I love my Hill Topper electric bike kit

I love my Hill Topper electric bike kit

I just got my Hill Topper electric bike kit. This is a drop-in replacement for the front wheel of just about any bicycle. The hub of the wheel is an electric motor that plugs into a battery (I opted for the lightweight lithium option). It is also connected to a button that you attach to your handlebars. Hold the button down and the motor will help spin the wheel (but you should keep pedaling). Let go and the motor turns back off.

I got the wheel yesterday afternoon. It took about 10 minutes to fill it with air and attach it to my bike. You can see it on the bike in the photo below (front wheel). It doesn’t look much different than a normal wheel. I went for a short ride with my daughter just to test out the wheel. It was amazing! Anna said she was a little scared because we were going so fast. In most areas it could keep the bike going (sometimes very slowly) even if I wasn’t pedaling, but it didn’t quite have enough power to get me up the hill to our house without pedaling. We live at the top of a pretty steep hill though.

My daughter and me on our bike with our new Hill Topper electric bike kit!

My daughter and me on our bike with our new Hill Topper electric bike kit!

Today I gave it another shot by myself. In the morning I rode 3 miles up and down hills. In the evening I rode another 4.65 miles, this time not only up and down hills, but also in killer 100°F weather. Was I tired? Yes. Could I have gone further? Absolutely!

Anyways, I’m pretty excited to start biking. It has been probably 4 years since I’ve ridden a bike further than 1/4 mile, mainly due to my sedentary web developer lifestyle that has left me unable to ride a bike further than 1/4 mile.

Shameless plug: Use this link and/or coupon code jacoballred to get $5/off your electric bike kit. They of course give me a little something to thank me for referring you.

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We moved to Texas!

We moved to Texas!

P1010888Becca and I finally bought a house! We’ve moved to San Antonio in the far north central area last Tuesday, in the Bulverde Village subdivision.

We think the location is phenomenal: 15 minutes from the San Antonio temple, 2 minutes to a Super Target, 15 minutes to church, 20 minutes to a major airport, 15 minutes to two different malls, and to top it all off we are on the end of a nice cul-de-sac far away from noisy traffic. It is going to be a dramatic upgrade from our noisy, cramped city living lifestyle in New Haven.

We love our home! It is brick on all sides, has lots of grass (0.29 acre lot), large closets in all the bedrooms, and a spacious kitchen. Anna loves having her own bedroom and bathroom (technically the shared guest bath). The yard needs some work but has been maintained enough that we have had a blast running around in it, blowing bubbles, weeding together, watering the plants together, and just generally having fun.

I woke up early the other day and took my new push reel mower for a spin in the backyard. There was something superbly satisfying about getting some early morning exercise while taking care of my home. I had considered hiring someone to care for my lawn, but the weather is so beautiful in the mornings and evenings that I think I’ll just handle it on my own.

I’ve still got a pile of work to do on the house though. The front door is warped and probably needs replaced. I don’t think I want to tackle that on my own so we’ll probably pay to get that fixed. The light switches are the old little switch style. I prefer the decorator style paddle switches, so I’ve slowly been swapping those out. I’m also going to swap out the outlets in Anna’s room with tamper resistant ones for a little extra safety. I’d love to paint the walls in the garage. And there is a list a mile long of other little things I’d like to do over the next few months.

Cost of living in San Antonio is drastically lower than in New Haven. We cut our car insurance bill in half without lowering our coverage. Gas is 45 cents cheaper per gallon. Electricity is practically free compared to New Haven.

Anyways, we are so excited to be in Texas!

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The Great Purge of 2012

My wife and I recently helped her parents clean out their office. We threw out truckloads of junk. It felt really good, and we decided we wanted to purge our own home. We decided to do this room by room, starting at one end of the house and working towards the other.

