Zev News – May 2009


On Wednesday, April 29, we flew to Dallas.  The flight was uneventful.  We arrived to overcast skies, but no rain.  10 passenger vans took us to the hotel and about 10 minutes after we arrived.  It started to rain.  “Good timing!” We thought, it until it occurred to us that we were planning on walking to dinner.  But there was a train stop almost inside the hotel, and the restaurant was across the street from the stop were we got off, and it wasn’t raining hard,  so we didn't get too wet.  Dinner was BBQ - buffet style.  It was okay. Nothing to write home about.


The plan was for me to share a room with Laura, and for Harriet to have her own room.  But in Laura didn't come.  But Harriet decided to keep her room and give it to her godson and wife and child who were were driving up from Houston on Saturday to see her and were staying until Saturday.  So Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights I had my room to myself.


Thursday morning, it was not raining and we walked to a local coffee house for breakfast.  Then back to the hotel for the robots and tools and then off to the convention center.  I took charge of the Robodoxs volunteers,  They wanted us for the field reset and queuing.  There was some confusion, which we didn't realize for awhile because the robots were split into two divisions in each division had its own separate arena to run matches, but nobody told me this.  They wanted us to support both divisions, but they didn't tell me this.  We promised them 6 volunteers and myself, which turned out to be 2 field resetters, 2 runners and 2 queuers (one of which did work the other division.)  We had nine students supporting the six slots (It was to be 12) which was supposed to allow us to give the volunteers a break.  In practice, 3-5 of the volunteers could not or did not want to volunteer.  So 4 of the volunteers do the bulk of the work.


We ate lunch at the venue, mostly paid for by the 7 volunteer meal vouchers we received for providing volunteers.  The meal vouchers were intended to provide a full day of meals for seven people, so it almost, but not quite, covered lunch for the 25 people we brought to Dallas.


Thursday was a day of practice matches.  Matches were run every six minutes.  We had problems getting some of the teams to show up, but mostly it ran really smoothly.  David showed up about 4:30 (about half an hour before the practice matches ended) and hung out with us for the rest of the evening and then joined us for dinner.


We had planned dinner at Spaghetti House, but switched to Chipotle for reasons unknown to me.  We walked over from the convention center, and were happy that it was not raining.  After dinner, David caught a bus back home and we walked back to the hotel, stopping at the memorial where Kennedy was shot and taking in a little history.


Friday morning, we went back to the coffee house for breakfast and then to the convention center.  The volunteers went to work right away, queuing up the robots for the first nine matches.  After the “march of nations” and opening ceremonies, the matches for ranking started.  We ran matches every 3 1/2 minutes until noon, took a 45 minute break, and ran matches every 3 1/4 minutes all afternoon until about 6:30 at night.  At the end of the day, it didn’t look like any of our robots were going to make it into the elimination round.  Our specialized robots didn't perform well either, but at the Friday award ceremony.  Chris, one of our mentors, won an award for “mentor of the year.” 


Friday night we did have dinner at Spaghetti house, and being that it was Jonathan’s birthday, we had a small celebration in honor of his birthday.


 On Saturday, we finished up the matches for ranking before lunch, and it became clear that we would not be picked for an alliance in the elimination round.  Patty showed up with her boys, about half an hour before the matches were done.  I'd been volunteering with the queuing, so I wrapped up the queuing and went to show them around.  The other division was still running matches for ranking, so we watch those matches and then got lunch while the alliances were being picked.  We walked around and looked at some of the robots.  When the elimination round started, we went to watch.  I've been told that Robodox were supposed to help with takedown and I was to coordinate this help, so after a little bit I left Patty and her boys and went to see what needed to be done.  I was told that they had professional crews to do the takedown and we were not needed.  The person in charge also offered us the used ethernet and drive cables which they are just going to cost.  We eagerly accepted.  Ironically, they are moving to using WiFi rather than crystals, which may eliminate the need for drive cables within a year or two, so soon we may be thrown away the cables ourselves.


