Saturday, December 3, 2011

How To Do A Proper Google Search

I firmly believe that there are at least two things we should definitely be teaching our kids in school (and/or at home):

  1. Critical Thinking - How to process information, objectively sort and weigh value, then apply it to given situations.


  2. How to most effectively Search Google - Now-a-days, you really don't have to memorize much ... if you know how to get the most out of modern technology. Google (and other search engines) contain a vast wealth of information. But they're also filled with an ever increasing load of distracting garbage. Being able to quickly find what you're really looking for is becoming a skill unto itself. The infographic below contains some good tips for improving that skillset ...




infographic source: http://www.hackcollege.com/
1

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finding My Why



For a number of years now, I've been saying that I'd "kind of like" to be able to do my home business full-time (as in it provides a significant portion of our income) after I retire from the military. But if you asked me to name a specific reason, the best I could usually come up with is that I'd like to avoid the stress of looking for another job.

Woops ... I've had a negative "why".

As you can probably guess, although having a continuously profitable home business for over 10 years now could certainly be considered successful in relative terms; if I had to retire from the Air Force tomorrow, I wouldn't yet have enough of a regular income to avoid a job search.

Clearly I need a stronger motivation to build my home business income. I retire from the military at the end of 2013, so I've only got two years to figure this out.

Last Friday, the girl's school had a military dad's lunch, in honor of Veteran's day. I got to go eat lunch with both Jasmine and Jaiden ... which was a lot of fun. We laughed, and smiled, and just generally had a pretty happy lunch hour. As I was walking home, and reflecting on what a good time I'd had, something hit me ...

When I retire from the military, Jaiden will only be in Kindergarten, and Joey will just be starting pre-school. They're going to have a lot of years of school ahead of them ... which will mean a lot of lunches, and field trips.

I think I just found my WHY.

Starting in January of 2014, I WILL be at EVERY one of these parents lunches. And I WILL volunteer to accompany my girls on EVERY field trip. And I will be there for EVERY soccer game, or gymnastics meet, or just to play in the yard. In short, my goal is to be a Stay at Home Dad ... with an income that allows me to enjoy it!

This is a much more clear cut goal ... I can close my eyes, and easily picture it.

But ...

Just so I don't fall into the trap of trying to justify the minimum amount I can do to somehow just "get by" while still nominally achieving this goal, I want to add in something with a financial cost.

Turns out this is relatively easy to come up with too. You see, we just bought a new house, and it turns out that the back yard is pretty big. Big enough, in fact, that there's more than enough room for a pool.



So, the second part of my goal is ...

By the summer of 2014, we will have an in-ground pool in our back yard. Due to the hard ground here in central Texas, I've been told that this could easily represent a $40-$50K investment. No matter, I can see myself floating in that pool, not caring in the least that it's 105 degrees. :-)

Ok, that all sounds well and good. But what am I going to do to make these goals come to fruition?

I could smile and think positive thoughts.

Actually, I intend to do a whole lot of that.

But, I also need some sort of measurable action, that I can track over time.

So here's what I'm going to do ...

Between now and December of 2013, I will get 1000 No's

Huh? What the heck does 1000 No's mean?

Simple. I will invite people to look at my home business plan. I'll ask them to partner with me. And I will do this enough times that at least 1000 people tell me "No, thank you"

Here's the cool part though ...

Along the way to getting those 1000 no's, a certain percentage of people are going to say Yes!

And the even cooler part, I have no excuse to be scared of inviting people to look, and asking them to partner with me ... since my purpose is simply to get an answer ... doesn't even matter what they say.

If it's a Yes, I have a new partner.

And if it's a No, I can count it towards my 1000.

It's pure win/win.

.. and it's a bright, shining path towards my getting to enjoy a whole lot of lunches with my girls. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!
[todd-sig]
4

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How To Pack For A Military Deployment

I spent a little bit of time today, getting my uniforms together, and building my "72 hour" bag for my upcoming deployment.



I'll most likely finish packing the night before I leave ... that's just how I roll. But at least I was able to start getting things ready while I was home today. And even better, my 3 year old daughter Jaiden spent about 25 minutes helping me .. and that's not even "help" in quotations ... she actually did help me.

One of the 1st lessons I learned about Army support 6 or 7 years ago, is that when you go to the field, you should pack your clothes in gallon sized ziplock bags before putting it into your rucksack. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way, back in 2007, that this rule also applies when preparing for a regular deployment to a fixed base. When I went to Iraq the first time, for some reason I just stuffed all my clothes into my rucksack, and big "body bag". When we got to Al Udeid, Qatar, I took my little backpack with a couple of sets of PT gear with me through customs, so I'd have something to wear while we waited for our flight to Iraq. The rest of our bags were loaded into big bins near the flight line ... uncovered bins ... and of course it rained for two of the three days we were there. You can probably guess the rest of this story. When it was time to leave, I dug through my bag for an ACU uniform, only to discover that they were all wet. So, I wore a wet uniform on the plane. Then had to turn in pretty much all of my clothes to the laundry the 1st day I was in Iraq ... fortunately, there was a very quick turn around. But still, that flight was no fun.

