3rd of July @ Seaside, OR

Seth and I spent July 3rd and part of the 4th at the beach in Seaside, OR with his mom and youngest brother. It was very nice there! The weather was warm and comfortable. The water even felt a tiny bit warm when it washed on my feet, which is amazing for the Oregon coast!


We spent the first day by the water for a while and then went back to our hotel to get cleaned up before dinner. Lisa booked us a night in a very nice two bedroom condo not far from the beach. It was just perfect for us! Since we also had their little dog we decided to go to dinner in shifts so somebody could stay back to watch him. Seth and I went first and we had dinner at a little bar. We had Cajun scallops and oysters and a cup of the clam chowder. The scallops were so good! It was nice to have some seafood since we don’t really eat it out here in the Midwest (because who knows where it is coming from!) 

After the dinner shifts we headed back to the beach to take advantage of what was left of the daylight. Seth, Isaia and I threw around a football for a bit and then walked to the water to watch the sunset. It was really gorgeous!


Isaia out in the water as the sun sets


Seth being a romantic


Too dark to really see our faces but you can see the cute heart Seth made,

The next day there was a parade in the morning. That was fun to watch. Some of Seth’s cousins were in the parade so we got to see them. After the parade it was back to the beach! Lisa and I walked along the shore while the boys played in the water. It was a little more chilly that day than the first so I stayed dry.

We finished our time in Seaside with lunch and a walk around town before heading home.

I’m so thankful we were able to spend some time at the beach with Seth’s family. I enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to going back again!



This past semester I took a Computer Vision course. According to Wikipedia, Computer Vision is “a field that includes methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing, and understanding images and, in general, high-dimensional data from the real world in order to produce numerical or symbolic information”. Basically, gaining/recognizing some information from images. A very popular Computer Vision application most people are familiar with is face recognition. A lot of camera use this where you will see a little box around the faces the camera sees in the image.

For my Computer Vision class we had to do a semester project. I partnered with someone from my research group, Brandon, and we decided to do a project combining Computer Vision with Robotics. In our research lab there is a really cool robot named BAXTER and of course we wanted to take this opportunity to play around with BAXTER and get him to do some neat tricks.

The first task we gave BAXTER was to find a ball on a table and then dunk it in a hoop. BAXTER is equipped with cameras on his head as well as on both of his hands. These cameras allow him to see the ball and the hoop. We used color-detection to allow BAXTER to recognize the objects (the ball, the hoop). The color-detection works by taking an image, specifying what color we are looking for (ex. orange), then muting out all other colors besides the color we want. The area left with the largest amount of color is where our object is. This works pretty well as long as there is only one object with the right color in BAXTER’s vision. Anyways, after BAXTER found the ball and the hoop, we calculated the distance to the hoop and then slam dunk! Here is an awesome video my partner made to demo the project:

BAXTER’s next task was to sort multiple balls in to multiple buckets based on color (pink ball in pink bucket). This process works pretty much the same way as the hoop, except BAXTER looks for more colors and repeats the process until all of the balls are sorted.

BAXTER the robot getting ready to sort some balls

BAXTER the robot getting ready to sort some balls

And of course… another awesome video…! 🙂

This was a really fun project to work on! I hope to have more opportunities to code with BAXTER in the future.

Next, step…get BAXTER to clean up my room? 🙂

Seth’s Trip Recount


Well, some people think it’s time I post some things on here seeing that this blog carries two names. So here I am, Seth is not just some fictitious, devilishly handsome dork that Jess made up! However, I never developed the habit of taking pictures of events whenever I get the chance so you may find this portion of the blog sorta… boring? Ah, what the heck, you may find some comedy at the joy’s, pain’s and frustrations I now get to share with you so what have I got to lose? A Job? A missed opportunity to go the bathroom? Nah… I can still go to the bathroom and I don’t have a job, so I’m pretty much covered, I can entertain you as loooong as need be.

It seems Jess has covered quite a bit of ground on here already which is nice for me because for this first post I can give you my take on what’s happened and what’s been going on lately. Let’s start with the trip!


