Family Vacation 2019 – Canadian Rockies

Day 1 – Arrival

Our 2 week trip to the rockies started out with a pretty ‘rocky’ plane ride. We had a short prop plane from Boston to Toronto, followed by a connecting flight to Calgary. We got on a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Toronto, which is probably one of the nicest planes I’ve ever been on. It was huge, with a high ceiling, auto dimming windows, and a pretty awesome multimedia station with tons of games and movies. We were all remarking at how awesome the plane was as we started to push back and then stopped. The pilot proceeded to tell us that the AC unit was broken and needed to be repaired. They kept us on the plane for 3 hours in excruciating heat, while the AC was being fixed. It was absolute torture. The plane was so hot that it had a hard time cooling down even after the AC was repaired. It wasn’t until about 30-60 mins into the flight that we were back to a normal temp. Thankfully the kids did great with all the electronics and it didn’t seem to bother them. Once we landed we got our bags, the rental car, and then drove the 2 hours to Banff.

Day 2 – Settling in

The next morning we went out to breakfast and stocked up on supplies at the grocery (and liquor) stores. Downtown Banff has awesome mountain views all around it.

Downtown Banff

We got to see a lot of wildlife on the short drive between our hotel and the downtown area.

We had a pretty good view from our hotel balcony as well. The hotel had 2 indoor waterslides and indoor/outdoor hot tubs which were a big hit with the kids.

In the afternoon we went to Johnson Lake, which is nearby downtown Banff. The lake had beautiful mountain views and wasn’t that busy. We walked around the lake and soaked in the views. After that we went out to dinner and had some ice cream. Also, I got some bear spray, which was highly recommended everywhere.

Day 3 – Lake Louise and Lake Morraine

We had some good weather in the forecast so planned on doing the areas top tourist attractions, Lake Louise and Lake Morraine. These two lakes have some of the most stunning views in all the Canadian Rockies (world?) with jagged peaks and torqoise glacier fed waters.

Unfortunately these beautiful sites come with crowds, lots of them.

We got an early start and made it to the Lake Louise parking lot around 8am (it’s like an hour drive from Banff). The place was already full and so we had to drive back a ways to the overflow parking. Then we had to wait in this insanely long line to purchase tickets for a shuttle bus to take us to where we just were. Kids don’t like waiting in lines. Once we finally got to Lake Louise we had to immediately get in another line to buy a ticket for a shuttle to Lake Morraine, because they sell out for the day quickly. Overall this experience was extremely frustrated with the kids, and felt more like Disney than the outdoors.

Besides dealing with all of the massive crowds and lines, the views were simply stunning! We spent the day just walking around and had lunch at the Chateau (the big hotel at the base of Lake Louise). Afterwards we drove back to the hotel and went into town for dinner, and of course more ice cream.

Day 4 – Bow River and Canmore


Oregon Family Vacation 2018

We just got back from spending 10 days in Oregon and California.  Overall it was a great trip.  We got to spend a lot of time together before the kids start school for the year.  Below are some pics from the trip.

Part 0 – Arrival

The first day of the trip, Friday, was spent traveling from Boston to our Airbnb in Central Point, Oregon.  On the descent into Portland, we got to see Mt. St. Helens, Mr. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.  Eli was so excited to see these huge peaks.

After the cross country flight, we stopped at a brewery in Portland, before the long drive (5 hours) across the state.   Oregon is filled with tons of breweries, and they all seem to cater to families.  After filling up, we drove down to Central Point, where we stayed for 3 nights.

Part 1 – Crater Lake, OR

The kids loved the Airbnb.  It had a nice in ground pool, game room with darts and ping pong, and a movie room with a big screen tv.  Tommy got his own bedroom, and the other two boys slept in another room.  The house was in a suburb of Medford, which is not too far from Ashland.  We were about a 2 hour drive from Crater Lake.  Unfortunately I (Michele won’t let me forget it) waited too long to book the lodge at the lake, and there are no other options within an hour of the park.  I thought it would be good to be in civilization and have to put in the extra drive.

On Saturday, we did a short hike to see some waterfalls and the Rogue River up close.  The trail was called the Mill Creek Falls trail in Prospect, OR.  We were struck by the huge Cedar trees everywhere.  After the hike we went back to the house and hung out in the pool for the afternoon.  We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant right down the road.  

