Hi. Time for the decennial letter from the Richardson/Merrill household.
I’m still working for Claris; been there a little over six years (officially a division of Apple Computer now, the ‘large parent corporation,’ as we refer to it). I’m Project Manager on the Macintosh word processing program MacWrite Pro, the software I’m using to write this letter with (which is why [the original had] the whole 2-columns-line-down-the-middle styling). I’ve got two programmers working for me, with two testers sort-of working for me (the corporate-speak term is ‘dotted line reporting relationship’). I’m mostly enjoying it, but I’m trying to do too much by being both a manager and a full-time programmer.
We just released a revision to the product a week or so ago, and I’m still decompressing. It’s a seductive environment, because I get so much control over the process, but it’s easy to lose track of your life outside of work (it’s surprising how hard it is to remember what one does when one gets home before 9:00pm). I don’t yet know what’s coming next, but it will probably be more project management, possibly on a different product.
One of the cool things about working for a Silicon Valley software company is that we get six-week sabbaticals every five years. I had mine this last summer (stretched out by two weeks), which meant eight straight weeks of paid vacation time. Spent a lot of it around the house, unlandscaping the front yard (couldn’t deal with a yard full of cactus any longer), redoing the garage, exercising, bicycling, sleeping, but also a couple of weeks of traveling.
Did the first week in Japan. Flew into Tokyo, wandered around for three days being amazed (quantity of people, size of city, amount of neon in the Ginza shopping area), then took the bullet train down to Kyoto for another three days to see the temples and gardens. Spent a couple of nights in a traditional Japanese inn, tatami (straw) mat floors, slippers everywhere that were always too small for my feet, and Japanese bath where you perch on a little wooden stool to soap up and rinse off, then settle into a tub full of hot water to soak for awhile.
One of my ongoing impressions of Japan was related to size: at 6’2”, there’s a lot more of me than there is of your average Japanese person, which meant that everything was… small. Meal portions were small (I was regularly doing four, and sometimes five, meals a day to keep up), coffee cups were the size of espresso cups, and sometimes only filled halfway (never did get my daily caffeine requirements met), hotel rooms were tiny, and some of the cars and trucks looked like toys. Finally realized the extent of the size difference when I saw myself reflected in a shop window on the Ginza, surrounded by Japanese, my head and shoulders bobbing above a sea of black hair.
For the second week, I flew from Tokyo to Hawaii and met Betty in Honolulu. We did the straight Waikiki tourist thing, stayed in a highrise, ate in the beachfront restaurants, shopped, toured around the island, and I did an afternoon of hiking and moped-riding. Pretty nice.
Betty is still working for Tandem Computers; she’s been there for almost four years. She’s done a variety of things, including technical writing, managing (which included a trip to Munich as a trade show representative), and, currently, doing customer support for one of Tandem’s software products. She’s doing well there, though, like me, she’s got too much to do (or is just as good at taking on too much). She’s been tossed around by Tandem’s neurotic approach to organizational change over this last year, which made the first part of the year harder than it could have been, but it looks like that may have finally settled down.
The big project Betty and I have been working on for the last two years is ourselves and our relationship. After almost ten years of living together, we had developed a whole series of interaction styles that weren’t really going to be useful, long-term, so we’ve been trying to back away from that and learn some different directions. So far, that’s involved seeing a therapist in Palo Alto several times a week, and spending a lot of time talking to each other about what we’re wanting and feeling, and what our expectations are about how to live with another person. The process is taking way longer than I’d expected (there’s also a ‘learning patience’ element to this), but I think the benefits will be pretty valuable later.
As part of this, Betty has been living in a condo in Santa Clara for the last year. The separation gives us a chance to deal with issues in smaller chunks (we can have an intense discussion about something, then not have to deal with the other person for a day or so), yet we’re close enough that we see each other regularly (we’re about a 10 minute drive from each other). It’s working out, though I get funny looks from people when I talk about spending the night at my wife’s apartment.
A major effect of our counseling work is that I think we both feel like human versions of a freeway-building project- big earth-moving equipment digging holes and piling up dirt here and there (and leaving mud tracks across existing roads), overpasses and access ramps that seem to take forever to construct, and a bunch of constantly-changing neon orange cones and detour signs in our daily lives.
Otherwise… Betty is pursuing an interest in fabrics and textiles, has purchased a little miniature hand loom, and is trying a variety of hangings on her walls (one of the advantages to having her own place). She’s also spent time making her own earrings, doing horseback riding lessons, and has tried her first health club membership (we’re a true 90’s couple- sore-shoulder-muscle discussions are now part of our repertoire). I took two improvisational theater classes earlier this year, and am joining a theater workshop group in January to spend more time on improv. I’ve also got a synthesizer keyboard at home that I’m learning how to play, and, the snow gods willing, will be able to get out and practice my telemark skiing more this winter.
And for vital statistics- two cats (Sasquatch and Nubbins), no kids and none currently planned, same house we’ve had for five years, one car, one pickup truck, one motorcycle, and a whole lot less stuff than we had five years ago (the ‘less is more’ theory).
Hope you have a good year.