Comet


Thoughts on a Wedding that Didn't Happen

Posted by: Jessica 2 weeks, 3 days ago
Categories: Family, Friends, & Life

June 20th, 2020 was supposed to be our wedding day. The date itself was special to us. It was our 10 year anniversary of dating, the 6/20/20 had a good ring to it, and it was just a few days prior to one of our favorite events of the year, the Electric Forest Music Festival which was slated to be our honeymoon. The date worked too for all of our vendors: the ceremony location, the restaurant for the reception, the photographer, the bakery, nearly everything had been locked in. We had started to receive decorations for the tables; we had decided on a drinks menu that had specialty cocktails representing our life together, and some of our favorite beers were being special ordered for our big day. We received a package of 70 final invitations that we spent hours deciding on, working with a graphic designer to coordinate with our save the dates perfectly, hand designed stamps, and pre-labeled envelopes for our loved ones. I got my wedding dress too.

One month later, it’s as if those plans evaporated, sucked into the vortex of 2020. By the beginning of April it was clear that a social gathering was not going to happen in June, especially not at a restaurant, so we awkwardly sent out wedding cancellation cards. Yes, they coordinated too. And to honor what would have been our wedding day, Ryan and I escaped into the woods and camped for a couple of days with our dog, Violet. Our friends spent some time with us on Zoom that night, celebrating with tiki drinks and glow sticks and acknowledging what we had lost. My mom sent me a really sweet note reminding me that someday we will be married and it will be special when that day comes. Ryan and I have since spent a lot of time talking about it too, what we want, what we don’t want, when will it be safe, and for how many. It’s been stressful and sad and overwhelming and all of the things that our wedding was not supposed to be.

I’m not sure if a wedding will ever happen for us, or at least one at the scale that we had intended. My wedding dress may never see the light of day and might be hanging in it’s garment bag forever; our decorations might get donated and our invitations might become kindling for our next camp fire. But then there’s also the important part: I haven’t been able to marry the love of my life. More than anything, that hurts the most. Ryan is supposed to be my husband by now. We were supposed to say vows, and kiss, and have wedding bands representing our commitment to each other. We’ve said so many times that we’ve been together for so long that it doesn’t really matter, but truthfully it does. It’s painful. But, when I’m not upset thinking about all of the details, personal touches, and time spent that will never be seen I remember that I’m also really thankful. I’m thankful for our apartment, and our jobs, and our health, and the health of our loved ones, and for Violet. And I’m also really thankful for Ryan.

Someday I will marry him and promise to be by his side through hikes, and concerts, and cooking dinner, and mai tais, and even pandemics. While quarantine changed a lot about our lives and our wedding plans, it did not change that one bit.

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Socially Distant Recipes: Mai Tai's

Posted by: Jessica 2 months, 1 week ago
Categories: Food & Drink

*measurements are per drink

Mix all ingredients except for grenadine in a shaker. Serve in a funky tiki glass (or high ball) with crushed ice. Pour a float of grenadine on top. Make sure to top with a paper umbrella and some fruit slices.

The quarantimes are tough.  You’re stuck in isolation, washing your hands to the bone, eating historic relic food items from the forgotten corners of your kitchen pantry.  That’s why we turned to the classic, tropical, deliciously refreshing Mai Tai.  It brings a casual excitement to your isolated weekend evenings.  We recommend serving with a paper umbrella to add to the illusion that you’re at a cozy tiki bar and not isolated at home for the twelfth weekend in a row.  

As we start our third month of social distancing, I think that we can all agree that there have been struggles, and personal triumphs, and hard days, and really beautiful ones too. Amidst all of this we are sending all of you love and hope this recipe brings you some joy.

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Socially Distant Recipes: Flour Tortillas

Posted by: Jessica 3 months, 3 weeks ago
Categories: Food & Drink

It’s been a long time since we posted on the Comet Blog, 5 months to be exact. And WOW, those 5 months really proved to be the strangest roller coaster ride that nobody asked to be a part of. We have been socially distancing due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Boston, together with our dog Violet in all 800 square feet of our apartment. There have been ups and downs but mostly I wanted to spend some time outlining some things we are learning along the way. 

