Monday, December 31, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I'm not sure what the point of this post is, but I just find these images to be worth pointing out. I just think it is a sad state of affairs when The Daily Show is more informative than CNN, Fox News and MSNBC combined.

Monday, December 17, 2012


"He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature." --Socrates

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn't know the market place of any single thing.” ― Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere's Fan

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Story of (Our) Stuff

It's June 2012, my wife and I are living in San Francisco looking for work and a more permanent place to live.  We look at housing options and areas and are getting our bearings.  The big factor is square footage and how much do we really need. After years of accumulating, collecting, moving and storing "stuff" Colleen and I decided that enough was enough.  As we started to add up the cost of storage over many years and really took a look at what we had in storage, we were a little shocked.

But lets back up a bit.  Lets start in 2005 when we were living in Pasadena in a house with our own semi-attached 1000sq ft warehouse.  Like a goldfish, we were indeterminate growers filling up the space with stuff.  So when the property was sold we decided to move to downtown L.A.  At the time my office was in mid-Wilshire and our L.A. datacenter was downtown, and since we don't have kids or dogs, a loft was really attractive to us.  Our intention was to live in a regular apartment/loft until we found something cool and more industrial.  So we found our new place in the spring of 2005 with a move in date sometime in the summer.

We set about selling, donating and throwing away a lot of stuff.  But not enough.  We were moving from a space of approximately 2300 sq. feet to a 'loft' of around 1000sq feet.  So into storage stuff went.  I miscalculated the amount of stuff that would fit in our new place so we ended up having to get two storage units, which we later consolidated to one large unit.  And it was packed.  At that time my plan was to find a huge industrial unfinished space, and we would just move the stuff over to that space.  But as it happens, I was moving up the corporate ladder and I also changed employers so I had to backburner the search for an artist-type loft/warehouse. 

Fast forward to 2009 and we are headed to El Paso, TX to help out with my mother-in-law for a short amount of time(or so we thought.)  We decided to take all our stuff with us and I had every intention of going through all the stuff and paring it down.  At this point, we had paid $200+/month for storage($10,000+), the moves($1000+ in LA and $5000+ to get it to TX so we are looking realistically at over $16,000 at this point.)

Well, sometimes life throws you a curveball and you have to deal with it.  Without going into any detail, I will say that mental health issues can impact a lot of people's lives.

In late 2009, I decide that due to the ongoing family issues in El Paso,  I will start my own business.  So instead of paring down, in anticipation of eventually moving my small business into it's own space, I accumulated more stuff.  And then in 2011, we move to a 6,000sq foot warehouse that used to be a brewery.  Talk about room to grow!

After some soul searching and number crunching, I force myself to face the fact that El Paso is not our home.  It is also not a good place to start an Internet consultancy business, and in hindsight I really didn't have the passion required for success.  Not the Internet, but the consultancy component.   So in August 2011, the decision is made to try and salvage my career and move back to CA.

So we go about selling, donating and throwing stuff away.  But not enough.  So we move most of our stuff to storage in El Paso and take about 1/2 as much more with us to CA, with the intention of having our stuff shipped to CA once we land in our final destination.

 This is just a part of what we decided to keep!

After 10 months of living in Bakersfield, CA(Colleen found a job there while we were staying with a friend) we decided to move to San Francisco.  This was May 2012.

So there we were, sitting in our 450sq foot apartment in SF, with only as much stuff as we could carry, and most of our stuff sitting in storage in El Paso and Bakersfield.  And it felt good.  We had an epiphany, and decided that we didn't need all that stuff!  Not to mention the only way we were going to find enough square footage to bring all our stuff up to the Bay Area would mean sharing a warehouse in Oakland or compete with dotcoms with deep pockets for space in the city.  That didn't appeal to us.  And we were enjoying the very modest apartment and the absolute freedom not having stuff lent us.  We even sold our gas guzzler, so we walk everywhere or use our Clipper cards to get around town.

