Counting down….

I made really good progress on the furnishing of the apartment over the weekend. I have somewhere to sleep, somewhere to put my socks and t-shirts, somewhere to shelve some(!) of my books, etcetera. There’s a TV, and WiFi, and a bottle of wine in the fridge.
Today I started transferring my clothes from the temporary place in Belltown to Uwajimaya. I’ll probably shift over there tomorrow, although I won’t be able to finish clearing the temporary place for a few more days.
Even though I’m close to moving in, I still have to cope with the huge pile of empty IKEA boxes. Apartment policy is that all boxes must be broken down to fit flat into the recycling bins, and I’ve been dutifully hacking away with a box cutter to meet these requirements. Of course I then find that many of the other residents simply ignore the rules. Maybe I should ask the ethicist?
Meanwhile, my personal rule is NEVER to leave the apartment without an armful of cardboard…..

Progress report (fairly mundane stuff)

I’m coming up on the end of my fourth week at Amazon, and I’ve been in Seattle 30 days. So… how are things going?
On the work front, I’m enjoying myself immensely. The Amazon environment is dynamic and fast moving, which inevitably means confusing and surprising. One very useful thing is that everybody’s badge photo is displayed in their phone book entry.* (At Sun, this was a rarely-exercised option.) Things like coping with introduction overload, or figuring out who a particular email was from, or dealing with the frequent “Topic XYZ? Oh, you really need to talk to PQR!” all become much easier.
I got myself a Blackberry (8700c) on Tuesday, and planned to integrate it into the Amazon infrastructure yesterday. So far, no luck. I wonder if the fact that I chose to keep my old Massachusetts (617) phone number is complicating things. We’ll see. [UPDATE: New day, new server, new password: everything’s working OK now.] The device itself is neat, but the UI lacks the relentless focus on one-handed productivity that you see with PalmOS. If you’re going to give me a QWERTY keyboard, I want a dedicated key for “.”. “Alt+M” sucks, and the “Space+Space” hack only works for text.
I’m getting my office space sorted in a way that I never did at Sun. One touch: installing a small refrigerator. This allows me to enjoy (and offer to visitors) some of the dizzying range of American “energy drinks” and Japanese sodas and fruit drinks that are on sale in the Uwajimaya store. I tend to buy a random collection, without worrying about what I’m letting myself in for. It’s (usually) fun.** And when predictability is important, there’s a shelf full of iced tea.
The apartment progresses. I didn’t get much done over the long weekend, but last night I resumed my love affair with IKEA boxes and power tools. I’ve encountered three problems so far.

  • First, there was the box spring with a slash in the side from a fork-lift. IKEA replaced this.
  • Then it turns out that to attach the bedside tables to the bed frame*** I had to drill four pilot holes into the underside of the frame, and there isn’t room to fit my electric drill between the frame and the floor. It would have been easy to drill the holes before assembling the frame, but at this stage it’s quite hard. I’ve ordered myself a hand drill from (neither Lowes nor Home Depot were able to help), and this should do the trick.
  • Then last night I decided to assemble the coffee table. It’s a complicated and heavy piece, with two drawers. I finished the main structure and started on the drawers, only to find that the back wall of each drawer was the wrong part. It was dimensionally correct, but it wasn’t pre-drilled in the right places and had a non-functional slot cut at one end. I think I can salvage things with a handful of 1-1/2 inch wood screws, but it’s a bit frustrating.

So back to the time line. I’ve been here just a few weeks, and I’m quite pleased with how things are going. Bouncing back and forth between the temporary apartment and the one I’m furnishing is complicated****, but I’m going to resist the temptation to rush the completion and move-in. I’ll take another week or two to get things right.

* You can choose to substitute a different picture, but the original is just a click away.
** Right now I’m enjoying a Calpico Peach.
*** Necessary – they’re not free-standing.
**** Further complicated by the fact that half the time my RFID card won’t work for the Uwajimaya car park. They keep promising to fix it, copy down the numbers, type stuff into the computer… all to no avail.

Apartment progress

Today was another IKEA day. I love the fact that as you approach the freeway exit, there’s a sign listing IKEA as a “Tourist Attraction”. Well, yes.
The most urgent reason for my visit was to arrange for a replacement box spring. [This used to be called a “foundation” in England – is it still?] I showed a photograph of the 4-inch slit in the side to a woman in Customer Service, and she simply shook her head, muttered something about “fork lift truck”, and scheduled a delivery truck to drop off a replacement and pick up the damaged one.
With that taken care of, I was free to roam the store. Side tables, lighting, bedding, that kind of thing. Yes, I had meatballs for lunch 😉 And then back to the apartment to unload. It’s a sad comment on the state of my problem-solving skills that after nearly two weeks I’ve only now worked out the best way to transfer all of my purchases to the apartment:

  1. Park under the supermarket.
  2. Grab a shopping cart.
  3. Load cart with boxes from IKEA, Office Depot, Best Buy, etc.
  4. Take it through the residents-only door to the elevator that goes up to the apartments.
  5. Transfer load to my apartment.
  6. Return cart to the car park under the supermarket.

