Yearly Archives: 2016

The year in review: 2016

Waiting for coffee with Christian -- Lewisville, TX 20162016 was a strange and wondrous year for Lorena and I. A semi-chronological list of what happened does not do justice to a year fraught with emotion and challenges, but that is all I have in me today (forgive the selfies, I am indulging myself today):

  • After returning to Oregon from North Carolina in 2015 to spend a year in a beautiful fourth floor studio apartment within walking distance of two grocery stores, my work, a plethora of restaurants, Lorena’s beloved Anytime Fitness and two grocery stores so we could be closer to my aging parents (Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah), we felt we needed to move to Texas to be closer to Grandma Conchita across the border in Monterrey, Mexico.Lorena visits Kelly in Seattle, 2016
  • I was offered a position with a company in Lewisville, Texas that has a wonderful product that literally saves lives in hospitals. I had worked with them previously and liked the people, so I took the job and we moved into a small, one bedroom house close to my work. Since we now had only one car, Lorena drove me to work and picked me up every day. It turns out we loved doing it that way.
  • Lorena was able to visit her mother (Grandma Conchita) more and Grandma Conchita was able to come to Texas, too.
  • By happenstance, our apartment was within walking distance of an excellent Anytime Fitness facility and Lorena, with a little more free time on her hands, was able to up her game to the point where she is on the verge of passing the 12K meters mark for an hour on a Concept II rowing machine–an amazing feat. She is hoping to hit that goal early next year.
  • Lorena visited Kelly several times, but only once since we moved to Texas and that was for a house buying trip in Washington (more about that later).Thanksgiving 2016 selfie
  • I (Dad) went to visit Kelly in Seattle once since we moved to Texas, too. The trip was for a job interview in Seattle because we realized Grandma Conchita was in good hands and in good shape, but my parents were heading down hill. Two very good things happened on that trip:
    • It turned out to be the last time I would see my mother (Grandma Sarah) alive. Kelly and I had a wonderful long visit with her where, even though she could only say a word or two, we talked, held her hand an stroked her forehead, read her the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, Psalm 23 and the epistles of John all in her beloved King James Version bible, sang hymns with the help of Grandpa Milo and prayed together. We cried quite a lot, but it was all good and a fond, fond memory I will always cherish.
    • I interviewed with a start-up company in Seattle made up of Microsoft, Amazon and Google people. I learned, definitively, that I want to do something else with the rest of my career than work at a start-up company in Seattle.
  • Grandma Sarah died in November. For a number of reasons, we postponed her funeral until January, but have now put that on hold due to Grandpa Milo’s current condition and will wait to see how he responds in his current condition (he suffered a stroke and caught a bad infection, but is out of immediate danger, though very weak and in rehab for now) before we plan to reschedule it so he can attend or not based on his capabilities.
  • I received a great job offer from a company in Vancouver, British Columbia who would allow me to work from my home anywhere on the west coast, but I would have to fly to China and Europe on a regular basis. Fortunately, my current company here in Texas offered me the same flexibility, so it has put us in the position where we can move back out west and still have cause to fly to Texas regularly. I will do it regularly for my work and Lorena will mostly fly through Texas on her way to visit Grandma Conchita in Mexico.Lorena slams the Concept II rowing machine 2016
  • We wanted to buy a fixer-upper house somewhere in Washington (more tax friendly than Oregon for the likes of us) so we could be close to both Kelly, Grandpa Milo and a decent sized airport. We settled on Centralia where Lorena went to look for houses, but found one with a great view of Mt. Rainier so we decided to do that instead. We made an offer, it was accepted and now we have found a bunch of stuff that needs to be fixed before we can buy the house. If we can get that worked out we will have a new (to us) house sometime in February. If not we are back to apartment living until we can find something.

That brings up to where we are now. Life is still in upheaval, there are lots of challenges and opportunities ahead, all of course, depending on the will of God.

The humor of Tío Jorge

Yesterday, I saw Lorena giggling as she looked at her phone as I walked to the car where she waited to take me home from work. When I asked her what that was all about. She showed me a joke sent to her by Tío Jorge. It was of the same “high quality” of humor we have come to expect from Grandpa Milo, Grandpa Lauro and Uncle Merle. Here it is:

Un hombre fue al doctor muy preocupado y le dijo al doctor, “no puedo dormir porque cada vez que cierro mis ojos un sueño me viene de ‘uno mas dos, uno mas dos, uno mas dos.’ No me deja dormir bien. Semanas me han pasado sin poder dormir hasta me tiene preocupado durante el día también. Me pasa tanto ese sueño ‘uno mas dos, uno mas dos, uno mas dos’ que estoy perdiendo mi salud hasta el punto que tiemblo todo el tiempo. Que puede ser?”

El doctor le respondió, “Es tres.”

Christmas 2016: Prime rib, guitars, Kiwi, Christian and my beautiful chef bride

Prime rib for Christmas 2016We missed Kelly dearly during her first Christmas ever away from family. It is all good, though. The Hormans were very kind to invite her to spend the holiday with them in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. It looks like she cross-country skied and did something with horses. That is the best we can tell that went on because we saw some pictures on Instagram. She was obviously having to good a time to communicate much so we are grateful for that.

As for us, we felt pretty adventurous for choosing something other than our go-to (turkey) for Christmas dinner. Lorena cooked up prime rib with lots of fixin’s an then added (from scratch) Lemon Creme Puffs for dessert. We are never going back. I cannot believe how good it came out and I have to admit that prime rib left-over sandwiches are at least equal to turkey left-over sandwiches. The only thing we did wrong was not make enough.

Christmas 2016 picture of Dad and LorenaThe very best part of this holiday season is that Christian came in for a few day so we would not be alone. That would have been more than we could handle. Lorena and I were ecstatic to have him here. He is working on the next phase of his dissertation work, playing his guitar (one of the strings was broken so we had to wait a day and a half until a store was open so we could buy some new ones), eating good food and discussing life with us. This is the thing for which we live. He got a new Fuji camera and has been taking pictures, all of which are shown here. The one at the bottom of this post if of Christian stringing his guitar with Kiwi the remaining twin cat sister giving very pointed advice.

Today, we were able to take Christian to The One True Taco Shop here in Lewisville. He concurred that the tacos were great. That was the only possible right response to eating there.
Christian restringing his guitar - Christmas 2016

Christian makes it home for Christmas

Christian home for ChristmasWe just got back from picking up Christian up at the airport. This is our first year when we were not able to all be together for the holidays. Christian will fly back to go to a get-together in Phoenix for the New Year. Kelly is spending Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington (stunningly beautiful place) with friends and then heading back to Seattle to see the New Year in with a small group of friends flying in from California. I am glad to see that Christian can pull off an ugly Christmas sweater. Now Lorena needs to get in on the action.

The one true best taco shop in Lewisville, TX: Tacos Regio Monterrey

Tacos from MonterreyIn the great “who makes the best tacos and tamales in the world” religious war, Lorena and I are decidedly on the side of those whose culinary skills emanate from Monterrey, Mexico. We had been very disappointed with what passed for Mexican food in the restaurants in the suburbs of Dallas where we currently reside. We got advice from all kinds of people including our Mexican family who lives in the area (originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon), people from work, people from church, people on the street we begged to help us–but we came to the very sad conclusion that no good Mexican food was available within driving distance of our house. There is lots of Tex-Mex, but we really do not count that is Mexican food anymore than the stuff that was available from Louie’s Chinese Restaurant (the early 1960’s Cottage Grove, Oregon restaurant of my youth) counted as something that had anything more than a passing resemblance to real Chinese food. That does not mean we do not like it. We like both Tex-Mex and Americanized Chinese food. But no one would mistake what we thought was the only Mexican food available in our area with the “one true Mexican food.”

WE WERE WRONG! So wrong. We found a place in Lewisville, TX that we believe is the very best Mexican food we have ever eaten in America. Here it is:

Tacos Regio Monterrey
502 S Old Orchard Ln
Lewisville, TX 75067

The reality is the only thing we have had there are the tacos de carne asada with a side of sautéed onions and the pork tamales. They probably make some other good stuff, but I doubt we will ever find out because we really, really love the way they make their tacos and their tamales. We have ordered up a couple of dozen tamales (18 pork and 6 chicken–to try them out) for Christian’s upcoming visit for Christmas. We need to see if we can get some of their salsa, too. Make that both of their salsas, red and green. They serve their tacos with two tortillas, carne asada, chopped onion and cilantro. They are those small corn tortillas that they coat with cooking oil and heat on the grill before they put the meat in them. Just wow.

We promise to never denigrate the tacos in Texas ever again although it should be noted the owners and cooks at Tacos Regio Monterrey are all proud Regiomontanos.

Update: I should note that the best (and possibly most gracious) way to describe this place is as a “hole in the wall” restaurant. That being said it is quite clean and the people are, as expected of people from Monterrey, gracious and welcoming.

Update II: I would be negligent to not note that this place is downright cheap inexpensive. We were stunned and felt a little guilty the first time we were there when we got such a reasonable bill. Maybe it was what we ordered.

Update III: Amazing. I got on to google maps and found an image of what used to be the Louie’s I was talking about from the 1960’s. I used to go to elementary school with the Louie twins who were just my age. The last I heard of them was a long time ago when I went to my cousin Karin’s high school graduation and the Louie twins both got the award for never missing a day of high school. Kind of impressive actually. Here is the picture from google maps in Cottage Grove Oregon–ovbviously under new management:

What I remember as Louie's Cantonese Food Restaurant from my youth

Tio Lynn earns his law degree

Tio Lynn's graduation photo!CONGRATULATIONS LYNN!!!! We are all very proud of Tio Lynn, child number three (Lorena is four) of Grandpa Lauro and Grandma Conchita. He earned his law degree and we all now have to call him Licenciado Lynn Neri. He is only a few months away now from meeting all the regulatory requirements to practice law in Mexico. He went through a lot of hard work to get to this worthy goal. That brings the family degree count up to three engineering degrees (Tios Lauro, Jorge and Rigoberto) and Lynn’s law degree. Lorena is still at work on her degree and I expect she will finish it before to long, if we ever quit uprooting her so she actually has the time to finish.

Grandpa Milo goes into the hospital then rehab

Just a short note to our friends–Grandpa Milo had a stroke on Sunday. Currently, he is confused a lot of the time and does not have the use of his left hand and arm. He was in the hospital for a couple of nights and will be moved to rehab today. After performing diagnostics, the doctors say we will not know if and how much function will return for a few days or weeks. Uncles Rich and Jerry were with him at the hospital as Aunts Julia and Jean were in San Diego and could not get back until yesterday. We really appreciated their stepping in and helping out. Of course, Gary and Drew continue to be true champions for Dad, but also for a lot of other people. We are thankful for all of them.

Thoughts on big changes and a new house

View a little bit to the right from the balcony of the new houseOn changes as big as we are about to make, it is hard not to recriminate a little bit. That being said, the move we are making to Western Washington feels pretty good. It appears to be an Ok move financially, we are not to far from Grandpa Milo and Oregon, we can get to a major airport going two directions in less than a couple of hours. We are just a little over 30 minutes to a Costco and a Trader Joe’s (Lorena’s prime criteria is less than 20 minutes, but that is not so far off–about the same as when we were in North Carolina), we have a house with a great view from most of the rooms, there is room to entertain a good number of overnight guests, etc., etc.

Only God knows what he has planned for us in the future, but we are hoping this is our last house. It certainly seems to have a good combination of the things listed above along with an entry with now steps to go up or down, a first floor master, a big open room for gatherings and a plethora of other features we have always wanted and that make it convenient. We are finally getting to the point where we have internalized that the kids are now gone on to their own lives (the knew that sooner than us) and that we need to establish our own base and get on with life. That is a very, very good thing.

They accepted our offer–moving to Washington

They accepted our offer on this houseAfter a few rather typical posturings and gyrations, our offer for this house was accepted by the seller. Now, if we can navigate our way to a close, we will be moving into this thing sometime in late January or early February. It is just what we wanted. There is a beautiful view from the deck (see here), we are a short distance to a decent grocery store and an Anytime Fitness, we can get to Portland to take Grandpa Milo to church maybe a couple of times per month and I can get to my work up in Canada once every six weeks or so or to catch an airplane from Portland or Seattle to see customers. The only down side is that we broke Lorena’s “I can be happy if I am within twenty minutes of a Costco and a Trader Joe’s” rule. We are just a smidgen over thirty minutes to both of them.

