Motivationally Speaking

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For the first time, I was able to attend one of Nicolai’s motivational speaking engagements this afternoon thanks to iRobot summer hours (we work half days on Fridays). Today he was presenting to about 200 children from the Alcott Elementary School. This is perhaps his 6th engagement and he earns a fairly respectable speaking fee of $400 (not too shabby for a teenager). I was joined by Jeanine and Maya who were also seeing him speak for the first time. I can objectively say that his presentation and message were extremely powerful and moving. A teacher sitting next to me in the back of the auditorium said she had never seen the students so attentive and engaged for any assembly during the entire year.

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Today was also Nico’s last day of high school and it was very poignant to watch him and his friends as the gravity of the milestone set in. It was as if they never imagined what this moment would actually feel like. I dare say the seemed a little melancholic.

Golden Light

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Light from the rising or setting sun is unrivaled in photography. This evening as I left the house for soccer practice (we play under the lights), I had to stop for this photo of our neighbors barn/garage bathed in golden light.

Lunch for 250

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I think it is safe to say that Jeanine enjoys cooking; especially for large groups. I don’t know how many women would be more excited to receive an industrial grade 20 Quart Hobart Mixer than a diamond necklace but I am fairly certain I know which Jeanine would choose. Today she is preparing for the high school’s Teacher Appreciation Lunch (she volunteered to coordinate the meal). The menu for 250 included pulled pork and chicken sandwiches (meat preparation has been underway for several days), barbecue sauce (being mixed above), mac & cheese, with pot luck contributions of salad and dessert. Stellar reviews from the faculty and kitchen staff (invited by Jeanine for the first time ever to join the teachers) made all the effort worthwhile. I don’t say it often enough but I feel very lucky to be married to someone who cares so much about nourishing those she loves and is just as happy to cook for those she may not even know.

Japanese Maple

wpid9607-2013-05-15-055327-017.jpgBoth the wonder of nature and the nature of wonder are sources of great inspiration to me. From these seeds, a magnificent Japanese Maple might one day grow. Every aspect of shape, texture, and structure refined over millions of years to ensure that this tree will not be the last of its kind. I enjoy taking time to appreciate such beauty knowing that these seeds will soon be returned to the earth not having fulfilled their ultimate mission.

Lithium Sale

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After days of rain and overcast skies the weather finally broke today. One would think that I’d have spent the day outdoors enjoying the sunshine. Instead, I used the holiday to catch up on a number of small projects around the house, researching the latest developments in flashlight technology and prepared a couple of my power tools for sale on Craig’s list. The kids (and Jeanine) think I am crazy to spend hours upon hours contemplating a relatively small purchase. What they fail to appreciate is that I am learning a great deal in so doing. In this case, I am now up to speed on the latest developments in LED and lithium battery technology, both extremely relevant to the work I do at iRobot.

Travelling Musician

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My father would have loved the fact that both Kyle and Maya have learned to play the guitar, an instrument into which he poured the passion left over from his dancing. This photos was actually taken yesterday. I returned to Concord last night so that I could be well rested for my soccer game this morning. Because of the holiday weekend we were extremely short handed. I played for 90 minutes straight at the wing midfield position, something I have not done in some time. We emerged victorious with a 3-2 win and in doing so secured first place in our division (with two games still remaining before the playoffs) and guaranteed promotion to Division 1 in the fall.

Maya & Maia

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The similarities between these girls is scary. Their first names are pronounced identically, they share middle names, they are the same age, they are both dark haired beauties, they are both the same height (if Maya stands on her toe tips) they are both 3rd in birth order and their siblings are the same ages. They rarely see each other outside of Ferry Beach weekend but have developed a very deep friendship over the last decade. This evening Jeanine and I enjoyed a delightful dinner with Maia’s parents at their summer home on Crescent Lake, an hour further north. It is not surprising that the parents shared a great deal in common as well. I made a late night return to Concord because of an early soccer match on Sunday while Jeanine spent a solo night in the tent. We ran into Nicolai and his cohort a few times as our paths crossed. Is it just me or does Nicolai always seem to be surrounded by extremely attractive young women?

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Ferry Beach

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One of my favorite things about iRobot is our summer hours policy. Employees may take off Friday afternoons provided they have put in equivalent extra hours during the earlier portion of the week. Today was the first eligible Friday and I put the time to good use getting an early start on our annual Memorial Day weekend retreat to Ferry Beach. Ever since moving to the Boston area almost ten years ago we have joined other families from our church to enjoy a long weekend of fun in a summer camp like setting on the coast of Maine. This year, for the first time, we elected to camp instead of staying in the dormitories thus guaranteeing it would rain every day. Interestingly, I was the sole occupant of our six person tent. Maya elected to share our two person tent with her friend Maia who joined us for the ride up. I offered the girls the big tent but they preferred the coziness of the smaller one. I offered to let them pitch their tent inside of my tent (two would probably fit) but they opted for a site far beyond my earshot. Jeanine, not particularly fond of camping to begin with elected to join us on Saturday and made use of the time to begin preparations for a huge Open Table dinner.

Paris Scrapbook

wpid9546-2013-05-23-223156-008.jpgOne of the more interesting assignments for Maya’s French class involves planning and documenting a hypothetical trip to Paris. This evening she completed a photo scrap book with pictures cut from magazines and pasted to hand decorated pages. Visiting this evening, is Nancy, a class mate of my nephew Johnnie. She was very happy to help Maya with the art project and the two seemed to thoroughly enjoy the project. When I viewed the finished product I found myself wanting to jump on a plane headed for France. After returning from my soccer practice I spent the remainder of the evening organizing my toolbox. The acquisition of one new tool, in this case a screwdriver handle, can initiate hours of re-optimization. Deserving of its own post, this kit of tools packs the most amount of capability into the smallest amount of space.

Forbes Article

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Earlier this week I shared a post regarding iRobot CEO, Colin Angle, who was being photographed for an article in Forbes. Today the on-line version was published and can be found here. It was fun to see the final version of the photograph after witnessing the setup.

Tractor in the Mist

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When I looked out the window this morning and saw our freshly mowed field enveloped in fog I ran for my camera. I have learned that fog can come and go here in a matter of minutes. I captured a few images of the tractor and bin shrouded in the mist but this one with the fog in the background and unmowed grass in the foreground is my favorite.

Studio Makeover

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For years now I have used a small corner of my shop as a photo studio. Today I made short work of a project to increase the utility of the space. First I embedded a strobe and softbox between the joists which will give me an over head lighting option without encroaching on the very limited ceiling height of the basement. I added walls made of wood and painted black, to the back and one side. These will prevent unwanted light reflections, give me a black background option, and provide a substrate to which I can mount or store equipment. I also ran a new electrical circuit to a 6 outlet junction box so I can keep all of my strobes plugged in at the same time thus retiring the overhead extension cord used for this purpose to date. Finally, I added two incandescent light fixtures to give me a warmer light option when needed.

Glacier Rescue

Last summer while Jeanine and I were vacationing in Alaska we aided in the rescue of a porcupine stranded on the Matanuska Glacier. Last week a TV show called Right This Minute contacted me with a request to do a short segment on the rescue. I declined the opportunity for an interview but did provided them with the raw footage I shot. Here is the link to the video.

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Cover Shoot

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iRobot has an outdoor robot testing area adjacent to our main building. It is covered in rocks, rubble, and debris of all manner to simulate conditions we expect to encounter in war zones and disaster sites. Today it was the backdrop for a photo shoot of our CEO. I strolled out to the site during my lunch hour, curious to watch a pro at work. By the time I arrived I had just missed the main setup which featured our CEO standing on a pile of rubble surrounded by a collection of robots. The image being shot above includes a recently announced robot, code named Ava.

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Expert Fisher

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I have never seen a Great Blue Heron go after a fish of this size. With several mouths to feed back at the nest, however, it stands to reason they need to be more ambitious than normal.