Sunday, October 31, 2004

The end of a tough weekend, where not much was actually done, is never something you are eager to have. This is my story this weekend. A very tiring weekend, but not very productive.

Saturday started with me going Synagogue hunting again. This time I chose Emanuel Congregaton, a "Modern Orthodox" synagogue. When I got there, there were 4 elderly gentlemen at the bima discussing about something related to the service. Another older person went to greet me and explain some things about the congregation. Most of them came from New York, where they participated on the "Young Israeli" movement. One of the ideas behind this movement was to teach everybody how to conduct services. So, what happens is that everybody there knows how to conduct the service and take turns to do it.

It was a good service, but I don't know if I felt too strange in an environment where the average age is almost 3 times my age. I guess next weekend I'll just have to continue "shopping".

Then, after services, I went to my apartment and signed the lease. Officially now I have a new apartment. I analyzed the size of it and went shopping for the three basic things that I need before moving in: a bed, a desk for my computer and a dining table. I didn't have any well-planned ideas, so I just went around where my apartment is and visited some of the many furniture places there. The problem is that they were mostly very expensive, I mean VERY expensive! So I went to my temporary home kind of disturbed and worried. But I devised a plan. I went online and got the address of many places that sold things a little cheaper and even set a route to pass through all of them.

This morning, starting at 10am, I left my apartment and went shopping. I had all the measures in my mind, and a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. Something actually very similar to what I have here in my temporary housing: dark wood, metal and glass, with modern and clean lines.

At around 6 pm I was exhausted, hungry (I didn't have time to have lunch) and clearly depressed with the result of my shopping: the only dark wood that I could find was for a dining table. All the rest were either too "classic" or very light wood. The kitchen there is already in light wood with white appliances. If I have a light wood living room, I can't have a dark wood dining room. It just wouldn't make any sense!

In the end, not only I didn't buy anything (apart from a toolbox for me to put my license plate on my car and a vacuum cleaner), but all my planning backfired and I have to rethink on my furniture ideals. Now I'm more for a light wood, but still keeping the glass and metal. It's not perfect and would require a lot of decorations to make the house look a little bit less "white", but it's something that I can find, at least.

I just hate to shop... Why isn't there an inexpensive store online that you could enter your floorplan and then play around with the furniture. When you found the right things you want, you press "buy" and they ship and install it in the same places you have indicated in their system.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Another week is gone and there isn't much to talk about. Yesterday I listened to a phone interview that I didn't quite like. The person had some knowledge about the subject that we are interested in, but she had some major language difficulties that would give her a very hard time when it came to work in the team I'm working. Sometimes even I can't really grasp what is being discussed in the middle of the meetings, because of the speed people think and the concepts they are able to throw at you without even stopping to think for a minute. But I may be wrong, let's see... She should have been invited for an on-site interview and maybe I'll know the result.

Continuing this interview process, today I was invited to participate on an on-site interview. This guy that we were interviewing had theoretically lots of experience, but in other fields, more for telecom and embedded systems. But he did so poorly in the interview that was a little sad to be there. Sorry, he didn't get it.

Let's see what else I can talk about... Work is going alright. I've been mainly writing documents and sending it out to people and, so far, people have been liking them. I actually had two very good conversations today with some people from the team that helped me a lot to understand where we were going and what I have to do next. There is only one thing I have to say about it: there is lots of work ahead, but once it is working, it is going to be great!

More to the personal things... Uhm... Yesterday there was a soirre at the building I'm living right now. Good food, drinks and convesations. If I was a little bit more "corageous" I would probably have had more fun, but I guess that's the way I am, and I sort of like it.

The weather here is getting colder and wetter. This evening it was kind of nasty. Lots of wind, and a little rain. Perfect for you to catch a cold! Especially because lots of people from my team have come down with a cold this week, and today my office mate was feeling pretty miserable. I'll keep taking my vitamins, eating a sleeping well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I'm alive, but I don't have much else to say. I got my new apartment, but I still don't know the full address of it. When I do, I'll send it out to the people that asked for it (and maybe for some people that didn't).

I finally have work to do, and it's not very little. But now I'm going home. I have a chat with my parents tonight and I don't want to be too late for that. And actually right now my requirements for the work are being analyzed, so I shouldn't move forward until I have more feedback.

I also have to work on my research. It is moving slowly, as I feared. I also have to finish modifying one more paper that was accepted for publication.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Going...

Life is going on. Very confusing, actually. I don't know what is going on here, but the days are going by and I still haven't decided on a routine, besides waking up between 6-6:30 and going to work, arriving there between 7:30-8. Oh, of course I'm ignoring the fact that I do still wake up at 5 am, but, fortunately I'm able to fall asleep again.

Work is going on. I still don't have anything official to do, so I just keep reading and thinking. My research is not going very far either, and I'm not too sure why. I'm just not in the right mindframe to get anything accomplished, and this is scary.

Anyway, today I felt good, because I finally was able to say something "intelligent" in a meeting, not only asking questions about things that I didn't understand. I'm finally getting most of what is going on, but I still end up loosing one or another discussion because my brain locks at a certain aspect that is being talked about and I just can't really pay attention to what comes afterwards.

