Halloween 2015

Between the extreme costume-making, the driverless car activity, and the events at school, Halloween seemed to last for weeks! On the Friday before Halloween, Ezra’s friend Henry came over after school for pumpkin carving and play. I love that they’ve gotten to the age where they just get right to it by themselves; it’s fun to watch their creativity in action.




Bruce had ended up working very late that night (a regular occurrence lately) so he didn’t have time to fulfill my request until Halloween morning. But he got right to it.


And it came out great!


Here are all three pumpkins. Finn’s is on the right.


For trick-or-treating we split up; Ezra went with Bruce and his two school friends, Henry and Emerson. Here are a couple of shots of Ezra before they left. A last minute costume check:


Making his way through the house:


And chilling in the chair just before leaving, which I thought was pretty funny considering he looks like a giant black robot.


Here’s the only picture I have of their night. Henry is the hotdog; we’re not exactly sure what Emerson is, probably a zombie.


Finn was all set too after some minor adjustments and the addition of a camping lantern.


Finn and I trick-or-treated around our neighborhood with friends. It was more lively than last year and a lot of fun.


Here are our neighbors Chris and Sharon in their timely Martian costumes.


Here are the kids at our neighbor Marlene’s house. She’s very popular because she gives out full sized candy bars!


Finn didn’t last very long walking around with the weight of a planet on his shoulders, so he swapped out with Chris for a Martian helmet instead.


After we got back the parents chatted while the annual candy-swapping happened in the boys’ room.


A good time was had by all.

Halloween at School

The boys were very excited for this year’s Halloween parade at school. It is a pretty fun event and this year Bruce got to come along. Frankly, both of us needed to be there to help with costumes, but I wanted him to come to see his handiwork in action.

Here’s a picture of Finn’s class.


And Ezra’s.


And here are a few shots from the parade.




I have lots more photos and a couple of videos here.

Halloween at Google[x]

Google has several activities for Halloween. We’ve never actually gone to any of them, mainly because of the pain-in-the-neck factor. This year, however, the Self-Driving Car team invited kids in costume to come to Google[x] for “Trunk or Treat Data Collection” a few days before Halloween. We had no idea what that meant, but seeing that the effort is minimal to get there (walk across the street), we gathered up the kids’ costumes and headed over there on the Wednesday before Halloween.

It turned out to be a low key affair, just our kids and a handful of others. The objective was to teach the cars what kids in costumes look like, so the cars will know to be extra cautious. The kids’ objective was to get the candy waiting for them when they finished. Bruce’s objective was to show his coworkers how the Enderman head worked. Needless to say, the costumes were a big hit.


Here’s Ezra showing off the mechanics to three of Bruce’s colleagues.


At the end, the kids got to check out the inside of the car.


You can read Google’s explanation of the event here in their Google+ post. My favorite part of the post was the photo that went with it.


Here’s a screen shot of the Google post.


And my favorite part, the comments — one of which gives a shout out to the Enderman.


The story was picked up by a lot of news agencies. My Korean friend sent me a screen shot from a Korean publication.


Coincidentally, they were holding another event to announce Loon’s partnership with Indonesia and had inflated a Loon balloon on the grassy area below us. I snapped a few photos, of course.


Another crazy day in Mountain View. I have more photos and a couple of videos here.

Halloween Costumes 2015

This year both boys requested pretty elaborate and time-consuming costumes, so Bruce (the family costume guru) got started early. My first photos are dated in September, but he actually began in August. Finn wanted to be Mars, so we got a giant balloon and readied for another very large papier-mâché structure. We all chipped in, adding layers and layers until it was strong enough to cut open a hole to see through.


We were a little worried it wouldn’t fit through the door, but it did.


Bruce and Finn did a great job with the spray paint to get a good red.


It was quite heavy, but Bruce installed shoulder straps with foam padding and bars at the bottom so Finn could lift it up off his shoulders if he needed a rest. Here’s the final product.


Ezra wanted to use his Enderman costume from last year but make some upgrades, namely he wanted the head to move up and down electronically like “real” Endermans do. First, Bruce had to decapitate the old costume.


Then he started work on several iterations of electronics and mechanics.



There were lots of burned out batteries, replaced components, and back-to-the-drawing-board moments, but as always, he persevered. I have several videos here of early models. Here’s a little loop of the finished working product.

Ezra also requested new legs that wrapped all the way around and connected with magnets. Here he is spray painting them.


Here’s the whole thing.


I’ll have more photos and videos of the costumes in the posts to come.

Fifth Grade Portraits

At the beginning of the school year, Ezra’s teacher had the students do self-portraits. This is not unusual, of course, but what was different was that she told them they could use any materials they wanted. Many students did traditional self-portraits with crayons or markers. Here’s the portrait wall in their class.


A few branched out, including Ezra, who “pushed the boundaries” (as his teacher told me) by using spray paint, cardboard, and his own hair from his last haircut. (He always saves a Ziploc bag of hair each time Bruce shaves his head; this time it was actually put to use.) Kudos to his teacher for working with him to formulate a plan for his unusual materials and helping him bring his vision to life. Here he is.


His teacher told me she loved it. I love the fact that she really seems to get him. He’s a lucky fifth grader.

Fifth Grade Bubble Soccer

Ezra got the chance to play bubble soccer last weekend at the PTA fundraising party for fifth graders. We’ve seen it being played at the park several times, and it’s quite amusing to watch. That’s Ezra in the green bubble in the middle.


Here’s a short video. Ezra is the one in the green bubble on the left side doing the little roll maneuver at the beginning.

Complete with snacks, drinks, and pizza, this was a successful fifth grade party!

Sunset Magazine Tour

On October 17th, our neighbor and friend Marlene, who is a test chef at Sunset Magazine, took us on a tour of the property. Sunset has been at this location up the road in Menlo Park since the 1950s, but it is a prime piece of Silicon Valley real estate much coveted by developers. Sunset’s parent company recently sold the property and the magazine is moving to Oakland and Sonoma at the end of this year, so we were very happy to see the iconic campus before it’s gone.

I didn’t take any pictures inside but it was fun to see the ins and outs of the ranch-style offices. The boys most enjoyed the free “garage sale” area where they picked up a couple of discards. Finn got a typewriter and a calculator and Ezra grabbed a set of four little trees which he has stashed around the house. I liked the gardens best; here are a few photos.






After the tour, Finn spent some time typing out his manifesto.


He was very proud.


Cantor Arts Field Trip

On October 8th I chaperoned a field trip with Ezra’s class to Cantor Arts Center at Stanford. The kids were given booklets to help guide them through the museum and provide some hands on activities. In the booklets, they sketched their favorite pieces and answered questions about the different areas of the museum. I think they all had a pretty good time. First, of course, was some goofing off before we went in.


And here are some shots inside the museum.





This well-endowed horse provided the comic relief for the day to a gaggle of ten-year-old boys.


And here’s the whole class at the end of the day.


Third Grade Bike Rodeo

I volunteered to help with this year’s Third Grade Bike Rodeo in October and had a blast. Palo Alto has been doing these in every elementary school for 20 years or so, and they have a well-oiled system. The day before, we set up several stations on the playground at school, each set to teach the kids about a particular area of bike safety. We had lots of volunteers, District reps, and a police officer helping on the day of the rodeo. It was so great to see all the bikes lined up and ready.


My job at my station was to ride along the blue-taped bike path, scan for cars over my shoulder, and then signal and make a left turn when it was safe.


Here’s Finn learning hand signals at another station.


And here’s his group at my station, getting the pre-ride instructions.


I thought the day was wildly successful, both in terms of teaching the kids about safety and inspiring them to ride their bikes more. In the days following, I got lots of positive feedback from parents, and our Walk & Roll to School Day (which was the day after the Bike Rodeo) showed a big uptick in kids who biked to school.

Blood Moon Eclipse

We had a little trouble viewing the blood moon eclipse on September 27th. First, we decided to view it from the Bay, so we drove out to the main Google campus, figuring we could park there and have a pretty clear view. Problem number one was the gigantic concert/festival that was happening at Shoreline Amphitheatre, causing the roads and parking lots to be closed off. Our Plan B was the rooftop of the Google[x] building so we headed home and then walked across the street. We set up shop on the roof in a little patio area.


Of course, it was pretty cloudy that night and we couldn’t see anything. We hung out for a while to see if the clouds would move away, and just as we were getting ready to give up Bruce spotted the moon which was still about three-fourths into the eclipse. I tried to take photographs of it, but had no luck getting a good one. Here’s the best I got, after we walked home, got the tripod out and set it up on the sidewalk in front of our house.


Self-Driving Car Open House

At the end of September, Bruce went into work on a Saturday and stumbled upon a neighborhood open house that the self-driving car team was hosting. We’d heard that they were going to do this, but our neighborhood hadn’t been officially invited, so we didn’t know when it was happening. Apparently, they invited the Mountain View neighbors only. No worries though; we were able to get in and see the technology displays and, even more fun, take a ride in the little bubble car.

Bruce and Ezra were up first. I was behind a gate but tried to take a video. This part of the course had a pedestrian walking out in front of the car.

After the ride, they gave out this sticker:


Here’s Ezra getting his.


Finn and I were up next. Here’s a quick video of our ride.

And a still …


They also had a few games set up, including a giant Jenga set that the kids enjoyed, and of course, free food.


And car shaped cookies.


It was a super fun surprise excursion!