You know it’s funny that many people from Oregon or the NW I should say, especially the younger people take so many things about this beautiful state for granted, and I hate to admit I used to be one of those young people. What you don’t realize when you are young growing up in the hard streets of the Burbs trying to be a street king, is that Oregon is really a place where you as a individual can make that state as great as you want it to be for yourself. I always thought of it as kind a boring place filled with green and a ever growing population and somewhat a strange place to be due to the variety of people you get to meet and see sometimes when you don’t want to see them or doing things you don’t want to see them doing, but really Oregon has the culture, diversity and growth that would make any state great and I love it now! There is a market to open literally any type of business, it has tree’s, and it has multiple things to do outdoors and indoors. If you want to open a business, go for it! If you want to be a hippy, look no further! If you like extreme sports, we have the best places to do that (besides surfing)! If you want to be a Junkee, a homeless person or a drug dealer, why you just be the best you can be and Oregon will accommodate you!


Honestly, now that I’ve drove through the states of the midwest, Oregon has the most things I can think of to do; you can decide whether you want to go to the mountains one day and a lake or the ocean the next, you have the freedom to enjoy 2 hours of sunshine and 22 hours of rain in a single day, and if you are a kid you have the freedom to imagine anything, anywhere. You know when you were a kid and you used to make up games or stories based on your location? My brothers and I would play in the forest by our house and we would pretend we were explorers, indians, animals, ninjas or whatever! In the midwest you can fantasize about being a corn farmer, a lettuce farmer, a potato grower or a tractor driver who helps with the corn, lettuce and potatoes! It’s all great, but who has the more cultured experience?

Anyways our REAL first stop was in Baker City, Oregon. This city seemed like it was on a time zone all on it’s own, given it was sorta late when we got in, but there was no activity in that town. Well, I guess it is Baker city… These guys were so on top of things they didn’t even have water! I think they should of had a sign before entering that city like “Hey! You know how everywhere you go water is free? Well we got a deal for you! You can now pay $2 for your water so you don’t feel like a cheapskate when going out to eat and only order water to drink to pinch a few pennies and stay healthy!” But I guess their water was in a pretty cool off brand water bottle… The thing that amazed me about this town is that they had a IN & OUT Burger, just a random, elusive IN & OUT Burger. I don’t think I could find that place again if I tried! “Nice neighborhood, house, house, house, whoa IN & OUT? Turn around I got to see that again! Wait, where did it go??” Probably next to the free water…


After the nice meal we shared in Baker City we headed out a little further to Boise, ID. Jess found a smokin’ deal on a pretty good room at the Red Lion hotel there. The drive was a little slow and my mind started to wander a little bit to the point where I thought any light in the hills could have been a UFO, but we had a sudden turn of excitement when a silver fox ran out in front of Jess’s car and about 10’s later a huge dark shadow literally the width of Jess’s car flew over the top of her! UFO or really big bird? Either way it freaked me out! Was it a ominous sign or nature doing what nature does? At that point in my mind I wanted to believe UFO, now… I…I just don’t know. Either way a good night sleep was duly needed and the room was awesome!

The next day we ate breakfast in ID at some little joint which apparently has “great reviews from all the Truckers that go through there”, says the waitress. But I thought to myself afterwards that I shouldn’t have trusted her or her 2 star company reviews. NOT WITH THESE 5 STAR TASTE BUDS! Plus the air had a lot of ash in it that morning from a really big fire nearby and that made my tum-tum a little queasy afterwards. (You can probably see the pain in my smile in the picture Jess posted.)


Wyoming was a beautiful area, I enjoyed the wildlife reserve and the small towns. It made me want to start wrangling some Bison! Yee-Haw! As small as the town was it was bustling with locals and tourist alike and it had a very upbeat vibe which I enjoyed. Jenn and Trevor are always great host’s and it was nice to see some family far from home. I was glad for some nice R & R but soon found out that that comes later in the evening after we’ve done everything we can during the day. I should’ve remembered from Hawaii, it’s always a really amazing time with Jenn and Trev and you can always expect to do really fun stuff, but I feel 10 years older the next day when my body wakes me up and tells me I should be in a wheelchair the next week. Thanks guys, that was a fun time!

