Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SLO Trip

I think I picked the right time to start at Apple; here is my schedule for my first two months:

  • Work 2 weeks
  • Thanksgiving week off
  • Work 1 week
  • Go to China for 1.5 weeks
  • Work 2 days
  • 2 1.5 Weeks off for Christmas

That's almost a 50% work ratio! After Christmas it's all hands on deck for a while so I'm working on enjoy the time while I have it.

Over the Thanksgiving week Katherine and I went down to San Luis Obispo (SLO-"you say slow if you're in the the know"). I interview here for a position during my job search and really loved the town. It's about 3 hrs south of The Valley and is a perfect little California town. Cal Poly is located in the town so it has a definite young college feel but a really nice downtown with shops and restaurants. The town is right at the base of a number of mountains and only about 20 minutes from the ocean. I think you can see why I liked it so much!

We got into down and went for an awesome bike ride. Now that we have our bikes back (and Katherine is into riding) we've been trying to get out more. We went down to beach and then headed up the coast and back along the highway. We even went down a little bit of a trail section that I had explored during my interview bike ride.

On the way down Katherine got a call about a job and needed to go in the next day so we had to cut out multi-day plan down to just one night. We brought out camping stuff and spent the night at Montana De Oro, a gorgeous state park right on the ocean. I always find staying in car campgrounds funny since our minimalist camping gear juxtaposes the RVs and big tents pretty well. It's a great, cheap way to spend a night in a great place though.

We went out to dinner in the town and then came back and took some star pictures. Ever since we got our DSLR, I've been having tons of fun playing with night shots (more on that in a future post).

The next morning, I went for a ride up HWY 1 and Katherine met me for a coffee and a breakfast. After that we too the scenic route all the way back which made for a gorgeous drive. I can't believe that this road was ever conceived and built, it's RIGHT ON THE WATER. Super cool and pretty.

Mission Peak Hike

A few weeks ago Katherine and I hiked Mission Peak. There are a ton of hikes around here and we decided we wanted to go after something on the East side of the bay to change things up a bit. The original plan was to hike Mt. Diablo which is the highest peak in the area, or the most prominent peak, or the most land viewing from the top peak, or something impressive. But...we slept in.

New plan: Mission Peak!

Mission is visible from most of South Bay and particularly obvious because of the transmission towers on the top. The start of the hike is actually from a local community college which does require paid parking-a slight bummer in the world of free free parking hikes.
The hiker highway

Busy summit, reminded us of the Franconia Ridge
We hiking at mid day on Saturday and it was PACKED. Even from the parking lot there you could see the line of people headed up the "hiker highway." People were also riding up (and down) and there were huge family groups. Katherine and I set a really good pace up and over took most people. The hike was mostly wide gravel double track but there were a few sections of of single track through the woods and the cow pastures.

Towards the top there were a few steeper parts but overall it was a pretty reasonable hike. We Strava'd the hike and got pretty close on a couple of segments without even trying. I think it would be really fun to go back and try to run the route, it's about 3 miles each way so a pretty good challenge if going for speed.
Cross eyed cow

The views from the top were really great, the Bay to one side and pretty empty mountains to the other. We're starting to know the area well enough to pick out landmarks from these views but we're still not able to locate our house.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hey Cool! I work at Apple now!

So, the whole point of this move to California was a job with Apple. Something that I think I have been pretty quiet about so far so here is the summary.

I've started in my new position as a Manufacturing Design Engineer (MDE) for the iPad team. In this role I work with vendors to get production processes up and running for new product. Almost all of Apple's production is overseas so my communication is generally directed there via email but the position also involves a lot of travel...I'm China bound on December 10th!

It's pretty exciting to be working on all new products and seeing all of the challenges involved in making these parts. Apple's standards and incredibly high for their product, inside and out. Where a lot of companies might say that a scratch or blemish on an internal feature is fine, we are tasked with making sure that there are no blemishes anywhere.

Besides the job description, what is Apple like?

