I worked for a half day today before Jeanine, Kyle, Maya and I departed for NYC to visit my mother who is living with her sister and brother-in-law in Douglaston. Nicolai has a soccer match tomorrow and is not able to join us. We made the journey in less than four hours encountering very little traffic considering the holiday weekend. My aunt and uncle have a magnificent home which overlooks Little Neck Bay and is just steps away from the dock from which we are shuttled to their sailboat. Not long after arriving my Uncle Bob had us on the water with Kyle at the helm and Maya helping with the jib lines. A constant strong breeze, ideal temperatures, and a full-moon provided the perfect ingredients for an evening sail. Pictured below is the Throgs Neck Bridge with the Whitestone Bridge in the background. When we returned, my mother and her sister, Maruja, had prepared a lovely dinner over which we had an opportunity to catch up on family news.
On my commute to work this morning I paused for a few photos of a field full of sunflowers about a half mile from our house. I believe these are being grown by Verrill Farm, our local source of fresh vegetables. I really need to return with a tall ladder to get the shot I would like to have of this field. I will need to do so before the crop is harvested. I remember last year having a similar idea only to find the entire crop gone in one day.
When I first arrived at iRobot my team was primarily involved with robots used for floor care (fantastic products, but not really all that glamorous). Pictured here, charging her batteries, is a new iRobot product for the tele-medicine market developed in partnership with InTouch Health. This autonomous robot can navigate its way, unassisted, around a hospital, allowing a distant medical specialist to make rounds, meet with, and examine patients from a remote location. It is one of the first products developed entirely on my watch and I am very proud of the team who worked tirelessly to complete this incredibly sophisticated design on an insanely short schedule. Code named Ava, she is certainly one sexy android.
Ava is pictured in front of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) wall of fame. Employees who support STEM initiatives in the community earn a “gear” with their name on it to celebrate their contribution to building awareness and interest in STEM education among young people. I earned a gear for my work with CCHS but it is outside of the frame.
Nicolai and Sarah Welch have been dating for the last month or so. She joined the family for dinner the night before last and I deemed that enough time had passed to require an official portrait of the two together. The pair were a breeze to pose and I only needed a few attempts to settle on this keeper.
Richard White loved to experience wild and beautiful places. At age 49, he had recently left Ferring Pharmaceuticals after a 12 year career with them, most recently as the Director of Exploratory Pharmacology, and was looking for a new job where he could pursue drug discovery and medical innovation for rare and neglected diseases. White earned his PhD in Zoology/Endocrinology from the University of Texas at Austin and went on to post doctoral research positions at the University of Manchester in London and Stanford University (my alma matter). He was married to German born Silke White, owner of Silke Smiles, a dental arts and technology boutique and was father to 21-month old Mona.
Last week White was making a repeat visit to Denali National Park for a planned 5-day solo back country trek. He enjoyed photography and spent the last 8 minutes of his life capturing 26 images of a 600 pound male grizzly bear on a gravel bar of the Toklat River some three miles south of the rest stop (pictured above) used by park buses to transport visitors into the park’s interior. The first photo was taken from a distance of 75 yards and the last from a distance of 60 yards as White approached the bear. In the last five frames, taken over 13 seconds, the bear stops foraging on berries, takes notice of White, and begins to approach him in what has been described as a non aggressive manner. What happened next has yet to be determined exactly. What is known is that Dr. White was mauled to death by the bear which was killed the next day by a state trouper after confirming its identity from the photos and having discovered it still guarding and feeding on the body. News of this gruesome event certainly caught my attention having stood on the banks of the same river with Jeanine exactly three weeks prior to the incident. Park biologists report that 12 grizzly bears have been living near this section of the Toklat this summer putting the odds at 1 in 12 that the bear pictured below was the killer. I took this photo from a park bus through an open window in the immediate vicinity of the attack.
Did Mr. White run from the bear as it began to approach triggering its chase-prey response? Did the bear feel that it’s feeding area was being encroached upon? Were there other grizzlies in the immediate vicinity heightening the bear’s sense of territoriality? These questions may never be answered. What is clear is that Richard White made a series of decisions that contributed to his death. He entered known grizzly habitat alone and without bear spray. He elected to take photographs for several minutes rather than retreating from the feeding bear as his mandatory back country safety briefing advised. He has become the first bear fatality in the entire recorded history of the Denali National Park and his story will no doubt strike fear in the hearts of millions rather than building respect for one of nature’s magnificent creatures.
