Update: For anyone who wants to hear the interview, you can listen to it here.
Lorena’s oldest brother, Lauro, has attracted quite a following in social media to the point where he is being interviewed on Internet radio and invited to art exhibits in Europe, Mexico and the United States. Tonight he was interviewed here. He has been recognized for his art in Italy, France, the United States and Mexico. He is very much influenced by the impressionists. His web page is here. His facebook is here. His instagram is here.
Lorena is so close she can taste it. Three days per week on the Concept 2 Rowing Machine and another couple of days, hard on the elliptical. Her goal is to row 12,000 meters in less than an hour. She is only 25 seconds from that goal, but today (well, she might take one more shot on Thursday, but we are not talking about that) was her last scheduled rowing day in Texas. Of course she will take it up again when she gets to Centralia. One of the reasons we picked the place we picked is the Anytime Fitness right down the road from our new (to us) house. Lorena has been amazingly consistent over the last seven years or so with the last two years focused on the rowing machine. She has shamed me into agreeing to up my game when we get to Washington.
It does not get much better than this. Our friends, Phil D. and Eric P. went to our Sunday morning church meeting this meeting. Afterward, out little home church had a going away party for us. I can not tell you how much we appreciate and love these people. We have met with them only for a year, but it has been a joy. The party was Mexican themed and, boy howdy, they know how to do it. Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor of how it went. Please note that the last picture was absolutely a result of the first two.
I will have one more work week in Texas after today. I enjoy my job and the people where I work a lot and it was agonizing to turn in my notice. Part of the job I love the most is the requirement to create sophisticated machine vision and video analytics applications with cheap USB cameras and ARM embedded computers that run embedded Linux, usually Debian. We prototype a lot of the stuff on Raspberry Pi’s which is great because there is such a big user community it is easy to quickly get answers about just about anything. There are four cameras in the article accompanying this post that range in value between $20 and $50.
All of the cameras work just fine right out of the box for the purpose for which they were design–that is generally streaming video with camera controlling the capture gain and offset. Conversely, it reduces the repeatability and precision of most machine vision application if the offset, gain and lighting controls are not managed by the application. So, it has been part of my job to dive into the driver code far enough to figure out how to set the registers that need to be set to control cheap cameras well enough to work in accord with the stringent requirements of many machine vision applications. That takes a lot of patience and, although it is not exactly rocket science, it is very rewarding when the last piece of minutiae is chased down and the stuffs starts working.
One thing I have learned is that this “big data” thing is here to stay, at least in my world of machine vision, embedded computing and video analytics. There are tons of things you can almost do deterministically that become tractable when enough data and machine learning are thrown at them. I am loving working with Weka and R and the machine learning functionality in the OpenCV library because they open up new vistas, not to mention I can more frequently say, “I think I can do that” and not squint my eyes and wonder whether I am lying.
The installation of the hardwood floor was completed yesterday. You can see the pictures here and if you notice in both pictures, just to the left of the newly installed floor is the old floor with somewhat of a yellow tint to it. Those old floors are being sanded today so when the new Swedish finish goes down, the floor in the middle of the living room will have the same look as the floor in the kitchen. We think it looks great now. There is more work on the floor today, but as soon as that is complete, other work will start and the final floor finish will go down at the very end.
The installation of the floor in the living room was completed today. Notice the Brazilian Cherry from around the red oak center. The red oak, actually is the same as the previously installed floor you can see at the left (bottom) edge of the image. Because the old floor still has its finish on it it has a yellowish, shiny cast. The next step is to sand away the finish from the previously installed floor so that when the new finish is put down, all of the red oak parts will appear the same. Mark mentioned (even though we think it is beautiful already) that there will be a much more striking appearance when the whole floor is finished. We are really looking forward to that.
The view below is the view from the entry to the house. Lorena and I both noted that it is a small room, but made much bigger because it is wide open to the dining room and kitchen. Well, that and the spectacular view out the windows to Mount Rainer.
Most of the West (Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and California) as well as Florida, Minnesota and Nuevo Leon were well represented at the nicest Easter dinner we have attended in many a year. The highlight, of course, was two beautiful, well-behaved young girls in their Easter dresses. It was so nice to have Eric P. with us again and our amazing and insightful friend, Phil D. was with us, too, so it could not help be make for a stellar afternoon. We had ham, scalloped potatoes, tons of other fixings and sat around the table for at least an hour after we finished evening with coffee and a 43-step, hand made cake. It really does not get much better than that. Now Lorena and I have something to which to aspire when Easter comes around next year. Look how satisfied Eric looks after that phenomenal meal. Then, to top it off we were serenaded with guitar music (CK and Eric are both pretty amazing in that regard). Thank you CK, Joy, Sophia and Olivia for the best Easter dinner in a long, long time.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, we have fairly high expectations when it comes to wildflowers. Our dear friend Marie Mounce sent this bluebonnet picture she took about a week ago. The exceptional quality of this years bluebonnet crop is the talk of North Texas and I have to admit they truly are beautiful and abundant. There are fields and fields of them just about everywhere. We understand now why the bluebonnet is the Texas State Flower.