This time, I'm applying some of the lessons I learned back then.

Jaiden and I sat down with a box of ziplock storage bags, and a couple of piles of clothes. She would grab a bag, open it up, and we would both repeat:

  1. First a T-Shirt

  2. Then some Underwear

  3. And finally, don't forget the Socks!


We made 7 bags, that all look something like this:


Then we did the same thing with PT gear:

  1. One Shirt

  2. One Shorts

  3. One pair of Socks


7 more baggies:


I also got some of those bigger 4-gallon bags, in which I was able to get 3 uniforms, and most of my long underwear.

My 72 hour backpack has 2 sock/t-shirt/underwear bags, 2 Pt gear bags, one bagged PT sweatshirt, one bagged PT sweatpants, and a pair of tennis shoes tied to the outside. There's still plenty of room in the pockets for my phone, netbook, and Kindle. I'll be wearing one uniform, and will put my gortex jacket, and shaving kit at the top of my rucksack, so I can easily take it out when I get to Manas.

The rest of my uniforms, extra boots, jackets, etc., will all be in either ziplock or other waterproof bags, in my rucksack, waiting to be unpacked, nice and dry, when I arrive in Afghanistan. And I think I've actually packed efficiently enough this time, that the only thing I'll need to put in my other big rolling "body bag", is my flack vest, helmet, and gas mask. Heck, I'm almost tempted to just pick those up at Manas, and go with just the ruck sack ... but I'm sure I'll be able to find a few other useful things to stuff in there.

I'm looking forward to a relatively easy trip.

And if you've got any military "vacations" in your future, I hope you found this helpful ... don't forget the ziplocks!

[todd-sig]
1

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do You Like Pizza Or Hamburgers?

That's the poll question that 3-year old Jaiden is supposed to ask people for her pre-school homework assignment. She made a valiant effort, but didn't quite grasp the concept:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRlnrtMnK64&feature=feedu

I guess you could say that her question asking style is a bit "leading". With mommy's help though, she did eventually manage to get around the entire room and ask ummm, tell each of us whether we like Pizza or Hamburgers better.

It was entertaining to say the least.

And I have to say, even beyond the food query, the one question that was going through my mind during this interview was ...

Since when do pre-schoolers get homework?

Keep havin FuN!
[todd-sig]
0

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mommy Is A Naturalized Citizen

Ana Morris is now a U.S. citizen. On September 26th, we all took a trip down to the Lyndon B. Johnson library auditorium at the University of Texas in Austin. There, along with a couple hundred other immigrants from 76 countries, we sat through a nice hour long presentation, that culminated in the oath of citizenship.

I had intended to take a few more pictures, but if you've ever tried to keep an 18 month old quiet and still for a whole hour, in an auditorium full of people, you'll understand why I didn't use my camera more. ;-)

Here are a few of my favorites from the pictures I did take:









[todd-sig]
1

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do You Support Local Small Business?


Ace Hardware Copperas Cove Texas

As new homeowners, we're continually discovering things we need. As such, I've found myself at the Ace Hardware store down the road more than a few times lately. I even went ahead and signed up for the Ace Rewards card. As much as I'd like to think that I specifically went to this small, locally owned hardware store because Copperas Cove is now my home town; the honest truth is that Ace is 5 minutes from my house, while Lowe's and Home Depot are "all the way" over in Killen (at least 20 minutes away).

Even admitting that my intentions weren't entirely pure, I still find myself feeling somewhat proud and happy about supporting a small business here in town. Don't get me wrong, we still run down to Walmart for quite a few things, and we still get most of our food from HEB, or the Commissary on post. However, if we have the opportunity to support a small business, and all thing are nearly equal (I realize we'll probably pay a bit more), I certainly plan to make the effort.

Right now, about the easiest way to do this, besides going to Ace, on one of those few occasions when we go out to eat, there are a couple of good restaurants here in Cove ... my favorite being Giovani's. Maybe as I find some time, and start writing more about Cove, I'll actually write some review posts here on the blog.

So how about you?

What are some of the ways that you try to support small businesses in your town?

And what are some of the situations where you'd like to, but find that it's just too inconvenient and/or expensive?

[todd-sig]
0

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Car Got Rear Ended

image

Well that was a fun afternoon.

Earlier today, I had to pop home real quick to grab some paperwork that I needed to take over to the Soldier's Center on Fort Hood. There's a traffic light at the corner of FM-116 and Lutheran Church Road, where I make a left to get to my house. When I arrived at the intersection, the light was green, but there was traffic coming the other direction, so I couldn't turn right away. I'd been sitting there for about 5-10 seconds, when I glanced up at the rear-view mirror and noticed a car coming up behind me "a bit" quicker than it should have been going. I thought to myself (and may have even said outloud):

Crap, he's gonna hit me


... and hit me he did.