My heart aches for his wife and daughter and I find myself deeply saddened by the death of a man I did not know, perhaps because we are of a similar age and shared many interests. While his death was untimely and tragic, I believe he departed this world doing what he loved in a place he loved. When my time comes, I hope the same can be said of me. I would rather die in mortal combat with a bear than in a traffic accident with a drunk driver or in a hospital bed in a state of decrepitude.
For the record, I carry bear spray in a chest harness (aiding rapid deployment) whenever in bear country. Had I been in Richard White’s shoes I would have likely remained to take photos and moved closer as well. Had the bear noticed and begun approaching me, I would have backed away slowly, calmly talking to the bear (“Hey bear, hey bear”) while releasing the safety on my pepper spray and making ready to fire it if required. While I do take some chances in my desire for adventure and compelling photographs, I try to balance this risk with precautionary measures and knowledge of what I am doing.
Pictured below is my closest encounter with a grizzly while in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. I would estimate the distance to be about 10 feet, fifteen times closer than White was. The difference is that I was part of a large group (there is no record ever of a grizzly attack on a group of three or more people) led by an experienced guide and the bear was part of a large community of well nourished bears which has been habituated to close human presence over many years, viewing us as neither a threat nor food source.
Nothing tastes better than food you have grown, eaten on the day it was harvested. Jeanine spent several hours tending to her gardens this morning. In addition to removing a mountain of weeds she gathered a bowl full of delicious raspberries, several of which now happily reside in my belly.
I spent the morning on the soccer pitch in the first game of the fall season. Having gained promotion last spring, this was our first match in Division 1 and as luck would have it we faced the first place finishing team from last season. To make matters worse we were missing four of our starting players, two to injuries and two to business travel. With the odds stacked against us the squad was very pleased to produce a 1-1 tie. Despite this positive result, I was very unhappy with my game. I simply felt tired the entire time I was on the field. Fortunately I did not sustain any injuries nor make any mistakes of consequence. With two weeks until our next match I need to up my cardio and drop a few pounds.
Nicolai learned today that he has been selected as a member of the Concord Carlisle Men’s Varsity Soccer Team. It would be fair to say that he has worked toward this goal since he started playing soccer at age five. Under the leadership of Head Coach Ray Pavlik, the team has a record of 148-43-22, winning 4 DCL championships, 5 MIAA Division 2 North Championships, and 3 MIAA Division 2 State Championships (including 2 in the last 3 years). If the coach did not believe that Nico would be competitive with the best players in the state he would not have been invited to join the squad. Due to the significant time commitment, Nicolai tendered his two week notice at Verrill Farm where he has enjoyed working for the summer and has developed great customer interaction skills.
I spent the morning with Kyle as he received a therapeutic sports massage from a guy who has helped me in the past. It has been almost two years since he sustained a severe groin muscle injury while show boarding and he still has not recovered sufficiently to return to sports. For someone as athletic as Kyle this has been a terrible price to pay and we are exploring new doctors and approaches to treat his injury. During the afternoon Jeanine and I went for a nice 2.5 mlie walk, starting from downtown Concord and out to the Old North Bridge. On our return, she showed me a short cut through a tiny sliver of a park (pictured) that I did not even know existed before. We dined at the Main Street Cafe to conclude our date.
Jeanine purchased a new pair of point shoes for Maya to replace the set she has outgrown/worn out. Maya will enter the fall season studying dance four times a week in addition to playing soccer three times a week.
She was happy to give her new shoes a test drive on the kitchen floor and the family was happy to watch her.
Nicolai feared that he had lost all his photographs from his recent visit to Nicaragua while transferring files to an external hard disk drive. I was able to recover all the photos from his original media card and had a chance to experience his adventure virtually. Many of his shots were of the typical travel variety. He also took a great number of portraits of his friends, many of which were excellent. Today’s journal entry features three of Nicolai’s photos which fall into the artistic category. I am constantly amazed by his innate sense of composition, color, and balance. Click on each image for a higher resolution version.
Before my return flight to Boston I had an opportunity to take another long walk (4 miles) with a colleague who had a particularly good eye for spotting tiny creatures.
