The spiral

It’s hard not to notice how much this year has forced us to adapt. March brought us (at least here in Seattle) COVID-19 and staying at home with kids almost all the time. We survived the kindergarten part of it, then came Summer and there was some sort of rhythm that was built at home of going out for a walk in the mornings and then starting the day. Then came first grade, which made things a little bit more complicated in the morning. Then came smoke and bad air quality which completely cancelled the morning walks.

But it’s fine, we adapt. Especially considering that I’m very fortunate of having the flexibility of choosing my own path to adapt. I still have my income, everybody in my family is healthy, my house is big enough that I can work at the same time as my older son is at his school Teams meeting and my wife is playing with my youngest, and nobody is interrupting anybody. I can’t say the same to a very large portion of the population.

Happy 2020!

It’s 2020 already and I feel quite old… For somebody born in the 1970s (yes, towards the end of that decade), 2020 feels like it was so far in the future!

The 2010s was a decade that contained a lot of changes. Marriage, 2 kids, 2 houses purchased (and 1 sold)… They were, for the most part, additive. So it was a pretty good decade (actually 2000s was pretty good too, but mostly circled about moving to the US and settling down here). What I expect (or don’t expect/hope won’t happen) in this decade:

  • Kids will continue growing. The oldest will be in high school at the end of the decade! (yikes)
  • Hopefully no more house buying or selling (but can’t be sure of that…)
  • I’ll probably still be a software developer at the end of the decade, or potentially doing more stuff in the management side. Unlikely I’ll retire or “semi-retire” (i.e. choose a lower-paying job that is more like a hobby-turned-business).
    • I will not make any statements on how many different companies I’ll have worked through the decade, because I think that’s something that can be interpreted incorrectly. I currently have no plans that include changing jobs in any planned window of time.
  • Looking back at the decade, the world and how we interact with the world would have changed a lot. I think a lot of it will be due to climate change and the things we will have to do to slow it down. It may be gradual and we may only be able to notice it in a more aggregate form, but it will happen.
    • Some of it will be good, of us being more aware of the resources we are using and the secondary effects around its use
    • Some of it will be bad. Many places and ecologies will be lost forever. Some activities will have to be adjusted to be more indoors, to move more inland where there will be less flooding.

I could go into technologies that I think will actually change in the 2020s, but I’m sure there are better lists on that out there.

Anyway, I’m happy we made it this far. Happy 2020!

Owning michelgoldstein.com

So I just bought michelgoldstein.com mostly because it was available. The problem is that I don’t know exactly what I want to do about it. Right now it points to this website. Three options go through my mind, in order of amount of work required:

  1. Do nothing (i.e. let it continue just pointing to this website)
  2. Move this website there and kill movingdownstream.com
  3. Create a whole new website that is more focused on personal things (basically this website) and transform movingdownstream.com into something else (like a projects blog)
  4. Transform michelgoldstein.com into a disambiguation page for all Michel Goldsteins out there. I “know” one (that added me as his friend on Facebook just randomly) and I know others exist out there.

What I really want to do is #3, but the problem is that I don’t think people really care about something like that. I’ll spend a good amount of time working on it and in the end I won’t get any other Michel Goldstein to actually be interested in being listed there.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the previous post, probably I won’t have time to think about it for a few months. Maybe after that time I’ll have a better idea of what to do with it.

2013 Retrospective

I don’t know if I’m really ready for a 2013 retrospective… It has been a very interesting year, indeed. At the same time, not a lot of “resolutions” happened. So it feels like a year that lacked achievement. And that takes us to theme 1:

Theme 1: effort, but unresolved achievements

One thing it didn’t lack was effort. I’ve worked hard for those “non-resolved achievements” and they are still underway. I’m still working on a secret project at Amazon that hasn’t launched yet. I can’t really talk about when it’s supposed to launch (even if I knew that answer), but I can say that we are working hard on it and the team is still growing.

Now that we’ve gone through theme one, even if very vague and hand-wavy, let’s move on.

