Sunday, August 26, 2007

First Week Back

So this week I started school for the Fall 2007 semester. Boy am I going to be busy. I have 3 classes, a TA position (~10 hours/week), and an RA position (~10 hours/week). And we all know that the assistantships say 10 hours/week, but both will be pulling at me for more time (especially the RA). So I am stretched thin to say the least. However, I am excited to be back in the throngs of school. I really do enjoy learning new things and applying them (especially since I have cool robots to work with).

Two of my three classes are going to be very tough. They are crazy math-intensive classes. They are creating the fundamentals of my Control Theory pursuits, though. So they are very important. One class is called Control Systems. The other is Linear Estimation, Kalman Filtering. They will help me use math to model the Hovercrafts and Autonomous Vehicles I work with. They will help me to make them move properly and control their internal forces that govern how they operate. Also the classes will help me in my SLAM endeavors. The third class is primarily a lab-driven course about Sensors and Instrumentation. This is a convenient class for me because all my robots employ the use of sensors to help them navigate and control their actions. So it helps to understand how those sensors work on a deeper level. I know, I know, it all sounds very complicated, and tre boring. But, that's my academic life!

Celeste is finally taking a breather from her choreography work in Beauty and the Beast. The show went really well according to reports from friends and acquaintances. We never made it to an official show because we were a little tuckered out, and decided to finally spend a good weekend together as a whole family. Now Celeste is just looking forward to staying home and caring for our cute Brooklyn. She's getting herself involved in tons of home projects, sewing things, and crafting things, and organizing things. It's what she loves doing these days. And I must say her creativity is boundless. She just picks up a new idea and runs with it. Now I can't wait until that puppet idea finally takes off. That will be a fun one!

Brooklyn is cute as can be. She's loving those little feet of hers. She grabs them at every opportunity. I can't believe that she'll be 4 months old soon. Time sure goes by quickly.

This weekend we took a quick trip to the pool because I got off school early. It was really fun. Brooklyn just stared dazedly at the water. I don't know what was running through that little brain, but I think she liked it. We also saw the movie "Stardust". It was one of the best movies we had seen in a long time. Written by Neil Gaiman, I knew the story would be fulfilling, and to top it off, there were plenty of fun special effects to flesh out the magical kingdom of Stormhold. It was a really great action/romance movie.

Another fun thing we did this weekend was go out to lunch with my friend Shu. Here's a back-story. Shu was working in a lab in China during his Master's degree at Peking University. About November 2005, their lab received some free hardware that included some FPGAs. He started tinkering around and realized that you could put an Operating System on them. He tried doing it himself, and quickly figured out that he was in over his head. So he Googled the process and guess name came up from a web page detailing the same work I was doing that previous summer. Linux on FPGA. I was only too intimately familiar with that process. Anyways, he saw that the first name on the page was a professor and figured, "That guy is probably way too busy to bother with my questions." So he googled the next name on the list, Brad Baillio, and realized I was a Gmail user. He added me to his GTalk. He attempted the process we detailed on our web page and he got stuck. A day or two later, I was on GTalk and he started IMing me. Well ever since then we've been keeping in contact. He successfully got Linux on his FPGA and did some amazing stuff with it. He finished his Master's degree, and applied for a PhD program here in the states. He was accepted at UIUC, and so he moved here this Fall. We were finally able to meet after almost 2 years of contact! It was really nice. He took us to a Chinese restaurant and ordered for us. It was really good food, and it was great to talk to him in person. We mostly talked about China.

Anyways, it was an interesting week, and I'm sure the start of a busy yet interesting semester.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

All Spruced Up

As every parent fantasizes over decorating their first nursery in their home, we had a bit of a late start because Brooklyn was born while we were in a 1-bedroom dinky apartment. Now that we have moved, and Brooklyn gets her own room, we decided to go "Crazy-go-nuts" on the decorating. Here are some pics. The room is supposed to have a Velveteen Rabbit theme.

Also, we've included a couple toy "action shots". Bryce and Marcia got Brooklyn her first official toy, and she's really taking a liking to it. She's developing to the point where she reaches out to grab things and touch and suck. Just a curious little cutie.

Here's a closing shout-out to Grandma Barrand for sewing the cute quilt/bumper pads/wall hangings. And Momma Celeste for sewing the window seat/pillow ensemble.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Family Fun

After an awesome weekend with the Baillio family, we took off for Winter Park, Colorado. The Barrand family had their annual family vacation and this year we weren't going to miss out. So after a 7 hour drive through UT and CO, we arrived at the condo in Winter Park early afternoon Monday the 6th. We mostly sat around that afternoon, but little did we know the craziness in store for us that week.

On Tuesday we set off for a quick "family-friendly" hike to a small waterfall. That was a lot of fun. Brooklyn had a marvelous time chillin' in her baby front carrier. I didn't think she would be so calm, but she took it like a pro. It was a nice hike, and when we got to the waterfall it started to rain. Luckily, it didn't rain too bad, so the hike back wasn't miserable, but we did travel back to the cars with some haste. Brooklyn enjoyed the trip immensely. She broke out in giggles as soon as we got back to the car. She's definitely her Father's daughter. :)

Wednesday we did a couple mountain biking trails. Those were wicked fun too. Celeste and I got to go together near the end of the day, and we spotted this sweet view and grabbed some nice pics. It was tons of fun splashing through mud puddles and careening over rocks and roots.

Thursday we drove up into Rocky Mountain National Forest. We drove the highest paved road in the US. It gets as high as 12,000 ft. That's high! And that gave us more photo ops. We enjoyed the brisk mountain air, and the wildlife.

Friday was Sammy's birthday party. It was fun to watch him open presents that he could identify and get excited about.

That concluded our Winter Park vacation. There was so much to do, and we had so much fun. We played board games, and some fierce Wallyball. We soaked in the hot-tub, and spent an evening talking till midnight. Celeste, Me, Mom and Dad Barrand had an extra adventure, however. We returned to Denver on Saturday and prepared ourselves for the pre-Broadway run of Disney's The Little Mermaid. It was definitely a fun show to see. It wasn't as scrumtrulescent as some other Disney shows, but it was definitely worth seeing.

Needless to say, we had a full vacation, with lots of fun, and even more family. We will miss them all (Baillios and Barrands) until December when we see them again!

Baby Blessing

The first weekend in August, we finally took a summer vacation! We were really psyched to get away and see our family again. It had been a long time since we last saw them. So, first things first, the Baillio family gathered in Park City starting Aug 3rd. One by one we trickled in until we were all there, minus Aaron and his family :(. We all had a great time showing off our kids, and catching up on plans and events. I just love my family! They're the best.

The baby blessings went really well. Brooklyn was blessed at the condo, with all the Baillio/Barrand priesthood holders participating. It was a great experience. I felt a bit like a ninny since I got all teary-eyed during the singing, but it just added to the experience and brought the Spirit. Hallee's blessing went really well too, especially after a certain individual helped diffuse the cranky baby syndrome Hallee was going through.

As an added bonus, Celeste and I decided to stay an extra half-day to spend more time with my family, and to chat with Joseph and Melinda. So it was an all-out wonderful weekend.