Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden Fence

Jessi & I sure had a productive holiday! Our final project was to create a fence around our garden. After long conversations about the best way to do it, we finally settled on this solution. It's a light PVC fence made of two parts. Those pieces then pivot vertically on the short ends of the garden. This way we can mow the lawn around the garden easily, and still get to all parts of the garden easily. Plus, when you watch the video, you'll see it has a semi-geek feel to it when it's opened. Always a bonus.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Who Kept The Dog Out?!

We didn't stop with just installing a new radio in our Jeep. The next day we cut out a piece of wood to go behind the back seat. You see, we discovered the hard way that Vinnie could get back there when he ate my turkey avocado bacon burger. That happened back in February, and it took until this weekend for us to make something to stop him.

The solution was pretty easy: We cut out a board to go just over the top of the back area. It balances itself on the two sidewalls. We used some left-over wood to make it. First we created a template using cardboard, then cut out the wood, and sanded it. It's not the prettiest thing ever, but that's OK. If it does work particularly well, we might upgrade to a nicer piece of wood.

We'll see, but it should keep Vinnie from getting down there. Now we can put items, like food, down there and it'll be safe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Installing A New Radio

The Radio in our Jeep didn't work and we decided Memorial Weekend was the time to replace it. There are plenty of video tutorials on youtube that explain how to switch out a radio, so instead... here's what we did... in pictures!

Here's the stock radio. It doesn't work. :)

First we took all the shroud off. It was surprising simple. Jeeps are awesome like that.

The antenna plug

A bunch of speaker wires. Too bad colors are not standard. But there's the Internet to help!

The new radio used a new connector. Lots of crimping and double checking wires.

Oh yeah! Got them all, and they all work!

What the new radio looks like. That shroud piece is universal, you just cut off the tabs you don't need.

All done! The new radio works great. We took a ride to get ice cream to "test it".

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Portland Timbers Army

I had the pleasure of joining the Portland Timbers Army last night as the Timbers took on Valencia, a spanish team, in an friendly international match. The Timbers ended up losing 1-0, but the match was still good. As Steven Smith, a Timbers player, tweeted:

Totally agree. You guys played great. Here are the highlights of the game:

Lots of close opportunities.

The field during warm-ups. It's a nice stadium.

This was my first Timbers match experience, and I must say that being in general admission with the Timbers Army looks way more fun than seats on the sidelines. We get to stand the whole time, and yell fun chants without people looking at us weird. Here's a small snippet of what cheering was like:

It was a blast and I'd like to go again. Thanks David for inviting me.

Here I am, enjoying myself. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meat Retreat Twenty12

For the second time, I got to participate in my church's Meat Retreat for the High School Boys Youth Group. What is the Meat Retreat? Well... It's a retreat devoted to one primary activity: eating meat, plus some other things. Here are the highlights of this weekend. Thanks to Keith and Steve for letting me steal your photos.

We hold the retreat in Bend, Oregon. So we piled all the boys (19 of them) into the church's yellow bus and headed over.

But first we stop at A&W in Sweet Home and consume some meat... and lots of Root Beer.

We stay at Tumalo State Park in one of the group campsites. It's a semi-sucluded place where boys can be boys. By the time we get there, set up, and go shopping for meat, it's time for bed.

The next day we wake up and eat meat. Then we split into two groups. One goes mountain bike riding. The other goes Frisbee Golfing. Then we all come back, and eat more meat for lunch.

The afternoon is spent playing kickball / softball. It's a pretty fun time.

Here's a good picture of the group of boys:

And here's another picture of some guys... Boys will be boys.

We also played Buck Buck. According to Wikipedia, Buck Buck was started in Europe in the 1600s with one group of players jumping on the backs of another group of players with the goal of toppling the whole group. Yep. Bill Cosby even joked about it in his 1967 album Revenge where he introduced Fat Albert as "the baddest Buck Buck breaker in the world". Here's a visual of how it's played:

Group one locks waists to form a strong foundation.

Then players from the other team jump on top.

Eventually more players start to stack on top.

Finally, the supporting group tumbles under the weight. Hilarious.

OK. Back to what we did. That night, we headed over to Safeway to consume ice cream. America's Got Talent played on a near-by TV, which captured most of our attention. That guy with the earth harp? Amazing!

Then we headed back to the campground, started a fire, and chatted for a bit.

 The next morning we woke up and ate... more meat!

 We then headed over to Smith Rock and hiked to the top.

It's an amazing view.

 So there you go. That's the Meat Retreat. Lots of meat, lots of fun.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Garden Time!

