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July 20, 2008

¶ drifting orcas
This summer I'm visiting Dieter Fox's lab at the University of Washington. I mainly wanted to be in Seattle so that I could be closer to Stacy, and it turned out to be a great opportunity to both get Dieter's input on my thesis and to collaborate with one of his students on a project that we're both interested in. So far it's been great, and I consider myself lucky that there's a great school here with a top-notch robotics lab. On the weekends, Stacy and I have been trying to take advantage of the nice weather and do some fun things here.

Last week, we went up to the Evergreen Speedway and watched a drifting competition. It was mostly amateur car fanatics and ricers, but definitely a lot of fun to watch.

Today, we took a day trip up to San Juan Island on the Canadian border. We'd heard that it's a great place to go on a whale watching boat tour, but were hesitant to pay the almost $70/person fee to sit on a boat for 4 hours, so we ended up just exploring the island by car and foot (we brought Stacy's car to the island on the ferry). It turned out to be a beautiful place, and really reminded me of Block Island. We eventually ended up at this place called Whale Watch Park overlooking the water, and were expecting to find a nice looking place rather devoid of sea life. Instead, our jaws basically dropped to the ground when we saw a pod of orcas swimming past about thirty seconds after we arrived. Absolutely majestic, and at some points they were fewer than 50 yards from where we were sitting on the rocks.

April 18, 2006

¶ cannons, scientologists, and a marathon
Random stuff.

A few weeks ago, some MIT students drove to Caltech, stole a large Spanish-American War cannon, drove it back out to Cambridge, and set it up in the middle of MIT campus. More information at http://www.mitcannon.com/.

Early last week, I spotted some Scientologists protesting in front of MIT. I really don't know what to make of these people... Some things just never cease to amaze me.

Yesterday was the Boston Marathon. Kenya won again (of course). It was my first time actually going there to watch, and incredibly inspiring. Especially the jogglers. Stories don't get better than this. The current world record holder for marathon juggling (Zach Warren) - running a marathon while juggling at the same time - going head to head with the former world record holder (Michal Kapral) in a winner-takes-all showdown. We saw them pass the 25-mile mark and it was simply amazing.

March 18, 2006

¶ glassblown paperweights
I signed up for the glassblowing class. It has nothing to do with my research, but oh is it fun. The class is held in the basement of Building 4, in a cluttered, sooty room. At the back of the room there are three large furnaces, one for melting glass, and the other two for keeping glass hot while you're working with it. Most of us wear sunglasses to class because the furnaces are so hot and painfully bright. It's a completely different world in the glass lab... So much of MIT is involved with cutting edge technology - nanoparticles, genetic engineering, etc. - but here it's about practicing and honing techniques developed thousands of years ago with a few simple tools.

Paperweights I made last week:

February 14, 2006

¶ Meet Cooper
Jen got a dog last week. An AIBO ERS-7 to be specific. I'm still not quite sure what possessed her to do it, but there's a robot dog living in our apartment now. He shares a space on the floor next to our other robot - the Roomba ripoff. Anyway, meet Cooper:

It can sing, it can dance, play a bizarre version of Simon, find its charger when its batteries are low (sometimes), but best of all, it can blog. Cooper supports several different blogging APIs (Blogger, Typepad, Atom, Movable Type), and I ended up hosting a Movable Type blog for the dog. I'm totally serious, here. The dog blogs.

link to Cooper's blog
January 3, 2006

¶ Your Research Dollars at Work
Jen and I love our Settlers of Catan. Naturally, we were very sad when we found out that we had somehow lost one of the blue city pieces from our set. A few years ago, we might have just sighed and used a piece of paper as a placeholder for when we play. But I wanted a new piece, and wanted it shaped just right. Fortunately, all the wooden playing pieces are 2-1/2 dimensional surfaces, which is perfect for the laser cutter. A few days ago, Amandine and I had some free time, so we measured out the pieces, drew up a CAD file, and printed a replacement blue city. It was actually cut from clear acrylic plastic and then colored with a blue Sharpie, but retains its transparency. Original wooden blue pieces are on the left, and the newly cut city is on the right.

Then, since we were there and already had the CAD files, we were like, "well, why print one piece when we can print 30!?" So we printed a whole new set of pieces from clear acrylic. I call them the stealth pieces because when we played with them later that night, it was impossible to see where the clear pieces were, so it's like nobody ever noticed what the stealth player was doing.
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