As I mentioned in my last post, Finn chose to go on a snowboarding trip for his birthday instead of having a party. He didn’t have to twist Bruce’s arm too much since he wanted to get back on the slopes again too. So, the weekend after Finn’s birthday they went to Bear Valley. They stayed at the Bear Valley Lodge. There was tons of snow.
They did some snowshoeing.
Made a giant snowball.
And had a snowboarding/skiing day.
Over the weekend of Ezra’s 12th birthday, he and Bruce went on a snow camping trip with Bruce’s colleague, Andrei, and his son, Edward. They went to Carson Pass and had a fun but chilly time. As with the Christmas break trip, I’m hoping Bruce will fill in the details on this post at some point! For now, here are some photos.
More photos here.
December 3rd gave us not only Finn’s piano recital but also a Vintage Christmas Party put on by a couple of our favorite Fairmeadow moms. These are our hostesses, Karen and Christina, and as you can tell from their outfits and the decorations behind them, they went all out.
Bruce and I got dressed up vintage style as well, although I just couldn’t manage the 50s-60s hair. But I did get a petticoat and I pulled out my mother’s pearls which were definitely from that era.
Bruce decided to go with 50s NASA engineer. I tried to get him to shave off his facial hair (which I’m pretty sure was a no-no among that ilk at the time) but he wouldn’t do it. We did manage to make a pretty accurate recreation of the pocket contents and a NASA badge. He also had his calculator on his belt like a holster.
Here are some more pictures from the evening. Super fun!
October was marred by the surprise Loon resignation of our friend Baris. While we weren’t happy about the news, we’ve settled into acceptance and, in usual Bruce fashion, he provided an excellent send-off. The group asked him to make a balloon “card” so out came the papier-mâché once again. Unfortunately I fell down on the picture-taking job, but here’s the one photo I have after the group had signed the balloon.
What you can’t see is the underside where there’s a cutout with plexiglass showing that the balloon is filled with the colorful origami cranes from the original Loon piñata Bruce made. It really turned out to be quite nice.
The presentation on Baris’s last day, however, was appropriately dark …
Here’s a closeup showing the dead roses, baked in our oven to perfect crispness.
No sense hiding one’s feelings.
It feels like we’re just running from one stressor to the next these days, so I’m having a hard time remembering what we did that day. I know we celebrated in the morning … because it’s the only picture I have from that day.
The boys had their skating class that afternoon and then a birthday party. Ah, and I do remember, Bruce and I went to dinner by ourselves to celebrate. Low key, but nice (and rare) to get out.
This post is quite chronologically-challenged, but all the way back at the beginning of May, while Ezra and I were on a field trip to NASA, Finn and Bruce participated in Bring Your Child to X Day.
In addition to Bruce’s duties as a dad that day, he also had an important role as an employee — he devised a fun way to demonstrate how the laser communication system on the balloons works. He wired a switch to a laser pointer and fastened it to a helmet, taped on a small motor to cause vibration, and attached a giant balloon to it. Then he had the kids try to point the laser pointer at a fixed spot across the room, while the balloon swayed above their heads and the motor vibrated the helmet. All this simulated what the laser comm system has to deal with in trying to point to another balloon in order for successful communication. It’s really quite difficult to keep the laser pointer straight on target with all this going on, but the kids (and adults!) had a super fun time trying. Here are a few pictures taken by his colleague, Paul.
Here’s Baris giving it a try. I love this picture. Everyone’s faces are expressive, and I especially love Finn peaking out between Bruce and Baris.
The demonstration proved to be so successful that the project is planning to use it for other Xers and visitors. What a great outcome for one of Bruce’s crazy contraptions!
When the boys got an animation set for Christmas, Bruce decided to try it out. He was taken with the process and decided to make a movie commemorating his team’s first successful flight using optical communication between balloons. We went through several set up iterations but finally he ended up doing most of the work in the garage.
It’s a time consuming process but the final product came out great.
Last month they were going to do some filming at Google[x] and, of course, Bruce couldn’t let that pass without a prank. As with many of his pranks, the idea solidified in the late afternoon of the day before he wanted to do it. The item needed: a wig.
After school, Ezra and I ran to the huge party store in Mountain View which luckily had a pretty good supply of wigs. Most of them, however, were for more outlandish costumes and not something one would wear in order to fake real hair. But we came up with two choices, valiantly modeled by Ezra.
And The Beatles:
For Ezra, I think the Beatles is the clear winner, but Bruce liked the tousled look for himself.