I was pushed forward into the intersection, and slightly to my left (towards the oncoming traffic). Fortunately, I was able to steer back to the right a little bit, and the 1st car coming the other way was able to slow and veer onto the shoulder ... so no other cars were involved.

Even though I got hit hard enough that my seat broke, the mirror came down, and my radio popped right out of the dash, I was able to climb right out, and really don't feel any worse than I did at this time yesterday.

The kid in the other car appeared to be about 17 or 18 years old. His front airbags both deployed, so he was having some pains in his chest area. An ambulance was called, but after examining the boy, they didn't feel it was necessary to transport him.

All-in-all, it could have been Much worse.

... and in that context, oddly, I'm almost glad that he hit me.

Had he seen my little red car soon enough to try to swerve around me, he almost certainly would have collided head-on with one of the oncoming cars ... in which case, I would have an entirely different, and probably much sadder story to tell here.

Did I mention that I really, really don't like this particular intersection?

Just since we decided to buy our house a couple of months ago, there have been at least 3 previous accidents (that I know about) at just about the same spot where I got hit. One, about 6 weeks ago cost a 16 year old girl her life. Talking to the police officer at the scene of my collision, apparently the traffic light that was installed in June appears to have made the intersection More Dangerous.

Then, one of the guys at the repair shop knew exactly which intersection I was talking about, before I even told him the exact street names ... and worse, he knew the girl who was killed. He told me that there's some controversy surrounding that light. The original TEXDOT plans called for a turn lane, and signal. But then when the project was taken over by Coryell County, the turn lane was eliminated.

... probably to save a few bucks.

In the end, I feel like I got away from this fairly lightly.

My poor car is most likely totaled. But at least nobody was seriously injured (or worse) this time.

And hey, the way this one ended, tomorrow is almost guaranteed to be a better day for me. ;-)

[todd-sig]
7

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jaiden's 1st Day At Pre-K

Jaiden turns 3 years old tomorrow, and today was her first day of school. As a military family here in Texas, she was able to start pre-K at three ... full day of school no less. So this morning we brought her over to the brand new House Creek Elementary School and set her up in the classroom.

httpv://youtu.be/nfnalRXVezY

Getting out without upsetting her too much was a bit of challenge. But since it's lunch time now, and we haven't been called to come pick her up, I'm going to assume that she eventually settled in.

I'm looking forward to getting home from work tonight, and finding out all about her day.

Now, as far as 1st days of school ... 6 down, 1 to go ... 2 more years til Joey can start. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!

[todd-sig]

p.s. I don't know what happened to the sound on the video .. it's there on my phone. Maybe youtube just needs more time to finish processing it.
2

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The New House Is Almost Done!

Wow, it's only been 3 months since I stopped in at the D.R. Horton, House Creek North office to ask about building a house .. and now, our new home is just about finished. They still need to lay down the grass, put screens on the windows, and do a couple of other touch ups; but it's definitely looking like there's little doubt it will be ready for us to move in on the 30th.

Justin and I took a trip out there this morning. Since he spent the past 5 weeks in Hawaii, this is the first time he's seen the house since it was just a dirt lot. Of course I brought my camera along to grab a few new shots ...

Here's the view from the front. We have a pretty steep driveway. The bricks are in, an all the painting is done. The last thing they have to do, is put the black metal railing between those two columns on the front porch.
View from the street in front of the house

Once we got into the house, the first stop was the kitchen. The tile and carpet are down, the appliances are in, and they even cleaned up this morning before we got out there.
our kitchen

Next, I had to stop and get a picture of the master bathroom for Ana. There are two sinks, a separate tub and shower, and a block window (which is kind of hard to see in the daylight).
master bathroom

Then back down the hall to my favorite feature of the house .. the high ceiling entrance way:
high ceiling entrance hall

Obligatory "artsy fartsy" shot. Looking back down from the top of the stairs:
down the stairs

And finally, a picture of the back yard with the fence up. I can't wait to see what it looks like with grass.
fenced back yard

Really only two more things to do. We have a walk through with the home inspector next Tuesday, then the closing a week later, on the 30th. I'm thinking back to late last month, I was so excited to have locked in a 4.25% fixed rate for our 30 year mortgage. I couldn't have imagined that rates would go even lower this month. Oh well, if they'd gone up, as I feared, I'd be feeling pretty smart right about now. As it is, I still can't see any situation in the future where rates will be low enough that I'll even consider refinancing .. so that's one potential future headache eliminated before we even start. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!

[todd-sig]
2

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Girls Help Daddy Make A Smoothie

You all know how much I enjoy a nice smoothie. So this morning, I decided that's what would be for breakfast ... I enlisted Jaiden and Joey to help me.

The first step is to get out the Vitamix, and gather the ingredients:


I let Jaiden flip the switch to turn on the blender .. apparently it was fun!


Then it was time to enjoy ...

Jaiden used her spoon:


While Joey was all about the straw:


mmmmm .. a good time was had by all. I wonder what we'll do for lunch?

Keep havin FuN!

[todd-sig]
0

Friday, August 12, 2011

Central Texas Finally Gets Some Rain!

fort hood rain in the distance

Jaiden observed: "oh the water's coming from the sky". I'm almost surprised she didn't ask what rain is .. after all, it's been about 2 1/2 months since we've seen any precipitation here at Fort Hood. Add to that our streak of 100 degree days, and it's been a pretty miserable summer.

I'm not sure people were quite to the point of dancing in the streets. But I do know of at least a couple of my workmates who live out in Copperas Cove, that were very happy campers this afternoon.

I've still got a couple of weeks until I move into my new house. But with fresh sod going down, come about September 1st, I hope that the scene above becomes a very familiar site on my horizon.

Keep havin FuN!

[todd-sig]
0

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

U.S. Citizenship Test

Taking the citizenship test

Are you as smart as a brand new citizen?

This is a picture of my wife Ana outside the San Antonio USCIS office this morning, after successfully completing her citizenship test. It only took about 15 minutes. She had to show that she can read English, write English, and correctly answer at least 6 out of 10 questions about United States civics and history. She only needed 6 questions, as she got them all right!

We go down to Austin later in September for the actual swearing in, but for all intents and purposes, she's done with the process.

Anyhow, as I was helping her study for the test, I was struck by the idea that many "natural born" citizens would quite possibly have a tough time answering some of the questions on this test.

So, figured it was a good excuse for a little experiment.

I'm going to share a small sample of the type of questions that are asked on the citizenship test. Without googling the answers (prospective citizens have to answer these questions orally, without referring to the book), see how many of these questions you're able to (easily) answer.

Here we go ...


  1. How many amendments does the Constitution have?


  2. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?


  3. The Federalist Papers supported passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.


  4. Who was the President during World War I?


  5. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s?


  6. Name your U.S. Representative.


  7. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?


  8. Who is Chief Justice of the United States now?


  9. What did Susan B. Anthony do?


  10. Who Makes Federal Laws?




So how do you think you did?

answers:
answers

If you're brave enough, feel free to share your results (and maybe even some of your most "off the mark" answers) in the comments section below. (or on Facebook, if that's more your thing)

I promise not to make (too much) fun of you. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!

[todd-sig]
4

Monday, August 8, 2011

Homemade Pizza On Our Pampered Chef Stone



Jaiden helped me make pizza tonight!

... then decided that she'd rather have a yogurt for her dinner.

It's all good though, the rest of enjoyed using the Pampered Chef stone my mom sent me for Christmas to our yummy homemade pizza.

Here's what I did:

Mixed up the pizza dough, and spent about 10 minutes covered in flour kneading and shaping it.

Shaped the dough on the pizza stone.

Evenly spread one jar of fire roasted garlic diced tomatoes (instead of sauce).

Covered with one bag of shredded mozzarella cheese.

1/2 of a thinly sliced red onion.

An italian flavored chicken breast ... chopped. (cheated, and bought it pre-cooked in a bag)

1 tomato thinly sliced.

Cooked at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Ate :-)

[todd-sig]

p.s. 15 month old Joey had a whole slice of pizza to herself .. and her tray is now clean.
0

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Do I Need A New Camera?



Wow, my Canon 20D is nearly 7 years old. It's almost hard to imagine that I've owned a dSLR camera for that long. And it's almost equally as amazing that I still haven't upgraded, after all these years.

Lately though, I really don't even pull out the Canon unless it's a "special" occasion .. which seems to only happen every couple of weeks or so.

I'm not even planning to take the "big camera" with me when I deploy to Afghanistan later this fall.

For day-to-day picture taking, I've found that it's much easier to just rely on my Nexus S phone. Sure, there are quite a few things I can't do with the phone camera ... like zoom, or get a nice shallow depth of field, or have enough pixels to blow a shot up into a poster ... but really, how often do I need that kind of stuff anyway?

I'm actually looking forward to the idea of having my camera, post-processing, and storage all in a little 4" x 1/2" mini computer, that I can keep in my pocket as I travel to the other side of the world.

That said, when I get home, I think it really is time to get a new dSLR.

Don't get me wrong, amazing as it may sound, even after 7 years, my Canon 20D still works really, really good .. for what I need it to do.

But ...

Having a few extra pixels to play with in post processing would come in kind of handy.

I miss the tilt screen on my old Sony F-717. A few of the newer dSLRs have this.

While I'm not a big video guy (and actually my Nexus S makes pretty nice movies), the idea of slapping my Sigma 50-500mm, or even my 70-200 F4L lens on the camera, then shooting a video, just sounds too cool not try at least a few times.

So, I guess early next summer, I'll be in the market for a new camera.

