Category Archives: Life

Goodbye IMDb, hello…

kilbo-logo…independent consulting practice & stealth startup!

I’m incredibly excited to announce that I am now a freelance consultant specializing in customer & user experience analysis, and information & content architecture for mobile applications and the web.

For the past eleven years, I’ve had the privilege of working at two of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies in the world, Amazon (IMDb) and Microsoft. Combined, the products I’ve worked on have over 100MM downloads for Android and iOS, and over 300MM website visitors a month. It’s been exhilarating and humbling to work on properties at that scale with some wicked smart people.

But for a few years now I’ve been wanting to get back to working for myself and have the flexibility to be around more for my kids. After a year working with my IMDb colleagues to set a new information architecture, apply a new Material design, and get the wheels turning on development, (launching soon-ish!) it’s now time to strike out on my own.

So, if you know anyone that needs help tuning up or launching an app or website, I’d really appreciate a referral! The best way to contact me is through my LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kilbo.

And, because I also miss my startup roots, I’m also incubating a new company. Over the winter I’ll be working on the business plan and expect to be ready to scale and launch the new idea in the first quarter of 2017.

Stay tuned!

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Farewell, Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy was the assistant manager at The Fish Store when I worked there during college and also my boss and landlord/roommate for a while. I just found out this morning from a friend that he died a few days ago. I referred to Peter when I wrote about Frank Lull’s death in 2012. It was Peter’s bad back that Frank helped out with the mattress.

Peter was a thin man, some might say drawn, tallish, with brown hair he always wore long to his shoulders and combed straight back, and riding above his hawk-like nose were his large, round glasses. More often than not, a lit bent pipe stuck out from between his beard and he would be wreathed in a lazy cloud of puffed tobacco smoke. I think he was in his mid-to-late 30’s when I met him.

Mischievous at times, you could mistake him for Santa’s younger, skinnier, darker cousin by the twinkle in his eye. Peter loved to tease, and his personal narrative of emigrating westward from the East Coast prep world of his father’s urological sphere where he had trained and worked as a chef, and landing in Montana as a cattle driver before coming out to Seattle was hard to verify. He did wear cowboy boots everyday, and a duster and leather rimmed hat in foul weather, and walk like he had just gotten off a horse, and he was a very good cook, but who knows?

I spent many long hours alone with Peter in the store, scrubbing algae, changing water, pulling dead fish from tanks, facing shelves, and all the other shopkeeping tasks that must be done when commerce slows, and we talked. Frugal with words, our conversations were often brief, staccato exchanges that punctuated long silences. He didn’t talk too much about himself. He seemed content to leave his past behind him and listen bemusedly to the trials and tribulations of the mostly college-age staff.

When my roommate, Dave, and I sought a cheap place to live because the place we were at sucked, he offered us two rooms in the house he was renting in Ballard. His only condition was that we remove the semi-feral cats his previous roommates had left behind. We jumped at the chance. The rent was cheap and Ballard back then was a more funky neighborhood, with a gun shop and four-star restaurant in the adjacent block right across the street from each other, not the condo-strewn hot spot for youthful tech people with money it is today.

It turned out there were five cats in various levels of domesticity that had taken up residence in Peter’s basement. There was a window missing a pane that Dave quickly blocked up and we scooped two right up and put them into milk crates for safekeeping. Two more took sincere effort to catch, mostly requiring us to run around the house shutting doors behind us to section off and corner them.

The last cat was probably wild. When we went looking for it, we couldn’t find it, but we knew we had seen it. A careful examination of the basement discovered it wedged deep between the joists in a hole in ceiling. Dave and I both donned leather gloves, and while Dave used some sort of stick or rod to prod it out, I was to catch it on the way out.

In theory, this was a solid plan. In practice, when a wild, angry cat, hissing and bearing teeth and claws is barreling towards your face your resolve wavers, and decide discretion is the better part of valor and you half-heartedly attempt to grab it to protect a shred of your dignity. It quickly vanished upstairs, and we ran upstairs after it, shutting the door behind us. Prepared, we had the rest of the doors shut and we figured it a simple matter to corner it.

We went looking, but couldn’t find it. It had vanished. We checked all the doors. They were secure. The windows were shut. We triple-checked underneath the couches and chairs. It was gone.

Had we missed it? Had it somehow feinted running upstairs? Impossible. We took to overturning the furniture, looking for tears in the upholstery it could have wormed into. And lo and behold, in the very last chair we overturned, a recliner, we discovered it wedged up underneath the seat, claws splayed and hooked into the fabric and unable to free itself. Hissing and spitting, Dave went for the cat, it deeply scratched him, and then leapt upstairs to the landing where we pursued and secured it.

It is only in retrospect that this folly was an omen of future events.

