished Product

Vinnie Enjoying "his" quilt


Editor and Guest Contributor
James and I were chatting the other day about our blog and how he is the main contributor. I do play an editing role on most of the posts but every once in a while I like to make a contribution that is all my own. Today is just the day for such a post.

I have had the past few days off from work since it was time for teacher conferences. I am very blessed to work just less than full time as a reading assistant and I get to enjoy the freedom from other full time teaching responsibilities such as conferences, parent phone calls, maintaining a classroom (complete with cleaning, decorating and prepping for lessons).

That being said, I have still had to transition back into the working life after my summer vacation, I know, I know rough life, so I really do appreciate the days off when they come.

I love to do many artistic and craft related things in my free time and one of those things is sewing.

This summer I finished a t-shirt quilt, which was my first and maybe only BIG sewing project. More on that later perhaps.  For now I wanted to share about two up-cycle projects I just did this week.

Think of up-cycling as taking something old and discarded and turning it into something new and exciting.

My first project was made out of an old sweater. I really liked the sweater when I bought it but it was one of those purchases that looked great in the store and then when you got it home and put it on the next day you had no idea why you would ever buy something so ridiculous looking.

 Well, needless to say as much as I loved the design on the sweater I never once wore it in public. I cut it up one day to use the pieces for something else and then it just got shoved into the scrap box. I re-discovered it and decided to turn the sleeves into a scarf. I sadly did not take any pictures of the sweater beforehand but below is the finished product.

I looped the sleeves together and then ran a strip of elastic down the center to make it bunchy. I attached the ends together to make it a loop and infinity scarf.

I am excited to finally get some use out of that sweater I bought about 5 years ago.

My next project was converting an old pair of pants into a crochet hook organizer. I made a different hook organizer about a year ago when I became inspired to get organized in the craft department. I'm pretty sure that venture will be a life-long process, but in the meantime I did, at the very least, get my crochet hooks organized.

From This...
To This!

There were a few things I didn't like about my first attempt. There were not enough pockets, the hook spaces were the wrong size and the sewing was less than an amateur attempt.

So, when I found the old pair of pants in the scrap bin I knew exactly what I would make.

I also made a plan this time...utilizing the amazing sewing skills my mother-in-law had shared with me during the t-shirt quilting.

After about four and a half hours of stitching, ironing, folding, un-stitching, re-ironing, staring into space thinking about which way different seams should line up...I had a new crochet hook organizer!

The best thing about both of these projects is that they are custom made and they were essentially free since I used materials I already owned.

I hope this inspires you to find that old sweater, bookshelf, flower pot, or pair of pants and turn it into something new and exciting!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, November 02, 2012

Snowball Loan Payments Furlo Style

Let's suppose you have a lot of debt. Some as personal loans, some as student loans, some credit card balances, a car loan, and a mortgage.

Let's just say... theoretically of course... that you and your wife have 4 student loans and 1 car loan totaling about $80,000.

What's the best way to pay off those loans?

All financial gurus agree that the best way to attack the debt is to use the snowball method: pay the minimums on all your debt, EXCEPT ONE. Put as much as you can towards that one. Really focus on getting rid of it. Once it's paid, take the amount you were paying and roll it into the next debt. As you pay off loans, the amount being paid to an individual loan will get bigger and bigger like a snowball rolling down a hill (the total paid across all loans will remain the same).

Now, there is a little contention around the order to pay off your loans. Do you start with the highest interest rate? Or the lowest balance?

It depends.

In our case interest rates are irrelevant because the difference between the highest and lowest rate is 2%. Which, turns out to be less than $100 in an accelerated payment plan. Actually, I tried all the different permutations and they all land within $300 and 6 months of each other. The real take away is this: figure out a way to pay more than required, pick a loan, and get after it. The more you pay, the less order matters.

If you care about saving money...
The technical answer is to start with the loan with the highest interest rate, probably a credit card. Then proceed to the next highest rate. Loop.

