Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snow and Baking Fail

I spoke too soon. I woke up to a good dusting of wet snow this morning. It didn't last long though. Still, it was a bit chillier than it has been in weeks.

I made zucchini bread tonight and had one of those awesome absent-minded kitchen mishaps (I blame them on the grad school brain.) While the zucchini bread was in the oven I glanced at it a couple of times through the window and was surprised at how slow it was cooking, but didn't think too hard about it. When the timer went off and it didn't look done, I just added 5 minutes and went back to what I was doing.

After it went off again the bread still looked completely under-baked. I took it out of the oven just to make sure I was right (which I was). I thought about how I had preheated the oven, how I was sure I set it at the right temp, and then thought "what the $%^&? I KNOW the oven was set at 400!" Then I looked at the oven dial and saw this:

And it clicked. Rewind about a half an hour. I was sitting at the table with my back to the stove/counter eating my leftover quiche which I had warmed in the toaster oven. I heard the toaster oven click like it does when the heating element is cylcing on and off and realized I'd forgotten to turn it off when I took my quiche out (I guess that was kitchen fail #1 of the night). So I stood up, turned around, and ... shut off the OVEN?!? Really? I guess that's what I did because a while later I noticed the toaster oven was still on, but again, not thinking too hard, I just turned it off.

After I finished my quiche, I went out to the garage to hang up a load of laundry, washed the dishes, cleaned the counters, all before the timer went off for the zucchini bread. All that time, the oven wasn't even on!! Smooth.

Luckily this was not my worst ever kitchen fail. But it does seem that I am on a roll. The other night I loaded the crock pot up with vegetables and then almost went to bed without plugging it in. The zucchini bread did turn out great though and the recipe is below.

Healthy Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease one loaf pan.

1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
5/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 banana
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup raisins or dates or walnuts

Whisk dry ingredients together

In a separate bowl beat eggs. Add wet ingredients.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mix until just combined.

Fold in zucchini and raisins/dates/walnuts.

Bake 45-50 min or until knife comes out clean.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Can you believe it's still February!?! Perhaps blossoms in the winter are only amazing to a girl from Alaska, but really, how can you complain about the weather when you can walk around in a T-shirt long before spring break? Two years ago I saw this same tree bloom in January.

Having grown up on Kodiak where winter starts September 1 and ends May 31, 72" of annual rain is normal, and hurricane-force winds are not unusual, I believe I have a unique appreciation for the mild weather of Seattle. The mere 36" of rain each year and the "grey gloom" don't phase me. In fact, I love it. In my book, it really doesn't rain much here - rarely do I see an entire day go by without a break in the rain. Quite honestly, I've come to realize that I just can't handle sun every day. The pale skin and light eyes can only take the rays in small doses. And after having lived in Fairbanks, I will gladly take a 40-degree rainy day over 40 below anytime.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Software Training for Advanced Electromagnetic Data Processing

This week I took a short trip to Denver for some specialized software training.  The training was sponsored by the Department of Defense (DOD) to encourage contractors involved in munition remediation to learn and use newly available advanced electromagnetic (EM) sensors and their associated software modules.  I mentioned in a previous blog post that in the field of munition remediation, the Holy Grail is to not only detect munitions in the ground but also to discriminate them from non-hazardous scrap metal.  By doing so the government could save hundreds of millions of dollars by not digging up inert scraps of metal.  

It is now possible to discriminate between the two by using advanced electromagnetic sensors with an array of multi-axial transmit and receive coils. With this technology, it is possible to measure the decay curves of the electromagnetic fields induced in an object. We can then used specialized software to analyze the data and perform a complicated inversion problem to determine the polarizability or Beta values of the target.  The Beta values of an object are determined by its shape, material type, and mass.  There are three Beta values for every object (we live in a 3D world).  This is where it starts to become a little easier to understand.  A cylinder will have one value larger than two other equal Beta values.  On the other hand, a disk-shaped object will have one Beta value that is lower than the two other larger and equal Beta values. These Beta values can then be referenced against a library of know objects to statistically categorize the unknown target.

Ok, so that paragraph is the short version of years of both hardware and software development.  This has been a collaborative effort of the government, private sector and universities.  Just a few years ago this technology did not exist.  And while I may not have a chance to use the advance EM sensors any time soon, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the process and get hands on experience processing data.  