On Sunday, we spent the day at Crater Lake, OR.  We got there early because we wanted to reserve a spot on the boat that takes you to Wizard Island.  We took a steep 1.1 mile hike down to the base of the lake.  Tommy was freaked out by some overly friendly chipmunks who were crawling all over us.  We took the boat ride out to the island.  Then we hiked up to the top of Wizard Island, which is a volcano instead of another volcano.  The trail, 2.1 miles each way, was filled with switchbacks.  There were more friendly chipmunks at the top, which I’m guessing somehow hitched a ride on the boat at some point.  After hiking down we took the boat back and then made the steep trek back to the top.  After hiking we completed the drive around the rim and headed back to the house.  

On Monday, Michele took Eli and Aaron up to hike Mt. Scott, which is 8934′.  We figured this was a little too tough for Tommy (who’s 5), so I stayed back with him.  Tommy and went to the local arcade and did Go Kart’s, bumper boats, and played games.  

After they got back from the hike, we hung out in the pool and went to a local pizza place.  

Part 2 – Redwoods, CA

On Tuesday, we headed to Crescent City, CA, which is right next to the Redwood national forest.  Along the way, we stopped at the Oregon Caves national monument.  This place had a 1.5 hr guided tour through some natural caves.  I totally wussed out at the entrance (I don’t like closed spaces) and waited while everyone else went on the tour.  

On Wednesday, we played by the ocean in the morning and then headed to the Redwoods to hike the Boy Scout Tree Trail.  This trail was 5.3 miles round trip, and was supposed to offer the most stunning views of the redwoods.  Boy this trail did not disappoint.  The trees were just massive.  It’s really hard to describe their size and pictures do it no justice.  After the hike we went out to the SeaQuake brewery, which everyone liked.  

Part 3 – Newport, OR

On Thursday, we drove on the coast to Newport.  Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy, so we didn’t get to see many sites.  We did make a couple stops though and the kids got to play in the ocean.  

On Friday AM, we went to the Newport Acquarium.  In the afternoon we hung out at the pool and beach.  At night we went to the Wedding rehearsal dinner and got to see some family.  

On Saturday, we did more beach and pool in the morning.  In the afternoon we went to Michele’s cousins wedding, which was right on the coast.  The wedding was a great way to wrap up this trip.  

On Sunday, we headed back to Portland and caught a flight back to Boston. 

Pittsburgh, and first ride in a self driving car!

This week I visited Pittsburgh, PA to attend the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) career fair.  This was my 3rd or 4th time to this career fair.  These fairs are a great way to find amazing interns and fresh grads.  I’ve had great luck w/ CMU students, which is why I keep coming back!

I went with a few coworkers and we stayed in an Airbnb that had a pretty awesome view overlooking the city.

The buildings in Pittsburgh are very strange.  Everything looks rundown from the outside, and the siding on many houses is a strange mishmash of clapboard, brick, tile, and other materials.  Also, the houses are extremely close together:

We attended the fair all day Monday and Tuesday, which was pretty exhausting.  There was a line of students behind everyone in the booth, all day long.  The basic system is to meet as many students as possible at the fair and then pick the top ones to interview on campus on Wednesday.

We met w/ probably hundreds of kids and ended up interviewing around 20-30 on Wednesday.  From there we are planning on making offers to about 5-10 of the top ones.

We met some great candidates and I’d say overall the trip was a success!

At the end of the day on Wednesday we were heading out and grabbed an Uber.  Uber has been testing self driving cars in Pittsburgh for about a year now, and recently they have opened them up to anyone.  In the app you can’t select a self driving one, you just have to get lucky.

The trip started by our vehicle flying past us, so far not so good.  We grabbed a pic before the trip:

Inside the vehicle there are two displays, one in the front and one in the back.  There were two drivers in front, there to help out if the car got into a jam and couldn’t drive on its own.

In the back seat there was a display that showed a live shot of the lidar data and object recognition.

Currently the pickup and drop off process is done by the human driver.  Once they get going they put it into autonomous mode.

Overall the self driving mode was very cautious, probably too cautious, which resulted in a jerky ride.  If there was any pedestrian or bicycle traffic nearby it was hit the brakes pretty hard.

There were several intersections where the car went out of self driving mode.  I’d say less than half of our 20 min drive was autonomous.  My guess is they are several years away from being completely driverless, but it is inevitable that the tech challenges will be overcome.

Definitely a highlight and great way to end the trip.  Can’t wait to see these things all over.



Cape Canaveral, Florida Trip 2017

This week the whole family went down to Cape Canaveral, Florida to watch Michele’s rocket launch up into space.  Lots more info on the satellite that she worked on can be found here.

