Gonna rise up. Find my direction magnetically.

Category: Misc (Page 1 of 2)

Reflections on the Grand Canyon

Boot_jkt-330

I have been listening to wild by Cheryl Strayed while running lately and this book has caused me to reflect on a recent trip that Julie and I took to hike the Grand Canyon. The book is about a woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to deal with all the struggles in her life triggered by the death of her mother. She details her hike, unpreparedness, people she meets, and lessons learned.

Julie, my Dad, myself, a friend of my Dad’s, and his daughter hiked the Grand Canyon, north rim to south rim, in early October (still need to do a trip report on this someday soon…). Being away from all the activity of daily life: technology, phones, computers, cars, restaurants, etc. is one of the reasons Julie and I enjoy doing things like this. Cheryl Strayed commented on this as well. It’s amazing how quickly you forget the feelings of self-reliance, hunger, and physical struggle when you return to civilization. A warm house, bed to sleep in, an abundance of food, and  water… just clean, easily accessible water get taken for granted very soon after you emerge from a remote location.

So now the longing to be back on the trail has started up again… John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, somewhere in the Sierras are all thoughts going through my mind. Time to start looking at how I can make that happen…

Bye Bye Comcast, f-you very much

Feb 8th, 2012

Remember this day. It is the day that the Dobson’s quit cable. We cut the cord! We broke the shackles! We tasted freedom from ‘THE CABLE COMPANY’ for the first time since before I got my first apartment in college.

We’ll probably be signing back up in a few months or when the girls and Julie get tired of not having it, but it’s fun and exciting for the moment and I loved being able to tell the Comcast lady (who was pretty rude) that I didn’t want or need her service and was cancelling. Felt SOOOOO good.

So here is the breakdown of where we started and what we ended up with.

Start:

  • (Comcast/Xfinity) Preferred digital cable package + DVR + HD channels + 12 Mb/s internet + Unlimited local phone = $180 / month
  • (AT&T) 2 cell phones with family call plan + data plans + unlimited text = $150 / month
  • Total: $330 / month

Where we will be by the end of the week:

  • (AT&T) 3 cell phones with family call plan + 2 data plans + unlimited text + 12 Mb/s = $178 / month
  • Total: $178 / month + $400 initial investment (3 month payback, $1824 savings per year)

Cable

We ditched this totally. For content, we are going with a combination of HD OTA using the antenna I posted about last year, Amazon prime streaming, the library, and some other content that I am not at liberty to state how I get… We may have to sign up for Netflix or Hulu Plus if content becomes an issue.

For distribution to the end devices (TVs, PCs, iPad, iPhones), I made a few purchases today to make this transition easier.

  • A NAS with a 2 GB HD for now so I don’t have to worry about the computer being on to stream all the video (Synology DS212j).
  • An HD Homerun dual tuner streaming TV box made by SiliconDust. I connect the OTA antenna to this baby and it will stream the HD video to any device on my network, including my desktop PC which I will configure as a DVR and have it record shows to the NAS above which is then accessible from XBMC running on my Apple TV. Got it???? I know, it sounds complicated… but this will give us a very similar experience when watching TV to what we had when we had cable. At least for the major networks.

Phone

I setup a third cell line on our family plan with AT&T for $9.99/month and got a non-smartphone for free with the new line of service. This new phone will have our existing home number transferred to it. I picked up the phone today and it should be switched over in a couple of days.

The one complaint Julie had with this plan was that she would miss the ‘feeling’ of having a home phone and have to run about the house looking for the cell phone when someone called. To eliminate this, I found a set of cordless home phones that have a feature called link-to-cell. You sync your cell via bluetooth with the base unit and then any calls you receive or make are through your cell phone. VERY COOL. Panasonic KX-TG7645M

Internet

The one service that is essential to us now… over the cable or home phone. So here, getting the fastest connection for the cheapest cost is what I was after. Comcast wouldn’t make me any deals and wanted $45/month for 12Mp/s. AT&T offered me a new customer deal of $24/month at the same speed for a year. Done. I figure this is probably the one service I will be switching back and forth between Comcast and AT&T if I need to in order to get the best rate. It’s pretty painless to switch and I don’t use my ISP for anything other than a pipe (no email or any other service).

