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Mark Womack
Works at Google
Attended University of California, Irvine
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I was all set to watch the MicroMouse competition at Robogames.  But alas, apparently there were no competitors that signed up this year, so there was nothing to watch.  Very disappointing.  Given this development, I am rethinking what I want to do for the next Robogames.  I have decided to switch gears and work on an autonomous robot for the RoboMagellan competition instead.  I got a chance to watch a number of competitors for one of the three rounds.  There are definitely some meaty problems to work on.  I still think the MicroMouse is a harder problem to solve in many ways, but I don't want to be a competition of one.  I do want to compete after all.  I'll have to figure out a subsumption architecture approach to my design, since that is part of what interests me.  And there are many subsystems to be understood and mastered before putting it all together.  Now if I could just get my Magician chassis together for a simple robot, I'll be on my way...
RoboGames (formerly ROBOlympics) is the largest robot competition and Expo in the United States.
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I own a boat!  No, really, I own an ownaboat.  At the last Arduino Meetup at the San Jose TechShop, Shane, the meetup coordinator, had three of these things from his garage that he was giving away.  It is a little remote controlled boat from a bygone era.  OK, it says "radio-controlled cabin cruiser".  He didn't have the remote controls anymore, just the boats, and I have to let him know what I end up doing with it.  That was the deal.

I love the artwork on this box.  I am going to keep the box just because of that.  And yes, that appears to be some kind of lead-acid battery inside the boat.  Other than that, there doesn't appear to be much more to it.  There is some kind of control board in the back that I need to take a look at.  And everything is covered in plastic to water proof.  I suspect that I will just end up gutting most of this to replace it with some modern R/C controls.  I think two channels for the motors will be the minimum.  Maybe a few more channels for fun things like lights, ramming spears, and a cannon.  Oops, did I type that out loud?

Interestingly, I can't find anything about these "ownaboats" online.  I figured there would be some collectibles site someplace that would have some info, maybe an pdf of the owners manual.  But I haven't been able to find any kind of reference.  Gotta love those pre-Internet days.  Maybe these were just a local Santa Clara phenomenon.  If anyone has any info they can share, please let me know.  I'll update as I refurbish this one in dry dock.
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We hiccuped in quarter finals.
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Wilder Ranch State Park

A pleasant walk along the bluffs...
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It was a good evening to #beatla! Though it was barely done. 
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nice seats!
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From a recent New Yorker.  I, for one, welcome our random outcome overlords.
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And not to be outdone by the cat, our brindle fox terrier mix, Oz.
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Robogames 2015

Well, I did go to Robogames, I just never posted any of the photos until now.  It was interesting to go with more of an interest in the autonomous robot competitions instead of the robot fighting competitions.  But I have to say that no one really goes for the autonomous competitions unless they are actually competing or they are a parent of someone competing.  Everyone really comes for the robots that fight and destroy each other.  Which is kind of disappointing, I think.  Don't get me wrong.  I can't resist watching sparks and molten metal fly either.  And while watching yet another humanoid robot trip over its own feet, it is really hard to stay when you hear the crash of combat and the roar of the crowd in the distance.  But I did make a good effort to watch the autonomous competitions.  Of course, it would have helped if there had been an actual schedule of competitions posted someplace.  Or that when the winners for competitions were awarded/recognized, that there was some kind of announcement for the ceremony.

Things that intrigued me:

* RoboMagellan - These are outdoor robots that have to navigate to waypoints, identify an orange cone and then touch it.  Doesn't sound that hard, but surprisingly few entries were able to do it.  A couple did, others got close, others just ran off course at high speed.  Lots of different designs and approaches.  As I will mention in another post, I think this is a competition I am going to focus on for next year.

* Miniature Robot Combat - There was an incredible fly and lightweight division of fighting robots that fought in a tiny little arena that everyone could just stand around.  And even though the robots were still remote controlled and not autonomous, I found those rounds of fighting more fun and interesting to watch.  Maybe because it was more intimate.  Or maybe because it just didn't require as much investment of resources to put together a decent fighting robot at that size.  And it was fun to watch.

* Counter Revolution - I was sure that the fighting robot Counter Revolution was going to sweep the heavy weight class of fighting robots.  Two high speed spinning clockwork disks of death that essentially chopped up and threw opponents across the combat ring.  I have never been so glad for bullet proof plastics in my life.  But then it was taken out by a mechanical failure and the other much less worthy robot won by forfeit.  So, disappointing.

* Autonomous robots are hard to do right.  One little slip and suddenly the robot is hugging a wall and can't get unstuck.  Or the lighting is messing up your sensors and it can't even see straight.  Or your programming is off and you slam into a wall at high speed.  Or your motor burns out.  Or...

