I left California at 6:30am and arrived at Logan at 5:30pm, not the best way to spend a day. My flight connected through Phoenix and flew over the Great Sand Dunes National Park which the pilot called to our attention. Naturally it was only visible from the other side of the plane. My disappointment of missing that photo was somewhat offset by this shot of Castle Island and Fort Independence which I took on our approach into Logan.
A suggestion from a colleague had me hiking the Sycamore Crest Trail overlooking Avila Beach after work today. With the sun still above the horizon after 8pm, I had plenty of time to reach the peak of this trail which affords expansive views of the California coast and foothills. It was a nice way to end an otherwise stressful day.
Work took me to San Luis Obispo this morning and as is often the case when flying cross country I noticed some very interesting features on the ground. My only theory on these multi-colored pools is that they are being used to grow algae or bacteria from which dyes are made. If anyone knows the answer to this mystery I would love to hear from you. UPDATE: A follower of this blog at work assigned solving this mystery to the iRobot intern pool in his regular Pop Quiz series. These are actually evaporation ponds at a potash mining facility near Moab, Utah. Potash is, essentially, a generic name for several different potassium-laden salts. It’s most commonly used as an ingredient in fertilizer, as potassium (along with nitrogen and phosphorous) is one of the three key nutrients plants need to grow. The second image, I am fairly sure, is of three solar farms used to generate electricity by reflecting sunlight off an array of thousands of mirrors to a centrally located collection tower. Looking out the window for these sorts of things makes a long flight pass quickly.
After work I drove 15 minutes up the coast to Morro Bay where I have come frequently in the past to photograph Morro Rock. One of nine volcanic plugs in the immediate vicinity it is sometimes called the “Gibraltor of the Pacific” and stands 581-foot above the ocean which surrounds it except for a causeway connecting it to the shore. A volcanic plug is created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano. Erosion over millennium can lead to exposure of the plug as the softer surrounding rock is removed. It was named El Morro, meaning Crown, by the Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542. Visitors who take the time to investigate the base will no doubt encounter a virtual army of ground squirrels who live among the rocks.
Farm & Wilderness Camp has no electricity. The cabins are more roof than walls and there is a strict “no candy” policy. Rather than sending his sister a letter, Kyle will be adding a small stuffed animal to the care package Jeanine is preparing. He has carefully opened a seem and removed some of the original stuffing and replaced it with Skittles, a favorite of Maya’s. He plans to send her a coded message informing her of the treat within. I am very impressed by this act of brotherly love and I hope Maya appreciates the gesture.
I will be travelling to California on business and will probably not post again until Thursday.
I took a break from work on the deck to capture this photo of a dragonfly who seemed very enamored with the ends of freshly cut composite post sleeves (used for the railings). He was so engrossed that I was able to approach to within a few inches for the shot. I took a much longer break at noon to attend the iRobot summer picnic at Kimball Farms, one of our favorite family outing destinations. Earlier in the week I had been asked to captain one of the volleyball teams that would vie for the coveted iRobot Cup in tournament play. Unfortunately team member assignments were random and I did not get to play on the same team with Nicolai. My attempt to influence the officials with a $100 bribe proved fruitless. Instead, I was forced to face Nicolai and his team in the final match. His team won the cup and my team had to settle for second place. I am hoping someone at the picnic took photos of the volleyball action and will add to the post if I can obtain one.
Normally I try to take advantage of iRobot’s summer half day Friday benefit but today had too much work on my plate to leave early. Light rain when I did return made it difficult to lay the final deck boards which I was determined to do this evening. Eventually I managed to complete the work and was very pleased with the results. We received a wonderful letter from Maya who seems to have lucked into a great set of bunk mates, wonderful cabin, and got her first choice of activities which includes a 30 mile, multi-day canoe/camping trip and assignment to a construction team that will be completing several new structures over the next few weeks. As the sun was setting the sky took on some very unusual colors so I went out on the newly completed deck and snapped this shot. I am trying to decide if I should fabricate one of the railing posts into a surrogate tripod platform given how often I shoot images from this location. I will have to think of a way to do this in a way which can be converted back to a normal configuration so as not to impact resale value.
Every now and then the landlord of iRobot’s Bedford facility sponsors a free ice cream social. Needless to say, I found time in my otherwise very busy day to build a delicious ice cream sundae and visit with colleagues. In general, it is very easy to ply engineers with food so I consider this to be a very effective tenant appreciation gesture.
My nephew John has spent part of the summer living with us and we are thrilled to have him. He is preparing to spend a term abroad in the fall and will stay for one month in each of Russia, India and China. He needed a passport style photo for one of his travel documents so we grabbed this shot last night.
