On buying a house

    On 11th February in 2015, I decided to buy a house in Portland.

    At the time I was working on my laptop at Hivolt, a coffee shop in New Orleans. I ordered a cup of pourover coffee named Burundi Buziraguhindwa. The menu described it as “natural sundried, juicy, strawberry, raspberry”. Turned out to be one of the best coffees I’ve ever had. It was the catalyst, because a few minutes later I had made the decision. When I told Jenni about it, she started calling it “magic coffee”. I love her.

    Fast forward to August. My cross country road trip has ended, and I’m back in Portland. I’ve been talking to friends about buying a house, and looking for an agent. Amber recommends Laurie Gilmer. I meet Laurie and the house search begins. Two weeks later I make my first offer. She suggests I write a “love letter”, so I do. It doesn’t work out.

    About two months pass. I see a bunch of houses. I make an offer. It doesn’t work out. Four days later I make one more offer. It doesn’t work out. The love letter is getting better all the time, I think.

    Another month passes. Another offer. I really wanted that one. Nopes. Two months pass. I see a bunch more houses. Another offer. I really really wanted that one. Same story.

    With every offer I got sleepless nights and elevated stress. Prices of houses in Portland have gone up by 12% over the last year. That trend goes back a couple of years. Each time it didn’t work out, I wondered if I would be able to buy a house at all.

    Tick tock. It’s leap day 2016. Laurie informs me of a house that is being prepared to go on the market so we go see it a couple days later. I like it. On 3rd March I make the offer. On the 4th, it is accepted. 😱

    Five days ago, on 11th April, I got the keys to the house. I’m so happy and excited, even though I suspect that it hasn’t fully sunk in. I’ve never bought a house before, and except for six months, I’ve never lived in a single family home my whole life. I can’t wait to move in next week.

    [caption id=“attachment_332” align=“aligncenter” width=“4032”]IMG_3888 Photo by Jenni.[/caption]

    P.S. Oh, and by the way, if you know where I can get my hands on some Burundi Buziraguhindwa coffee, please let me know. I have more decisions to make in life. [Update: It is available at Counter Culture Coffee: https://twitter.com/tomburns/status/721458685797466113. Thanks Tom!]

    P.P.S. If you’re in a similar boat, I wish you the best, and I highly recommend Laurie Gilmer, Laura Wood, and team at Think Real Estate. And also, Anne Viola at Rose City Mortgage.



    This blog is being revived. It has been over five years since the previous post, and at that time it I had been writing here for five years. I don’t know whether it will last another five days or five years. We shall see. For now, consider this a revival.


    Today I turned thirty-four.

    Here are some personally memorable events since my last birthday post:

    • March - Liz and I spent a weekend at Newport on the Oregon coast. The highlight was the visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Also, after three-and-a-half years at Intel, I left to join Small Society to make cool iOS apps. I started at Small Society on 22nd March.
    • June - While in LA, Liz had to undergo emergency surgery for the removal of her ruptured appendix. She returned home a week after that and has recuperated well. Got an iPhone 4 which has a decent enough camera that for the first time ever I'm comfortable with my phone being the only camera on my person when I travel.
    • July - I had to fly down to LA and drive our car back from there since we flew Liz up to Portland after her surgery. Traded in the MINI for a Subaru Outback. We had to let Yoshi go.
    • August - My parents visited us in Portland and we had a great time showing them around Portland. We also visited Seattle, Crater Lake and Bend.
    • September - Visited Disney World in Florida for ten days. It was a vacation for us and a chance for my parents to meet Liz's parents for the first time. We all had a great time there. I also visited family in Chicago for a few days.

    It was another amazing year and I’m looking forward to the next one.

    And lastly, here’s more about the number 34.

    Goodbye Yoshi

    It was less than a year ago that we said hello to Yoshi. Unfortunately and unexpectedly now it’s time to say goodbye.