I imagine that I’m not supposed to do that (all of the shopping carts appear to have RFID tags, and large placards warning of the consequences of misuse), but it works just fine.
The bed and bedside tables are assembled, as are the office desk and chair. I won’t have any assembly time on Monday, but on Tuesday I’ll have to spend several hours at the apartment. IKEA is due to deliver a new box spring, and Millennium Cable should coming by to fix a provisioning issue. I’m tied up all Labor Day weekend (September 2-4), but if all goes well I should be able to move in by September 10 or 17


The good news is that my boxes arrived on schedule yesterday. The bad news is that they were pretty bashed about, and a couple of seams were starting to split. However nothing seems to be lost or damaged. The contents were mostly clothes, books, DVDs, and electronic miscellania The only items I’m really worried about are three external hard disk enclosures; everything else is replaceable.
I now have high-speed internet access in the apartment. A Comcast self-installation kit appeared yesterday – coax cables, splitter, cable modem, and software. The latter was the only real problem. First, it insisted on installing Internet Explorer on my Mac. (How retro.) Most of the installation process ran fine, but right at the end it started reporting a “communication error”. Since it had been chattering away to Comcast’s backend systems quite happily, I called customer support, and a technician completed the provisioning in a couple of minutes. I haven’t tested the bandwidth yet, but Skype works beautifully.
I’ve now got to the point where this place feels like an apartment rather than a hotel: I cooked my favourite dish last night. Nothing too fancy: chicken thighs and mushrooms in white wine, lemon juice, garlic, and tarragon. It’s a checkpoint that my larder is stocked with the bare necessities.
And finally, in response to Jon’s plea, he and I will be getting together for drinks at McNenamins on Roy Street, at 5 o’clock this afternoon. If you’re in the area…..


As I hinted a couple of days ago, I’ve found myself an apartment. It’s in Uwajimaya Village, an apartment complex built over the locally famous Uwajimaya Asian food market. The location is perfect:

  • It’s just across the street from the facility where I’ll be working.
  • It’s 10 minutes walk to Pioneer Square or Qwest field, and 15-20 minutes walk to the heart of downtown Seattle.
  • King Street Amtrak station and a big bus interchange are also right there.
  • And the pièce de résistance: when they finish the light rail project through the city and out to the airport in 2010, I’ll be a block from the station.

My idea of going car-less is looking more and more promising.
I’ll be signing the lease on Monday (the same day I start at, and I expect to take a couple of weeks to furnish it before I move in.

"In transition" – status update

It’s been a month since I last wrote about my “transition”, so I thought it might be time for an update. Why the diffidence? Mostly it’s because one obviously(?) doesn’t want to reveal all of the gory details (“met X for lunch”, “phone interview with Y”, “brush-off email from Z”). The fastest way to end a discussion about a prospective job is probably to blurt it out all over the blogosphere.
Nevertheless, I think I can safely say that I’m having a pretty good time. I’ve been talking to people from a wide range of organizations about a diverse collection of jobs, and I’m really enjoying the various conversations. They’re all moving at different speeds, from glacial to torrid. In some cases, I’m pushing to get things moving, while in others I’ve found myself getting swept along. Mixed in with all this are the cold calls from people who have found my details from LinkedIn, Dice, my blog, wherever; most of these are wildly inappropriate, but at least one has turned into a serious exchange.
LinkedIn is proving to be an invaluable resource in various ways. For example: suppose that I’m interested in company P, and start talking with a former colleague, X ,who’s working there. He or she passes my resume to a colleague of theirs, Y, who is the (potential) hiring manager. How do I find out what kind of person Y is? I check corporate bio and other resources, find out that Y used to work at company Q. Then I can search LinkedIn for people in my network who were at Q when Y was there; usually there’s someone that I know well enough to ask about what Y was like to work with/for. Etcetera.
And I’ve (mostly) stopped referring to Sun in the first person plural….

Heading home

I’m at the RCC (Red Carpet Club) in DIA (Denver airport) waiting for my flight home. Normally I’d be composing this on my Treo, but I’ve reluctantly decided to sign up for T-Mobile WiFi service. I’ve found myself in too many Starbucks, RCCs, and other locations where I really wanted WiFi access but felt too cheap to pay the exorbitant day rates. Yesterday in a Starbucks in Denver (near the Cherry Creek Mall, a really charming neighbourhood) I did the arithmetic and decided it made sense to sign up for a year.
It’s been a really enjoyable, productive, and above all instructive trip. I was surprised and grateful that despite all of the things going on at Sun this week (earnings announcement, CEO hand-over, Leadership Conference) both John Fowler and Greg Papadopoulos made time for me to chat on Monday and Tuesday. It was delightful to meet a number of ex-Sun colleagues from w-a-a-y back and hear about their experiences of “life after Sun”. And it was good to spend yesterday with Barbara Bauer (ex-STK VP) here in Denver, and get together with several colleagues for dinner last night. Forgive me for being vague about the substance of all of these conversations; let’s just say that we discussed current issues and future prospects in some depth.
Time to delete the current flood of blogspam (about 80 over the last 24 hours), grab some coffee, and get ready to board my flight.