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Work: Radar, Halloween, & a Launch Party

At work I learn a lot about weather and weather gadgets. One thing I've been spending the last few months on was a redesign of static mapping, mainly radar products. One main thing I did was research and user test what radar images meant to people more specifically what the colors meant to them. Our former radar palette had complaints of making storms looks more intense than they were with the gradual color change from dark green to yellow, people couldn't pick out the strong cells in the storm. So with research and lot's Meteorologist and user input, I created a new palette that also was more legible on a multitude of different base maps (like google, our own, apple, etc.) So far it's been received well and I couldn't be more proud of everyone that helped me get all the code together and implement it, it went through without a hitch! Learn more about the palette change here.






A couple weeks after we launched the radar color palette (and a new infrared satellite palette) we also launched a new static radar mapping experience that I helped design. We tied together our single site and regional radar products to create a better user experience. I also redesigned the base map to better suite our website stylization and improved the resolution and sharability. Learn more about that here, and try out our new radar maps.





So as you can see radar has been on my brain which is why for Halloween this year I decided to keep with the nerdy theme (cause well I am a nerd). Last year I was Dr. Ellie Satler from Jurassic Park, the year before Mike and I were the Apollo 11 mission, me being the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and Mike being the Command Module. Yep nerdy. Soooo this year I was a RADAR STATION! Pretty obscure but I think I did quite a good job if I do say so myself. I dressed up in the parking garage then proceeded to ride the elevator with some odd glances. I then walked around the office handing out radar images, I even went into a developer meeting while my boss was yelling "Watch out Radar interruption!" Oh man we are all nerds, I love it! I even got a radar selfie while everyone else carved pumpkins. :)





Which now leads me to my last radar story of the past couple months. With launching our new radar products and palette I decided to have a party in the office to celebrate everone's hard work! I made radar palette cupcakes (the color corresponded with the weather condition cupcake topper), some lime sherbert punch (thought it looked like clouds!) and reusing my radar costume into a PINATA! I'm pretty proud of making a radar themed party, haha eat your heart out pinterest!




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Hope you enjoyed this lengthy post about Radar which has been my obsession for months now! I'm excited to move onto other user experience projects at work, but I guess I'll forever be the radar queen there!

Huggles,
Lauren
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Travel: Turks & Caicos

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Oh Turks and Caicos, a country I never really had heard of, but ended up being the most amazing place. Granted I have never been to the Caribbean nor anywhere really tropical (Florida doesn't count). So I'm sure there are other fantastic places, but these little islands were exactly what I wanted. A few days on the touristy island of Provo, and then spending a quiet few days in a cabin on the hardly inhabited North Caicos island. Also this was months ago during the summer, the dark days have made me want to relive this experience and blog about it... Also I'm lazy, haven't you noticed this yet?

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Mike has been to a few different places in the Caribbean, all filled with tourism and annoyances. So he suggested after Philadelphia we go to Turks & Caicos, he had never been and it's not owned by the US... you need a passport. It was between that and Iceland... next time Iceland. We left Philadelphia and flew down to Provo the main island in a airplane full of screaming babies... It made me a little skeptical. Luckily though we went in the beginning of Hurricane season, where the tourism dies down but the big storms haven't quite started. While driving around Provo reminded me of Brasil to a degree with the stucco and tiled buildings.

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The first night we stayed in a lovely hotel in Grace Bay and walked around the touristy area, getting acquainted with the area surrounding the hotel. We also went grocery shopping since we were told that there were no grocery stores on the other islands.But first we went straight down to the beach across the street and jumped in. The water was so incredibly blue and warm, but also surprisingly salty, I was told that the Caribbean is saltier cause it's shallow... I have not verified this though.

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The next day we woke up bright and early and went to the beach to rent a small catamaran and sail it around Grace Bay. Those little cats are so fast and it was fun but only for about 30 minutes because we couldn't really go anywhere. Just back and forth in the bay. If we had it on the north and middle islands (I will get to this) having it would be super fun sailing around the islands. So we floated around afterwards in the water until we got our bags from the hotel and taxied to Turtle Cove area to pick up our keys to the Airbnb and car that we rented (from Scooter Bob's, they were so awesome there). We met the cabin owners son who was awesome, he had grown up on the islands though was originally from Canada, so of course he was super nice.

