Earlier this summer I decided that since I was finished with school and was about to start having ample free time to work on projects of my own choosing, one thing I would like to do is re-design our family blog. Well, here it is! I started working on it earlier this week and just finished it up this evening. I started getting tired of the old design a while back, mainly because there was too much color and the image gallery at the top of the page was a weird proportion that was hard to find pictures for. Both of those concerns have now been mitigated and I’m quite happy with how things have turned out. In my opinion this new design is much more readable, and the image slider is much more flexible, meaning that we can easily add images of all shapes and sizes.
Speaking of images on the website, I’ve been contacted by a few different people asking why the images look bad when they download them from the site and print them. Please don’t do that. In order to allow the page to load quickly, the images on the site are all shrunk down and optimized for viewing on the web. If you print them the quality will be horrible and they’ll come out looking really grainy. If you’d like to print any of the images from the website just go ahead and email me and I’ll be happy to send you a high resolution copy that is suitable for printing.
Anyway, back to the new site. I like the simplicity of the color scheme, I really like the new fonts, and I like the new layout, particularly the sidebar on the right-hand side (only visible on large screens). I intentionally included a list of recent comments in the sidebar in an effort to encourage people to leave more comments. I fully realize that most people don’t love writing nearly as much as I do, but your comments are all very much appreciated; and remember, this is all ultimately for the kids. Someday they’re each going to read this site from top to bottom and the more variety they can get other than dearest Dad and his random ramblings, the better.
Things have been going great around here lately. As you probably saw in Jessica’s most recent post, last week we bought a 2007 Honda Odyssey. Although I never thought I would see the day that I’d be purchasing a minivan, I have to admit that it’s a very nice vehicle. Before we pulled the trigger on the Odyssey I was really pulling for an old Volkswagen Vanagon from the 80’s or 90’s. Not a hippie van from the 70’s, but a camping van with a table and fold-out bed in the back. Those things are super cool and have a lot more style than most of the current minivans, but ultimately we decided to go with something that was safe and reliable. Once again we tried to make the responsible choice by thinking with our brains instead of our hearts. That being said, the Odyssey rocks. Last Saturday morning I took the girls out on an impromptu road trip in it so Jessica could sleep in after a late night at work. I was really impressed with how well it drove, how comfortable and spacious it was, and how good the gas mileage was. Over the course of 90 minutes the girls and I covered tons of farm roads throughout Snohomish county and had a great time pointing out all the horses, goats, and cows.
Another exciting thing that happened for me today at work is I finally got a parking pass for the garage in the building. I’ve been on the waiting list for just as long as I’ve been on that initial project that I finished today (18 months) and now I can finally stop parking on the street and start parking in a safe, covered garage. It’s really ironic that both of these things have been going on for so long and they both finally happened on the same day. Cosmic.
One final bit of excitement came this afternoon when I picked up my Acura from the body shop. Recently I decided to start selling a bunch of my stuff that I was no longer using. I placed ads on Craigslist for things like: both of my surfboards, my grappling dummy (Bubba), one of my guitars, my punching bag, a microwave, and more. In a week I was able to liquidate enough stuff to pay for some body work on the car. There was damage on both bumpers, plus on the rear quarter panel on the passenger side. The shop did an excellent job, which including re-painting a significant portion of the car, and re-striping the whole right side. It now looks brand new and I couldn’t be happier. It’s one of those things that I probably wouldn’t have done had I not sold all this stuff, but I’m so glad I did because I’m going to be driving this car for a while and every time I looked at it my eyes would always wander directly to the problem areas. The interior was already perfect, and it only has 30,000 miles, plus now the exterior is perfect, so I’m stoked!
Our German studies are continuing to go really well. We were a little concerned with how people would react, mainly because we realize that doing something like this isn’t exactly what most people would consider ‘normal,’ but so far the reaction we’ve been receiving has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s still really early in the game but Jessica and I are both studying daily and you wouldn’t believe how much we’re learning. I truly look forward to my daily studies and love passing on my newfound knowledge to the girls. Having studied languages like Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese in the past, the art of learning a new language is coming fairly easily to me, however German shares almost no similarities with the aforementioned. Luckily for us, a lot of the German words we’re learning are similar to their English counterparts, which makes them easier to remember. I can already tell that the German language is much more beautiful than it generally gets credit for, mostly because there’s an apparent science behind it. The way words and phrases are constructed is really interesting to me, and the fact that all nouns are capitalized makes me look at writing and speech differently. When you’re writing in English you usually don’t stop to think about which words are nouns and which ones are verbs, but in German you have to. This is just one small example out of many that proves to me the value of becoming bi-lingual.
In addition to our German language software, Jessica and I have been studying with a free app on our phones called ‘Duolingo.’ It’s a really popular app that offers free lessons in a variety of languages, and the format of it is really fun because it basically turns everything into a game. You get points for different achievements, and once you accumulate enough points you get to move onto the next level. That’s actually a common characteristic that I’ve found in several language applications, but it’s something you have to a little careful of. In a traditional game setting the goal is always to move onto the next round or level, but when you’re trying to learn a language the ultimate goal is to speak the language, not accumulate points and pass levels. Therefore I often find myself redoing the same levels multiple times because I’m more concerned with retaining the words and phrases than I am with scoring points.
The girls are continuing to get their daily doses of German as well. Jessica and I are focusing on taking standard words and phrases that we always say to them in English, and saying them in German instead. For example, when we put them to bed at night, instead of saying “good night,” I say “guten abent.” When I leave the house for work or errands I say “auf weidersen” instead of “goodbye.” And when I want Ava to say “thank you” I have her say “danke” instead. Little things like this are going to slowly start settling in their minds without them even knowing it. I’ve also started doing a little research on Amazon’s presence in Germany and was pleased to find out that we have a big new office building in Munich, which is the city that I would most like to live in. We have a website called ‘loveFilm.de’ that’s based out of that office and could end up being a target of mine in the future. Being able to transfer within Amazon would be the best-case scenario but we’re still years away from that, so for now the focus is to keep on improving my skill set as a developer, continue to gain seniority at Amazon, and continue to get better at speaking German.
It’s a 3 day weekend for me and luckily Jessica is off on Sunday and Monday. We’re not sure exactly what we’re going to do but we’ve talked about a possible day trip to Whidbey Island. Jessica is craving Pizza so I think we’ll be going out for that on Sunday. Now that I’ve got my car back from the shop my main focus is on selling the Durango. Tomorrow I’m going to do some work on it; things like changing the oil and oil filter, rotating the tires, and getting it all cleaned up and detailed. Hopefully I’ll have it posted on Craigslist by Monday and then we’ll see what happens. Happy Labor Day and enjoy the long weekend!