Weston's Blog

by Weston Ludeke

Texas Ranch Life

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My dad and his older siblings watching the neighbor help with the farming. Circa 1950’s.

A big part of the Texan mystique is ranch life.  My family on my father’s side, the Texas side, has been farming through several generations.  I’m actually the first generation in my family to not grow up on a farm.  I’m glad I didn’t grow up with those hardships but I do still have a lot of respect for the hard, physical labor that built this country.  My grandfather passed away in 2010 and my grandmother has since moved to a house in the city of Burkburnett, away from the farm, but my family still owns the land leasing out separately the land for farming and the house to renters.

Every year my dad’s family would get together on Thanksgiving at the farm.  I have fond memories of everyone being together and growing up over the years.  My dad was one of six kids so I have lots of cousins… a few older but most of them younger.  Jobs change and friends may come and go, but family is the one constant that lasts a lifetime.  Below are some photos I’ve taken over the years vising the farm.  Click one of the photos below to launch the gallery.

Written by Weston

June 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

A Part of Texas History

The Burnett Horse Ranch historical marker. Click to embiggen.

The State of Texas Historical Commission decided to place a historical marker marking where the ranch of Samuel Burk Burnett, namesake of Burkburnett, Texas, had his legendary 6666 Ranch.  The land my grandparents have owned since the 1950’s is on part of the old 6666 ranch so my grandma decides she wants to place her stake in the history of Texas.  She somehow got a smaller, footnote-esque plaque attached at the bottom of the main marker.  The smaller plaque kindly points out to the reader that the Flying Horseman Ranch, as the Ludeke family farm is now known, is located three miles to the north.

I thought grandma was a little nuts when she said she wanted to get the family name on the historical marker, but I must say it looks pretty awesome seeing it come to reality.  Kudos Grandma!

Grandma Ludeke

Lesson:  Never stand in the way of a Texas woman!

Written by Weston

June 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

Kolaches

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote up a nice piece for Mother’s Day last month about Kolaches.  The article include kolache recipes from several Ft. Worth area women and my aunt, Ulana, was one of the women featured.  My grandmother’s family came from the Czech Republic to Texas in the 1850’s. Most people who lived in small towns in those days before television and radio became widespread kept a lot of their original language and customs.  My grandmother didn’t even speak English until she went to grade school, despite her family having already been in the state for 70-80 years.  There was an interesting article about Texans of German ancestry a few months ago in Texas Monthly who, similar to the Czechs, kept a lot of their own language and customs over the years.   My Texas heritage (which is half of my family!) consists of an mix of Czech, German, Sicilian, and Mexican.

Link to the full article from the Star Telegram here.  Be sure to click through the photo gallery:  Photo #6 is my Aunt’s kolaches with a photo of my great-grandmother in the background.  Photo #7 is of my Aunt in a traditional Czech outfit.

 

Written by Weston

June 27, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

Tacos!

Friday the 16th was my 29th birthday and my awesome mother-in-law made me a birthday cake:

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Yup, that’s my lovely wife Gaby busting out of my birthday cake with a plate of tacos and a jalapeño on the side.  She’s also got her UH Cougars t-shirt on.  Just awesome!  My mother-in-law came up with that all on her own and surprised me with that.  I’m still speechless.  Love it!

Written by Weston

May 18, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

A Good Life

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A beautiful day in San Francisco (click to embiggen)

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur.  It’s been a dream of mine to run my own business since I was a kid.  I had it all planned out:  I would build my business, make millions (if not billions) of dollars, and eventually retire young.

I believed so much that running my own business and making lots of money was the highest priority that I moved to Silicon Valley two and a half years ago to follow my dream of being a tech startup founder.  My fiancé (now wife) and I left our friends and family behind and made the 2,000 mile move to Mountain View from Houston.

I networked like crazy upon arriving in the Valley and soon landed a gig at a cool startup.  Over the next two and a half years I worked at that little company.  I was the 8th employee there and we would eventually grow to 15 people during my tenure.  I wrote about the move here.