And electronics being what they are, I'm sure I'll get more for my money then, than if I was in the market now. :-)

I wonder what sort of fancy ideas Canon has up their sleeve between now and then?

lol, could be like Christmas in June.

Til next time

[todd-sig]
0

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'll Be Your Honey Bee



Ok, so I stole the title from a popular country song, but none-the-less, today I do want to talk about our friend the honey bee.

Did you know, that as far as we humans are concerned, the honey bee is probably the most important animal in the world?

Do you know why that is?

One word: Pollination

As the bee goes out on it's daily hunt for nectar, at each plant it stops it usually also inadvertently picks up some pollen. As it moves on to the next food source, it deposits this pollen, enabling the plants (aka: our food) to reproduce.

So what can people learn from the bee?

What should we try to emulate?

As you go about your daily life, gathering the things you need for YOU, you'll also invariably pick up "stuff" that might very well be useful to others. You may or may not even be aware of this "stuff" .. but it's there.

Here's the thing about humans though .. unlike bees, we have this thing call Free Will.

The choices we make can have some impact on how much "stuff" we gather, what kind of "stuff" it is, and even how many other people we spread this "stuff" to.

Similarly to bees ...

Where we choose to feed (our minds) will have an effect on the quality and quantity of the additional "stuff" we pick up along the way. Also .. by choosing to "feed" in a variety of different places, not only will we enhance our ability to pick up a larger cross-section of "stuff", but we'll do a much better job of spreading the (hopefully good) "stuff" that's already sticking to us ... thereby enhancing the opportunity for additional sources of nourishment to prosper and grow.

Basically ..


The more we interact, and give back (consciously or not), the greater the chances that we'll Always be able to find (and get), the things we Need.


Wait a second though, aren't some people scared of bees?

Maybe there are some things about honey bees we don't want to emulate?

In addition to cool things like wings, big eyes, and six legs, bees also come equipped with a stinger (which I suppose some people might also classify as "cool").

As these wonderful insects go about their mission of spreading pollen and literally creating life; if they feel threatened, they have the ability to inflict a great deal of pain on their perceived nemesis.

But there's a catch:

Very often when a bee stings, it dies shortly thereafter.

Hmmm ...

So when a bee lashes out, and stings it's "victim", it almost always pays a much greater price than the person or thing it was trying to hurt.

Sure, a sting is painful, but by the next day, you might not every feel it any more.

The bee however, is dead.

Do you think we might be able to apply this lesson to a few (or even most) of our human interactions?

Just something to ponder.

Til next time,

[todd-sig]

p.s. This picture was taken with my Nexus S at about 8:30am this morning. While I'd hardly call it the ideal tool for macro photography, I have to say that this one definitely turned out not bad at all .. especially for a shot taken with a camera phone.
1

Friday, August 5, 2011

Healthy Snacks In The Fruit Bowl

bananas and apples in a fruit bowl

Healthy food is what's on my mind lately, and I guess my pictures of the day will tend to reflect that. Today, we've gone to the fruit bowl, both literally and figuratively.

One of the easiest ways to lose a couple of pounds is to simply make the right decision, more often than not, when the question is some from of ...

"A cookie, or an apple?"

Needless to say, coming up with the correct answer is somewhat easier when you have well stocked fruit bowl sitting on the counter. Now I'm not sure you could really call ours "well stocked" at the moment. But at least the bananas are exactly how I like them ... almost, but not quite, over ripe.

When they're like this, they add just the right amount of sweetness to a smoothie. We can never have enough bananas in our house. It's by far my favorite fruit. But I actually ate a lot more when I was TDY to Florida ...

Because, here in the Morris house, it's also baby Joey's favorite fruit ... and breakfast on most days .. so as silly as it sounds, whenever I grab a banana, I always feel a little bit as though I'm "stealing" food from the baby. :-)

Ok, a quick word about the picture ..

Obviously taken with my Nexus S, using natural light from the window. I exported it to PicSay Pro, where I upped the contrast and saturation slightly, then applied the "cross process" effect. When I was done, I added the white matte around the edges, and sent it off to Wordpress.

Til next time ..
[todd-sig]
0

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Simple Spinach Tomato Salad

Simple salad

Lunch!

I'm still trying to lose and inch or two off my waist, so I've been trying to watch what I eat when I come home for lunch. One of the easiest things I've been able to come up with, is a simple little salad.

Today's salad consists of:

  • Spinach

  • Cherry Tomatoes

  • Sliced Turkey

  • Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing



Took all of about 2 minutes to put together. Is relatively healthy. And it tastes good! .. plus a colorful picture of the day.

What's not to like about this salad? ;-)

Til next time,
[todd-sig]
0

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Do You Drink After A Workout?

Rockstar Energy Drink

I decided to try a different energy drink today. After I got done exercising at PT, I swung by the shoppette to grab some caffeine .. preferably in liquid form. Normally, I'd just go for some Diet Mtn Dew, or maybe an Amp, but today (partially because it was on sale), I decided to try a Rockstar Recovery.

