Quick hack for parents with 3 children

My wife and I have 3 children, ages 11, 7 and 3. Going from 2 children to 3 children hasn’t been the easiest thing.

Here’s a little hack for three children families:

One of us takes one of the children out for an activity (1 adult + 1 child) and the other parent takes the remaining two of them (1 adult + 2 children) and we go do things separately.

One of us and one of the children get 1-on-1 time together, which is something we missed when we went from 2 children to 3 children.

The other fun thing about doing this is every pairing of the children has a unique chemistry — for example, our middle child and our youngest child interact in a very particular way when it’s just the two of them. And the youngest and oldest have their own chemistry. And the oldest and the middle child have their own equation too.

Shonali and I always come back from these outings having learned new things about our children.

Of course, we do things altogether too– all the time– but this is always a refreshing change to the rhythm of all the relationships.

How I got past the “iTunes could not restore the iPad because the backup was corrupt or not compatible” error message

I was using a Windows 7 box with the latest version of iTunes and I kept getting this error message when I tried to do a restore (from one iPad Mini to another iPad Mini):

iTunes could not restore the iPad because the backup was corrupt or not compatible

How did I fix the issue? I switched to my iMac and the backup and restore went without a hitch.

Moral of the story: use your Apple device to do backups and restore.

iTunes for OS X > iTunes for Windows

Hacking AngelList notifications

In the last couple of years, I’ve made a number of investments through AngelList (I’m number 3 on the Houston Investors leaderboard).

Early on, there was a deal that I wanted to invest in that I missed out on because I didn’t see the email in time.

So I hacked a simple “notifications” mechanism:

Setup up a gmail filter to forward all emails from “[email protected]” to my cell phone as a text message.

For your carriers email to SMS gateway, see this blog post.

Google Photos search is magic

I’ve been excited about the separation of Google Photos from Google+ for a few months now:

And Google did not disappoint with the initial launch of Google Photos, with the goal of being to online photos what Gmail was for email.

As Fred Wilson shared this morning, some Google Photos features feel like magic. I had a “magic” experience with Google Photos too:

I was out of town with family a few weeks ago and the topic turned to pool safety. My cousin shared a tragic story of a young child in their school who drowned in the family’s pool and I talked about how my parents have their pool secured with perimeter iron gate and a self-closing child-proof lock. I wanted to show it to them so I went into the Google Photos app and searched on “pool” and got this:


A few more swipes and clicks and I showed this to them:


It was like magic. I can’t wait for Google to incrementally improve this facet of Google Photos. I don’t think I’ll be able to use my photographs without it in the future.

Flying the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+

I recently got a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ at the recommendation of TheWireCutter’s “Best Drone” article and I’ve been loving it. I keep it with charged batteries in my car now and yesterday I flew it up above the flooded area of Houston outside of downtown (see photos and videos below):

Why it’s a good recommendation:

  • It’s easy to fly– it’s got some sort of gyro stabilization mechanism which means it does a good job of hovering without any work on your part as the pilot.
  • Camera video is incredibly (and eerily) smooth: the gimbal the camera is attached to stabilizes the camera and does an amazing job. Everyone that sees the videos comments on this.
  • Camera is included so the package is all-in-one– no need to pick a drone and then figure out the right camera.
  • Image quality is really good– but not great (like not SLR great). I don’t know how it compares to a GoPro, but I’d imagine the quality is similar. It’s a little telephoto thing, not a lot of glass/plastic in the lens so one can’t expect that much. I’ve been shooting with SLRs all my life, so my standards are high.
  • Hardware is pretty robust: I’ve crashed this thing once or twice and surprisingly didn’t break any blades or the body. Once I managed to land it in grass upside down– no damage. Another time I ran blade first into a brick column and it subsequently hit a brick laver driveway (falling from only about 5 ft). Again, no damage. I don’t want to encourage you to be reckless with it. Since these two incidents, every landing has been super smooth for me (one learns). But I’m pleased with how the hardware can take a lickin’.
  • Video files are standard MP4s and can be played back in Windows Media Player, Quicktime or VLC Player (then again, what *won’t* VLC player work with?)
  • Auto return-to-home feature: the Phantom 2 has a cool feature where it senses if you won’t have enough battery to return home, and flies itself back to it’s starting GPS position. I’ve had this kick-in once and was impressed with how accurate it was (it landed about 2 feet from where I had taken off from).

Other commonly asked questions:

  • How far can it go? If I read the manual right, about 800 meters or half a mile.
  • Can you carry it on an airplane? In fact you can! I traveled with mine from Texas to Lousiana.
  • How long does battery last? The drone battery lasts 23 minutes. The controller battery lasts a while, probably 20 flights? And the range extender battery lasts probably about the same 20 or so flights. Yes, there are three separate batteries. Yes you have to charge two of them (the latter two use micro USB, the former is charged with the custom charger that comes with the kit)

Drones are going to get smarter (more computer vision for object tracking and collision avoidance and other crazy features such as those found on the recently announced Lily) but the Phantom 2 is an excellent starting point.