But psychologically...
It might make sense to start with the lowest balance. You get to experience paying something off sooner, and that excitement will carry you onto the next one. Plus, if life happens, you can temporarily go back to paying minimums, and because hopefully at least one loan has been paid off, you have more cash flexibility. That flexibility might be worth a few hundred dollars in lost savings compared to the other methods.

Just pick one...
I say go after the loan which bothers you the most. Who cares where it is on the list. Get rid of it. Let that excitement carry you onto the next loan. And maybe you'll get lucky: Your credit card, a really annoying debt because you can't even remember how it got that high, happens to be the lowest balance with a ridiculously high interest rate.

In our case, the biggest balance has the highest interest rate. Plus, it's actually significantly bigger than all the others. By the time we paid it off, 4.5 years later, all the other loans would get paid off within 6 months. That offered us zero flexibility, which is valuable since we're still young and prone to making drastic life changes. Plus, as you'll see, it hampers the Furlo style rewards system.

So, last January we decided to attack our lowest balance first. And yesterday, 11 months later, we paid it off fully.


Now we're on to the next loan which is scheduled to take another year. The next 2 will take about 6 months each, the 4th will take another year, and the final loan will take 2 years (that's the big one).

But wait! There's more!

Paying Loans Off Furlo Style
Paying off loans is exciting to me, but not as much for Jessi. I mean, she gets it, but doesn't get giddy about it like I do. So, we've added rewards to the snowball method. Instead of rolling that payment over to the next loan right away, we're going to wait one month, and go do something fun with the lump sum. As we pay off more loans, the amounts are going to get bigger.

Now Jessi and I find ourselves excited to pay off the loans because it means we get to do something fun. We're even trying to find ways to tie the fun in with the loan. For example, after we pay off our car loan, we might do something fun for our cars. Jessi wants to get new carpet for the Jeep. I want to get the Jeep fully worked over so we know it'll run great for more years to come. Or we'll just take a road trip. I don't know! But I want to pay it off sooner because all of those sound like fun!

When our last loan is paid off, we're going to go crazy. I think (we're still dreaming), we'll save a month for every year it takes to pay off our loans. Right now it's scheduled to take 5 years. In our case that'll be around $6,500 (Quick! Grab your calculator and do some math!). I'm pretty sure we can think of something fun to do for that amount.

It's going to be pretty exciting over the next 4 years. We've already decided what we're going to do for this first one: A day at the spa. I'm personally looking forward to getting a massage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Benefits Of Living In A Smaller Home

Jessi and I are contemplating moving. Nothing is official yet, we haven't even starting looking, but it's got us thinking a lot about housing options.

The classic American Dream is to buy a small "starter" home when young, then as your family grows, along with your income, trade up to bigger and better homes using the equity in your smaller home as the down payment for the bigger home. Even our tax code supports that notion since you'll get dinged with a capital gains tax if you don't buy something of equal or greater value.

I'll admit to having this dream. It totally included a wall-size fish tank, a model train that traversed the entire home, a Lego room, a gorgeous home theater system for movies and games, and yes vertical storage containers.

Though recently, I've been re-thinking that eccentric list of wants. Perhaps I should give up some of those dreams and embrace the idea of living in a smaller home. Here are some of benefits of living in a small home:
  • Smaller houses tend to cost less, which equal smaller monthly mortgage payments, lower properties taxes, lower home insurance, and lower heating/cooling costs. Plus, you don't have to save as long for the down payment since it's smaller.
  • Homes want to be filled with stuff. The smaller the home, the less stuff you'll tend to buy. I'm not saying buying stuff is bad, but you tend to be more discerning and purposeful when space matters. A hilarious music video about buying stuff
  • Housework, one of the most loathed activities*, decreases with a smaller home since you have less space to cover and stuff to clean/maintain.

Let's not forget about some of the indirect benefits too:
  • More money and time for travel, entertainment, socializing, and giving. Which, if I had to be honest about what makes me happy, these are more important than sleeping in a big bedroom next to a gigantic fish tank.
  • You don't need to keep a higher paying job to afford it. If you do lose that job, it's not as big of an emergency.
  • You can save for retirement faster. Not only will you need less to retire, but you'll have more to contribute.
  • I'm sure it's better for the environment in some way too.

