New furniture realities

My new parking placeWe enjoyed getting some new furniture yesterday. It was quite a task getting it into the house, but we have a (kind of) system now so it will be easier next time. The picture right below this text shows how it all appeared when we put it in place. the picture way down at the bottom shows what I think it will look like for all but those rare times when we have company and Kiwi the remaining twin cat sister is in hiding and unable to scratch the new furniture. We are not sure these pieces will stay where they are, but until we finish remodeling and buy some more, they are in a good place.The new furnitureThe cat coverings

New furniture — Bob and Gena’s fault

A BarcaLounger for the remodeled living roomBob and Gena invited us over to their house a couple of days after we arrived in Washington. Ever since then, Lorena has had sofa envy. Well, we are trying to remedy all that, but I am not sure if it will ever be enough! The good news, is that in addition to the sofa, we got a BarcaLounger. That was what we called Grandpa Milo’s chair when we were growing up and boy did he love it. Looking forward to putting this to great use.

Another 25th Anniversary

After Lorena and I got married, we decided it would be easier to just get married again in the US. We had planned to do it on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. We missed it by one day. It was a fifteen minute affair in the County Clerk’s office of Palm Beach County, Florida. I thought I should just put this here for the sake of posterity.

The kids are home to celebrate

Kelly home for fall break 2017Christian and Kelly came to Centralia this weekend. The purpose is to celebrate Christian’s birthday, my birthday and Lorena’s and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We are going to do the “official” celebration toward the end of the year in Mexico at either the place we had the original wedding or something very similar. It is really nice to be able to have the kids home more frequently. Plane flights between Seattle or Portland and Phoenix are really pretty cheap so Christian can get here pretty easily. Train tickets from downtown Seattle to Centralia are even cheaper, so Kelly can get here any time she wants.

The real reason this became an occasion was because has a four day fall break and I have Columbus Day off. We ate way too much and hung out together. Hopefully we will be able to do it again at Thanksgiving and then again in Mexico.

A harvest moon and our first apple harvest

Centralia Harvest Moon 2017The picture to the right was taken last night and the moon looks even bigger today. There is a special feeling in the fall when homeschool starts up again, the weather starts cooling down, and there are tons of amazing local food stuffs on the grocery store shelves. Thanks to our friend Bob, we even had our own special harvest. Our apple trees have not been pruned properly for what looks like several years, but Bob brought over a apple picker on the end of a long pole so we did not get completely skunked. Lorena made up some apple sauce. Wonderful stuff. We are going to prune in January or February and hope for a much more bountiful harvest next year.

An added benefit is that Christian arrives shortly after midnight tonight for his fall break. That coupled with the fact I get Columbus Day off with my new company (it is also Canadian Thanksgiving Day), means life is quite good right now.

All-in-all, an excellent trip to China

Kiwi and the endless battle to sit on the counterI got back to Seattle almost two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival. The departure time got pushed up from 11:30 AM to 11:00 AM. Who ever heard of such a thing. The other thing that seems completely out of sync with my experience is that from my first ride from the airport to the hotel in Shanghai to my last ride from the hotel to the airport in Beijing, all the driving was quite sane and careful on very good roads. I am sure it must be that I was not in the right place to experience the wild driving about which I have heard, but they would have to up their insanity by several orders of magnitude to arrive at what I have experienced on numerous occasions in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

We went from SeaTac airport to drop Kelly off, home for a quick change and then on to church followed by a five hour nap. Then I went to bed at my normal time and got up at my normal time. The jet lag had way less effect on me than what I remember from trips to Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Maybe it is because I am getting old and do not need much sleep. The whole trip, the nuts and bolts mechanics of it anyway, was about as benign as any Asian trip I have ever taken. I do not know if I relish the idea of going on a super regular basis, but I do not dread the idea anymore. It will be good to go back and see the very kind people with whom I worked when I was there, too.

Kiwi was fit to be tied when we got home. She had stayed by herself for two days while Lorena stayed with Kelly. It was good to see her, but she let us know she was displeased; in no uncertain terms.

Returning from China

I am sitting in a hotel room in Beijing, waiting to catch a shuttle to the airport to return to Seattle. This was a very interesting trip. I guess it is to be expected that my impressions of China are fundamentally different from my expectations before I arrived. There are lots and lots of very good things about China. I have made good friends and look forward to my next trip in a few months. There are some things about China that are unsettling. I need to think about them a little and it is all so foreign to me that I do not have an opinion. I think, like Mexico, there are some parts of the culture I will never understand because I am an American. The other thing is that China is so big and diverse, understanding things in one place is meaningless when you go to another part of China, maybe not even so far away. It has been a wonderful trip although it would have been nice to bring Lorena along. Lorena has been invited, so maybe we can make that happen.

A couple of days in Shenzhen

View from DoubleTree in ShenzhenWe drove from Suzhou to Shanghai and then flew down to Shenzhen last night. We then caught the equivalent of an Uber ride to a town about forty minutes north that is right by our company’s Shenzhen office. It is very beautiful here. We are meeting a customer later this morning, then just going to work in the local office without any meeting agenda. We have been running so hard that it will be nice to have a day that is a little bit slower to catch up.

The team in Suzhou is pretty amazing in that everyone is quite young, very bright and very new to the company. There is an energy there that I remember from my time at startups in the early eighties. That feel does not seem to exist so much anymore in the US even though I have done quite a few small startups over the last twenty years or so. They promised me when I come back to China next time they will all take me to the Mexican restaurant that is walking distance from the office. I am very much looking forward to it.

Suzhou, China

View from our office in SuzhouWe have been running since I hit the ground in Shanghai Pudong airport day before yesterday. There have been lots of surprises on this trip, mostly to do with the very modern and extensive infrastructure that is ubiquitous both in Shanghai and Suzhou. I know I am traveling and working in the very centers of commerce and industry for which China is known in this day and age. Nevertheless, it is very impressive.

My other, maybe bigger surprised is the decorum with which the drivers that got me from Shanghai to Suzhou have exhibited. I have to say it has been somewhat more aggressive driving that in the U.S., but no where close to the craziness that is Monterrey, Mexico. That being said, I just got her and do not know much yet, but I have certainly enjoyed the experience so far.

From the picture of the view from my company’s office in Suzhou, you can probably tell there has not been much time to take many pictures. The timing of our meetings and the weather (torrential, North Carolina/Florida quality thunderstorms) have not cooperated in that regard and I am not sure much will change base on my schedule.

The other marvelous thing I have experienced here is the food. Last night we spent several hours at a Korean barbecue place that makes me think it would be great to own one of those Korean barbecue tables with the charcoal pits in the middle and the automatic shish-ka-bob rotators. Who knows what they are really called, but whatever it is, they are really cool. I am going to investigate.

Shanghai-Shenzhen-Beijing

Chinese VisaI cannot remember when was the last time I went to Asia. I have been to quite a few places over there–Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but I have never been to mainland China. After jumping through lots of hoops, I got my hands on the needed Visa a half an hour before the FedEx office in Olympia closed. So now I get to fly to Shanghai to celebrate my birthday tomorrow.

I got good seats with lots of legroom, so that is a fine thing. My hope is to be able to get some work done on the sickle cell detection project as well as some work for my day job. Just in case I get all that done, I bought the latest Longmire novel and a second mystery novel. Who knows whether I will be able to get any sleep.

I will be in Shanghai (our office is in Suzhou) then on to Shenzhen, before catching a flight through Beijing on the way home. Of course this is one of those work trips where I will not get to see anything other than big factories and R&D offices which are pretty much the same the world over. Nevertheless, I am confident I will get some great Chinese food. I am especially looking forward to meeting two members of my team with whom I have spoken fairly extensively over Skype, but have never met face to face.

The treadmill

Bob provides a treadmillSadly, I no longer have any excuses for avoiding exercise. Bob and Gena invited us over for dinner (of course) last Sunday and during the course of the conversation Bob tells me has a treadmill he is not using. Bob gets plenty of exercise at their property and he works out at the pool so he has no plans to use the treadmill for awhile. Honestly, these people are too good for us.

At any rate, not only does he offer to let me use it, the next Monday, he throws the thing in his van and brings it over. I have NO idea how he idea he did that. The thing is a true industrial strength treadmill and a marvel of engineering. He told me Gena helped him, but that makes it even more amazing. I helped him unload the thing into the garage and it took about all we had to do that. Those Northern California logger, Montana/Wyoming people are just made of sterner stuff than the rest of us.

So, as I was saying, I am now out of excuses. Today is the day I plug it in, turn it on and get started. Honestly, I am very grateful for the machine and it is going to be a big help. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Lorena finishes her $8 desk

Lorena's refinished $8 desk (plus paint)Lorena put the final coat on her $8 desk project last night, then reattached the draw pulls this morning. The desk is for the guest bedroom, so she can not move it there yet because she is in the middle of repainting it. After that, she is going to try her hand at putting in Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT). We watched a video and it appears possible to install without even using a saw, but a utility knife with an LVT blade. She has had several passes at the window frames in the bedroom with primer, putty, and lots of sanding. She is now busily pulling the closet and entry door off. She is going to paint them, too.

Statistical chart that changed my approach to analytics for machine vision

My buddy (the brilliant) Andrew B. posted the following image on his Twitter feed along with a link to the article from which it came. Those who work in this arena will understand. I get angsty about whether I have chosen the right model. Most of the time, it turns out that, if I did not chose the best one, I got pretty close. Thanks Andrew.

Which model should I use?

September 11–Sunrise in Centralia

Rainier sunrise -- just before the sun peaks outThe new header I put up (you can still see it here when I change it again). It seems appropriate that this was the view of the mountain out our window this 16th anniversary of the cowardly murder that took place at the Twin Trade Towers in New York in 2001. The header picture was taken at 6:00 AM and the picture to the left was taken an hour later. It all reminded me of that power of God. I read a factoid yesterday about the power of hurricanes, that an average hurricane expends way more power than the sum of all the man made power in the entire world for an entire year. Looking out the window and reflecting on the understanding that Mt. Ranier thousands of years overdue for an eruption it makes me realize how small and inconsequential is the raging of men. I understand the Mount St. Helens explosion was 1600 times as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World Wart II. This coming eruptions of Mt. Ranier is prognosticated to be much bigger than that. It is never too early to get one’s house in order.

All that being said, I think some seemingly inconsequential events are much bigger deals in light of eternity and judgment. I was thinking of what a great thing it was for Kelly to receive the benefit of an amazing and spiritually edifying trip to visit family in Mexico. But, on some levels, even more than that was an after church dinner to which we got invited at Bob and Gena’s house yesterday. We were very grateful to be included in that. I went from there straight home to the computer to work on contract work–good, helpful work that will save lives. I missed the afternoon Gospel meeting because of that and could not get past the thought that seemingly small spiritual things are so much more important and powerful than whatever else is going on in our lives have a greater eternal impact than world events and work. Even these world shaking events like terrorism, hurricanes, volcanoes or the solving of sickle cell disease pale in comparison.

Kelly, Coca Cola, and tacos

Kelly eats tacos and drinks Coca Cola at a hole in the wall in MonterreyKelly is having a great time in Monterrey. One of my favorite things to do when I am in Mexico is just what Kelly is doing in the picture. Enjoying Coca Cola with her tacos. It has been said that it is objectively and viscerally wrong to eat tacos in Mexico without Coke. I have to admit, though, that I enjoy my tacos with Tab. It brings be back to my time in Guadalajara in the mid- 1980’s. I went there about this time of year, too. It does not get much better than sitting in an outdoor cafe late in the evening and having a cup of Instant Nescafe after finishing off a big plate of those fabulous street tacos with cabbage, cilantro, onions and lots of hot salsa. It was a pretty tough decision for most of us students on Friday night whether to go for the tacos or to split a rotisserie chicken.

I wish we could be there with Kelly, but I think it is good we are not. She is just having too much fun with her cousins and her traveling partner, Eliza who Kelly says always has a good time, is a good sport, and fits in everywhere. We do not hear much from her because she is so busy, so we have to be satisfied with what we seen on social media. We can hardly wait until she gets back so we can hear it from the horses mouth.

Angels in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Kelly is having a great time in her visit to Grandma Conchita’s house in Monterrey with her Friend Eliza. Her amazing uncles took them to the small, picturesque town of Santiago 15 or 20 miles out of Monterrey. The only thing that was kind of disappointing is that she tried to capture some of the glory of an iconic photograph taken in June of 2014, but I really do not think she has the fashion sense or sheer magnificent presence of the original model. See for yourself (original is inset).

Angels in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Christian’s 22nd Birthday

Christian's 22nd BirthdayThe painting (print) beside Christian has a story behind it and it is not just that he got to see the original as done by Renoir. You can read about that here. I wanted to get him the painting, but did not realize how big it was. I guess it is not as big as the original, but it is still really too big for his small apartment. He is working on getting something a little more manageable.

It is painful to not be able to be with Christian on his birthday. Lorena and I have reminisced and talked about it maybe a little more than in years past. Christian has lead a somewhat unusual life until now. I suppose most kids his age feel very much misunderstood, but he has more reason than most. I call him a kid, but he has been way past the kid stage for several years now–running his own household and paying his own bills since he left for college more than three years ago.

The things Lorena and I identify as qualities we appreciate the most are his work ethic, his kindness, and his focus on doing what is right. That first quality is the one that causes him the most outward pain. Some have assumed he got where he is through some ability given to him that others do not possess when, in reality, he got there through sustained hard work over a very large percentage of the short time he has been on this earth.

We are grateful for him and hope he continues to invest some time in playing his guitar and traveling to visit us and others in the coming year.

Refinishing projects: Finished dining room table

First chairs in the living roomRefinished dining room tableLorena finished her first refinish project–the dining room table, then went out and bought some rugs for the under the table and for the first two chairs in the living room. We have a long, long way to go, but now we at least have a little bit of a plan in place. The big epiphany we had this weekend is that Lorena really thinks she wants to put in the LVT flooring in the first bedroom all by herself. We watched some videos and she really thinks she can do it. I am excited to see what happens next.