Sunday, December 4, 2011

How are you?

Hello world. I've been quiet for this past year working on my PhD and all. But there are a few things I wanted to catch you up on.

1) Hello, finances. How are you? Back in 2010 sometime, I talked about growing my emergency fund and issues with only having 6 transactions per month to move money between accounts with ING. Turns out that issue isn't specific to ING, alas. I tried my hand with Smarty Pig and the idea of having two direct deposits (one for either account) and then allocation rules within. That idea didn't work out, but eventually my institution allowed to updating direct deposit rules online. Hooray! I have since removed all of my allocation rules from ING and modified them to be direct deposit rules.

Dear readers, you should know that last tax season, I hit my $5k emergency fund goal. Further, this year, I increased my emergency car fund to above $4k. Woo hoo! I've moved in with my sister while I finish my PhD, so I am spending lots of energy in paying down my student loans. 35% of my paycheck each cycle moves into a 'student loan repayment' account and then I manually make the payments. It's a little tedious, but I don't qualify for automatic debiting until my status moves out of 'in school/deferred.'

I also am trying my had at using Smarty Pig's gift donation to help pay down my student loans. I made a widget that points to my goal and put it on the right hand side; if you press the "feed me" button, it sends to you to my personal goal. I'd like to have my private loans from undergrad paid off by the end of the 2015 calendar year. I had originally taken out $4k for tuition and books. Eight years later, I have $4k in interest on top of that. That's what happens when you go to school for 25 years continuously. SIGH!

For good measure, 1% goes into my emergency fund and another 1% into my car emergency fund. Kim is getting married in 11 months (to the day), so I am being more aggressive with my saving there (now $50 each cycle).

2) Gym stuff! I took up rock climbing (top rope) back in April/May and joined Boston Rock Gym at the end of August. The Kate of 12 years ago wouldn't recognize me now. I'm pretty excited about this new hobby because it forces me to concentrate and solve puzzles. Also, it's really fun to ask my body to do something and have it response. I am really liking climbs that involve a lot of balance and flexibility. Last week, I climbed my first 5.10- (having started at 5.6).

I hurt my hands a bit this week working on my robot (it has a million screws, I swear), so I need to take it easy. That's hard since I've been going twice per week this fall. It's a really great stress relieve. By the end of the winter, my goal was to be solidly climbing 5.9 level so that I could learn how to lead sport climbs. Hoping I can learn in January.

In addition to climbing, I've taken a liking to hiking. Particularly when excellent views and/or waterfalls are involved. I went on 3 hikes this late fall/early winter. Contemplating winter hiking by the ocean... (again, who is this Kate?)

3) It's been a year, a whole 12 months, since I started building my dissertation hardware. That realization made me a bit sad, but I am really proud of the system I augmented. It's a great little research platform and I think I can leverage it for at least the first 5 years of my future faculty job (yes, I am hopeful!).

My robot, Margo. She is the little sister of my prototype robot, Hugo.

Finishing my dissertation has been a bit of a bumpy path. I miss Mark like crazy, but we are spending Christmas together alone for the first time. Two week countdown until 3 uninterrupted weeks of blissful time together!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rocking the super short hair still :)

This is me rocking the super short hair back in June.

In September some time, my stylist Danielle and I added dimension with purple highlights that faded into an amazing copper. I just had a hair cut and color a few weeks ago (pictures soon I hope!).

Photos were taken my Kerrith of C'est Chic salon in Dracut, MA.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Robot user testing!

Pass it on. We are looking for people in the greater Lowell MA area with no prior robot experience.

"We are conducting research on ways to measure a user's trust in a robot. As part of the study you will be asked to interact with our robot and complete surveys. The study takes less than 3 hours and will be conducted on campus at Olsen Hall.

If you complete the study, you will receive $10 as base compensation. There are two milestone payments, each up to $10, for a total compensation ranging from $10 to $30 ( or Eggroll Cafe gift cards). The payments for the milestones will depend on how well you perform the task.

If you would like to participate in this study please email Munjal Desai (mdesai at to reserve a time slot. You must be older than 18 years to participate in this study.

Thank you,
Munjal Desai
Robotics Lab
Department of Computer Science
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New hair!