Startup Reality

Working at the startup was fun.  I got to work alongside with some very cool people and learned a lot.  I made some friends along the way and created lots of great memories.  I also grew an incredible amount professionally, learning how to manage handling hundreds of emails and several thousand accounts all at once.

But I wont lie, a startup is incredibly stressful.  Not every Silicon Valley startup is making money hand over fist.  Quite a few are stuggling to survive in spite of their funding, crippled by having expendatures much greater than revenue.  It’s easy to read about ‘xyz hot startup’ getting the latest round of venture money and assume all is well.  The truth is vc funding isn’t revenue and shouldn’t be taken as a true measure of a startup’s success.

In our situation, eventually things stopped progressing and stopped getting fixed and that stress of the situation weighed everyone down.  Working under a cloud of a company not making any money is hard.  I’ve seen people have complete meltdowns over the smallest of problems.  I constantly started to ask myself:  Is the startup lifestyle really worth it?  Sure, it’s easy to make gigantic sacrifices if you end up with a lot of money and success in the end… but what about the people that end up completely broke?  We don’t often read about people who invest their life savings on a misguided dream and lose everything they own.

Did I make the wrong choice?

A few months after arriving in California, a personal family event brought me back to Houston for a few days.  My brief trip back in Houston coincided with Fourth of July weekend.  We celebrated with my wife’s family and relatives BBQ’ing in their backyard and enjoying some beers.  Everyone was having a great time and I remember wondering what was so wrong with living a simple life with friends and family nearby?  Had I made the wrong decision?  Perhaps making lots of money and running a business doesn’t really matter on the long run. Perhaps what’s really important is the time we spend with the people we care about and the memories with them.  I started to re-think my decision to leave all of this behind in the pursuit of making money.

The Pull Towards Home

A year and a half of working at the startup I was let go.  Business strategies change fast in that type of environment and my position was no longer needed.  I spent four months unsuccessfully looking for work in SF before my wife and I eventually decided to move back home.

Our apartment lease in Mountain View was nearing renewal and for the second straight year our rents were going up.  We decided as we got near the end of our lease that being broke in Mountain View was fun for a bit while we were newlyweds, but now it was time to live cheaply again.  We had left Houston on good terms and always told ourselves that we’d be more than fine eventually returning home.

Today

Once we got settled back home, I felt a lot more relaxed.  Even though we were initially getting by thanks to some help from the State of California, my stress levels were gone and mentally I was in a much better place.  The extreme stress of startup life compounded with the constant, nagging feeling that I wasn’t successful because I wasn’t rich and running a successful startup was gone.  I decided that I didn’t want to fool with working at a startup nor trying to start my own.  I finally feel a lot more relaxed and am doing more to enjoy every single day and spend more time with friends and family.  I eventually got a good job and am happy to spend no more than forty hours per week thinking about work.  The rest of the time I can focus on whatever I like.

We love Houston and are more than happy to be back home.  Our rent is 1/4 of what we would’ve been paying had we stayed in Mountain View and we’re living in the heart of Houston’s East End.

Reversal

Just because I no longer have an interest in working at a startup doesn’t mean I’ve gotten lazy and stopped having the drive to improve myself.  I’ve simply changed my philosophy and goals:  I’m now spending my free time learning a foreign language, reading lots of books, learning to cook new meals, and improving myself through rigorous exercise… not to mention I now have quality time with friends and family.

I have no problem with anyone if they feel the startup life is for them.  I still have high respect for people who make our lives easier via technology and those who are willing to risk everything for success.  One day I still may decide to start a new business but for now I’m content living the good life and enjoying my spare time.

Written by Weston

May 9, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

Five Years Without TV

Photo from Flickr user ‘batintherain’ under a Creative Commons license.

It’s been five years since I cut the cord and stopped paying for television.  I used to get home from a long day of school/work and plop down on the couch and spend a few hours mindlessly flipping channels.  I used to watch the cable news shows and get riled up about things out of my control.