The next day Jess and I headed out towards Old Faithful. I would have loved to have time to enjoy the whole park but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do that, apparently there is some sort of knock-off Grand Canyon that I would have liked to see and the park was really really beautiful, however the peaceful drive was pretty much all we had time for. When my mind wandered I imagined being a settler the whole time and I really wished Jess and I could have hiked around and explored around some more, next time. On the way to Old Faithful I stopped to go to the bathroom in the trees and later returned with a rash… Funny how that happens 🙂 Apparently this rash was actually hives and it lasted the better part of 2 months. My guess is that started when Jess, Jen, Trev and I were out in the sulfur water and Jess thought she saw a antler in the pond. So who picks up? Me. Was it a antler? No. What was it? A giant, slimy, gross frog leg. Did I enjoy it? Made me get out of the water. Was I itchy after that? Yes, but I thought it was bug bites. And there you have it, the trouble my curiosity gets me in.ImageImage

Old Faithful was neat! The anticipation for this thing to go off is overwhelming! You hear so much about how awesome it is from everyone and how it’s a mind blowing experience, really the experience comes with the waiting. They had some amazing ice cream, great food and a really awesome lodge! I gorged on Bison, Chicken and Pheasant sausage, which sounds funny when you say it, but was really good and with a little a fancy mustard or Grey Poupon, MMM!!! Excellent! After the experience, the show is pretty much the 2 minutes you expected, 15 mins of waiting with a flock of people, (which is actually really cool because there was people from all over) and then 2 mins of rupture. I know when I say it like that it sounds kind of boring, but it was a pretty fun experience and where else am I gonna get a great picture of Earths blowhole?

South Dakota

Yabba-Dabba Dump we stayed in that night next to the Flintstone restaurant so I was a little on edge. “Is anyone gonna steal my stuff?”. All my life I’ve wanted to try a Brontosaurus drumstick and the only place to get it was closed the next day! “Waaah, BAM BAM!” Looks like these 5 star taste buds only get 2 star fruity pebbles…

Mount Rushmore was sweet! We didn’t have a lot of time there though either but enough time to get this shot!




Iowa was a blur in comparison to the other states, I think this state we pretty much drove through non stop. However, this state was mostly all country and back roads which it felt like to this city slicker and the speed limit was non-existent which allowed dare-devil Seth to emerge! “There he goes flying a hundred down the straightaways, his tires shaking around the curves!” “Crap, is that a cop? Nope, just Jess slowly catching up. Crap, is that a cop? Nope, just the 670th tractor today.” “Pshh- Garble garble garble…” says Jess on the Walkie-Talkie. “Crap, I think Garble means cop, I better slow down.” I say to myself. And that’s the story of how Jess saved Seth from getting a ticket, 3 Garbles on the walkie-talkie is all it took.

Let’s talk about these walkie-talkies, great idea, totally missed their mark. Jess could talk to me miles away but if I had something clever to say or maybe a “look over there!” I had to be 15 feet from her for her to hear it. That folks, is frustration…By the time we got to Illinois we had a dozen joyous stops together and about a thousand stories and “look over there!” moments that apparently was just being told to myself. 😛

All in all, this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. I’ve truly come to appreciate the times I spend with Jess and I’ve done more things and shared more new experiences in the time with her than I have most of my life. It reminds me that every step of our relationship is just a giant, fun journey and I couldn’t be more happy 🙂 What the next step of the journey? Spoiler alert, a ring!

I think this post should suffice for a month! Thanks for reading!Image



Photo Flashback – Our Road-trip to the Midwest

Seth and I road tripped it out to the Midwest!…back in August. This is a look back at our drive to Champaign. We left Portland on August 11th in separate cars. We packed everything we could into our cars, left somethings with our parents, and threw some stuff out. I sort of regret that last part. Especially throwing out my knife set.

Our route took us through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. I tracked the total time and it took us about 42 hours, including stops, to get to our destination. Doing about 12 hours a day, we arrived in Champaign on August 15th.  We were able to make some fun stops everyday and that made the trip a lot more enjoyable. Also, Seth’s dad and step-mom got us walkie-talkies which I really recommend to anyone who is travelling in separate cars. 


Our first stop was at froyo in Beaverton. I didn’t take a photo at this point since it was only 10 minutes after we left our apartment. But it was one of my favorite stops. And now I am missing froyo. Froyo here is outrageously expensive. It is 49 cents and ounce! I miss froyo.

Anyways, here we are in Baker City, Orego at a Mexican restaurant. We got into Baker pretty late and luckily this place was still open! However, something was up with the water and they only had bottled water. For a charge. But we were hungry and happy to be eating.



The first night of the trip we stayed in Boise, Idaho. We found a pretty good deal on Hot Wire which lead us to the downtown Red Lion. We arrived around 1am and were pooped! Since we got there so late we slept in and had breakfast at some little diner down the road.

This us after our breakfast at some place in Idaho. We didn't really stop anywhere interesting for a photo in Idaho.

