Tuesday, February 16, 2010

way useful iphone app - toodledo

i'm not a big iphone user (compared to my better half) but i was referred to a way cool + totally fantastic todo list by a friend (thx BC). i'm sure there are a ton of em out there but this one is pretty intuitive w/ nice interface/folders/... but the biggest, and most important, feature for me is web access/editing of todo lists. it does require a manual sync (button) on the iphone but being able to view/edit on your desktop is huge. check it out.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

our DIY project mini kitchen update - kitchen lighting

last week we completed the updating of our kitchen lights. the house was built in 1954 and kitchen was renovated in ~91. although a bit dated, the kitchen was quite good. one thing jo really liked was the ample size, to allow 2+ people to cook together without running into each other. we changed out the fluorescent tubes and replaced them with 4 recessed cans in a "sunken cavity," which we finished off with wainscot + moulding. tools: miter saw, circular saw, finishing nails, hammer, nailset, jigsaw. a bit hairy at times measuring the centers of the 4 holes for lights but we perserved. see photos below.

changes made in 91 by previous owners: (assumed)
opened up kitchen wall (removed door) to dining area
new dark oak cabinets
dropped ceiling to accommodate cavity for "modern" 4 ft fluorescent tube lighting
new electrical (romex)/GFCIs

changes made in '09:
new granite
new stainless undermount unbranded sink
new garbage disposal (waste king) + plumbing (done improperly - need redo)
refinished cabinets
new laminate flooring over linoleum to better match red oak throughout rest of house

*indicate guesses/missing confirmation


original lighting w/ 2 pairs of 4 ft fluorescent tubes

installed 4 energy star/title 24 compliant CFL 5" cans
new cans installed (philips lightolier 5" fluorescent Xceed round energy star)

the very hairy/tricky measuring of can centers on wainscot panel

our "precision" jigsaw cut job

YAY - it fits! (mostly). hammering overhead is painful. need to borrow compresser/nailer in future.

finished! now to countersink nails, putty, paint.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010: getting back to it

so after a 10+ month hiatus, i'm back! unsure for how long but we'll see. a lot has happened in the last year. we completed a successful 3 wk backpacking (+hotels) trip to chile/peru. and we sold/bought a house and did a ton of renovation work.

a list of possible things i'll write about:
- real estate: key house buying considerations - location (city, school, neighborhood, street) & house (lot size, house size, beds/baths, condition)
- home improvement: selecting contractors (we did new windows + HVAC)
- DIY (do it yourself) / home renovation: some very simple/basic kitchen remodeling (more decor), electrical work (adding lights, switches, outlets)
- home improvement shopping for materials, hardware, tools
- general financial tips (shopping wisely, credit cards...)
- and other random stuff.

here we go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

never overcook meat again - _guaranteed_

i can't recall how many pieces of quality meat (beef, pork, chicken) that i've ruined by overcooking on the grill, range and in the oven.  i'm an amateur cook at best and perhaps I lacked the skill to use my seemingly snail-slow mechanical thermometer (30 sec to get a 50% accurate temp.  yikes!)    

a friend has been using the Thermapen ($89*) for years and highly recommends it.  at first i was skeptical given the cost (8x the cost of a basic thermometer) but once you try it and get laser-accurate temp in <4 sec flat, you'll never go back! 

my buddy justified the investment sorta like this "how many pieces of good meat do you need to ruin" before you buy one? =)

Check out the reviews.  #1 rated instant-read thermometer by Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen

the "power" of Polartec® (aka fleece)

most people have experienced some type of fleece/polar fleece/polartec clothing in the past. Polartec is truly spectacular given the insulation it provides for so little weight.  it was invented in the 80s by Malden Mills and evidently Time magazine called it one of the great inventions of the 20th century.

to me, it is one of the most amazing materials i've ever used.  imagine a recycled polyester fabric that is warm, ultra lightweight, ultra quick drying (nearly dry straight out of the washer) and still provides insulation when wet.  i can't stop raving about it. :)

altho I did have my trusty polartec jacket, i had always wanted a blanket however paying $60+ was a little pricey.  one day a buddy told me that I could polartec sheets online, direct from the mfger at ~half price.  now i could make my own blankets.  WOW!  jackets were cool but blankets are equally incredible.  check out the store.

think about polartec sheets, almost as light as air and of pure warmth   

so if anyone ever wants to check out my collection of polartec jackets (100, 200, 300, thermal pro Regulator*...) or blankets (100-300 + "Regulator-like.") let me know. :)

my favorite fleece items:
  • polartec 300 blanket - for those cold northern cal nites - a 300 does wonders.  super warm.
  • polartec 200 blanket - medium weight for most of the year
  • my cookie monster blue Patagonia R2 jacket - Regular R2 provides comparable warmth as polartec 200 but in a animal hair finish.  
  • North Face Denali polartec 300 jacket - semi-retired but it served me well over the years
  *Regulator - Patagonia exclusive fabric which they developed w/ Malden Mills

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

madoff, investing, data + putting your eggs in one basket

looking at stuff happening these days reminds me of the idiom
"don't put all your eggs in one basket"
it's certainly a simple saying but it does make a lot of sense cause if anything happens to the basket, there go all your huevos.

this actually applies very well to life.

on investing
with the madoff scam, I feel bad for those who lost so much, and for some, their life savings.  for the rest of us,  we should diversify across multiple places to invest.  a basket here and a basket there.  don't give all your money to a single investment entity.  or invest in a single stock.  or deposit all your cash in one account. (yes FDIC does insure but banks do go bankrupt...)  seems simple enough but it does take work.

on data storage: 
so the same applies to your precious data (personal docs, financial, priceless photos, videos).  backups are HUGE because hard drives (HDDs) aren't indestructible.  re: the demise of your drive, it's not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN.  i personally backup onto inexpensive, dedicated external USB HDDs (they are only on when i backup.  remember cali is earthquake country!) and also upload my photos to the net. (Flickr for me, Smugmug for others).  remote backup is key as your home is only one basket.  a friend recommended an automatic $5/month/computer remote encrypted backup service called backblaze which i'm considering cause manual backups take time/discipline.  finally for laptop users, it's even more important to backup given theft is a growing problem.

BKM: don't put all your investments/money/data/anything of value into one basket

I'll end w/ this bit of humor. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

in search of _efficiency_

Each day, it seems there aren't enough hours to do everything I need to do.  If I could magically increase days to 25, 26 or even 30 hrs, that'd be fantastic.  Short of this, I've been trying to become more efficient, to do more in the time that I have.  But alas I'm human and make more mistakes than the average person, resulting in less than perfect execution.   So I've come up w/ a few things to  increase efficiency given my flaws.

BKM 1) Don't Procrastinate (with a twist)
Many people know Thomas Jefferson's quote: "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."  unfortunately I love to procrastinate.  To give myself some leeway but still follow this adage, I give myself 3 chances.  Basically if I see something I need to do, I can put it off once, twice and the 3rd time I JUST DO IT!  This actually works pretty well.  Sometimes I challenge myself to do it on the 2nd time so I don't use up my "reserve" chance.  Give this twist a try and see what it can do for you.

BKM 2) If you forget to do "something," don't just do the "something."  do the "something" + "something else."
More often than not, I forget to do something.  I might finish washing dishes and head upstairs but forget to turn off the light.  When I'm upstairs and realize the light is on, instead of just going down + turning off the light, I try to do something else.  Maybe I bring dirty clothes down to the washer.  Or I bring down dirty glasses to put in the sink.  After, I turn off the light.  VOILA - i actually gain more than i lose.  Building upon this, I might then bring up a glass of water for Jo.  How's that for advanced technique? ;)