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We had a couple hours before our ferry left so we went to a bar called The Tiki Hut to watch the Argentina vs. Nigeria world cup game (yes that's how long it's taken me to write this) while drinking some Turks Head Beer. It was so amazing, the bar/restaurant was open and airy and had a great view of the marina. After a couple hours we were off to the ferry on the north side of the island.

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Riding the ferry was quite and adventure. It wasn't like the ferries I'm used to in the US, it was just a big boat with 4 250hp engines on the back. We got on board with mainly only locals, and then zipped around mangrove forests and reefs while thunderstorms rumbled in the ocean. It would be a lie if I sad I wasn't nervous... The entire time we were going so fast and turning so sharply, I kept thinking "ok we're not too far from shore I can swim that, who will I help, should i try to get my suitcase", but soon enough we were at North Caicos Island safe and sound, those guys totally knew what they were doing, I should've never doubted.

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We picked up the rental car from the dock and then drove (on the "wrong" side of the road) to our amazing cabin, of course after getting lost many times. We realized that what we were told was true, there really was no grocery stores on the island. The was a small liquor store in a complex being rebuilt after it was destroyed in a hurricane, and a little grocery store with chips and snack down the road. I'm happy we had packed sandwich making stuff or we would have been starving. We spent the rest of the day just driving around the island and over to Middle Caicos Island getting a feel for the place. And the evening playing anagrams and settlers of catan dice game.

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The next couple of days were spent driving around, down bumpy dirt roads and snorkling. I had never snorkled before and it was so fun! The best was at Bambarra beach out to a little island, on the outside of it it had amazing coral and fish to look at, I wish I had gotten clear shots with the gopro camera, but I had the wrong lens on it :( The worse takeaway from that snorkling trip was a burned butt... I didn't think about how snorkling totally makes your butt out there for sunburns. After we went to a little cafe called Daniels, where Daniel fed us cracked conch and Turk's Head beer, while tell us all about his life. He was pretty awesome, I wish we had gone back the next day and hung out some more.

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See that pinkish line in the water? That's thousands of flamingos... yeah.
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There was also an area called Flamingo point, without binoculars you couldn't really see anything just a pinkish blob in the pond... which with aide you can see that it was hundreds or thousands of flamingos. I've never really seen them outside zoos, it was incredible seeing so many together.

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Three Mary Cays was another point on North Caicos we went to go snorkling. There wasn't as much fish as the last place but there was an amazing little boat wreck right under the water. We could see lot's of boats off in the distance near good scuba-diving spots... Soon I will have to try that! I was also smart this time and wore a t-shirt and shorts while snorkling... no burned back and butt this time!It was a great way to spend our last day.

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Another amazing thing about the islands was the vegetation, it was so dense and short, no towering trees, just close together bushy trees making it so you couldn't go more than a few feet into the woods. The entire island was like this, flat with little dense forests, there was an area near Middle Caicos bridge that had a few native pine trees which looked a little like Dr. Seuss trees.

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After three days at the cabin we packed up and took the ferry back to Provo, had an amazing conch dinner and swam the next morning before being herded in the airport onto the tarmac to our plane from the most crazy airport I've ever been in.

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The place was amazing, I wish we had kayaks cause there were so many islands I wanted to explore. I want to go back so badly. I suggest if you go, go in the late season, the place was almost deserted and you got to interact with local people more. I'm not very into tourist families so this worked out perfectly. The one thing that was amazing is that everyone knew each other, it's a very small country of islands and many families have been there since the British went there. And everyone was sooo friendly, I thought it was funny that all the stores and markets usually had a tag line like "Where the friendly people shop" or "Owned by friendly people" but we found out by getting to know people that that is their actual motto, The Friendly People. It couldn't have been more true. Most countries I've been to people are very friendly, but Turks and Caicos had by far the nicest, friendliest people around.

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Have you guys ever gone to the Caribbean? Where at?
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Environment: Drought Infographic



Great infographic that my coworker Jerimiah created for our company, Weather Underground. If you don't know us in California is in an Exceptional Drought, which is the worse on the scale, 0-2% soil moisture. This is a crazy huge problem for the rest of the country since the majority of lettuces and many other fruits and veggies are farmed in the California central valley and around. We're still hoping for an El Nino year in order to bring some more rain this winter, but it's looking dismal. Everyone not only in California should learn how to collect and conserve water, it's just the nice thing to do for our planet. I'm planning on building some rain barrels for this winter, and I also reuse water from canning adventures, and use pasta water to quench my plants thirst. Anyway you can use "grey water" helps everyone :)

I think I want to include more weather, climate, environment posts on this blog. I have always been a advocate for cleaning up pollution, being apart of the ecology club, doing river and woods cleanups and I remember buying a WWF membership in 3rd grade. It's also something that I learn about and deal with daily at work, which is upsetting and sometimes frustrating watching and hearing about what's happening on an international scale. What do you guys think? Do you do anything to help conserve or try to be less carbon reliant?