He tried wearing it for a while that evening, just to get used to it. He also added a few accessories; here’s one.
I’m pretty sure my mom had this same hairstyle for most of the 70s and 80s. For work the next morning, he went with the cap.
About halfway through the day, I figured out who he reminded me of.
Best $30 I ever spent.
It’s duck hunting season on the Bay and Bruce has become enamored of the abandoned duck decoys bobbing up and down in the water. He brought one home a few weeks ago, and one weekend, after seeing a few more that were too far out of reach, he decided he needed a hunting strategy. His idea: a lasso!
So, he pulled some rope out of the garage and looked up the lasso knot on the intergoogles and soon we were packed up and riding over to the Bay. Here’s the soon-to-be master on one of his first tries.
(Can we just stop here and acknowledge what a ridiculously gorgeous day it was?!? It was windy and chilly for me, but absolutely beautiful!)
The rope wasn’t going as far as necessary, so he moved a little closer.
He finally did manage to rope the duck … but unfortunately when he started to pull on it, he lost his balance in the muck and fell backwards into the cold and, dare I say, gross water. I was freezing just looking at him, but he persevered! After all, there was at least one other decoy out there! We rode a short way to the next location and, soaking wet, he managed to get another one. By a stroke of brilliant luck, I happened to be shooting video of it — the only video I took of all of his tries.
We stayed a little longer as the boys, Ezra in particular, was having fun breaking off the shore. Here’s a video (at his request), complete with a happy dance at the end.
And here’s a picture of the spoils.
One thing definitely in the “pro” column for our move is Bruce’s new team at work, a really good bunch of guys with good senses of humor. Google has micro-kitchens in each building with a ridiculous assortment of snacks and drinks. They offer some healthy stuff — mostly bowls of fruit, each with J. Peterman Catalog-worthy descriptions. Here’s an example.
For a while now, Bruce has wanted to do a papier mache fruit with some resemblance to his colleague Todd’s head and leave it in a basket in the micro-kitchen. It finally happened a couple of weeks ago.
I don’t have many pictures of the construction, but it was a typical papier mache project in that he started with a balloon, which he tried to be roughly the size of Todd’s head. Oh, and here’s Todd. (Bruce tacked up a picture of him in the garage for inspiration.)
The early stages were not without mishaps. Namely, in trying to quick dry a couple layers, he put the balloons in the oven on a low temp. Seemed reasonable. But the balloon expanded in the heat and started ripping the newspaper. Lesson learned.
Otherwise, I think it went pretty smoothly. By the time I started taking pictures, he had already spray-painted them orange.
He added some green to make them less uniform and add some rustic fruitiness.
He added black to one of the stems …
… but everyone liked it better without that effect, so he stopped.
The other step was the mock description card. Bruce wrote the text and I formatted it to look like the sample he’d brought home.
He took the fruit, the card and a basket over to his office in the evening and set it all up.
By the time he got in the next morning, word of the new fruit in the micro-kitchen had traveled quickly and everyone immediately knew the culprit.
Bruce usually comes home from work in a good mood. He’s enjoying his new job — the team, the work itself and the whimsical Google environment are all a good fit. But one day a couple of weeks ago he came home a little embarrassed. He’d accidentally printed out a 1,000-page document when he intended to just print part of the table of contents. Because he had left the building when he started the print job, he didn’t realize what had happened until he got back much later.
He quickly owned up to the accident and suggested his penance should be to have to actually read the document: IEEE Broadband Wireless Access Standards, which sounds riveting. Another colleague proposed that he make a paper mache balloon piñata for Cinco de Mayo like the ones his group plans to fly to provide internet access to remote areas.
So in other words, the gauntlet was thrown and the Moisions sprang into action. I found a local party store that sells giant balloons and Bruce printed out some pictures of the balloons to figure out proper dimensions. Saturday morning he started the paper mache.
Here’s the offending paper.
This project really is an engineering problem, so it’s right up his alley. He was worried that the balloon would pop before the paper mache was dry, so he set up a little stand for it.
After the first couple of layers, he decided that he wanted it to get some sun since it wasn’t particularly warm out. So we very carefully moved it out of the garage. It was windy, so in addition to it needing a cushiony place to sit, he tied it down so it wouldn’t blow off the box.
After a few hours in the sun, we moved it back into the garage and tackled the next engineering issue: how to get it to drape down so it’s not ball-shaped. This is where I think most people would have a good laugh and give up. But not my nutty husband.