    Yoshi started to show symptoms of great discomfort yesterday morning and we noticed blood in his urine shortly before noon. We immediately called his regular vet but they were about to close and asked us to go to Laurelhurst Veterinary Hospital (LVH) instead. So off we went. After his examination the doctor informed us that he is having urinary tract issues. He’s had other health issues earlier this year. The doctor informed us that since he is having these issues really early in his life, he will need constant medical attention and care in the future. Their best treatment recommendation greatly exceeded what we can afford right now. Combined with other unexpected financial events from this summer and the expected upcoming travels, it soon became apparent that we would have to make a hard decision. We informed the doctor of our predicament. She offered that they have a process in place to adopt a pet in such a circumstance, to nurse them back to health and put them up for adoption. With great sadness we decided to surrender Yoshi to their care. This way he gets the best, immediate, and adequate care and will find a new home with someone who can address his future needs as well. There are no words for our heartfelt gratitude to the folks at the LVH for adopting him into their care.

    Yoshi was my first and only pet. The love that I have for him grew over time, took me by surprise, and has left me with a heavy heart. I miss him dearly and will cherish the memory of the time I had with him.

    Hello Small Society

    This blog post is long overdue and if you’ve been following me on Twitter of Facebook, this is old news for you and you can just go ahead and skip to the last paragraph.

    In March I left Intel to start working at Small Society. This has been an interesting and welcome change in my life and career. I was working on really cool computer security research at Intel Labs. However, on the side, I was gaining strong interest in developing apps with Cocoa on the Mac and iPhone OS platform ever since I started working on that over a year ago.

    When I started to look around for a place to work on iPhone apps, Small Society was on the top of that list. Based in Portland, they have created apps for some of the leading brands in the world, including Starbucks, Whole Foods, Zipcar and Obama ‘08. In fact the first draft of this post is being written on the iPad using the WordPress iPad app developed for Automattic by Small Society.

    It’s been an interesting seven weeks since I joined and I’m thoroughly enjoying the work that I’m doing and the people I’m working with. We’ve just hired two new people this week and are looking to hire a senior Cocoa developer. Check out this job listing on Craigslist for details.

    Liz is making films

    The last few months, Liz has invested her time into learning more about the skills of filmmaking. Here are a couple of short documentaries that she has created recently.

    This first film, about Ignite Portland, is her solo work.


    Ignite Portland, A Documentary Short from Liz Grover on Vimeo.

    This second film, about sustainability, was done in collaboration with a few others.


    Building Sustainability from Liz Grover on Vimeo.

    You can read more about these on their Vimeo pages via the links under them or on Liz’s blog.

    Oh, and Happy New Year!

    Stranger in a Strange Land [Book]

    This book is a treatise on human culture, with an emphasis on faith and spirituality. It is sci-fi as set in contemporary 21st century. The book can feel a bit dated, and it helps to imagine the US in the 60s to get some perspective. I particularly enjoyed the early experiences of Mike Smith (the “Man from Mars”) as he encounters human civilization for the first time and tries his best to “grok” it. His discoveries present interesting quirks of humanity that make one chuckle and laugh. Laughter itself makes a revealing impression on Mike.

    Thanks to the Multnomah County Library!

    Book page on Amazon.com Book page on Wikipedia


    A few seconds ago I turned thirty-three.

    Here are some personally memorable events since my last birthday post:

    • December - Liz and I traveled to Asia. In India, we had our New Delhi wedding. In Nepal we visited Liz's home and friends in the Himalayas and in Bali we had our honeymoon. Pictures are here.
    • January - Returned from trip to Asia. Bought a HDTV and a PS3. Been enjoying glorious Blu-Ray and some cool games since then.
    • February - Started working on Avatari. My first Mac application in Cocoa. Had my first car accident. It was minor.
    • April - Demoed and released Avatari at Demolicious. Liz and I went road-tripping thru the southwest. Visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon. Some of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. Pictures are here.
    • May - Liz and I went to Bend for a long weekend and had a great time exploring this cute little town and its surrounding volcanic geology.
    • June - I became a US permanent resident. No more visa hassles!
    • August - Liz and I traveled to Kaua'i where we had a great time celebrating our first anniversary. Pictures are here.
    • September - Completed ten years of living in the US. Brought Yoshi (our cat) home. My first pet ever. Bought an Olympus E-P1 to use as my primary camera succeeding the Bessa in that role.
    It was an amazing year and I’m looking forward to the next one.

    And lastly, here’s more about the number 33.



    I’ve had my suspicions that I would enjoy having a cat as a pet. A month ago those suspicions were confirmed, and now I have my first pet ever.

    Liz and I had the pleasure of hanging out in Kaua’i for about a week (See pictures here!). We stayed at some friends' place while they were on vacation. There were two house cats around, Woodrow and Wilson. At the end of that week I realized that I really enjoyed having a pet around. Liz had been keen on the idea for a while, so we decided to look for a kitty to adopt as soon as we got back.

    She tweeted about it and got a response within twenty-four hours. Twenty days later, Yoshi arrived at our place. He is about ten eight weeks old and in the last week has learned to use the litter and become comfy in our apartment. He’s very entertaining and we’re having a great time having him around.

    Of Flying Boats and Wineries

    Sometime last week, Liz and I saw Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, a biographical film about Howard Hughes. At the end of the movie I remarked that the Hercules flying boat, designed by Hughes, and shown in the film is on permanent display in our Oregon neighborhood. A few minutes of online searching later we decided to go check it out at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville on the weekend.

    Sunday morning, after a brief breakfast stop at a local bagel joint, we drove out towards the museum. We passed beautiful hills draped with vineyards and wineries. Later in the day we learned that these were the Chehalem Mountains and Dundee Hills regions of the Willamette Valley Wineries. We hadn’t been there before and were delighted to see it. Eyeing all the wine tasting signs we decided to stop at some of the wineries on our way back.

    We got to the museum about an hour before noon. It is located across the road from the airport in McMinnville. There are two museum buildings which house the aviation and space museums and a third building has an IMAX theater. Some aircraft are displayed in spaces along the buildings too. We only visited the aviation museum, choosing to return to the space museum on another day, perhaps after they install one of the retiring space shuttles, which they plan to do.

    Planes and Hercules

    It is clear upon looking at the aviation museum and the time spent inside it that the Hercules is their star attraction. It takes up most of the space and even though there are about a hundred other aircrafts spanning the hundred year history of powered flight, they all appear negligible next to it. The critics of this magnificent aircraft, the largest of its time, called it the “Spruce Goose”. Liz and I were disappointed that this name, which was despised by Hughes, was the one used prominently by the museum. Their website address uses it; they sport it on gift store items; and they even have a winery that makes wine branded the same.

    Retro flying

    Even in their relative smallness, the other aircrafts on display offer a great collection of beautiful airplanes, helicopters, balloon-basket, a Wright 1903 Flyer replica and even a model skeleton of the wing-like device sketched by Leonardo DaVinci. There were some charming touches to the museum. Sitting next to a WW2 bomber was an old man who had flown one of those for thirty missions over France and Germany when he was eighteen. Alongside some planes were accurate models. One depicted intricately the machine gun wing assembly on a WW2 fighter. Next to the Hercules was a model of it used in the Scorsese film and donated to the museum.

    Hughes and the professor

    On our way back, we checked out a few wineries, tasted the wines at a couple of them and bought some at one in Dundee. I haven’t been a fan of wine most of my life, having sided with beer whenever presented a choice, but in recent times I have started to experiment. Now, having had some really delicious ones, I’m starting to become a fan to the extent that I know a bit about what I like and what I don’t like. My wine vocabulary remains minimal and will probably stay that way unless my interest in it skyrockets.

    Tasting some wine

    We drove back to Portland through a different, but similarly scenic route. To top off the lovely Sunday, which was filled with expected and unexpected pleasures, that night we saw Terry Jones’ Erik the Viking. It featured a different kind of flying boat and was quite hilarious.

    Red Stars and Other Netflix Musings

    I’ve returned to using Netflix this year and it’s working out great for Liz and me, both film lovers. Here are some thoughts on my recent Netflix experience.

