Friday, May 31, 2013

It's day n at Amazon

I started at Amazon only nine months ago, and today is my last day. There have been many interesting things I've done and learned at Amazon, including two submitted patent applications and at least as many in the pipeline.

Microsoft has wooed me away with the promise of massively parallel data processing. I start Monday within the Bing Information Platform. My commute to Bellevue will certainly be longer than to downtown Seattle, so we may end up moving to the east side in the near future.

Truth be told, I've not been terribly enthused about what I've been doing on Amazon's Personalization Platform team. That's not to say that I'm bitter. Far from it. While I haven't been enthused about Amazon, I found it to be a great experience, and I think I've grown quite a bit in the last year in many ways.

For my last day, I did get to sign my third patent application, which was rather interesting timing on an idea I've cultivated over the last few months. With every patent application, Amazon gives its employee contributors a clear acrylic puzzle piece:

I turned down the first two pieces in order that I not waste a hunk of plastic. (For most people that know me well, this comes as no surprise.) When I signed this application, I didn't have the time to turn the piece down, so I promptly gave the piece to a co-worker.

I'm rather excited about the prospects within Bing. I never thought I'd be working at Microsoft, and I consider myself very fortunate to have a chosen career that I enjoy and that affords me opportunities to work on interesting projects and to live in a region that I enjoy so much.

So once again, the adventure continues.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where do you want to go toda^Wnext week?

A year ago, Amazon contacted me to see if I'd be interested in joining a team that does personalization using machine learning for Amazon subsidiary companies (Zappos, IMDB, Audible, LOVEFiLM, ShopBop, and so on). Within about a month, I had been flown out to Seattle, interviewed and was made an offer the next day -- as Andrea and I were sitting at a Starbucks discussing an apartment we had just looked at. Yesterday, I notified my manager that I intend to leave Amazon at the end of the month.

To make a long story short, I am leaving Amazon to go do work that I think and hope will be more fitting of my interests and passion. While I thought I'd be at Amazon a lot longer than nine months, I think it's best for me to make this change.

Starting Monday, June 3rd, I'll be working for Microsoft's Bing Information Platform using their massively parallelizable data processing language, SCOPE, and its corresponding scalable, distributed filesystem, Cosmos. For my friends at LexisNexis, SCOPE is analogous to ECL while Cosmos is very Thor-like (as best as I can tell, as of now).

I'm actually very excited about this change. The position I've accepted sounds quite interesting, and while the language and systems I'll use are new to me, the concepts are very familiar, given my six years at LexisNexis Risk.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why have two dressers when one will do?

In my ever-ongoing quest to get rid of stuff we don't need, I scored big by consolidating Andrea's and my clothes into my dresser. Tomorrow, we'll see if we can't sell Andrea's old dresser at an all-neighborhood garage sale here in Fremont tomorrow.

One lonely dresser, sans partner.
What used to hold only my clothes now stores them in the top two drawers (the first of which is only about half-height). Andrea's clothes sit comfortably in the lower drawers.

"How could you reduce necessary clothing storage volume by half?" you ask? In small part by purging unneeded clothes, but I think in larger part, it was the use of a handy-dandy trick I learned several years ago for packing clothes for travelling: roll them up. There are also plenty of videos showing interesting ways to do so (for example).

The disembodied head of Curious George approves.
Through a goodly amount of evenings organizing, purging items and subsequent trips to Goodwill, we've eliminated much of the stuff that occupied our 1400 square foot rental. The basement is largely empty, save for a few toys, my moderately sparse office and a few shelves of items in the storage room.

Yet there are still more cows to release.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Caterpillar is with an "a", not an "e"

Yesterday was a pretty wild day for us. I spent the day in Bellevue, Reed had his first day of morning preschool, Andrea did a ton of running around and watched some friends' kids, and our boys adopted a caterpillar named, alternately, Catery or Caty (sound familiar?).

Their day was all sorts of crazy-out-of-whack, so I let them stay up for a little while in a misguided attempt to wear them out. We drew some pictures, played in the living room, read some stories, watched some videos of actors reading bedtime stories, and probably a half dozen other activities. I told the boys they had to say goodbye to Catery and release him outside. This sent them into terrible despair. There was much wailing. After about 45 minutes of intense negotiations, we finally arrived at the position of letting Catery sleep on the front patio outside his mason jar... with several notes the boys wrote to him, most of which were tiny, caterpillar-sized.

They finally got to bed around 10:00 -- two and a half hours after they usually are. One might suspect, then, that they'd sleep in a bit. Not so. Around 7:00, I heard Reed come to the realization that Catery was outside, and he immediately bolted for the front door, opened it and went outside, frantically looking for him. And he found him on one of the steps. How fortuitous! So this morning, the boys were taking turns gently handling Catery (Elissa would be so proud).

What is the appropriate color tie to go with your caterpillar?
Reed was so excited to be playing with his dear old friend that he could hardly stay still -- which is why I couldn't get a particularly great picture of him. But he dressed up for it, anyway, wearing one of my ties.