Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Bonnie



- Max

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Sur & A Trip to Monterey

I was so excited to be able to spend last weekend with my friend Steve and his wife, Amanda.  Steve and I went to undergrad together and though we've kept in touch, it's been about 8 years since we've been able to hang out.

What's awesome is that Steve and Amanda live in Monterey, about 2 hours from Oakland.  So Jeremy, Max, and I packed up on Friday and headed down to visit.

I was excited for a few things this weekend.  1) to see old friends.  2) for max to experience the beach and the ocean.  And 3) for max to play with Ginger dog!  Yep, Steve and Amanda have a little dog and I knew Max would just love him.

Though Friday night was a little touch and go, by Saturday night Max and Ginger dog were best friends.

I'm pretty sure Ginger ate more people food this weekend than she has in her short life so far.  Sorry about that Amanda.

Saturday morning we headed out to the coast and down to Big Sur.   The drive was amazing.  Though it was hard, I controlled myself and didn't ask to stop too many times along the way.  

We drove down to McWay Falls at Pfeiffer Beach and headed back, stopping a few times along the way.

The water looks so inviting.

And the coast so beautiful.

But it's pretty darn cold!

McWay Falls

McWay Falls Coast

Happy Family... well, two of us.

Bixby Bridge

After the drive, we headed to a small beach in Monterey.  I never did find out the name of it, mostly because I was crashed out along the way. 

I was so excited for Max to see the beach and the ocean.  He loves water and he loves the pool, so I was hoping he would like the ocean, even if it was a bit too cold to swim.

So we walked up to the water line.

And watched the ocean waves washing up on the shore.

The sand was chilly, but he cautiously walked toward the waters edge.

Man that water is COLD!  

And he was none too happy.

After we dried off a bit, we went away from the waters edge and spent some time in the sand.  He wasn't too happy at first (clearly), but after a while he seemed to be a little happy.

This kid is such a cutie!

Although the first trip didn't go exactly as I had hoped, I think our next adventures in the sand will be better received.  Though I'm sure swimming in the ocean will have to wait until we visit someplace warm!

Here's to great friends and California living!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

California Dreamin'

We made it!

It's been a hell of a 2 months, but we are finally here and getting situated.  At this point you've probably heard the story, but I'll give you a quick recap.

For the past few months I'd noticed the funding on my current project getting tighter and tighter.  I knew it was just a matter of time, so I started looking at other options.  One day I saw a post from Russ Angold on Linkdin looking for an electrical engineer to head up their Ekso team in the Bay Area.

"Should I apply?" I asked Jeremy.

"Sure, why not." He said. 

Well fast forward a few weeks and I landed the job two days before I was told that my project funding would be out in three weeks.  Perfect timing. 

Though I wasn't (and sometimes still aren't) convinced it was a good idea, we decided that if we didn't move to Cali then we would look back on this opportunity 10 years from now and say "why didn't we go."

So we sold the house, packed our stuff, and headed on out here.

Two weeks after moving and I can say we are getting used to the area.  We live in Oakland, but up in the hills with a great view of San Francisco and the bay.  Our house is about 700 sq ft smaller than our Houston house, but we rented a storage place and we are getting used to the limited space.  Honestly, there were rooms in our old house that we never really used anyway, so it's not so bad.  Plus we've really downsized and purged, which felt great.

As for my job, well, that's going great.  I'm full time now (did a few half days to start) and I'm loving the people and the work.  Our building is open and airy and has windows... a whole wall of them.  We even have TWO, yes 2, women's bathrooms.  Check out the bathroom signs

I've already have lots to do and people are all pretty excited that I've finally arrived.  I hope I can live up to their expectations!

Also today I got to take the Ekso GT for a test ride, okay walk.  It's pretty cool and it was really interesting feeling this exo vs the X1 exoskeleton that I worked on at NASA. 

What's even cooler is that people are coming into the building all the time to work with the exo and work with the PT's in our group.  It's amazing to see people up and walking in such a short amount of time.  I'm really excited to be part of this team and to be part of a project that will have such a lasting impact on mankind.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A special message from Sonoma

Happy 39th Anniversary 
Mom & Dad!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle

Yesterday Jeremy, myself, and our friend, Chris, got to drive the NASA SEV Chariot Rover.  The Rover was designed in in the Dexterous Robotics Lab where I work, however the team that designed it is part of a different group, in a different building, so I don't get to interact with them very often.