* I would like to see autonomous fighting robots.  Is it really that hard to do?  Is it that the reaction times required or the battle strategies used can only be handled by biological triggers and human brains?  Is hardware just not up to the task?  I don't know, but I think it is a good time to start trying it out.  Maybe at the smaller size levels at least.

But maybe next year, if there is a next year for Robogames (I hope there is, we don't have many outlets for robots around here), maybe there should be more of a separation and specific support for the autonomous games and the fighting/remote-controlled games.  That way each gets the attention they deserve.
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Added a fence to the garden to keep my dog, Oz, out of the bok choi.  Not that there is any left now.  The next step would be to use my new found Arduino skills to electrify the fence using a relay shield board...just kidding!  Kind of maybe sort of.

And a picture of the happy up-potted tomato plants.  Going to get planted soon if they keep growing the way they are growing.
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+Andrew Efron Thanks!  Tomatoes are easy.  But this year I am being really careful with the up-potting timing so they don't get root bound.  Last year I think I left them in the 4" pots too long and that affected them when they transplanted.
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Garden Update

The borage is attracting bees in the side garden, but I'll probably need to thin it out soon so I can fit some tomatoes in there.

I broke down and went to the nursery to buy some lettuce, kale, peppers, and eggplants.  My attempts to start stuff from seed failed miserably this season.  Next year I am making sure I get the seed starter rig going.  But it is all fine for now.  I also have some komatsuna, bok choi, and beans going in the main garden.  And the Better Boy and Early Girl tomatoes seem to be settling in ok.

The auxilary garden has the zuchinni and cucumbers.  The cucumbers look like they are having some issues though.

I have been up-potting the Sun Gold and San Marzano tomatoes, and they will be ready for planting in a couple weeks.
It has been very cool this Spring.  I hope that does not mean it is going to get super hot in the Summer.
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Just started seeds a few weeks ago - tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, pumpkins, cucumbers, basil and corn.
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This is what will save us.  Eventually.
Now, it’s not the first endeavor into artificial photosynthesis, but it may be the most successful on account of its hybrid technology. And by creating a system of semiconducting nanowires, paired with bacteria, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy and University of California, Berkeley believe that they may change the biotechnology game by converting carbon dioxide into something else, instead of a sugary sweet treat.
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I saw a presentation of this robot at the HomeBrew Robotics Club meeting last month.  Very cool and a good example of how robots can be designed to help out in the future.
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Well, let me know how that all works out!  I would love to see it as a film, but I hear the book is better.  :-)  I keep waiting for Niven's Ringworld and his Known Space stories to get made into a movie.  There is enough movie magic today to make that a well made reality.
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Orphan Black Season 3 starts on 4/18.  If you have not checked out this series, I highly recommend it.  It is not your typical sci-fi series.  Seasons 1 & 2 are available on Google Play or Amazon so you have plenty of time to binge watch.
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Husband, Father, Software Engineer, Gardener. But really just a little kid most of the time.
Introduction
Interests in: Space exploration, science fiction, gardening, comics, cellular automata, autonomous robotics...but not nearly enough time to do as much as I would like in those areas.

If you have something interesting to say, I'll probably listen to you.  I may not agree with you, but I will listen.

Anything I say or post here does not represent any positions or opinions of my employer or any other organization I may work with or represent.
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I have been fortunate enough to work with smart people at great companies creating cutting edge, world changing products. And I still am.
Education
  • University of California, Irvine
    Information and Computer Science, 1984 - 1989
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Software Engineer
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  • Google
    Senior Software Engineer, 2005 - present
  • Adobe Systems
    Senior Software Engineer
  • BeVocal, Inc.
    Software Engineer
  • Infographics, Inc
    Software Engineer
  • Computer Aided Systems for Engineering
    Software Engineer
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We visited Dona Maria based on the other reviews, and it did not disappoint. The inside is not fancy, but it is nice, and the service is great. The food is fabulous, especially the enchiladas. I don't think you can go wrong with anything on the menu. From our visit, it is obviously a local favorite, since it filled up after we arrived. If you are in the area and want some good Mexican food, definitely give it a try.
Public - 9 months ago
reviewed 9 months ago
We visited Java Jazz for breakfast, and it was fantastic. The service and food were great, and it was a short walk from the resort. Prices are very reasonable. Highly recommend the Huevos Rancheros and the Early Bird special!
Public - 9 months ago
reviewed 9 months ago
Excellent food, very authentic. Affordable and great service. Highly recommended.
Food: ExcellentDecor: GoodService: Excellent
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
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Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago