Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Eve

For Christmas Eve, Jon and I ordered a Credit-Card-Rewards-Points-Gift-Card to a fancy steakhouse and went out to dinner for cheap-as-free! It was absolutely incredible. I had scallops and Jon had a Wagyu ribeye steak. Also we shared a lobster mac-and-cheese. There was nothing that was not amazing. You know how for a lot of meals you have one main thing and then a bunch of filler? There was no filler here. Everything was seasoned in interesting and tasty ways, which made me want to be more creative with seasonings myself. AWESOME. 

Also, apparently this restaurant, which averages 250 people per day/night, had FOUR HUNDRED people for Christmas Eve. This was evidenced by the fact that our reservation time was 10pm.

  



Friday, December 7, 2012

surprise parties

When I was at BYU, I lived in an apartment with three other girls for more than half of my time in Provo. (I had other great roommates, too, but these three win for longevity.) Two of them, Becca and Danielle, are from CA and live here locally now again. They grew up together and their birthdays are only about five weeks apart, so they would always throw parties for each other.

In our group of four at BYU, everyone got to join in. For some reason, we made sure every party was a surprise. As you can imagine, we had to get pretty creative on that "surprise" part ... I mean, when you get a surprise party EVERY year, and most years it's on your actual birthday, you've got to be the most suspicious person in the world for that one day.

Well, now three of us live in the same area. We haven't done so much on the party front lately, but we decided to step it up a little this year. We had a surprise dinner/free massage for one of them, in October, and then planned a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure scrapbook night for the other's birthday, which was in November. We had planned to Skype in our fourth roommate, Val, but then she had the brilliant idea to fly in, instead :) I picked her up from the airport the day of the party and she answered the door when the other roommates arrived. It was a great moment. (And one of them announced a pregnancy at the party, which was even more fun.) We had pizza and High-in-the-Skies (from the Skyroom at BYU), scrapbooked, and watched "The Hunger Games." The girls' husbands took full responsibility for the kids, got subs for their church callings, and packed overnight bags for them so Becca and Danielle could stay the night, and then we all went to church the next morning.





Over the next couple of days, we had some great meals and took pictures and hung around and talked. We missed my cousin Charles (aka Val's husband), but it was fun to have everyone else there. It was a great reunion, and a pretty darn good surprise. :)







Thursday, November 29, 2012

books

My former roommate has a cute little daughter named Dawna, and a couple weeks ago we made some books together. We each wrote the text for a little book, and then we traded and illustrated each other's stories. Her pictures smoked mine. Anyway, I told her I would post our books, so here they are!

First, the two brilliant authors/illustrators:



Her words:








My words:











Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I love my job...no seriously, I really love my job.

Disclaimer

I've gone back and forth about whether I should write this blog post or not.  I know these are difficult economic times and that people are lucky to have any job at all, especially one that allows them to support a family.  I'd like to add a disclaimer that it's not my intent to come off as being conceited.  I just want to use this blog as a forum to express how supremely blessed I feel to have this job.

My Job

When people ask what I do, I usually tell them that I have the coolest job in the world.  Most people give me a smile that seems to say, "uh huh, sure you do."  To which I respond, "no really, I do."  I work for a company that is basically building an Iron Man suit for people who are paralyzed to help them stand up and walk.  

I work for Ekso Bionics.  Even if I don't have the undisputedly coolest job in the world, I can probably say this is about as close to my dream job as I can imagine.  The company started as a research project at UC Berkeley.  Their first product was the HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) a robotic exoskeleton that allows soldiers to carry more weight safely.  This is a big deal.  If I remember the statistic correctly, more than half of all injuries to infantry soldiers are some sort of lower back injuries that are probably a result of the weight they carry.

The product I've been most closely involved with lately is Ekso.  This is a robotic exoskeleton (think Iron Man suit) that lets people who are paralyzed put it on, stand up, and walk around.  As a mechanical engineer, I get to help with the design of pretty much every component that isn't a circuit board.  I don't want to overstate my importance.  There are many people who work on it.  I'm one of six different mechanical engineers and we also have electrical engineers, software engineers and manufacturing engineers.  It's still really cool to see a design I've come up with appear on a device as awesome as this.

