Friday, June 19, 2009

You're gonna be a star, kid! A star!

Thought you'd all get a kick out of this:

Faith and I are doing some little "one minute tips" for the Kitchn. Tee hee!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Emma's Turn!


Lots of people have been asking about what I'm doing now that we've moved and Scott has started at Honda, so I thought I'd write a little about that.

This has been kind of a strange transition for me. Things are, perhaps obviously, very different. For starters, I'm in this whole new city in a whole new state. And then there's the fact that Scott is now working a regular 9-to-5 after four years of being a student - that's a big schedule change for both of us to adjust to.

But my daily life is also much the same as it was before we moved. I'm still writing for The Kitchn. I'm still working on articles for the Tribune (just got one published about seasonal berries! Yay!) I still work from home - usually out on the porch in the two-chair set up pictured above. I still go for runs in the afternoon and read a lot of books.

So it's a big transition...but it's also not.

A big goal of mine right now is to keep pushing the food writing. I love doing it and it still feels like a good direction for me. Between the Kitchn and the Tribune, I've gotten some really great experience under my belt and I think I'm in a good place career-wise. My next step is to be regularly pitching articles to larger print publications, and hopefully, getting some bites.

It's rough, though. And definitely not easy. There have been a lot of afternoons where I sit and stare around this room and don't really know what I'm doing. I feel like I'm in limbo - I want to be doing more work, but I don't have it yet. I don't know how to balance that drive to keep doing and pushing all the time with the knowledge that I also need to give myself a break and go easy.

It's also hard to stay positive. It's a creative and highly competitive industry, and there's a voice that says, "There are a million other people out there who want to do exactly what you want to do, and another million who are already doing it. What makes you think you're so hot?" It's hard to hear that voice and then keep doing it. I've gotten a lot of positive rejection letters, which is good but also kind of a downer.

I spend a lot of time on our porch here in the temporary housing. Most days, I take my laptop out there to work. It's a lot more relaxing than the table in the living room, plus I don't have to sit on a pillow in order to be at the right height for typing. And also, it's just nice to work with the sound of trees in the background. (Evelyn - so far I've seen cardinals, yellow finches, lots of robins, and even a few hawks circling around!)

I'll be very glad when we move into the new apartment at the beginning of July. This temp housing has been great, but I'm definitely starting to chomp at the bit. It's lonely here - not so much in the sense that most of my friends are back in Boston (sniff!), but more in the sense that this place feels...empty. It's a fairly large complex, but I feel like we rarely actually see or interact with people. I go on my runs through the surrounding neighborhoods and it's not unusual to see no one else the entire time. It would feel different if I were running out in the country or in a park, I think. Somewhere I don't necessarily expect to see a lot of people. But I'm mostly running through actual neighborhoods and they're full of big, quiet houses with well-kept lawns and swing sets in the back. It's all kind of spooky.

In the new apartment, there are a lot of things in walking distance - a grocery store, a coffee shop, several restaurants, and even a book store. In scoping out the neighborhood, it felt like there were a lot more people just out and about doing their business. I'm ready to settle in and curious to meet our new neighbors.

In any case...that's what I've been up to. Calls and e-mails are very welcome - even if you don't actually have anything to say! You know where I'll be...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Suburbia, Driving, and Honda