And looking at the monetary cost of maintaining this stuff, at this point we have spent an additional $5000 on storage and moving stuff around in the last twelve months.  So in addition to the pennies on the dollar pricing(El Paso cost of living is very low, so people expect to pay less here) add on the $21,000+ to the cost of the stuff.  By my estimation(and this is probably low) we had over $50,000 worth of stuff here.  If we clear $4,000 I will be amazed.   But lets just assume that we could get 3 times as much for it if we brought it back to CA.  So of the potential $12,000 in sales, subtract at a bare minimum $2,000 for shipping, the lowest if I rent a U-haul and drive it back myself.  The difference is $6,000, assuming we could fetch higher prices.  And, we are also going to need a place to stage and sell from, because you can't sell that kind of inventory out of a tiny apartment.

And that is when I stopped considering bringing the stuff back to CA.

So, in July 2012 we headed back to El Paso to comb through the stuff in storage to pull out any sentimental stuff and sell, donate and recycle the rest.  We are wrapping up that process now.  

I did not realize how hard it would be to go through 20 years of stuff and let go of it.  Once it is gone, I don't miss any of it.  But when you are going through stuff that you have vivid memories of accumulating, it takes you back to that time in your life, and that is emotional.

But really, I just want it all gone.  It would have been easier to just have a charity come and pick it all up, but because we didn't pack it so we could just easily separate out the sentimental stuff, we had to go through every single bin and box.  Along with the family issues that are ever present here in TX, this whole process has taken much longer than anticipated.

And that is the story of our stuff.

Some further reading on the philosophy: This is a bit dated, but the foundation is solid. UPDATE: I found the hour long presentation, created by bullfrogfilms in 1997 on YouTube:

How to turn the philosophy into action:

Thursday, December 6, 2012


"Weniger aber besser" --Dieter Rams 

English translation, "Less, but better"

Friday, November 23, 2012

I was born this way

Btw, if you are in the market for a professional photoshopper, drop me a line. While I am usually flooded with requests(you can see why I am sure) I am available now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New blog

I've created a new blog for the cob house, which can be found at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey brine

Here is how I brine a turkey. It is heavily based on Alton Brown's recipe, but tweaked to my taste. I like a moist turkey, but not too fruity or sweet. One year I tried a recipe that called for mostly apple cider as the liquid, but that was too overwhelmingly sweet for me.

Also, I use a oven roaster bag as a liner in a 5 gallon bucket. If you can't make the room in your fridge for the bucket, put the bucket in your unheated garage or back porch and keep an eye on it to make sure there is enough ice for the entire brine operation.

UPDATE:  Since I am the only one in our home that eats turkey, I have downsized the bird to a 4.5-5lb. boneless turkey breast.  This means I only need about half of the brine and it fits in a large stockpot in the fridge.

Turkey Brine(per gallon of water):

1 cup Kosher Salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 orange quartered
1 lemon quartered
1 gallon vegetable or chicken broth
3 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon all spice berries

Once you have determined how many gallons of water you need to immerse the turkey fully, add appropriate amounts of above ingredients in stock pot and slowly bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Combine brine and ice water in appropriate sized container. Place thawed turkey (breast side down, innards removed) in container ensuring bird is fully immersed. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Remove turkey from brine and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Pat dry and apply canola oil to skin. Roast at 500F on lowest rack for 30 minutes to brown skin, then reduce heat to 350F and cook until internal temp reaches 161F (internal probe inserted into breast.) Remove from oven and cover for 15 minutes before carving.

Original "Good Eats" recipe by Alton Brown:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rough outline for cob house construction

Phase I - Design of entire structure
Phase II - Find suitable property
Phase III - Build In-law/Guest quarters (to house us during the build out of the rest of the structure)
Phase IV - Profit!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


“An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation” --Enrique PeƱalosa

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quote of the day

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." -- Antoine de Saint-Exuper

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Our dream home

After watching a lot of Extreme Homes, and having lived in old warehouses and loft spaces, I couldn't ever bring myself to buy your typical home in the US. And with the cost of traditional building materials continually on the rise, it is still expensive even if I were to build my own home. So, after much research I have finally decided the type of house that I want. When doing research on underground, earth sheltered, dome and other sustainable and energy efficient homes, the one that keeps catching my eye is primarily the cob house, and many are referred to as Hobbit houses, as in Tolkien's Hobbits. There is also the Cal-Earth home, which is very similar. I haven't researched which of the two is the best, but for now I am going to just refer to my dream home as a cob home. Cob isn't what corn grows on in this case, it is a mixture of earth, sand, clay, straw and water...similar to adobe. Cal-Earth is made out of what they call superadobe.