So far we have completed the living room and dining room, and I think we are both a little shocked at the quantity of stuff that we’ve thrown out. It isn’t like we are big hoarders or anything, but we’ve filled all three of our trashcans and have to wait until next week to resume our purge. This is some of the stuff we’ve tossed:

  1. DVD and CD cases. We’ve decided that it is silly to keep stacks and stacks of DVDs and CDs in their original packaging. We aren’t proud of our purchases. They aren’t trophies to be displayed with pride on a shelf. Heck, the CDs are never even removed from the case once we rip them to MP3. So the discs were moved to storage cases and the packaging was tossed.
  2. Magazines and other old mail. Sometimes a magazine comes in the mail and it looks interesting, so we set it aside with the intention of reading it later. A few months go by and suddenly we have a foot thick stack of Popular Science and the Ensign that we are never going to read. All this was tossed. We also tossed (or appropriately filed) old mail, cards, and random papers.
  3. Knickknacks. Like most people, we have lots of random junk that isn’t actually usable but that we have sentimental attachment to. For example, I have had a Geico piggy bank. Becca won it for me at Harborfest in Norfolk when we were dating (I think), so I’ve kept it. It is just a piece of plastic, and it actually fell apart when I picked it up to toss into the trash. We weren’t able or willing to get rid of all of our knickknacks, but we pared down quite a bit.
  4. Toys and games. We tossed a bunch of games that we don’t actually play. We tossed some old toys that we’ll never use. Some of these things went into a re-gift pile that will save us from buying gifts in the future for random birthday parties.
  5. Original packaging. For example, Becca had a bunch of chargers in the original boxes. These are basically round plastic plates. There isn’t any reason to have these in the original packaging. Tossing this cardboard saved us a bunch of space.

Anyways, we still have a long way to go. We’ll be getting rid of clothes, shoes, scrap wood, food we no longer want (or is expired), an old mattress, and whatever else we can find that we no longer want. It feels good to clean house.

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Laser hair removal

I’ve always hated shaving. I vividly remember an experience when I was a teenager with a bit more peach fuzz than was socially acceptable. My dad pulled me aside to talk to me about it. “I know ingrown hairs can be uncomfortable,” he said. I remember trying to figure out what he was talking about, and what ingrown hairs had to do with anything, and trying to figure out if I had ever had one. It then dawned on me that he thought ingrown hairs were the cause of my lack of shaving, and that, if given time, he would eventually get around to telling me that I need to shave anyway. What he didn’t realize was that I just hate shaving. It takes too much time. It irritates my skin. I’ve never found a razor that gives me a good shave. It just sucks.

Not long after that awkward father/son moment I learned about electrolysis. This process zaps each individual hair with electricity in an attempt to stop it from ever wanting to grow back. It is tedious and uncomfortable, but fairly effective. Sadly, there were a few obstacles I’d have to overcome. First, it was prohibitively expensive, at least for a teenager. Second, I wasn’t aware of any nearby places that offered the service. Third, I wasn’t old enough to electrocute my hairs without parental consent. So it never happened.

A few years later, while serving my mission I think, I learned of laser hair removal. This process is a bit more intense than electrolysis. Instead of zapping one hair at a time, they use a laser beam about the size of a quarter to fry lots of hairs all at once. The heat from the laser permanently discourages your hair from growing. Again, several obstacles. First, it was prohibitively expensive (for a missionary at least). Second, there wasn’t a place that offered the service within my assigned missionary area. Third, I was afraid someone would see me and call my mission president, and I suspect he wouldn’t have approved of the activity.

So for the past decade or so I’ve been dreaming of having a permanently clean-shaven face. As if by providence, a laser hair removal office opened up right next to the Target where I do my grocery shopping. I called to get pricing information, but they refuse to give any pricing information unless you go in for a consultation.

So today I went to Ideal Image for my consultation. I was sad to learn that although the hair on my head is quite brown, my facial hair has a lot of red and blonde mixed in. Laser hair removal doesn’t work on red or blonde hair. So even if I went through all the treatments, I’d only get maybe 50% hair removal on my face.

I was also sad to learn that these people are thieves. I’m under no obligation to keep their prices a secret, so this is the price list they gave me:

Area Per session 9 sessions 50% discount for package
Full face $855 $7,695 $3,847
Upper neck $475 $4,275 $2,137
Chin $259 $2,331 $1,165

To get my whole face I’d be paying $855 per session, or I can pre-pay for 9 sessions and get a 50% discount. Sounds reasonable, right? WRONG!