This past weekend Emma and I had some serious adventures in Suburbia, and confirmed our love...of living in the city. In case you forgot, we're staying just northwest of the city in a town called Dublin. It's certainly not the smallest town I've ever been in, but the little things all add up. For example! One thing we like to do on weekends is walk to get some coffee and/or breakfast. In JP this was a snap. We could throw a rock and hit a few coffee shops, and at least one breakfast place (yes, I really threw a rock to see if I could hit any of them. I have a deceptively strong pitching arm.). Out here, not so easy. One of the appealing things about our new place is that we are within walking distance of things like coffee, breakfast, and a bookstore (Emma assures me the bookstore thing is totally a coincidence. Totally.).
So this weekend we realized there was a Panera near our current apartment. Great! It's better than the gas station coffee, and they have breakfast sandwiches too! We head out and walk to Panera on a nice Sunday morning. First issue: Panera is in a mall. Ok, not everything can be nice storefront space as is more common in Boston. Second issue: Panera, in the mall, is on the other side of the highway. Third issue: there is no sidewalk on the bridge over the highway, making for a very uncomfortable walk. Fourth issue: our bikes are still packed in storage, so we can't ride to Panera. But we're determined to not be beaten! Plus, we're hungry and by this point we are drooling for a fried egg on a bagel. (Note: we did not have bagels at home, otherwise we would have had a solid Plan B). So we decided that a 1/2 mile walk in the middle of traffic was not a nice Sunday morning activity. So we walked home, got in the car, drove the 1/2 mile to the mall, parked, went in Panera only to find that they stop serving breakfast food at 11:00. I know! Have they never heard of brunch? So we have lunch-type food, and at least we stopped being hungry, although we both still wanted eggs.
We are both excited to be closer to things by foot and bike. And for getting our bikes out of storage. We should also just get some bagels and make eggs at home I guess.
And now onto Honda. I've been there about a week now, which means of course that I am an expert on the place. So let me tell you: it's not too shabby. The first week was a lot of the standard paperwork and orientation kind of stuff. The last half of the week I got to work with some of the test engineers. We ran some transmissions on the dynomometers and then tore them apart to see what kind of things happened on the inside. Honda automatic transmissions are different than what I have seen before, so it was good to get to see them all opened up. The mechanic in me was also extremely jealous of the facilities that the test engineers get to work in. It sure makes a job fun and easy when you have all the fancy tools you need, an arm's length away, and everything is clean and kept in good shape, and you have all the space you need.

My second day on the job there was a "managers meeting." This is where all the group managers (about 60 of them) get together to go over what's going on in the company. And they make the new employees stand up in front of the group and introduce themselves. So I end up being first to go. My boss introduces me to the group, and I walk up to the front and give my little speech about how I just graduated, excited to be on board, I like long walks on the beach, etc. As I'm talking, the guy leading the meeting asks me to move closer to the microphone, because this is a teleconference meeting. With Japan. And then I noticed the woman at the front, translating everything into Japanese. I admit, when you are talking and it is being translated into another language, it makes you sound important. Or at least, it makes you hope that you are not making a fool of yourself in front of 2 continents worth of Honda engineers. I haven't heard back from Japan yet.

Security is pretty tight at the facility. No cameras whatsoever, ever. So during orientation I asked what about my cell phone, since it's kinda handy and I would like to have it and not have to leave it in my car every day. No problem, I'm told by the orientation leader. I'm going to give you your company cell phone in a few hours. Sweet. Next to having my words translated, getting issued a cell phone made me feel pretty important too. And there were business cards too. I admit, I'm easy to please.

This week is all CAD training on CATIA V5 (engineering design software). It's a week long training class, with a big thick book of tutorials. It's an entirely different software package than SolidWorks or Pro/Engineer, which I have used at other jobs. CATIA is handier in some ways, and not so handy in other ways, which is about what I expected. But no matter what the software, when you see an entire car as an assembly, with everything from the body panels down to the valve springs, it's impressive.

I work in the transmission design group. This is a pretty small group compared to other groups; there are only about 8 of us who are design engineers, and then we have our managers. By comparison, the biggest group has about 100 engineers. My boss is my age, and the other engineers range from about 24 to early 30s. Everyone seems to get along well, and seems to have a good personality. It seems to be a low-stress environment, but everyone is getting plenty of work done. Maybe I'm just overlooking the stress, since I am not assigned to any projects yet. Our workspace is a big, open design floor that is about as long as 2 football fields. We sort of have cubicles, but the walls are only about waist high. So I feel like I have my own space, but I don't feel closed in, and I feel like I have easy access to the other engineers. Somehow I figure that Honda planned it that way.