Wow, big changes for the family…. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe this will force us to spend more time playing games as a family or watching only the things we really really want to see. Either way, it can’t be that bad and it’s a fun experiment. I can’t believe we don’t have cable. So pumped!! (the only major issue is what happens when football starts up again… hmmmm)

And no… there is no basement update. Still working on moulding. Grrr.

Sitting at work is so 2001

Standing Desk Experiment

I am in week 3 of my standing desk experiment. Standing at work? For the whole day? Have you lost it Dobson????

Well, I haven’t lost it and I have thought about it off an on for the past year. Lifehacker.com has had occasional post about it over the past couple of years and the idea always intrigued me. Usually the posts are about how to set up a treadmill desk, but that is the advanced version of the standing desk. I simply wanted to get off my butt more than I do now.

Here is how my thinking went: I workout in the morning or after work for an hour and then go to my desk. I get up and walk to meetings 4-5 times a day and then when I get to the meeting I sit for 30-60 minutes followed by a brief walk back to my desk. I estimated I spent 6.5 hours out of my day sitting in meetings or at my desk. That is roughly 33 hours a week or 1700 hours a year. A LOT OF TIME ON MY BUTT!! If I setup a standing desk, I’ll at least be standing when I am not in meetings.

So how has it been going?

I have averaged 4 hours a day standing at my desk. This is pretty much what I expected. My hips and lower back were a little sore after the first few days, but I have adjusted and just around when I need a break, I usually have a meeting or have to go find someone to ask a question.

Observations:

  • I got a second monitor since I lost the ability to use my laptop as a second monitor (wouldn’t fit on the raised portion of my desk) and this has worked out great!
  • I tend to focus my time for 15-20 min on a task and then take a quick pause to reposition or stretch. This has allowed me to maintain or even increase my perceived productivity. I feel like I am getting more done and am more attentive to my task at hand.
  • Everyone at work seems to think I have a back problem. (Lots of questions about this anytime someone stops by)
  • Long phone calls (> 30) min are not the most enjoyable thing.
  • I can do calf raises all day and more stretches in-between which gives me the sense of feeling like I am not wasting away in my chair. I really like this part.

I ran across a NY Times article today which was pretty interesting. Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

Highlights:

  • On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t.
  • Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.
  • This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked.

I am not planning on changing this anytime soon so I’ll post another update in a few weeks. Until then, happy standing. (For those of you with a keen eye, the picture behind my monitors is Nevada Falls with Liberty Cap on the left in Yosemite. Taken on the infamous JMT hike of 2008.)

Bucket List

I have posted a new page on the site (link at the top near the About Me link. I finally got around to consolidating and writing down the various ‘life/bucket lists’ that I had lying around. I had a lot of fun putting it all down and am excited about everything on the list. Take a look if you have a few minutes.

http://upforsunrise.com/life-list/

Why run?

On my long run today, I took a break from the Autobiography of Mark Twain (great running book) to listen to the sound of my run. I do this now and then, especially in the winter. The sound of my run is the sound my breathing makes, my feet hitting the ground and the natural environment I am running in.

Winter Route

Today was my first chance to run something other than my winter route since November. The bike path that goes by the house is covered in ice and snow and so I have to stick to a street route. It’s an enjoyable out-and-back route but it doesn’t offer me the truly enjoyable sounds and sights I get to see when I run along the river.

Winter Route

Spring/Summer Route

I do sometimes run the winter route in the spring/summer but since I run the winter route so much during the winter, I tend to minimize it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three winters that I have run along that road.

 

Finding the Meaning

So there I was this morning, running along the river, listening to the sounds of my run and I started to think about why I have this desire to run. This lead me down several trains of thought and made for a most enjoyable time. I started out with fitness.

This morning by the Fox River

Running for Fitness:

  • Relatively cheap (shoes, some winter gear and some body glide and I’m good to go)
  • Can do it all year round.
  • Allows me to eat some bad stuff yet not pack on too many pounds (although I’m not losing any!)
  • Is good for my body (lungs, heart, etc.)

The next thing that came into my head was that while fitness was one aspect of running, it wasn’t the deeper reason I run. Running as a social activity is another reason. A couple of experiences came to mind about this:

  • I was able to spend an incredible amount of time with my wife last year while we were training for the marathon. It allowed for some great conversations and we connected in a way that we haven’t for many years.
  • Back in 2000, I trained with my Dad for another marathon and it allowed me to really reconnect with him after college and having been away for a year.
  • I also have a running partner at work and we have logged a lot of miles together while discussing life events and work.