In my short time there, it's been a pretty incredible place to work. I have two offices I report to, one in Sunnyvale (only 1.5 miles from our house!) and the other in Cupertino, at the main campus. It is pretty awesome to walk around the buildings at 1 Infinite Loop and be a part of the company.

Coming from not owning any Apple product, I've been fully converted.  In my first week I got a Macbook Pro 15" (which I LOVE), an iPad Air (which I'm still not sure what to do with), an iPhone 5s (which is really nice but I really want a 6 now) and a 4s (China phone). Getting used to the OS has been a little difficult and I had to get an application called Hyperdock which simulates the Windows 7 Aero Snap feature since I couldn't work without it. I love the hardware though, especially as I start to learn about everything that goes into manufacturing it.

Free stuff aside, there are some great perks from the company. Firstly, our relocation was fully covered which has made this entire trip so easy and so much more feasible.

The food on campus is also, really really good! With tons of vegan options. There are at least 10 restaurants and each one has a large selection of made to order food. While it isn't free, it is very well priced ($4 burritos). One week I ate: veggie tempura with tendon sauce, tofu burrito, an asian tofu and quinoa bowl, and a vegan pizza with vegan cheese and meat! Packing a lunch seems like such a thing of the past with such quality food at such a good price.

There are also shuttles all across the area so I never need to drive or ride to work. I can walk to a shuttle stop from out house and get to work in 15 minutes.

Overall, though, working for the company just feels really cool. Everyone is really excited about the work they are doing and the products they are creating. It's a pretty exciting environment and I can't wait to grow in it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day In The City

On my last day of freedom, we decided to head into San Francisco ("The City" if you are a local) via the CalTrain. This is a nice commuter rail into the city that stops in all of the towns of the Bay area. It costs $14/person for a day pass and takes about 1.5 hours to get into the city (versus 1 hour without traffic if driving).

We didn't have much agenda so we planned to walk around and explore. Katherine has an interview in The City on Tuesday so we checked out what the walk would be like and made sure she knew where it would be.

We totally forgot it was Veteran's Day so a parade was a nice surprise!

Texting and driving!

We went down to check out the very crowded Ferry Terminal and managed to get some delicious donuts from Pebbles. Vegan too!

Without much to do we decided to take a ferry and see the bay. I had been to Sausalito before and figured any of the towns would be cool so we got tickets for the Larkspur boat. It was easier than trying to get to the bridge on foot and should have given us a view. We idled out of the dock and then both of were surprised at how fast the boat went. It was a full blown catamaran and we went fast! Really cool!

Foggy Golden Gate (classic)

Larkspur ended up being pretty small without much to do but they were doing a food truck day so we got a delicious "deconstructed Samosa" from Curry Up Now. Holy crap! So friggin' good!

Once we got back we did some shopping. I was on the hunt for some maroon/red jeans and Katherine wanted some wax cotton pants which we both agree as super bitchin.

Lots of walking and shopping and near meltdowns (from me) later and we arrived at Gracias Madre for a vegan Mexican dinner. Again, so good. Really light and simple Mexican food with tons of fresh flavors. I got Tamale which I really love and can't easily find on the East Coast and Katherine got veggie tacos.

After the train ride back I found the car battery totally dead. Guess who left the lights on. This guy! I'll have to get used to turning the lights off again as our Golf has the same system.

Overall, a great way to spend the day before starting work at Apple!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We Have A House!

Our new place!
We don't really sit still well so we've been hard on the apartment search. We've been told about how we should relax and settle down but we really like apartment hunting, it's been really go for us to see the towns and options. Also, sitting around makes both of us go crazy.

Apple provides a relocation assistant whose job it is to find us apartments that meet our criteria and help get us settled into the area. We were told that since the market is so competitive we should go out and try to find some places on our own. I think in the end this meant that we stepped on the relocation's teams toes a bit.
ebay HQ: Just another day in the Valley
We found some pretty good places in our search. Rent here, by the way, is INSANE. A place comparable to our place in Portsmouth is at least $3,500! I guess it just comes with the area.