    I noticed the other day that when Netflix shows me ratings for a movie that I haven’t rated (the red stars), it is not showing me what I thought that was. The red stars show me what Netflix thinks I will rate the movie rather than the average of what others have rated. It is a prediction. This is not news, but is news to me. I don’t like it. I’d like to see the average rating given by others instead of the predicted rating for me. I’ve taken to hovering over each film’s title or image to get that information. It’s annoying but doable and I prefer it to the misleading red stars.

    Recently when Liz was away for a few weeks, I had a plan to watch a bunch of action flicks and such-like that I wanted to see and knew the she wouldn’t want to see. Not that she isn’t into action films; the other day we greatly enjoyed Inglourious Basterds. So I browsed for those films that I had heard of and those that folks recommended, added them to my queue, and moved them to the top. Soon enough they started showing up and I had a great time catching up on that genre. Now that Liz is back, the queue is as it was before she left and I’m faced with a slight problem. When I come across a film in the aforementioned genre, I would like to store it for another similar time in the future. However, I can’t just add it to my queue without constant annoying maintenance. I’d like a feature using which I can make a list of movies called “Sam’s Must-See Action Flix”. When Liz travels, I can make this list my active queue in one click. And then one-click should return the active queue to the regularly scheduled list when she returns. Simple.

    The “Watch Instantly” feature of streaming movies is most excellent. I love it, despite the fact that it causes my browser to crash once each time I use it. I’ve been using it to see movies I’ve enjoyed before but not seen in a long time and also for those times when you just want to see something right away but aren’t in the mood for the DVD lying on the table. It would be most awesome if it worked directly with my PlayStation 3 but from what I’ve read that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

    New version of Avatari adds Adium support

    I’ve just released Avatari 0.3. This version adds support for Adium and also updates the FriendFeed API to the latest version to ensure forward compatibility.

    I’ve been considering developing Avatari on iPhone. Would you be interested in it? If so, please answer a couple of questions here. It will take less than thirty seconds of your time. You can also write to me on Twitter at @samgrover or @AvatariApp. Thanks!

    The latest version of Avatari is available at the link below, or just select “Check for Updates…” in the menu from within Avatari.

    Download Avatari

    Why I

    I released an update for Avatari two weeks ago. Since then I’ve found a few blog posts talking about it. See them here, here, here and here.

    Did you check those out? I did and found that none of them are in a language I know!

    So, what do I do? Well, there’s Google’s language tools which can translate foreign language pages to a language of your choice. Google has handy bookmarklets for many languages. Find yours and set it up in the bookmark bar in your browser. When you’re at any website in a foreign language, just click that button for a quick translation. Awesome!

    By doing that I read those blog posts and am quite happy to see that folks like Avatari and are finding it useful. Thanks folks!

    I appreciate all comments and feedback regarding Avatari. Blog it or write me directly!

    Don't just eat any thing

    A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The book is about food production and agriculture in the US. It is also about man’s relation to food and to the culture of eating. This is not a review of the book, but rather a summary of my thoughts on this subject as it relates to my personal health and habits.

    Many years ago I saw Super Size Me. Following that I stopped eating at McDonald’s and reduced my consumption of fast food in general. It wasn’t until I saw King Corn and The Future of Food that the reality of industrial agriculture began to sink in. I was increasingly disgusted by what I was eating.

    I’ve been altering my food habits towards ones that I believe will support the goal of a healthier life. Habits, that were encouraged by my parents while I was growing up, but those that I easily ignored in my adult independence. My mom taught me that just about anything is good in moderation but nothing is good in excess. Pollan’s observations on food show just how much excess is involved in industrial food. Observations of my own diet revealed that I was having too much meat and processed food and not enough vegetables, whole grains and fruits. I also found a large amount of HFCS in my diet, mostly from soda, but also, and this was a surprise to me, from ketchup and other products.

    Throughout my twenties, I didn’t think twice about what I was eating as long as it tasted good, and often, fast and convenient. My younger body could take that abuse without much consequence. My older body won’t tolerate abuse as it gets confused and transformed by the bad food I eat. It is imperative that I live a healthy life and for that it is necessary that I eat healthy food. Enough is enough.