Now, I feel a lot less stressed out.  In addition to stopping watching the news on cable tv, I also stopped spending too much time reading about news online.  I still stay informed, sources like The Economist give me a detailed overview of current world events.  I just spend a lot less time stuck in the minutae.

I still watch some tv shows, but instead of watching them on cable I’ll catch them on Netflix or another streaming service.  Most sports events that I want to watch I can go to a friends’ house or down to a bar if I want the event in good quality.

If more sports leagues would allow the networks to stream their events live online (for free) in addition to the tv broadcast, I don’t even mind the commercials.

Have a Plan

I wish I could tell you I’ve accomplished a crazy amount since cutting the cord, but it took me until about 6-9 months ago to get really focused on how I spend my free time.  It’s very easy to cancel your cable subscription but still spend hours mindlessly browsing the internet.  I used to do that, but now I have a hard plan for myself everyday: My goal is to do at least one Duolingo lesson each day and to read a few pages of a book.  I often do more than the bare minimum but my biggest goal is to not have a day where I don’t accompish anything towards my goals.  Having a concrete plan keeps me moving towards accomplishing my goals (learning a foreign language & reading more books) while still having a bit of time each day to unwind and browse Reddit, HackerNews, or something else.

I thought for a while that I might be ADD but I realized I just needed to cut out distractions and have more quiet time reading or listening to music.  TV was proving too distracting with the constant channel flipping and hours I’d spend not doing anything I considered productive.  Now I feel like my mind is a lot clearer and a lot less cluttered.  Sort of like a mininalist approach to the mind.

Reversal

There’s nothing wrong of course if you want to spend all of your free time watching trashy tv shows or looking through hundreds of cat memes every day, but if you want to accomplish other things it’s important to set goals so you don’t lose focus.  Doing a little bit every day towards your goals will put you on the path towards accomplishing them.

Having something to watch and unwind after a hard day of work is certainly an enjoyable experience.  And while there seems to be more crap than ever on TV, the medium certainly has improved their best content over the past 15 years, putting some shows (The Wire, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, etc.) on the same artistic level as the great movies or novels of our time.

Conclusion

I hope this little post helps others who are wondering what life without tv is like.  At the end of the day do whatever you feel comfortable with and if you want to have goals, don’t let outside forces distract y’all from accomplishing them.

Written by Weston

May 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Posted in My Life

The Power of Non-Zero Days

From r/GetMotivated

I’ve done it.  I’ve extended my Duolingo streak to over 100 consecutive days!  114 and counting as of today.  It wasn’t too long ago I blogged about crossing the 50 day threshold.  As I wrote in that post I inadvertently got a streak going and soon the number kept climbing and I didn’t want to break the streak.   Over the past 100+ days of practicing my Spanish I’ve learned far more about the language than I ever thought was possible.  I was always procrastinating about learning the language and now I’ve got the confidence that comes with progress.

Small Gains and Consistency

I used to think to myself that I didn’t have the time to learn another language or to accomplish all of the other things I wanted to.  I kept procrastinating, using excuses that I was too tired at the end of the day, the time wasn’t right, and on and on.  What finally clicked for me with Duolingo is that the app continues your streak by only completing one lesson.  That one lesson typically takes me about ten minutes to complete.  Instead of trying to fit in an hour or more of time into my day, all I needed to keep the streak going was to simply complete a minimum of one lesson per day.  Ten minutes out of even the busiest schedules is nothing!  I started my streak at the beginning of November last year and kept it going through travelling for Thanksgiving, family visiting during Christmas, New Years, and plenty of nights where I was exhausted from work and/or went to hung out with friends.  In all of these instances I’ve kept the streak going and constantly surprise myself in how much I’ve learned.

Stumbling upon this Duolingo streak has led to a dramatic world-changing view for myself and how I view self-improvement, mastery, and the art of learning anything.  I realized that small incremental improvements every single day can lead to huge improvements in the long run.  I soon started applying this idea to other areas of my life:  I’m now reading many more books than I’ve ever read in my life.  Even at the pace of 10 pages per day, one could complete a 300 page book in a month.  That’s twelve books per year!  Not a huge amount for true bookworms, but much more than I’d assume the average person reads.  Want to read more than that?  Just bump it up to a few more pages per day!