Oh, I just found out today that in the next few months I'll be taking the Honda driver training class, which will give me a license to drive test cars on the test track. This includes the high speed test track (zoom!), the skidpad, and a bunch of specially designed roads and tracks to put the car through some of those gruelling tests you might have heard about.

I guess that's about it for Week 1. So far, so good. I think I'll stay for a bit. And for those of you wondering, the commute is currently about 35 minutes, and I don't find it that bad. There's no traffic, so I just set the cruise control and go to sleep listen to NPR.

Monday, June 8, 2009

...But this is where we'll ACTUALLY be living!

Scott and I have to keep reminding ourselves that we've only been here two weeks. Two weeks! Crazy! It feels like it's been much much longer, mostly because we've been packing in lots of activities and cramming our noggins full of new sights and sounds.

And also apartment hunting. Oh, apartment hunting.

It's been exhausting. It's been several years since Scott and I had to look for an apartment, and I don't think either of us were prepared for how mentally and physcially exhausting it was going to be. I think we kinda figured we'd scope out a few places and PRESTO! The most perfect apartment would magically fall into our lap.

Instead, we spent the last two weeks (which felt like two months, as we've established) combing Craig's List every half hour, narrowing down which neighborhoods we liked, and looking at far too many bad apartments. There were some good ones ones thrown in there, but honestly, most of the time we would walk in the door and know within thirty seconds whether it would work or not. Usually not.

But at last, finally, and even somewhat magically, we found it:
Oh, um, we're not actually renting the whole place. Just one of the units inside. And our unit is on the other side of the building, facing south. Check it out:
P.S. All the pictures I took on my camera came out really crappy, so these come to you courtesy of Dooley & Company Realtors. Our realtor was a dapper fellow named Bradley, who we adored. 
We had a few key criteria for an apartment. Foremost and utmost, we wanted a place that felt like us and that fits this new stage of our lives together. This is how the Bynner Street apartment felt to us when we first walked into it five years ago, so we were looking for that same, "Ah, this is home" feeling.

We also really wanted our apartment to be within walking distance of a good number of things, like a grocery store, parks, a coffee shop, and a few restaurants. We wanted it to be within biking or bus distance of other cool parts of town and friends. In a nutshell, we wanted to be able to get around without having to drive everywhere.

This apartment is an old brewery that has been converted into condos. The building is in a part of town called, appropriately enough, the Brewery District. It's just south of downtown and adjacent to German Village. (Note to Jana and Troy: Even if we weren't already planning on doing it, I think living in a place like this would require getting into homebrewing, right?!)
Some more material requirements were a good kitchen (for me), including a gas stove. I would have made do with an electric or a glass top if everything else about the apartment was perfect, but...luckily I don't have to!

We also wanted a washer and dryer in the unit (or at least in the building) because Bynner Street spoiled us and we just can't do laundromats anymore. We wanted enough room to be able to entertain and have overnight guests (that's YOU! Come visit!). We wanted good natural light. Scott also asked that the apartment NOT have a clawfoot tub. The man's particular about his showering environs, nuff said.

Oh, and we wanted stripper poles:
Just kidding, mom! Tee hee hee! 

But really, we got to this room, which is the master bedroom, and Bradley the Awesome Realtor says, "Lots of storage space over there. A walk-in closet over here. Oh, and of course, built-in stripper poles." There was a slight pause, and then Scott and I busted out laughing. We want Bradley to be our bff.

So anyways, that's it! That's our new digs! Or what will be our new digs in a few weeks. We move in July the First, providing the moving company can deliver our stuff then.

A few other questions that might come up:
1. That random window in the side of the wall in the pictures of the living room/dining room area actually goes into the second bedroom. The master bedroom is above the living/room dining room area. It's hard to describe, really. You'll just have to come visit.

2. Yes, we can have a cat! The place was originally advertised as "no pets," but we begged and wheedled and pleaded, and the owner was like, "Oh, a cat? Sure, that's cool." So, yay!

