Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fahren mit dem Flugzeug, Zug und Motorrad nach Deutschland

I thought about writing this in German, but decided you guys would be too lazy to copy and paste it into google translate. So here it is in English. You (Here would be a great place to write Johnny's phrase, but I'm writing to larger audience). 

I didn't have any finals, so I left the day classes ended to help coach my younger sisters' FLL team in the 2014 FLL World Class Open National Championship at Lego Land.

Our team's pit table was next to a team from Turkey.

It was great! It reminded me of the good old days. Now that I'm older and helping out with running the program, I realize how little the adults knows what's going on. It's a lot less structured than I imagined it as a kid. 

But the kids had fun, they were in Lego Land after all. 

!!!!! This was great! Stäubli rides!

Hollywood sign

San Francisco

And New York City... all made out of Legos, all of which I would see, drive across, and gawk at before flying to Germany...

We stayed in this super nice hotel suite thing with a nice view of the Pacific Ocean. 

We also got silly caricatures. Here's a gif. I was a bit surprised by how old I looked; I got one of those done when I was in Mexico ~6 years ago (it looked a bit younger).


After the robotics competition we drove up to Los Angeles, saw the Hollywood sign and took a stroll on the Walk of Fame. 

La Brea Tar Pits. 

The Fam flew back to Alaska, and I stayed in LAX and finished writing up a late paper :3. Then I took a sleeper bus to San Fransisco and arrived at 7AM. 

Those skyscrapers weren't there last summer. I guess they can build faster without the hardships of building during a real winter

I didn't really have any plans at this point. I was still quite disoriented from MIT, robot competitions, crazy all-nighter sleep schedule fun stress just ending. So, I didn't have a solid plan when I arrived in San Francisco. I felt like I was living on the streets at Starbucks with all my backpacking gear. I eventually made it over to the storage unit where I left the motorcycle I drove around California last summer after a few naps on the SF public transportation system. 

Yep. I had done derped. I left the keys to my storage unit back in M203. I had a few hours before the facility closed for the day, so I ran down to an O'Reilly Auto Parts and bought some random tools that I turned into lock picking tools. 

I spent a good hour trying to pick the lock to no avail. Running out of time, I decided to drill it out. I ran back to O'Reilly's and attempted to by a drill, but they were all $50+. :/

Luckily, the manager of the Public Storage facility dropped by just before they closed, and he used his lock picking drill and destroyed the lock in seconds. (It was really quite impressive. He just attacked the lock with the drill and the door opened. He's gotten quite good at it...)

So yeah. There it was :) sittin there all alone for a year.  

I had to figure out a way to ride (safely) with a huge backpacking back pack, a back pack, and some other little bags to hold my crocs (I didn't drive barefoot...). I ended up leaving that tank of gas at an auto shop down the road.

And then... BATTLEBOTS! I drove up to Vallejo and met up with Charles, Dane, Adam and the crew for dinner at a little Italian pizza place. It was super cool! They had a flat Pac-Man arcade game from back in the day, and Adam's older brother beat it's high score :P. It was fun, we ended up eating our dinner on it, and continued to play.

But yeah! BATTLEBOTS! It's premier is TOMORROW and the trailer looks amazing!

Battlebots was pretty awesome! But it was also a robot competition. There were quite a few sparks, hour long waits, and dead robots... and a few just absolutely beautiful KOs. They had candy to tide the audience camera crew and robot builder people over during the filming lulls.  

They actually had an infinite supply of candy. You could eat all those red vines and they would magically reappear. 

I tested it... Had this for lunch one day. No ragrets.

I got to practice my "act like you're an important person who belongs there and shouldn't get checked at the gate" face. It worked a few times, but after I found a crew pass it was just too easy. 

After most of the battlebots were dead, I took a plane over to NYC. 

While waiting for a shuttle to Katie's house, this guy made a comment about the book I was reading. Turns out he's written a few best seller mysteries... 

Looks like there's an IDC in New York City too...

I got to hang out with Katie and her parents for a day. It was great! Thanks Katie!

Then, I was off to LaGuardia for a flight to Frankfurt with a pit stop in Montreal. 

I didn't realize Montreal was the heart of the French speaking Canada. All the Canadians I had met over near Alaska didn't speak any French and said "eh" all the time. So that was pretty cool. I felt like I was already in Europe. 

This confirmed it... I think French Canada is Europe (or at least France). They had a condom dispenser in the bathroom of an airport...

The plane was super big: 3 rows of seats with 5 seats in the middle. It was great! Germans speaking german and Canadians speaking French. 

Free wine... oh yeah.

Der Flugzeug.

