Saturday, January 31, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

2014 was a good year for reading books.  I read 55 books for the year (or here is the librarything version which I like better because it lets you give half stars) and was part of two book clubs, one of which was a new one and I have met some really awesome ladies and I really love it.

So here are my best books of the year (*all links are affiliate links to Amazon)

These were the life changing books of the year, so much so that I have became a bit obsessed with learning all I can about Katy's work and paradigm. Her work is  nuanced, but at the same time extremely simple and I have had such significant improvements in my health that it is mind-boggling.
I really love Brandon Sanderson, but was a little bit disappointed with the first book in this series (it didn't have a very satisfying end), but this book completely made up for it. Typically I am a fast, impatient reader, but even though this book is over 1000 pages I found myself slowing down and not wanting it to end.
This was a book I read for both my book clubs. It takes place in Seattle and I loved being taken back to what the Pacific Northwest was like in the 1930's. The sports parts of story are excellent. Even though you know the outcome of most of the races, they are still suspenseful. Finally the discussion of Hitler's propaganda is interesting and adds an interesting third layer to the story.
This is a plug for a friend's book. It also takes place in Seattle. It is a murder mystery about a woman with a stalker, with a fantasy twist.
This was another book club book about a mysterious fictional author. While I was reading the book I was expecting some sort of surprising plot twist, and I was not disappointed.
I spent a lot of time re-reading books this year. Dave Duncan is my favorite author and this is the first book of one his best series. The neat thing about the Blade books is that each book is a standalone novel, but the first three all tie into each other for a larger plot. Thus you should not read the first two books without reading the third. I think I actually read this particular book in 2013, but finished the other books in the series in 2014.  (Lord of the Fire Lands, Sky of Swords)
This was another set of series re-reads. Robin Hobb has 4 finished trilogies that take place in this world, and then released the first book of a 5th series. I reread the two series starring Fitz.  I had put off re-reading these two series which are favorites because I remember how much I cried the first time I read them. The second time wasn't different. Robin Hobb is kind of a brutal author in that she really puts her characters through the wringer. The newest book is intriguing, but she has hinted that it is going to involve even more tears. :(

Honarable Mentions

Past book lists

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 In Review

2014 was a good year.  It started off with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, which was amazing. :)  

We went to California over spring break and stayed with my brother and his family.  The cousins had an awesome time playing, and we got to do Disneyland as well.  On the way back we stopped in Monterey and stayed with a college friend, and all the kids had fun.

Floyd did his annual trip to Vegas, and played in various poker tournaments including the WSOP Main Event and made it to day 2. Unfortunately Vegas was not lucrative this year. I joined him for a few days and enjoyed relaxing by the pool and eating delicious food (I highly recommend the Bellagio Buffet).  

We had nice weather this year with a unusually warm and dry spring, and a long summer.  We did lots of hikes,visits to the park, and played a bit of golf.  The girls are developing an entrepreneurial spirit and did lemonade stands, face painting stands, a garage sale and even had a booth selling bean bags at the farmer's market.  

In August we went to Cannon Beach with my parents, sister, grandmother, and my brother's family.  

In the fall the girls went to a new school.  This was probably the biggest change/event of the year. Selena transferred schools, and Allie started kindergarten at a public co-op school in the district. I knew before we started that I was going to dislike the drive (we walked to the old school), and I do. I had wanted to send my kids to this school since before Selena started, but Floyd wasn't interested. Then Selena had tested into the highly capable program and we considered that, but I thought we should reconsider the co-op. I was concerned that the highly capable program would be too much homework and the co-op seemed to offer more variety of classroom activities due to the parental involvement, so we decided to do that.

The activities have been great -- in Selena's class I am teaching computer programming. They also do chess, cooking, maps, economics, sign language, etc.  They have small group exploration projects five times a year, as well as numerous field trips.  The community has been wonderful, and welcoming. Making friends has happened faster because we see everyone more often, and have everyone's contact information. The people we have met are all very cool, not pretentious, and tend to be like minded. It is very nice.

But besides the driving (12 - 15 min drive there and back 3 times a day when not carpooling), the downside has been that the new school has a more punitive school wide "citizenship program" (ie discipline policy) than our old school, and even though my kids do not get into trouble, they speak negatively about their classmates and/or teacher almost daily, which tends to get me down, and negate some of the good feelings towards the new school. 

And because it is still a public school in the same district it has the same recess/lunch schedules as the rest of the schools, which really get me upset.  No recess for half day kindergartners, and a 20 minute lunch and 2 recesses for a total of 30 minutes for the rest of the kids and unfortunately significant portions of the lunch and recess time are spent standing in line.  My entire educational/parenting philosophy since they were born has been centered around physical activity and child directed learning. Thus it really bothers me to know that I am sending them to a place I know to be physically and psychologically unhealthy because they are sedentary for 92 percent of the day, and have virtually no autonomy. But the sad truth is even if I were to home-school I am not confident that I could live up to my own expectations. In the summer it is easier, but when it is cold and rainy and playmates are harder to round up I'm not sure if I could do it.

As for other news for the year. I continued to update my OFC app, and released an iPhone/iPad version of my Learn to Read app, but didn't manage to release any new apps, partly because I was also doing contract work for my dad's consulting business. This year I will be working almost part time for him, which will be great for our bank account, but will make it very difficult for being able to do anything for my apps. Which is probably for the best, because developing apps was only marginally lucrative before, but seems to become even less so, as the novelty of smart phones is wearing off. Though I really want to create some picture book apps, not because I think they will make money, but just because I want to. We will see if I am able to pull it off.

