You are viewing mbrubeck

Tue, Dec. 31st, 2013, 08:14 pm
2013 year in review

It was a busy year. Nora finished kindergarten and started first grade. She's become an avid reader, finishing over 200 books (mostly chapter books she read herself!) during the library's summer reading program, and winning our branch's drawing to go to the "Breakfast of Champions" in the Space Needle along with the winners and librarians from all the Seattle Public Library branches.

During summer vacation we also took a family trip to Europe, and got to meet our new Norwegian cousins and learn new languages.

I started my fourth year at Mozilla and second year on the "Window 8 Style" Firefox project. I've taken steps toward managing/leading an engineering team, like handling the weekly one-on-one meetings for several of my minions teammates, and taking a larger role in product decisions.

Mozilla has declared a long company-wide end-of-year break this month, so I've had a relaxing Christmas at home, mostly reading books and visiting family. Happy New Year, everyone.

Mon, Sep. 2nd, 2013, 12:20 pm
Oh, The Things I Have Seen!

a poem by Roy Batty

Oh, the things I have seen! Oh, the stuff I perceive!
I've seen things that you people wouldn't believe.
Some tall and some small, and some medium-size.
Oh, if only you saw what I've seen with your eyes!

I saw attack ships burning, off the shoulder of Orion.
(If you see Orion ships for sale, think twice before you buy 'em.)

Near Tannhauser's gate one night I waited in the dark
and when I squinted carefully I thought I saw a spark.
What made the spark, you ask? A designated spark-emitter?
I think I know what made it: I was watching c-beams glitter!

The off-world colonies are where they say new lives await you:
A chance to have adventures and begin with a clean slate too.
More life? "Yes, please!" said I, though I suspected all along:
The light that's twice as bright can only burn for half as long.

Those moments will be lost in time, like teardrops in the rain.
It's time to say goodbye; I won't be seeing you again!

Wed, May. 1st, 2013, 05:40 pm
Learning Norwegian

I'm still studying French every day, but since you can't study French all the time, I needed another hobby. So now I'm learning Norwegian.

We're going to Norway this summer to visit some of my relatives, and I thought it would be fun and useful to learn some of the language first (even though Norway has a very high level of English proficiency). Since Assimil's French book + audio set worked so well for me, I looked for a similar course for Norwegian. Assimil doesn't have any English-to-Norwegian books, and the comparable ones I found from other publishers were extremely expensive, so I ended up buying Assimil's Le Norvégien… because why not study both languages at once? Anyway, I'm now having fun learning a new language that's quite different from French, though I'm still stuggling with the pronunciation.

After Norway we will continue on to Paris. Unlike our last trip to Europe, this time we are bringing Nora along. She started kindergarten this year and is working very hard at learning to read; we hope that'll help occupy her on the trans-Atlantic flights!

Sun, Jan. 27th, 2013, 12:24 am
Learning French

I haven't really posted in a while, so I'm going to try to write some catch-up posts about stuff that happened over the past year. First up: if you have talked to me at all recently, I've probably mentioned my new-found obsession with the French language.

It started when Sarah and I planned a trip to Paris last spring to celebrate our tenth anniversary, leaving the kid with grandparents for the week. The trip itself was great; along with the museums and dining and shopping, we also managed to stop by Mozilla's Paris office, and spend an evening with my old teammate Vivien and his lovely girlfriend Clarista.

I had started studying French a few months earlier in preparation, using Assimil and other resources. By the time of the trip I could read comfortably and could speak well enough to communicate, though my aural comprehension was weak. But I had so much fun learning that I've kept at it ever since: reading books and newspapers to build my vocabulary, using Anki to retain it, listening to Coffee Break French and Le journal en français facile to improve my listening skills, and occasionally chatting on Verbling to practice conversation. I'm pretty happy with my progress over the last year; I have a long way to go still but I'm getting closer to reading at an adult level and I am almost comfortable having simple conversations. :)

I've also been hanging out in the MozFR IRC channel and sometimes helping out with French-to-English translations. Recently Clarista honored both Sarah and me with posts on the Bonjour Mozilla blog that she runs.

Like the baritone ukulele that I picked up the previous year [oops, it looks like I never wrote about that either... I've been delinquent longer than I thought!], I like French because it's challenging and rewarding, and also completely unrelated to any of the stuff I usually do. Unlike the ukulele which I mostly just like to strum for my own amusement, I actually want to get good enough at French to put it to real use, so I'm spending quite a bit more time on it.

Sun, May. 20th, 2012, 10:20 pm
Lemonade

For the past six months or so, Nora has been wanting to make money selling lemonade. I managed to convince her that not many people would buy lemonade in December in Seattle. But I told her that in the summer she could probably sell quite a lot if she set up a stand at my parents' house on a heavily trafficked street near the beach.

Last weekend was hot and sunny and my parents were holding a yard sale as part of West Seattle Community Garage Sale Day. Perfect! The day before the sale, Nora made signs, bought lemons and carried them home from the produce stand, juiced all of them, and helped me boil sugar and water. Sarah baked some cookies for her to sell too. We set out the next morning with our lemon juice, sugar syrup, ice, cooler, cups, signs, cookies, and red wagon. (She insisted on the wagon because she'd seen some neighborhood kids selling lemonade out of a wagon last summer.)

