Kelly’s cooking log

Kelly's food logKelly texted me this a couple of days ago. It is hear food and cooking log. She has always been a big cooking buff what with her gourmet Grandpa Milo and the eclectic by unsurpassed everyday cooking of her Mother. Now though, she is taking it to another level. In the meantime, her redheaded Mexican Dayanita is definitely entering the cooking fray. She is currently taking culinary classes in Mexico and, based on recent Instagram posts, is investing some effort upping her confectionery sills. Kelly, for her part, has added some pretty amazing finger foods suitable for potlucks and other assorted get-togethers. This does not bode well for my waist line.

Confitería de Dayanita

 Baking by Dayanita #1

Pastel de Dayanita #2

Kelly’s Crudités

Kelly's crudités plate

Looking at appliances–the grill

Lorena shopping for Thermadoor range tops at Nebraska Furniture Mart in TexasThe kitchen in the house we are trying to buy is getting dated. We pretty much need to replace everything. We hope to use the pieces in the current kitchen to make a standalone apartment in the daylight basement. The three things we usually do not have to replace when we move are the refrigerator and the clothes washer and dryer, but they all went as part of the sell in the house in North Carolina. We did buy a new clothes washer and dryer when we moved to Texas, so that means we are going to have to figure out how to get a range top and hood, an oven or two, a microwave, a dish washer and a refrigerator.

Of course everything is negotiable, but Lorena knows what she wants, especially when it comes to the range top. The range top shown in the picture on the left is the one she wants. It is the Thermador Professional 36″ with an electrically heated griddle in the middle (for warming tortillas). The range top is always the center piece in her kitchen so we do the best we can. We think we kind of have it figured out this time. In these pictures, it looks like the Albany range top was better and, in some ways, that was true. It had the cool blue knobs (actually, we still have them because we kept the blue knobs that came as add-ons and returned the original metal knobs back to the range top when we moved from Albany to Raleigh) and it was a 36″ inch top with a grill in the middle. That is not entirely true because we had a much better hood in Raleigh than in Albany. All in all it was about a wash.

We chose the grill in the middle of the Albany stove because we thought we would use it a lot. We hardly used it at all. We liked to cook on the outdoor grill a lot more than the one in doors and ended up getting a comal which Lorena set on the grill to warm tortillas. When we moved to Raleigh, we would have had to make wholesale changes to the cabinetry and buy new granite to accommodate a 36″ cook top, so we reconciled ourselves to a 30″ top with four burners and no grill nor griddle in between. Sadly, the blue knobs from our old Thermador did not fit the grill we bought in Raleigh, so they have been packed away ever since. We will bite the bullet and buy new blue ones if they do not fit our new range top this time. We are not sure exactly what we can afford, but we certainly know what we would like!

Notes: We will talk about the hood in a later post

Amazing birdhouses

Al Russell (our elder in Lewisville) makes awesome birdhousesAfter church a couple of Sundays back, I was talking to the elder, Al R. (we meet in his home), about the doll house business my father ran for many years. He told me he made birdhouses that were similar. I thought that was nice and interesting, but did not think much of it. Then he texted me a picture of his work and I was completely amazed. It is not just that they are beautifully done with a lot of ornate rock work, but the houses are weatherized so they can handle the outside, too.

Our new place in Centralia (keeping our fingers crossed) is a perfect place for birdhouses. We are right in the middle of a forested area with a river (with salmon and steelhead in it) just a quarter of a mile away as the crow flies. Al only makes them for fun to give to friends and family. I am going to have to be on especially good favor if I want to ever commission him for one. We absolutely need to have some bird feeders and some birdhouses, but my understanding is that to have any success with them, you have to do war with the squirrels. I suppose that is true everywhere.

There is enough wildlife in the area that the porch should be a great place to just sit with a pair of binoculars, a telescope and a camera. There are black bears, bobcat, mountain lion, deer, elk, etc. all over that part of Washington, but we really do love to watch the birds, too.

Progress on our haven (only thing left is closing)

Kelly - Make America Great AgainThe appraisal for our house purchase came in fine yesterday. We signed off on all the improvements required for the sale. The only thing left is to close. The close will occur, God willing, at the end of the month. So now we are are excited about making the move. We know a lot about that part of the world, but not so much about the particular place we chose. We love everything we have seen in our visits and within a two hour drive of our house we have a gazillion old friends. Right in town it surely seems like we have a great and growing group of new friends we look forward to getting to know better.

We are some what apolitical these days, or at least we are trying to be. Still, we know we are moving to the belly of the beast when we go back to the Pacific Northwest. Portland and Seattle with all their natural beauty are notorious for their lack of decorum and reason with respect to the hard left politics of at least a plurality of their populations. We want to live on the west side of the mountains and avoid some of the lack of tolerance in those places so that restricted our choice a little. The place we chose is almost the exact center between the two, maximizing the distance to both of them. The picture in this post is of Kelly stirring the pot more than of Kelly making a political statement. It was a brave thing to go dressed like that to school in Seattle. She needs the haven just as much as us. We were assured by our new friends in our new town we will fit right in and it surely seems like they are right from what I have seen so far.