The last thing that crossed my mind on why I run was a more personal one. I took the photo above and the one below after the turnaround point. It had been overcast the entire run but on the way back, the sun came out for 2 periods of about 5 minutes. The feeling of the sun while on a long run on a cold day is reason enough for me to get out there. The connection to the earth and to the world around me is so strong that I usually pick up the pace and can’t help but have a huge smile on my face. It dawned on me while turning around and taking off my hat to feel the sun on my face that the real reason I run is pretty simple. I run to feel alive.

Squishy Records is proud to present…

(Squishy is Brooke’s name for her blankey…)

First Recording

After working out a deal to get my sister’s used MacBook, the girls decided that the price was right and they both took out a withdrawal from Dobson Horizons Bank (great rates, friendly service).  The MacBook arrived last Thursday and Maddie was immediately drawn in. They have Macs at school so she already knew her way around. Of course, PhotoBooth was the first app to get extensive use (is this true for all first time Mac people???). For those of you not familiar, MacBooks come with a built in webcam on the lid and some software to have fun with named PhotoBooth. You can overlay fun-house type effects and make silly faces. The girls continuously laughed for over 15 minutes.

The other thing that the MacBook allows us to do is to play with iMovie and GarageBand. iMovie is by far the easiest movie editing software I have ever seen. Maddie finished her first composition yesterday so maybe I’ll post that later…. we’ll see, I haven’t screened the whole 7 minutes yet.

GarageBand is one of this apps that I knew once the girls start playing with, they would pick it up quickly and want to do more with. I was not disappointed. I recently started playing guitar again and with Maddie on the piano and Brooke on the drums, we have the makings of band (Julie won’t sing. Don’t ask. 🙁  )

Once the girls saw how easy it was to hookup the various instruments (including the USB mic from RockBand), we needed something quick and simple to record. We decided on a ‘He’s Got the Whole World’. Maddie already knew the piano and the simple guitar cords made it a good candidate for me as well. No drums in this one, but Brooke played her part by singing. We first laid down the piano track, then my guitar and finally Brooke put on the headphones and sang along. I think it’s pretty decent for our first attempt and Brooke’s voice is so sweet…. Hope you enjoy!

He’s Got the Whole World

Download mp3

Fire Safety Alert

For 2011, I’m going to try and post at least a couple of blog entries a month. Things got busy during the holidays, so I wasn’t able to find the time.  We’ll just see how it goes…

Fire Safety

On December 13th, just after 8 PM, we heard fire trucks coming down our street. They made the turn at the corner and stopped 2 houses down. We didn’t know what was going on so we ran to the back door and we could see plumes of smoke rising up from our neighbor’s house.

We immediately ran to the garage and into the driveway to see what was going on. Julie and I were running down together and the girls were staying in the garage. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight. Our neighbor’s garage was engulfed in flames. Flames were shooting 5-10 feet out from the front of the garage and a full size conversion van that was parked right in front of the garage door had flames rising up from under the hood. Everyone made it out of the house before the fire department showed up thanks to a passerby who saw their garage on fire and knocked on the door to tell the family.

 

Smoke was everywhere and you could see the firemen were gearing up to go inside while others had already hooked hoses up and were putting out the fire.

This is the closest I have ever been to a house fire and I learned a lot from this event:

  1. Firemen kick ass. They were already putting water on those flames in the time it took us to realize what was going on and run down our driveway. It had to be less than 2 minutes.
  2. Even with all the water and firemen at the scene, it still took over an hour to get the flames out.
  3. Houses smolder for HOURS and the fire department will not leave until it’s done. 3 am is when they all left.
  4. Once the actual fire is out and the mass of firemen start tearing apart the house looking for smoldering debris is when a serious amount of damage is done to the house. They certainly have to do it, but it’s really heartbreaking to watch the guys tear it apart with pry-bars and axes.

Brooke was freaked out by the fire so we made her our fire marshal. We did a fire safety check of all our smoke detectors and fire extinguishers a few days later. I would encourage everyone to do this. NOW. And go over your family exit plan for how everyone will get out of the house and meet up. It’s serious business. Here is a link to a good checklist.