Our criteria was:

  • About a mile from some kind of a downtown
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 car garage (seems excessive but there aren't any basements here)
  • Not in a complex
  • Character is fine...wall-to-wall carpeting, not so much
  • 5 miles to Apple

Today our relocation assistant, David, drove us around in his way t
o fast BMW M5. It's a great car, no doubt, but he felt the need to put the pedal to the floor at every single green light. Katherine and I got pretty car sick. We went to a lot of places and most of them missed almost all of our criteria.

In the end we came down to two options.

Fancy pants Campbell
One in Campbell which was a gorgeous townhouse with a brand new kitchen, floors, appliances...THE WORKS. Both of us were kind of starstruck that we might be able to live in a place like that. It was a little above our price range but Campbell was a really cool town, kind of like Portsmouth as far as the restaurant scene. DOWNSIDE 8 miles to Apple which is getting a bit far for a daily, casual bike commute. Lots of compromises but it is FANCY.

Much more our level of fancyness (minimal)
The second was right near downtown Sunnyvale. Much more up our alley and much more like what we are used to: some character but not tacky. It was close to town, in a small neighborhood and had a great detached garage. It definitely didn't have all of the bells and whistles but it was considerably cheaper, closer to Apple, closer to a town and not quite so "fancy."

Even the Mini has a new home!
In the end we choose Sunnyvale and we're really excited! We're going to try and move in as soon as our stuff arrives which is hopefully by the end of next week! Sweet!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 3: We Hike

We've been spending a lot of time looking at apartments and exploring the towns. This has been fun but I think we have been stepping on our realtors' toes a bit so today we took a break and went out for a hike. We left early to get in one last showing and then headed up to the Western Mountains.

The around the mountains are so pretty and fun to drive, I've been spending most of the time lusting after a speedy "race car." More motivation to finish the Mini, I hope!

We started at the North Ridge Trailhead of the Purisma Creek Open Space. Unlike out East, the trails here start at the top and hike down to begin, before hiking up to get out. It's definitely a different experience but I'm not sure that I hate it. It's a nicer way to start off.

The trails and views were incredible! We did an 11 mile hike down to the creek, up the creek, and then back up to the top. Almost all of these were open to bikes and I spent a lot of time telling Katherine how much I want my mountain bike.

The trails don't compare to the White Mountains as far as ruggedness or difficulty (the entire hike bordered on a nature walk kind of feel) but the wilderness and scenery definitely rivals NH. We are both totally blown away at how quickly we can get away from the valley. I think that trail running will be a great way to explore these trails and keep in interesting.

After the hike we drove down to the coast on HWY 1, snapped a few pictures and then drove back, making a quick detour in Cupertino to take a lap of the Apple campus. Can't wait to start!

Big News




But, really, we did. 

Over the past two months I have been on the job hunt and, rather serendipitously, was contacted out of the blue by Apple for a Manufacturing Design Engineer position. Figuring I had no chance with Apple, I still applied since the position fit me very well. I'll post up another post about the full process but, long story short, I got and accepted and offer about a month ago!

Since then, Katherine and I have been hard at work figuring out how we are going to move across the country to Silicon Valley. Apple has a great relocation package so it was pretty simple on the actual moving of things end but everything else that goes along with a job change and move have been pretty stressful.

The Valley!
Here we are though. We flew in on November 4th and have temporary housing in Sunnyvale, CA for the next 45 days. It's pretty crazy out here. Driving around is like driving through the internet: Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Apple, etc. all have headquarters here. 

The traffic is no joke, we've been trying to hide in our apartment or at a coffee shop during rush hour since both of us HATE being stuck in traffic, I think we're going to have to get used to that. 

The roads above the valley. I'd better get used to climbing
I was really worried about being in a huge metro area and having no ability to get away from it. That worry was pretty quickly dispelled. We went out for a drive in the mountains to the West of the valley and it was incredible. 