First thing’s first, cooking! I’ve always liked cooking (much to my mom’s surprise!) and I’ve taken the opportunity of being home more hours of the day to explore some new recipes. And what is a girl to do when you have the fillings for tacos but no tortillas? You make your OWN flour tortillas! What an idea! But isn’t it hard? Don’t you need a tortilla press? When I told Ryan I was making flour tortillas from scratch the look on his face asked all of these questions. But that didn’t scare me. It can’t be impossible, right?

Right! After about 30 minutes we found out that making your own flour tortillas takes very few ingredients, is actually relatively easy, and they taste delicious. Huge thanks for the inspiration from Mythical Kitchen, their YouTube video with instructions is linked below, our instructions differ slightly but either works well I’m sure. Enjoy!

 

Flour Tortillas (for those days when you run out but still want tacos)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut butter into small cubes, add to flour, then rub together with your hands until the fat disappears into the flour. It will make sense when you do it.
  2. Stir in 105-110 degree water to the flour and mix with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. It will look...shaggy, and like it could never possibly be flour tortillas.
  3. Dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands until a solid, smooth ball forms. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour but sparingly. Knead for about 10 minutes which will feel like a long time, but you have nowhere else to be so do it for the tortillas!
  4. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll them into small dough balls. Let them sit on a plate for 15-30 minutes. It feels unnecessary, I know, but resting the dough is important so don’t skip this step!
  5. Roll out each dough ball on a lightly floured surface (I never cleaned up the first one!) until they are very thin but still hold their shape. Roll out using a rolling pin or a bottle of wine, whatever. Roll back and forth once, and turn the dough a quarter turn each time - this will provide nearly round results.
  6. Cook each tortilla in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 40-60 seconds a side, or until they are no longer translucent. Push down any areas that aren’t touching the pan because of bubbles with a spatula to keep the cooking going. You could also use a nonstick pan too, I’m sure. In either case the pan should be dry, no oil or butter, but hot.
  7. Pull them out of the pan and be as amazed as I was. You just made flour tortillas from scratch! Store them in a kitchen towel until you fill them with all of your delicious things: taco filling, scrambled eggs, cheese, whatever you have laying around will be better when wrapped in these fresh tortillas, I promise. 

For visuals, check out the Mythical Kitchen's recent video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkQ3T3Tqjrc 

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Hulaween 2019

Posted by: Ryan 8 months, 4 weeks ago
Categories: Music Travel
It didn’t make any sense for Jess and I to go to the Hulaween music festival this year. We were both ridiculously busy and behind on our wedding planning, we didn’t love the headliners, we honestly disliked a few aspects of the festival last year, plus Hulaween was nearly canceled due to funding issues and was rumored to be “dialed back” this year. But...we decided to do it anyways!
 
Click here to view my Hulaween 2019 album and read about how this doomed festival turned out to be a great time!
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Bob Moses @ Pier 17

Posted by: Ryan 10 months, 4 weeks ago
Categories: Music

Jess and I went to a Bob Moses concert at the Pier 17 venue in New York City. This was a fantastic concert. Bob Moses was on point, they put on a really great show. The venue was also great; it was basically on the rooftop of a pier in downtown New York right next to the Brooklyn Bridge. Plus, the weather couldn’t have been better.  We also quite enjoyed the opening act, Broods.

Aside from the concert, we had a nice weekend in NYC. We stayed in SoHo and spent a lot of time walking through the Village.  It was surprising how lively the parks were; I particularly liked Washington Square Park.  If you ever find yourself in that area, I recommend Morgensterns Ice Cream and Third Rail Coffee.

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Two summer months

Posted by: Ryan 11 months ago
Categories: Family, Friends, & Life

Is this thing still on?

I lived two months of life since my last post, and it’s been jam packed with family, fun, work, travel, music, and everything in between.  If there were a highlight reel, and that highlight reel was transcribed into bullets, it might look like this:

...and that is the full run-down of our last couple months.  While that list might sound like a lot, what doesn’t come through is how busy we’ve both been with work. We are trying to push through and get back to more balanced schedule soon.