It met my first two personal requirments for an energy drink:

  1. Caffeine - 80mg

  2. Low, or No Calories - 10 in this case



But then the real test .. what was it going to taste like? I don't know about you, but I think some energy drinks are just nasty. You know, the funny aftertaste that's left in your mouth after every sip?

I'm happy to report that this particular drink has an interesting grape flavor. It tastes pretty good going down. That being said, I'm not terribly sure about how it's sitting in my stomach. Maybe I just need to eat ...

Where the heck did I leave those Clif Bars?

Apparently these particular Rockstars have some extra ingredients that help replenish my electrolytes .. maybe helping to offset the dehydrating effects of the caffeine? I don't know. In any case, I think I'll probably plan to drink some water for the rest of the morning.

Ok, shifting gears a bit ...

So, what do you think about the picture?

This is the third day of my new picture project. Another random shot, taken with my Nexus S phone. Seriously, I was just sitting at my desk, looking at the drink sitting in front of me, and thought to myself: "hmmm, I wonder if that would make a cool picture of the day?".

After a bit of editing in PicSay Pro ... I used the "Faux HDR" and the "Edge Lens Filter" effects ... I kind of like the way it turned out. I wonder what's going to catch my eye tomorrow?

Til then ... keep havin FuN!
[todd-sig]
0

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not Quite Hot Enough To Fry An Egg

egg on a hot sidewalk

Apparently 104 degrees isn't quite hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement. But hey, the last dozen we bought had one egg that was already cracked, and stuck in the carton, so it was an obvious candidate for this classic experiment.

... which unfortunately, turned out to be a big fat fail!

But at least it wasn't a total loss. I still got to take a fairly interesting picture of the day.

Til next time,
0

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Morning Rush

intersection of Clarke Rd. and U.S. 190

It seems like I get stuck at this stop light every morning on my way to work. It's not a short stop light either. I usually end up sitting here for between 3 and 5 minutes .. long enough that it's worthwhile to grab my phone and read an article or two in my feed reader while I wait for it to turn green.

On the bright side, at least I wasn't going the other direction. That line of cars you can see in my mirror is waiting to get onto Fort Hood, main post. Once I make it through this light, the gate to get onto West Fort Hood, where I work, is much less congested. I call this my morning rush .. but really, it's just a relatively unstressful little 15-20 minute jaunt.

And today, it was even better, since I was able to knock out my very 1st picture of the day less than an hour after I crawled out of bed. No pressure. ;-)
0

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why Should You Join Google Plus?

First a video that does a pretty good job of explaining what Google Plus is:

httpv://youtu.be/hC_M6PzXS9g

So why am I on Google Plus?

Did you catch that list near the end of the video?


  • I check my email on Gmail

  • Most of the blogs I follow are consumed daily in Google Reader

  • My business phone number is answered by Google Voice

  • My cell phone is an Android .. Nexus S to be specific

  • I now have a couple of folders of pictures on Picas

  • Spreadsheets and documents in Google Docs

  • Google Calendar syncs with my phone



And I'm sure there at least a few more Google products that I'm not even able to think of off the top of my head.

Basically ...

Although I do really like Facebook, and participate on there every day, I'm already so integrated with Google, that it would honestly make life a bit easier if that's where I did my social networking too.

Wanna know what would really make it better for me?

If my friends were already there too.

Need an invite?

Hit the contact form, and shoot me a note telling me how we know each other, and why I should put you in one of my G+ circles.

Talk to you soon,

[todd-sig]
2

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our New House In Copperas Cove Texas

We took another trip out to the house this afternoon ...



They're making really good, and quick, progress. As you can see in the picture above, with the exception of shingles on the roof, and bricks in the front, the outside of the house is pretty much done.

Speaking of bricks ...
[caption id="attachment_3723" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="wow, there really is an Acme brick company"][/caption]

The inside is still looking a little rough. However, we were told that they'll probably start putting up the sheetrock the middle of this week. That means we'll be able to lock in our interest rate, and set a closing date ... most likely the end of August .. a full month sooner than the original estimate.

[caption id="attachment_3725" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="I expect the view from this bay window will be better when we move in"][/caption]

As I said, it's still mainly exposed beams on the inside, but you can definitely see where each of the rooms are. And, it's cleaned up just enough that we were able to let the girls do a little exploring ...

[caption id="attachment_3727" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Joey, peeking through what will soon be a wall"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3728" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Jaiden already knows that this is "my window" where she can see "my back yard""][/caption]

I already have a couple of "favorite features" in the house, that you can pretty much see, even without the sheet rock. Here's our entry-way and stairwell. I just think this big high ceiling is gonna be pretty cool.

[caption id="attachment_3730" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="The whole stair case is open, with big windows above the front door."][/caption]

And then in the master bedroom; which is downstairs, just off the living room; we've got this neat little 8'x7' nook area, that they use as a mini sitting room in the model home, but will most likely serve as our "office".