I continue to run, but not race.  I also have been playing a bit of indoor soccer which I alternate between enjoying and not enjoying (tendency for injury and mean opponents).  Haven't got to sew much, especially for myself. I think this year I made a soft structured baby carrier for my cousin, a Halloween costume for Selena, a tank top for myself (that was too small), a pair of fleece pants for Allie, and helped Selena make herself a sleeping bag.  

Selena and Allie did gymnastics, swimming, art classes, and soccer this year. It was a lot of fun to see them learn new skills. Swimming was the most amazing. They went from being unwilling to put their heads underwater to little fish. Allie was a goal scoring machine in soccer, and Selena is the toughest kid I know. She gets hit and just brushes it off and gets right up.  

Floyd continues playing poker, and running off and on throughout the year.  

That is about it!  Looking forward to 2015. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hour Of Code

This last week has been Computer Science Education week and a lot of kids have been doing some computer programming at school, and a lot of my friends have been asking me for resources.

I have been intermittently working on an Introduction to Computer Programming series of videos and have posted on my business website the first four of those videos as well as a list of some resources that I like and have been using.  Please share and if you have any feedback that would be welcome too. :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Learn to Read App Ported to iPhone/iPad

A couple years ago I released my first app, a simple interactive early reader book. I released it on Android devices and it has had some success. The free, lite version has over 200,000 downloads and I have made some money from it. I wasn't sure if it was worth porting it to iOS, but at some point I did 75% of the work, but then switched gears to due the Open Face Chinese Poker app. But I had a potential customer email me the other day, telling me that a friend had recommended the app to her, but she only had Apple devices. That motivated me to finish the port and I released the Apple version a few weeks ago. So if anyone is looking for an early reader app for their iPad please take a look at it. If you do download it, a rating and/or review would be extremely appreciated. Ratings and reviews drive rankings, which increase visibility, and make it so that I actually get paid at least something for the work I did. For more info you can check out my business website. Thank you!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer Recap - Hiking

I did quite a bit of hiking this summer.  We did Bridal Veil Falls, Wallace Falls, Barclay Lake, Lake 22, and Bear Lake with the kids.  Cynthia and I did Wallace Lake, and Floyd and I did Mount Dickerman.

Quick Recap:
Bridal Veil Falls- Cool water fall, fairly flat trail till the last bit.

Wallace Falls - Popular hike not too far away.

Barclay Lake -  Nice flat hike to a beautiful lake, but farther away than I remembered it being.  You have to go quite a ways on a forest road to get to the trail head.

Wallace Lake - Longer hike that avoids some of the crowds heading to Wallace Falls.  Parts of the trail are logging roads and not a ton of elevation gain.

Mount Dickerman - This is a tough hike and one that I did before when it was covered in snow.  This time we did it Labor Day weekend and there were wild blueberries on the trail that were ripe and very tasty. Unfortunately it was cloudy so we didn't get to enjoy a view.

Lake 22 - This is out on the Mountain Loop Highway.  The hike has very well maintained trails, but the terrain is still pretty rough.  There is some water on the trail, you go through a rock slide so there is a part with a lot of shale, but the kids did great.  It is 5.5 miles and the scenery is gorgous.  Tons of large old growth cedars and douglas firs and lots of moss and skunk cabbage.  There is a fancy boardwalk around a significant portion of the lake and there are some places with beach area to wade. I was excited when we did this because I spotted a random geocache. :)

Bear Lake - Pinnacle Lake is the main destination for this trail head, but despite its short length the trip reports say it is fairly hard.  You have to take a long forest road (7 miles) to get to the trail head, so we ended up parking a mile away from the trail head and then just doing the short Bear Lake trail. It was very quiet and peaceful, with really large old growth cedars.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Summer Recap - Racing

The girls did quite a few races this year.  There was a 5k fundraiser for Selena's school in May.  Every year we do the Swedish SummerRun for Ovarian Cancer research and we did that again this year. Selena was running around 33 minutes for most of her 5k's.  Pretty fast!  Allie isn't quite up for running a 5k but she did do a combo of running and walking.

The girls did the Mill Creek Kids Fun Run.  Allie did both the 1 lap and the 1k.  She initially wanted to do the 1 lap, but then it didn't quite seem long enough so she did the 1k too.  The combo seemed a bit too long though.   Selena did the 2k and looked good.

Selena also got really excited about doing a triathalon.  She had just learned to swim so she was super excited to do the kids tri.  It was at McCollum park.  It was a 25 yard swim, 1/2 mile bike ride, and 1/8 mile run.  The swim was the biggest challenge.  She can swim, but isn't quite able to do a consistent crawl stroke. She can do a crawl stroke, and flip to her back, then flip to a crawl, etc.  The race day came and she had had a fever the night before so I wasn't sure if she should do it.  I was worried if she did, she might get really sick.  She decided to at least go and watch and if she felt okay then she would do it.  She ended up doing it, but decided to just stick with a straight back float for the swim and did great on the other two legs--and she rested the rest of the day, and didn't get really sick.

The girls also did a community run hosted by my cousin's high school cross country team.  Selena did the 5k and Allie did the 1k.  I wasn't there, but heard that they did good.

Unfortunately we didn't make it to any of the all-comers track meets this summer.  We will have to remember to fit that in next year.