Michele headed down on Tuesday with all 3 boys.  I headed down on Thursday night so I could get some more days of work in.  Everyone headed back on Monday.  In addition, Michele’s dad and wife spent the weekend with us.  Less than a year ago they moved down to Florida, so it was good for everyone to catch up!

We spent Friday hanging out at the hotel pool.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn at Cape Canaveral.  The hotel had awesome amenities (arcade, indoor playground, pools, lazy river, water slide, etc.), but the room kinda sucked.  All five of us aren’t used to being crammed into a couple hundred square feet for a week!

Here’s some pics of the hotel pools:

After dinner, we then went to a gathering of people that worked on the mission.  They had presentations from various military personnel.  Eli was fascinated by these presentations.  The event was held in this very cool building that looked like a wave and was overlooking the launchpad.

The original launch time was scheduled for 11pm.  After the 9pm presentations we found out that the weather wasn’t cooperating and the launch was delayed until 2am!  This was definitely a concern w/ the 3 boys.  We ended up going back to the hotel room and hanging out until about 1:30am.

We then headed out to the beach and watched the rocket launch off from a pier.  It was so cool!  Overall I was super impressed by how well behaved the kids were!

On Saturday we slept in late.  We then spent more time at the pool.  In the evening Michele and I got to spend some alone time and go hang out with some of her coworkers, then went out to dinner.

On Sunday, we pretty much spent the entire day at Kennedy Space Center.  This place is like Disney for geeks.  We got to see an entire Saturn V rocket, visit launch pads, touch moon rocks, see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an Astronaut, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Some pics from the space museum:

On Monday we all headed back home!  Overall it was a great family trip.


Cabo, Mexico Trip

This past weekend I had my company (ClearMotion) work retreat in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Each year we take the whole company (and spouses) on a getaway to an exotic location.  The purpose of the trip is twofold, one is as a reward/benefit to employees, and the other is team building.

Cabo is at the tip of Baja California, on the pacific coast in Mexico.  See below.  This was my first trip to Mexico and I was pretty excited!

My flight left @ 6am on Thursday, which meant I had to get up at 3am.  The flights themselves were uneventful.  I am happy to say that the Bose headphone purchase was totally worth it.  These things totally cancel out the engine noise on the plane, it’s almost eerily quiet and took some getting used to.  Also, the battery life is phenomenal.

Our plane landed around 1pm Cabo time (3pm EST).  Entering Mexico was a snap.  We got to deboard the plane via the rear, which was a first for me.  I love how the warmer climate airports have you exit the plane right onto the tarmac.

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CES 2017 – Trip Report!

I was super fortunate to be able to attend CES 2017 in Las Vegas this last weekend!  For those that have been hiding under a rock, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is probably the largest tradeshow in the world, with close to 200,000 people gathering in Las Vegas for all things tech.

Most of my focus on the trip was around checking out the various automotive OEM’s and suppliers and meeting with various partners and vendors.

Overall the size of the automotive presence and, in particular, self driving cars and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) technologies, was staggering.  I walked around for 2 days and didn’t even get a chance to see all the vendors, never mind experience the various demos (e.g. taking a ride in various self driving cars, etc.).  Overall I probably got to experience about 25% of the show.

The signs are all very clear at the convention, self driving cars are actually here, it’s not hype.  Well, the tech is here, we’ll see about the regulatory and consumer acceptance side of things over the coming years.  The impact to the economy will be undoubtedly huge, as massive amounts of jobs are displaced (all taxi, uber, and truck drivers gone to start).  Those industries will become more efficient (24×7 trucking, no need for drivers to sleep, for example).

Consumers will shift to viewing driving as a service (already happening now with Uber in urban areas) and car ownership will become less prevalent, which will result in poorer auto sales.  Our time will be freed up from driving during our commute, which will no doubt be replaced by doing more work, checking emails, etc.  I’ve always found that the promise of more leisure time from increased advances in technologies never materializes, only to be quickly filled in by more work.

Regardless of what the future holds, damn the tech at CES is off the charts!  I got to see the brand new EV from Faraday Future (brand new OEM in California).  This vehicle is tricked out with everything including facial recognition and machine learning, full self driving tech, and a 60 degree reclining seat so you can relax while your car is driving you to your destination.  Check out their website at the link above for the complete specs.

Another company that really impressed me was HERE, a mapping company that is setup to be the mapping database for self driving cars.  Image processing, including object recognition, have come a long way and are now being productized by various suppliers.

Here are some pics of the show: