Yearly Archives: 2017

Changes and New Year’s resolutions

It has been truly an odd year. It was partly odd because we held the funeral for goth Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah in February, we moved from an apartment in Texas to Washington State after having moved from an apartment in Oregon to Texas the year before and from our house in North Carolina to Oregon the year before that–all to deal with aging parents. We were so much in upheaval, it really felt odd to be settled in a house again.

During this time, we had no time nor inclination to pay attention to or participate in one of the strangest elections in American history. The funny deal was that we were thankful for that in many ways–looking back it made me realize that there is no reason to lose one’s peace given the sure knowledge that God is in control. We will probably participate in future elections, but with a fundamentally different mindset than in the past.

The other odd occurrence, was the movement of our children from a status of students to a status of being truly on their own, making their own decisions, paying their own bills, and living on their own. Actually, they have lived that way for three and a half years now, but this year there seemed to be some finality to it. We had a wonderful time at Christmas, not always calm, but always wonderful. Lorena and I are always sad to see them go, but this time, more than any time before, it felt like they were going home after a visit rather than leaving home to go back to school.

This all puts us at a new place in life. It seems like Lorena and I are more in upheaval than the kids. We are still trying to figure out what to do next. As a New Year’s resolution, I have decided (beside my perennial favorite to be less fat), to sin less, love more and find a peace in my God-given vocation whatever that might be.

Bald eagle from the living room

Warren K. took some very cool pictures of the bald eagle that sits on the tree behind our house sometimes to fish down in the Chehalis River below us. He took the picture with his Samsung S8 phone looking through the spotting scope Bob so kindly lent us. We thought the pictures were amazing. The bird certainly was.

Hooking up the new camera

I bought a global shutter camera from Ameridroid for Gene’s and my new project. It is a pretty amazing little camera, especially for the price. It is a USB 3.0 so it runs fast. I do not have the lens I need for the application we are doing so I ordered a three lens kit (need it anyway). I hope to be able to start testing beans falling past the camera before the end of the holiday, but that might be a little ambitious.

The other really good thing about this camera compared to the ov5640 cameras I have been using is that the Korean company, WithRobot, that makes the camera provides great, freely available libraries to control all the things the camera does. If I can get the camera control into our proto-type program, we will have made a major step in getting to the point where we can actually start developing a product.

Seattle to Portland Amtrak train derails — multiple fatalities

It is being reported there were at least six three fatalities in the wreck. This is the train we took to return home from visiting Kelly in Seattle when we lived in Portland. It is also the train we take to visit Kelly in Seattle now that we live in Centralia. When we drive back from Seattle, we always drive under the graffiti marked train trestle (overpass). We love to take the train. It was very sad this happened. We understood this one of the first trains on the new, faster route that had been opened.

Lorena and Kelly go to the Symphony

Lorena and Kelly did a mother/daughter Christmas concert. The dressed up, went to an elegant dinner, and then on to the concert. They had a great time. I hope this turns into an annual affair. I also gives me a chance to live a day and a half of a slovenly life without Lorena sweeping up the crumbs and browbeating me into cleaning up after myself. All I have to do is clean up before she gets home.

The global shutter camera arrived

The camera for the project Gene and I are working on arrived. It is pretty amazing. It cost literally 20% of the cost of what a camera with similar features would have cost only five years ago. I am dying to try it out, but in my normal bonehead manner of operation, I did not get the USB 3.0 cable I need to make it work. I was highly confident I had the right cable. It turns out I have a gazillion cables that are rapidly in the process of becoming obsolete and a gazillion more that ARE obsolete.

Fogged in (but with no rain!)

After a week of crisp, clear, late fall days with beautiful territorial views from my office of the town belows, the foothills behind it and the mountain behind that, today I can barely see to the edge of the property. Still, it is not raining and any day in this part of the world at this time of year without rain is a day to be enjoyed. I walked to the mailbox twice yesterday in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I hope to do it again today even if the fog does not burn off. If we get a drought this summer, I suppose I will lament all this, but right now I am enjoying it immensely. I can see that I am now one of those guy who talks about the weather and the birds in the backyard. I have turned into my grandparents.

Fireworks again!

We did not get a picture that really did these fireworks. We certainly were not expecting a professional fireworks display off our back balcony. This part of the world is very enthusiastic about their fireworks in a way that exceeds any place I have ever been including Mexico. They were very nicely done and very colorful. We hope they do it every year at Christmas time.

Reading the Kindle at the treadmill

After a few days of experimentation (and actual usage), I finally have the treadmill set up in a way that works for me. Bob helped me move the treadmill downstairs, then I futzed with a way to read my Kindle for three days before I got something that actually works. I used a suction pad from the base of a cell phone holder to hold the Kindle in exactly the right place to read when I walk. Now all I need is some decent new books to read. I am about a quarter of the way through a good one and I have another good one coming in January, but I am going to need a lot more if I stick to this. It is helping my weight-loss plan quite a lot, too. This combined with the Fitbit allows me to keep my calorie output well above my calorie intake by quite a bit.