I feel so lucky to have a job where I not only get to do amazing things (see above), but that really is making a difference in the world.  I remember one night I was working late with another engineer (my manager) on a difficult problem.  We were both tired and a little frustrated.  Then my manager pointed to our test area.  There, a person was getting their chance to use Ekso for the first time.  We got to watch as a person who had not stood for more than 10 years was able to get up, walk a few steps, and give his wife a hug.  Needless to say, the frustration was gone and everything was put into perspective.

When people would ask why I decided to do engineering, I would often mention that not only do I like figuring out how things work and how to solve problems, but that I also wanted to make a difference in the world.  As cheesy as it sounds, I wanted to tackle the big problems that are facing the world.  With this company, I feel like I get to do that.

Now don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of long, frustrating problems.  There are certain aspects of the job that I wish I didn't have to deal with.  The job isn't perfect, but it's close enough for now.

Here are some videos of our device in action:



Here is a video showing some upgrades we made to the device.  I was in charge of designing the little control pad that attaches to the crutches or walker and allows the user to control their steps.



And for those of you who are interested, Nova Science Now will have an episode that includes a piece about our company.  It airs Wednesday night on PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/what-future-be-like.html

Friday, November 9, 2012

the compound to-do list item

Sometimes there is SO MUCH TO DO. I've discovered one of my less favorite things is the Compound To-Do List Item. This is that thing that's on your to-do list, but once you start working on it you realize there are actually like four things that you have to do in preparation to do that thing, before you can do it and get it checked off. (This is the worst when it's something dinky like "Email So-and-So.")

Or, you know that going in, so it makes you just avoid that one altogether. So then it looks dumb that you have everything checked off except "Email So-and-So." Like, you didn't have time to send an email?

Or, that thing means "actually, do twelve things," like how "clean the kitchen" might be better written as "cut up vegetables so there is more room in the fridge; organize the shelves in the fridge where the vegetables used to be; wipe down the stove; clean the counters; do the dishes (empty the dishwasher, refill the dishwasher, soak the dishes there weren't room for in the sink earlier); sweep the kitchen; clean off the kitchen table; go through that one box; etc."

Yeah, that's all.

Oh, except to say that Jon did the laundry and cleaned most of the kitchen tonight (see: list). That was awesome.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Abe and Ariel (or Who Says Halloween is Just for Kids?)


We just finished up the Halloween festivities for this year.  First up was the ward trunk or treat the Saturday before Halloween.  We don't have kids, but we still participated.  For those of you who don't know what a Trunk or Treat is, basically a group of people (in this case our church congregation), get together in a parking lot somewhere.  Rather than having kids go from house to house Trick or Treating, they go from car to car Trunk or Treating.  People decorate their cars, dress up and hand out candy.  We were going to decorate Brooke's car as a pumpkin (since it's orange), but the wind kept blowing the stem off the top.

I went as a boring engineer (i.e. myself), but Brooke decided to go as a mermaid:


We gave out awesome treats if I do say so myself (butterfingers, airheads, baby ruths and crunch bars).

She did the awesome makeup job herself.

Later, on Halloween itself, I decided to put the beard I'd been lazily growing to good use.  We brought back my costume from a couple years ago... Abe Lincoln.  I went to work dressed as Abe, and I was probably the second best costume there (Sam dressed as Edward Scissor-hands probably beat me out for the #1 costume).



We were going to have some friends over on Halloween night to watch a movie, but none of them could make it, so instead Abe took his wife out to dinner and then we watched a movie together.

Basically, we had a pretty awesome Halloween.


Friday, October 12, 2012

in which we are severely outnumbered

Last year, our friends Amanda and Chris invited us to go to a benefit concert with them at the Oracle Arena. (The benefit was for Family Bridges, a program in Oakland's Chinatown that provides bilingual health and social services to low-income seniors and immigrants. One of the singers lived in Oakland for a long time.) They had gotten the tickets through Chris' job, and we thought it sounded fun, especially because we don't get to see Amanda and Chris very often. The tickets said the concert would be given by George Lam and Hacken Lee, whose names we didn't recognize, so we just dressed nice and showed up.

The four of us may have been the only people in the whole arena who didn't speak Cantonese. It was hardcore. We had a great time, especially once the guys (who are, I think, giant Cantopop stars in Hong Kong) started singing American songs from the 90's, only in Cantonese. It was the most amazing kind of concert. I don't have any pictures of us with Amanda and Chris from that night, so you will have to be content with videos from the concert. They're balm to all but the most hardened souls. I encourage you to go with the full-screen version.

First, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (Starship-turned-Cantopop). Wikipedia calls the English lyrics "banal yet effective." This version, my non-Chinese-speaking friends, is neither. (The rest of you can make your own judgments.)

video

Next up, a little Madonna! This rendition of "Material Girl" features some truly stunning dancers. I also love that George Lam just wore a T-shirt and jeans. (Hacken Lee was a little flashier.)

video


And what concert would be complete without Gloria Estefan? (I make a cameo in this one.)

video


Last, they did do a song or two in English. Luckily for me, one of them was this childhood favorite, Linda Ronstadt's "Devoted to You."

*Allow me a moment to reminisce: One night during a family reunion at the beach, we were in a drugstore in town. While waiting for the adults to make their purchases, I perused the dirt-cheap-book bin. In the course of my digging, I read the back of the book "Jaws" (a movie which I had not seen and a story with which I was unfamiliar). For the rest of the night, the shark attack story grew in my mind until I was almost afraid to sleep in my beach-house bed, even though logically I knew that a shark would be hard-pressed to chew me up while I was behind locked doors, hundreds of yards from the water. Over the course of that evening, I listened to Linda Ronstadt's "Dedicated to the One I Love" lullaby album to distract myself. As a result, today I associate every song from that album with shark attacks. I hope this video is now extra enjoyable to you.

video


Thanks, Amanda and Chris!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

this is why I moved to California

OK, among other reasons - but when people used to ask me why I was moving to California (when I moved here, I didn't have a CA job or school or anything, so I needed a good for-all-seasons answer), I always said "beaches, yo." (and palm trees.) My Bay Area friends all warned me that the beaches here were cold, but whatev. I could handle cold water. I had been to the beach in South Carolina a million times, and sometimes there are days there where things are a little chilly.

Heh. Yeah, totally didn't realize that we were using different definitions of "cold." As a result, I haven't really spent a ton of time at the beach here (I prefer water that doesn't make you sting, ache, and then go numb), but recently we had a special run of days that were hot enough inland that it was in the 80's at the beach and downtown SF! (Summer in the Bay is September/October, and downtown SF/the beaches are usually 55-65 all year round except for those weeks.) Jon surprised me by taking off work for one of those days and we went to Baker Beach in SF. It was pretty quiet, people-wise, and the water temperature was actually doable.




 Jon and I (who are both very white and ALSO very attractive) took turns walking down the beach to explore the rock cliffs you can see in the pictures. There are cool stairways down from a lot of the houses up there. The other person babysat our cooler and stuff, and read books and exfoliated with sand. (OK, those last couple were just me.)

 I am still terrible at formatting the pictures on Blogger, FYI.












Photographic evidence that I got in the SF water.
This attack wave ended that time in the water.


Palm trees! Random text in random places!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

piano lessons

I really love teaching piano. It's one of those things where the drive sounds long every time I have to head out the door (I teach in a city about 30 minutes away in good traffic), but the lessons themselves are always exhilarating enough that I can usually remind myself that it's going to be fun when it's time to leave and not hate it. E especially hasn't practiced much lately, so I am trying to come up with small ways she can use to progress a lot in a little bit of time. She still enjoys it, she's just overbooked with homework and other extracurricular activities. Her brother J (who just started playing this summer) is doing quite well - he never has any confidence in how he's doing (at least, he makes a lot of self-depracating comments ... whether he really feels that self-conscious, I don't know), but he has a knack for it. Their mom thinks that E is more of a natural (at music) of the two of them, but honestly, if they keep up the rate at which they're each moving right now, I'll bet he could catch up to her within a year, 18 months tops. 