Here are some images I took today flying my drone over Houston buffalo bayou park where there was massive flooding yesterday:

And here’s the actual video:

Problem solved with Bluetooth in Tesla Model S and iPhone 6?

apple-iphone 6 - 16gb-space gray-450x350IMG_4227-800x600

I’ve had months and months of issues with pairing my iPhone 6 and my Tesla Model S using Bluetooth. And I’m excited to say that think I’ve finally solved the problem!

The problems I was having:

  • Phone would randomly disconnect and then re-pair with my car. Sometimes this seemed to happen every 60 seconds. Happened during phone calls and while using Bluetooth audio
  • Sometimes the phone wouldn’t pair at all– in some of these instances the Bluetooth logo on my phone would be lit up.

tile-hero-shot-flatSolution? I had a Tile tag on my car keychain. I got rid of it and the pairing problems went away.

Tile uses BLE (Bluetooth low energy) so I guess that my phone’s connection to the Tile was somehow interfering with its connection to my Tesla Model S… something for Tesla to fix in their Bluetooth implementation.

I’m just happy to once again be able to talk hand-free and listen to music from my iPhone while I’m driving.

New Technologies, Old Hopes and Fears*

Written for the Post Oak Post (www.postoakschool.org):

There’s no shortage of fear mongering about technology and our young people. A quick search on Google News for “Instagram teen” reveals headlines such as “Akron teen robbed… by man he met on Instagram” and “Teen shot at party advertised on Instagram.” The message here is clear: “The sky is falling!! Snapchat/Facebook/Instagram are to blame!!”

Increasingly, our lives as adults are mediated by technology and it’s hard to imagine it being any different for our children. So, how can we get beyond the headlines and understand and, as parents, the role of technology in our children’s lives?

itscomplicatedIn “It’s Complicated”, scholar Danah Boyd presents the findings of 166 interviews conducted with teens from 2007 to 2010. Boyd goes to high school football games and into schools and homes and to better understand teenagers and technology today.  Her conclusion: teenagers today are motivated by the same things they were motivated by in previous generations– the desire to hang out and connect with their friends and to find their place in society.  Instead of connecting at the mall, teenagers connect on Instagram. Instead of spending hours talking on the phone, teengers text and Snapchat. While academic, I find Boyd’s writings on online privacy, bullying and safety accessible and highly credible, both thanks to her conversations with teenagers.

And in “A Teenager’s View on Social Media”, Andrew Watts shares the teen perspective on different social media sites from

  • Snapchat (“where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity”) to
  • Facebook (like “an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave”) to
  • Instagram (“by far the most used social media outlet for my age group”)

This piece is great for adults to gain an understanding of the role of each of these different social media services.

How to Read: Download a free PDF copy of “It’s Complicated” here: http://www.danah.org/books/ItsComplicated.pdf. Also, Danah Boyd has some great interviews on YouTube, here’s one: http://youtu.be/9QKq15WyGkA. For Andrew’s piece, just google the title.

* The title of this blog post is the title of one section of Danah Boyd’s book

Growing up


Every couple of years I initiate a book archival. (I wrote “purge” at first, but I realized that sounded really bad.)

Me to my 10 year old daughter: “Dear, you’ve outgrown >50% of your books, time to retire some of them.”

In the past, I was seen as an aggressor (“No!!! You can’t take away my Dora books!!!”) but this time, last weekend, she was on the task.

I guess growing up is easier the older you get.

Though when she was done she did look at me and say, “Papa, you know it’s hard to let go of some of these books, I really love them.”

Tour of Houston’s Amaya Roasting Company

A few weeks ago I hosted the @BeingHouston account on Twitter and ended up getting a tour of Amaya Roasting Company. I’ve been buying Amaya coffee beans for probably a year now and frequenting their coffee shop Catalina Coffee so I was stoked to see their bean roasting operation.

Amaya is located in the back of this building in East Downtown (EaDo) though the gallery is out of business:


Here’s Max outside entrance to @AmayaRoastingCo. It’s their coffee at Hugos Houston, Backstreet Cafe, CatalinaCoffee and a lot of other local establishments:


Green beans = unroasted coffee beans. They feed in 18 lbs into roaster, it comes out 15 lbs b/c water evaporation. The curve shows the temperature – time graph that they take the beans through when roasting them.


Bean moisture is very important. Too much could lead to fungus. Too little isn’t good either. Moisture testing machine.


They hand control temp over the 12-15 min it takes to roast a batch, but they log the actual temp curve in this software.


Cupping setup Amaya Roasting Co. Same beans but roasted light vs normal to show the difference roasting makes on taste (I was short on time so we didn’t do an actual cupping)


These decaf beans were roasted while I was at Amaya Roasting Co. The beans are being cooled off here:

This is @AmayaRoastingCo’s small batch roaster, made in USA. Same as big1 one but used test roast small batches.


And this is the big roaster:


Max doesn’t regularly give tours… Yet. They’re moving into a new space that’s a lot bigger in the next few months and when they do Max plans to do tours and cuppings on a regular basis.