Bell Works

The main space at Bell Works.
Holiday trimmings further down the main space.
The exterior of Bell Works.

Photos from a recent trip to the old Bell Labs building – now called Bell Works – here in New Jersey. This building was originally build for Bell Labs, the innovative division of what is now AT&T. It was a research and development office that created such (ahem) minor innovations as the transistor, the laser, the concept of cellular communications, and the solar cell . The building and campus was put on the list of 10 most endangered historic sites in 2007 and was under threat of being razed in favor of houses and residential units. In 2013, the 500+ acre campus was purchased by Somerset Development Corporation and the facility was re-purposed into a multi-purpose living and working space.

The renovated interior space is just spectacular. It has restaurants, office space, recreational areas including simulated Golf courses and an indoor full size basketball court. It is really cool and a place I plan on going back to soon.

And for you Severance fans, yes, this is the same place that they used for some exterior and interior shots of Lumen Industries.

Does Steve Approve Of This?

You knew it was only a matter of time. The folks at Accessory Workshop (hailing from Paramus, NJ here in the Garden State) have developed the tyPad, a bluetooth keyboard and portfolio Case for your iPad. While this is not the iPad’s intended use case, this device does solve what I have heard is the biggest issue with the device…creating content. Having a keyboard is a nice addition for those “on demand” circumstances when you need one. This is especially true when you consider the iPad’s slick touch screen navigation combined with a keyboard (as demoed on their video). Nice work.

Bayonne Golf Club

This Monday, I had the opportunity to play a round of golf at the Bayonne Golf Club. For those not familiar, Bayonne GC was built in 2006 on a plot of marsh and industrial land on NY Harbor. To say that Bayonne GC is a marvel of engineering and landscaping excellence would be a gross understatement. The irony of the experience is set in your arrival to the course. The approach to the club is an industrial road lined with warehouses and 18 wheel trucks. I felt like I was driving to meet Tony Soprano for the last time at one of his meeting spots. Yet, when you pass through the gates, you are enveloped by a winding road within a valley of dune grass covered hills. Within 15 seconds, the thoughts of those warehouses and Tony Soprano were gone.

The clubhouse was spectacular, with no expense missed to ensure that it felt like a place that was 150 years old, even though it was only 3 years old. There was the proverbial dark wood paneling, the wonderful old style locker room, the high backed chairs, and the comfy chairs and couches that you could get lost in.

The course itself and the experience of playing there was just amazing. On certain holes like #16, views of NY harbor and the Manhattan skyline were breathtaking. On many of the other holes, I really felt like I was on a course in the middle of the British Isles, with the rolling hills and links course layout.

My round was interrupted twice by some spectacular lightning storms, which definitely put a damper on the day (by the second interruption before the last 6 holes, I had checked out) but made for good entertainment while waiting in the clubhouse. But we finished the round and had a wonderful day. And, I actually played good, consistent golf for the first 12 holes. I really hope I get the chance to play there again with better weather. Above all else, what playing Bayonne did that no other course I’ve played has done (with maybe the exception of Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin), was make me appreciate the fun and experience of playing a round of golf.

Bridge and Tunnel Support

Every day when I commute home from work, the bus I take drives past some apartments that overlook the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. Under one of the apartment windows is a “John Kerry for President” banner. At first, it was a pretty basic cardboard banner. But recently, they upgraded to a nylon type banner. And it seems that this apartment owner has been talking to their neighbors as now other apartments have election paraphernalia in and outside of their windows (all Kerry supporters). If Mr. Kerry is funding this effort, I do have to say that it is pretty impressive banner positioning. He gets a captive audience as they battle traffic into the Holland Tunnel.

Commuting

On August 3rd, I started my new job at American Express at the HQ in NYC. Being that we are situated in East Brunswick, NJ at present, this means that I am now commuting into NYC on a daily basis. Overall, the commute is not that bad mainly because Suburban Transit has bus service to downtown Manhattan, saving a good 20-30 minutes off my commute since I don’t have to deal with Port Authority, and the Subway.

And in these short few weeks, my iPod has already paid for itself. It is a lifesaver for the commute as I just plug into my tunes and I am on my way. The biggest problem now is just finding the time to load up more songs!!

If you build it, he will come.

I have also been able to crank through the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella (This is the book that the movie Field of Dreams is based on. If you are a fan of Field of Dreams, then I would highly recommend reading the book. Like any other book-to-movie story, the movie had to remove a ton of details and several characters that were pretty important to the original story). I am currently working on What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson. Not sure what books to take on next but I will figure that out in short order. Any suggestions?

Northren Virginia Was Full

This week marks my last week working at America Online and living in Northern Virginia. I leave with very mixed emotions. For starters, I am very proud of the fact that I was hired on to work on their market leading Instant Messenger product. In many ways, I feel as though I am leaving unfinished business on the table because there were so many ideas and neat initiatives that I wanted to move forward with. Sometimes when you get so involved in a project or a product of such a scale, you fail take a step back and think about what it is that you are working on. Maybe that’s a good thing. :-) The scope of influence that the AIM product has, and the absolutely insane number of people that it touches, is just mind-boggling. AIM has over 35 million active users…thirty-five million…and vastly more accounts that are inactive.

The people at AOL are absolutely fantastic. Everyone I met was supremely nice, professional and just a pleasure to work with. I always felt comfortable. In my short time here, I made some friends that I hope to keep in touch with in the future (probably via AIM!) and I re-connected with some old friends (old in that I have known them for a while, not that they are actually old in years ;-) who I had not seen in a long time. And as a company, I thought AOL offered a lot of great perks to its employees, and it offered a wonderful work environment. I think there were 2, maybe 3, days in total where I did not want to go into the office. That says a lot.

But, life is not all work. And the reality of the situation is that this was just not the right fit for me and my family from a personal perspective. I thought it would be. I thought that it would be an easier transition down to Virginia than it really was. When we were looking for places to live, something just did not feel right. Maybe it was the high prices for cookie cutter townhouses, maybe it was the traffic, maybe it was the “robo towns” or just being away from Lisa and the kids…whatever it was, it was just not right. My wife and I had always intended to live in the NYC area and be close to our many relatives in that area. Its something that is important to us and for our kids. And in the end, that was a key factor in the decision.

I leave Northern VA with few regrets and enthusiastically return to New Jersey and the New York metro area. I will be working in Lower Manhattan starting in early August and I am thrilled to be back working in Manhattan. The commute will be something I will have to adjust to, but I have my iPod to keep me rockin’ and my wonderful wife and kids to go home to.

The Next Chapter

The past few weeks have been amazingly crazy. The main reason for the craziness is that I was offered, and I accepted, a job at America Online. I will be working on their AOL Instant Messenger product as a Senior Product Manager, focusing primarily on rolling out additional consumer services and features to the AIM user base. The source of the craziness is not the job, but the fact that we will be moving to Northern Virginia, as the job is located at the AOL headquarters in Dulles, VA. In the end, the opportunity was just too interesting for me to pass by. It was also obvious that, even with the recent troubles from the AOL-Time Warner merger, AOL is just a great company that seems to really focus on their employees. Neither my wife nor I have ever lived south of New Jersey, so this is going to be quite a lifestyle change from what we are used to. I think it will be a good move for my family once the dust settles. I look forward to getting started with this new chapter in my career, and I am excited to explore the Washington DC and Northern VA area!