I'm sure if I looked, I could probably find a study saying that kids who have to share rooms are more emotionally healthy too. That's the claim the Mint article makes, and even though I didn't love every day sharing a room with my brother, I fully believe I am better for the experience (though my college roommates might disagree...).

Given that list of benefits, it sure seems like living in a smaller home is a more worthy dream to pursue. So, stay tuned! When we move (some time next year?) it should be to a smaller place.

For fun, I saw this video today about a Tiny House that was made on the back of a truck. I'm not talking about going this extreme (no bathroom? OK...), but it is fun to think about what you can do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple's iPad Mini will compete on price NEXT year

Yesterday Apple released the iPad Mini. It's a 7.9" screen - the same dimensions aspect ratio as the current iPad, but smaller. It's made to compete against Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kind Fire HD.

However, the biggest complaint by observers has been that Apple messed up on price by making it too expensive and missed an opportunity to kill the competition. Here's a quick table of the prices for the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad Mini. Yes, I know there are tons of different flavors, but all of them cost more and this is what people are really comparing.

Nexus 7$199$249
Kindle Fire HD$199$249
iPad Mini$329$429$529

Apple's prices aren't even in the same hemisphere in terms of percentages. Relative to household income they're closer, but these tablets are targeting the cost conscious shopper. So, Apple made a tablet to compete in the low end, but it looks like it's prices are way too high to effectively compete.

But here's the deal, it's made to compete on price NEXT YEAR.

That's right Google and Amazon, you're on notice that you have one year to improve the experience on your tablets.

If you've been paying attention, when Apple releases a new iDevice they don't just discontinue the previous version. They keep the lowest storage device and drop the price by $100.

Look at the table again and imagine this iPad mini at 16gb for $229. All of the sudden it's competitive on price!

Apple came out with the iPad mini at $329 for two reasons:

  1. They can cater to people who want a premium device in a handheld size
  2. They gave themselves room to drop the price on existing models when new ones come out to cater for those looking for a cheap tablet.
The gamble Apple is taking is that Amazon and Google won't be able to improve their devices/ecosystems enough to better compete in a year. It's not a sure bet, but I tend to agree with Apple's assessment of the tablet field.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fisherman's Parable

Today I lived the Fisherman's Parable, one of my favorite stories I try to keep in mind. Here's the parable:


An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I have an MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

"Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You can then leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise!"

The Mexican fisherman asked, "How long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-25 years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions? Really? Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."


I love it for two reasons. First, it makes fun of MBAs in a way that's all too true. Second, it stands as a reminder that I might already be living "the dream". Today was that day. Allow me to brag...

  • I woke up early for a phone conference. Everyone was on schedule and producing good results. The meeting ended early. I love waking up early and meetings that end early.
  • All my other phone meetings got cancelled. I especially love it when that happens. This means I had time to wash all the dishes, which Jessi loves.
  • That also meant I got to watch the Apple iNfomercial and text about with my brother. I love learning about new technology.
  • During lunch, I raked up leaves and spread fertilizer on the lawn. I actually worked up a sweat and got to listen to my audiobook.
  • After HP work I talked with one of our tenants about dogs and kids. It was just a fun casual conversation.
  • I headed over to our new duplex, raked leaves and spread fertilizer. I easily hit my goal of 10,000 steps.
  • One of our tenants offered me some hot chocolate which I'm a sucker for, and we talked about HP and the state of the industry.
  • I also got to meet the father of our other tenant and we talked a bit about living in Albany and boating.
  • I got home and went for a short run with Vinnie. The entire time today I managed to avoid the off and on ran.
  • After I finish this post, I'm going to make dinner, enjoy the last piece of my chocolate cake, and create our monthly newsletter.
  • The only thing missing from this list is Jessi, who stayed in Corvallis all day for work and a high school girl's small group meeting.

So, clearly my dream life has a few key parts to it:
  1. I wake up early and lead a productive lifestyle.
  2. I enjoy many casual conversations.
  3. It involves getting outside and doing some form of exercise - preferably combined with a task I can count towards being productive.
  4. Chocolate gets consumed.