    Having moved to the US from India, I’ve always admired the nutrition label on foods sold here. What I had often ignored was the list of ingredients. Now, more than ever, I find that information very valuable when eating or buying food. Labeling is important and I would like to see it become even more descriptive to capture the source of ingredients and to their status as GMOs. I’m grateful to those that research information about food and agriculture and seek to have it readily accessible.

    Over the last few months I’ve been eating much less meat. I have eliminated HFCS from my diet. I have greatly reduced the consumption of processed food and increased the consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. I acknowledge that as I seek to minimize my consumption of unhealthy food I may occasionally give in to the desires of speed, convenience or taste. Having Liz in my life has significantly helped to reintroduce and encourage healthier eating habits. Her food ethic is much stronger than mine and she is acutely conscious of what she consumes.

    As an omnivore I can eat many things, but I won’t just eat any thing.

    Avatari 0.2.2

    I’ve just released Avatari version 0.2.2. This is a minor release. It preserves avatar file type when uploading to a service. It also improves and simplifies the user interface design when adding a new account. Many thanks to my friend @ubercolin for his suggestions regarding these improvements. For a complete list of changes, please see the Release Notes. You can get the latest version at the link below, or just select “Check for Updates…” in the menu from within Avatari.

    Download Avatari

    Practicing Photography

    Mike Johnston, over at T.O.P, writes interesting posts quite often. He has recently written a couple of them that hit close to home. They are The Leica as Teacher and Why It Has To Be a Leica. Mike suggests a training program using the Leica for a year to shoot B&W film extensively and to edit and critique oneself on the photos taken. I’ve tried to do exactly that over the last two years.

    Meetup spirit

    There are some differences, of course. My camera has been a Bessa R2A. I’ve been using only that camera with a 50mm prime lens since January 2007. The Bessa is like a cheaper version of a Leica. Most of the points that Mike mentions in the second post apply to the Bessa too.

    Certainly, I haven’t been as prolific as Mike suggests. Much has happened in my life since then and other interests have sometimes taken priority in spare time. As of today I have 362 photos on Flickr taken with this camera and lens pair. That’s an average of about three selected photos per week, although in reality there were bursts of activity when I was on vacation. About half of those photos are B&W. I typically haven’t thought in terms of color unless it felt quite essential, and have preferred B&W film for the most part.

    Michael rolls a cigarette

    The gist of the matter is that this is a really good exercise. In the end, like Mike says,

    Because make no mistake, photographing the way I suggested in the previous post is the photographic equivalent of being a top athlete: it takes dedication and coordination and talent and time and sacrifice and lots of training.

    This gels with what Malcolm Gladwell has written in Outliers and with my own experience. What matters most is that you put a lot of time and effort into it. The constraints Mike suggests help to make the exercise even more focused, pun unintended. It’s definitely not the only exercise out there but I sincerely believe that if you were to do this, it would greatly benefit your photographic eye. I can surely feel it and perhaps my photography shows it.

    Liz at Monument Valley

    When I started using my Bessa, I dumped my DSLR and haven’t missed it since. Having said that, I think I’m getting weary of having a film based workflow as my primary one. I’m still hoping that a nice digital rangefinder will come along or that I will find it reasonable to invest in a Leica M8. Until then I may try the new Sigma DP2. It looks quite promising. I’ll keep an eye out for the news and reviews and look at photos from it for a couple of months before deciding.

    I'm doing other stuff too

    Yea, the last few posts on this blog have all been about Avatari. Life, as usual, is way more varied. Here’s a recap of some travels and photos from the last few months.

    Late last year, Liz and I traveled to Asia. We visited her Nepalese home near Kathmandu, had our second wedding of the year in New Delhi and then went to Bali for our honeymoon. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post that one of us will eventually write on our blog. Oh, but the pictures are ready to go in my Asia 2008 collection on Flickr.

    Village girl

    Our first trip this year was during the last week of April. Liz and I went on a road trip in the Colorado plateau area. We flew in to Las Vegas and drove to Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. It was an amazing set of places to see with wondrous natural landscapes; the product of water, stone and time. We spent four nights camping and three in hotels. An exploration of that trip will also be in our blog soon, I promise! Once again, the photos are ready :-)

    Us at Mather Point

    These two trips have been my primary outlet in taking photos over the past several months. I’m quite happy with the resulting pictures. I am, however, starting to feel tired of using film and the related workflow and cost. I hope I can make the transition to a decent digital rangefinder sometime over the next year or so although I will have to save up for one of those!

    Rear view at Monument Valley

    Tomorrow Liz and I will be going to Bend in central Oregon for this Memorial Day weekend and I’m hoping to explore new places and take a bunch of more photos. So, stay tuned for those!

    I have a couple more ideas for blog posts so hopefully the next one will be sooner rather than later. In the meanwhile, feel free to follow along at @samgrover where I can be found posting much more frequently.

    Avatari now supports AddressBook, iChat, Shizzow and auto-updating!

    Avatari now supports AddressBook, iChat, Shizzow and auto-updating!

    You wanted AddressBook and iChat support. It is here!

    I wanted more web services to adopt an API for uploading avatars. Shizzow responded with enthusiasm. That support is here too!

    By enabling AddressBook and/or iChat support, entries appear in the account list for each of those. When you are ready to update your avatar, just select them if you want to update those too.

    If you use iChat for Google Talk, then setting your avatar in iChat will update your avatar on Google’s servers the next time you connect or immediately if you are already connected. Google then updates your avatar across all their services including Gmail, Google Profile, etc.

    I’ve just updated Avatari to the latest version using the newly added auto-update feature. This has been made super simple through the Sparkle framework for Cocoa. After you download this version, the application should auto-update with each new release. There is also a “Check for updates…” feature in the application menu for manual checks.

    Special thanks to @bsneed for the idea to support AddressBook and iChat and to @ryansnyder at @shizzow for responding to my call for an API within a matter of days!

    Heartfelt thanks to all of you for the enthusiastic response to my first Cocoa application! I hope you like this release and continue to provide me with your feedback on my Gmail address, samgrover. I will do my best to deliver.

    Download Avatari

    Requires Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Runs on Intel and PowerPC based Mac computers. Supports multiple accounts on Twitter, FriendFeed, Shizzow and your Mac’s AddressBook, iChat.

    Announcing Avatari

    Avatari is an application to update your avatars across the Internet with one click.

    I keep my avatar the same most of the time but every now and then I would replace it for a short period to represent a holiday or a cause or some event. When I would do that it would annoy me that I had to go to each individual location where I had uploaded my avatar for a brief replacement.

    Not anymore.

    I made Avatari to solve this problem. It currently supports multiple accounts on Twitter and FriendFeed. When I came up with this idea, I found that Twitter already had an API for uploading an avatar but FriendFeed didn’t. I requested the folks at FriendFeed to create an API for me, and to my pleasant surprise, they had one ready in twenty days. Thanks guys! I hope to add more services in the future.

    My other motivation for making Avatari is to teach myself Cocoa programming. I had hoped to make something useful while familiarizing myself with Cocoa. It’s working great and I’m hoping to advance my knowledge of Cocoa software development with continued effort.

    Last week I presented Avatari to the folks at Portland CocoaHeads and tonight I presented it at Demolicious. I’d like to thank all the folks at either event for their feedback, ideas and encouragement regarding this project.

    Special thanks to Giglielmo for sharing the photo used in the logo under the Attribution-Share Alike license and to my wife, Liz for transforming it into the application logo.

    I hope you like using Avatari. Let me know what I can do to make it better. You can reach me at my Gmail address, samgrover or via @samgrover. You can download Avatari from the software section on my website or by clicking the link below.

    Download Avatari

    Requires Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.

    Avatari Teaser


    Avatar. noun. Sanskrit. An incarnation. An image of a user.

    Avatari. noun. Sanskrit. The source of avatars.

    Follow: http://twitter.com/AvatariApp

    Get it at Demolicious.

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