Theme 2: board games

This year I played and bought a lot of board games. But that trend did fizzle out towards the end of the year, as some internal intrigue started happening with my gaming group. But I did play a lot of really interesting games. Hard to list them all, though… So I’ll leave some highlights of games I’ve played more than once:

  • King of Tokyo: easy to play, a little too luck-driven for my taste. Always fun, though.
  • Ticket to Ride: well, I had to add this one as it’s pretty much the only game that I’ve been able to play lately with Amy. It’s fun, though. There is some luck involved, but strategy and being able to read your opponent’s goals sometimes helps on offsetting that luck component. Does play better with more than 2 players, which is something I don’t have a lot of opportunity to do.

There are a lot of games that I’ve played only once and I wished I had played more, like Guildhall, Flash Point, X-wing… And some games that I bought and I haven’t played yet.

Another game-related thing that I did was organizing a Magic: The Gathering tournament at work. It was quite a lot of fun, even though attendance was lower than I was hoping for.

Theme 3: tech news

Well, that’s my industry, but I have to admit that this year I was paying more attention to what was happening in the tech world than around the rest of the world. Multiple times I was surprised by people asking me if I had seen what happened in some place in the world and I had no idea what they were talking about. Maybe I’m in the US for too long and starting to not pay attention to what is going on outside my world. I hope to revert this tendency for next year.

Theme 4: woodworking

I can’t really leave out one of the things that occupied most of my weekends for a good part of the year: the big living room furniture project. Phase 1 is over and I think that’s all I’m going to do (at least for some time). It was an interesting experience, but there are a few things that I learned are harder than I thought (and made things not work as well as I was hoping):

  • The world is not square! So the wood might not be square, or the floor that you are trying to place the furniture on might not be square.
  • Large pieces of furniture are hard! That’s for multiple reasons:
    • They make non-square things just even more out of alignment
    • It’s hard to find good-looking wood in large pieces
    • It’s hard to make good-looking joints if you don’t have good looking wood pieces
  • If you don’t know the “fundamentals” of the furniture hardware that is available out there, it’s hard to make the right design decisions.
    • There are lots of parameters around a door hinge or drawer rollers that are not evident when you buy the piece. Only when you try to install you notice that things don’t really work the way you thought they would. Fortunately my 3D printer helped me a lot on making small adjustments to things.

And I think that mostly sums up what I think was different this year compared to previous years. Some things are still the same, like cooking (and I’ve been potentially cooking more lately because Amy has been through some challenging food restrictions that limit what we can eat out), playing computer games, watching Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows and reading books (even though I have done less of the latter than average). My electronics projects have been moving slowly.

I do have to mention a couple of important events this year (not in any particular order) before I finish this post:

  1. The birth of my first nephew (I already have a niece), Luiz Felipe, in March
  2. Going to Brazil and hanging out with family and some friends in end of August/early September.
  3. Trip to Utah to go around taking pictures of red rocks
  4. Participated in Movember, even though I didn’t raise much money on it. In any way, I’m very grateful for all my friends that did contribute to it.

Not a huge year, but at least there were things that were put in motion for next year to be at least as interesting. So far it seems like I’ll be going again to Brazil towards the end of the year to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. No tickets booked yet, but it’s the current plan. Hopefully I’ll have time to see more of my friends this time!

 

2013’s best books list

End of the year you get always those “best of” lists. And unfortunately I always get sucked into them. This year the one that was the most fascinating was Amazon’s Best 2013 books. What is fascinating about them? Well, it’s the difference between:

2013 Best Adult Print Books

2013 Best Adult Kindle Books

One might think that they would either be pretty similar, or their difference would represent books that are still not available in Kindle format. I found actually that it’s not true (and I’ve heard about this trend before): Kindle books are flooded by romance books. It almost feels like 50% of all the top 100 books are romance novels! That’s not a real number. I thought of counting them, but I actually can’t tell by just looking at the cover and title what the books are about. And I didn’t have the time to go one by one and see what they were about to generate a count. Just go and look. It will be quite evident.

The conclusion for me is that if I want to see what the interesting books are according to Amazon customers, I should look at the print ones.

There are some that you won’t find in Kindle edition, or that don’t sell very well on that format. Namely cookbooks and diet books. I have a few in Kindle and I have to admit they are hard to use. I’m sure people have thought about it, and have tried to work on it in the past (and are probably still working on it right now). It’s a tough one to figure out. If you want a searchable book, the internet is so much better and more comprehensive. Cookbooks are books you browse to be inspired, and going a page at a time, or jumping through well-defined paths makes this “browsing” hard.