Getting ready for a long drive

Truck rental for cross country moveI am starting to talk to truck rental places. Some of you might know that, even though we are currently living in Dallas, all we have is an apartment and enough “stuff” to live there short term. Most of our “stuff” is still in a warehouse in Raleigh. So, this trip will entail me flying from Dallas to Raleigh, loading up the truck, driving to Dallas, picking up Lorena and the “stuff” in our apartment there, driving to Tempe to spend some time with Christian and go to one of our church conventions, then driving (through California, not Utah) on up to Washington state. I put “stuff” in scare quotes advisedly. Why do we need all that?

I actually love these trips. The first time I took a cross country trip was when I drove Aunt Jean’s car to her in at University of South Florida in Tampa. I have done these kinds of trips enough times that I have lost count. Some of the best ones were when I had one of my buddies along (Warren B and Curt N in particular), but Lorena and some combination of the kids and I have made the trip four or five times now, too. This trip I will get the best of all worlds: a third of the trip on my own, two thirds with Lorena and a couple several day stops in between. The spring is really a pretty nice time of the year to be on the road. All I need to do is make sure the truck has a jack for my Kindle. When I load up on good books for the road, I am good to go.

Landscape options

Albany landscaping projectWe bought a new house in Albany, Oregon back in about 2004 (picture to the left). When we bought the house it did not have anything but a small slab for a patio in the back. Grandpa Milo helped us put in a beautiful, stamped concrete patio with large planters in the back. There was no landscaping other than a small patch at the front of the house; all of the rest of it was dirt and weeds. I have to say we had a great time putting in the lawn and doing a little landscaping around the house. We planted rows of trees along both streets (it is a corner lot) and the back property line. There were some electrical services at the front of the lot that drew attention that we did not look. Since there was a very slight slope toward that corner of the lot, we put a small retaining wall around the services, built up the dirt behind the wall a little and planted some trees and plants. We also added the porch roof and decorative posts that cover the porch that leads to the lawn on two sides of the house and the French doors that lead out to the porch. lead out to the lawn from(well that was our builder Mark, but we paid for it). What you see here is the result.

We have a better starting point with the new house in Washington in one sense. The landscape is manageable, but not great in terms of use and maintenance and it is much, much bigger. First idea on landscapeLorena and I need to decide how much of the lawn we want to maintain as landscape and how much we want to maintain as “forest.” We definitely have an opportunity to put in some terracing that will change the area behind the house into something eminently more usable. One of the first things we plan to do as soon as we get out there is take a bunch a pictures of the yard and start figuring out what we want to do. Part of our goal is to get me some manual labor with a shovel in doing any kind of transformation we plan. I think the landscape will be at least a three phase effort, especially since I am going to be providing the manual labor (unless I wimp out).

The remodel plan, kitchen first

As Lorena and I are get closer to our move to Washington state, we get more anxious to figure out what we want to do with the old kitchen in the new (to us) house. I thought it would be fun to have some before and after pictures of the work we hope to do. Our plan is to do this in five phases: 1) the kitchen, 2) the covered porch/new roof line, 3) fireplaces and a new floor upstairs, 4) a downstairs apartment with kitchen and laundry and 5) new bathrooms. Of course, we might have the time, resources or energy to do all of this, some other change in personal or world circumstances might dictate other priorities or we could just die in a flaming train, car or airplane wreck (or maybe something not so exotic) so we reserve the right to change or stop the plan.

With all those caveats, we know we need to start with the kitchen. Our friend Mark Prescott has already started putting together some options for us. The pictures below show the kitchen as it is now. The window of which you cannot see much in the first pictures looks out onto a fairly incredible view of Mount Rainier. The window to the left of that looks out onto the front/side yard which is an obvious place for Lorena to grow flowers. We want to take all the appliances and the cabinets from the old kitchen (and the clothes washer and dryer from the laundry room–we have better ones) down to the daylight basement for the apartment down there.

We were thinking we could put the main sink where the stove currently sits with a window above it looking out onto the garden and the stove to the right of that. Then put in a French door to replace the window facing the front/side yard–the porch right there is a great place to put a grilling area. We are still thinking about it and Mark almost always has better ideas than us, but it is getting real now and we are looking forward to getting started.
Centralia, old kitchen, 001 Centralia, old kitchen, 002 Centralia, old kitchen, 003 Centralia, old kitchen, 004

Living vicariously through our children

Christian's lab at ASU (Feb. 2017)Kelly and I had an interesting discussion last night about her work. Her work is very similar to mine in many ways. The work Christian does has similarities to mine, but they are superficial (see his office in the picture to the left). Some have assumed I pushed Christian toward the kind of work I do to live vicariously through his superior training and skills. Over all the years of homeschool, I fought against that, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. In the end, though Christian went off into an area for which I am admittedly a fan-boy, but that is so deep in the bowels of the theoretical math associated with network information theory, I have no clue about how even to talk about it with him.