R usually has spurts where he progresses very quickly and well, and then he tapers off for a little while, until I mention something (or his mom notices) and then his mom amps up the practice support and the cycle goes again. He really enjoys it when he can see his success, but it's kind of a cycle - if he's not practicing much, he doesn't improve much, and then he gets bored and doesn't like practicing. His parents are very enthusiastic about everything their kids do, though, and they particularly think he has musical talent and love to see his progress. Apparently he took trumpet lessons a few years ago but didn't really like it, so he quit, but they aren't letting him quit piano because they think he's doing well and that it will be good for him to see it through. (Gotta say, I agree.)

It's so fun to drive them to do the best they can but still be the cool teacher who doesn't get them in trouble for not practicing, haha. And then they usually practice more! (Of course, I mention that if they practiced more, they'd move forward more quickly. but I usually let them/their parents choose the pace and then I push them just a little harder than that.) I just try to adjust their goals or maximize our lesson time so they can always see progress. I figure it's more important for them to enjoy themselves so they'll see a reason to keep it up, and my enjoyment from piano always came from seeing progress (and performing, but as a small-time teacher I'm still working on good ways to get them performance opportunities). It's fun to pass that on.

I've been very lucky to mostly have fairly motivated students with invested parents. I've had the opposite and it can be very slow going. My mom always has other parents ask her how she gets her kids to practice, and she says she's a little baffled by the question. Her reply is usually, "...How do you get them to brush their teeth or set the table?" The answer is about the same - you should treat it like any other thing they don't get to get out of. We always had a set time that was our turn at the piano, and we got 30 minutes and then the shift changed. (haha.) Then, there was always the threat that if we didn't practice, we had to pay for that week's lesson...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

controversial

"I speak in absolutes, though I don't think in them." (said by someone smart, sometime. got it off Garth Hill's Facebook page ... he is pretty smart, so maybe it was an original.)

I hate this, but it's exactly how I experience life. I have hardly any opinions that are all-or-none, but I sometimes struggle to say things in a succinct manner that also reflects the nuances of that opinion. For example, I am neither Democrat nor Republican (both parties are too extreme for me lately), but if I express an opinion that sounds more liberal or more conservative, I'm always worried that it will come across that I am dyed-in-the-wool one side or the other. Still, it's not like I want to give a treatise before the other person can respond. By succinctly expressing one element of my ideas on a subject, I don't want to welcome embracing or slamming comments from people who ARE dyed-in-the-wool, but I wouldn't mind a discussion with people who can be open-minded enough to try to understand both sides, even if they have chosen one of them.

Theoretically, it doesn't matter what people think of me. I am me, either way. However, as a public relations grad, I know full well that how people think of you does change the relationship you will have, even if it's only in small ways. And really, this can be really good. That principle usually gets a bad rap, but there's something to it. I am who I am, but because I am a mature adult (right?), I also know how to be tactful, polite, kind when I am in a bad mood, and in myriad other ways choose to control how I act in social situations instead of succumbing to every judgmental moment, irritation, or flash of pride. Understanding how others perceive you can be an important part of that ability.

However. If I want someone to be open to have a conversation with me on some topic or another later, I want them to know who it is they're actually talking to. I want them to understand that I've formed my opinions carefully, but that I welcome a good discussion and am usually fairly open to adjusting those opinions. That doesn't mean I'm a ball of clay waiting to be formed to your opinions, but I do want to hear what you think, and at the very least I usually want at least to understand where you're coming from.

But it can be so hard to get that across. Especially when we are just chatting for a few minutes. Like now, I suddenly realized that someone reading this is probably totally oriented to political opinions now - it might not have occurred to you that I could be talking about an offhand word in a class, a Facebook comment, or a small-talk conversation about hairstyles or food or a movie or the latest headline or baby-raising or how I pack my moving boxes. It's not book club where I usually have this issue, because any given topic might get an hour and a half.