There were incredible, small, twisty mountain roads. On the eastern side of the mountains it was dry and arid much like Tuscany but once we dropped down on the Western side we found lush, damp redwood forests that were INCREDIBLE.

I also went out for a run the other morning and explored some bike paths. In less than 10 minutes I was in a quiet nature trail running alongside the bay. There are literally hundreds of miles of gravel path that run around entire Valley area, I'm really looking forward to exploring them.

I start work on Monday and I'm really excited. Apple has been so helpful in the process leading up to this, I can't wait to start working there, it is going to be an incredible experience.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Custom Mini Tools

Stuck with a DIY obsession, a need for specialty tools, and full machine shop access at work I made quite a few tools to aid in rebuilding my engine. Many of these were simple presses/drifts to help get bearings in and out but some were more complicated.

Cam bearing installation tool
 The mini has three different sized bearings for the camshaft which all need to be carefully pressed in. I found some plans online and made the pieces. Each press is threaded so that it can be drawn through with threaded rod. In addition there is a guide sleeve to help keep things centered. I turned all of these at work out of aluminum. 

They worked fantastic!

Connecting Rod Balancer
 In order to balance connecting rods, a stand is need so that each end can be measure independently. Here is the stand:

 Vertical support showing two thrust  bearings and the linkage
The big end is held using a plug with two bearings in the center. This mounts to the stand via a pivoting bracket that is height adjustable. This allows the rod to move in two degrees of freedom. The little end is held on a dowel pin mounted to stand that sits on the scale.
This stand worked well but was fairly sensitive to the distance between the stand and the scale. In the future, I think that a bearing on the little end support would help eliminate this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mini Introduction

This will be the first of many posts about my most recent project. In August 2013 I purchased a 1979 Austin Mini from a friends roommate. It was his only car ands it’s a pretty silly only car so took it off his hands. I didn’t know much about minis but once I saw it, I had to have it. I didn’t do a ton of research and just jumped right in. There is some rust but it runs well and is a total blast to drive.

Last summer we used it as an excuse to drive all over our area and it was always fun. This past winter I got a second engine to rebuild and also put a turbocharger on. The intention was that I would install that this summer but I’ve only just gotten the engine done. In addition there are some body panel replacements and modifications I want to do before put the new engine in.

Where the car is now:

Ty helping to take out the engine 

I’ve stripped down the car to a rolling chassis and ordered panels to replace the sills and some floor pan pieces. My plan is to repair what is needed and replace the front end with a one piece FG item. In the back, I will debumper and deseam the valence. For the interior I am going to do a stripped out style interior with bucket seats in the front and most likely keep the rear seats.

Nearly completed new engine

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Frugal Horn Speakers

I've always been into DIY audio equipment. Something about it seems like such a no brainer to me since it is fairly low complexity, well test by the community and often much cheaper than commercial options.

I'd been wanting to build the Frugal Horn speakers for many years now: but never gotten around to it. After moving and getting rid of our old college speakers I decided it was time to upgrade. The basic idea of these is simplicity, one high quality driver backed by a horn. This means you get the speed and performance of a smaller full range driver without sacrificing too much bass. It also means you only buy one driver (instead of 3 usually) and don't have to deal with crossovers.

I built these using Fostex FE126 drivers which were eNabled by Plant10 HiFi. For the wood I used 3/4" baltic birch and cut it using the CNC at my dad's wood shop. By cutting rabbits into the side plates and have every cut CNC accurate the glue-up and assembly was trivial.

I hooked these up to my gainclone amp (which I also built) using banana plug speakers wires built from extension cord.

I'm really impressed with the sound from these! They are great with vocals and acoustic music (Tallest Man on Earth), the sound is very full and so incredibly clear. With deeper bass music (Pretty Lights) they are definitely lacking on the low end. I was most impressed listening to After The Disco (Broken Bells), the album covers a lot of the audio spectrum and these speakers keep up really well. The snare hits are really crisp and clear and every note and accent is heard, nothing gets lost.

I love them!