[caption id="attachment_3731" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="eventually there will be a couple of computer desks on the other side of that arch"][/caption]

And then of course, for those who know me, I can't take my camera to a "shoot" without including at least one "artsy-fartsy" type shot. In this case, the colorful sheetrock wrappers seemed like most obvious candidate:



Last, but not least, I really am still have a bit of a hard time getting my mind around the idea that a little over a month from now, my girls will be walking off of this same porch, into their grass covered new back yard.

[caption id="attachment_3724" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Let's Play!"][/caption]

I almost can't wait. But I guess now that it's getting so close I should probably join Ana in her daily "a couple boxes at a time" packing strategy. Oh yay .. I so love moving .. but Yay (for real), this truely could be the last time I have to do it, for a long, long time. ;-)

[todd-sig]
2

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

They Build Houses Quick Here In Texas

We are in the process of having a house built in Copperas Cove, Texas by D.R. Horton. Since the lot is only about 15 minutes from our house, we end up going out there at least every couple of days. For the first two weeks or so, progress was a bit slow. But then, this week things really picked up. Just last week, Tuesday, there were still holes in the dirt with the pipes exposed. Then today, when we got our there, we were greeted by this sight:

[caption id="attachment_3677" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="front view of the house frame, from the curb"][/caption]

And here are a couple more angles:

[caption id="attachment_3680" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="View from the back yard "][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3681" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Imagine a bay window here, looking into what will be the Kitchen and Living Room"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3682" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="This will be the island breakfast bar with the sink"][/caption]

And finally ...
[caption id="attachment_3683" align="alignnone" width="466" caption="Lots of cool intersecting lines - artsy fartsy photographer shot"][/caption]

So, quite a bit of progress in just a week. I'm really looking forward to seeing how fast they can go now .. since they appear to be warmed up. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!
[todd-sig]
4

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jaiden Wants The Purple Fish



So I made the mistake of letting Jaiden see the Beta fish when we were in Walmart the other day. She's had a fish before, a goldfish, but unfortunately that experiment didn't end well. Now-a-days, if you were to ask Jaiden where something goes when it dies, her answer would most likely be: "flush it down the toilet".

One of my friends online warned me that it was kind of cruel to put a goldfish in a bowl, with no filtration system. I suppose she was right. That said, the goldfish was one of those 20 cent guys, who's fate, if we hadn't bought him, was to be fed to a larger fish anyway. So I don't feel all that guilty.

This time we prepared slightly better. After I heard "I want the purple fish" for about the 5th time before we'd even left the aisle, I knew it would be wise to stop and look at the "tanks". We still didn't get a full on fish tank. But at least this little plastic jobbie does have an undergravel filter, one of those air bubbles, and a light .. not bad for $10.

Anyhow, as you can probably guess, the very next time Jaiden was in Walmart with mommy, she immediately asked about "the purple fish". I don't know, I guess mommy was in a good mood, because when they got home, they had a purple Beta, and the little tank.

I can't guarantee that this fish won't eventually see the swirling waters of the toilet bowl too. But it's been three days so far, and he still seems to be fairly lively. So far so good. Hopefully Jaiden will have the opportunity to learn some different lessons with this pet. ;-)

[todd-sig]
0

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Money For Nothing ...

I'm not an Internet Marketer. I've never been willing to work hard enough at it to try to make any real money.


That being said, I do end up earning $3-$6 a day, on a pretty consistent basis, for doing pretty much nothing ... or at least nothing new .. today.


I know all about choosing keywords, optimizing my sites, building backlinks, etc., etc., etc.,

But really, I don't do any of it.

The little bit of passive income that I earn from Internet marketing is pretty much a combination of two things:


  1. Luck - The majority of the posts and/or websites that I have which, actually earn any money on a consistent basis were total accidents. They were/are domain names I found while searching for something else. Random pictures I took, and decided to write posts about. Or posts that I wrote mainly for information purposes (in many cases, so that I would have an easy way to reference something I wanted to remember how to do). For the most part, websites that I've set up, or posts that I've written, which were researched (chose "good" keywords) and promoted (built backlinks) with the Intention of trying to earn money, have failed miserably ... at least from a time spent vs. money earned, ROI perspective.


  2. Experience, Knowledge & Judgment - Those "miserable failures" weren't necessarily totally useless though; because of the time I spent "failing", at least I'm now able to recognize a post or domain that has the potential to make money .. and have some ideas about how to actually monetize it in ways that people might respond to.



Ok, so what exactly do I do to earn that "massively impressive" couple of dollars a day?

Here's the Most Important thing ...

Monitor your traffic - watch the analytics for your websites, and individual posts. If you see something that is consistently getting Organic Search Engine Traffic it may be a post that you want to consider trying to monetize.

Personally, I don't try to monetize anything until I see evidence that search engines are sending traffic.


Two reasons ...