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Electric Forest 2019

Posted by: Ryan 1 year, 1 month ago
Categories: Music

We just got back from an excellent weekend at the Electric Forest music festival. Our friend convinced us to go to this festival for the first time in 2018, and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. This year was terrific too! Please enjoy my photo album from Electric Forest 2019.

[Cover photo was taken from this Reddit post]

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Conclusion of my LED project

Posted by: Ryan 1 year, 1 month ago
Categories: Projects

After several months of hardware tinkering and programming, my hobby LED light project has come to a close.  Jessica and I successfully displayed the lights on our backpack during the Electric Forest music festival last weekend.

I’ve posted several times about this project already, so this post will be a final summary focusing primarily on topics I haven’t yet discussed.

Hardware

Assembly

I arranged the 64x32 LED matrix panels side-by-side to form a square.  I needed a way to hold the panels beside each other, so I designed a laser cut acrylic support panel (which I call “the belly”).  The belly goes behind the lights and holds them in position.  I also designed a second acrylic panel to sit in front of the lights and protect them (which I called “the lid”). While it would make sense to make the lid out of clear acrylic, I did some research online and chose to instead use a semi-transparent white acrylic that will gently defuse (blur) the light.

The LED lights need to be connected with the raspberry pi with a power cord, a 16-wire ribbon cable (for sending data to the LEDs), and a 4-wire ribbon cable (for communicating to the accelerometer).  I ended up splitting the 16 wire ribbon cable into 16 individual wires to improve flexibility, then cut each of those wires to about 20 inches and fed them through a braided cable sleeve.  Splitting the ribbon cable was tricky to do; if I were to do it again, I’d use one of the rainbow color ribbon cables which are supposedly easier to work with.  Rather than plugging the wires from the Pi directly into the LED panels/accelerometer, I decided to make plugs on the perimeter of the lights for easy plugging and unplugging (which turned out to be a huge benefit).

Software

All code for this project is original aside from the physics toolkit and the framework for communicating with the lights, which use publicly available open-source python libraries.

The software running the lights operate in “stages”, which each have their own behaviors.  The light patterns are generated in real-time for all stages. Some of the stages use the accelerometer, while others show randomly generated patterns.  I originally wanted the lights to sync up with music using a microphone, but there were some significant hardware and software limitations that prevented me from implementing it in time.

One of the more interesting parts of the software are the cellular automation stages.  These are the stages that look like waves, tie dye, and fire.  These patterns are achieved by programming a set of rules that are followed by each individual light based on the status of its neighboring lights.  For example, think of a crowd of people doing “the wave” at a sporting event; the crowd could theoretically do the wave with their eyes closed if each person who pops up tells their neighbor to the pop up.  Cellular Automation is similar to that, but often follows much more complex rulesets.

Conclusion

That’s the full rundown. I was successful at getting the device through airport security on our way to Electric Forest (although the TSA agent initially thought I was being wise when I told him it was a “Raspberry Pi”).  I also it through the venue security without issue; it probably wasn’t even in the top 20 strangest things that they encountered that hour.  Once inside the venue, I was able to store it in a locker.

We used the lights for two out of the four nights at the festival.  We didn’t wear it every night because we had to avoid crowded areas when wearing the lights (due to the bumping and jostling), which was a big limitation.  Many other attendees enjoyed the lights and gave compliments.  A few dozen attendees started tapping on the lights assuming it was a touch screen (maybe next year).  It was fun for us to contribute to the the many other bright and colorful totems and outfits in the forest.

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Boston Calling 2019

Posted by: Ryan 1 year, 1 month ago
Categories: Music

The Boston Calling music festival is always a great time, and this year was no exception.  The festival was during Memorial Day weekend - so I’ve had some time to reflect on the experiences - and here are my takeaways:

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Light show

Posted by: Ryan 1 year, 2 months ago
Categories: Projects
Tags: lights

My LED light project is in it's final stretch before we bring it with us to the Electric Forest festival at the end of the month.  I have a lot of updates, but for now I just want to post a video of the lights in action.  Stay tuned for a more detailed post where I talk about the final hardware/software for this project.

See a video of the light project here

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