His original thought was to use string to get the shape and do the paper mache around the string.
But that didn’t work because the paper would just rip when he tried to stretch it between the strings. Luckily, we still have a lot of cardboard left over from the move, so out came the box cutters and the hot glue gun and we shaped a stronger base. (And I say “we” because I was tasked with holding things in place while he did all the work, but I’m taking some credit anyway.)
After tying it to a beam in the garage so it would stand upright (and take a little weight off the balloon), he started in on the first layer on Sunday morning.
Later that evening he added more layers and got a little help from Ezra.
They’re a good team.
By the next morning, it was looking pretty good!
He still had to add some layers to the part that wasn’t showing when it was hanging up.
And we had lengthy discussions about how to attach a way to hang it when it was all done. More glue gun, cardboard and zip ties.
A couple of days later it got an attachment.
And hanging proved successful.
Of course, in order to be authentic it needs a payload.
More zip ties, glue, cardboard and black spray paint.
While all this was happening, we were also trying to figure out what we should put inside. Our first thought was, of course, candy, but that seemed too obvious. I suggested bouncy balls which I thought would have a nice effect but could be problematic with little control of how far they would go. They would also add a lot of weight to an already heavy contraption.
Then Bruce had a great idea: origami cranes (or loons!) in the tradition of making 1,000 cranes for good luck. After some searching, we found people on Etsy who make them, in Google colors no less. We figured we’d buy some and make some ourselves, knowing it was unlikely we’d be able to make as many of them as we needed to fill the ball.
We initially bought 500 3″ cranes from a woman in North Carolina which came folded and needed to be pulled out into shape. We put the kids to work.
We then set out to make more (which included a late night trip to Michael’s for origami paper). We found that we had an easier time making them from 6″ paper, so we hunted through the packs of paper for the primary colors, put the kids to bed and got to work. It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed provisions.
We kept at it and our small pile got bigger as we managed to get a little faster at making each crane.
On Saturday, though, we brought in reinforcements: Baris and Alexandra.
Alexandra is a pro and cranked out lots of cranes. Baris joined the rest of us newbies, and together we made about 200 cranes in a few hours. Of course, we had some delays, namely dinner and my own stopping to cheer for the Kings who beat the Ducks in Round 2, Game 1 that night.
On Sunday, Bruce put some finishing touches on the payload: a mocked-up comm system complete with solar panel.
We took a break for lunch with our neighbors and then headed out on our two hour drive to Elk Grove to pick up the other 500 cranes we’d ordered on Etsy. The best part of that little excursion was that we arranged to meet Mike, Carla, Emily and Kendra for dinner in Sacramento. So great to see the “girl cousins” as the boys call them!
On the way home, Bruce unfolded all the cranes, threw them to the boys who threw them in the back of the car. So what started out in this box …
… ended up to be this giant pile.
When we got home, I put the kids to bed while Bruce started getting the balloon ready for transport to Google the next morning. After attaching another, smaller balloon in the hole to keep the cranes from pooling in the bottom, he filled the big ball.
Then, while trying to figure out what to use for the beating stick, we decided to contact our neighbor Chris who has his own [much crazier] project going on in his backyard — Tsunamiball — and therefore has lots of tools and scrap wood. He brought over a perfect stick and then had a look at the balloon. He proved to be the voice of reason, convincing Bruce that the ball was just too strong and no one was going to be able to bust it open. So … out came the drill.
And eventually the saw.
It ended up looking like this.
Just to take this to a whole new level of kookiness, Bruce was worried that the cranes would a) be dusty from all the drilling and sawing, and b) get wet when he put the last layer of paper mache on (he couldn’t possibly leave it full of holes), so he had taken them all out.
Trust me, there was a lot of mocking. Undaunted, he continued cutting, in part because after he did the initial cuts he tried hitting the ball and it didn’t budge.
Here’s a shot of all the holes from the inside.
Next there was sanding …
And the last layer of paper mache.
After it had mostly dried, he blew up another balloon for inside (he’d popped the first one with the saw) and refilled the cranes. He marked a tiny black spot where he thought the weakest point was in case they ran into trouble breaking it.
And we loaded it in the van.
He sent me this picture of its final home between a couple of Google buildings.
The festivities started earlier than I thought they would so I didn’t get to see the beginning; apparently Bruce got to take the first swings. When I rode up I could hear the smacking sound already so I rushed over to grab a few photos.
And here’s the guy who finally did it in.
I love this shot of the aftermath. The cranes worked out great!