  1. Search engine visitors are significantly more likely to click on ads than my friends who subscribed to the feed, or clicked through from Facebook (or some other social networking site).


  2. Because of #1 above, I don't see any good reason to purposely show ads to people who aren't likely to click on them anyway. Not only that, but I don't want my friends who read my articles to think my purpose in writing them was/is primarily just to make money .. because for the most part it's not.



So once I've decided to put advertising on site or post, what works "best"?

Although there are a myriad of monetization options out there, I'm going to suggest two that have worked for me.


  1. Ebay Partner Network - I was fortunate to join EPN several years ago, when it was much easier to get accepted. That said, it's not impossible today. I use a tool called phpBay to place the ads on my sites. In the past, I've earned hundreds of dollars a month from EPN, but alas, many of those sites died with Google algorithm changes. Today, I only have ebay ads on a few sites, but the returns vs. the work are pretty nice. For example, I have sites that I haven't updated in 6 months, that get 30-40 visitors a day. Those 30 visitors usually click on 15-25 ads .. at an average of .13 a pop. $2 a day, for doing Nothing.


  2. Adsense - I'm not a big proponent of adsense .. mainly because I've never really had significant success with it. That said, I've got a dozen or so posts on this very blog which are monetized with Google ads ... it's inconsistent, but these posts earn anywhere from as low as a quarter, to as much as $5 or $6 a day. It's probably tempered by the fact that I'm not at all aggressive with my ad placement .. ie, you'll never see a big 336 ad block, above the fold, on my blog. I'd probably get more clicks with these, but I just don't like the way they look; or what they'd "say" about me, and this blog. I prefer to just put one 468 link block at the top of the post (usually resting on the top edge of a picture), and then sometimes (depending on how long the article is) one other 300x300 block within the post .. floating either left or right, with the text wrapped around it. Silly as it sounds, one of my goals is aesthetic .. if an ad doesn't look like it "belongs" in a post, I'm not gonna put it there .. if that makes any sense.



Well, we've established that I do know how to make some money via Internet Marketing, with relatively little effort.

You might be asking yourself, why don't I just put a bit more time/effort into scaling what works, and trying to earn a more significant income?

Glad you asked, here's why ...

Internet Marketing income, especially when it's based on search engine traffic is just too Inconsistent, and Unreliable ... at least in relation to my goals


You see, I'm going to be retiring from the Air Force in a couple of years, and I'd really like to not have to look for another job. I need to turn my extra income streams, into my primary income. I'm just not comfortable with the idea that my bills could get paid every month with my adsense and ebay checks.

So, what do I do with this extra money?

Easy ... any money that I earn from my Internet Marketing "efforts" goes into the local advertising budget for our home business. Basically, I take my online money, and use it to purchase offline ads in the newspaper; so that I can meet people here in the Fort Hood, Texas area, with the goal of continuing to build the business that I consider to be a more reliable long term source of passive /leveraged income.

In other words, instead of spending the extra money, I'm reinvesting it, and putting it to work.


What do you do with your extra Internet income?

[todd-sig]
4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Throw Away Clothes?

Wouldn't it be cool if clothes shopping was more like grocery shopping? We'd make a weekly list of what we need, check the sales pages of the local paper, then head off to our favorite stores to stock up on the "ingredients" for our upcoming "wardrobe menu".

Now I'm sure there are several potential drawbacks to my plan .. I can think of a few right now .. but we're not gonna go there .. because that's not what this post is about. ;-)

You see, for me, the major upside of "throw away clothes" drowns out any drawbacks; big time ... No Laundry!!!

Yes, I'm not a fan of Ye Olde washer and dryer .. or more specifically what comes out of the washer and dryer ... namely clothes that needs to be folded and put away .. blah.

Yea, yea, I know I could just take our clothes to a laundry service, and pay someone else to wash and fold our stuff. But why ruin a good old fashioned irrational fantasy with common sense alternative solutions?

LOL, wow, reading that sentence again, boy am I one old boring guy ... to publicly call the idea of having no laundry a "fantasy"

Anyhow, moving on ...

This is actually something that I've thought about for quite a while now. It's one of my super silly measuring sticks for determining how far down the road to financial freedom I have traveled. I don't need fancy cars, big screen TVs, or a swimming pool in the back yard to feel relatively "rich" (although, all of those things would be nice).

Nope, I'll know for sure that my bank account is in good shape when these three things can happen any time I want them to:


  1. Throw away clothes - as discussed above.


  2. Eat Out for Every Meal - and not fast food either. I'm talking sit down, healthy food, that's cooked and served by someone else .. and when we're done, the dishes are taken away and washed.



  3. and last, but not least ...



  4. "Real" Furniture - I'll truly know that my ship has arrived when every new piece of furniture that enters my house has already been put together by SOMEONE ELSE!



So now you know about me. What are some of your silly criteria for knowing when you're doing well financially?

Keep havin FuN!
[todd-sig]
0