Mark started in on replacing the kitchen window that looks out on a small, covered patio with a door. The window is at the opposite end of the kitchen from the windows that look at Mount Rainier. The reason for this is that we figured this patio would be a perfect place to put a gas grill. Lorena cooks on a gas grill all year long. The deck with the view at the back of the house is not currently covered. As the house is now, to get to the little patio you have to go through two doors–one into the laundry room and a second out onto the patio. With a glass door, we will not only be able to easily get from the kitchen to the cooking patio, but we will be able to see out their very well, too–at least that is the concept.
Yesterday, Mark brought in his electrician who removed most of the drywall in the kitchen to adjust and augment the electrical infrastructure. The found the control panel for the telephone wiring. Normally we would not be interested in that at all because we have not had a land line for over a decade. Sadly, though, cable internet is not available in our neighborhood. That means we need to get DSL because I have to have pretty fast internet to be able to do my work from home. In the past, DSL generally did not mean anything really great, but I have not used it for so long that I am not sure of it current capability. The company that provides it came out and checked it before we bought the house and assured me I can reliably get the needed speeds. The electrician will wire it so we can put a wireless router by the DSL modem and hardwire the upstairs for second router to give good wireless connectivity through the whole house.
Mark sent along another picture of the continuing electrical work, but also of the work that is being done on the floor in the living room. In this shot, about half of the underlayment is now in place. I understand the hardwood floor will start covering that later today or tomorrow morning. In the picture below you can see some of what someone standing at the kitchen sink will see. The best part, though, is to the left and out of the picture. It is the view of the city down the low with Mount Rainier rising above it. The new floor is scheduled to be installed and the finish removed from the rest of the hardwood floor that is already there followed by a good sanding of the whole thing. The Swedish finish will not go down until everything else is complete so we are probably about a month away from that.
Mark kicked off a lot more work today on the kitchen. He found a place to position the propane tank, roughed in the plumbing for the kitchen and got the hardwood floor guy going. Tomorrow, the electrician will start. I think there must be two phases of these things. My sense is that their is additional electrical and plumbing things to do after the cabinets are in and to prepare for the appliances. Mark said the final Swedish finish goes on the floor at the very end so the only thing that happens right now is the installation of the living room floor and the sanding that needs to be done. I am wondering when the window in this photo is removed and replaced with a door. All that, I think, has to be completed before the cabinets can be installed.
In the meantime, there was a wind storm in Centralia that blew over a tree that might or might not (maybe Bob and Gena have an opinion–they sent us the picture) on our property. The trees are dense enough there that probably most of the trees close to our property are somewhat protected.
Life and home ownership west of the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest generally involves a lot of lawn mowing. That is particularly true of the Willamette Valley where the climate is perfect for growing grass and the topsoil is generally around 200 feet deep. From the picture Bob and Gena sent us of the back yard, it appears Centralia is pretty prime lawn growing territory, too. So, today, I get to start calling lawn services to try to figure out how to keep the long whacked down. If I am fortunate, I will find one who I can just keep on the job.
We had company for a lot of the weekend this weekend. It dawned on us that it is a lot easier to get a small apartment ready for visitors than a big house. There are lots of trade-offs and we are ready to end our apartment living stint, but to say that we do not enjoy it would be wrong. There are no lawns to cut, way fewer utility bills, maintenance is just a phone call away, etc., etc. We are half-way through the process of lining up all our services (lawn, propane, electricity, water, internet, etc.) and it is returning to us that we have quite a bit of joy ahead of us with respect to those normal upkeep chores associated with the American dream of owning a house.
Cousin Trisha, the government school teacher, heaped abuse on me for writing so much about the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas. I think it is because she is feeling either envious or guilty, but, in the spirit of living up to her unfounded accusations (unfounded because there is no way one can give too many accolades to the one true taco shop in Lewisville, TX), we went there twice this weekend with eight new people who had never been there before. Unbelievably, EVERYONE ate carne asada tacos and a fresh churro for dessert. We felt NO guilt whatsoever. In fact, we truly believed we enriched ALL of these peoples’ lives.
The picture to the left is our dear friend Eric P. Notice the smile on his face. He had just finished eating those tacos. We are wildly grateful for his visit and for the one from the Chet, Kayleen and Malia yesterday, not only because of the tacos, but because it was just great to be with them all again. It was so good, we reserved the place for a “going to Washington” party in a couple of weeks.
We had dear friends over for dinner last night. Whenever that happens Lorena instigates a conversation in person or on the phone that takes almost exactly the same form every time. It happened again yesterday. I love this.
I was sitting at my desk in my office in Lewisville programming and the phone rings.
I pick up and Lorena asks me “Should I do A or should I do B?” about some cooking thing.
So I ask, “What do you think would be best?”
She says, “A.”
I say, “Ok, do A.”
She says “Ok! Thanks!” and hangs up.
Some time in the following day or two she will say something to the effect that it is really good that I tell her what to cook because she can never think of the right thing.
