Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Celebrating Graduations

Mom's Graduation

On Memorial weekend Jessi and I headed down to the Bay Area to watch a couple graduations. It was great to get away and enjoy the sun for a little bit. The first one was my Mom's graduation. She majored in Business Management at San Jose State University. The above photos are everyone celebrating afterwards. I especially like this picture:

Lisa's Graduation

We also watched my sister, Lisa, graduate. It was a LARGE event. Check out the panorama of all the people. We counted the graduate chairs, there were 3,000 seats. There must have been 15,000 - 20,000 people in this stadium. Lisa majored in Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Francisco State University.

Lisa did a good job of letting us know where she was, so we actually got to watch her walk in and walk across the stage. We also took a family photo which I really like:

To celebrate both their graduations we headed to Santa Cruz for some camping. Jessi & I got to spend the first night there. We ate well and walked a ton!

One of the more fun sites is the SS Palo Alto ship made out of cement. It was originally intended as an oil tanker in WW I, but never got used. So, it was brought over here as an amusement attraction, but that company went bankrupt within 2 years. It then became a fishing boat because it acted as a reef that attracts tons of fish. I used to play on this all the time as a kid. As you can see from the picture, it's deteriorated quite a bit, but the fishing off the pier is still pretty good.

Congrats to Mom and Lisa!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN #BookReview

I LOVE biographies. I especially love biographies of impactful people and companies. Some recent good ones have been Steve Jobs, Too Big To Fail, Abe LincolnRichard Feynman, and Walt Disney. I used to never be able to finish biographies when I had to read them. But now that I can listen to them? It's like eating fresh chocolate cookies that help you lose weight. Magical!

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales is another biography I loved. It chronicles ESPN's inception in 1979 to the end of 2011, otherwise known as "it's rise to dominance."

If you've watched ESPN at all, you'll love all the back stories. Did you know they originally wanted to start out as a regional station? The only reason they went nationwide was because there was a new satellite put into space and the owners were trying to sell time to broadcasters. Nobody was really interested, so they gave ESPN an awesome deal. Just like that ESPN was available nationwide to any cable provider that pointed their dish at the satellite. Now all ESPN had to do was fill the time.

I found it's impact on the cable market to be particularly awe-inspiring. Before ESPN, few households had cable - the demand simply wasn't very high. However, once families found out they could watch sports, and not just the big games, demand for cable went through the roof. ESPN was the first company to create a dual revenue stream too: fees from cable companies to carry their channel and fees from advertisers in the form of commercials. Today millions of homes have cable, ESPN created the demand and lifted the whole industry up.

I also loved reading about all the owners it went through. It really was this misfit operation out of Bristol, Connecticut that not many owners understood. At one point it was owned by Getty Oil Company. An oil company! Eventually it was bought by ABC and then by Disney during it's acquisition of ABC. It was only after Disney bought it did they realize the gem they had.

The stories go on and on.

One particularly cool way ESPN's story was told was through interviews. 90% of the book is people telling their version of what happened. You get to hear about it, and their reaction to it. It's incredible how many people they got to contribute to the book. Especially interesting was when people remembered an incident happening differently. You'd hear both versions and never really know who was right.

Did this make we want to work for ESPN?
No. I'm not a big enough sports fan.

Did this make me want to get cable so I could watch ESPN?
No, but I definitely enjoy it more now that I know the history.

Will you enjoy this book?
If you're a sports fan and enjoy biographies, then you'll enjoy this book. There's a lot of sports history along with ESPN. Plus, chances are if you're a sports fan you also already know a lot about ESPN and will recognize many of the names. I did, and I don't even watch it regularly.

Images: &

Friday, May 17, 2013

Building Sweat Equity

I've been a bit of a recluse lately. I'm not hanging out with friends and not writing regularly. I even had trouble finding time to host the Furlo Bros Tech Podcast with my brother.

It's not that I've been slothful. Quite the opposite! When we bought our home, it also meant that I needed to fix up our duplex unit to rent out. We're doing all the work ourselves, so it's taking up all my free time (sweat equity!). I'm not done yet, but I wanted to share some photos of what I've been up to and what's planned.

The first step was to remove the carpet from everywhere. What a thankless job! There were a bazillion staples holding it down! I did recruit Jessi to help some, that for that I am REALLY thankful.

We did reveal some hardwood in the living room, but it's in horrible shape. Fixing that is a project for another, much later time. Instead, we're going to cover half of it with a floating floor and the rest with carpet. That'll create a dinning area in this large space.

Next, we discovered some problem areas with the subfloor in one of the bedrooms.

That's been ripped up and new plywood has been put down. It's much more solid now.

I also tore a hole in our utility room.

Previously it was covered up by a piece of wood. A very ugly piece of wood. Even worse, when you walked by it, you could feel a draft. Here's the template I made of the hole:

Right now I have the sheet rock cut and ready to be installed. I also added a mini-access panel so I can get to the plumbing in the future if need. My access panel will look MUCH better than a piece of wood slapped up onto a wall.

And now for the big project. The kitchen.

I know you remember my sander fight. Well, I'm back for round two. Here's what it looked like when I started:

It's hard to see, but the counter top is starting to pull up from water damage. So we're replacing the counter. Because the sink is in the corner, it means I can't buy a pre-made piece. So we're making them ourselves, and they look awesome!

Here's a wall in the kitchen:

Soon, that wall will have the refrigerator, and a nice cabinet right next to it. Here it is in progress:

The drill, the massive drill, it sitting on it. You see, my dad came up last weekend to help build it. We got really far, but had a slight accident with the table saw that required a few hours at the hospital. So, my dad is driving up again this weekend so we can finish.

Here's another feature of the kitchen in progress:

We're making a chop block for part of the counter. We priced them out, and decided it would be cheaper to make our own out of oak flooring. We're also using the oak for the trim to pull everything together. ALL of the brand new countertops will cost less than $250 when it's done (sweat equity!).

Here's a teaser of what the new counter looks like on the new cabinet.

It's been awesome to have my dad's help. Not only does he have awesome tools we can use, add an extra set of hands, provide his expertise with creative solutions, but it's just been fun to hangout and work together. It's times like this I wished I lived closer to family. I really appreciate all of his help (and don't worry, the doctor thinks his finger will heal mostly normal).

Many more projects remain. For example, we're going to replace this window because it doesn't actually shut. Let's just say I followed MMM's advice and wore long underwear all winter. We taught a finance class this January and everyone laughed at me. Laugh if you want, but I saved money on heating, and now I get to write off this expense and increase my rent.

We're also going to clean, paint, and re-caulk everything.

It's a ton of physical work, but that's the point. We're building sweat equity into this unit. That'll increase the rent and lower our maintenance in the future. It'll take about 18 months to pay for these repairs from increased rent. After that, it's all positive ROI. And really, we've been saving part of our other unit's rent for 3 years to pay for this, so we won't feel it in our monthly budget - it's already paid for.

Jessi was talking with some friends at work about remodels they're doing. In some cases, they're spending over DOUBLE what we are on just a bathroom because of the labor costs. For their own home that won't pay them back! I'm fairly certain if I paid someone to do all this work, it would be 10 times the cost. Instead, I get to keep my money and invest it further. That's building sweat equity.