In February I had dinner with Cathleen Asch, my former partner and co-founder of Truevision and Jim Dadmun, formerly the President and CEO of Techex, Truevision’s international distributor. Cathleen had just landed a short term CFO gig for a local company. Her assignment is winding down now and she organized another dinner get together, this time at the Macaroni Grill in Burlington. Once again it was wonderful to catch up on old times. Our conversation was largely focused on travel and international politics. Jim recounted his exploits during the fall of the Berlin Wall, sneaking across the border to drink with a group of East Germans and the complications of trying to return the next day without the proper travel documents. Cathleen shared details of her recent trip to Russian Georgia and I about my exploits on Mount Fuji and plans for Nepal. Although we missed the window to organize a Truevision 25 year reunion I am hoping we can start planning now for one next year.
I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my 33 year career in the high tech industry (even my last few months at Sonos while clashing with its CEO). Even so, my experience at Truevision stands above all the rest. As Cathleen and I discussed this shared feeling, we agreed that it was our naivety about running a company that contributed to the amazing culture we were able to foster. We were motivated by a desire to revolutionize the then analog world of film and video through the introduction of digital imaging rather than the goal of maximizing profits and grooming our finances for an IPO. The Truevision board had no venture capitalists. We were simply a group of intrepid adventurers looking to redefine an industry. What a grand journey we enjoyed as we pursued that vision.
I am almost ready to move on to installation of the railing for the deck project. There remains, however, one more decking board to lay. Unlike all the other boards which are 5.25 inches wide, this one must be 8.5 inches wide to fill the remaining space perfectly and to create the right amount of overhang for the top stair. Conceptually the solution is simple. Rip two boards down to 4.25 inches wide and glue them together. In practice, however, this is not such an easy thing to do when dealing with a board that is 20 feet long and limp as a noodle over that distance. Normally one rips a board on a table saw. Mine is located in my basement shop and I do not have space for the 20 foot in feed and 20 foot out feed that would be necessary. Rather than taking the board to the tool, the solution is to take the tool to the board. In order to get the accuracy I want using a my hand held circular saw I spent an hour this evening constructing a jig to assist me. The jig is essentially a sled with guides on the bottom which slides over the top of the board holding the circular saw in exactly the right position to give me a correctly spaced and perfectly parallel cut.
I made an early morning run to the airport for Rory and made it back to Concord in time for an 8am soccer practice where I was joined by Nicolai and Johnie. I have not practiced in almost a month which has given my various injuries time to heal but left me distinctly out of shape. After scoring a rather nice header in the opening minutes of play my performance for the rest of the practice was rather lack luster. I returned home just in time to say goodbye to Maya who is leaving for Farm & Wilderness camp. She will spend the next three weeks in the Vermont woods continuing to learn about harmony with nature and reliance on herself. Jeanine made the 6 hour round trip while I worked with Kyle, Nico and John to essentially complete laying the deck. One board remains to be placed but it requires a custom width and I need to build a jig to make the cut accurately.
My objective for the day was to finish the stairs to the deck from our back yard. Oppressive heat throughout the day did not make the task any easier. Neither did the fact that the lumber yard was one stringer shy of my needs requiring that I fabricate the final one myself. Despite my slow pace I was pleased with the outcome.
My sister Alissa’s son, John, arrived this evening just in time for dinner and an evening ice cream run to Bedford Farms. I spent the afternoon working on the deck which is taking shape nicely. The bulk of my effort today was correcting poor workmanship by the crew that initially installed it. The header which supports all the joists is composed of a lamination of two 2x14s (pressure treated) and two 3/4 inch fascia boards (pine). A 4-1/2 inch wide 30 foot long beam if you will. Ideally the tops of these four boards want to be flush so that the decking that will rest on top sits level and even with the rest of the deck. It took three hours with a hand plane to achieve the needed result. By the time I was finished I could scarcely move my hands and wrists but did manage to eat my cup of ice cream unassisted.
Kyle interviewed and was hired for a well paying accounting internship here in Concord. We are thrilled as this will keep him home for the bulk of the summer rather than returning early to California as was his plan.
Last night my nephew, Rory, called to ask if he could visit for a few days. Such questions are never required of family or friends and we were thrilled when he arrived early this morning from his home in the Minneapolis area. Rory is a highly accomplished tennis player but showed up without his racket for fear of having to face his uncle on the court. He was so flustered, in fact, probably at the thought of me rushing the net, that he missed a spot while shaving. It took little time before the cousins were comparing feats of strength or in this case filthy feet. Nicolai seems much taller only because he is closer to the camera as both boys are about the same height.
At Kyle’s request we went out for an early morning paddle on the Concord River. It is hard to believe but this was my first kayak outing of the season and it was great to be on the water again. Although he has had little kayaking experience, Kyle was looking like a pro by the time we finished our one hour tour. We put in at Egg Rock and explored both up and down stream.
It is rare these days when all three kids are in the same place at the same time. Realizing this as we sat down for dinner together I coerced them into posing for a photo. Although I take more than the average share of photos of the family, I find that I have very few groupings that include either all of us or all of the kids or a kid and a parent. No doubt that they will one day cherish their solo portraits. That said, I think the group shots will be of even greater emotional significance to them.