This us after our breakfast at some place in Idaho. We didn’t really stop anywhere interesting for a photo in Idaho


Unfortunately since we got on the road late in Idaho we got to Jacksonhole late as well. We got to Jacksonhole in the evening, around 7pm or so. We were really excited to see Jennifer and Trevor! They took us out to see some wildlife and check out the town. We did see really interesting animals but I forgot to bring my camera with me so wasn’t able to take any photos. After that we went to Thai Me Up where Jennifer used to work for some delicious curry! The town was really cute and hopefully Seth and I can make it back for a visit sometime.

Jennifer and Trevor in Jacksonhole

Jennifer and Trevor in Jacksonhole

View from their apartment

View from their apartment

Seth and I in Jacksonhole



Trevor helped us to plan a route up to Yellowstone from Jackson. We planned to drive into the park, see Old Faithful, then drive around the loop and out towards South Dakota. This did not happen. Turns out Yellowstone is huge!!!!! It took us two hours to get to Yellowstone, and then almost two more hours to get to see Old Faithful. The park is so big and also you can’t drive very fast so that adds extra time. We wanted to see more but were too nervous about being on the road for longer. I get really tired when it gets dark so I was extra nervous about having to drive late into the night.

We did get to see Old Faithful and have lunch. It was pretty cool, although does happen pretty quick. There is a big wait and then BOOM! Then its over.

IMG_0365 IMG_0366 IMG_0367 IMG_0369

Hopefully we can go back one day and stay and camp.

South Dakota

aka the Tourism State. There are so many tourist attracts in South Dakota. And maybe nothing else. Some of the attractions we saw advertised were a Flintstone exhibit and dinosaur garden. Seth really wanted to go to the Flintstone one to try out the food but it wasn’t open when we drove by. We did go to see the presidents though.



After South Dakota we drove through Iowa. Hmmm… I don’t remember much about this part. Also I don’t think I took any photos, which I regret because I wanted to get a photo in every state. Well anyways I’ll post this photo from Idaho. We stopped somewhere that was a gas station/casino. We went in a tried our luck and came out $5 richer! I could not stand all the cigarettes in there though. It was a tiny casino and almost everybody was smoking. But money is money.




We made it! Illinois was a sea of corn fields. And now that sea is our home. For a little while.


This was in Wyoming. We didn’t see any bears thankfully

The Quest to Find Research

So as a PhD student the majority of my time will dedicated towards research. Research allows students to produce a thesis and graduate. The research should be groundbreaking, interesting and in the realm of computer science since that is my area. Of course that is a bit overwhelming since I’m not exactly sure how to do all that. I’ve done some research before in undergrad but haven’t come up with my own project. And the idea that it has to be something no-one else has thought of before is also challenging.

I have some ideas for what field I would like to do research in, but don’t have a focus yet. I would like to do some research in technology for people with disabilities. I would really like to use computer science in a manner that helps people. To get started I met with my graduate advisor and discussed my general ideas for research areas. He suggested I take an independent study course with him this semester so that I can explore different research options available on campus. He’s helped me to set up different meetings with various people on campus and they’ve been really interesting to talk to!

One day I was talking to a fellow first year about my research interests and ideas and he mentioned that he had a friend on campus who is currently doing work with prosthetics and maybe could help me get started. He helped us to get connected and after that I met up with his friend, Aadeel. Aadel is a M.D./Ph.D. Student in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department and Medical Scholars Program. He gave me a tour of his group’s labs and an overview of some of the research they are currently doing. He is a cool clip of a past research project he was involved in, Playing Checkers with Your Mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spIVPw7XbCs It is pretty awesome!

Now he is more focused on getting sensation back to patients and also allowing them to have a sense of where their arm is. I guess currently prosthetic users have to look at their arm to know where it is in relation to their body, so it’s not that practical. I’m interested in doing research in that area as well so hopefully that works out! Here is a link to an awesome Ted talk that is closely related to this research: http://on.ted.com/tQOx (Ted talks are awesome so I recommend watching it.