My pleasant surprise with Kelly was revealed when we talked about something she does at work. She developed and ran a survey for use in creating a marketing strategy for her company. She is in the process of figuring out what the data mean. Kelly at Starbucks in Canby, OR (Jan. 2017)One of her first steps was to find where and how different sets of features (answers to survey questions) cluster with respect to the characteristics of the customers who took the survey. Crazily, she is using precisely the same algorithms I use every day to find clusters of motion pixels in video images that indicate someone is about to fall out of a bed in a hospital. She predominately uses the R statistical programming language, but also Python which she is in the process of learning. The clustering algorithms she is trying are k-means clustering, mean-shift filtering, density based spatial clustering, support vector machines, etc.

For my part, my undergraduate degree is in marketing. I implement all of the same algorithms with C++, python and am learning R, but to perform image segmentation. She LOVES that stuff. I LOVE that stuff. I actually think she has the perfect job for her. It is exciting to her the same way my work is exciting to me, both on a technical level and for her love of engaging with customers and fellow employees. I did not plan it this way, but I am getting a little bit of a vicarious thrill from watching her in her new job.

Back from Tempe, time to get ready to move

Lorena visits Christian in Tempe - ASU palm treesLorena is at the airport right now, waiting to return home from a very good stay with Christian. Of course Christian was slammed with work–he had to respond to reviewers on a paper he wants to publish, prepare for a technical presentation for his Network Information Theory class, etc., etc. But at least now he is slammed with a shiny clean apartment, food in the pantry, rotated tires and all those other little details of which Lorena is queen.

For her part, Lorena truly loves the palm and citrus trees, the blooming flowers and the incredible, February, Tempe weather. It really is nice here in the Dallas area right now, but not nearly as nice as Phoenix as if that were even possible. We will start the serious push to get organized for the move starting next week. The rest of this week we do not plan to do much because life is going to get very rushed, very soon.

Kelly channeling Grandpa Milo’s cooking

Presentation is everything. Kelly, channeling Grandpa Milo's cookingGrandpa Milo was an amazing cook. He always said presentation of food is often more important that even taste. He said that to everyone who ever cooked with him. Every time Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah came to visit us, Kelly and Christian cooked with him so they heard that mantra a lot. Christian is a good cook, but does not have a lot of time to spend on food. It is so bad, he usually keeps a case of Soylent in his refrigerator for when he just runs out of time, but needs some energy. That is a story for another time.

Kelly, on the other hand, takes the time to cook and has gotten very, very good. She takes Grandpa Milo’s maxim to heart, so her stuff often looks quite amazing. She has been doing this now for years. There are some areas where she needs to broaden out her repertoire, but by and large, she has the fundamentals nailed and, with the all important presentation aspect she is a savant.

Evolution: Show us the numbers

Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed by Douglas AxeDouglas Axe is a highly trained molecular biologist (Cal Tech PhD, post-doc and research positions at Cambridge). He wrote a great article at The Stream about how facts get in the way of the (macro) evolutionary model as it is now taught in the vast majority of our academic institutions around the world. This has been known for decades and Axe calls out the evolutionary story tellers.

Here’s the steel-hard fact they most want to avoid:

The evolutionary explanation of life cannot stand up to NASA-style engineering scrutiny.

If you doubt this, please join me in testing it. Hand pick your Darwin sympathizers from the most esteemed places. It doesn’t matter who they are, because all the pomp and prestige of the academic world is powerless to change hard facts. All claims of Darwin having discovered the only scientifically valid explanation of life get torn to tiny bits when you put them in the grinder.

The response to this challenge is sure to be either silence or protest. There won’t be a nerdy evolutionary biologist who marches up to the chalk board and does the math that saves the theory. The math has been done; the theory undone. Nor will there be a lab test that shows natural selection to be a worker of wonders. We’ve been there. Too many tests to count, and the blind watchmaker never showed up.

It has gotten so bad and the fact that the emperor has no clothes is so obvious, Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities has written about it in his most recent book, The Kingdom of Speech. I wrote about that earlier (here). Wolfe seems to specialize in calling attention to false and/or base and repugnant ideas and people who are held in high regard by the so-called elites in our society. He does this masterfully one more time with the pompous Noam Chomsky and his take on linguistics as well as the false Darwinian zeitgeist of our day.