Maybe I should pick up Twitter again.

packing to move

We are moving - surprise! We had decided we thought we'd sign another year lease at our current place, but then it sold. (Our landlord has been trying to sell it off and on since before we moved here.) He thought it was going to someone who wanted to keep tenants, but it turned out that the buyer wanted to move in, so we got our 30-days' notice. It was sad, since we have loved living in this place, but okay because we already knew it couldn't last forever. (Our landlord actually offered it to us if we wanted to buy it, but we didn't too badly want to own a loft in Oakland with no doors or storage space to speak of. Someday we'll have kids, and we're going to want to put those kids somewhere with a door when they just want to scream.)

As luck would have it, we were out of town for several of those thirty days, so apartment hunting was pretty hectic, but things worked out. We found a place that will be fine, at least for now. It's not as pretty as this place (I am fairly converted to stained concrete floors), but overall it's a lot more practical, and it has almost as much space. Jon is pretty excited about the big porch-like area in front of our door (visions of cookouts are dancing in his head). I am even starting to be pretty excited about having carpet. I'll post pictures of all that after we're moved in. Becca (and her son, and her brother) and Danielle (and her kids) both came to help us pack, which was rather angelic of them. Both were a huge help, and we made a lot more progress than we would have otherwise.




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Michael got married

My brother Michael got married last weekend, but instead of taking his name his wife took mine ;). Her name is Brooke, so now she is Brooke Eddington, which is a trip when I see all these comments on Facebook that I did not make. It's fun, though. Anyway, the wedding was really gorgeous, and it was great to see my brother in the temple. I'm glad they made such a great decision and things went so well. Also there wasn't any work for the family to do, so we just got to hang out, which was AWESOME. Thanks to everyone who made that happen - that is the way to go for a wedding. It was fun to see Michael and Brooke together, but I'm looking forward to getting to know Brooke in more casual settings over the next several months. Somehow I never thought much about what it would be like to have a sister-in-law on my side of the family, because until last week only boys married into our family. Ha :) I think it will be fun.









By the way, I haven't been to many Salt Lake Temple wedding celebrations (no weddings, which isn't that hard because I think I've only been to three live sealings now, counting Michael's and not counting my own), so I wanted to say - it was predictably crowded while we were waiting (for everything - the sealing, them to come out of the temple, the picture-taking area), but unpredictably, it didn't feel pressure-y and crazy. I've always thought SLC temple weddings must be terribly rushed-feeling, on account of there being more than a hundred weddings there on some days, but it wasn't too bad.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity, or "How you know you married a nerd"

I guess it's only appropriate that my first post would be about something so nerdy as to be almost embarrassing.  Tonight at 10:31 PM PDT (05:31 UTC), NASA landed a rover (Curiosity) on the surface of Mars.  I watched the live video feed from the control room from the point the rover entered the atmosphere until they received confirmation that it had landed (and uploaded some pictures).

Here are some lovely pictures of me watching the action:




And this is a video shot without my knowledge showing the actual moment they knew it had landed (the rover had actually landed 14 minutes earlier, but that's how long it takes the signal to get back to Earth).

video

I admit it.  I'm a nerd.  I like science and math, watching scifi shows and spending long periods of time reading random Wikipedia articles.  I genuinely got excited about this.  More excited than I had expected I would.  The fact that we can take a 4 ton spacecraft, launch it from Earth, send it through space for 253 days and land it on Mars within an area 12 miles by 4.3 miles is just incredible to me.  


Here are some pictures sent back by the rover.

This is the very first thumbnail.  Don't bother clicking on it.  This is as big as it gets.

 This is a higher res version of the same picture.  You can see one of Curiosity's wheels.

Here is another picture.  You can see the afternoon shadow cast by the rover.  So cool!

Anyway, I had fun watching this tonight.  It was exciting.  It makes me think about helping to design spaceships to take astronauts to Mars.  Being an engineer is so much fun!  

OK, I should probably get to sleep.  That is, if I can convince Brooke to put down her book and come to bed.  I'm not the only nerd in this family.  We may be different kinds, but we're both nerdy.