- Lauren
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Travel: Philadelphia Freedom

Me and Benny Jeffs

This summer (A couple months ago, I'm slow at photo editing) Mike and I headed across the country to his hometown Philadelphia. We were traveling for a wedding of a mutual friend and decided to piggy back another vacation on the end of this one, more on that later. This is now the second time visiting the city that I've heard countless stories about from Mike, Adam and their friend group so I was excited to explore it more.

First we went to the Penn Archeology Museum, and walked around the campus and neighborhood between there and his sister's house in West Philly. The best thing about that walk was that it was sprinkling, and the rain was warm, I've missed walking on a hot summer day in the rain, rain out here is sparse and freezing. Anyway, the museum was amazing and had a vast collection spanning from ancient cultures all around the world. They even had a lab you could walk into and see what archeologists are working on, that was really really neat, and very cold :) In the basement of the museum they had a sphinx, which was way cool, looking back through my pictures it seemed I was obsessed with mainly the Egyptian stuff they had. The building it was housed in was also amazing with a wonderful lily pond in front. On the way back to W. Philly we stopped and ate at a well known little sandwich/deli shop, Koch's.

Penn Archeology Museum

Penn Archeology Museum

Penn Archeology Museum

Penn Archeology Museum

The next few days in Philadelphia was driving and walking around, meeting friends for lunch, eating my first Philly Cheese Steak (with cheez-wiz), going to an amazing dinner at City Tavern, and witnessing Billy and Leah get married on her families land out near Lancaster.

The wedding was absolutely the most beautiful wedding I've been to. The ceremony was held by the tree line and butterflies were released, the reception was right by under big tents with paper umbrellas and lights hanging from the top, and long tables set with mismatched vintage plates, glasses and serving-ware. The meal was all finger food and brought out one by one from family friends who also prepared it. Around the premise, in the gardens, near the pasture were little stations, some with homemade beet wine from an Amish neighbor (and other wines, but I loved the beet wine), a beer cart with a table filled with vintage beer glasses, and fruits/cheese/crackers... Everywhere you looked there was something to see and marvel at. And everything was thrifted/antiqued by Leah and her mom over the past year. It's even overwhelming just trying to figure out how to describe the eyecandy. After dinner we danced a TON, and I witnessed my first bouquet toss and caught it, snatched it right as Brittany was about to get it. Haha. At the end of the night we all went to the little grove where we had already set up tents and slept the night away with the sounds of bullfrogs in the distance.

Billy & Leah Wedding

Billy & Leah Wedding

Mike's sisters' and their significant others, and moi. Such a silly, funny group.

Billy & Leah Wedding

Billy & Leah Wedding

On one of the last days Mike and I did one last walk around the cathedral, the Art Museum, tried to get pictures of people doing the Rocky stance at the top of the stairs, and down to city hall before heading back to his sister's and getting ready for the second leg of our trip, down to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean.

Philadelphia Cathedral

Philadelphia Art Museum

Philadelphia Art Museum

I love that the frieze is painted in bright colors like they were in ancient Greece, we're so used to thinking all the ancient Greek buildings were all white marble but at the time they were painted very brightly.

City Building

City Building

City Building

The exterior and courtyard of the Philadelphia City Hall is absolutely breathtaking. The architecture is amazing and it's one of the largest city buildings in the country, and the tallest masonry building in the world. On top stands city founder, William Penn.

Downtown

City Building

Philadelphia Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple, my father and g-pa and many others before were all Scottish Rite, I would love to become a mason sometime, but I have to wait until I have the fight to become one b/c I can't cause I'm a girl... I digress.

City Building & Art

This airplane sculpture is outside the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts building in Lenfest Plaza, It was amazing to get up close to. It's entitled "Grumman Greenhouse" by Jordan Griska, the piece is made from a decommissioned cold war naval plane a Grumman Tracker II, looks like it just crashed into the ground, and parts of it have been turned into a greenhouse.

Revolutionary War unmarked Graves

City Hall

Next time you'll see an overload of pictures from one the most beautiful places I've ever been, Turks and Caicos