Peter was an alcoholic. We often rode home together after closing up work, and every night without fail, he would stop and pick up a six-pack of Rainier Ale, which Peter would call Green Death, for the green bottles it came in. Upon arriving home, Peter would disappear into his room for a few minutes and then emerge, bottle in hand, and for the rest of the night he would nurse it.

He had a dog named Coo he would call Coo Dog, an ill-trained setter-like animal that he loved. Coo would put his paws up on the counter when we would cook, and Peter would only gently scold him. Once, Dave made a sandwich and sat down with it to watch a television show and then remembered he forgot his drink and went back to the kitchen for it. By the time he had returned, Coo Dog had eaten his sandwich and Peter was sitting there laughing at Dave’s misfortune. Words were exchanged, with Peter taking umbrage that his dog did something wrong. It was clearly Dave’s fault for leaving his sandwich out for Coo to eat.

When Peter drank, he could get angry. He also blacked out. There was one night where Dave and I both came home late from our respective jobs on Peter’s day off to find him shuttered in his room as he often was unless his favorite show, McGyver, was on. It was late, and we went to bed.

In the morning, we awoke to a faint burning smell and Peter swearing in the kitchen. He had made a burrito the night before and placed it in the oven to warm, but he had passed out and it had cooked all night. Coming downstairs to investigate the commotion, the slightly charred burrito sat on the stove and Peter immediately lit into Dave for leaving the stove on all night and chancing a risk of fire.

Not being a morning person, Dave did not take this well and pushed back, having me to verify his alibi and pointed the finger back at Peter. Peter became even angrier until Dave pointed out that even if it had been him, there was no way he could ever make a burrito as good-looking as the toasted one on the plate, (and it was perfectly shaped and folded, well beyond Dave’s skill.)

Dave proceeded to suggest that perhaps someone had broken into the house after Peter had gone to bed, decided to make a burrito and pop it into the oven before starting to steal things, and then done the dishes before being scared away by some noise, locking door behind them.

Peter fumed at this suggestion, and knowing he was in the wrong, stalked out of the room. The burrito sat untouched on the stove for a day and a half before disappearing.

The Burrito Incident was shortly followed by the Recycling Incident, where Dave and I discovered and recycled the huge trove of empty Green Death bottles in Peter’s room, solving the mystery of why we never saw more than a single bottle a night in the recycling bin, which led to much shouting. Then there was the Rent Incident where we discovered he was skimming our rent, the Stereo Incidents, where Steve Vai and country twang battled mightily, and then finally, there was The Incident.

I was not home for The Incident.

My girlfriend and I were out to dinner and returned to the house to find Peter sitting uncharacteristically quiet on the couch watching TV. He didn’t even turn his head to acknowledge us as we entered, just monotonically intoning that there was a note on the dining room table for me. It was from Dave’s girlfriend, and I read it with increasing shock and frustration as I realized what it meant.

I walked around to talk to him about it, and he didn’t move his head a fraction of a millimeter to acknowledge me when I came into his field of view but just quietly said, “I want you two out by the end of the week.”

There wasn’t anything to say, so I left him and his black eye and went upstairs to grab a bag of clothes to spend the night elsewhere.

Dave and Peter had gotten into an argument about something that escalated to a fist fight so severe, Dave’s girlfriend called the cops to pull them apart. The cops arrived, discovered a really drunk Peter and an angry Dave and let Dave grab some stuff before decamping.

Work the next day for me was uncomfortable to say the least, and since there were other things about The Fish Store that I had become increasingly uncomfortable with, I tendered my resignation to Frank within a week. I regret I never told Frank about Peter, because Peter’s behavior at work had also become erratic, and Frank fired him just a few months later for performance issues.

The last time I saw Peter was at Frank’s memorial. He had not aged well. He walked with a cane and tongue cancer had robbed him of that organ and speech. He carried a small, hand-sized notepad, which he scribbled words on to communicate.

We are not our demons and in the forced silence, I apologized to him for the things that had happened in years prior, and we made our peace. I knew I’d never see him again.

He and I did have some good times together as friends, and I will remember the twinkling smile when we was deep in a personal joke.

And the Burrito Incident. I’ll never forget that.

He laughed about it, too.