The thing that really got me nervous was that it turns out the fire started in the garage and the kids were in the basement so they had no idea there was a fire. In our house, our smoke detectors are not connected so if one goes off, the others do not. This was never really a concern for me in the past…. until now. The cost to wire them all together was out of the question, so I looked for alternatives and I stumbled across these:

First Alert ONELINK Wireless Battery Operated Smoke Alarm with Voice Location

I read some reviews and decided that these were just what I was looking for. Wireless, synced smoke detectors. They have about 15 pre-programmed locations so when you get them, you program them for “basement” or “dining room”. When the alarm goes off on one, it takes a few seconds for the others to start up, but it works and it works pretty well. I got 2 2-packs for $67 each. First place I put one was the garage…

As a side note, this makes me feel very proud of what we do at Motorola. Working with public safety and helping ensure that these firemen can communicate gives a lot of purpose and meaning to my job. I have always felt that way, but now it’s just more personal and real than before.

Richard Feynman

A friend and I were discussing Richard Dawkins this morning and it reminded me of this awesome physicist named Richard Feynman that I had found online a year or so ago. At the time, I watched several long youtube clips of him and remember thinking how incredibly cool he was and how his explanations of complex concepts were just unbelievable. This guy had a very interesting life including winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 and working on the Manhattan Project. It also is odd that he bears a slight resemblance to my grandfather on my dad’s side (at least in my mind he does…).

So do yourself a favor, spend a few minutes and listen to this chat about fire:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1pIYI5JQLE]

His talk on Why? questions will blow your mind.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM]

Like a monkey trying to get the banana… I’m with you Richard

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lytxafTXg6c]

Music de femme

The girls had a recital this past weekend and did a great job. It’s really amazing to see the complexity of some of the pieces that Maddie is working on. She needs a kick in the pants now and then to practice, but what kid doesn’t?? She really has progressed a lot in the few years that she has played. It was nice to see her play and she did a great job.

Brooke is a rocker and provides a nice contrast to Maddie’s more tame piano. The crowd at the guitar/drum recital was much more riled up which made the 2 hour recital duration go by quicker. Brooke asked to go last and her teacher granted her wish. It would have kept the anxiety down with the folks I was sitting with if we were informed of her volunteering since the general thought was that she just kept getting passed over when they were selecting who would go next. She did an awesome job and smiled almost the whole time she was up on stage. I wish I would have gotten a shot of her in her Christmas dress (what she wanted to wear) next to all the other drummers because that was entertaining as well.

Videos:

Maddie, The Gondola

Maddie, In The Hall of the Mountain King

Brooke, Tripple B’s Blues

Brooke, Let’s Get This Party Started

Now if I can just get Julie to sing, get myself to pickup the guitar (again) and get a mac so I can record it all on Garage Band, we might just have something. It’s nice to know that despite my obvious lacking in the musical talent department, the rest of my family makes up for it.

Gear up

I got interested in photography in high school and through the years have had several different cameras. I stayed with film and an old Canon SLR though the early 2000s. Since then, I’ve owned the following models:

Canon A70
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
Canon SD1100 IS

In Jan. ’09 I had the itch to step up and get a digital SLR. I got a Canon Rebel XSi with the kit lens. I shot with it for a week and then returned it. The quality was not what I was expecting and the low light performance was lacking. I wanted a fast camera that performed awesome indoors. This was not it. So instead I got a Canon PowerShot SX1 IS which did 1080p video an had a 20x zoom. I loved it and here are some shots from Hawaii tht I took with it.

In fact, the banner pic of sunrise (actually sunset, but who can tell the difference… I mean really) used at the top of this site was taken with that camera.

Jan. 2010 rolls around and after reading several books and blogs, I decide that it was really the crappy kit lense that came with the rebel was what dd me in. A friend helped me work though my budget of $1500 to come up with a starter setup which included a switch from Canon to Nikon. Here’s the gear list.

Nikon D90 DX 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens Nikon D90 DX 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

I love this camera! So much so that I am taking it everywhere and the quality of my shots has gone way up. Examples:

We are planning a trip to Banff and Jasper in Canada in June and I only have a few more pieces of gear to pickup to be ready. Julie is planning on using the shots I take to decorate the walls of the bedroom so I better work on my composition some more before we leave.

« Older posts

© 2020 ± Up for Sunrise

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