3. One of the only downsides of this place is that there's no private outdoor space. I was really hoping to have a little garden, but alas, this will have to wait. Honestly, there were so many other great things that we loved about this apartment, I was ok with making this one compromise. I might see if there are any nearby community gardens. Or I'll just sneak into Faith's backyard and pull weeds by moonlight (Faith, you've been warned). But all in all, I'm not too upset about this.

4. Scott's commute will probably be a little under an hour, which seems shocking but isn't so terrible since it will be all highway and no crazy Boston neighborhood traffic. This was also a compromise we decided to make so that we could live in the city. Not knocking Marysville or any of the smaller towns closer to the Honda facility, but they're just not for us.

Um, that's it, really. We can't wait to move in! Eep!

The Arc of an Automotive Engineer

Today I start work. Actually, I keep reminding myself that I'm starting a new career. As long as the auto industry doesn't entirely collapse (insert awkward panic laugh), I imagine I'll be working at Honda for a while. This weekend I've been reflecting on how I got here. It has certainly been an interesting journey for me, and for those of you keeping track at home, here is a summary of how it all went down:

Fall 1993: Apply to colleges. On my applications I put myself down for the mechanical or electrical engineering programs. Went to Carnegie Mellon with Chris Demas to check out the school. Met with one of the mechanical engineering professors. He showed us mathematical models of air flow inside jet engines. I remember thinking that was "cool."

May 1994: Graduate from high school (yeah CHS!).

Sep 1994: Go to UMass as an engineering major.
Oct 1994: Transfer out of engineering program and become a math major.
Feb 1995: Drop math major and become a sociology major.

Summer 1997: In South Africa, I was riding in a car with some friends on a long trip. Their Honda CRX suddenly stops working. We find a mechanic who says he can fix it. I remember thinking "I wish I knew how to fix it."

Spring 1998: During my last semester at UMass, I "volunteer" to help out at a local Midas shop. I offer to sweep up and help clean the shop if they'll teach me things. Surprisingly, they were fine with that. And they taught me some things.

June 1998: Graduate from college (Part I).

July 1998: Start working for Jiffy Lube. Official title: "Lubrication Technician." Amazingly, I still can't think of any jokes about that title. Upon getting hired, the boss told me my sociology degree made me a "good candidate for management."

July 1999: Move to Phoenix, AZ for car school.
July 2000: Graduate from car school, move to Portland, OR to work for Ferrari.
Nov 2000: Ferrari career comes to an abrupt halt.
Dec 2000: Start working at Jim Fischer Volvo. Basically I do oil changes, install roof racks, and inspect new cars before customers take them home. 

2001: Get promoted to full mechanic at Volvo. Get to do new things like timing belts and brakes.
2002: Become an ASE certified Master Mechanic as well as and ASE certified Advanced Engine Performance Specialist. I also got certified as a Volvo Master Mechanic.
2003: Get to do bigger jobs at Volvo, including pulling transmissions and cylinder heads.

Dec 2003: Move to Boston, MA and decide I want a change. Decide to work for "ze Germans" and take a job with Audi.

Mar 2004: Back to work for Ferrari, this time at Ferrari of New England, Newton MA.
Jan 2005: Get to rebuild the engine in a Ferrari 355. And it worked after I was done (bonus!).
Feb 2005: Get introduced to a customer who brought his car into our shop. He happens to teach in the mechanical engineering department at Northeastern University in Boston. I'll call him Prof. Ferrari.

Sept 2005: Head to Northeastern University for another undergrad degree. This time I stay with mechanical engineering all the way through.

Spring 2007: Take a class on internal combustion engines with Prof. Ferrari.

Summer 2007: Prof. Ferrari tells me he has an invitation to attend a conference with Honda over at MIT. He can't go. Would I like to go? Sure. He gives me his invitation. When I get to the conference, I find my nametag, "Scott Heines, Northwestern University."  Eh, close enough. I meet a design engineer in the suspension department. We talk for a while. We are both a bit unsure of why we are at this conference.

June 2007: Email Mr. Suspension Engineer at Honda. He puts me in touch with someone in the Honda HR department. I email Ms. HR Department and tell her I'd like to do an internship with Honda in 2008. I get an interview, but I don't get the internship.

