Thursday, December 17, 2015

Visiting Hong Kong, Part 1

In October, I met up with David in Hong Kong for a week of eating and adventures.

I flew in with the remnants of a typhoon. Hong Kong was under a Level 3 wind/storm alert, but I had no idea when I landed. After 20+ hours of travel, all I wanted to do was get off that plane. David met me at the airport and I got my first experience with the awesome MTR rail system. Did you know that 4.6 million people use the MTR system every day? That's the population of Houston! (Thanks, Wikipedia!)  We were almost separated at the airport station (I was a little slow on the uptake when the train started beeping and the door started to close!), but the train doors are luckily fitted with force or location feedback and opened up again. :) Thank you, safety engineers! We switched trains in central and headed to our hotel in Times Square. After dumping off my bags, we met up with some friends at Joy Hing for some amazing roasted meat! Joy Hing is definitely a hole in the wall and was super refreshing after hours and hours of travel. I unfortunately didn't take photos of everything I ate... But, it was the perfect way to start off our foodcation. :)

We did round out the evening with this lovely bananas foster/creme brulee/espresso tastiness..

I have a temperamental appetite when it comes to breakfast. I have always lost interest within a week or less when faced with bagels, oatmeal, cereal, granola, etc. I'm sure it is because I was raised with noodles and congee for breakfast (read: savory + soup -- my favorite!). The congee, cruller, and hot soymilk are classic items in a Chinese breakfast.

Chinese Breakfast

We visited a chain of mango dessert shops many times (as mango is David's favorite fruit... despite his allergic reaction to the oils in the skin). Unfortunately, we were so focused on stuffing our faces at the mango shops that I didn't get any photos. However, we did stop in at a dessert shop in Times Square where I had a very lovely longan ice dessert and David had.... something that wasn't a longan ice. :) 
Longan Ice

So the malls in Hong Kong are ridiculous. They make the most high end malls in Houston look shabby. From what we learned from a friend who lives in Hong Kong, the shopping is there for the tourists who mostly consist of people from mainland China. Approximately one in three people are visitors -- that explains ALL of the suitcases on the trains and in the streets. Anyway, even though we couldn't afford anything in the malls, the food courts and restaurants inside were excellent. The meal below was a pretty tasty treat with some "dirty Chinese" comfort items: pan fried dumplings and hot and sour soup. 

Food Court Food

One of my favorite breakfasts was the Hong Kong style hot and sour noodles. It seemed to be flavored with pickled vegetables, a tasty meat stock, and topped with fish ball material wrapped in bean curd. Mmmmm!!!! Screw cereal -- give me this every morning! 

Hot and Sour Noodles

One of my new favorite dumplings are Shanghai style soup dumplings. The set below (plus chinese chive dumplings) was from a restaurant in a mall in Kowloon. Very delicious!


We also enjoyed some bowls of ramen in the IFC mall. These were very interesting because the miso had been smoked to a very dark color, almost charred. It was a different flavor profile, but still prefer a more classic shoyu or tonkotsu. :) 

Charred Ramen

Finally, one of the biggest draws for us was the opportunity to visit the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in the world. I had not heard of this international rating system until we were preparing for the trip, but embraced it whole heartedly when I found out that it was well within monetary reach for average people like us in Hong Kong. One stop was at Kam's Roast Goose in Wai Chan. I had been toying with the idea of purchasing a goose and roasting one for Christmas for about 4 years, but could not bring myself to shell out the cash for one. I'm glad I was able to sample it from a restaurant. It is not unlike duck in flavor if you ask me. It was certainly tasty, but would prefer duck, chicken, or pork over the goose. 

Roasted Beast

Roasted Goose

Our very favorite meal (which happened three times over the week) was the dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. It was hand's down the best dim sum I've ever had. David particularly enjoyed the baked char siu baos. One of the great parts about these three meals is that we stuffed our faces and walked out with a $17 bill. From what we understand, it is the cheapest Michelin star meal you can get in the world. 

Dim Sum

Though we ate quite a bit of food, we did not gain any weight or feel bloated at all. It is because of all of the walking that we did to get around the city. I'm sure that we walked at least five miles a day, if not ten on the longer ones. The next post will go into more detail of our adventures outside of going from meal to meal. :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thirteen Years of Robots

Family Photo (taken by Chris Zamora)

An amazing thing happened at work a few weeks ago. All of the robots that my group has worked on in the last thirteen years came together in one place, starting from Robonaut all the way to Resource Prospector... It was so inspiring to see not just all of this technology together in one space, but also the people behind the work who made it all possible.

Robonaut 2 is the first project that I worked on as an intern and what got me hooked on working for this group. I was a mechanical designer in training and worked with the forearm/hand subsystem engineers.

Robonaut 2 - (clockwise from bottom left) Units C5, C1, C6, and A

Robonaut 2 checking out the SVMF viewing walkway (aka, the hamster tube). 

When I began as a full time employee, I worked on the Valkyrie project as one of the designers of the forearms, hands, and feet. 

