Preston Howard

My brother in law, Preston Howard, passed away just over 2 years ago on this very date. He was 25 years young.

Preston was a good man, good family and a good friend to many.

Even now, it is tough to fathom that he is gone. It’s one of those things where your mind finds it difficult to comprehend or process the concept of it all. He should just be there, hanging out with us, the next time we’re there in Utah. That seems like the more normal and real situation, but unfortunately, it is not.

I am thankful that we got to spend that one last time with him in July 2010, while Tera and I were there in Utah celebrating our wedding. It is somewhat comforting to know that he was able to partake in that one last celebration with loved ones, family and friends. We had a great time with Preston on that trip and we’ll certainly never forget it.

It’s easy to remember the many good things about Preston, including his laid back attitude, chill mannerisms and his willingness to help his friends & family in need, no matter the situation.

Preston loved skateboarding and snowboarding, much like myself. In recent years, he had rekindled his interest and we would often talk about going out to skate. On most of my visits to Utah, I would usually leave my board back home in Phoenix, as it’s a hassle to lug it around through the airport and on to flights. Prior to our trips, Preston would always ask me if I was going to bring my board and was always hyped on us trekking out to skate together. His enthusiasm actually inspired me to buy a new board while I was in Utah, so that I could leave one there and skate whenever I visited, without having to worry about transporting a board.

The day that I bought that new board in Utah, our cousin JT and I went out skateboarding at one of the public parks in Salt Lake City. We were calling & text messaging Preston all morning, as we had already made plans to go skate with him that day. We couldn’t understand why he wasn’t answering, but we chalked it up to a depleted phone battery or something of that sort. Later that day, we learned the unthinkable, Preston had passed away early that morning.

I didn’t get to have that one last session with Preston, but he’s in my thoughts often, especially when I’m out skating. I know that he would be stoked to see that I’m out there shredding Utah, whenever I visit now.

Wish we had more time with you on this Earth my man. We miss & love you brotha. Peace.

Video: The boys laughing & Dylan learns to crawl!

Watching our boys explore their world and learn new things is an amazing experience to behold. We try to capture many of these precious moments through photography and videography, and thankfully these days our powerful smartphones allow us to do that with ease.

Below are a few of our favorite videos from this month. We hope that you enjoy watching our little ones crack up laughing and Dylan learning to crawl.

Dylan crying and laughing at the ball rattle

Ashton laughs at a diaper

Dylan learns how to crawl

Ashton in the hospital

Today marks the second day and most likely the third night that I’ll be in Banner Thunderbird Hospital with 6 month old Ashton.

The little man caught a nasty cold that has impaired his respiration and caused him to stop eating, which lead to dehydration.

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The first night he was put on oxygen due to his o2 count dropping into the 80’s at one point. This level has to remain at 90 and above to ensure he’s getting enough oxygen. He was also put on IV to treat dehydration.

Thankfully yesterday afternoon they saw improved oxygen levels and he has been off the breathing tubes since then. I think the tubes really irritated him so I’m glad we don’t need them anymore and happy he can breathe well enough on his own again. He’s still dipping into 89 and 88 occasionally when he’s sleeping, but lower levels during sleep are expected and he usually recovers quickly back into the 90 range.

He does seem to be in better spirits today, but the doc says we have a 50/50 chance of staying the night again. He’s also still not eating much, so they turned down his IV fluid levels which we hope will improve his appetite.

He has an insane amount of congestion and snot, which we have to routinely help extract using an air suction powered nasal aspiration device. Infants don’t have the full capacity to deal with all of these excess secretions as their tongues and coughing abilities aren’t strong enough yet. This is what causes the breathing difficulty.

This is one nasty cold that both Tera and I already suffered through and it pains me deeply to see our little boys struggling and in distress while trying to fight it.

Unfortunately Dylan has also gotten sick, but I’m hoping with all hope that he doesn’t get as bad as Ashton. Tera is taking Dylan to our Pediatrician’s office as I write this.

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Hope my little boys can both kick this virus soon. I can’t wait to see my babies happy and playful again as they normally are.