It just seems there are no downsides to these types of buildings if you have some physical strength and know how. Since I have many years of professional building experience, especially in mechanical areas, this really excites me. I figure that with a combination of PAHS, geothermal heating and cooling and solar and wind electricity, there will be no recurring costs except for maintenance/upkeep and property taxes.

This one is the one that seems to pop up when searching on 'hobbit home'
A Welsh family built this cute home for around £3000(about $5000 USD.) I really like it, but it still isn't what I am looking for. You can find all the details at
The next house has some cob, but for the most part wood and other materials. From the page: "My rule for the underground cabin is that it is built handmade using alternative materials that are, for the most part, found, salvaged or reclaimed." Very laudable, but this was a 9 year process and cob is freely available. Either way, this sitting area caught my attention.
You can find all the details at
This is another shot that interests me. I totally dig the counter and sink, which seem to be made out of cob and are seamless and flow. Anyone who knows traditional homes, knows that typical counter tops and sinks have tons of seams and those are all potential leaks and breeding grounds for bacteria, etc. There are some like the one piece Corian units, but they are very expensive and need to be measured and most of the time ordered. This just seems like it was grown like an organic lifeform or something.
You can find this image at
This one is on the small side, but I like the big picture window. I am envisioning it to be facing the Pacific Ocean in our cob home, and on the inside a 4 person breakfast nook. Something like the sunken seating area above with a small table area that is actually just an oversized windowsill.
You can find details on this home at
And this one, not one particular feature or area sticks out, but the entire thing I think epitomizes the cob/tiny house esthetic. Every square inch is either utilized for storage or somehow adds to the charm and cozy warmth of the interior. I could see sitting here reading a book or petting one of our cats, just relaxing. You can find the post at
And then I would like to have something like a courtyard, but fairly good size. A combination of this pic from Erdhaus with it having more vertical walls, like the following pic, so that the cats and dogs(don't have any of those yet) can play 'outside' but can't wander off.
I am thinking I want the walls to curve inward to the center of the courtyard so you could sit out there and have some shade and shelter from the rain/snow. When I find a picture of what I am envisioning, I'll update.You can find these images at

So as I am designing the cob home in my mind and collecting images for interior ideas and cool little features, we are conducting our search for appropriate land. Starting in NorCal and moving North ideally we would love something with even a distant view of the Pacific Ocean. While I grew up in the mountains, and I have almost always ended up living within a couple of miles of them, it is really the ocean that I love. So if we could find something in the foothills or in the navigable mountains of the Northwest with an unobstructed view of the ocean, I'll break ground as soon as we can. We aren't looking for something so far from civilization that we have to carry buckets of water from a stream...but we also don't want to see a cul-de-sac close by either.

I estimate this is going to be a multi-year project, so we are in no big hurry.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

"If we are not careful we shall leave our children a legacy of billion dollar roads leading nowhere except to other congested places like those they left behind." --Omar Bradley

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My view on religion

This pretty much sums up my feelings about religion:

The lighter side:

The not-so-lighter side:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Irish Nuclear Bomb

Irish Car Bomb? That's a good start. How about an Irish Nuclear Bomb? I searched to see if anyone else was dumb enough to think this one up, but I hold this distinction alone I am afraid. In my effort to make the world a better place, I am publishing the recipe:

Irish Nuclear Bomb

Fill shot glass with 1/2 Baileys and 1/2 Guinness
Fill pint glass half way with Jameson Irish whiskey
Drop shot in pint glass and chug

You are welcome world.

Disclaimer: It would be pretty dumb to try this. This recipe is for entertainment purposes only.