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The Case of Bobby’s Missing Shoes

For the first time ever, I have no classes on Friday. This is very exciting, because it essentially makes every weekend a three-day weekend for me. In the event that I don’t take off out of town, I can still spend the day like I did today:

  • Caught up on sleep
  • Finished up homework
  • Helped roommate Spencer with grad-school admission essays
  • Worked with security partner Heather on stack-smashing exploits
  • Planning to go running with roommate Bobby

The last part didn’t work out because Bobby’s shoes have gone missing. Again. If you see them, let us know!

On Holidelay, Part II

As I said earlier, the holidays were a lot of fun for me. Not long after finishing up with my school duties, my brother and sister-in-law flew into town from Michigan, bringing the winter weather with them. The Seattle area had one of its largest snows that I can remember, and my parent’s place got more snow than I have ever seen there before. The evening after the arrival of my brother and his wife, the family, my parents’ neighbor John, and my friend Dennis, headed to Benaroya Hall for a presentation of Handel’s Messiah. This is one of my mom’s favorite pieces of music, and every year she listens to it as she decorates the Christmas tree. Growing up around her, I could not help but become familiar with the music myself. Hearing the music live was great. The acoustics of Benaroya hall really are spectacular — the clarity of the sound particularly impressed me. It was a good time.

With no pressing deadlines and lots of snow, the roommates and I got to hang out a lot. Among other things, we headed to Gasworks park with Theo around midnight one night for some sledding action. While we brought along some cardboard (which, it turns out, is pretty ineffective as a sled), we found a large sheet of plastic along the way. After pulling each other around a bit, we made it to gasworks and managed to all pile onto the sheet of plastic at the same time to sled down the hill. It was great fun.

A couple days later was my family’s Christmas party. My sister’s husband couldn’t make it, so I invited along one of my roommates. Every year my mom buys tickets to a local show, and this year was no different as we ended up watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Issaquah’s Village Theater. The show was excellent, and afterward we returned to my parent’s house for food. However, it was beginning to snow hard at this point, so most of the other guests (my sister’s family and other close family friends) took off. The original plan was to hit up Snowflake Lane at Bellevue Square and see the Bellevue Botanical Garden D’Lights, but the snow canceled these plans so we just ended up eating some delicious cheese fondue and hanging out a bit.

I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas Night at my parent’s place. We lost power for about 10 hours, but fortunately we were able to spend most of that time out and about the town. First, we ate a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner at my cousin’s place, then we headed to Mira’s place where we had our traditional get-together with the Konzens. When we recieved word that power had returned to the house, we returned home and went to sleep. I woke up remarkably early on Christmas day despite a late bedtime; mostly I got breakfast and checked out my stocking while waiting for others to wake up. We then commenced the family tradition of chosing presents for each other. My family was very generous with me — among other things, I recieved a new digital camera (a Canon Digital Elph SD 990 IS), a safe, a pull-up bar, a photo book, and a California shopping spree with my mom. What more could a guy ask for?

On boxing day, I hung out with Scott, Theo, and Courtney because on Sunday (the 28th) the family was heading down to Eugene (from whence I sent greetings earlier) and Scott was leaving before I would return. We ended up eating at Scott’s place and then playing in the snow with a boogie board that worked remarkably well. That night, I headed back to my place in Seattle and had a wonderful night with roommates. Saturday, after a lovely morning, I got together with Scott, Theo, and Maneesh and we hung out until hitting up Kat’s holiday party, and then hanging out with Jon. Sunday, we were driving to Eugene, eating luch with the Woods along the way.

After hanging out with my sister in Eugene, we headed back on the 30th, my brother and sister-in-law took off on the 31st, and then came New Year’s Eve. Maneesh, Jon, Theo, Spencer, Bobby, and others, watched the Fireworks at the Space Needle from the Seattle Center, then headed to Eric’s place to play some Great Dalmuti. I finally got to bed around six AM. It was pretty awesome.

On new year’s day, I enjoyed a Sushi party with the Konzens, and on Saturday, I headed to the FIRST Robotics Competition Remote Kickoff Event at Interlake High School in Bellevue, where the 2009 FRC game was introduced. It is an interesting competition that changes the one of the more fundamental parts of the competition: the entire floor, which has traditionally been carpet, has been replaced by a slippery plastic, and traction can only be provided by teflon-infused wheels. Its pretty crazy, but should be fun to watch. After tossing some ideas around and prototyping them Saturday night, Sunday consisted of playing Diplomacy (my first game, in which I made numerous mistakes) at Ananths before heading to my parents’ place for a dinner party. Of course, it started snowing agian, and thus I managed to get my car stuck up in the mountains, opting instead for a ride back home with friends.

