1996 Yearly Newsletter

Didn’t realize it had been three years since the last holiday letter. I think I lost a year in there somewhere.

I was still at Claris during most of 1994, as Development Mgr for MacWrite Pro (their word processor). Managed a team of about five people, did a couple releases, then spent two weeks at Claris Ireland in August, working on European-language versions of MWPro.

Betty joined me for the second week in Dublin. We did breakfast together each morning before I went into work, then Betty spent each day around Dublin, seeing the sights. Dublin is friendly, safe, small enough to be easy to get around, and she had a great time.

When I was done in Ireland, we flew over to London for a week’s vacation. It was cool- we were both over jet lag, and were able to just hang out and enjoy the place. Did the bus tour, got into a Mamet play, wandered the gardens, saw lots of old stonework (the Tower, cathedrals), and, out of nowhere, dropped into a modern art exhibit in Hyde Park. (Picture an older guy, balding, dark gray suit, tiny sunglasses, standing outside the gallery tapping on the windows with a rock held between his teeth. He was wearing a wireless mic, and his tapping was broadcast throughout the gallery. Just another day in London…)

So when I got back to the States, my job had pretty much run out. (MWPro went into ‘harvest mode,’ meaning ‘sell it as long as possible without putting any development into it whatsoever.’ I love corporate-speak.) Out of nowhere, I got a call from a guy I used to work for, got a really gratifying job offer, and moved to Frame Technology in November.

(FrameMaker is a large page-layout product for technical publishing. Boeing, for example, did all their 777 documentation using FrameMaker. So I’m still doing publishing and page-layout software.)

I had been hired as International Engineering Mgr, and my first job was to finish closing down the Frame Ireland operation and reconstruct their localization process in San Jose. So it was back over to Ireland in December for three days, then another three days in London to meet with the Frame Europe crew. Had the interesting experience of laying off eight people, while simultaneously asking for their help in recreating their jobs in San Jose.

I spent most of 1995 working for Frame, hiring four people and getting the localization process restarted. Got another trip out of it, this time to Japan and Singapore in September. The Japan portion was to talk to the Frame Japan office (all three people) about Japanese software, then down to Singapore to do a presentation at a three-day localization conference. Another good trip. Found out I could successfully wear a suit for nine days straight and not self-destruct.

Then, in October 95, Adobe Systems bought Frame Technology, and I changed jobs again. (Me to Engineering VP previous year: “Any chance Frame will get bought out?” Him: “No way. We’ll be doing all the buying around here.”) Maneuvered myself back into a development job, and became Development Mgr for Japanese FrameMaker.

Spent six months co-managing a project with one of the other engineering mgrs, another interesting exercise in social skills. Haven’t generally thought of myself as one of those testosterone-laden, competitively-driven sorts of males. Appears I was wrong. The other guy finally left the company in July 96 (this year) and I’ve had the project to myself since then.

So I’ve currently got eight people reporting to me directly, and am coordinating the work of about a dozen more. Just got back last week from another trip to Japan, this time to demo my product to several Japanese companies that are interested in standardizing on it.

Betty has gone through a steady transition during the same period, though it’s at least been for the same company (Tandem). She became a Technical Support Analyst in December 93, and spent much of 1994 and 1995 being on-call for solving internal customer technical problems.

We’re referring to those years as the ‘pager years.’ I’ve got a lot more respect for people that carry a pager now.

The reorg a year prior had transitioned her out of the management role she’d had. Over the last three years, she’s built that back up again, going from analyst, to lead, to default manager (she covered for her boss for 10 weeks while he was on sabbatical and otherwise out). It now looks like she’s going to get her own three-person group at the beginning of the new year, and will be responsible for redesigning Tandem’s internal support processes.

As part of the job, she’ll be talking to a lot of external companies, learning about how they do support. It appears I’m not going to be the only one wearing a suit and handing out business cards.

Betty has done her share of traveling, as well. She made several trips to Austin, both to ask questions and provide training, as well as Atlanta and Los Angeles. (We overlapped on one trip, me in DC and her in Austin, leading to hotel-to-hotel phone conversations. It seemed like such a… 90’s thing to do.)

Betty also had her six-week sabbatical in 1994. She used the time to take a weaving class and buy a large, 8-harness floor loom. She’s been getting into weaving more intensely over the last three years, so that we attended the big every-other-year weaving show (Convergence) in Minnesota in ‘94, and Portland in ‘96. She’s acquired amazing knowledge about things like the differences between alpaca and llama wool, and a whole vocabulary used to describe the weaving process. And I thought computers required obscure terms…

On the home front, probably the biggest change from the last holiday letter is that Betty and I are living in the same house again. She moved back in over Thanksgiving vacation in 1994, and it’s worked out pretty well. Having the house to myself for a couple years was great, but, been there, done that…

As part of her move, I remodeled one of our bedrooms into a walk-in closet for her- had a 7’x7’ mirror installed on one wall, did some custom shelving, and added a skylight. Found out that household projects get way more intense when you start cutting holes in your roof. Big holes, at that.

And, of course, we’re still doing therapy. Lots of therapy. (Me to therapist five years ago: “…and I figure this shouldn’t take more than about six months, right?” Her: “Well…”)

One of the redeeming elements of therapy is that it applies in a lot of different ways, since you’re learning to understand both your own and other people’s behavior. I’ve been taking management classes for the last year, and am hearing much of the same information in the classes that I’ve already worked through during therapy sessions. Except that, since you’re essentially taking private behavior lessons, you get to understand everything a lot better.

Outside of therapy as a major non-work project, I’m also spending a lot of time on music. Over the last three years, I’ve put together a reasonably complete micro-studio, based around my Mac, and am working through the song-writing process.

There’s a group on one of the online services that trades tapes of songs, and I managed to finally put three tunes on tape and mail it to a couple dozen people. Got good comments on two of the three tunes, with general dissing of the third (I sang). Actually used to be able to sing, but it’s evidently worn off over the last ten years.

But doing music is great fun, writing songs, playing, recording, learning how to write lyrics, the whole bit. Bought an electric guitar and amp a month or so ago, and am grinning a lot playing loud, obnoxious distorted guitar chords every chance I get. I figure I’m still in my 30’s (barely), so it’s OK.

The only bad thing that’s happened to us in the last few years is the motorcycle accident I had in May. A gal in the left turn lane decided to turn right instead, just as I was coming around a blind curve behind her. I dropped the bike and managed to slide in front of her, totaling the bike and banging up my right leg a bit in the process.

But it turned out OK, since I healed up almost completely (a bit of lingering numbness), and the insurance company did a nice settlement to cover all my costs. I figure it’s not bad for almost 40k miles of motorcycle riding to date.

Outside of that… Betty bought a new truck a year ago (red Ford Ranger extended cab), which she’s very happy with, and I sold her Datsun pickup in March. I remodeled our master bathroom this fall, put down a brick walkway last year, and refenced half the property line as well. I did a whirlwind trip to Paris over the July 4th weekend last year (there was this backpacking trip that didn’t work out, so…), and was in Hong Kong for two days last week. Betty and I got his-n-her cell phones a month ago, which I’m having great fun with (don’t be surprised if I call you from 280 or 101 here in the South Bay).

Pretty much the same vital statistics as previously- two cats (Sasquatch and Nubbins), no kids and none probably planned, same house we’ve had for eight years, one car, one pickup truck (new), one motorcycle (old), stubbly beard (Lee), reddish hair (Betty).

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