Wrapping up 2019

[Originally sent by email]

Happy new year! If you’re not following me on any of my social media it’s probably been a while since you’ve heard from me.

2019 has been a year of major change, as expected.

Day 1

In January, I packed up and shipped everything I wanted to keep, got in the car with Flash, and drove to Seattle. It was a rush move, with less than five weeks to pull it all together, much of that over the year-end holidays, and wrapping it up during LA’s wettest week in recent memory. To make it all work, a lot of things were let go and in retrospect, some other things were packed for no particular reason at all (except that they were still physically present when the movers arrived).

New location, new work:

I arrived on January 19th, checked in to my temporary apartment, and started work on the 21st.

By March I was settled in both to my new permanent apartment and to the new job with AWS. Coming up to speed on new technology and a new organization, especially after so many years of dealing exclusively with smaller businesses, was surprisingly easy. The technology came back quickly as if it was never really gone and the organization — despite anything you may have heard — hasn’t really been a problem. If anything, it’s helped move me in the right directions. It definitely helps that I’m at AWS not on the retail side of Amazon, as there are very different approaches and business realities. Where I am, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on experience, operational excellence and ability to bring old lessons to bear in new circumstances. I’m not yet willing to say it’s the best place I’ve worked, but it’s certainly one of the best

In April I took on my first big program, and pulled it off with lots of praise. Six months and one office move later, I’d drive us to even higher levels of performance.

From a work perspective, I leave 2019 satisfied and looking forward to new challenges. I’ll be taking over a new team in late January after a vacation, with opportunities for some really transformational programs, and possibly an opportunity to bring my machine learning experience to bear.


But enough about work.

My actual view. For now.

The move went reasonably well. After six weeks in temporary housing that AWS provided, I moved into a smallish place near the waterfront with a wonderful view. I’ve slowly replaced furnishings that I didn’t move, in part with some items that I made myself. After the upcoming Israel trip I’m planning on a woodworking class at one of the two local community woodshops, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but was unable to in L.A. In the meantime, my hand-made walnut coffee table is a favorite of Flash’s and I get to use it occasionally myself. I’m finding Seattle to be a very difficult place to meet people and hoping that some of these will address regular feelings of loneliness and isolation.

During those first six weeks, Seattle had an unusually long cold spell with snow and regular freezing temperatures. Fortunately I was not entirely dependent on the buses that were perpetually being re-routed away from routes with icy roads and could make it to work regularly, though I often found myself as the only person in the office because everybody else gave up and worked from home. After a year, I’m finally taking occasional advantage of that same privilege, though I’m still walking distance and actually prefer work in the office.

The new place (this is an actual view), is convenient to work and a nice walk even in the rain. I rarely drive anywhere and have seriously begun wondering why I’m spending as much as I am for parking a car that has gotten little use in a long time, even when I lived in L.A.. I’ll see how much I ski this year, what other activities come up that might demand the car, and whether I think I’ll stay in this location beyond the next year or so, and make a decision about that in time.

In April I finally made it back to Tel-Aviv after many years of absence. The one thing I had negotiated with Amazon was to be allowed to take the trip that I had planned for some time. In retrospect, it was far too little, far too short and since I didn’t really have any vacation time yet, I was working every day too! In two weeks, Jon and I will visit together and hopefully I’ll finally get to catch up with everybody and everything I wanted to do last time.

Also in April I got a close-out deal on a 2018 sport touring motorcycle and over the summer I used it to explore the region a bit more than I might have in a car. It’s similar to the bike I rode around New Zealand a couple of years ago and so far I’m quite pleased. After last summers exploration, I know where to go as soon as the weather gets a bit warmer again, and this year I’ll have a lot more vacation time to use for those adventures.

In August I took a couple of days off to go to Vancouver to attend a photo workshop. As a result I’ve seriously rethought how I was approaching my work, and while the results are still far from what I’d like to see I feel like a handful of pointers have pushed me in a slightly different direction, given me new tools to work with, and are making me far more satisfied with what I am producing. Results slowly to come at: http://www.instagram.com/michaelgat_bnw.

Alex Fraser Bridge, Vancouver
Long exposure

The year to come:

In a week I’m flying to Switzerland and meeting Jon for a few days of train travel and visiting friends. On the 17th, we’re flying to Tel-Aviv for a week of family and friends visits (assuming a major war doesn’t materialize).

When I return, I’ll be taking on some new responsibilities at work.

I’ll continue my photographic journey that was stuck for a very long time. With a bit of luck and good timing, I’ll be able to ski this year, even if only locally. I haven’t put on my ski boots since I sold my last timeshare in Utah three years ago and it feels like time. Starting in March, I’ll be making stuff from wood. I’ll travel a lot around Puget sound by motorcycle and this summer I’ll finally get my camping gear out again.

I wish you all the best in the coming year!

Self Portrait, Crescent Beach, BC
Long exposure