I returned to the elimination matches, which were exciting, because, although Granada was not participating, El Camino (the high school from which both Patty and I graduated) was involved and was winning!  In between levels in the elimination matches (quarterfinals/semifinals/finals) they give out awards.  Granada won the “S.T.E.M.” award.  We think we won it because one of last years team members was an exchange student from Spain, who went back and started a team in Spain.  She had planned to come to Dallas but couldn't make it, which was a disappointment for our team members who were looking forward to seeing her again.  These boys are getting restless as I took them to the Vex store and let them each pick out a Hexbug as a souvenir.  These get them happy until they had to take off at 4pm.  When he left we discover that it was raining.  Well, pouring actually.  This concerned me because we were transporting the robots in three large cardboard boxes, and it was a three-quarter mile walk back to the hotel.  If rain destroyed these boxes, getting the robots home would be problematic.  I noticed that they were wrapping the sets in plastic as they were dismantled and got permission to use the plastic to wrap our boxes.


I returned to the elimination rounds in time to see El Camino's alliance win their division  and then go on to win the competition.  When the competition ended, everyone poured out of the arena and discovered that the rain had turned into a full-scale Texas-style thunderstorm.  The rain was torrential, the lightning was spectacular, the thunder concurrent with the lightning.  Most of our California kids had never seen anything like it and wandered over to the windows with stunned expressions on their faces.  One commented, “Now I understand the term ‘flash flood’!” Our student who had been born and grew up in Thailand said, “it rains like this in Thailand every month!”  After the novelty of the rain wore off the kids went back to the pits and I ran around trying to figure out what our options were for getting back to the hotel.  We had access to Harriet's godson’s car, so we get the boxes back easily, but it would've been taken seven additional trips to transport all the people.  It turned out that there was a train stop next to the convention center that we could get to without getting wet.


We had the family over for dinner the first Sunday in May to celebrate Commons birthday Don and Sue, et.al., couldn't make it, but the Steinfeld and the grandmothers were all there.


The following weekend was Mother's Day, Mark made a delicious lunch and as always it was a repeat of the previous weekend in attendance without ensue.  Passing of the branch preferring to sleep in.  We gave on the glass flowers we bought for her at Ren fair.


Jonathan to the world history AP exam, later that week, but it will be months before we find out how he did.


The following weekend was Benjamin's last track meet.  It was a long meet partly because he ran in the 4 x 400 relay, which was last race of the day and then his team came in second so we waited for the medal ceremony.  (Although calling a ceremony was stretching the point.)  Jackie actually left the meet after one of Benjamin's races and went to CSUN to attend a quilt show.  She was able to see all the exhibits and get back just before Benjamin's next race, although she mostly skipped the vendors.


The following weekend was the Robodox banquet.  It was in the Highlander hall and they brought in stone fire.  Jonathan played the piano during dinner afterward.  There was the yearly superlative awards and Robodox video.  In addition to the superlative award, (Jonathan wom the “mini-Van” award) Jonathan also won an award for his scouting work.  Mark got a notebook with.  A thank you from every Robo doc student for being a mentor and Jackie got a very nice flower for driving to Sacramento.  Benjamin was at a sleepover party and missed the dinner.


The next day was a swim party at Kris’ Jonathan skipped it and went to a Magic tournament instead.  Kris has solar heating for her pool so it was nice and warm.  Benjamin mostly played video games with Jason.


The following night we had dinner at moms.  We left the boys there and ran off to Disney Hall - we had tickets to an organ concert, courtesy of Al and Irene who were in Colorado.  The organist was pretty amazing technically and the music,  well, to quote Marc’s grandmother, “It's good if you like it.”  I'm sure anyone with a love of organ music would have loved it.


The next day was Memorial Day.  Jackie, her mom and the boys went to the Canoga Park Memorial Day parade.  Jackie brought chairs and snacks, which was a good thing because after two hours the parade was still on.  We'd seen the El Camino marching band with Michael already, so after two hours we called it a day