There are a good number of other things we like about the location. We are only a few minutes drive from an Amtrak station where we can catch a single train to anywhere from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, CA. There is a McMenamin’s in town where Lorena, Gladys and I have been known to have supper on a Friday night. There is a big outlet mall–good for Lorena and Glad, not so good for me. There are still lots of things to navigate. The main thing but certainly not the only thing being the close date. We really do not want to have to move twice even thought it might be unavoidable. And, we are just off I-5, so people can easily stop in for a visit!

Seattle in the winter with Kelly and Mom

Lorena's Christmas time photo of Seattle (see the space needle in the background)Kelly and Mom meeting in Seattle (Lorena looking for houses)Lorena took the train from SeaTac Airport up to downtown Seattle and hang around window and coffee shopping until Kelly got off work. They went out for dinner and took this excellent Christmas in Seattle picture with the Space Needle in the background. Lorena heads down to areas between Portland and Seattle to look for a house tomorrow. It is supposed to snow on Wednesday night so she only has one day to get it done. Fortunately, our real estate agent is prepared with some specific places to visit.

Lorena is house hunting out west

View from Train from SeaTac to SeattleLorena flew out to Seattle this morning to spend a couple of days looking for a house. This is a shot she took from the train between SeaTac Airport and Kelly’s house. We have decided to get something we can fix up and live in for a year or three while we decide what/where we want to be when we grow up. It is actually very exciting. We have done new house remodels (How does that work? Isn’t that why you buy it new so you don’t have to remodel?), but we have never done an old house remodel, so this will be a new experience. Lorena has a line on several houses in the right price range and location that she will visit. We hope she can find one she likes and then we can actually buy the thing in time to move in before we have to get a rental so I can start my new job. If we can find the house and work through the contract issues in time, it will be a miracle.

They said there was interesting stuff on Google Earth

Crime Fighting in CentraliaI have seen some of the strange things you can see on Street View of Google Maps, but this is the first time I found one on my own. I was cruising around a small town in Western Washington looking for possible places to live and checking out neighorhoods when I found this image. Maybe we will not look on that side of town. Or, maybe, this is the side of town where we should look because the cops run a tight ship there! The bad part of this whole deal is that we will almost certainly never know what was going on here.

Succinct list of a few reasons why Earth is special

I follow a blog called Dangerous Idea that often has interesting comment conversations on a range of topics, many of them dealing with God and Christianity. One comment provides a list of some reasons why Earth, the only planet know to us that supports life, is very special indeed. I list the first five below, but you can read the rest here.

1. A star not in the central galactic bulge (most of which are “metal poor”, meaning they are incapable of spawning Earthlike worlds) – ours in nicely tucked away in a spiral arm.
2. A star not in the path of sprays of lethal Gamma radiation from the galaxy’s central black hole (which disqualifies maybe 1/5th of the stars in the Milky Way)
3. A non-variable star (the majority of stars are variable).
4. A planetary system capable of supporting stable orbits (most aren’t).
5. A planetary system with no worlds of Jupiter mass near to the star (Most of the discovered systems have such worlds. Ours is a rarity in that it does not.).
6. …

Pulling the trigger for a big change

Possible house in WashingtonI signed and returned the acceptance letter for a job offer yesterday. The company’s headquarters are in Vancouver, BC, but I will work from home somewhere in Washington State. This change is quite a big adventure for us. We should be close enough to Grandpa Milo to be able to drive him to church on a semi-regular basis. We will be closer to our kids and be able to see them more often–it is a short drive or train ride to see Kelly or for her to visit us. The job is with a good group of people with whom I have worked as one of their customers for 5-6 years. It is challenging, interesting and will require some travel (Asia, USA and Europe), but not too much after the first round to get to know customers and colleagues.

The adventure part of the whole affair, if we can make it work, is that Lorena wants to find a house to remodel close to a city center. We loved living in downtown Wilsonville when we were last in Oregon with the ability to walk to stores and restaurants. We want to try to duplicate that. We have a real estate agent who says he thinks he can find us something that fills the bill within our budget. He sent us links to places that look great. It might not work out exactly like that, but we are going to give it the old college try and see what happens. Lorena has a plane ticket to fly to Seattle on Tuesday morning to, hopefully, find us “the” house somewhere on the I-5 corridor between Vancouver, WA and Tacoma. We expect to stay in Texas until the second week of January and get back to the Pacific Northwest with our truck full of worldly goods in time to attend Grandma Sarah’s funeral on MLK day in the Portland area.

Moving back out west

I have worked as a Machine Vision engineer for over thirty years. Grandma Sarah actually found an ad for a technical writing/industrial training position with a robot/vision company in Corvallis named Intelledex back in 1983 shortly after I returned from a three month stint at University of Guadalajara to learn Spanish. The industry was very young at the time, but both the hardware and software to do useful work with cameras hooked up to computers was starting to make economic sense to solve a few classes of problems in the semiconductor, defense and electronics industries.

From then until now, there were a good number of people who focused on writing algorithms to do useful things with images. There seemed to be fewer people who dedicated themselves to cobbling those algorithms together with statistical, database and robot and equipment control algorithms to measure stuff, guide robots and perform solve “on the factory floor” problems. From the very beginning, I was one of those guys. It seemed then (and it seems like it has not changed much over the years) that most of the capable vision engineers wanted to write individual, low level algorithms while only a few of us were dedicated specifically to algorithms. The funny deal is that after ten years or so of application development it dawned on me that low level algorithm development was easier and more powerful when it was informed by knowledge of a broad application domain.

To make a long story shorter, after about fifteen years in the industry, I started to follow a career path solely devoted to solving especially difficult machine vision problems (inspecting chip capacitors for defects at 35 parts per second, finding retinal features in very noisy OCT images at high rates of speed, measuring 3d surface defects in U235 pellets as the bounced and rotated down counter rotating roles, performing pupil/gaze angle tracking at 400 frames per second, etc.). So the last fifteen years or so, I have gone from position to position to find hard problems, solve them and move on to the next thing. It is work I love.

I said all that to say that I have just about finished the work I came to do in Texas (performing video analytics to determine, in real time, whether someone in a hospital is about to fall out of bed so a care giver can be signaled to go to the aid of the patient). I have been offered a position out west to work on 3d imaging problems, not to write low level algorithms although there will be some of that, but to use these 3d cameras to create solutions to families of industrial problems around the world. Lorena and I have decided I should accept the position.

The other upside to this new position is, hopefully, I will be able to stay there until I retire. There are so many opportunities to solve hard problems with the new and improving 3d cameras and scanning systems, that I will likely have gainful employment as long as I am able to do the work. In addition, we will be closer to Kelly, Christian and Grandpa Milo and should be able to see them more often. There will be more about our move (when/where) as soon as I find out where we will move (it is a work from home job).

Planning for Grandma Sarah’s funeral over GoToMeeting

Conference call to plan Grandma Sarah's funeral on gotomeeting
Grandma Sarah and Dad at a much younger ageAll Grandma Sarah’s remaining childern (me–Dad, Uncle, Aunt Julia and Aunt Jean–on the left two boxes of the conference call video strip at the top of this post) as well as most of the grandkids (Amy–not pictured, Kylee, Julia and Charlie–in the left three boxes of the strip) as well as some good help from Uncle’s Rich and Jerry got together for a video conference on GoToMeeting to remember Grandma Sarah and plan the funeral. Our sister Amy died of SIDS and Kelly and Christian were traveling home from Thanksgiving.

We laughed and cried, heard lots of stories and had some ideas about what we want to do. It was truly wonderful. I thought he thing that was most interesting was that each of us had a story or two that we just assumed everyone new, but when the story was told, there were some who had no idea. We have a good plan and I have a continued appreciation for the kindness of my siblings. I guess that is an additional tribute to Grandma Sarah and Grandpa Milo, too.

Aunt Jean sent me the grainy picture of Grandma Sarah and I from many moons ago. Like all the other kids, I felt like there was something special between her and and I that was unique to just us. I love that picture.