February Word Cloud

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Just for the fun of it I created a word cloud for my February blog entries. I guess it is apparent who has been on my mind.

A word cloud is a visual histogram of word use. The larger the word, the more often it was used.

Aftermath

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It generally takes a day or two before I can fully assess the extent of a soccer injury. Experience tells me that my most recent misstep will probably take a week or two to heal. At the time it happened I thought I was going to lose the season for sure. Frequent visitors to this blog are accustomed to photos of black and blue ankles and various other injured body parts. My apologies to first time visitors.

New Team Member

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This week my leadership team at iRobot evolved with the arrival of our new Director of Software Engineering (far right). Naturally, a new team photo was required, both to update our internal company website and to memorialize the transition. I have used the same framing and composition for several years now and it is fun to look back on earlier versions of the team. In the past I have shot with the blinds drawn to simplify the lighting challenge. This time I took a few extra moments to setup and was able to hold exposure on the outdoor scene without compromising the interior illumination.

During indoor soccer match play this evening I managed to injure my right ankle. I caught a nub of my turf shoe on the field and then landed awkwardly on my heel. The searing pain in my foot signaled the end of my game and probably several more. Worst of all, I was on pace to having my best indoor game ever with 5 unassisted goals in the first half.

Blue Day

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Nala seemed agitated this morning as I called her to come inside after her morning outing. I went outside to investigate and she presented me with this blue jay, holding it gently in her mouth. I suspect the bird had died on impact with one of our windows and Nala instinctively thought to retrieve it. It was a sad way to start the day and sober reminder to live life fully everyday.

Farewell Nancy

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After work this evening I joined many colleagues at the Season 52 restaurant to bid a fond farewell to a long time and highly revered employee of the company. Joining iRobot in her early twenties as an administrative assistant, Nancy eventually worked her way up to the Vice President of Marketing Communications. She was honored by our CEO, CFO and the GM of our Home Business at the swank send off.

Musical Interlude

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With Maya on the guitar, Nicolai on the piano, and his girl friend Karuna also on the guitar, the trio could be heard singing in three part harmony this evening. Our formal living room is immediately adjacent to my study and where our grand piano is located. My proximity, while working at the computer, to our defacto music room affords me a front row seat to the music emanating from within. Few things bring me more joy than listening to the kids harmonizing.

Niece Rachel

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My sister Alissa and her daughter Rachel arrived on Thursday and have been staying with us while visiting colleges in the Boston area. After returning from an extended family lunch I decided to instigate a snowball fight with the girls. First, I coaxed them outside to lend scale to a photograph of the enormous snow pile that sits upon our deck. Then I showed them how much fun it was to launch mortars at Nala (high lofted snow bombs). Finally, I accused them of throwing like “girls” when their attempts at aerial bombardment proved largely unsuccessful. That was all it took to provoke all out warfare. In retrospect, I should have thought longer about the merits of a two against one show down with a pair of athletic teenagers. The girls immediately split up and attacked me with cross fire. One would attack while the other reloaded. Maya would launch a mortar immediately followed by a direct shot making it difficult to dodge both. When the snow stopped flying I was physically exhausted and thoroughly defeated. Our battle had taken us all around the yard and, to Jeanine’s great consternation, through the house, where I had sought, unsuccessfully, to gain refuge.

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Powerade Campaign

This evening Nicolai’s phone lit up with messages from friends across the country who reported they had seen him in a television commercial for Powerade. The family has been under a non-disclosure agreement for several months and I have not been able to talk about the details of this project until now. The clip included here is not one we had seen before and is part of a broader TV and internet based marketing campaign that is centered on the World Cup. To be on the safe side, I will not reveal anything else except to say that we have seen additional spots which feature Nicolai exclusively and he’ll be doing more than pull ups. Rest assured they will be posted here and archived on the VIDEO page of this blog as soon as they air.

Girl Bites Robot

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iRobot employees are highly encouraged to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related events in the community. Today I spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon in Franklin Park representing the company at the ParkSCIENCE Children’s Festival. The free event, timed to coincide with the winter school break, was very well attended and participants were exposed to all manner of science related exhibits and activities. It was a great opportunity to inspire a future generation of roboticists while supporting our community. By the end of the day I had honed my PackBot driving skills, entertained about a hundred kids, met the new mayor of Boston, and collaborated with the CEO of the New England Zoo on a novel robot idea.

When I returned to the office, the day only got better. I learned that Google had just announce a new project called Tango, a uniquely enabled phone capable of generating 3D maps of its environment. Two weeks ago, during an offsite technology summit, I had predicted that EXACTLY such a capability would soon emerge on a cell phone platform. There was some doubt in the room as to how long it would take and how practical it would be. Watching the Google video of the new device in action provided proof positive validation and will influence our future technology development plans.

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Welcome Dinner

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Joining the Engineering leadership team at iRobot next Monday is our new Director of Software Engineering (left most in photo). My staff and I welcomed her with an elegant dinner in the casual surroundings of the Nashoba Valley Winery Restaurant. It is apparent to me that she is going to be a great addition to an already impressive team of colleagues. I left the group to compare notes on working for me as I raced to my indoor soccer game in Acton. Despite an all too brief warm up, I managed a hat trick that contributed to an 8-5 win.

Warm Glow

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I generally look forward to new snow which offers an oasis of photographic opportunities during the otherwise bleak winter months. With today’s accumulation of another half foot, however, I may have reached my limit. I was unusually busy at work today and did not leave the office until 7:30pm. This worked to my advantage as the rush hour was over and plows had largely done their work. On the other hand, I was thoroughly exhausted and dreading the prospects of clearing the driveway when I arrived at home. As the house came into view I was thrilled to see that Jeanine had already finished most of the work. I must remember to surprise her with an equally nice gift. Having missed an opportunity for a photo earlier in the day, I decided to make this still life.

Open Table

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Open Table offers weekly community supper programs and food pantries in Concord and Maynard to more than 300 guests. Their mission is to provide healthy food, friendship and support to those in need while respecting their privacy and dignity. Jeanine has been the President of the organization for some six months now and requested some updated photos for their marketing materials. I don’t know if this was my favorite photo or my favorite food but either way it is my photo for the day.

Finishing Touches

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With only days remaining before the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robot competition construction deadline, members of the CCHS robotics club look on while their adviser attempts to troubleshoot a problem with the design. As a rookie in the club, Maya has been assigned to the relatively mundane task of bumper construction. The bumper must conform to strict size and shape constraints (see vertical cross section below) and the fabric covering must be easily changed from red to blue (for team designation) and must carry the team number (3205). Maya put in several hours this afternoon before Jeanine and I arrived to deliver dinner for the club. To Jeanine’s consternation hot macaroni and cheese went cold and a crisp chicken salad went limp before members could pause for refueling. There is a reason why we are called nerds.

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Sound Studio

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A fan of music from a young age, Nicolai continues to develop his skills. Recently he has fashioned a rather sophisticated sound studio in his bedroom. Able to compose, mix and edit, he spends hours at a time creating new sounds and music. In addition to the creative outlet, he is learning many skills that will serve him well throughout the rest of his life.

Stones & Roses

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A huge fan of public radio, each year I elect to send Valentine roses to my bride via our local NPR station (WBUR) which also provides them a measure of financial support. When I returned from work the flowers were beautifully displayed on our kitchen table next to a special dinner that Jeanine had prepared for me. Regrettably, neither eating nor romance were on my mind today as I suffered through the pain of a passing kidney stone. Determined to keep my life long record of perfect work attendance intact, I managed to maintain a calm business demeanor even though I was in considerable agony. Fortunately the pain began to subside late in the evening and I am hopeful that it will continue to diminish.

Snow Bound

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By the time I was ready to leave work today my car was among the last in the parking lot. A severe winter storm deposited about 8 inches of very wet snow here today. Strong winds left some areas bare and others in high drifts. The plows which patrol our lot left a high berm around my car. Fortunately I carry an emergency shovel with me during the winter months and made quick work of clearing a path. When I reached home, I was faced with the chore of clearing closer to a foot of very heavy snow which took nearly two hours.