Besides all this work, I really don't have anything to say. I'm happy to be here, but I'm starting to worry about the lack of other people around me. My teammates are very nice, but they have their lives when they live the office. Most have a family, some just don't quite leave the office. So I'm left to just enjoy my cooking and reading.

Talking about reading, I finished "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon. It was a very nice book. It's about a boy that has some mental disabilities that makes him very anti-social, but extremely introspective and good in solving problems, especially math-related. Well, one day he finds the dog of the neighbor dead with a big garden fork through its body and decides that he is going to investigate.

Things don't turn out the way he was expecting, but it's not the main scope of the book. The goal is to show how a "different" mind thinks and reacts to what we are used to doing. He points out how many strange things we do throughout the day, and that we are not too different from a mentally handicapped person. It's a short and entertaining read, recommended!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Apartment decision should be in the past

Today I decided that I've spent too much time looking for apartments already and things weren't going to get much better than they were, I was just going to get more and more points in the "Pareto front". So, I went back to the apartment I liked most and filled the application. I wrote the checks already, but it all depends on the "background check" that is done on all new perspective renters. There shouldn't be any problem, but right now I can't confirm with 100% certainty that I have an apartment.

I decided that it made much more sense for me to live outside Seattle, in Bellevue. Why? Because I'm not a "go out every night" kind of person. I prefer to either be working in the office or to stay at home and enjoy my hobbies (well, my research right now, until I finish everything). If I want to go out is mainly to go to restaurants and as I can't eat at the same place often, I would end up using the car anyway. Being in a suburb means less traffic to go do groceries, less violence, less noise. It also means longer commutes, but, hey, I'm from Sao Paulo, Brazil: 40 minute commutes are normal even if you live in the city.

I also went to the synagogue this morning. I decided to try Beth Shalom, a conservative congregation. I got the day that there was a Bat Mitzvah going on so I ended up going to a very packed service (mainly at the end - it started with around 6 people inside the sanctuary, but ended with something like 150 people that is still small for my experience, but much larger than what you would find on a normal Bat Mitzvah in Oklahoma) where everybody was a stranger. I had to leave early because the moving people were going to pass by here to drop my 3 boxes, so I just didn't enjoy all the food and talk after the service.

There were some things, to tell you the truth, that didn't quite meet my taste. First, the first cantor (a girl, maybe 20 years old), had a low female voice, very soft and terribly out of tune. She knew how to read Hebrew for sure, but it's not enough. Then there was a whole complicated process in the Torah reading to include the whole family of the bat-Mitvah'ed girl that was just a little too distracting. And the service ended with another cantor, not a ~40-year old woman, that had more voice power and tuning, but was still too low for a cantor. Imagine, I'm sometimes considered a Bass-II in choir (i.e. a low bass, the lowest voice in the choir) and it was a little too low for me to feel confortable singing along. It annoyed me...

I guess it all means that next weekend I'll try somewhere else. Most probably an orthodox congregation... But those are hard to choose from, unfortunately. Too many variations, and there are some that it's just impossible to be able to follow the service. I have a week to decide, though.

So, as I mentioned, my boxes arrived with my computer. Now I just have to find out an internet service provider! Right now I'm using the laptop from work that can connect to Amazon's network. Most lower-cost providers require for you to use their dialer and browser, but none of them, as far as I can tell, support Linux, and I really don't want to drop my Linux.

Alright, time to start working a little on my research. Let me get back on track, because life is going to be pretty hard very soon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

My first week of work is gone

5 days of work are almost pretty much gone. Right now, 4:45pm, Amazon is starting to get silent, with many offices already dark with people discussing non-work-related things (although I did hear some people from my team passing by and saying that they had a meeting - I wasn't informed of this meeting, so I'm assuming it is not with me).

What is going on with me besides trying to learn everything, understand the project I'm involved and, perhaps, start giving some ideas? Well, not too much, to tell you the truth. This morning my car arrived... Last evening I went to see a condo that I really liked in a region I liked, but there were some issues about it that I will address below. First I'll talk about my experience visiting the place.

I didn't have a car yesterday, because I returned the rental car on Wednesday evening (and got my first bus back to town - very easy process, you only need to access the Trip Planner, tell the addresses and time you want to leave or arrive and it's done!), so I got the bus. Well, the bus that I got actually didn't leave me that close to the apartment, but at least it left me above it so I only had to go down. After getting confused more than once (you don't quite get lost, it's just that the streets sometimes stop making sense becaue they end and start due to the hills), I got to the condo (it is basically a building made by a private person, with 4 apartments) just when the renter was leaving with the previous prospect.

While seeing the condos (there were two, one that belonged to the seller and another that belonged to his friend), I found out that the guy was Israeli and Jewish. We talked a little and, after finding out that I got there by bus, he asked if I wanted to join him for dinner and then he would take me home with his car. So we went to this very interesting Mediterrenean place and had a nice chat for a long time and then he dropped me by my apartment. I arrived at the condo at 6:30 pm, and back to my apartment at almost 9 pm!

Anyway, I did like the condo, especially the one that belonged to him. However, comparing to the apartments I've seen before, I have some concerns: 1) price: it is difficult to really compare two apartments that have different features, but this was around $500 more expensive than a "psychologically similar" one that I've visited in Bellevue; 2) maintenance: it does not have a 24h maintenance system as most apartments have; 3) quality of the cupboards & equipment: although they were alright, they really have this "designed by a common guy" feel and quality. Most apartments I've looked have a little bit more detailed and well-kept cabinets and doors.

What I liked about it: 1) friendly owner: I don't really have to explain this; 2) good location: Queen Ann is a very nice place, not too "happening", but close enough to "city life" with nice restaurants and such; 3) Huge kitchen: for an apartment, of course; 4) Nice view: especially from the deck on top; 5) Cool deck on top for relaxing and entertaining; 6) Free parking for 2 cars: 1 with a closed garage and another outside; 7) Lots of storage space: even with a storage area in the garage.

Decisions... Decisions... They are always what reminds you that you are alive.

There are a couple of other things that I could write, like the expensive restaurant that I've been to on Wednesday that played Bossa Nova and had Caninha 51 (a type of cacha├ža/pinga) - but I didn't ask if the bartender could make me a caipirinha... I was to overwhealmed with the price of the stuff. But it was good, don't get me wrong! Anyway, I'll leave it here and go back to working. I'm feeling guilty that today I almost didn't work, because I was waiting for my car in the morning, then I went to a "all-hands" event, with everybody from a particular subgroup of Amazon, especifically software developers, and heard my boss's boss's boss's boss talk (that was wearing bermuda shorts, T-shirt and a sweater, just for the record), then I had a lunch meeting until 2pm, then another meeting until around 4pm, and only then I went back to my studies...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Now I have a little bit more time to post. Not much time to work on the layout, though... I'll wait for my computer to arrive for this one!

Anyway, I'm at home and posting from my laptop connected to Amazon's dial-up access. It is pretty neat, but I'm not completely sure if they are not logging everything I do and I'll receive a nasty note from my boss saying: do not use Amazon resources for personal stuff! You are fired! :-)

My first two days at work were pretty confusing. I'm trying to get used to all the thousands of acronyms that are used, and the concepts of the system that is being built, while trying to get settled, trying to find a place to live and so on. I've had 3 meeting so far and I can't say I understood that much of what is going on during these meetings. Tomorrow I have a couple more scheduled, Friday my boss will be back from a trip and said he would like to meet and, hopefully, discuss what I will be doing more specifically. So far I have only been studying what I can from their huge intranet.

A little bit about Seattle: it does rain here! My first evening here was great, but then it pretty much rained every day. Not the whole day and never that much to really get you wet, but it was always cloudy and many times it would be sprinkling.

Seattle is a very nice city, anyway! Many things to do, a place where they show "Motorcycle Diaries" (they didn't in Oklahoma), with some trafic and streets that can be confusing easily, mainly because of all the hills.

I'm sure I have a lot of other things to write about, but I just don't know what right now. I think I'm a little tired (I'm still a little in Oklahoma time, waking up every day at 5:30am) and ready to hit the bed... I'm just glad that the dial-up thing works. Maybe I will be really able to post more in the evenings at home.

Starting a new home

Yes, this is my new blog. I won't have much time to work on it right now, because I'm at work and I do have a lot to read and to get used to here, but at least I was able to start it.

If people are asking themselves about the name of the new blog, it was actually a decision I made on the airplane while coming to Seattle. I decided to think about what would be a good name to summarize my life, regardless of where I am, and, while looking at rivers below me through the window, it hit me.

I can't say I have fought a lot to get where I am... I did study, but I never really got out of my way to do something. I would get out of my way to be able to continue doing something that someone asked me to do.

I'll give a couple of examples:

- When I started playing clarinet, I didn't really choose it myself. When I went for my Bar-Mitzvah trip to New York, Washington DC and San Francisco, I was with the wife of my father's (ex-)best friend, her son and her sister. She is a well known pianist in Brazil and at the end of the trip she turned to me and said: "I think the perfect instrument for you would be the clarinet. I know a great teacher. When you have time, give me a call and I'll connect you both". It took me 4 1/2 years after that to start, but I did.

- I started my Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University because this opportunity simply appeared in front of me, from a professor that went to my school to do some recruiting.

- My job at Amazon.com also fell in front of me and I took it. I didn't really go too much out of my way, besides having written a terrible resume at Monster.com.

Now do you understand why I defined my life as "moving downstream"? I just keep taking the paths that are close by. I won't say that they are the paths of least resistance, because it would have been much easier if I continued in my old low-paying job in Brazil, instead of starting my life anew in Stillwater, OK, EUA, but it wasn't something I fought to get.

Welcome to my new blog, anyway! For some time, while I don't have internet at home, I won't be posting too much, and I won't have time to work on a nicer layout, but I'll try to stay alive.