After meeting with Aadeel I contacted his advisor and told him about my interests and he suggested I work with someone in his group to get a feel for doing research and to see how I like it. He connected me with Jamie. Jamie told me about one of his projects he worked on with someone else last year, a mind controlled robotic car. Basically the user wears an EEG cap which can monitor brain activity, then by focusing their attention on one of two lights they can direct the robot car to go left or right. He and his partner wrote a paper on it and now would like to push this paper to journal. So he thought I could help with that. I’m meeting with him to get started on assisting! I’m very excited to get some research experience and to learn from Jamie. Also I think this is a great opportunity because it is an already established project, and it is really neat! Here is a video demonstrating: http://people.ae.illinois.edu/tbretl/docs/vids/Akce2012.mp4

So that is sort of where I’m at now. I know there are a lot of videos in this post but if you are interested in science/technology then watch them! I found them really interesting 🙂

Exploring the town!

Seth and I have gone to a few local activities around Urbana-Champaign. When we first got here they were having their annual Sweet Corn festival. There is so much corn here! Tons and tons of corn fields. No wonder there is a festival to celebrate. We didn’t actually get any corn but I did enjoy some delicious ice cream while the rest of the crowd adjusted their wigs.



And I felt bad for the poor ponies. It was so hot that day! You can just see how much they are enjoying their job.



We also went to Quad day at the school. That is sort of like PioFair where all the groups and organizations have a booth and try to get you to join. There are hundreds of groups!! I guess with 40,000 students there are a lot of interests. We walked around for almost 2 hours and saw a lot of them. Seth pretended to be a student too and signed up for a few things. He saw an opportunity to get a free t-shirt so he couldn’t let that pass him by…


He is so proud!

It was really neat to see so many people passionate about so many different things. Here is a shot of some of the groups:





Back to class

Now I am officially back in class. This is week 3 of school. I missed most of the 1st week to go back to Portland for Jet’aime and Othel’s wedding. Then I spent week 2 trying to catch up and now week 3 I’m getting into the swing of everything. So here is a little bit about the classes I’m taking:

1.  Software Engineering I

This is by far the biggest class I’ve ever taken. There are 240 students enrolled in the course this semester. It is crazy! Most don’t attend, but there are still a large number. The lectures are Tuesday and Thursdays for an hour and 15 minutes and are video recorded so you really don’t have to go to class. The basic overview of the course will be covering different methods for software development (the process developers follow to create new or update existing software) such as waterfall, eXtreme, rapid and so on. We will be working in groups to practice the eXtreme programming technique. We don’t know exactly what the project will be, we find out later on in the semester. Before then we have smaller programming assignments and we are working with a partner on those. A good portion of the course so far has been review from what I learned in my Software Development course at Lewis & Clark and just from working at Columbia.


2.  Socio-Computing

I missed the first week of this class so I didn’t get a great grasp of what the course will be about but I think now I’ve gotten it. This class is much smaller, just around 40 students I think.  So far we have been looking at user interface design for different applications. We have been looking at different processes to create the designs and challenges designers face during creation. The most exciting part of this course is the class project. We are going to be working in groups to develop a social mobile app (think twitter, match, tinder, facebook, pintrest). I’m really excited about this because I haven’t done any mobile programming yet. My group seems pretty cool so I’m looking forward to getting started!


3.  PhD Seminar

This is a required 1 credit course for 1st year PhD students. The purpose of this course is sort of a semester long orientation. Different speakers will come to talk to us about different aspects of the program and give the students a chance to ask questions. This week the head of the Computer Science Department did a Q&A. It was pretty interesting. Next week will be a graduate student panel Q&A. 


4.  Independent Study

My last class is an independent study with my advisor. All PhD students choose/are assigned an advisor who they will do their research work with over the course of their study. My advisor is not in my research interest field, but he is excited about my research ideas and I’m looking forward to work with him. During my independent study I will be exploring different research options, seeing what is currently going on on campus, and identifying resources on campus. Hopefully through this I’ll figure out what my research will be.

Welcome to grad school!

Yay! I’m back in school. I’m at first year Computer Science PhD student at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It is a huge school!! Lewis & Clark was about 1800 students I think when I was there, University of Illinois has 40,000 undergraduates and around 6,000 graduate students. It is big! That was my first impression! The campus is about 8 miles long so it can be a long walk to get to somewhere. Luckily all my classes are in one building.


This is my building! The Siebel Center for Computer Science. It was donated by an alum and built in 2004. It is a really nice building and also really big!

I’m taking three classes: Software Engineering, Socio Computing, and an independent study. So far they are good. It is a lot of group work and reading which is different than my undergraduate cs experience. Anyways, I’ll post more specifics about my classes later.

So far everything is going well. I’m getting back into the swing of school. I’m hoping this blog will let everyone who is interested know what I’m up to and also to give future grad students an idea of what to expect.