Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot

Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot

Whew, it has been awhile. I’m here to give a quick overview of the Google Home Mini compared to the Amazon Echo Dot.

After using the Amazon Echo Dot for the past 1+ years, the Google Home Mini (and other versions of the Google Home) win for a few reasons.

  1. The speaker and sound quality of the Google Home Mini are better than the Amazon Echo Dot. You could almost use it as an everyday speaker as long as you’re not throwing a party and you have relatively quiet surroundings.
  2. You can make phone calls through Google Home and the Google Home Mini using your Google Voice phone number. No phone required. One thing they need to fix is the ability to connect the Google Mini Home and other Google Home devices to Bluetooth headsets. If you don’t have a Google Voice number set in Google Assistant, the phone calls with show up as “No Caller ID” to the person receiving the call. You can dial by name from your Google Contacts, or by phone number.
  3. The Google Home Mini and Google Home devices are more likely to understand complex questions, and you can ask follow-up questions. So the Google Home is more contextually aware.
  4. The Google Home Mini and Google Home devices don’t require you to add skills to achieve things like requesting a rideshare, playing simple games, etc.
  5. The setup process for the Google Home devices is much more pleasant. It doesn’t require you to disconnect from your wifi and connect to the device.

AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC) 2013 – the experience & a recap of the ride

When I first read about AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC), a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it immediately appealed to me. I was eligible for a one-month sabbatical but wasn’t sure I’d be able to take time off in June, because of a high-priority project with a launch date of June 11, 2013. I was thrilled my sabbatical request was approved in December 2012.

Seattle friends from Team of One - ALC 2013
Seattle friends from Team of One at ALC Orientation – Day 0

A few unpleasant thoughts came to mind just a few months before the ride. I love the outdoors, but 7-days camping in a tent, using port-a-potties, not sleeping on a real bed, or taking a real shower didn’t seem appealing.

My first ALC ride was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The unpleasant thoughts quickly faded upon experiencing the energy and passion of other ALC riders and roadies. Everyone on the ride was more than happy to chat and get to know you. Riders were also very friendly when something went wrong. I had one flat tire during the ride; I was with my friend David, who stopped to offer emotional support. David gave a thumbs-up to each rider who passed, as I fixed the flat tire.

The thing I liked most about the ride was the diversity of the people involved.

Riding out of Cow Palace - ALC 2013
Riding out of Cow Palace — Day 1

This year was a historic one for ALC. With the help of thousands of generous donors, 2,203 cyclists and 552 roadies (volunteers) raised $14.2 million dollars to support the parent organizations and the services they provide to those in California. I had the opportunity to meet a small fraction of the nearly 3,000 people involved, but every interaction I had was delightful.

Everyone was so invested in this. Everyone had a heartfelt story about why they became involved with AIDS/LifeCycle.

Garrett near Santa Cruz on Day One - ALC 2013
Me near Santa Cruz — Day 1

Initially, my intent was to write a blog post each day of the ride. I thought I’d have plenty of time each day to collect my thoughts. After posting on an ALC riders Facebook group, I found out the days are quite busy and taking a laptop or iPad isn’t a good idea.

A typical day on AIDS/LifeCycle consists of waking up at 5 am and getting into your cycling gear. You take down your tent, pack your bag, and deliver it to the designated truck. Then, you head off to the dining tent for a hearty breakfast. After breakfast, you make last-minute stops before venturing off to start the day in the saddle.

Fog and mountains on Day Two
Fog and mountains in Central California — Day 3 of ALC

The days ranged from 44 to 109-miles with rest stops placed every 15-20 miles. The rest stops were fully-equipped, with all sorts of delicious treats, Gatorade, water, bike technicians, port-a-potties, medical, and even entertainment! There were short hilly days and long flat days with rolling plains, similar to what I’m used to in Central Kansas. There were days with ocean and mountain views. There were days of riding through large strawberry, avocado, and artichoke fields. There were days filled with rolling hills and beautiful vineyards. There were days on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and days with a mix of bike trails, country roads, and city streets winding through the small towns of California.

The ALC ride and everyone involved provided a pristine example of how an ideal society might function.

Most days, I’d start out riding with my team, the Pork Pedaler’s or with friends who were members of Seattle-based Team of One. By mid-day, you’d break into smaller groups of riders who were riding at your pace.

Pork Pedalers 2013 - AIDS/LifeCycle Team
Pork Pedaler’s AIDS/LifeCycle Team in Lompoc, CA – Day 5

Each day when you ride into camp, you are greeted by a crowd of cheering, enthusiastic roadies. The first thing you do is park your bike in the huge secure bike parking. Then make your way to your gear truck to pick up your luggage and tent. You find your space on the grid and set up your tent, and unpack your belongings for a much-needed visit to the shower trucks. I’ve not seen shower trucks before; they are semi-trailers with about 20-25 private shower stalls each. The water pressure was excellent, but I forgot to pack a towel. Luckily, my friend Matt packed an extra!

Me riding into ALC camp
Me riding into ALC camp in King City, CA – Day 2

After a shower and shave, if you had laundry to wash, you’d head over to the cold wash stations. After all this, it was time for dinner and evening announcements. By the time dinner wrapped up, it was 8 pm at which time you’d head back to your tent to wind down and prepare for the next day. We had a few fun nights where we gathered to play board games, or we went to a nearby restaurant for some non-camp food. In the early-evening when camp started to fill up, mobile phone and data service would quickly diminish.

The thing I liked most about the ride was the diversity of people. There were people of all skill and fitness levels, people from all backgrounds, nationalities, races, and age groups. There were gay, lesbian, straight, HIV-positive and HIV-negative people. I sometimes see these groups co-mingling in Kansas City, but it’s with far less frequency, cohesiveness, and energy toward a common goal. Everyone was so invested in ALC and had a heartfelt story about why they were riding.

Ruby at Shawnee Mission Lake - August 8, 2010
In Memory of Ruby – September 5, 2003 – April 16, 2013

What does one do on a bicycle for 6 to 12-hours a day? ALC bans listening to music via headphones, portable speakers, or mobile devices for safety. Riders are required to ride single-file, except when passing. As a result, you focus on the road, the beautiful sights, smells, and sounds. You do lots of thinking. Many thoughts crossed my mind as I rode:

The thoughts brought tears to my eyes several times during the week.

ALC Candlelight Vigil on Night 6 in Ventura
ALC Candlelight Vigil at Ventura Beach – Day 6

On Day Seven, we rode from Ventura to Los Angeles. It was a relatively easy 60-miles with a few rolling hills and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. The best part of the day was seeing my friends, Mike, Zack, Scott, and Shawn at the finish line. I said goodbye to ALC friends from California, Portland, Denver, Birmingham, Seattle, and even a cyclist from St. Louis.

KC Friends and I at the ALC Finish Line
KC Friends and I at the ALC Finish Line in Los Angeles – Day Seven

In closing, I’ll share a random powerful moment one night at dinner. One night, our team table filled up quickly. I ended up having dinner across from a middle-aged gentleman with disabilities. He had to communicate by typing on an iPad. He had trouble communicating with me and was even having trouble eating. I wish I could have talked with him more and shared how much I admired his will and his passion. I wish I would have hugged him. Tears streamed down my face as I walked back to camp.

I’m so thankful my employer offered this opportunity. A month away from work to do something meaningful to me and thousands of others in California and across the world.

Other Photos from AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC) 2013

In Memory of Ruby, our beautiful black lab: 2003-2013

Ruby at Shawnee Mission Lake - August 8, 2010
September 5, 2003 – April 16, 2013

Ruby was diagnosed with advanced stage osteosarcoma and a bone fracture on April 15, 2013. She’d been suffering from what the vet thought was arthritis and hip dysplasia for about a month. Her suffering ended on April 16, 2013. She’s gone to a happy place in the sky. She is survived by her older sister, Sage; owners’, Mike, Zack, and Garrett; and many close friends and family members. She was loved and will be missed by many.

How many miles will I ride each day of AIDS/LifeCycle 2013

AIDSLifeCycle Route MapThis is one of the more common questions I am asked when I tell people I’m participating in AIDS/LifeCycle 2013. Here’s a recap of the day-by-day miles and start/finish cities.

  • Day 1: 83 miles – Daly City (SF) to Santa Cruz
  • Day 2: 109 miles – Santa Cruz to King City
  • Day 3: 67 miles – King City to Paso Robles
  • Day 4: 98 miles – Paso Robles to Santa Maria
  • Day 5: 42 miles – Santa Maria to Lompoc
  • Day 6: 84 miles – Lompoc to Ventura
  • Day 7: 61 miles – Ventura to Los Angeles

Total miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles: 544

Trip to Los Angeles – February 2013

Garrett and Brendan on Team Cynergy AIDSLifeCycle ride

On Thursday, February 21, I escaped the big snow storm and flew out of Kansas City at 6 am.

The best part of Los Angeles had to be the weather. The second and equally good part was meeting up with Brendan Hooley, one of my team captains. On Saturday, Brendan and I joined Team Cynergy for a ride along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway.

Tweets from the trip