Food & Taxes

2012-03-31 112658 008.jpg 2012-03-31 181052 022.jpg My day started and ended with great food. Maya offered to prepare french toast for me and added some theatrics to the preparation. The family enjoyed dinner together at Za’s in Arlington where we celebrated Jeanine’s birthday before Kyle’s return to Santa Clara tomorrow. The middle of the day was entirely distasteful, spent preparing our income tax filings. If I thought that our state and federal government was operating with even a modicum of efficiency it would depress me less to turn over 32 cents of every dollar I earned. The tax code itself is a perfect example of something that has been made so insanely complex that it leaves my head throbbing after trying to comprehend the special provisions of the alternative minimum tax. RANT ON: I would vote for any politician who could deliver a progressive tax system with zero loop holes. I’d offer to write the instructions myself (multiply your income and earnings by X% and pay this amount). Did you know that 23% of the taxes we pay is spent to comply with the federal tax code which contains over 10 million words. No kidding. My system requires just 11 words and would save $384 billion dollars a year by eliminating 90% of the IRS. RANT OFF

Key Milestone

2012-03-30 181953 040.jpg Today marked the end of a 31 day sprint during which my team and I completed the integration of iRobot’s former divisions into a unified engineering organization. As part of this effort we formed a Transition Advisory Group (TAG) to help develop recommendations for the structure of the merged teams. To celebrate their accomplishments, I invited the group of 11 to join our new program and engineering management team for a casual dinner at Maximillian’s, a nice pool hall and bar located in Tyngsboro. The venue was particularly well suited to encouraging dialog among team members who will be working together for the first time. I am expecting my insane work pace over the last month to begin tapering off having reached this critical milestone.

Low Light

2012-03-29 212552 019.jpg I have had little time to enjoy my new camera since it arrived last week. One of the most exciting new capabilities is the ability to shoot in very low light. It produces the same image quality in one quarter of the light as my previous camera. This image was made with an ISO setting of 12,800 and shows almost no signs of noise which can be expected when shooting at this “film” speed (amplifier gain). Viewed another way it increases the versatility of my entire collection of lenses which can now be used in low light settings which would have previously resulted in image blur due to slow shutter speeds.

Mother Daughter

2012-03-29 211743 012.jpg Jeanine and Maya snuggle on the couch while watching TV. The current demands of work have me arriving home very late each night long after the family has had dinner. The this period of intense effort, however, should come to an end by Friday when I am scheduled to make an all hands presentation to my newly merged engineering team. At that time I will roll out our new organizational design, new leadership team, new employee placements and new titles. I am looking forward to finishing this phase of the integration.

Repair Time

2012-03-28 080819 004.jpg I drive past this telephone poll of questionable integrity on the way to work everyday. It appears poised to snap at any moment and I am left to wonder, month after month, how much worse it will need to get before someone in the town of Bedford decides to address the issue. I am considering sending this photo to the local paper to help motivate preemptive repairs. It is simply a matter of time before the smaller pole snaps completely and comes down on a random motorist. I hold my breath every time I drive under it.

Turkey Love

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Love is in the air at this time of year. I spotted this pair of turkeys off in the distance and had to walk quite a distance from the road for this shot. They seemed more interested in each other than me so I was able to get fairly close. I wasn’t invisible, however, and when my last step caused them to start for the woods I had to settle for this retreating view.

Walk About

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It is overcast with intermittent rain today. Fortunately the temperature was not too bad at 8:30am for my final friendly match before official league play starts next weekend. We faced Acton Boxboro’s division 1 team (including some over 40s ringers) and played much better soccer than last week. We lost 1-2 but it was one of those matches that could have easily tipped the other way. Most importantly no one was injured which was actually the higher priority. I only had one shot on goal but it was well stuck from 25 yards out and only slightly too high. Jeanine completed her last day of volunteering at the church and the rest of us joined her for lunch at the Main street Cafe. I squeezed in 30 minutes of photography on a local walk about despite the unfavorable light. My best effort is shown above.

College Men

2012-03-24 175908 021.jpg My nephew John stopped by the house today to visit with Kyle and to help with the design of his new Yard Dogs website. We are fortunate that he is so close by and enjoy it immensely when he drops in.

I needed a break from the insane pace of my life over the last month and relaxed for a good potion of the day by organizing my photography gear. I also assisted Kyle as he searched for suitable photos to use for marketing purposes.