My quest for an almond milk latte

I’m a vegan with an intolerance to soy milk. The stuff makes my throat real itchy & sore every time I consume it. I can & do eat all types of other soy products all the time. Only the “milk” jacks me up.

This causes some issues for me because the majority of the coffee shops out there solely stock soy milk as their non dairy alternative.

There are plenty of alternative vegan creamers on the market, but my favorite to pair with espresso is almond milk.

Unfortunately, a quick check with all of the local coffee shops around my house revealed that no one carried almond milk. Weak sauce!

One of the coffee shops closest to my house is a Tully’s located inside a Fry’s grocery store. Determined to make good things happen near my home, I left a message for the manager requesting almond milk & asking for a call back.

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A day or so later, the manager called me back to let me know that they were now stocking individual size servings of Silk brand almond milk in the mini fridge at Tully’s due to my request. Win!

She said they can only carry what is authorized by Tully’s corporate, but to make a customer out of me, she made a judgment call to start stocking it in the mini fridge as Fry’s already carried it on their shelves (the coffee shop is operated by Frys).

She also let me know that she tried out an almond milk latte to see what it was like and thought it was delicious!

After a few visits, I asked one of the employees if they were selling a lot of the almond milks & his response was “surprisingly yes”.

It’s also hella cheap! They charge me $1.90 for a double shot of espresso & $1.19 (often just $1 on sale) for the almond milk single, making my lattes a mere ~$3 each (with Frys card). On top of all that, every 5th drink is free (tracked via Frys card).

Score, score, score! So now I regularly get delicious almond milk lattes on the cheap, at a coffee spot right next to my house. #happywes

I’m quite proud of this little accomplishment that showcases a successful example of consumer demand. If you want something, make sure to ask for it! You just might get it.

As an aside, I first requested that a lil independently owned bagel shop/cafe start carrying almond milk as I prefer to support indy outfits. One of the owners responded by telling me “I haven’t seen the demand for it”. WTF, what do you call my request for you to start carrying it? Quite a fail on their part as it lost them a regular customer.

Have you tried an almond milk latte?

We’re pregnant with twins!

I am so, so, incredibly happy to write that Tera & I are pregnant… with fraternal TWINS!

We’re at just about 13 weeks in and we’ve been given a “due date” of October 4th, although our doctor says that Tera will probably deliver in late August or early September (due to the twins).

We’ve had 3 ultrasounds so far and it has truly been incredible to watch the babies grow from unrecognizable specks to little babies that we can actually see moving around and responding to stimuli. They’re both growing right on schedule and their heart rates are normal (btw it is so friggin ridiculous awesome to hear their hearts beat), everything is looking great!

We’re both very excited and very much looking forward to becoming parents. The text of this post does nothing to express our excitement and anticipation. We are soooooooooooo stoked!

Thanks for the new 46″ Sony HDTV with Google TV!

Quick thank you video to Google/YouTube for sending me a new 46″ Sony HDTV powered by Google TV

Whoops, that’s not my TV

One day, as I was anxiously awaiting the delivery of my Sony HDTV powered by Google TV, I saw a tractor trailer delivery truck pull up and knew that it was magic time! Or was it?

After helping the delivery guy haul a TV into my house, I noticed something was up. Closer inspection of the TV box revealed that they had mistakenly delivered me a Sony 60″ HDTV, and a model that didn’t even have Google TV integration!

I proceeded to tell the delivery guy that I thought there was a mixup and this was not my TV. The box even had the name and address of some other dude on it, in a whole nuther state! But alas, my warnings were futile, as the delivery man didn’t care whatsoever! I believe he even said “Enjoy your bigger TV!” and off he went.

I knew better, so I kept the wrongly-delivered-sixty-incher safely wrapped in its original packaging, awaiting a frantic call from the delivery people or Sony, once someone figured out that there was something amiss. And after all, this was a FREE TV, so I figured I’d play nice with the shipping company & Sony, even though there had certainly been a massive screwup.

Corrective action

As expected, a few days later I got a frantic call from “dispatch” at the delivery company, with a lady “informing” me that they had delivered the wrong TV to my house. I cooperated and let them know that the TV was still in the original packaging and ready for pickup.

