Friday, August 24, 2012

Of Coffee and farmers markets

We haven't quite settled into Seattle living yet. As part of my relocation package from Amazon, we're provided with temporary housing until we find a permanent residence. We're all set for that, but it's not available until about September 1st. Our stuff isn't delivered until we're in our new residence, so we're pretty much living with whatever we fit into our four pieces of luggage.

That's not to say that it's bad, but it limits our options for what we can do around the apartment. We've spent a lot of time at Lake Union, but the water is cold to begin with, and the weather is cooling off. Instead, we've been trying to find things to do with the boys around Seattle. That's been including a lot more coffee, trips to parks and other neighborhood attractions, and expeditions downtown.

Last week, my boys and I went to Rudy's Barbershop for a haircut. It occurred to me that Reed had never had his haircut at a professional establishment, so I got a picture of his first professional haircut. We explained to him that you wear a cape to keep hair off your shirt, and it's kind of like what a superhero wears. That immediately prompted him to hold his arms out like he was flying:

My superpower is sitting still for minutes at a time. 
He and Jacob did well and were very polite.

We also have been to the awesome REI Flagship Store, where the kids can play both inside and out:


Last weekend, we hit up the Magnolia farmer's market, got some amazing blueberries for the boys to snack on, got coffee at Serendipity Cafe, and played at the local playground. I was able to convince the boys to not eat all the blueberries -- they will usually eat every last berry of any kind -- and I made some blueberry scones for breakfast a few days later.





We also explored the area around the Seattle Center (which, most notably, includes the Space Needle). There is a great pizza place, Zeeks, where they gave each of the boys a chunk of pizza dough to play with while they waited for lunch:

Jacob made a hand with his pizza dough.
Reed did not.

One evening, we walked around Pike Place Market:


And on Wednesday, the Personalization Platform team (that would be me and my co-workers) went on a team outing to Blake Island. This shot is from our trip back into the city:

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Day 1 At Amazon. For real.

Amazon never grew up. It's been around since 1994, but it still thinks and acts like a start-up. So there's this saying: "It's still Day 1 at Amazon." Today was my Day 1. I had a nice short walk to work, met a few interesting people (many fewer software engineers than I expected).

Since I'm not sure how much information I'm permitted to disclose due to my NDA, I'll just say that Amazon is growing (and thus, hiring) like crazy, and they've got their onboarding down pretty efficiently. My "hiring class" was much larger than I expected would have been hired, there was another engineer hired onto my team in addition to me, and I really only had to wait in line or have one-on-one attention for maybe a half hour at most.

I met my team today -- the Personalization Platform team, responsible for "P13N" across Amazon and its subsidiaries. For the most part, they're guys about my age, most of whom seem to be interested in rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and other crazy stuff that I'm into. Not more than ten minutes after I got into our office space, I had already tentatively agreed to go on a day hike to Mount Saint Helens.

I'm a big fan of learning. That may be and often is new experiences -- like moving to Seattle when you've lived in Minnesota nearly all your life -- but it can also be forcing yourself to re-learn something from many years ago. I had been at LexisNexis for six years, and I like to think I became pretty fluent in the nomenclature. It was automatic that I knew what the terminology meant, the contexts in which they were used, the implications thereof, and so on. I forgot what it was like to be the new guy; I didn't give it much thought when the last few people to join our group had to learn what terms like FCRA, GLB, score overrides, et al, meant.

Now I get to be that newbie again, for better or for worse. Similarities versus personalization, ML, dimensionality reduction. I sat in our team meeting today trying to keep up as best I could, and I like to think that I did fairly well, actually.


In other news, I expect we may have our long-term housing locked down tomorrow. We've been looking all over the Magnolia, Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford and surrounding areas. I got word today that our application on a house in Magnolia went through; now we just have to decide if we're going to pull the trigger on it. It's a pretty decently sized house with a fenced in yard. It's a bit farther to Amazon than I would prefer, but I can't complain too much.


With many fond memories of my friends at LexisNexis, the adventure continues.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The first 24 hours in Seattle

We've survived our first day in Seattle. Yesterday, we moved into our temporary apartment, which is about a half mile from Amazon.We've had a wild ride the last few days. On Tuesday, a crew packed up all of our stuff while I was at my last day of work at LexisNexis.

This is only a sample of the tons of stuff we own.
Wednesday was Andrea's last day teaching at Talahi, and the movers loaded all of our stuff into the truck. It was supposed to be a pretty quick job, but the oppressive heat and humidity made it last from about noon until 9:00pm.

Also, we had a very unfortunate change in our family plans: while we had planned to bring our rescued beagle, Robby, with us, he was hit by a car and we had to euthanize him.

Wednesday was pretty rough, but we crashed at my parents' place for the night, wrapped up some loose ends on Thursday, and headed to the airport first thing Friday morning.
In the first leg of our trip to the airport, Andrea and I rode with my parents.
After some emotional good-byes, we made it to our flight. Airlines are... interesting businesses, though; by some esoteric logic, when you buy four tickets at the same time for the same family -- all with the same last name -- they put only two seats together and the other two are isolated from everyone else. We had to specifically request seating together, lest one or both of our boys fly for almost four hours without a parent nearby. Nice work, Delta.

We ended up with two pairs of seats together; Jacob and me, Andrea and Reed.



After a pretty uneventful flight, we got to SeaTac airport and grabbed our bags. With four checked bags, four carry-on bags and two car seats, it was a pretty severe ordeal to make it to the shuttle to the rental car site, but once we got there it was fairly smooth sailing.

A short drive to our new apartment and an hour or two later, we were mostly settled. I would be remiss in my geek duties to neglect mentioning the awesome Android app I found for our Roku. After a long, tiring, emotional day of travels, we lay low, met the neighbors upstairs via our patio, listened to some Pandora and watched a little bit on Netflix.

This morning, we started to explore our new city by going to its skyline icon, the Space Needle. We started by grabbing a coffee:
Andrea starts her morning off right with an Americano.
...Reed with water.

... and Jacob with a blueberry muffin.



Across the street from Uptown Espresso is a Tesla showroom, so Reed and I took our own picture in front of it.
Admittedly, I was more interested in the Teslas than Reed.
And only a few blocks from there is the Space Needle.

It took us a while to get through the line, but when we got to the top it was worth it for this shot of Mount Rainier, which doesn't do justice to the view we actually had:
About 75 miles away, this mountain is a freaking sweet.