New Team

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Having had a few weeks to prepare for the iRobot restructuring described yesterday, I was able to announce and introduce my new engineering leadership team, which includes the Directors of Program Management, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Software Engineering, Systems Engineering and Architecture. I spent three hours presenting my thoughts and plans for the future to key managers of the combined organization during the morning and then another 2 hours presenting to the entire engineering team at the end of the day. I could not have hoped for a more optimistic reception which has energized me to help unleash the passion for innovation which I see everywhere.

New Job

2012-02-28 134520 008.jpg iRobot held its annual all employee meeting today in the Grand Ballroom of the nearby Doubletree Hotel. We celebrated fantastic 2011 financial performance, honored 7 stellar employees with Chairman’s Awards, and recognized our inventors who have pushed iRobot granted patents over the 100 mark. This gathering was also used to announce a major restructuring of the company from two independent divisions (Home Robots and Military Robots) to a single organization with multiple business units. As a consequence, the divisional engineering organizations have been merged into one and I have been asked to lead the team. The combined engineering team is three times larger than my current organization and includes employees located in Raleigh Durham, NC and San Luis Obispo, CA. I am looking forward to the new challenge and honored that I was selected for the role.

California Redwoods

IMG_0079.jpg This photos was taken by Jeanine in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park located in the Santa Cruz Mountains just outside of Felton. When Kyle was 2 years old we used to take him to the Roaring Camp Big Trees Railroad located immediately adjacent to the park. Maya seemed to enjoy it just as much as her older brother did 17 years ago. I hope that one day all of our children will return here with their children to admire these magnificent trees.

Wind Chill

2012-02-26 114039 005.jpg Temperatures during my weekly soccer scrimmage hovered around freezing this morning. Steady strong gusts drove the wind chill considerably lower demanding more than a hat to keep my head and face warm. Once the game starts my legs, torso and arms are usually quite warm. My head and hands, however, always remain cold. There is no bad weather for soccer, just inappropriate clothing choices. I had a great run and was thankful for the exercise given the spring season starts in just five weeks.

Jeanine and Maya spent the day walking the hills of San Francisco. As I think about it, this is one of their first mother-daughter travel adventures and a good prelude to Maya’s coming of age trip (tentatively to India).

Farewell 5DII

2012-02-25 062107 009.jpg My Canon 5D Mark II is the best camera I have ever owned. For the last 3 years it has been my go to camera for ultimate image quality capturing just over 50,000 images for me. The time has come, however, to upgrade to a newer body with the latest technology. I have no misconceptions that a new camera will do anything to improve the quality of my photos. I simply enjoy using state of the art tools and by caring for them I can recover much of my initial investment on resale. I am also selling my flash unit, a zoom lens and my exposure meter all of which I photographed for the sales listings which I posted today.

SCU Tour

IMG_0070.jpg The University of Southern California asked Santa Clara University if they would change their name from the University of Santa Clara to Santa Clara University so they could be known as USC. In exchange for doing so, USC presented SCU with over 100 mature palm trees to plant on their campus. Jeanine and Maya learned this and other trivia from Kyle who proudly toured them about the campus before enjoying dinner together in San Jose. Kyle was very sweet with his little sister showing her off to all his friends. Maya was no doubt feeling all grown up and enjoyed all the attention.

Trust but Verify

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Nico and a friend left this morning in Jeanine’s car on a two day college tour to include Dartmouth, UVM and an overnight stay with his Aunt Susan in Burlington. With only four more months until he turns 18 I did not want Nicolai to wind up with a speeding ticket like his brother did and risk losing his license. Kyle, you may recall, dodged a bullet when the issuing police officer failed to appear at his traffic court hearing and the ticket was nullified. To his great consternation, I insisted that Nico bring my GPS tracker with him for the duration of the trip. This tiny device captures GPS coordinates every 30 seconds and shows route and speed on a map after the data has been downloaded. I pointed out to him that I could have easily placed this in the car without his knowledge and that I was being open with him about my intent and expectations. This did little to diminish his displeasure with my “request”. A review of the log after the journey confirmed he was in the right places at the right times and that he generally traveled with the speed of traffic although I am still questioning a 2 minute “passing” maneuver with speeds above 80mph and a peak of 88mph!

Tent for Kyle

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2010-03-17 124400 194.jpg Kyle recently joined members of the SCU Outdoor Adventure Club on an overnight excursion and climb of 3,889 foot Mount Diablo. I could not be more thrilled that he is taking advantage of the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and beauty of California. Jeanine and Maya leave today to join him for an extended Parent’s Weekend visit. Nico is occupied with college visits while work obligations prevent me from joining them. I am, however, sending the tent pictured here, a proper sleeping bag, inflatable ground pad, and various other camping essentials for Kyle to use on his next adventure. Notes for Kyle: The tent can be used with or without the fly (shown in both configurations). Study the photos so you know what the proper setup looks like, practice setup and tear down once before heading out. Never pack the tent if it is wet. If you must pack it wet then it is essential that you unpack it as soon as possible and let it dry completely. I have taken this tent to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I hope you will do the same. Love, dad.