Then school started, and my car is still stuck at my parents’ because, even though the snow is gone, the ground is too wet to drive my poor little car on. Fortunately, I don’t really need a car very often, so my life is mostly not impacted. Tomorrow (or, later today, rather) is the first lab for the robotics capstone that I am TAing. It should be good!

On Holidelay, Part I

Currently, I am sitting in the UW CSE building’s hardware lab, waiting for an email that will inform me that I once again have access to the side-room where the Robotics Capstone labs (which I am TAing) will be held. I was granted access before the quarter started, and my access magically disappeared on Monday, the first day of classes. So while I wait for the bureaucracy to catch up, I thought I would get caught up on my blog.

The holidays were a great time for me. Working as a TA meant that my work was totally done by Monday the 15th of December. When I was working for Microvision, my work load would actually pick up after school ended; this was the first time I’ve been at the UW where I actually had a work break during a school break. It was enormously fun. I got to hang out with roommates, my family (my brother was in town for two weeks), play in the snow, work on my own projects, cause trouble around town with all the friends that were in town, and generally have a great time.

This isn’t to say that I did no work between quarters — as I mentioned before, I signed up to be the TA for the Robotics Capstone course. I took the robotics capstone Spring quarter of last year and enjoyed it, but this capstone is significantly different — instead of autonomous slot cars like I worked on, this capstone is about distributed robotics systems. Instructor James McLurkin, a post-doc from MIT here at the UW, built over 100 small robots that together can execute distributed algorithms in the physical world. Some of their behaviors are quite spetacular — a physical bubble sort, clustering and dispersing, leader election and following, and so on. Watching a demo of the system is a fun and exciting experience. Getting back to the point, in order to be an effective TA for the class, I  “had the opportunity” have put in a lot of work over the break with the robots. Once you get to know your way around them, the robots are pretty easy to program with simple behaviors. The quarter should be fun.

At any rate, the rest of this post will have to come later, because I now have access to the room I previously mentioned.

Happy New Year!

I’ve been up to much. All I need now is time.

Greetings From Eugene

Tonight I am in Eugene with the family at my sister’s place hanging out with her and my nephew. On the ride down we stopped for lunch with family friends in Lacey. I gave my nephew some Calvin and Hobbes books and my old digital camera, a Canon PowerShot S45. The LCD screen is broken, but everything else works so hopefully he’ll find it enjoyable and educational to use. After arriving and exchanging gifts, we headed out to eat at PF Changs for some sustenance. Now we are sitting watching A Thief in Time. Life is good.

Snow Days

Wow, what incredible weather we have had here in the Seattle area over the last week. Power was knocked out at my parents’ place today, but it was restored around 11, so Frankenputen, the computer behind most of silverfir.net, is happy again. Until today, I was mostly slipping and sliding around Seattle either on foot or in car. Long ago, my dad advised me to learn how to drive in snow by spending time in a  snowy parking lot. I took his advice and it has paid dividends in times like this. So far, I have felt reasonably in control of the vehicles I have been driving and never feared for my safety. The most interesting experience was me driving into a curb on NE 50th street to stop before the bottom of a hill where another car was stopped. Other than that, my driving has been completely uneventful, if fun and exciting.

After waking up today I wrapped gifts, delivered my roommates to the Eastside, picked up a package from FedEx in Issaquah, ate an incredible Italian meal at my cousin’s place, munched on more good food in Kirkland while visiting with friends, and enjoyed myself throughly.

Merry Christmas!

Greetings From San Francisco

After what I would call a successful interview at Facebook, I met up with Scott and his roommate at a sushi place in Los Altos. I don’t have a lot of experience with Sushi, but I decided to give it a real shot and enjoyed it a great deal. Scott, meanwhile, was scheming up a last-minute trip to Boston for a friend’s birthday party. I ended up dropping him off at SFO before returning to his place to crash for the night.

The cold ended up waking me up this morning before my alarm, so I enjoyed a luxurious shower before heading north to Burlingame to meet with the Cloudera folks. What was originally slated to be a short morning turned into an all-day affair with me using their internet to finish up and turn in my team’s Hadoop assignment (which Vince went way overboard with, in a good way — examples will be forthcoming) between interviews with three of the four company founders. I had met previously with the fourth founder (or perhaps the first founder) in Seattle.

After leaving Cloudera, I travelled north to San Francisco in pretty ugly traffic, where I met with Martin. We caught up on recent life events and ended up eating at a quirky little restaurant called “Wierd Fish,” which is really a misnomer because the food was all excellent, well-priced, and really, not that weird. After food we considered a photography trip, but ended up instead meeting up with former classmates Sierra and Justin at a local bar.

At this point, I’ve been up since 6:40 am, so I think its a good time to consider sleep.