The sun is shining in Western Washington

They say it is unusual for the sun to shine during the rainy season in Western Washington. It may be unusual, but it is not that unusual. For instance: today. The air is crisp, clean, and clear. You can see forever. It is a great day to be alive. It would even be better if I were not chained to a desk although I have to admit that I do not mind that.

Lots of people have asked us, incredulously, why we moved to Centralia, Washington. We tell them, besides the really nice people and a worldview (relatively speaking) common to our own, why would anyone not want to live in a temperate climate with a view like this. There are lots of other reasons, but these, by themselves, are enough.

We hope that it will even get better. Our gardener came to the house today to talk about some intermediate term plans to clean up the yard and to prune the fruit trees. If we have all of the above and home grown apples from the Apple State, people should really stop asking us that question. Next I will have to get one of those apple picker poles like Bob has. It is really hard to keep up with Bob and Gena.

(Another) healthy living kick

I got my new Fitbit a week or so ago. Now that I am six months into my new job and have time to breath again, I have engaged again in an effort to lead a more healthy life. Bob and Gena lent me an industrial strength treadmill. Lorena is helping me eat healthier food in lower quantities. I have no more excuses. I have set my self a long term goal to get down sixty pounds and have posted (as is my wont) a graph of my weight progress. This time, though, I have also posted a graph of my daily step count and calorie deficit (calories out – calories in). Everyone tells me I should not way every day, but I am keeping track of everything else every day so I cannot help myself.

Here is the link to the permanent page for the 2017-2018 Weight Chart.

 

The value of a vision system

Yesterday I bought a machine vision camera for the project my buddy Gene and I are doing to build a (semi-)cheap little machine to inspect coffee beans. We need something called a global shutter camera because the beans will be in motion when we capture their images. In the past a camera like this would have cost in the $1000 range. Over the years they dropped to $300-$400. Yesterday, I paid $135 for this camera–quantity 1–and that included shipping. If this is coupled with a Raspberry Pi and OpenCV (~$200 with a power supply, heat sink, and other necessary stuff), it is possible to build a vision system that is faster (by a lot) and smarter (by a lot) than the vision systems we used to sell when I started at Intelledex in 1983 for $30k (~$74k in today’s dollars). The upshot is that it is now possible to do tasks for cheap that no one would have ever thought possible. There are large categories of machine vision problems that companies are accustomed to paying through the nose to solve. That is truly not necessary anymore if one is smart enough to put the pieces together. I hope we are smart enough.

A Christmas Gift from LMI

Lorena will never let me retire if my company keeps doing stuff like this. They sent a huge Christmas package with multiple boxes from Harry and David down in Medford. We LOVE this. I am beginning to see LMI’s strategy. They actively push for Lorena to travel with me to the corporate headquarters and put us in an incredibly nice hotel close to the largest mall in all of Canada whenever I go there. The do a gazillion additional nice things all the time. Some of the projects are difficult and the hours are often long, but it is truly one of the best places I have ever worked.

Camera copy stand

A very cool new toy arrived at our door a couple of days ago. It is a camera copy stand that will hold a cellphone or other arbitrary item that fits a certain form factor. It will be invaluable in the bean sorting project, but I will be able to use it for a lot of other machine vision image capture testing tasks. We have made a lot of progress on the project and expect to start buying the actual cameras and lighting we hope to use within the next few weeks. The next difficult task is to drop the beans past a camera while we synchronize the capture and lighting of the scene so the bean is not blurry and we can see the surface of both sides very well. There are more tricky little things we need to do after that, but we cannot move forward until we know that is possible. As soon as that is figured out, I will see if Gene can help me set up a more permanent test fixture to systematically drop beans past the cameras so we can gather a test set from which to build a classifier.

Kiwi after Thanksgiving

All the guests are gone, Kelly has driven back up to Washington and Christian is set to fly out tomorrow. Thanksgiving was a great success. We had different groups over for meals and dessert on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It was really nice. I got to cook the turkey and make the turkey soup. Both of those are a 50/50 proposition for me, but we hit the lottery this year so we had a moist turkey that was cooked enough and soup that was neither too greasy nor too bland. I guess the stars were aligned. Even Kiwi got hit with that tryptophan snooze button this year. Here are a few more photos of the weekend (sorry we had none from Friday night).

Lorena makes the Thanksgiving quiche

People will start arriving in an hour or so, Lorena has started in on the Thanksgiving Quiche–the holiday has officially started for the Chapman household. We are having a little bit of a topsy-turvy weekend and will be out as much as we are in, but this is the first time in three years the whole family has been together and we actually have a house instead of an apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving. We even have two turkeys!