Douglas Axe has written a popular level book titled Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life is Design on the subject, too. In addition, he takes on the idea that “regular people” just are not smart enough to understand why (macro) evolution did not happen. Axe’s article in The Stream, his book and Wolfe’s books are all great reads.

Lorena in the sun city

Christian's jury duty badgeChristian's new Pixel cellphone in its car holderLorena arrived in Tempe now and Christian is taking her to lunch. She is sending me all kinds of meaninglessful pictures a couple of examples of which I present right here. The badge at the left was the cause of lots and lots of grief for the whole family. We are truly glad that this was not the occasion for Christian’s first stint of jury duty. I hope he gets to do it someday, but today is not the day. The picture on the right is Christian’s new Pixel cellphone from Google that he put in his handy car holder Mom got for him in December. She got one for me, too, and I see that it is handy enough, I really need to install it and start using it.

Lorena to PHX, Christian to jury duty

Lorena to visit Christian in Tempe, AZ February 2017I dropped Lorena off at the airport at 5 AM this morning to go spend a week with Christian in Phoenix. They have a great time when they get together. It seems like every time Christian turns around there is another road block that seems insurmountable. This morning, he goes in to serve jury duty. And it is not just jury duty, it is grand jury duty. That means if he gets picked he will be stuck there for four months. He is scheduled to move to Boston in a couple of months in his first pass working for MIT. I hope they let him out of it because if they do not, it means he will almost certainly have to stay in his program for an additional year due to classes they only give once per year, missed research opportunities and the need to drop all his classes for this semester which is half way complete. I surely hope he does not get saddled with this burden.

Update: Woo-hoo! Christian dodged the jury duty bullet. He told the judge he was in classes that were only given once every two years (true) and he had an internship in Boston at MIT Lincoln Labs that started half way through the four month jury duty term (true) and the judge said, “Goodbye.”

Working on sickle cell disease

sickle cell disease vision softwareThis weekend, I put the final touches on the prototype/demo version of the sickle cell disease software I am developing for Case Western Reserve University and HemexHealth. It will be demonstrated to potential partners in this week. I am not sure how much longer I will be needed for this project other than some tweaks to make it work better and easier to use, but it has been one of the most gratifying projects on which I have ever worked. It has huge potential to do good. I hope I get the opportunity to do more projects like this again in my lifetime.

Snowdrops in Centralia

Snowdrops by house in CentraliaOur new friends, Bob and Gena E. (we have so many common, old, old friends and things in common they actually feel like old friends) ran up to the house we are still trying to buy in Centralia and took a picture of these snowdrop flowers. Lorena loved them and is dying to get some more things planted around the place and start cleaning up the yard. There is just too much stuff to do both inside and out on the place it is going be a few years to get it how Lorena wants it but we are both, very much looking forward to the task. Now we just have to make it all the way to closing.

Stable kids

Kelly, February 2017
Chrsitian, February 2017I have been reflecting on it quite a bit lately and it seems kind of weird that both of our kids have been on their own and paying their own way for over two and a half years now. For our part, we have been in upheaval since they left North Carolina for graduate school in late June of 2014. We have moved three times (once to Oregon, once to Texas and once in Texas) and we are about to move again. I am currently on my third employer with a couple of contract jobs on the side. It seems they are the ones who are stable right now. I thought that was what parents were supposed to do, but it has pretty much been the nature of my kind of skill set to have to switch around a bunch.

We are about to move a fourth time in May if all the stars align and hope that stability thing starts to set in. I have a job and contract opportunities that could very well, God willing, take me to retirement without having to move again. At the same time, it is very, very nice to have kids who are sticking to long term, worth goals, working hard and staying on track when that is something that is hard to do in one’s early twenties, especially in this day and age. We are pretty much death on that pride thing–probably because we (read I) struggle with it, but I do feel very fortunate to have kids such as these.

The revolution will not be televised

There is a grating song/beat poem that came out in 1970’s that was some sort of a theme for a certain element during my college years. You can see it here (if you must). It is called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The thing that is going on in our country is put into context in a truly ironic way by Lloyd Marcus in an article titled The Trump Revolution Will Not Be Televised. He has enough years to have written this article based on personal knowledge. I am not sure that those who were not there and paying attention in the seventies will be able to understand and appreciate how much joy an article like this brings to those of us who were conservative, but were doomed to come of age in the hippie generation. Here is an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:

Trump’s election ushered in a new tone for America. Feeling emboldened, people are pushing back against the tyranny of political correctness by just saying, “no”. But you will not hear this widely reported in the leftist-controlled mainstream media. Panicked, the Left is desperately and frantically working to keep us believing that their extreme ideas are mainstream majority opinions.

This is why for the next four years, half a dozen protesters showing up to oppose Trump or his policies will be treated like a major news event by the media. Relentlessly, the Left will sell us their lie that Americans hate Trump and what he is doing. Therefore, the Trump revolution will not be televised.