New Camera

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Several weeks ago I sold my 3 year old primary camera and flash days before their replacements were announced (timing is everything in the used market so my online research proved most beneficial). Nothing could have been more satisfying after another long work week than to receive my new camera today. I spent the better part of 2 hours learning the new features and programming user settings to my taste. Although the new model has dozens of improvements the most compelling are a highly improved auto focus system and significantly improved low light performance. The latter is the more valuable as it effectively makes all of my current lenses “faster” allowing me to shoot at four times the shutter speed under similar lighting conditions.

Spring Arrives

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In New England the first days of spring often feel more like winter. This has been the mildest winter since we moved here almost nine years ago and the trees and bushes are already beginning to flower. This photo does not do justice to the bright yellows which can be found on the road leading to our house. Spring always feels like the shortest season in Massachusetts and this year I am determined to more fully enjoy its beauty before it is overwhelmed by summer.

College Man

2012-03-21 183954 001.jpg Kyle is back from college for spring break. Unfortunately he had to complete a final project which is due this evening leaving little time to catch up. Jeanine prepared a special dinner and it felt really good to have the whole family gathered together. His ankle remains swollen from a nasty turn he suffered while playing basketball but he says it doesn’t hurt. He has more ailments than his old decrepit father at this point. With my soccer season set to begin shortly I may have to drag him out for a run or two to help with his rehab and my 5 pounds of stress induced weight gain.

Scanning Project

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My mother is the most organized person I know. I recently came across an envelope containing all of my scholastic report cards including one from the third grade! I have begun the process of scanning old family records and photos that my parents collected over a life time. I estimate the effort will take three years to complete if I set aside 15 minutes a day for the effort. Several years ago I completed a multi-year scanning project for all of my old photos and documents. The motivation for this daunting task is to preserve precious memories and share them with all family members rather than having them wind up in a box in someone’s attic. Children please note that dad was not a half bad student and that good grades do pay off.

Jumping Spider

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All I am going to say is that this was a very difficult photo to make. I don’t particularly care for spiders and the big white dot on this one’s back warns of its venomous bite. Jumping spiders have a total of 8 eyes and can jump many times their body length. They generally do not spin webs but rather stalk their prey, ambush them with a prolific leap, and use their fangs to inject them with their fast acting poison. If you can look past all the creepy stuff I think this one, probably a juvenile is rather cute.

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Glorious Day

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Spring is in the air and a more beautiful day you could not ask for. Arriving in the middle of March seems a bit early but who am I to complain. My league soccer season opens in two weeks. This morning we had a friendly match against Belmont’s division 1 team as a tune up. At the half we were down 0-2 and our team was looking just awful. During half time we made some strategic adjustments which proved highly effective. Five minutes into the second half I scored a really sweet goal. I received a nice pass into open space as I charged down the right side of the field. My first touch was the key to this goal which I used to improved my angle on the goalie. My second touch set up my right foot and forced the keeper to commit to the near post. I drilled it past him to find the side netting on the far post and to open my season with a strong finish. My team went on to score an additional four goals to their one resulting in a 5-3 win for Concord. Maya and Nico spent a large part of the afternoon indoors doing homework but I could not resist being outside where I made time for a little photography.

Sibling Rivalry

2012-03-17 182031 013.jpg 2012-03-17 174907 004.jpg This evening Jeanine and I joined three other couples for dinner in downtown Boston at Sibling Rivalry. This restaurant featuring modern American cuisine is run by two brothers from a family of ten. The menu offers competing selections designed by each sibling. The result of this competition is inspired culinary innovation. I cannot remember when I last enjoyed a meal so thoroughly.

Long Week

2012-03-16 195838 003.jpg Like the two before it, this has been a very long work week. On average I have been spending 12 hours a day in the office and another couple of hours at home on e-mail. I expect this level of intensity to last another few weeks and then return to more normal levels. With my recent promotion came the responsibility for integrating two largely dissimilar divisions into a single cohesive team. I like managing complex transitions and despite the long hours I am genuinely enjoying the opportunity to innovate at the organizational design level. My energy is buoyed by the strong support from my new leadership team and the positive feedback that I have received from all corners of the organization. Even as I left the office at 8pm there were several other cars in the parking lot which speaks volumes about the work ethic present at iRobot.