In addition to doing my Spanish every day and reading more, I’ve started consistently working out again and cooking most of my meals at home while trying to avoid eating out.  Even if I only spend thirty minutes lifting weights, it’s still more than I would’ve accomplished than by doing nothing.  By doing these things daily, even in small increments, I’m positioning myself for success in the long run.  [Note:  No, I don't workout every single day. I take rest days for proper recovery.]

The Non-Zero Day

A few weeks after my streak got started I stumbled upon this Reddit comment in the GetDisciplined subreddit and it articulated some of these early thoughts that were kicking around in my head.  The idea a redditor named Ryans01 spoke of was the power of the Non-Zero Day.  Every day counts, even if you only write a few sentences in that novel you’re trying to write, do ten push-ups, or run one mile… you’re still putting yourself on the path towards success.  The key here is do something everyday towards your goal, no matter how small.  Doing a little something everyday will get you closer to your goals.  It’s much easier than you think.

Need more proof?  Read this awesome Lifehacker article about how comedian Jerry Seinfeld says to form a habit.  He says to get a calendar and mark an “X” on each day you do that one thing you’re wanting to do… like an “X” for each day he wrote a new joke.  Do this every day for several days and you’ll soon have a long enough “X” marks in a row on your calendar that you won’t want to break the chain.

Get Started!

Get started, what are you waiting for?!?!  Remember the key here is: small incremental improvements every day will lead to amazing long-term results!  Here’s that Reddit post again… seriously read that shit!

Written by Weston

February 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Posted in My Life

The Road Is Life

Hard to believe it’s already February 2014.  The dust of 2013 has finally settled a bit and I thought it’d be neat to write out the story of when my wife and I moved from California back to Houston May of last year.  We took lots of photos but never actually took the time to tell the story of our move back home.  What a journey it was!

Houston by Flickr user araza123 under a Creative Commons license.

A Change of Pace

I spent the first seven years of my life in many cities in and around the Dallas metroplex before moving up to Springfield, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks.  I grew up in Springfield and lived there for the next eleven years until I finished high school.  Throughout those eleven years I would spend many holidays back visiting family in Dallas and on my grandparents farm north of Wichita Falls.  I always enjoyed coming back to visit Texas and felt like I was missing something in my life by not being there.

Springfield was an okay place to grow up but I always had much bigger ambitions… I wanted to see the world and experience living in a big city again. After finishing high school I had a scholarship for a free two years at the local community college or I could’ve stayed home and gone to Missouri State University, but I decided I needed a change of pace.  By my later years in high school my father was working in Dallas again (commuting back to Springfield on the weekends) and was able to re-establish residency in the state of Texas.  Even though I hadn’t ever step foot in Houston (save for maybe a few times as an infant), the University of Houston caught my eye as an affordable state school in a large city where I could get in-state tuition.  Hell, UH didn’t even force me to include an essay with my application!  I applied and was soon accepted into UH…  I was on my way down to H-Town!

The First Seven

I started at UH in Fall 2004 and graduated in December 2008.  My college years were an amazing time of learning, self-discovery, re-invention.  It was an interesting time learning a how to live in a completely urban environment and I spent lots of time exploring the city and made friends with people I’ll be friends with for a very long time to come.  It was an excellent time.

That December I graduated from college and worked a few gigs before getting an awesome job at a software company late in 2009.  The software sales gig was excellent and had amazing benefits and pay, but four months into my tenure there the company announced a round of layoffs… including half of the salespeople in our office. Damnit!  Just as I finally thought I had a job to love!  Even though I still had a job, it made for a depressing time for everyone left in the office… we all knew we’d eventually be next to be laid-off.  I decided to keep my head down over the next year and work my ass off at the job while still looking for another job on the side.  I started reading lots of articles on TechCrunch and the other tech blogs and soon got the bug to move to Silicon Valley and work in startup land.  I was inspired by everything going on in the Valley.  A year after the layoffs happened I quit my job at the software company and my fiancé and I headed west towards the Valley.