Notably, it doesn't involve exotic trips, luxury cars, giant homes, or fancy restaurants. Kind of surprising to me, it also didn't equal constantly using my iPhone (well... maybe since I did listen to my audiobook a lot), working on my computer all day, staying up to date with social media news, or any sort of gaming.

Thinking again about that fisherman story, I really am pretty close to attaining that thing called "The American Dream". Would building a wood pizza oven really make it better? Would buying an airplane make it better? Would owning the latest iDevice make it better? Is it worth it putting in countless hours into business ventures in the hopes of earning more money so I can one day retire? What would I do in "retirement"? More of what I did today? Perhaps the goal shouldn't be retirement, but instead lifestyle design. That sure fits with the idea of creating a conscious spending plan.

One of the things I struggle with is contentment. I always feel like I should be improving. This actually makes taking vacations mentally challenging for me. So what if we're paying off our student loans 5 TIMES faster than scheduled... I want to go faster. So what if I have a well paying job... I want to earn MORE. So what if I have a pizza stone... I want a whole oven! Outside! Which means I'll also need a deck, and a covered area since we live in Oregon. Oh yeah, and outside heaters, tables, chairs... you get the idea. A desire for "a better life" could be the very thing keeping me from it.

I also need to keep Ecclesiastes 5:10 in mind: "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." Thanks Solomon. For me, I can easily substitute the word "stuff" or "earthly treasures" for money.

Learning to be satisfied with what I currently have, or even less, is difficult to do. But it's a worth while journey. The sooner I embrace it, the sooner I'll realized I'm already "retired" and living the lifestyle I would design if I actually had a choice.

Now if I could only figure out a way to convince Jessi to quit working...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Big 2-9

Never let it be said that Jessi and I don't know how to stay busy. Here's a look back over my last year of life in no particular order. It would be a massive understatement to say God has blessed my life. I truly am thankful for all our friends and experiences.

We got to go to Mexico again. We refinished the roof of this building.

 At Meat Retreat playing Buck-Buck. A fantastically hilarious/dangerous game.

The Furlo Bros Tech Podcast recently celebrated 1 year of being "on the air".

 This picture from Halloween last year is one of my favorites of Vinnie.

Remember this one? Yep. That was just last winter.

 We got to celebrate Abe's graduation last December. That included a trip to Disneyland. I love this picture.

We spent Christmas with my family last year. That's Vinnie with his paper crown and Christmas scarf. It's amazing what he puts up with.

 It also snowed last winter. Driving the Jeep in the snow was a blast.

We also enjoyed a little weekend get-away thanks to our friend Lee. That was a great time of rest and relaxation. We're already planning another fun mini-get-away for next year once our first student loan is paid off (next month!).

Furry February.

Mustache March. I get goose bumps whenever I see this picture of my brother.

I got to travel to New York for work. Looking closely, the lady in the white jacket is taking a picture of me. Awesome.

When I root, I root for the Timbers! Thanks David for letting me tag along to a game.

Jessi and I replaced the radio in our Jeep.

I built a trailer for the Jeep.

I learned the very (very!) basics of electricity. I'm going to try and leverage this success into a another project where I install a light/fan in the living room.

I also learned how to dry wall. We have another upcoming project where this skill will be put to the test.

We went backpacking this summer. It was so beautiful... when we weren't being bitten by mosquitos.

 Ha ha. I've been baldified! When I got it, the app was free. I think it's $0.99 now.

 We built a fence! And it's still standing!

Jessi and I volunteered for the Hood To Coast Relay.

We completed the Disneyland Half Marathon with my family. That was so much fun. I loved this ride. Jessi hated it, and apparently so did the two girls in the front. I think that makes it two trips to Disneyland in less than a year.

 Last month we went camping in a dog-friendly yurt.

 This was our Christmas picture last year.

Beach Olympics once again lived up to it's hype.

And finally, we bought another duplex.

Thanks everyone for the fun year! Here's to another adventure this year!