In the underwater world of munition surveying we are at least a decade behind terrestrial technology in our ability to remediate munitions.  But by staying current with the terrestrial technology we will be better positioned to implement the best techniques as they become feasible.

An advanced electromagnetic sensor called the metal mapper (

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Daily Mile

I have finally joined The Daily Mile. If you're not familiar with it, it's a social network site for working out. It's a way to motivate yourself by keeping track of your workouts and following the workouts of your friends. I've been thinking about joining it for over a year. I've always hesitated because my workout routine (or lack thereof) is so sporadic, I thought "what's the point?" To be honest I was also a little embarrassed to post my running distances and times - I didn't want everybody to know how slow I was. But after reading The Average Woman Runner's blog post about finding inspiration through online running networks, I decided it was time to GET OVER IT. Running slow is better than not running at all! And, I've been running pretty consistently (mostly on my treadmill) over the last month and it turns out that I'm not actually as slow as I thought I was. So if you're on the Daily Mile, or you want to join, find me so we can be "friends"!

I also added the Daily Mile widget to the sidebar of the blog. I'm hoping that knowing people are watching my workout logs will help me stay focused and motivated!

Skiing Whistler Blackcomb

After years of living only a few hours away from Whistler, we finally made it there to ski/snowboard. It was an interesting experience and unfortunately probably not one that was worth the $96 price tag. I think our first mistake was going on Sunday rather than Saturday. We had checked the weather and the forecast was for just a couple centimeters of snow both days, so we decided to sleep in on Saturday after our long and stressful drive (long wait at the border = we hit Vancouver at rush hour combined with rain/snow and darkness in the mountains) and ski on Sunday. Well, apparently it snowed several inches on Friday and the skiing was great on Saturday. And we heard the lines weren't bad. Oops. So we went on Sunday. The snow wasn't bad - it was still pretty soft up high on the mountains bunch crunchy down low. It had been skied hard though on Saturday and there wasn't much untracked terrain. So the conditions were really okay, not great, but not bad either. However, the lift lines were insane, at least on the Whistler side. Once we took the gondola over to the Blackcomb side, the lift lines were much shorter. Unfortunately we didn't make it over there until about 1:30 and the whole resort closes at 3:30! The ski area is so vast that we did not even ride every lift and certainly came nowhere near skiing all the runs, especially because many of the black diamond routes we would normally have done were so skied out they did not look enjoyable. I was happy to at least experience much of Whistler as I've heard so much about it, but I will not be paying that price again unless I can go on a weekday and there is a forecast for some serious snow.

The house we stayed in was awesome though. Jennie scored big time by finding this place for us. Even though the mix of Celtic decor, Northwest Coast native art, and copious numbers of paintings was a bit, um, odd, it was still a sweet place to stay. I personally enjoyed the heated floors in the slate tiled entry way and the bathrooms the most.

Peter and Matt keeping the fire going

Mixing smoked salmon dip

Interesting dove-tailing

Sarah and Adam working on the Sunday night pasta sauces while Matt, Jay, and Brandon go for Ryan's fresh rosemary thyme no-knead bread

Sunday night family-style dinner

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winter Vacation in Whistler

Frank and Ryan hiking

We're on vacation this weekend - taking advantage of the holiday on Monday. Yesterday we drove up north of Whistler in BC to a house we rented with a bunch of friends.The house is fantastic. Really. It sleeps 14 people (very comfortably), has two living rooms, a fireplace, a wood stove, a big screen TV, and an 8 person hot tub.

Ryan, our friend Frank, and I went out for a short hike in a Provincial park this afternoon. But mostly we spent the day eating excessively, soaking in the hot tub, and sitting in front of the fire. Tomorrow, Ryan and are going skiing/snowboarding at Whistler and hoping the mountain lives up to its price!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

TEMA Engineering Challenges

The brains of the TEMA
Soldering wires onto one of the many connectors (the pencil is for scale)
Heat sinks on the end cap

Measuring the end cap temperature with an inferred thermometer

I have been putting the final touches on the pressure housing for Towed Electromagnetic Array (TEMA) at work.  The pressure housing contains the brains of the TEMA, and over the last few weeks I have been a working like a neurosurgeon to properly connect each wire.  I have become very proficient and quick at soldering but the work is still meticulously and must be done carefully to ensure there is no chance of a wire becoming disconnected or shorting out to another wire.