California Love

After a month of being in Silicon Valley, I soon hustled my way into a job at a small startup in the ad tech industry.  This was June of 2011.  I wrote about my experience hustling my way into that job here.  I was a fun time living in California and my wife and I spent lots of time exploring the area.  Some of our favorite places were Pescadero, Big Sur, Big Basin State Park, Santa Cruz, and Boulder Creek just to name a few.  It was an  amazing time being so close to the state parks and the ocean.  My fiancé and I got married in May of 2012 and got to spend some quiet time together as newlyweds.  It was a fun time!

view of the Burlingame CalTrain station across from the office where I worked

Going Home Again

On January 7th, 2013, after a nice two week Christmas break back in Houston visiting friends and family, I walked into work like any normal day only to be fired before the day was out.  The startup I was working at had just raised a new round of funding two months before and the leadership team felt my skills were no longer needed for what they were trying to accompish.  After my time at the startup ended, I spent the next few months applying to jobs in both the Bay Area and in New York.  Soon it was almost May and we were coming up near the end of our apartment lease in Mountain View and I still didn’t have a job.  After increasing from $1,500 a month to $1,800 for our one bedroom, our apartment complex wanted over $2,000 per month to renew.  After weighing many different options, we decided to head back to Houston.

When we moved to Mountain View in 2011 we left Houston on good terms.  My wife and I had loved the years we spent in the bayou city… she was also a transplant, hailing from Mexico.  We knew we’d have no problem eventually moving back, so when we decided to leave Mountain View due to the cost of living we had no hesitation about making the decision.  We still have both sets of parents as well as many friends back in Houston and the cost of living isn’t quite as insane as the Bay Area.  We had a fun two years in Cali but Houston was our home.

We shipped nearly a dozen boxes of stuff back to Houston, loaded up my Camry with as much as it would hold, and either sold or got rid of the rest.  Since we didn’t have any specific plans to be back right away, we decided to take our time seeing some sights along the way.  Since I didn’t have a job lined up, we had no specific plans about getting a new apartment back in Houston… our tentative plan was to split our time between both sets of parents while I looked for work.

On The Road

By the time we got the last of our boxes mailed home and hit the road out of Mountain View it was 2pm on Wednesday, May 14th.  We had taken I-10 two years earlier when we moved West so this time we decided to take the old Route 66 East heading back to Texas.. which is now mostly I-40.  Time to Get Your Kicks On Route 66!

Our first stop along the way was Las Vegas.  Since we had spent so much time over the past few weeks preparing to move, we decided to have a full day in Vegas doing nothing… no driving, no moving, just wandering around and seeing the sights.

After spending a day wandering around Vegas we hit the road again East.  Next up we came upon the Hoover Dam.  I didn’t care enough about the Dam to wander around too much but we did get a few photos.  Wait a minute… let me back up a second.  Did I mention we got lost on some dirt road trying to find the dam?  We thought we had some shortcut to get to the dam but the signs we a bit confusing… we ended up on this incredibly bumpy dirt road trying to navigate our way around to the dam.  My poor Camry wasn’t exactly built for off roading.. but for whatever reason we kept going and ended up driving on the dirt road until it ended near something called Painter’s Cove at another end of Lake Mead.  Of course we could’ve turned around, but then we wouldn’t have gotten these awesome photos!  …we weren’t completely nuts… there were people at the end canoeing in the lake.  Plus, how often we get get a view like this?!?

We finally got back to the interstate and drove around the Hoover Dam for a bit and snapped a few photos.  But like I said, we didn’t care enough about the Dam to walk around too much. Still, we were able to snap some awesome photos!

Driving along through the Arizona desert was beautiful!  We took I-40 through the state until we got to a neat little town called Williams about an hour south of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.  Part of I-40 mirrors the historic Route 66 which was one of the first highways crossing a huge portion of the country, stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.  When we arrived in Williams we had to stop and snap some photos.  It was very picturesque and you could tell the locals gave homage to their Route 66 history.