The next day, the delivery guy was back and I helped him carry the unopened 60″ behemoth back into his truck (as an aside, how can an HDTV delivery company get away with only using one delivery person? What if he was delivering to an elderly person or another individual who couldn’t help with carrying a TV?).

A week later, the correct TV showed up and I’ve been enjoying Google TV ever since!

How I won a Google TV

The story of the contest and winning the prize is a pretty interesting one, so if you haven’t read it yet, check out my post on it here.

I am a winner in the “I Want My Google TV” contest!

I am extremely PSYCHED to announce that I have been selected as 1 of 100 winners of the “I Want My Google TV” contest. Thanks to being selected as a winner, I now have a brand new Sony NSX46GT1 46″ LCD HDTV with Google TV on the way to my house.

Contest placing and scoring

My video submission landed me in 42nd place out of 100 winners (and thousands of entries). Not too shabby at all.

The videos submitted to the contest were scored by a panel of judges on the following criteria :

How original/creative/entertaining is the Video Submission?
How well do you explain why you love Google TV?
Why are you excited about watching YouTube videos on Google TV?
How is the technical execution (e.g., Camera/Sound/Lighting/Editing)?
Does your Video Submission inspire others to want to have a Google TV in their home?

My I Want My Google TV contest submission

Embedded below is my submission.

The story behind my last minute submission

I actually found out about this contest on the very last day (or the day before) that they were accepting submissions. Due to this, I didn’t have much time to come up with a good concept, do any fancy cinematography or do any editing. Nonetheless, even with these time constraints, I recognized that there was a good probability of winning if I submitted a video and adhered to the scoring guidelines as much as possible, specifically because they were giving out 100 prizes. I whipped up my webcam recorded video very quickly on the last night (December 22nd) that they were accepting submissions and fired it off to the contest.

To be frank, I actually wasn’t very happy with my submission. I thought it was crude, poorly made and not very unique. Even so, you can’t win if you don’t apply, so I had to give it a shot and it paid off!

Ye ole notary and document requirements

On January 5th, I was notified by the Google TV contest team that I had been selected as “a Potential Winner or an Alternate”. In order to be eligible, I had to download three documents; (1) an Affidavit of Eligibility (2) an Entrant Release Form, and (3) a W9 Tax Form to file taxes and return them to the contest administrators by January 13th. The affidavit required notarization.

I was actually out of town during this time frame, so I had to find a notary in unknown lands. I eventually found one via a UPS Store that was close to where I was staying, who popped me with a $10 notary charge. I wasn’t happy about that, but hey, it was worth it!

I was also notified that I was a winner last week, but they asked us not to disclose that we won until the official announcement (today). I was so stoked that I wanted to announce it to everyone right away, but I awaited their announcement as requested.

I’m really looking forward to my new Sony HDTV with Google TV. THANK YOU to Google, YouTube, Sony and everyone else involved in this contest!

Hot Air Balloon Ride in North Phoenix

Tera bought me a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions for my birthday. We had a great time on the ride. Here’s some video of the experience.

We really got lucky with the pilot and the balloon that we were on. Our pilot had the most flight hours logged in the entire country, he took us through the hills at low altitude, we were in the air longer than any of the other balloons, we flew the highest and our balloon flew farther than anyone else in our “fleet”. It was a ton of fun and I really enjoyed the experience as well as the views. I’d definitely do it again.

Talking Tom Cat app hits Android

The iPhone has long had a bunch of cool 3D animated cartoon character apps that you could speak to, and then the character will speak back (repeating your words) in their own voice.

Now Android has some too. I recently tested out the Talking Tom Cat app from Outfit7 (available for free on the Android Market) and made a couple of videos for my wife Tera and my mom-in-law Kim. Check em out below.

Talking Tom Cat does impressions for Tera

Talking Tom Cat wishes Kim a Happy Birthday!

Unfortunately, the options to “Share to YouTube” and “Share to Facebook” were broken when I tested it on my Motorola Droid running Android 2.2. Thankfully, the “Share via email” still worked, so I emailed them to myself and then manually uploaded the videos to YouTube. I’ve reported the issues to the Devs and hopefully they’ll be able to fix them soon.

Do you know of another cartoon character app for Android that you like better? If so, let me know what it is!