Tannenbaum Tears

Don't kill it don't kill it
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself

I don't want it to die I don't want it to die
Tears in the rain

   I want this tree I want this tree
   I want this tree I want this tree

I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Don't kill it don't kill it
Tears in the rain
      Let's get a live tree
   I want this tree I want this tree
      Let's get a live tree

   Dig this one up dig this one up
      No no they don't here
      We cut them down
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Don't kill the tree
I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
   Dig it up dig it up
      No no not here

      Let's go let's go
      Out of the rain
      Back to the car
      Let's talk Let's talk
I'll kill myself
      Let's go

   No tree? Cut it down! Cut it down!
I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
      Let's go let's go
      To the car to the car
      In the car in the car
      Let's talk let's talk

      Let's get a live tree
   Dig it up! Dig it up!
      Not here not here
      Let's go let's go

   I want that tree I want that tree
      Let's go let's go
      C'mon c'mon
      Out of the rain
   I want that tree
   I hate him I hate him
   Ruins everything

   I wanted that tree
I'll kill myself
      Live tree live tree
Don't kill the tree
      Let's go let's go
    I hate him I hate him

Goodbye Microsoft, hello…

…IMDb*!

I am very pleased to announce that I was extended and have accepted an offer to work at IMDb (Internet Movie Database) as a Senior Product Manager. I’ll be doing product manager-y stuff like helping to align the mobile and website user experiences and information architecture for the quarter of a billion people who visit every month.

It is very much a dream job for me and I am both humbled and elated that I’ll be able to practice my craft on an Internet property with such a tremendous history and reach. Feel free to start sending me your suggestions now. 🙂

To all my Microsoft colleagues: Thank you for the last nine years! I’m going to miss your passion and your brains. We did some great work together and I look forward to seeing what you do next.

(* A wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc.)

On depression

Dpression is the Hawking radiation from around the black hole of nihilism created by sadness that exceeded the Chandrasekhar limit.

When

When your eight year-old
Tells you
What he wants
To be buried
Because he’s so angry
At you
Because you
Took something
Away from him
When he was six
And he wants
To kill himself
Because of it
And he wants
To get a knife
And stab his heart
What do you say?

When he says
He’s been sad
Every day
Sad
Because that thing
Is gone
Sad on roller coasters
Sad at the zoo
Sad laughing
Sad smiling
Sad
What do you say?

When he says
He hated
The replacement
He later got
At Christmas
And didn’t tell you
He hated it
Because he didn’t
Want to hurt
Your feelings
What do you say?

When he cries
The cry of loss
Unrecoverable loss
Bone rattling loss
And the tears
Will not stop
And the cries
Of anguish
Echo in the void
And you know
You know
Where he’s at
Because you
You’ve been there too
And he’s only eight
Only eight
And you see
Before your eyes
This piece
Of your child
Tear away
And you can’t
Can’t
Stop it
And you know
He’s there alone
When you’re right there
What do you say?

When he says
He hates you
And hates his life
And wants to die
And wants you to die
And his life is shit
And you’re a son of a bitch
And a fucker
And an asshole
And he wants to die
Please let me die daddy
I hate my life
Please let me die
You fucker
What do you say?

When he wants
That thing
And you’re the hate
Because it’s gone
Because you took it
You fucker
What do you say?

When you know
It’s his brain
And he’s tired
And the new meds
Might be talking
He doesn’t mean it
It’s not him
What do you say?

When he runs
For the knives
And knees you
In the head
Hard
Hard, to make you cry
And he wants to die
Wants to die
And his brother
Cries
Terrified
What do you say?

When you think
You did the right thing
The best you could
All you could
Right then
Right now
And one day
He may understand
But not tonight
Not now
You fucker
You asshole
You son of a bitch
You mothefucker
You shit
You bastard
Fuck you
Leave me alone
I want to die
Let me die
Go the fuck away
Go the fuck away
Let me die
Let me die
What do you say?

When he finally drops
Exhausted
Mumbling
Still obsessed
And asking
Asking asking
Asking for it back
And you shush him
And you kiss him
Goodnight
On the knit forehead
You used to nuzzle
When he was baby small
And tell him
You love him
And he whispers back
With a smile
I love you too
What do you say?

Unplugging My Twitter Feed from Facebook

My Facebook feed is about to become much quieter since I’ll be unhooking Twitter from auto-posting into it. I’m doing this to reduce the online surface area that generates notifications for me to attend to.

Those of you that know me know that I’m a pretty crappy correspondent when it comes to responding to anything other than a text or a tweet, and even getting a response out of me on those channels are suspect some (most?) days.

Why that’s the case is a whole other blog post I’ll eventually get to some day, but the nutshell version is that I triage a daily torrent of communications across work and personal accounts that averages about 500 packets of information a day with peaks up to 700.

About 50% of those are informational that require no action other than a quick skim, 25% take me to information I’m required to view for work or are interested in personally viewing, and the remaining 25% necessitate some sort of response.

What I’ve noticed is that the 25% was about 10% a couple of years ago, and it seems to keep increasing. For all of my introversion, social connections are important to me, but they do take a certain type of energy for me to muster. This energy is finite, and in the face of increasing demands, something had to give and Facebook ended up on the chopping block.

My blog will still auto-post to Facebook and you can still find me on Twitter, and email.