After walking around Williams a bit we headed North on 64 towards the Grand Canyon!  It was starting to get late in the afternoon but we figured we had a few hours of sunlight left to see a the Canyon for a little while until it got dark.  We made it to the Canyon and were able to walk around for about an hour before nightfall.  It was $25 to enter the park so we decided, at that price, we would have to come back and see the Canyon some more in the morning.  It was an excellent decision!

The hotels close to the Canyon were super expensive so we drove the hour back to Williams to stay in a cheaper location.  We woke up the next morning at 5am to make the hour drive back to the Canyon to have plenty of time to wander around before we needed to hit the road again.  It was perfect timing because by the time we got there it was around 6:30-7am and the we got to watch the sun rise.  Also, the park was very empty at that hour so we got some quiet time to wander around at that hour before the hordes of people and tour buses arrived.  The site of the Canyon is life-changing and I’m so glad we stopped!

After the Grand Canyon we hit the road East and continued  our journey towards Houston.  We did manage to stop in the small town of Winslow, Arizona to snap a few photos of this neat place:

Then we continued East into New Mexico.  Gaby and I have been huge fans of Breaking Bad since the show first aired, so we had to make a few stops while driving through Albuquerque to see some of the places used in the show.

A few more hours along past Albuquerque and we we were finally back in Texas!  Of course we were still about 600 miles to Houston once we got to Amarillo, but it still felt good being back in our home state.  Once we hit Amarillo we swung over to the Cadillac Ranch to snap some photos.  The Cadillac Ranch was built (if my memory serves me correctly) in the seventies and has these cars sticking out of the ground in the middle of this cow pasture.  I mean, you’re literately walking through the Texas Panhandle dust and cow shit until you get to these Cadillacs sticking out of the ground. Then, you can spray paint the cars and tag them with whatever you’d like.

After doin’ some spray painting, I knew we needed to hit up the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  This was the first time in our lives we’d been in Amarillo so we had to do the most ridiculous, over-the-top Texan thing imaginable.  So, of course we go to a place where these morons try to eat a 72 oz. steak (and a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, & dinner roll) in under an hour to get their meal for free (if they fail, they owe $72).  It was a hoot!

Meant To Be?

After Amarillo we stopped in Burkburnett, Texas visiting with my grandma for a few hours, we hit the road towards Houston but got stuck in a nasty hailstorm in Wichita Falls so we switched directions and went West for a bit before continuing South so we could go around the storm.  More storms were developing in the area around us so we changed plans and decided to stop in and stay with my dad in Bridgeport, Texas for the night… which is a few hours from Ft. Worth.  My dad had been working in Bridgeport for three years helping save a small hospital in the town from having to close down and his tenure as administrator was coming to an end.  He was soon going to be heading back to Houston full-time, just like we were.

My dad had been staying in an apartment in Bridgeport that was payed for by his employer; the company had even payed for the furniture in the apartment.  He had thought the furniture was going to be kept by his employer but at the last minute the new CEO decided he didn’t want to fool with an apartment full of furniture; he told my dad he could keep everything.  My parents don’t need any additional furniture in their house in Houston so my dad said Gaby and I could come grab everything and use it ourselves.

On the day we were moving out of our apartment in Mountain View a week earlier, after we had sold all of our furniture and were boxing the last of our stuff, Gaby called the daughter of our old landlord back in Houston to wish her a happy birthday.  Gaby had tutored her and her brother in Spanish so they developed a close friendship.  Gaby mentioned that we were moving back to Houston and the landlord’s daughter told us that our old apartment was currently available.  The news hit us like a ton of bricks.  We hadn’t even considered that it would be a possibility to moved into our old apartment…. we figured we’d live between our parent’s homes for a few months while I looked for work and then eventually find a place to live.  So, this news combined with the news a week later that my dad’s soon-to-be ex-employer was letting us take the furniture out of the apartment was incredible news.  It almost seems like our journey back home to Houston was planned all along by some higher power.  ;-)

Epilogue

We made it back to Houston and eventually moved into our old apartment in Houston’s east end, paying the same rate we had when we left two years earlier.  Eventually I would find an awesome job and we would pick up right where we left off with our old friends in the city we always loved.