Anyway, if you hoped you were going to see my list of best books of 2013, sorry to disappoint. I’m not sure my 2013 list is very good. I actually haven’t read too many books. Perhaps because some of the books that I read took a long time to finish (like A Dance With Dragons or The Curse of Chalion). Or maybe I just have been reading more papers trying to catch up with what has been going on in the world of research while I was focused on other things. Next year so far doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better, but things can change. Perhaps I’ll choose shorter books!

Movember time

This year I decided to stretch my comfort zone for a good cause. I’m doing Movember , What does that mean, you might ask. A few of things:

  1. I’m trying to raise awareness to men’s health issues.
  2. I’m trying to help to raise money to support research and programs around men’s health issues. 
  3. I’m growing a mustache!

What do I look like with a mustache? Well, that’s an interesting question… I’ll be posting pictures as it develops. One of the things is that you are not supposed to start growing the mustache until Movember starts. Being the third day of the month, it means that it’s not that “in your face” yet. But here is a first picture. Be scared! 🙂

 Movember day 3
Movember day 3

Anyway, if you want to help the cause and donate, my donation page is:

http://mobro.co/7323557 

And I’m open for suggestions of what to do with my mustache. Whoever donates (even if it’s just $1) can post a vote (in the comments on the above page) on where I should go with it. Note that I don’t have that much time to grow crazy things like handlebar mustaches, so I don’t even go there. And Amy will always have the ability to veto whatever is suggested.

When all computers fail…

Suddenly this week both my computers decided to give me some grief. First was my Mac that is running low on disk space (it’s all those pictures that I keep taking and filling my hard disk). It’s interesting that when I’m below 8 GB of hard disk free things can get quite weird. Part of it is because I have 8 GB of RAM on my computer and that creates 8 GB of swap/restore space. And that space is not always taken, so at some point I could have 5 GB free and a few minutes later I only have 44 MB free. At that time is when all software in the computer freezes and I have to drop to terminal to do anything. Solution: free more space (which is not straight-forward, but I’m trying).

Then comes to my windows machine… As I mentioned before, I have a Windows 8 machine that has been working reasonably well. Then Windows 8.1 came out and I thought: well, I heard good things about this upgrade, so maybe I should do it. Oh, if only Microsoft agreed with me! I download it and start installing. After it reboots I get a very quick blue screen with a sad face and after rebooting again I get an error after I log in saying that the upgrade failed and it rolled back to Windows 8 with a cryptic error code (0xC1900101-0x20017). There are lots of conflicting reports about what could be happening, but none of the solutions that I’ve heard (forcing install of all driver updates, running disabling the network) worked for me. I did try to find the log and look for information on what is going on, but I couldn’t find anything useful yet. Very frustrating!

But fortunately there are “workarounds”  for both my problems:

  1. Mac: free disk space
  2. Windows: don’t upgrade

And that’s what I’ve done. Boo…

I’ll report again if I’m able to upgrade Windows one of these days. As for my Mac, maybe it’s a sign that I should upgrade my now 4.5-year-old laptop…  New MacBook Pros have just been released, so it’s a great time to upgrade..

 

9 years at Amazon, huh?

I forgot to mention one thing on my last post: today I celebrated 9 years at Amazon… Who would have thought I would still be around? But I’m having fun (most of the days). Still learning. I’ve had some quite successful projects, and some that didn’t last for as long as I was expecting. I can’t talk about my current project, but I can talk about some highlights about previous projects: 

  • Adding semantics to how products are defined at Amazon, supporting easier category expansion.
  • Auto-classification of products
  • Richer rules for cleaning up structured attributes in data, including handling crazy (and I really mean crazy) apparel sizing
  • Embedded and sandboxed HTML5 application environment

There were lots of other things that I’ve worked on. But these were probably the ones that had the biggest longer term business impact (even though the HTML5 app project was canceled not long after I left it – but it planted a seed onto different systems that hopefully will continue making Kindle products more innovative). 

Who knows, one of these days I might talk about what I’m working on right now. If everything works as planned, it will certainly feature on my list of accomplishments above. There is just so much left to do…