Dec 24 2012

Mid-Century Modern Gingerbread House

Published by under Architecture

Street View

This year, Estella and I finally built the mid-century modern vegan gingerbread house we always wanted. We love the tract housing project Gregory Ain did in our own neighbourhood. The simplicity of the design is part of what makes them so amazing. Because of this and the fact that they were originally meant to be produced en masse, we thought this would be a good starter gingerbread house.

Wireframe of the house overlaid on top of the original blueprint. The wireframe was done using SketchUp.

Cardboard templates
Cardboard templates

Vegan Gingerbread Dough
Vegan gingerbread dough. [recipe]

Wall Cutouts
The walls cut out of the vegan gingerbread mix. The numbers and “this side up” arrows aid in construction.

Roof and Frontage Wall Baking
The roof and front wall in the oven. The gingerbread took 12 minutes to bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Assembling the House
We traced the floor plan onto parchment paper as a reference.

Placing the Roof
Placing the Roof

Installing the Awning Support Beams
Installing the Awning Support Beams

Installing the Doors and Windows
Installing the Doors and Windows

Closeup of the Entry

It doesn’t really snow in Mar Vista.

Vash Supervises
Vash made sure we were true to the original 1940’s design.

Front Entry and Car Park
Front Entry and Car Park

Awning Detail
Awning Detail


Full Set

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Nov 09 2011

My First Toastmasters Speech

Published by under Blog,Essay

I joined my company‘s Toastmasters club about eight months ago. I attended the meetings as often as I could, participating in the table topics and listening to the prepared speeches. I kept meaning to deliver a speech myself. The first one in the program is the icebreaker, which is meant to introduce the speaker to her or his peers in the club. But after hearing some of the incredibly moving and well-delivered personal stories that some of my colleagues presented, I felt unable to follow them. I often wished I could skip the icebreaker altogether and instead prepare one of the other speeches that focused instead on themes like organisation or topic research. However, after months of stalling, I finally agreed to give my first speech.

The Speech

Hi, my name is Carlos. I am a software engineer here at Edmunds. I work on the shared tools and services challenge team, which means I write software that is used by other developers and operations staff within the company. But, I was not always a programmer.

Let’s start from the beginning. My parents shared two passions in life – martial arts and firearms. I remember the furniture in our living room was always pushed to the sides so my parents could practice contrived hand-to-hand combat scenarios when they had time off from work. Even before I attended grade school, my parents had already started teaching me various moves and practice drills. When I started first grade, they formally enrolled me in a Korean martial art. And when I began second grade, they started taking me to the shooting range with them.

Later, when I was in middle school, I really got into samurai movies. I started reading all about the samurai and I started to wish my parents had enrolled me in Japanese swordsmanship classes, instead. My fascination with the sword did not actually last long, but after reading about the ideals of the samurai, I realized what I wanted to do with my life.

You might laugh, but I really wanted to be a professional bodyguard. I thought it was a cool and honorable profession that required you to be very observant, analytical, and discreet. I also realized that I already knew a lot about modern personal security. My parents worked in a field that required them to be good at quickly assessing the vulnerabilities of any security team. One time, at the dinner table, my mom mentioned how amateur someone’s protection was. Not only was it completely obvious that they were bodyguards, but they were so oblivious that they didn’t even notice her.

It was not until high school that I started programming for the first time. Because I had chosen to study History of the Cold War instead of the standard freshmen history course, the only choices I had for electives my first semester were Introduction to Computer Science, Wood Carving, and Drama. I took Computer Science and after that, I ended up taking two more programming classes – exhausting my school’s computer science curriculum by the time I finished my sophomore year.

When I went to college, I declared Computer Science as my major, not because I was passionate about it, but rather because I felt it was all I really knew how to do. Besides, there was no major for personal security. My plan was to get my degree then maybe apply to the Secret Service or the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

The summer before my senior year, I participated in a practical shooting competition. These competitions involve a lot of running around and shooting at awkwardly placed targets. After the competition, a man came up to me and told me he was impressed with my performance. I asked him what he thought was so impressive since I did not rank very highly, nor was I the prodigy that some of other the competitors were. He told me he was impressed that I shot the whole competition left-handed even though I had signed the liability release form with my right hand.

He asked me if I was interested in a contracting position, gathering overseas information for a government agency. I was intrigued, so during my senior year of college, I completed the extensive screening process and when I graduated, I had a job.

Now, it’s kind of silly, but the blanket non-disclosure agreement I had to sign prevents me from mentioning the government agency for which I worked or details about the work I did. It’s ridiculous, because all of my “assignments” were considered training or career development. Nevertheless, for the five years I worked there, I had a blast. I got to travel to foreign countries, learn about different cultures, and meet all kinds of interesting people.

However, out of all my experiences contracting for the government, by far, the most memorable one for me was a training assignment in Barcelona. I had to travel all around town observing certain persons of interest. I really never knew where I would be going next. I had trained myself to be highly aware of everything around me. And one thing I noticed was that everywhere I went, I saw the same attractive young lady. One time she was a tourist at a museum, one time she was customer waiting in line at a bank, and one time she was a student on Spring Break. But one time, she was just a girl, sitting at a café, watching the bustle of people walk down the boulevard. This is when I asked her if I might join her for some coffee. She told me her name was Estella and that she worked for an architectural firm. I lied about my job too.

Estella and I dated for three years. We both had pretty busy schedules but whenever we could, we planned our time off together. But after three years, the work and lifestyle associated with it had taken its toll on us. We enjoyed traveling, but not the unexpected assignments and often long hours. So we both decided to leave our jobs. We got married and settled down in Los Angeles. I took advantage of my Computer Science degree and that’s how I became a programmer here at Edmunds.

I’ve worked here for a little over a year now and I must say it is a truly rewarding experience. I feel fortunate to be part of the Toastmasters community and I have found many of the speeches, in particular icebreakers, to be inspirational. In all honesty, I felt intimidated, because my mine would not compare to the others I have heard… that is, unless I made it all up.

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Feb 29 2008

Wedding Website Launched

Published by under Blog,Wedding

Estella and I launched a website for our wedding:

We will keep it up to date with information and announcements.

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Oct 30 2007

Front Porch Journal

Published by under Poetry,Review

A review of Michael Earl Craig’s “Yes, Master” by Estella Ramirez.

read more | digg story

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Jun 20 2005

Regarding the Death of my Mother

Published by under Blog,Essay

My mother died on Saturday, 11 October 2003. We had found out that she had breast cancer in April of 1998. But, I knew that death was a part of life and that these things were inevitable. There was nothing unfair about it. We knew the cancer would take her life long before it actually did.

The summer after we found out about the cancer, the family took a trip to Italy. In an effort to avoid tourists and to save money, my mother had found a convent outside of Rome where we could stay. She loved to travel. Deep down, we were all concerned that this might be her last trip abroad. She had just started her chemotherapy and I teased her for counting the number of hair follicles she found on her pillow every morning.
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Oct 11 2003

Death Notice: Maria Macasaet

Published by under Blog

Cranberry resident Maria “Velia” Macasaet, 54, died October 11, 2003, at Shadyside Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA.

Viewing will be held, from 2 to 4 pm and from 7 to 9 pm on Monday and Tuesday, October 13 & 14 at Glen-Kildoo Funeral Home at 130 Wisconsin Avenue, Cranberry Township, PA.  A funeral service will be held at the St. Ferdinand’s Church on Rochester Road, on Wednesday, October 15 at 10:00 am.  Burial follows at Pinewood Memorial Park on Route 19.
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