Our two years spent living in California was an incredible time and we got to spend a year together as newlyweds away from everyone.  Now we’re back in Houston and we try to spend time with either my parents or Gaby’s parents each weekend.  We appreciate the time in the city we love and being surrounded by family.

I guess the lesson of this story is:  Don’t let any setbacks keep you down.  I could’ve been bitter or depressed about losing my job at the startup or at not being able to find more work in the Bay Area, but I didn’t.  We simply kept our options open and embraced the change and the road ahead.  You might not know what tomorrow brings or what lies ahead on the open road… but stay positive and things will find a way to work themselves out.

Thanks for reading!

Written by Weston

February 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Posted in My Life

50 Consecutive Days of Duolingo

One of my goals for the past several years has been to learn Spanish.  I’ve tried many different methods to learn the language and hadn’t found a method or program worth sticking with.  Stuff like Rosetta Stone is too tedious and boring, in spite of the crazy amounts of hype.

A few months back I started playing around with the Duolingo iPad app.  Duolingo is a free program that uses spaced repetition to help users memorize words and better learn a foreign language.  To my pleasant surprise, I got hooked using the app and really enjoyed their simple interface and didn’t find learning with their program boring at all.

Duolingo has a counter on the program so you can keep track of how many consecutive days you’ve used the program.  At first I didn’t really pay much attention to my consecutive day streak.  I would use the program for a little bit for two or three days and then take a day off.  I didn’t really have much of a plan.  Then one week two months ago my streak got to 8 days, then 10, and then I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t stop this streak now!”  Soon enough I kept my streak going and now (as of yesterday) I hit the 50 consecutive day mark.  Pretty friggin’ awesome if you ask me.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you did something for 10 straight days.  Or twenty.  Or fifty.  Sure, you would probably completely suck (like me) when you’re starting out, but eventually you’d start to suck a little bit less.  Each day you’d progressively be improving and learning a new skill.  It doesn’t even need to be a new language, it could be cooking, computer programming, or even playing a musical instrument.  The possibilities are endless.

The biggest thing to remember is a program like Duolingo can help you with your learning, but ultimately the motivation has to come from within yourself.  The consecutive day streak means nothing without the desire to accomplish learning that new skill.  The big picture is that after 50 consecutive days I’m now picking up more and more Spanish words in conversation and feel more confident that eventually I’ll know enough to be fluent.  It’s not easy, but by doing a little bit of work every day I know I can get there.

BAM!  Now get off your ass and get to work!

Duolingo - 50 Days

Written by Weston

December 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Posted in Learning

Digg Reader is pretty good

After Google Reader finally about to shutdown, I was in a state of panic because I had procrastinated on finding a replacement.  I played around with The Old Reader, HiveMinded, Feedly, and some others.

I was intrigued to find out that Digg was building their own RSS reader.  Digg was purchased in 2012 by Betaworks who immediately made a slick new interface, which was soon filled with interesting new content.

A few months later in April 2013, Betaworks then purchased one of my favorite productivity tools on the internet, Instapaper.  I’ve long been an Instapaper junky: Whenever I come across an interesting article that I want to save for later, I just Instapaper-it and read it during my leisure time.  The Instapaper app on my iPad is a Godsend, allowing me to catch up on reading all of the interesting articles I’ve saved but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Once Digg Reader launched and I got a chance to play around, I was pleasantly surprised:  Betaworks included an Instapaper button inside of Digg Reader for every story (see the above image).  Woah!  Now, I can scroll through my Digg Reader and save articles to my Instapaper to read later.

Conclusion

Digg Reader is a fairly decent replacement for the recently departed Google Reader.  The Instapaper tie-in makes it even more useful.  :-)

Written by Weston

August 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm

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