Oct 2008: I email Ms. HR Deparment again, reminding her who I am, and saying I am still interested in working for Honda after I graduate. She says my timing is good; they are getting ready for interviews and she'll put my resume in the pile.

Dec 4-5 2008: Honda invites me out to interview. During the 2 days I built a tower out of marshmallows and toothpicks, played some Wii Bowling, and won a stuffed Stewie doll.

Dec 23 2008: After a whirlwind of a week, I accept the offer from Honda to be a design engineer in the automatic transmission department.

May 1 2009: Graduate from college (Part II).

Personally, I like "Design Engineer" better than "Lubrication Technician."

(Special thanks to Chris Demas for getting me interested in cars in the first place.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where We Could Have Lived

We took a trip the other day to explore some of the areas outside of Columbus. Between Columbus and Honda, the biggest town is Marysville. It's a much smaller town with a much more rustic feel. It certainly has its charm, but Emma and I are a bit more at home in city.  Here are some highlights from the trip.

Apparently, Marysville is on the other side of the fence:

We found my building supply store, complete with giant chicken:

Everyone knows how excited I get for some good, down-to-earth, truck on truck action!

Emma's parents live in a dome home in Minnesota, and we were impressed to see another one out here:

The next picture didn't come out as I had hoped, but it's basically a tattoo and piercing shop next to the Republican headquarters on Marysville. I can only imagine the hijinks between these two.

Then we stumbled across this little number on our way out of town:


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's Official...We're Ohioans!

Check us out! We both passed the much-dreaded written driver's test with flying colors. Whew! (Scott missed four. I got a perfect. Ahem.)
Our favorite sections of the driving handbook were the bits about trains, where we were given such sage advice as: 

• Once you have started to cross the tracks, keep going, especially if you see a train approaching.
• Never race a train.

(and our personal favorite)

• If your vehicle stalls while on the tracks and a train is approaching, unfasten your safety belt, get out of the vehicle, and run as far away from the tracks as you can. Run towards the direction the train is approaching. If you run from the train, you may be hit by debris when the train strikes your vehicle.

Anyways. Moving on. 

Here are some pictures of Columbus taken during exploration adventures!
The arches down High Street leading toward (or away from?) downtown Columbus. This area is called Short North, and it's ideally where we'd like to find an apartment. No luck so far on that, but keep your fingers crossed for us.

This one's for you, McNally:
What's that? Why, yes, it's a dragon holding a toothbrush. Awesome. 

And one for Russ:
Possibly the bestest Dunkin' Donuts EVER! Dude, there's a MARQUEE! And outdoor seating! We're psyched.

And one for my Book Club Ladies:
Consider this my official bid for the Book Club Tour of Two-Thousand-WIN. Nearby is the Haus Frau Haven. Just sayin'.

FYI, this part Columbus is called German Village and it's our second choice for living environs.

But nay, we did not stop at the Hey Hey Bar & Grill that day. Instead we moseyed on up to a restaurant recommended by Faith, my #1 Columbus Pal: the North Star Cafe
This here's some sort of gingery thirst-quenching awesomeness. With mint. It was like a mojito sans liquor and it was fantastic. You could actually get a real mojito version as well, and I'm sure that would also blow my mind.And this was one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. I'm pretty sure it was primarily made of black beans, brown rice, and beets with something holding it all together. It had a great char, making it crunchy and smoky on the outside and soft in the middle. Yum. 

Faith, I think we'll have to put our chef hats on and figure this recipe out, agreed?!

And then we wandered further down the street and stopped by Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Of course.
Jeni's is like the Jelly Belly of the ice cream world. Bizarre flavors, but so delicious and enticing. This here's a cup of grapefruit-hibiscus. Scott got Kona Stout. The other day I tried Gravel Road, which was salted caramel ice cream with bitter almonds. Man, oh, man. 
And then it was time to head back home. This is the sunset over the Scioto River.