One of our concerns with the TEMA has been heat dissipation from the electronics contained withing the pressure housing.  To overcome this challenge we decided to attach seven extruded copper heat sinks to one of the end caps.  Each of the these heat sinks has a fan and should very efficiently transfer heat from the air in the bottle through the end cap and into the water.  Our initial heat dissipation tests in the warehouse indicate that the heat sinks work well and we will not have to worry about having an internal meltdown.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Almost Spring Skiing

Richard very carefully crossing this narrow bridge

Richard proudly sporting his K2 Wayback skis

The ridge leading to Kendall Peak showing during a break in the clouds
Today Richard and I went for a ski tour from Snoqualmie Pass to Red Mountain.  The avalanche danger conditions were very low so we were able to ski directly up the southwest face to the summit.  It was too firm near the top to skin up so we ended up taking off our skis and carrying them up the last few hundred feet.  It was was fun to do a little mild ski mountaineering.  The occasional sun breaks revealed beautiful scenery but didn't do much to soften up the snowpack near the summit.  The ski down was challenging with just a few nice turns.  The tour had about 2700 feet of elevation gain so we got in a decent workout and still made it back to the car by 1:30. I am looking forward to exploring more of the this area in the future, especially in some better snow conditions.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Warmth

Occasionally we have a 60-degree day in the middle of winter. Right now we are having a stretch of them. Yesterday we went for a bike ride to the UW campus to enjoy the sun and temps. It was glorious. One of the wonderful things about living in a place that is often gray and rainy (or so they tell me), is that when the sun does come out, everyone goes outside to play. On days like this, the Burke-Gilman Trail is always full of walkers, runners, bikers, dogs, and strollers of all ages and abilities.

When we got to campus yesterday, I saw the construction happening at Husky Stadium and was shocked to see that the southern half of the stadium was GONE. Clearly, I rarely walk to or drive by this part of campus. I knew the stadium was under renovation, but I thought it was just remodeling, I didn't realize they were tearing most of it down and completely re-building it. My personal feelings about pouring money into a stadium that hasn't had a sold-out game in over 15 years and about working and going to school in a building that hasn't been remodeled since the late 1950's aside, I am interested to see what the new stadium will look like compared to the old.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pressure Test

Lowering our pressure housing into the test chamber

Closing the lid of the test chamber

Pressure Gauges
As discussed in a previous post I have been developing a custom underwater sensor at work called the TEMA (Towed Electromagnetic Array).  This project required that we design and manufacture a pressure housing for electronics.  We got the pressure housing back from the machine shop last week and took it to the oceanography department at the University of Washington to have it pressure tested.  The housing was lowered into a specially designed chamber and pressurized to 900PSI which is equivalent to about 600 meters water depth.  This is a relatively low pressure given that the full ocean depth is over 5000PSI and the water pressure in the bottom of the Marianas Tench is over 15000PSI!  The pressure housing passed the test and now we are on to final assemble and more testing of the TEMA.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weekend in Florida with Family

Last weekend I few to St. Petersburg, Florida to visit my Grandma and my Alaska family who are there on short reprieve from winter.  It was great to see everybody, especially my nephews Oliver and Henry. 

Oliver is a talkative two and half year old and is full of energy.  I have been fortunate to visit Alaska every few months since summer so Oliver has had a chance to become familiar with me.  Oliver and I spent our time at Grandma’s house driving toy trucks and playing in the minivan “going to the moon”.  The van had lots of interesting dials and buttons to push including the controls for two power sliding doors.  I think Oliver could have opened and closed the car doors until the battery went dead if he didn’t get distracted with the equally interesting gate in the backyard fence.

Oliver also enjoyed driving his tractor on the beach but was not too impressed with the water.  Perhaps a two year old does not long for sunshine and wide-open spaces the way adults do.  Oliver required careful supervision at the beach, not only because he didn’t understand the concept of waves that wash up and down the beach but also because a tumble into the water would inevitably result in a toddler meltdown.

Henry who is almost six months old and is also a lot of fun.  He is often quite content to sit on your lap and rock himself back and forth.  Henry is noticeably more alert and aware of the world around him than he was a month ago when we visited Alaska.  I think he is starting to teethe and surprised me with his ability to pull anything (including my fingers) towards his mouth.  Henry seems to be discovering his voice and spent many hours trying new vowels sometimes with his “outside voice”.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone again but it may be a few months before I can make it up to Alaska again.
Oliver driving the minivan to the moon

me, Oliver, and my dad
me and Henry
Henry and my sister, Mollie