Photo of Nora's lemonade stand

There were plenty of people out in the neighborhood, and Nora greeted everyone who passed by with an eager "Want to buy some lemonade and cookies?" She kept at it for several hours, stopping only when we were out of several supplies and I told her we needed to get home. Her share of the profit was about $15 (net of lemons and after sharing the cookie revenue with Sarah, the baker) which represents several months' allowance for her. Not bad for a five-year-old, I think!

Mon, Jan. 2nd, 2012, 01:25 am
Pre School

As we start to think about school choice, I find it helpful to remind myself that (a) decisions we make now can still be changed later, and (b) real learning is not confined to or limited by the classroom.

Sun, Nov. 6th, 2011, 10:42 pm
Some people say the sky is just the sky

Eleanor enjoys seeing the moon (a rare treat for a girl in cloudy Seattle, with an early bedtime to boot), so when I glimpsed a third-quarter moon through the skylight last night, I pointed it out to her, then pointed our telescope through the skylight for a better view. I had trouble explaining what craters were, so I grabbed a nearby tablet (since I started doing mobile development, they are lying around everywhere) and showed her some pictures from the lunar surface. She was disappointed the mountains weren't like the ones in Wallace and Gromit.

Next she wanted to see stars, so we went out on the back deck with a warm blanket. The moon and the city lights and the house blocked out a lot, but we did see a number of stars, plus Jupiter rising in the east. (Seeing Jupiter's Galilean moons through the scope was especially interesting to me because I'm in the middle of Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson, which is set partly during the life of Galileo Galilei and partly on the moons themselves.) We stayed up past Eleanor's bed time, and I tried to answer her questions about planets and moons and stars and scientists. We used Google Sky Map to identify some of the things we'd seen outside.

Being around a five-year-old makes me remember how intense feelings and experiences were at that age. It's a lot of pressure for a parent, because every offer you make, or wish that you fulfill or deny, can lead to either thrills of pleasure or depths of disappointment. I don't have the energy to keep up with even half of what Eleanor wants to do, so I just work at finding enough I can manage. Yesterday she got to spend several hours playing with her best friend from last year's preschool class, which was perfect, Those two girls could keep up with each other so much better than I could hope to. Socializing is also hard work for Eleanor, though, and today she didn't seem to mind having a boring day at home.

Sun, Nov. 6th, 2011, 09:32 pm
Rewrite

At work we're in the process of rewriting Firefox for Android to replace most of our JavaScript/XUL front-end code with new code using Android's Java frameworks. This is looking like a very good move technically, but on a personal level it sort of cast me adrift. I've been working on the XUL front-end code for almost two years, and suddenly everything I've done or was about to do is living in a codebase that's soon to be abandoned.

Most of the team has jumped straight into the new front-end code, but I've had trouble doing that, partly because I had some loose ends to wrap up in the old code so we can ship the next few updates, and also because I was tired out from our last big project and didn't have the energy to jump right into another one. So I spent a couple weeks doing simple janitorial work like bug-fixing and sheriffing. This gave me some extra mental energy for my free-time projects like the AI class, and learning enough LLVM to contribute some patches to the Rust programming language.

I'm glad that I've learned to recognize swings in my productivity cycle. Instead of denial and procrastination during the low-motivation periods, now I try to accept them and use them to regroup. I think my anti-burnout strategy worked this time, since I now have some ideas of new projects I'm excited to try in the new codebase. If I'm lucky, that means I'm back on the upward swing of a new cycle.

Mon, Jun. 27th, 2011, 08:56 pm
Meet the authors

A few months ago we stayed at a small bed-and-breakfast while visiting family in Portland, Oregon. Two of our fellow guests were a couple with their own self-published comic book imprint. I had fun talking to them about their work, especially since I've been enjoying DMZ which is very similar to their latest title American Terrorist. (As a bonus, our kids are the same ages and managed to entertain each other nicely for part of our trip.) If you want to check out their work, you get the first issue for free as a PDF or from WOWIO or Comixology. The other issues are $1 each.

In other "self-published books by people I'm vaguely acquainted with" news, David D. Friedman (known to many of you as "patrissimo's dad") has published his second fantasy novel for the Kindle, and his medieval cookbook through Amazon's print-on-demand service. I've read and enjoyed both of his novels and several of his economics books; I haven't looked at the cookbook yet. (He also wrote a bit about the writing process and about self-publishing, if you want the behind-the-scenes view.)

Wed, Jul. 21st, 2010, 05:42 pm
Home office away from home

I've done working from home; I've done coworking; I've done the Mozilla Summit and soon I'll have my first work week. But this week I'm trying something different.

We're visiting my wife's parents in Port Townsend, WA for several days. Instead of taking vacation time, I'm working from their house this week. Since I already work remotely, my team will barely notice the difference. Meanwhile it will be a nice long visit for Sarah and her family, and I get to spend time with them in the mornings/evenings/mealtimes/weekend.

This has got me thinking about other new possibilities for nomadic working. It also seems relevant to this article on vacations and happiness research which says, "The most effective way to inoculate a vacationer against the deadening power of adaptation, however, may be the most counterintuitive — to break it up, to interrupt it with real life."

10 most recent