First, most people don’t need 9 sessions. Most people need at least 3 sessions. Nearly everyone has reached the best results they are going to get by the 6th session. This means they are making you pay for (and suffer through) 3 sessions that are pretty much guaranteed to be superfluous. They know this. If they don’t know this, then that is even scarier because they are wielding a laser that can leave you permanently scarred and apparently know less about the process than I do.

Second, even their discounted price of $427 per session is drastically higher than the prices I’ve found online. Most people report prices in the $100-$250 range. Even a full 6 treatments at the costly price of $250 per session would only cost $1,500, or in other words, $2,347 less than Ideal Image.

Perhaps it isn’t Ideal Image. Maybe things just cost more in Connecticut, and I’ll have to wait until we move somewhere more reasonable. But I don’t think so. There are other hair removal offices in this area, so I’m going to go get some quotes and find out.

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Being as healthy as my business

I’m lazy. Really lazy. I’d rather sit at my desk in pajamas and watch Hulu than go for a run. Unfortunately, that isn’t a very healthy lifestyle, and I realize I need to start exercising or I’m going to have to start asking my wife to open jars for me.

My solution to this issue is to tie my exercises to the health of my business. I’m still thinking through all the rules, but I’ve got one figured out already. For every $10 I make, I have to do a push up. So if I earn $100 in a day, I have to do 10 push ups. If I earn $500, I have to do 50 push ups. If I earn $10,000, I have to do 1,000 push ups change the rule.

I’m not always going to be able to do all the pushups in a row (hey, I’m just getting started..), but I’m going to commit to doing as many as I can in a row, and repeating as many times as I need to in order to make my commitment.

I’d like to find something to motivate me to do some other exercises, like crunches and short runs/jogs. Analytics metrics (like unique visitors, pageviews, or time on site) don’t seem like a good idea because they can fluctuate so much based on things outside of my control, like getting Stumbled.

Any suggestions?

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2011 Goal Update (December)

This is my twelfth monthly report on how I’m doing with my goals for 2011:

  • Build a dining room table. Build a piano keyboard desk. Build something. I know what I want to build. I have the plans. I have the shopping list. But, sadly, I didn’t have/take the time to do this.
  • Launch twelve new websites. I failed. My December website was bigger than I could finish in a month. Okay that isn’t true, I just got lazy. But I did redesign Corban Works from scratch, so that is practically an entirely new site. And I redesigned the Fake Name Generator mobile site. So I kept busy at least.

I’ve also been working on a few goals that I didn’t originally blog about:

  • Start an email newsletter. Didn’t happen.
  • Create a game for mobile phones. Didn’t happen.

Goals I’ve accomplished this year:

  • Earn as much from my side business as I was earning from my day job. I hit this goal in October. December earnings were absurdly high. I hit my 2012 goal, but I don’t think it’ll happen again in January.
  • Go back to college. I’ve enrolled in a distance learning program with BYU-Idaho. I got A’s in both of my classes. Yay!
  • Max out my 401k and Roth IRA contributions. The 401k and Roth IRAs are maxed out. Yay!
  • Quit my day job. I’m basically retired. I play with my daughter, work on hobbies, and sleep all day. Its a pretty good life.
  • Become a dad. I’m a dad! Yay! My daughter Anna was born in late May.
  • Publish my first book. I’ve published my first book (paperback, Kindle, and Nook). Took me a couple years, and I already found 2 typos (grr!) fixed the typos, but at least it is finally in print.
  • Paid my taxes. I make money from a lot of places which makes my taxes really complicated, so getting this finished was awesome. I also started paying quarterly taxes because my self-employed income has gotten pretty high. It is uber painful to write a big check every couple months to the IRS, but oh well, that is the cost of making money..
  • Get out of debt. We’ve paid off the last of Becca’s student loans which means we are now debt free! Yay!
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