It's one of my favorite times of the year...when the sun begins to shine and the grass gets cut and when the garden gets cleaned out and replanted!

All tilled and ready to plant!

We decided to try a couple of new things this year and stick with a few tried and true favorites. Here's what we've got growing this year...

Yearlong Strawberries: These are actually the same plants as last year. Vinnie got to all of the berries last year before they even ripened but this year there are tons of new buds! More on the Vinnie problem later.

Zebra stripped Zucchini: I was attracted to these literally because they were stripped! We'll see how they turn out.

Red Potatoes and Yams: I had some beautiful yam vines last year but I started them way too late and the vines froze before producing anything.

Carrots: Last year I started my carrots from seed, this year I went with seedlings since my carrots never got thicker than a pencil. I tried a new variety of organic baby carrots.

Spinach: For whatever reason greens grow extremely well in our garden, the spinach last year, however, totally got burned...We are going to attempt to cover the garden this year. Hopefully that will help.

Swiss Chard: This is the same crop from last bolted in the last few weeks and is now turning to seed. It is still super tasty and I just read how to harvest the seed and re-sow them. I have been the most happy with this plant out of all of them. There is nothing I (or Vinnie) can do to kill it!

Snap Peas: My snap peas also got burned last year so hopefully covering them will do the trick this year. We did get a few peas before they croaked. The plants I got this year seem to be a little stronger than last years.

Herbs: My parsley, thyme and oregano all wintered very well! I am keeping them and might add a few other herbs along the way.

Onions: I had a few bulbs from last hear that suddenly took off this spring. We have enjoyed chives throughout the summer but I am hoping that the bulbs actually fill in this year.

Tomatoes and Peppers: Lincoln Elementary, where I work, is selling plants from the school garden this year so I am going to try out some of the tomatoes and peppers. I might also get some basil, cilantro and tomatillos...but we will see if I have enough space!

Admiring his work

So, the big goals this year are to create some shade during the full sunny afternoons and also to keep Vinnie, the hole digger-plant destroyer, out of the garden. We haven't come up with any good solutions yet. If you have any ideas send them our way!

Vinnie the garden eater
Thanks for reading!


Why I Quit Netflix

It was time.

It all started when Netflix decided to split up its DVD and streaming business. Remember that? I don't think there was a worse way to handle that debacle. Still, the one thing that stuck was a "massive" 40% price increase: from $10 to $14.

Netflix made it clear at the time that streaming was the wave of the future. You know, the "disc is dead" and all that. Many people decided right away to quit Netflix. I decided to side with Netflix's vision and chose streaming only. Saving a couple dollars each month was phycologically nice too (since I never actually noticed it in my monthly budget).

At the time the streaming library wasn't as big as the DVD section, but Netflix said it was the future. So surely the movie choices would grow over time, right?


Then in September Netflix failed to reach an agreement with Starz for their streaming content. Care to guess what the majority of the movies I watched were?

To consul myself, I found myself bingeing on television series. But here's the rub: watching a movie takes at most 2 hours of my life. Watching a television series takes a LOT more time. So I would start watching a TV show because I couldn't find any movies that interested me, then get hooked on a show I only kind of cared about.



Meanwhile, I had a notes app I used to list movies I wanted to see, but weren't available on Netflix streaming. These were movies I actually wanted to see, not just to kill time.

The final nail was when Netflix announced that it would be pursuing an "original content" strategy for streaming. In other words, that future flood of streaming movies is never coming. My movie wish list would never be added to the Netflix queue.

That's when I decided to was time to quit Netflix. It still took a while to pull the trigger because I still had a few TV series I wanted to finish (addictions can be bad...), but eventually I finished them, made sure Jessi watched everything she wanted, and quit.

What's Next?

A bunch of things.

First, we're keeping our entertainment budget the same since iTunes has EVERY SINGLE MOVIE on my wish list to rent for $3. I figure 1 to 3 movies a month should be plenty.

Especially since we'll keep using Hulu for TV shows.

Plus, I've been thinking about getting back into reading actual paper books (well... eBooks first, paper if I have to). There are a few technical ones I want to read that really don't translate well in spoken form.

There are also a ton of summer projects I want to complete, and summer is upon us.

I'm actually pretty bummed that Netflix and I grew apart. I really like their business model and I think they've done a lot to disrupt the movie rental industry and the cable TV industry. I'll still be cheering for Netflix, but it won't be as a customer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Little DIY Greek Yogurt

I came across a cool little how-to called How to Strain Your Own Greek-Style Yogurt via Lifehacker. I shared it with Jessi and we decided to try it. It's super easy.

