Sunday, January 25, 2009

Career Related Ramblings

Since a couple of people have asked for it, this post is a more detailed explanation of my current job - what the company does, what I do there, and what it's like working there.

In November 2008 I resigned as a software engineer at Micron Technology to take a position as a software engineer at Telemetric Corporation. Telemetric's business model is based around selling equipment and services to help utility companies wirelessly monitor equipment in power distribution networks. Because the company's products use the celluar network, they allow remote monitoring of substation equipment without the need for on-site personnel or physical communication lines. These products align the with the current smart grid initiatives, which are intended to make the power grid more fault tolerant, adaptable, and more easily managed.

Once a distribution system is equipped with Telemetric devices, a utility can manage intelligent electronic devices in their distribution network remotely. This means configuration changes can be initiated from the utility's control center rather than requiring a truck be sent out to a remote substation. A monitoring system called a SCADA System can be used to continuously monitor and control devices in the field over the wireless network. Alternately, Telemetric maintains a website for those customers who do not have a SCADA system so they too can monitor and control their devices in the field.

The engineering team has two main groups, a hardware group (which designs and builds the devices) and a smaller software team which maintains the software side (SCADA integration code and the web applications which allow remote monitoring and control). I'm in the software group; my main project to date have been writing software to automatically test the devices. I suspect that my future projects will include website enhancements and possibly also enhancements to the code used for SCADA integration.

So far, it has been a positive change for my career. The work has been interesting and Telemetric is a well-run profitable company with good people. With the economy being what it is, it's hard to feel too comfortable with any job but right now things seem to be as stable as they can be.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Snowshoeing in Wyoming

Since the break in the winter weather continued, Dan and I made another snowshoe trip, this time to the big mountains of the Jackson area. Dan had planned this trip for a long time and it finally came together with the good weather, good road conditions, and schedules.

We left Boise Friday afternoon and made the 6 hour drive to Jackson, stopping for dinner at an Arctic Circle in Idaho Falls. We spent the night at the Jackson Hole Lodge, a decent and reasonably priced motel in town. Saturday morning we got up early and caught the morning light hitting the Tetons. Continuing up the road, we saw moose and buffalo on our way up to Togwotee Pass, the start of the snowshoeing trip.

Brooks Mountain was the first peak on the docket. From the highway, we were able to follow a skier's trail for the first mile or more; when it stopped we had to venture across some questionable terrain before making it into the basin below the peak. From there it was easy going up to the summit ridge and eventually the summit. The summit itself looked steep and forbidding from far away but was actually pretty easy snowshoeing once we got up there. Temperatures were pretty mild (for January at least), probably in the 20s with a little bit of wind. Of course the summit views were astounding and easily some of the best I've seen anywhere. The mountains of Wyoming are a special place!

After making our way down we checked out the National Elk Refuge north of Jackson. Dinner was at the Snake River Brewing Company's brewpub. The place was packed with skiers quaffing beers after a day on the slopes. Their Hawaiian pizza was pretty good, but the Zonker Stout was even better.

On Sunday we ascended Mt. Glory in the morning. This peak is very popular with backcountry skiers; so popular there is hard packed boot path all the way from the highway to the peak. It was a little weird being the only snowshoers; everyone probably thought we were weirdos but of course I'm used to that! The views from up top were impressive but not as spectacular as Brooks Mountain. We made a quick snowshoe descent and were on the road around 11am to begin the long drive back to Boise.

Trip stats:
  • Brooks Mountain (5 miles, 6 hours, 2000' gain)
  • Mt. Glory (2 miles, 2.5 hours, 1750' gain)
Wyoming Snowshoeing Pictures
Dan's Trip Report

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nevada Snowshoe Trip

The stormy weather pattern finally abated and was replaced with sunny skies and mild temperatures. Despite an ongoing cold, I agreed to join Dan on a snowshoe trip to Ellen D Mountain in northern Nevada. It was close enough to Tabletop Mountain that we could visit both on our trip. We left early Saturday morning (about 6:30am) from Boise and headed over.

The peak is accessed from the mining town of Contact, Nevada. This is basically a ghost town but still has some activity from the operating Enexco Copper Mine. We ran into some bulldozers on the way in and they were doing a drill move which would be tying up the road. Fortunately we didn't need to follow the stretch of road they were utilizing for said operation.

At about 9:45am we got going heading up an unplowed road. Eventually we cut over to the main summit road and followed it all the way up. The temperatures were pretty mild but the wind was pretty chilling, especially near the top where it was strong and continuous. Of course my congested sinuses didn't like this a whole lot! My constant sniffling and sinus pain was the only blight on the day.

Due to the conditions, we didn't spend too long on top. We made a leisurely descent and also made a side trip to nearby Tabletop Mountain. We made it back to the truck shortly thereafter and made our way to Jackpot where we spent the night.

Trip statistics: 6 hours, 7.1 miles, 2700' gain.

Nevada Snowshoe Pictures!
Dan's Trip Report

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekend Update

Both Katie and I have been suffering from some kind of cold; Katie seems to have gotten it first and then passed it on to me. It's the kind that involves a sore throat and lots of congestion. Katie has gotten over hers but I'm still fighting mine. Hopefully it will clear out within the next couple of days. It's mostly an annoyance but has forced us to stimulate the economy with Kleenex and Tylenol Sinus purchases!

We watched a few movies over the past few weeks: Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Valkyrie. I would say that "Benjamin Button" was my favorite; it is themed on the idea that time is the destroyer of everything and I find that to always be a powerful motif. That movie mixes things up a little by having someone age backwards, which of course inverts the typical life experience.

Friday night we had a nice dinner at the Cottonwood Grille as part of Telemetric's annual holiday dinner. Katie got to meet some of my coworkers and we both got to meet their various family members. Of course we both got treated to a good meal as well! It was a well done corporate event; no cheesy party games or requirements to pay your own way.

Despite my ongoing cold, I went snowshoeing on Saturday with Dan (pictures and trip report forthcoming). We had a great trip, although the cold and wind didn't play that well with my runny nose and sinus pain. We spent the night in Jackpot, Nevada, one of those Nevada border towns in the middle of nowhere that cater to people in other states wanting to gamble. Some of Dan's coworkers were partying down there so we met up with them, hit the buffet for copious amounts of food, then went to their suite to watch the NFL playoffs over a few drinks. Dan went on to play a little poker but I was too tired and went to bed early.

We returned to Boise around mid-day Sunday and Katie and I had a quiet afternoon and evening together. I'll probably have to go to bed early again since this cold isn't moving out as fast as I'd hoped.

This upcoming weekend Dan and I may make another snowshoeing trip to Jackson, Wyoming, if the weather holds. While this frequency of trips may seem excessive, this time of year is Dan's only reprieve from coaching his daughter's softball. Thus we tend to put these trips together when the weather turns nice.

The weather in Boise (and really all of southern Idaho) has turned rather pleasant, almost spring-like. Most of the valley snow has melted and the nice weather is expected to last through the week. Can't complain about that!

One final update. Katie got a rude announcement Friday; NYK Line is laying off all temporary workers within the next month or so. Like everyone else, the shipping industry is seeing the effects of the global recession. Their office uses a lot of them so they will be way short on manpower pretty soon. If the official word is to be believed, Katie's job is not in any immediate danger. However their office has been training some people from Manila, Phillippines, which sounds an awfully lot like a "globalization" (aka outsourcing) initiative to me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas and New Years

For Christmas, we visited the Shepherd family in Vancouver. For financial reasons, we opted for a driving trip. We left around 1pm on December 23rd, which happened to be perfect timing between northwest snowstorms which have been very common this winter. We had a uneventful trip on dry roads the whole way. We stopped for dinner in Yakima, which was kind of amusing as they were out of pretty much everything. I think it took us four tries to find something on the menu they actually had in stock. Nonetheless, we made it to Vancouver around 11:30pm. As we were arriving in town, the snow started falling.

When we woke up on Christmas Eve, there was over a foot of fresh snow on the ground (see pictures below). Needless to say, this complicated Christmas Eve plans since the roads around town were treacherous and pretty much required a high-clearance, preferably 4wd vehicle. We managed to get the Escape stuck in snow at one point! Despite the conditions, we had a nice lunch with Dave and managed to do a little last-minute shopping.

For Christmas Eve we went to the Shepherd family church, the Kerrisdale Presbyterian Church, for their Christmas Eve service. It is a very nice church and the service was very well done. Afterwards, we finished wrapping Christmas presents and quaffed a few tasty beverages.

On Christmas Day, the snow continued to fall. Despite this, we had a morning family brunch followed by present opening. Later in the evening we had a family Christmas Day dinner. On Boxing Day (aka December 26th), the snow resumed, dropping another foot or so. We had a pretty quiet day followed by another family dinner. Our ability to do much was pretty limited though due to the huge amount of snow around.

Due to questionable road conditions, we determined we needed to leave Saturday the 27th to ensure plenty of time to make it home for work on Monday. So we left Saturday afternoon after a nice lunch at Wing Nuts. Just parking at the restaurant was an ordeal due to the huge amount of snow around.. up to 3 feet in places. It was unreal!

Our drive home was fortunately uneventful as we again managed to sneak between storms. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express in Richland, roughly halfway between Vancouver and Boise.

We both had a fairly quiet New Year's Eve. We had a few drinks and watched a movie. Does that make us boring??

Christmas in Vancouver Pictures!