Saturday, November 17, 2012

Life Goes On

Hello? Is this thing on? Check 1, 2...

This update is long overdue. Life in the Pacific Northwest continues to fire on all cylinders, so I'll do my best to chronicle what's happened in the past month since the last post.

Work is as busy and fun as ever. I feel like a fully integrated member of the team, to the point where I'm able to answer questions and deal with anything that comes my way. I'm still always learning new things, and probably will for a long time. My colleagues have started to feel more like friends in some cases, and that's huge. My goal has always been to find a job that inspires and motivates me because of what I work on and who I work with - something along the lines of "do what you love, love what you do." I found that, have it, and feel incredibly fortunate because of it.

Last weekend we had some friends over for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, complete with turkey, corn-on-the-cob, sweet potatoes, and pie. It's a tradition I've been a part of since junior year of college, where there's lots of cooking and friends. I was happy to continue it this year, and see it as affirmation that this place is really home and that I'm forming great groups of friends.

My roommates and I have also started attending weekly bar trivia on Tuesdays. It's something I did occasionally in school, and we've all wanted to find a good place, but we were very particular in some of the details around it. For example, we wanted to play for cash prizes, but without too steep of an entrance fee. We also wanted it to be multiple rounds so that we'd have a chance to catch up should we ever fall behind. We finally found a place in Bellevue, and usually get dinner there as well. We actually ended up winning our 1st week there, which was election night. Our team of 6 payed $12 ($2/person), and won $68. The next week (this past one), we came in 3rd and won a $10 gift card to the bar. We're planning on pooling all of our winnings to pay four our entrance every week, and also eventually buy our dinner/drinks. I'm personally not very good at trivia, but I have contributed at least 1 answer (out of 60+) each week. Andrew is a genius when it comes to music and movies, and even most sports, so that really comes in handy.

Last night I went to a dueling piano bar in Queen Anne with a friend from school and her friends from work. I had been to one in New Orleans, but this was much different. The way it works is you "tip" the pianists to play songs you want to hear, but the more you tip, the sooner your song gets played. The "dueling" part comes in when they start playing a song you don't want to hear. You can then pay to stop that song and play one you want for at least $1 more than was originally paid. This can go back and forth for however long people want, and is actually quite entertaining. At one point, a Taylor Swift song was playing before getting stopped. People then pooled money together to get it playing again, only to have it snuffed out again. The room of 75+ people was fiercely divided in their allegiance in this battle and others. I'll definitely be going back.

Tomorrow I'm going to the Seattle Sounders soccer game against the LA Galaxy. I also went to one a couple weeks ago which was the quarterfinals against San Jose. MLS playoffs are different than most American sports - it's a 2-legged aggregate scoring system, meaning whoever has the most goals after 2 games moves to the next round. I saw the first game against San Jose, so there was no guarantee Seattle would advance. Luckily they did, and now I'll be at the last semifinal game. Seattle is really dedicated to their soccer team - they average over 40,000 attendance per game, and tomorrow's game is sold out. Surprisingly, tickets are relatively cheap, though I do get a discount through work since Microsoft is a big sponsor of the team.

Next week I'll be going to Colorado to see family for Thanksgiving. We're coming from all over the country and meeting there, so it'll be interesting to see how things work out. I'm used to having to bring homework and working on job/internship applications around this time, but now I get to just relax and enjoy some time off. Hopefully everyone reading this will too.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Honeymoon is Over

12 weeks have elapsed since I arrived in Seattle. In the grand scheme of things, 3 months probably doesn't seem like that much time. But in the context of my life so far, that usually marks a point at which something moderate happens: the end of a soccer season, an academic marking period/semester, a summer job/internship (or more generally, the summer), etc. So usually after this much time spent doing something, I've come to anticipate a certain amount of change. For the first time, though, that won't be the case.

I didn't expect something to change at this point. My plan has always been to stay here for maybe 3-5 years and then re-evaluate how things are going, how (if at all) my interests have changed, and what other opportunities might be available. I'm not opposed to doing this earlier, but I certainly need at least a year under my belt before I can adequately judge the state of things. So I'll stay the course for now, but will start to make some larger plans like traveling to Japan and possibly starting grad school (though I'm perfectly happy NOT being in school right now).

On Thursday I had yet another (and final) orientation at work. This one was specifically for the group I work for, that being Apex (Apple productivity experiences). Effectively, what we work on is Microsoft Office for Mac. This was a day-long event where I learned about this history of our group and how it's changed over time. I met executives and people that have been working on the team for 20+ years, as well as lots of other people that just joined the team. That includes people that work at the Mountain View and Beijing locations. Part of the reason I didn't have this until 3 months in was that they only do this twice a year since it does involve people traveling from other areas.

As I think I've said before, I find learning about this history incredibly fascinating - getting the inside scoop of a company that was a major influence on the history of the entire industry, and more specifically my team's role in that history. I hear about products that were done in the past, how we build them, what worked and what didn't, and how all of that influences how and what we do now. The team had celebrated their 15th year anniversary a couple years ago, and they showed us the video that people made to celebrate it. Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates made appearances, so it was really cool to hear them talk about the immediate group that I now work for.

The first thing we did was get to know some of the people there. I had already met about 8 out of the 30 people at the event, but there were still plenty of others to meet. There were people from Redmond I still didn't know, but also plenty of others. One person I met particularly stuck out in my mind. He just started in Redmond earlier that week and had just got back from an international backpacking vacation with his wife and kids. He's from Philadelphia, and consequently a Flyers fan, so we were commiserating on the likely lack of a season this year. He's deaf, and so he had sign language interpreters (yes, plural) there to help him out. I realized that I think this was the first time I'd ever interacted directly with someone that couldn't hear or speak, and I found myself curious about a lot of things. Should I look at him or the interpreters when talking? We discussed some confidential stuff at the meeting, so are his interpreters under the same NDA as everyone else? How much can actually get translated into sign language? The interaction seemed very normal, but it stuck with me for the days after, so I've decided to take a sign language class. The local colleges offer classes, and I think it'll be interesting to learn about everything associated with it.

Other recent activities include restaurant week, meeting people at a friend's housewarming party, karaoke, and more soccer. We met some different people at the park and got a good game going. I've also seen people at another park playing cool games like bicycle polo and foosball. Foosball involves playing soccer on a tennis court, but the players are attached to ropes stretching across the court so you can only move laterally. I'll have to take pictures at some point because it really is awesome to watch.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where Did The Sun Go?

The moment I have been warned about for months has finally come: it has been overcast and rainy for the last 3 days in Seattle. Anywhere else, that may just sound like a lousy weekend. Here, however, it indicates that summer is finally over, and with that the fantastic weather I've been enjoying.

Thursday was the last day it was mostly clear and sunny, which was good since there was a big celebration at work. For a few hours at the end of the day, there was free food and drinks, and an awesome cover band playing. They even set off some fireworks - it was a great last day in the sun.

Friday started out a little cold, wet, and windy. Nothing unbearable, and certainly not as cold as it gets on the East coast, but enough that I wore a rain jacket (one I get specifically for the weather out here). Saturday was more of the same, but my roommates and I still went to the park to play some soccer. We were hoping to meet up with the people we played with last week, but they never showed up so we just stayed for a couple hours. There were some younger kids there playing with their parents watching, and they wanted to join us when they saw us taking penalty kicks. We let them take turns shooting on goal, mostly letting them score. Their parents were very appreciative, and it was actually fun for us too. I was surprised their parents were okay with it at first; I half expected their parents to shoo them away from us for fear that they were either bothering us or that we wouldn't "play nice".

The rain held off enough that we still got to go out on Friday and Saturday night. During the day it was enough to have us stay in, at least on Sunday, which was fine since there was plenty of football to watch. The Patriots were in Seattle this weekend, and the Seahawks got a narrow victory. We could hear the fireworks go off whenever Seattle scored, and Andrew (being from Massachusetts) was upset about the loss.

We also met some friends at a restaurant on Sunday night for dinner. This week is Restaurant Week in Seattle where you can get a 3-course meal for $28 at a LOT of restaurants. We went to a place called Aqua in Belltown, and it was awesome. It's right on the edge of the pier, so there's a great view of the water and the port. The food was also fantastic. I don't tend to order seafood a lot, but it's really great out here so I'm starting to get a great taste for it.

Bad weather aside, some things look pretty cool. The view from out apartment has a great view of the area with lots of trees which have started to turn all sorts of colors. At some point I'll take a picture, which I wish I had done with a lot of the stuff this week. Nothing much else to write about, other than I should be getting ready for work tomorrow. They added a new shuttle stop that is only a couple blocks from our apartment, so my commute is even shorter now. All I've done as a result is stay up later since now I can sleep in a little longer.