It was a great experience to learn more about what they are doing and to drive the rover.  It was so much fun!

Jody was nice enough to take us out to the rock yard and we each got to drive through the craters and up and down the rock hill.

The Chariot Rover has six wheel modules, each with independent suspension, drive, steering and 2 feet of travel.   It also is equip with crab drive.  All this allows the rover to traverse even the most difficult terrains.

Here are some pictures of us driving up and around the rock yard.

Check out my flickr page for more photos and videos!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Meet Valkyrie

I am very excited to be able to share with you all the robot that I have spent the last 9 months working on.  It's been so hard to keep this a secret, but I have been very fortunate to work with an amazing team of people on this awesome project.

Meet Valkyrie. 

She is a highly dexterous bipedal walking robot designed by an awesome team of engineers at the Johnson Space Center to compete in the Darpa Robotics Challenge (DRC).

The DRC is a robotics competition bringing together the best of the best from around the world.  The goal of this challenge is to build a dexterous robot that can perform a variety of tasks in hazardous environments and perform disaster response operations, much like those seen at the Fukushima reactor site.

The project was kicked off in October 2012 with several tracks.  Our team has chosen to compete in Track A, which means we were responsible for building our own hardware and software from the ground up.  There are five other teams in the Track A category, one of which is RoboSimian, another NASA team from JPL in California.

Teams not wanting to design their own hardware, had the choice of participating in the Virtual Robotics Challenge.  These teams had to design software to run a simulated Atlas robot through a variety of tasks demonstrating robotic control, locomotion, and manipulation.  Those teams ranked highest were awarded an Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics which they will use to compete with along side the Track A teams this December in Florida.  (Side note: Our partner on the X1 Exoskeleton project, IHMC, placed first in the virtual challenge!)

This years trials will run the robots through a series of disaster recovery tasks, one at a time.  Some of the tasks include walking over rough terrain, clearing debris, climbing a ladder, driving a cart, walking up to and through a doorway, actuating power tools, and manipulating hoses and valves, to name a few.

To read more about the Robotics Challenge, click HERE.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


A few months back we were staying at our friends house in Austin, when he introduced us to the world of smoking.

No, not that type of smoking.  Texas smoking.  As in meat.  Delicious delicious meat.

He had just purchased a Trager smoker, technically a pellet grill, and was eager to make some ribs for us.  Using the 321 method (explained below) he proceeded to make the most amazing ribs that I've ever had at someones house.  And that includes my dad's ribs, which are pretty freaken amazing.

I was hooked.

Fast forward 3 weeks and I finally convince Jeremy that we NEEDED one of these for ourselves.

We head down to Costco and 2 trips later (that's a whole other story) we arrive home with 1 smoker and 3 bags of pellets: hickory, apple, mesquite.

First meal: Ribs.

For these we followed the Trager cookbook recipe and employed the 3-2-1 method.

Smoke for 3 hours, wrap and "cook" at 225 for 2 hours, unwrap and continue to cook at 225 for 1 more hour to let the meat tighten.

They were fall off the bone tender.

Here you can see them nicely arranged on the smoker.

We did notice the skin was a little tough, but I think we could avoid that by using a mop sauce as described below.

For the rub we used only a dry rub consisting of Rib Tickler and Joe's Stuff.

Meal 2: Brisket

Let me start by saying, we live in TX and in Texas there is no such thing as a small brisket.  Good luck finding anything under 10 lbs.  For our first brisket experience we chose a 12 lb prime brisket from Costco.  

It fit on the smoker quite nicely don't you think.

Again we used a dry rub consisting of Rib Tickler, Joe's Stuff, and Saltlick dry rub.

We also made a mop sauce of 2 cups of Saint Arnold's Octoberfest, 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.

We smoked the brisket for 4 hours, uncovered, coating with the mop sauce (in a spray bottle) every hour.

We then cooked it at 225 for 6 more hours, mopping every 1.5 hours, until the internal temp read about 195 deg.

Finally we wrapped it in foil and old towels and let it rest in a cooler for 30 minutes.

It was awesome.  I'm not a huge brisket fan, mostly because I find it to be too dry, but this was super moist and delicious.  Two thumbs up.

In addition to brisket and ribs, we've also done chicken (cooked at 350) and burgers.  The burgers were okay, but the chicken was very juicy and had a perfectly crisp skin.

I'm so glad we made the investment, and I can't wait to see what we decide to smoke next week!