Saturday, February 27, 2010


The tsunami warnings might be enough cause to stay out of the water. And mostly the beach was empty, except for some desperate tourists, determined to make the most of their vacation, and these guys...

This sport depends on big waves and wind action, so before, during, and after storms is when they are most likely to be seen in the surf.

The tsunami warning certainly made me extra cautious, but what really kept me out of the water is urban runoff.


Some spots are worse than others, but as a general rule, I avoid most So Cal beaches before and immediately after storms, when the worst of the polluting offenses are at their most concentrated.

Maria and I watched from the comfort and safety of Geoff's car. There were four guys riding waves, flying around. There were also three people jumping waves, romping in the surf. In swimsuits. Think they're form out of town? Uh-huh.

I guess sixty degree water temperature is warm by comparison (hey, it's only thirty five degrees Fahrenheit at Woods Hole, MA), but with the fifty nine degree air temperature, and the chilling wind, I cannot say I was tempted.

Storm surge and rip tides make it rough. Tsunami currents make it even more unpredictable.

Fortunately, the worst of the threat to Hawaii seems to have passed uneventfully. It was interesting watching the live webcams of Hilo Bay, the reef appearing to rise above the water, the changing color.

I am just relieved that the CNN reporter couldn't squeeze any more drama or trauma out of the evacuated vacationer she had on the phone.
Good for you Wisconsin Man on vacay. No worries bra.
He was totally low-key and matter-of-fact.
Warnings worked.
People went mauka.
No madness or hysteria. But poor Miss CNN kept asking about "emotions" and "fears" and "biggest worries."
Wisconsin man said he was in to his third cocktail.

Surfing I have tried. Being pulled by a giant parachute while on a board? Not so much.

The sun broke through as I was taking these pictures. That was about two hours ago. Now it is raining again.

I was already out in the South Side to warn Betty about the high surf.
She can't swim.
No, we are not that close to the beach, but there are a lot of deep puddles and the gutters were still flowing after the first rain. She needs Wellies.

Seeing the ripple effects of Chile's earthquake brings their disaster much closer. It's a small planet. I feel their pain, and hope that we can respond to their needs, give them comfort. And I am reminded that we need to revisit our personal plans for earthquake safety, and post quake calm.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Like Being Drunk, But Less Social
I really need sleep. The uninterrupted kind I have heard talk of. Not eight collective hours. I need eight consecutive hours of restful, cough-free REM.

Otherwise I am inclined to write unedited posts like this.

Sleep, I have read, is necessary for our mental health. Without good mental health, things begin to slip. When things slip it is possible that someone will completely forget:

1. Back to School Night (an evening for good mothers to demonstrate their love and dedication to higher learning for their progeny.)

2. To return books, papers, forms, sign-this materials.

3. To make motel or camping reservations for our robotic weekend in Lost Wages, Nevada

4. Floss teeth and pluck eyebrows... it seems my sinuses are not the only things congested around here.

5. Choose a school. Hope the school chooses us. Then enroll someone in a kindergarten.

When things slip it is possible that someone will be attracted to reckless ventures and irresponsible impulses:

1. Buy an egg incubator and hatch chicks.
2. Buy chicks.
3. Adopt a kitten and a hedgehog.
4. Drive to Oregon.
5. Get something dyed or lifted, tucked, sucked, or removed.
6. Give up.
7. Say what I really think.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's In The Crate

Time's Up!
And that is the official end of Build Season.
Six weeks of late nights, and pizzas. Six weeks of design, design, design. Six weeks of manufacturing parts, debating strategy, cleaning the shop, silkscreening T-shirts, sewing plushies, looking for contributions, training new members...

It is all a bLurR.
Especially after last night.
Especially for mentors, teachers, and team members that were actually doing the work.

With only about sixteen hours left, after school on Monday, the team kicked in to high gear for an all night push toward completion. Yes, after school, and before classes today.

A student led team.
Designing a robot from the gears up.
Students in high school, with regular classes and homework loads, in addition to running a marketing and business model.
Students manufacturing parts, bringing components and wiring together.
Mentors, teachers, parents... sharing their knowledge, offering their support.

Robotics is amazing. I know I have said a lot of this before, but it simply cannot be overstated. This team represents leadership, innovation, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication and creativity. The students do not hand the reins over to able mentors, they do not send away for a shiny robot kit with assembly instructions, they do not surrender.

They hold each other up, respectfully making the most of each members' skills. They look for solutions, make ends meet, and find answers.

Robotics is a family. Robotics is an exchange of knowledge and skills between generations, between teachers and students. A two way exchange of knowledge and respect.

Robotics is late nights, cooking for 40, or 30, or 20, or 60. It's drop-off and pick-up, and knowing that our children are part of something that is very, very good.

Robotics is being part of a team of bright, generous, dedicated, intelligent and flexible people... willing to lose sleep, willing to stay the course.

Robotics is messy.
It takes thick skin, humor, an appetite for pizza, brownies, orange slices and metal shop grime.

I took snacks about 7 PM. Maria and I brought some chips and organic fruit juice popsicles. Geoff was in the middle of the shop with his crew of newly minted freshmen programmers. Alex was getting ready to work on the gear box. Maria and I hung with marketing, took some pictures and made a list of what provisions were needed for later.

I returned to the metal shop at about 9 PM, and this time I brought sliced oranges and sliced carrots. I checked on Geoff. I checked on Alex. I took more pictures. Dinner the sequel was being finished up, and donuts were delivered.

At 10:40 PM I was back at the metal shop to bring Geoff his coat, and some other necessities. To warn him to stay away from the donuts. I also brought a folding mat and a sleeping bag... two vaguely comforting pieces for anyone that might need a nap. Everyone was in good spirits, going strong. Some students were squeezing in Catcher In the Rye assignments.

Some students were simply squeezed. Looks like the robot is in good hands. Many good hands.

William and Max kept Maria safe and happy, when I ran these little missions to Robotics. By the time I got home she was asleep, Max was reading in bed, and William was playing in the Mud.

My phone rang at 1:30 AM. "I think I am ready to come home," Alex said politely, with hints of nervous exhaustion. The metal shop was still quite full and many hands were on the chassis, testing the tower, adjusting a piston, bringing parts and ideas together. I brought Alex home, so he could do his homework.

School begins before eight in the morning, and when I woke-up at seven, I jumped into my jeans and hustled back to the metal shop to collect stuff, and check pulses. All those moving parts, boxes, tools, jackets, bodies, bedrolls, feathers and paint sets had to be cleared out, and students had to get to class. Bagels and coffee were on hand. Geoff had just left for home.

So... the robot gets sent to the arena of the first regional competition. Whatever the team built is what they will find on competition day, and whatever is missing they will have to figure out in the next nine days. It may be the end of the build season, but this is not the end of Robotics. And marketing... marketing is as busy as ever. Note to self: Gotta put some time in the plushie factory.

Do the math, save the world.
I want a nap.