The dinner, as always, was brilliant. Lorena talked the people down at the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas into giving her a couple dozen of their very thin corn tortillas when, in reality, they don’t sell tortillas. They sell tacos. But she has that Mexican Mafia thing going and is comadre with the owner of the shop. She grilled sirloin steak in strips, onions and chile morron, made her hand made salsa, sliced up avocado and mango, chopped some raw onions and cilantro, etc.
Today, she is down at the gym working off all those extra calories while I sit and type (writing this blog post and programming on the sickle cell disease project). Don’t ever try to tell me I didn’t hit the lottery when I married her.
Right after Lorena and I got married, we lived in a condo in Boynton Beach, Florida so I could work on machine vision systems at Motorola’s now-extinct pager manufacturing facility there. Lorena had really not eaten a lot of Chinese food growing up in Monterrey, Mexico–why would she when she lives in the Mecca of all great Mexican food (I know that is a religious discussion). Nevertheless, even though there was pretty good Mexican food in Florida, it did not rise to the level of that available in Monterrey. So, every now and then, when I got a yearning for Chinese food, Lorena would grudgingly indulge me and go to one after another of a string of truly mediocre Chinese food restaurants (mostly buffets of relatively bland offerings in the retirement haven that is South Florida). She convinced herself that she really did not like Chinese food. I cannot say I can blame her given the fare.
That all changed when we saw a Chinese food drive-through place on the side of one of the main thorough-fares that had once been a Checkers hamburger place. It was drive-through only with no place to sit and eat. I remember it was not situated so well–if we did not go there in the F150 pickup, we had to get out of the car because the window was out of reach of our SHO Taurus sedan. That changed everything. They made the food as spicy (hot) as she wanted, the vegetables were fresh and the place was clean. From then on, we went there once per week until we left South Florida. We searched in vain for something that equaled that Chinese food in Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and just about everywhere in-between. We were unable to find anything like it until I walked by it on my way to work one day. The place we found is called the Rice Pot Express, located on the State Highway 121 Bypass and, in our opinion, fits into that category of food so good we believe (for us anyway), it is the one true best Chinese food take-out restaurant. Of course it is run by some really nice Korean people with Mexican cooks. Just like when we were able to find the one true best Mexican taco shop in Lewisville, this one is going to make us even sadder to be leaving Texas.
Our friends Bob and Gena E. went over to the house yesterday to see how the work was going and reported that Mark cleaned up and left the place spotless (Thank you Mark, Bob and Gena!). I do not know whether it is a normal part of the process to put down a tape outline of where the island will sit, but it is very cool that Mark did it. He sent me these images. The image at the top left shows the placement of the cabinets that will hold the counter top. There is room for two stools between the two legs extending toward the bottom of the image and one or two more to the right of the right-most leg. The sink is planned for the angled cabinet on the left.
The red arc in the first image below shows the placement of the granite on top of the cabinets. The cabinet and sink placement of the previous kitchen only provided 7′ 6″ between the end of the cabinets on the wall and the island and the back wall of the house. That is important because that area is what passes for the houses dining room. It is a little non-traditional but features a spectacular view of the mountain. When all was said and done with the design Mark’s team put together, there was an additional foot and a half space between the end of the cabinets and the back of the house for a total of 9′ 0″ and a respectable width for a dining room.
You can also notice at the bottom of the last picture, there are some exposed joists. That is the area where the raised hardwood floor was removed. The hardwood floor is to be extended across the living room at the same level as the kitchen and dining room, but with a border of a different species of hardwood (darker) around what used to be the higher floor. This is to give it an appearance of separation. An additional benefit of a single level floor is that we can put a very long table that runs across the dining room and into the living room if we need one that long. We HAVE needed one that long in the past for Thanksgiving and other assorted get-togethers.
Here are three late arriving images of the demolition of the floor in the living room. I know, that is not technically the kitchen, but there was a trip risk going from the kitchen into the living room because of the step up and it is all one big open room and floor. The first picture is taken from the kitchen looking out toward the living room. The second image is taken from the entry, the kitchen being to the left. All the windows are at the back of the house with a view of Centralia and Mount Rainier behind that. The last picture is of über-contractor/designer/kitchen-king, Mark P. using the new kitchen for its intended purpose for the first time.
We were very excited that Mark P. made his way to Centralia today to start the kitchen remodel in our newly purchased (old) house. My brother, Doug, was up in Seattle so he stopped in to take a look and we scheduled him for a visit when he and his bud, Dave N., head up to Seattle for a Mariners game in July. That gives us a target date to get enough furniture together to receive some visitors! Here are the pictures Mark sent of how things are going. We are looking forward to meeting his partner in crime who, I am sure will show up in future pictures as the project progress. For reference, the image to the top left is how the kitchen looked before they started and a link where I discuss that start of the whole project. That is Mark P., our contractor (highly recommended–this is our second kitchen remodel with him–pop me an email if you want contact info).
The images below are the start of the demolition of the old kitchen. Actually we are taking out a raised hardwood floor to make it the same level as the kitchen and, particularly so that people will not trip when they are in the house. I will post more of that later as the remodel moves along.
The kitchen is GONE!!!