Valkyrie - (left to right) Unit C, A, and B in MRV

Valkyrie, chillin' in MRV

The purpose of the robots that we build is to assist and enable astronauts to perform either menial or environmentally dangerous tasks. I am personally not sold on the idea of exclusively humanoid robots, but I do see the value in the intuitive control and motion of such systems. 

In any case, I am proud to be a part of this family of engineers and robots and look forward to seeing what the next thirteen years has in store for us.

Grandpa Robonaut, front and center.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

None of them bumped their head!

The stars of the show are:

Miss Riley

Miss Libby

Miss Madi

I flipped my shutter mode to high speed continuous capture. Here's my first shot with Miss Riley:

Oh yeah!

I had to include two gifs of Miss Libby because of her face:


Gettin' the hang of this!

Miss Madison's turn:


Maybe I was being the indulgent aunt, but the girls had a lot of fun. It'd be worth getting in trouble with mom and dad. :) 

Here are my faves from the sequences:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sparks Fly

After a busy June, we were excited to have a laid back and relaxing 4th of July celebration. A small group of us gathered a friend's house for kebabs, pies, ice cream, and fireworks! Cooking and photographing was very therapeutic. The best part was that I finally put to use the Live View and Live Composite feature on my EM-10 (after more than a year of ownership!).

Coming from Ohio where it was legal to purchase, but not legal to launch fireworks, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of "normal" people who enjoy expressing their inner pyro twice a year (July 4th and New Year's Eve). Our friend's neighborhood is a particularly good place to enjoy fireworks from the comfort of your own front yard. On this particular night, there was a small family that seemed to have filled a truck bed with mortars for their teenage daughter to launch every 10 mins or so. I was happy to not spend the money and take advantage of the lovely show.

Willow + Starburst

Colors + Twinkles

Gentle Burst

Raining Light

Twinkle Poof


In addition to the lovely fireworks, we also experimented with some light painting.

Fan Out

Don't Look Directly into Light with Remaining Eye..

The Energy of Four 

Balls of Love?

The Tunnels of Light

The Love of Light.

Dark Angel

It was a lot of fun to see what my camera could help me create almost effortlessly. There is a craft to long exposure photography that I never felt capable of successfully practicing. The Live View and Live Composite tools that Olympus has created has really boosted my confidence in this type of photography and I look forward to spending some more time creating more light painting photographs and trying my hand at astro-photography in the future. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Family Vacation 2015 - Beach Time!

This year's family vacation was headquartered in Vilano Beach, Florida. The whole family got together, rented a house on the beach, and spent a week chillaxing in the sun. The view from the deck at sunrise was lovely.

Walkway to Heaven

A New Day Has Come

My bucket list includes watching baby sea turtles hatch and scuttle into the sea. I did not get to cross this item off of my list, but I did get a little bit closer to doing so with the sea turtle nests that dotted the beach.

Let's Schedule Another Vacation...

I was hesitant to bring my camera down to the beach, but eventually convinced myself that a little sea air never hurt anyone... I put my 17mm lens on and never messed with it when out of doors. I also kept my circular polarizer on in order to protect the front glass from any sea spray. These tactics seemed to work, but my tripod did require a full dis-assembly and cleaning when we returned home.  

Remnants of Life

Sea Crumbs?

Perpetual Motion

One of the best parts of family vacation is the family, of course! I have the loveliest little nieces around.

"I just pooped my pants!"


Miss Riley and her freshly laundered Bubba

Pose for me, Libby!


Tyler Fish on Land

A group of us visited the St. Augustine Lighthouse for a ghost tour. The tour wasn't very scary, but the light house was neat. 

Beacon Against the Night Sky

We managed to hop in the group that climbed to the top of the lighthouse at sunset (and sans excitable girl scouts and their moms). Here is a panorama from the top of the lighthouse overlooking St. Augustine. 

Fading Light

St. Augustine is a cute a little town with a touristy center full of cute little shops. St. Thomas Ave. is particularly famous. I found this shop chach-y, yet amusing.  

"I mustache you a question."

There is an ice cream shop with two locations in St. Augustine that we visited a couple of times -- Kilwin's. It is certainly not up to Jeni's delicious fare, but appreciated on a hot Florida afternoon. What was most appreciated, however, was the waffle cone that was acquired, unrolled, and scarfed in all of its crunchy, vanilla wonderfulness. The family came out for a good jaunt along St. Thomas Ave. and I was able to get the girls to sit still long enough for photos with their dad and grandpa. 

Triple Trouble

Moody Miss Libby

While wandering around St. Augustine, we went down to one of the docks where the girls got a chance to explore a "pirate ship." While there, we had the pleasure of watching the bridge from St. Augustine to Anastasia Island go up for a sailboat and shrimping boat.

Back to Port

A Landlubber's View

Overall, this part of Florida was lovely. The vacation was a success as it provided a much needed break from work and allowed us to catch up with family before the holiday season.