First, buy some plain yogurt & some coffee filters if you don't have any around. We have the single cup style coffee filter system.

Second, double up the coffee filter and put in a colander. We used the one made for our coffee filter. Also, put some sort of liquid-catching device for the watery whey to drip into. A bowl, or cup will work just fine.

Third, fill the filters up with yogurt. It'll look like this:

Fourth, cover with a towel and put in the fridge over night.

Fifth, take it out the next morning (or about 8 hours later), and scoop it into another container with a lid. Toss the liquid whey.

Sixth, enjoy your thicker yogurt without the watery whey. Side note: don't drink the whey... It tastes horrible...

Not surprising, you'll lose a lot of volume in the process, but that also means you don't need to eat as much since it's much thicker. Here's a before and after comparison:

Try it out. Add some berries, granola and/or honey for a real treat.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What Time Is It? Time To Get A New Watch

I have always been a watch person.

In middle school, high school and college I owned G-shock watches. Those things are amazing! I had one that could tell you the altitude which we used while back-packing. They also had at least 5 alarms and a myriad of other cool features - like water proof up to 200m. Never mind my ears hurt after 10 feet - I could go 200m!

And yes, I was that kid in class who had it beep at the top of every hour. In retrospect, I bet my teachers hated that. :)

Being indestructible was my favorite feature. I could wear it while working and not have to worry hurting it. That's a major bonus when doing construction work in Mexico and everyone wants to know if it's lunchtime yet. My last G-shock made it through junior year of high school, college and a couple years beyond.

That G-shock finally met an untimely doom during a construction project on our duplex. I accidentally slammed my wrist up against a wall and it literally shattered the outside casing into 3 pieces. So much for that highly valued 200m water proof feature. I milked it for a few months beyond, but once the battery died I knew it was time to move on.

For my next watch I ventured into new territory. I wanted something I could wear for more occasions: mainly dressed up or casual. My G-shock didn't work well with long sleeve shirts because of it's bulk. Since I mostly play sports for exercise, I didn't need a sports watch. I found an analog Timex that met my need.

I've already gone through one battery and it's been a trooper. The only time I don't like wearing it is when I do serious typing (like right now) because it rubs my wrist weird.

I don't want to dismiss this watch - it's good. But today I once again ventured into new territory.

Kickstarter is a website that helps people raise money for creative projects by allowing other individuals (the crowd) to collectively fund them. This is known as crowd-funding. It's a pretty amazing platform with many interesting projects.

One project is called Pebble. It's an e-paper watch that connects, via blue-tooth, to your smart phone. It can display the time, incoming caller ID, text messages (on Android), control music, monitor your running pace, and many more cool functions to come. Here's a video of the watch:

Pretty cool, right? On Kickstarter, people can pledge to give money to the project with various rewards for contributing. For example, for $115 you can get a black watch when it comes out.

I was hesitant at first to fund the project because the blue-tooth technology they were using was an older one. That meant greater batter drain and less possible features. Then today they announced they would upgrade to the latest version of blue-tooth given all the popular demand for it.


I signed up and will be getting mine in September.

So I enter a new phase of watch awesome-ness. It's a 2012 high tech version of the G-Shock watch, but with the sleek look of my current Timex watch. Now the big question is what color I should get. I like the white since it'll match my iPhone, but then I might come off as a bit of a hipster. I'm not sure how I feel about that... :)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

April In Pictures

April was a fairly boring month in the sense that we didn't travel anywhere, or do anything extra-ordinary. I have been playing with a couple new camera apps though, so in the spirit of taking photos, here's April in pictures.

One night we made a blanket fort.

We didn't go to Paris, but I played around with a new filter. I think it looks cool.

I made bread, and wrote about it.

I checked in on our water back flow prevention valve. It all looks good.

I played some DnD. No dragons were harmed on this night... Unfortunately...

Like everyone else, we enjoyed the small amount of sun. I even got sun burned.

Even Vinnie enjoyed the sun. He dug a couple new holes in our yard to celebrate.

I checked into my 1,000th place on Foursquare & got a 40% discount on a shirt.

I spilled Vinnie's food one day. He didn't seem to care much.

Vinnie likes to spend time looking out our front window.

Jessi likes to spend time looking out our bedroom window.

My wife loves me. I tried really hard to pace myself.

I sent this to Jessi one day while she was at work. Vinnie did great job looking sad and pathetic.

And one more photo of this good lookin' doggy. Now looking more like a mob boss.