Toast Anyone?

2012-02-21 204602 003.jpg Followers of this blog will recall a recent post about the wisdom of giving a woman a toaster as a Valentine’s Day present. For the record, our new toaster, which arrived today, is neither a gift to Jeanine nor connected to Valentine’s Day in any way. Maya enjoyed first toasting honors and we split the perfectly browned English muffin. Bread is lowered and lifted automatically and toasted with digital precision as a countdown timer indicates time remaining.

Brandeis University

2012-02-20 154133 018.jpg Nicolai and I visited Brandeis University for the first in a series of college tours he will be taking this week. Pictured here is the iconic 4 story Usen Castle perched upon Boston Rock. Built in 1928, during the Depression Era, the castle was designed to create an aura of mystique. It was built from the outside in from artist sketches of Windsor Castle because blueprints of the original were denied the builder. As a result it has a wide variety of pie shaped rooms, unusual passageways and secret rooms. It provide housing for sophomores, a pottery studio, student lounge, and Chum’s Coffee House. Unfortunately we had a terrible campus tour guide who left us both with a very unfavorable impression of the school. Despite a great reputation for social justice (one of the strong draws for us) it is not likely to make Nicolai’s short list.

Backboard

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I suggested to Nicolai that we photograph his “wrestling season” body for posterity. He initially rejected the idea but then warmed to it after remembering body building photos of my father taken in his prime. The only catch is that he made me promise not to post them on the blog. The torso and head series came out beautifully and really highlight his ripped abs and massive arms. This one of his back was taken as something of an after thought and I did not take care to light it as well. Naturally, it is the only one which he has subsequently approved for posting.

Red Lentil

2012-02-18 174026 002.jpg Jeanine was in the mood to dine out this evening and suggested we go to the Red Lentil. It is a tiny vegetarian restaurant in Watertown. They prepare a cauliflower appetizer that is beyond delicious. It is amazing how many wonderful restaurants are within a 15 minute drive of our house. I already have food prepared by the best chef in Boston so do not feel as compelled as Jeanine to dine out but it does make for a nice change of pace and interruption free conversation.

Work Turkeys

2012-02-17 090019 002.jpg People employed at iRobot are among the smartest I have ever had the privilege to work with. The only turkeys I have ever encountered are this rafter of five that were systematically working their way across the parking lot this morning when I arrived. It would have taken little effort to capture one of these birds as they did not regard my motionless body as a threat. When a leaned over for a low angle perspective they decided to head in a different direction.

Season’s End

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This week’s Concord Journal just arrived with a nice story covering last weekend’s D2 State Wrestling Tournament in which Nicolai is pictured on the front page of the sports section. This will be the last such coverage this year as Nico has decided not to wrestle at All-States. Making weight has been a struggle all season and not something he wanted to extend for another 2 weeks. He is already back to his nominal weight of 125 pounds, a far stretch from his 106 pound weight class. Even more of a factor in his decision, however, was the fact that he was the only member of his team to qualify. As such he would have to train at distant Winchester High School every day with wrestlers from other teams. For Nicolai, wrestling has always been as much about camaraderie as it has been about the sport. We can only respect his decision and look forward to next season when we hope he will select a less ambitious weight class to compete at. He concludes this year’s season with a 19-1 record (13 by pin, 3 by tech fall, 3 by decision), outstanding wrestler honors and 1st place finish at sectionals, and third place at the D2 State Tournament.

On Guard

2012-02-17 073650 012.jpg Nala surveys our backyard to ensure it is free from squirrels, wild turkeys, skunks, geese, deer, woodchucks, foxes, other dogs and cats. Her level of barking and whining at the door is a function of the proximity of these would be intruders to the house. The approach of a masked man carrying a crowbar, however, would more likely lead to enthusiastic tail wagging. It is amazing to me how much love and adoration this otherwise talent-less creature enjoys. I receive no such attention when I lie around the house all day and pee in the backyard.

Toasters

2012-02-16 075958 019.jpg It took many years to learn but I finally figured out that giving a woman a toaster for Valentine’s Day, no matter how nice or how much we needed one, is just a bad idea. In point of fact, I have discovered it is never acceptable to give a woman a gift for any occasion which can be used in the performance of a chore or from which you will derive some benefit. Note to sons, please take to heart this hard won wisdom. Alright, I never actually gave Jeanine a toaster but some of my gifts have come close. This year my Valentine gave me a book entitled The 5 Love Languages (couples who understand each other’s love language hold a priceless advantage in the quest for love that lasts a lifetime). Note to daughter, men like toasters.

Kidding aside, I have started to read the book and as is generally the case I have a lot to learn.