Publishing a second sunrise in as many weeks risks boring regular visitors to this blog. From my perspective, however, each one is entirely unique and I can’t help but run for my camera when I see the light show starting up. Jeanine openly questions my sanity as I leave the house in my bath robe and slippers to stand in the freezing cold snow to capture such moments. Perhaps it is the sheer brevity of the event which compels me to create a permanent record. From start to finish this morning’s color lasted for less than 2 minutes. I took dozens of photos which reveal that the peak color captured here lasted for a span of only ten seconds.
Dinner conversation this evening centered on the future of education and different learning styles. Joining us from Minnesota was my sister-in-law, Marie, in town for the day on business and Nicolai’s friend, Karuna, who arrived bearing baked gifts. Despite our current dieting efforts both Jeanine and I had to sample the yummy chocolate chip cookies which were well worth the caloric set back. Maya is in the middle of mid-year tests with both Math and World Cultures scheduled for tomorrow. She seems confident and well prepared although this has come at the expense of robotics club attendance. I am hoping she returns once her exams are behind her.
FirstLook is a 5 pound throwable robot used to provide immediate situational awareness, perform persistent observation and to investigate confined spaces. Equally tough and cute it is one of my favorite robots. iRobot engineers have now added an infrared camera payload option which enables night vision. Here the software engineer who enabled the new functionality demonstrates for the business unit leadership team.
Maya produces this work of art in her 3D graphics class. She created a 3D model of the snowman and then rendered it with lighting to match the photograph of clouds into which she composited it. Equally impressive is her design for a retractable screen phone of the future. Her grandmother will be proud of her artistic flare and ingenuity.
The art of sharpening a knife on a wet stone is no longer widely practiced in this day and age of specialized gadgets. It remains, however, the most versatile method for putting an edge on any tool made of steel. For my woodworking chisels and planes, I refine edges to a degree I call “scary” sharp. When tuning up Jeanine’s cutlery, I aim for something a little less dangerous, knowing she is prone to using these utensils to trim parts of her own body. Normally this project would take me 30 minutes for a half dozen knives but when I entered my shop, I discovered a leak in the furnace condensate pump drain line which required immediate attention and an hour of my morning. The problem was the result of an improper connection between a plastic hose and the copper drain line made by a lazy installer.
A traditional Native American Vision Quest consists of a person spending one to four days and nights secluded in nature. This provides time for deep communion with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies of creation and self-identity. As part of her Coming of Age journey to develop a personal religious credo, Maya spent a good portion of the day alone in the woods of New Hampshire. Her strategy for staying warm in the sub-freezing conditions included the use of a hammock to keep her off the ground, a sleeping bag to trap her body heat and a tarp to keep the snow off the suspended cocoon. This is the scene encountered by her mentor when he went back to retrieve her. The Coming of Age program concludes when each of the 14 year old participants shares their personal credo in front of the entire congregation of our church. It is invariably the most moving service of the year.
Closer to home, my date for the iRobot Holiday Party was a vision of beauty. Held at the swank Royale in downtown Boston we were treated to fine food, an exceptional band and more dancing than we have done in the last year.
Once in a blue moon we are thrilled to receive photographic evidence that Kyle is alive and well in California. Pictured here with his date at a sorority formal last night, he reports that he is going to spend the weekend in Big Sur. I believe this is his second outing with Into the Wild, Santa Clara University’s outdoor adventure club. I have lived in California on two occasions, once as a graduate student attending Stanford and the other with Jeanine when Kyle was a toddler. In each case, I/we took full advantage of all that California has to offer in the way of natural wonder. At a minimum, I hope that Kyle will find his way to Yosemite before he completes his degree.
On the home front, my nephew Johnie celebrates his 21st birthday today. He is staying with us for a few weeks until his new apartment in Somerville is ready for occupancy. Jeanine and I offered to take him out for dinner but his only request was that I make photo copies of a few sketches he made during grade school.
I start each calendar year with a departmental meeting during which we briefly review prior year accomplishments and present plans for the new one. This year the audience was expanded to include our newly merged engineering and technology teams (~250). Speakers included the General Managers of our three business units and our Chief Technical Officer (my new boss) who laid out our product and technology road maps respectively. Also featured was our first place finishing Robot in Three Days team and their robot, El Toro. I took the photo above from the podium during my opening remarks. Those smiling are familiar with this blog, the remainder now have one more reason to think me strange.
The winter storm foretasted for today produced up to a foot and a half of snow in parts of the state but left others, including Concord, with little more than a couple of inches. I was not at all disappointed to miss another workout with the snow blower, especially in light of the arctic cold air that has temperatures in the single digits. Maya and I enjoyed some father-daughter time this evening as we prepared her for the vision quest she will undertake this weekend as part of her Coming of Age program at church. She will be spending several hours alone in the wilderness and our preparations have ensured she will do so in warmth and style.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning;
Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Due to the rotation of the Earth, storm systems travel from west to east in the mid-latitudes. A reddish sunrise, caused by particles suspended in the air, often foreshadows an approaching storm, which will be arriving from the West, within the day. Conversely, a reddish sunset often indicates that a storm system is on the west side (same side as the sunset), travelling away from the viewer. Maya alerted me to the notable sunrise this morning and sure enough the weather service has predicted a significant winter storm for this evening.
Welcome to the new look for my website. In addition to the new visual style the site has been optimized to run on mobile platforms and on computers of different sizes. On smaller screens, access to the archives will be at the very bottom of the page and on phones you will select titles before images are downloaded to conserve bandwidth. I will be making minor enhancements over the coming days and hope to add an integrated photo gallery in the near future.
It was far too beautiful a day, however, to spend it all doing website redesign and I got out for a few hours to enjoy the fresh snow.
Rarely have I encountered a more cooperative flock of birds. I suspect these pigeons, pictured here on the famous Old North Bridge, have grown accustomed to human presence. Still, it does not explain how they learned to pose in such nice formation. Jeanine and I saw the movie “Her” last night and I am still thinking about it. It is the first non-malevolent depiction of artificial intelligence I am familiar with and left me wondering about a world where computers “evolve” beyond their creators.
The largest snowflakes I have ever seen began floating to the ground this morning. Maya and her friend Maddie needed little encouragement before they were outside trying to catch them on their tongues, dancing, and posing for me. A few minutes later the snowflakes returned to normal proportions so all were happy that they seized the moment.
People often ask when I find the time to keep up with this blog. The answer is simple. I generally wake up at 5AM everyday. Ever since she has gone back to work, Jeanine now often wakes up before I do to check her e-mail or to sleep sitting up in front of her computer :-), hard to tell which really. Finding her in the kitchen, illuminated by the glow from her laptop I was compelled to grab a quick photo this morning.