Monday, December 31, 2012

12 Days of Christmas (letter) - June

In which Family visits, Elizabeth sees otters, and we go to the fair.

In June my parents, my sister Becca, and Becca's now fiance Ryan came to visit us and other family in Southern California. My uncle lives about an hour and a half north of where we were in San Diego. While my parent's were staying with them we were able to drive up and spend one day together at Disneyland, and one day with extended family at my uncle's house.

Family time at Disneyland!

Checking out Mr. Toad's oral hygiene...
didn't look good, no teeth at all!!

Everyone under the avocado tree
 at my uncle and aunt's house.

June is also Del Mar Fair time and we were very excited to go because our favorite band (Switchfoot) was playing for free! The band members grew up in San Diego and some attended UCSD for college. They always play for free at the Del Mar Fair because it's the one they grew up going to and they always do an amazing job.

Me making really bad life choices
with our friends Raphael and Bethany.

Upsidedown AND spinning on
multiple axis, very bad idea.

Switchfoot Concert!!

The next day Switchfoot hosted a surf competition/beach concert for charity. I had never been able to go before, so I was really excited to go with my friend Emily. It was pretty cool, turns out competitive surfers are pretty good!

Surfer running for the waves.

At the end of June I attended a special workshop in Asilomar, CA called HCIC. I should have taken lots of pictures, but it looks like I didn't. It was a wonderful time to get to meet with some amazing researchers in a small group. I really really really like my research community, everyone is so motivated to understand the world around us, and to play an active role in making the world a better place. You can tell from their research, but also in how they interact with one another. The senior researchers at this workshop were wonderful, and they actively cultivated a welcoming environment for the attending graduate students. I don't know if it's normal to count your research peers as friends, but some of my favorite people are people I met through internships and conferences.

Asilomar Beach near Monterey California

We did have one day of the workshop free to spend together doing unstructured activities. I chose to go kayaking which was super fun and we got to see sea otters!!! I don't have pictures of the otters because I put my camera in the waterproof bag on the kayak, and it seemed unwise to extract it while floating in Monterey Bay, please feel free to take a moment to google image search sea otters though, they are adorable. After kayaking a couple other students and I misread a map and decided to walk back to the conference center. It turns out it's not really that far, if you happen to have shoes. If you don't have shoes, it is very very VERY far. Two out of three of us had shoes. It was kind of a blood bath.

Pleasant sunset stroll if you have shoes.
Arduous bloody torment if you don't have shoes.
Sorry Jed :(

Walking back to Asilomar from Monterey,
before we realized how far it was.

Back in San Diego we spent the month of June with Nathan writing code for his dissertation project, and Elizabeth spending a day at Jury Duty, analyzing study data and submitting a workshop proposal. Here's a couple photos I found from June of other goings ons in our apartment.

Penguin assembles tuna from
multiple sources

Sherif Penguin rides in box boat with loaded pop gun.
Sidekick elephant plots his escape.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

12 Days of Christmas (letter) - May


In which the sun disappears temporarily, Elizabeth visits Texas, and there is some hiking.

May was a month of really cool things happening to the sun. The first was on May 3rd where the sun set exactly at the end of the La Jolla Peer. The sun only aligns with the peer twice a year and it can be pretty hard to catch, since to see it the sky has to be clear all the way to the horizon. We had seen it once before, but Nathan had learned a lot about his camera since then so he really wanted a second shot at capturing it. This year he finally got his chance and he was pretty thrilled (photos can be seen here).

Setting up the shot.
Later that month we had super yummy hot pot with our good friends Qing and Rick, who informed us of another cool sun event. We were scheduled to go to Arizona the following week for Nathan's Sigmod conference, and Page, AZ (4 hours north of the conference) was in the direct path of a full anular eclipse one day before the conference. 

Hot pot dinner!

We had planned to do some hiking anyway, so we decided to go to Horseshoe Bend to see the eclipse. Our first Hiking day we spent in the Grand Canyon. We took the Hermit's rest path partway down the canyon wall to Santa Maria Spring (1,740 ft down the canyon wall).  

photographing the canyon

jumping in the canyon

Sunset from the south rim.

The next day we made our way to horseshoe bend to watch the eclipse. It was a pretty popular eclipse spot which turned out to be a really good thing. We spent out time chatting with an astronomer who was there with her children. She told us all about kinds of eclipses, the most pertanent thing being that you can't see an anular eclipse with your naked eye. The moon is on the close part of it's path to the Earth and although it if completely in front of the sun it is too small to block enough light to allow you to see the ring. You need something like cloud cover or special eclipse glasses to filter out enough light. Cloud cover was looking unlikely, but a super nice man had ordered tons of extra glasses and he gave us two pairs!!

Eclipse Glasses

Cool eclipse shot from Nathan's camera.

waiting at Horseshoe Bend for the sun to disappear

this is very high and a straight drop down.
It actually scared me more than the Grand Canyon.

best shot I took of the eclipse, check out the mini
eclipse behind Nathan's head.  The lense reflects
the light internally and it was the only way I
could capture the eclipse with my camera.