Psst! Hello. Check out my new Ginnifer Goodwin inspired haircut :)




Sunday, January 2, 2011

Shh! Happy New Year

As forewarned, I've been off the radar. I can't wait to finish my dissertation!

Anyways, I thought you might like to see Mark and I's EggSquid stickering adventure. I have a Facebook photo album that is public, so you all can see it:

I've hidden five EggSquids in a geocache called "Keep on Truckin' Trail" which is located at the top of Mark's road here in Felton. I hope some kids find it soon; I can't wait to see where the stickers wind up.

I'm sure I made some 2010 New Year's resolutions. Being that I can't remember what they are, I wonder how I did...

Well, no it turns out that I did not make any 2010 resolutions. Instead, I'll tell you about my 2011 goals.

  • Graduate. That's right folks, I've put it out there in writing. To graduate, I need to defend my PhD proposal, conduct experiments, code, conduct more experiment, write the dissertation, defend the dissertation, and make any changes necessary.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Days 18 and 19

I heart Cali!

So following up on Day 18, Mark and I drove through some amazing state parks (Big Basin and Castle Rock). There was a beautiful vista point off Rt 9 in Castle Rock and we followed a tiny mud trail (left hand side of the below image) down through the grasses until the meadow became thorny brush.

The view from the end of the trail.

Today, Mark and I had planned to walk up to the summit of the mountain we live on. However, we were intercepted by Hannah (next door neighbor with a bed and breakfast) and rerouted to trails that went down our mountain. We descended about 600 ft on Ecology Trail and found Camp Mount Cross at the bottom.

Then we followed Rt 9 back to our road, and then we ascended the 600 ft we came down. My poor little heart. It still does not like cardio! But it was beautiful and the mountain air smells so good (mixture of people with wood fires, pine, and eucalyptus)!

Tomorrow's workout will involve a trek through IKEA and lifting!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Days 13-18

Walking. That's been my form of working out. Across airports; man, SFO is huge! Through Felton; we checked out the town center on Sunday while doing laundry. Across campuses at Mark's work. Around San Francisco's Mission Hill area yesterday.

Day 18 is most exciting because today we are planning to go to Big Basin which is about 20 minutes up the street. :) We'll see how much hiking I can do!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Days 10-12

Yup, sorry I got quiet too. Lots to do, but I've been managing to do some home work out stuff. I love my yoga ball. More importantly, I've been deep stretching my shoulders with my physical therapy exercises and as a result, I think I've gained more range of motion. I think there is something to appropriately working your body every day.

Tomorrow, I leaf for Cali. I will squeeze in a quick workout, but most of the day will be spent sitting on a plane. Then the fun will kick in because our apartment in Felton is on the back side of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park! I hope to get a few all terrain walks in (I hesitate to call them hikes!) If nothing else, the access road to the apartment is quite steep and I'll get a good workout climbing it daily.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 9

Low impact work out tonight. I pushed myself really hard yesterday and my body did not hate me today mostly. The only part of me that is sore are the backs of my legs, particularly behind my knees.

Stretching and core:
  • 5 consecutive push ups,
  • 1 set of 10 oblique ball arm drops with my small yoga ball,
  • 1 set of 10 lower half scissors leg drops holding the ball between the ankles (works lower abs),
  • 1 set of 10 leg rolls (roll ball towards butt and keep your core stable).
That's all I really had time for. Lots of work to do (I know; it's a weak argument!). Tomorrow is high school lab tours. Perhaps I can find my zen place at pilates.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Financial check up

In April, I'd written about my financial health, so I thought I'd do a check up and ask for your help.

Each month, I am moving $175 into my emergency fund (which I still have not touched!). The current balance is $3,570.37. So needless to say, I won't make my $5k goal by the end of the year. Still I am happy that it is growing.

The problem I am having right now is that my ING Automatic Savings Plans are going over the allotted 6 transfers per month. I've done that twice this year and a third time means that ING will close my account. So I've stopped all of my monthly transfers except for the emergency fund.

I want to keep my Automatic Savings Plans, but I don't know how to get that back without asking my direct deposit to do it for me. The problem with that is that I can't dynamically change the savings amounts going into each fund. Thoughts?