Easily the most exciting insect pictures I have ever taken are of this epic battle between a Praying (Preying would be more appropriate) Mantis and a Yellow-jacket. The mantis appears to attract the bee by presenting its wings in a flower like configuration. As soon as the bee approaches the mantis snatches it with its barbed forearms and begins eating its head. The Yellow-jacket fights back and eventually frees itself. It is hard to tell from the angle of the photo but it appears to me that a portion of the mantis head is missing (click on the third photo and then click again). I am wondering if he is a survivor of a mating encounter in which his mate started to eat him. In laboratory settings, females routinely start eating their delirious partner’s head, presumably to ensure that the sex act is completed and to gain nourishment. Some scientists believe this behavior only occurs when the female is stressed and is not seen in the wild. Either way, I plan to suppress any romantic notions I may have when I reunite with Jeanine later this evening.
After concluding a day full of business meetings I found time for a six mile walk through Pasadena before dinner. It was very hot and I returned to my hotel dripping wet. I visited the Pasadena Memorial Park, City Hall for a second time, the Gamble House, the Rose Bowl Stadium, and Brookside Park. Many of the homes along Rosemont Avenue were spectacular, in distinct contrast to the homeless encampments just minutes away underneath the labyrinth of freeway overpasses.
The Gamble House is an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. The house and furnishings were designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company. The house, a National Historic Landmark, is owned by the city. Regrettably, a dinner engagement did not leave me enough time to tour the home.
Brad Whitford, the actor who played the character of Josh Lyman in the West Wing, and his wife were on the same flight with me to Burbank, California today. Although we were seated near each other and stood side by side while waiting for our baggage, I decided not to invade his privacy by taking a photo or starting a conversation even though I really admire his work.
I will be spending the bulk of the week in Pasadena on iRobot business and took an opportunity as the sun was setting to photograph the Pasadena City Hall. This location is popular with wedding photographers and I encountered no less than four couples posing. I was careful not to interfere with their shots as I photographed the inner courtyard. I wish I could say the same for the “professional” photographers who had no hesitation moving into my sight lines.
We have thoroughly enjoyed having my nephew John live with us while he was completing a summer internship in Boston. One never knows in advance how a new member of the household will influence family dynamics. John not only fit in but he enhanced the quality of our summer. He was a thoughtful house guest who took every opportunity to engage with all of his cousins as well as both Jeanine and I (he frequently joined me for soccer practices). Jeanine loved having someone who did not take her cooking for granted and was thrilled with his reaction every time she prepared something new (which is basically every day). Later this week John will be returning home for a few days before his next term at Babson begins. We all went out for an Italian dinner to celebrate his visit with us and hope he will seek out another internship in Boston next summer.
Nicolai, Maya and I spent a few hours at the Natick Mall this morning shooting video segments for a project Nico is working on for SideStix. The series will demonstrate basic forearm crutching techniques (walking, opening and passing through a door, using an escalator, negotiating a revolving door). Many things we take for granted are much more difficult when using crutches. In addition to teaching these basic techniques, Nico will mix in some humor and endorsements for SideStix. We managed to locate an exit only door with no exterior means for opening it. We came up with a pretty funny sequence using this prop. Maya, our grip, also made several really good suggestions for vignettes to shoot and camera angles. Despite getting politely ejected from two malls (they don’t permit videotaping) we had a great time and enjoyed a celebratory lunch at Panera’s Bread after we got the last take. I will post the final videos when Nicolai has completed the editing work.
At the request of the manager of iRobot’s Digital Electrical Engineering group I shot a series of individual head shots and this group photo. I was uncharacteristically unprepared having just come from a prior meeting. It took forever to dial in the flash exposure I wanted and then the batteries in two of three flash heads died mid session. Fortunately everyone was patient and we managed to get the set of desired images. In the future I must remember to always scout my location and establish my lighting before the subject(s) arrive.
Maya has been attending soccer camp this week with friends Sarrinagh and Fiona who joined her this evening to bake a soccer themed cake to be consumed by the hoards tomorrow. From the sample I eventually obtained, I can attest that this was indeed a gold medal cake. Nala was a stand in for Maya who did not want to be photographed. I suspect the girls employed some cake batter to solicit her noble, if incorrectly oriented, pose.