I landed in Germany, after flying all night, and caught a train down to the Swiss border where I stayed with my host Family from a High School exchange program I did 5 years ago. More on that later...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Few Weeks of Wandering Around the Bay Area

Hi Putzy-People,

I am sadly lacking in machine shops out here, so I've been entertaining myself in other ways.  On my second day on the west coast I trecked from San Francisco up to Mare Island to watch the taping of the new season of Battlebots (go Charles!).  I also saw Jaguar, Jume, and other friends up there.  No pictures though, because it's all super secret and I forgot to take pictures anyway.

On my first weekend here I acquired a road bike through craigslist.  I bought it from a very friendly Google employee who went so far as to grease everything and check all the bolts with a torque wrench before parting with it.  Hopefully I won't get too attached to it and can sell it again at the end of the summer.

Went on a nice and foggy memorial day ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and around Hawk Hill.

The next Saturday I met up with Wesley in Orinda, and hiked up and down Mt. Diablo.  Wesley was kind enough to not leave me in the dust, but I was pretty wrecked by the end.

Part way up:

At the top, me looking somewhat delirious:

I've done some hanging out in Glen Canyon Park.  Pretty cool place in the middle of San Francisco:

Last Saturday I biked to Muir Woods.  

Beginning the winding descent to the entrance.  Had a minor incident on the way down involving an abrupt and very wet corner, but both my bike and myself came out relatively unscathed:

Big trees.  Too many people:

Fortunately the people were quickly escaped. 

Here's the only ben katz selfie ever taken.  You'll probably never see another one, so enjoy it.

how does this work?
Hey, it's Ames St!

Other activities of interest:

I turned 21 and went on a coffee-bar crawl with Katie, Yo, and Rodrigo.  I had 5 good espressos at 5 different coffee places around the Mission.  My mental acuity was relatively uncompromised.

Work at the moment involves 80% doing modeling and data analysis in matlab, and 20% running drive unit (what Tesla  calls the inverter, motor, gearbox, and differential assembly) tests in the dynamometer lab.  The dyno lab is a pretty cool place.  There are dozens of in-house designed 90-kW power supplies, which can source or sink the 90-kW. Most of the dynos use three of these.  There are dyno control stations with giant 4k monitors, running kind of derpy NI software.  And motors everywhere.  Sadly I don't get to touch any of the hardware, as all that work is done by full-time technicians.  

I sit right next to the motor design team and across from some motor control folks, so I get to absorb their motor-talk while I work.  I don't think I've ever heard the word "flux" with such frequency before.

Until next time!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Jennie and Weaver Lake backpacking trip

I decided to go to the mountains after a long time of not going. Jennie and Weaver Lake loop trail is east of Fresno in the Sierras bordering Sequoia National Park. It is ~15 miles long, has fairly minimal elevation gain, and features two stunning alpine lakes, making it a pretty ideal weekend adventure. In addition to being outside, this trip gave me an opportunity to test some homemade gear, which I want to use on a longer backpacking trip later this summer.

The trip had an interesting start. In a surprising turn of events, Putz's own Arka decided to join the backpacking trip after flying in from Russia or wherever the night before. Instead of heading to the trailhead early Friday, we shopped for some last minute gear and food. We didn't actually make it to the trailhead until 4:30pm - right as the rain/snow/hail/thunder storm started. After a mad scramble to put on rain gear, we hit the trail.

Here is a photo of Arka looking sad while it snows. Soon after this photo, he came to the realization that he had not packed appropriately for this trip, and decided to turn back. Don't feel too sorry for him though, he later went on to have a lovely weekend fishing at Hume lake with a friendly vacationing family.

Around 6:30, the weather started to ease up, and stunning views were available all around.

I have never seen flowers like this before. Do you know what they are?

At around 7:30, I rolled into Jennie Lake. The storm had passed, the air was calm, the water was still.

The next morning, while walking, I took a selfie.

Here is a crazy looking tree that looks like it decided after a certain height that it wanted to be many more than one tree.

with the rain/snow from the past few weeks, there was an abundance of lovely flowers like this.

The highest altitude on this loop is ~9000ft, so there actually isn't too much time above the tree line. In a few places though, there are still wonderful open views like this.

These are some crazy looking mystery plants. Do you know what they are?

I used a Sawyer Mini inline water filter, attached it to a silnylon bag I sewed, and made a gravity water filter. It is very light compared to a pump and seems to work great. Here it is in action, hanging from a tree on the left at Weaver Lake.

Weaver Lake was so beautiful, and I was sorry to leave it so soon.

Hopefully there is another outside adventure in the near future!