After the Eclipse we headed to Scottsdale for Nathan's conference. Most of the conference time was spent with Nathan in session and me working on my computer in the lobby, but on the night of the conference banquet we got to see some of the Arizona landscape at a local ranch.

riding through the dessert on hay BALES!!!!
Sunset horse ride through the dessert

Cute lantern, Cute husband

Cute barn with little white christmas lights!
After the conference we did one more day of hiking to see the Saguaro's in bloom.

see all the things sticking out of the end of those cactus arms?
Those are Saguaro flowers!

Here's a close up. :)

In May I also traveld to Austin for the CHI conference. My officemate Sarah and I were lucky enough to receive a scholarships to attend the conference and the CHIME workshop beforehand, which turned out to be a wonderful experience where we got to meet lots of other researchers some of whom may be future collaborators. We also got to eat some fantastic BBQ and explore the Texas Capitol building which may or may not be made out of radioactive pink granite.

Research friends from England, France, and Pittsburg

Cowboy boots!
The rest of the month was rather uneventful, although it appears the penguin got into some trouble. I was looking through our photos from May and found these gems.

Penguin explores employment options as our
resident apartment cowboy.
Penguin using tissues irresponsibly


Saturday, December 29, 2012

12 Days of Christmas (letter) - April

In which we have guests, Elizabeth serves on her first PC, and Nathan starts to chew!

In April Nathan was finally able to go see the dentist to get his tooth repaired. His front tooth had snapped in half when he fell on it, leaving the bottom missing and part of the back open. Dentists find it difficult to work on teeth when you're not able to open you mouth, so with his arch bars off, April was the perfect time to say "aaaah."

enjoying the botanical gardens at Balboa Park
Nathan was also starting to feel a lot better which was wonderful because Kyle and Kate, our good friends from undergrad, came for a visit. We had been planning to have them down ever since we moved, but one thing lead to another and we realized with Nathan starting his job in August it was now or never. I'm glad they didn't pick never, because we had a  great time exploring Balboa Park, The Safari Park, Disneyland, and Torrey Pines with them.

And now brief interlude for a photo series featuring elephants setting a bad example:

step 1

step 2

Step 3

Naughty Elephants.

Interlude over.

Here I am on the same day doing my best impression of a tree in a zoo bird show.

looks kinda like Zazu

In the middle of April I served on my first program committee, helping select papers for the MobileHCI conference. We met in South Bay and it was actually much less stressful than I expected, due mainly to some really good organizing. It was a great chance to meet some new people and also see some old friends. I don't have any pictures... so you'll just have to imagine a bunch of academics sitting in a room together talking about mobile device research (ok, maybe that wouldn't have been photo worthy anyway). We drove both ways so Nathan was able to come with me too. It's always so much better when we can go places together. :) 

April ended with our annual girls weekend in Mammoth. We were actually supposed to do this in February, but I didn't feel comfortable leaving Nathan yet because it was right after his accident. April was a lot warmer and we decided that hiking might be a better option than skiing. It was super pretty and we also spent one evening cooking, buying domain names, and making webpages, because that is a totally normal girls weekend activity... I think... yeah.

Still some snow left!

cooking! right before the webpage building part.

falling in snow drifts


Friday, December 28, 2012

12 Days of Christmas (letter) - March

In which we buy a blender, and there is lots of Vicodin

March was sort of a blur. Nathan wasn't allowed to eat food most of the month, so there was a lot of blending and straining. I did get to help out with Expanding Your Horizons with my friends Anne Marie(pictured), Lisa, and Sarah. EYH is an event held every year across the country to help get middle school girls interested in science and math. 

Having lunch at EYH, hosted at University of San Diego

We also spent a lot of quality time with the oral surgeon. I found a favorite fish in his waiting room tank. I think it might be the cutest fish ever.

Hello! I'm the most adorable fish on the planet!

smiling! and about to have his arch bars removed

Our friend Margaret got an annual pass and was instantly attacked by storm troopers, ok actually that was right after she purchased her light saber, but she did get attacked by storm troopers (don't worry, she won). That trip I also got my best score ever on the Buzz Lightyear ride.

storm trooper didn't stand a chance.

my life is complete

Poor Nathan was at stuck at home most of the month because he was very tired, and also a bit woozy from his pain medication. It was hard for him to go out for very long and he also wasn't allowed to drive. Getting enough calories in his was really hard since he had to drink everything through his teeth, meaning it had to be completely pulverized and then strained. In the beginning a good friend lent us her blender which was wonderful, and in mid March we were able to get our own. 

Pulverize all the things!!

Nathan didn't get his arch bars off until the end of march but he was feeling well enough to celebrate  Pi day with some of our friends from GCF.  One Cookies and Cream pie and one of Nathan's famous chocolate pies. 

To wrap up the month we were very luck to have our friends Lisa and Ben visit. They were in town to see family, but were able to spend a day at the Zoo with us. We were really happy to get to spend time with them as they now live in Houston for Ben's cancer treatment. If you pray, please keep them in your prayers; they are an amazing couple and the latest doctors visit wasn't what we had hoped for. :(

Riding the zoo bus!

gonna see some animals!

Polar bear!

thoughtful panda