Category Archives: Yearly Newsletter

2008 Year-End Wrap-Up

A fairly usual year of activity for me- less traveling, more stuff locally. My last holiday letter came out in early March, so this covers from there forward.

Family trust: finished liquidating the rest of my mom’s properties and closed out the trust business. Yay! Have a closing tax return and K-1s to distribute, but there wasn’t much activity in 2008, so it should be straightforward. I’m Really Glad it’s done.

Real estate: I bought my mom’s house from the trust, hired contractors to do the major overhauls. Spent the 2nd half of 2008 doing hands-on reconstruction work, which will last into the first half of 2009. It’s fun and satisfying to swing a hammer and push a paint brush, seeing direct results from my actions (as opposed to managing 50 people two levels away). On the other hand, I’d have been happy with a couple months of that, not the year it’s going to take.

Fungus Fighters Construction removing old floor heater

Fungus Fighters Construction removing old floor heater

Relationships: started dating Dorit, and, by extension, her 7-yr-old son Gil. It’s been fascinating learning about 7-yr-old views of the world and modern family dynamics. It’s also startling how world-wise he is in some ways, and completely naive in others. I’m also recognizing some adult behavior as carried over from when the people were his age…
Dorit & Gil at his 7th birthday party

Dorit & Gil at his 7th birthday party

Music: finished a second certificate program at Berklee, a 9-unit electric bass series. Spent the rest of the year doing the other half of the classwork that didn’t fit the first time through. Reworked my 5-string Fender Jazz, am starting to look for people to play with. Also found the Jazzschool in Berkeley, which might be a good next step on the path to adding academic heft to my music doings.

Biking: bought a new road bike (Bianchi) in April, joined a couple bike clubs, and successfully completed the Chico Wildflower and Wine Country centuries (100 miles each). Don’t know that I’d do the Wildflower again… as much as I like Chico, parts of the Wildflower are tedious, especially the 20mi return through never-ending orchards. The Wine Country c. was excellent, though, scenic and varied. Only rode about half the 4000 miles I’d targeted for this year, but that’s better than 2007.

2009 is undefined. It will take another 4-6 months to finish the building rehab and find tenants, though sooner would be better. I’ll do something with music, still working out what that will be. Am considering returning to the salaried working world- steady paychecks are looking kinda luxurious in these economic times. Will do at least another couple century rides, am resisting the enthusiasm of the Grizzly Peak Cyclists list for double-centuries. 200-mile rides are unnatural.

Have a great New Year!

Have a great New Year!

2007 Year-End Wrap-Up

Hi. Another year, another essay. For the attention-span-challenged (we know who we are)-

  • A good year. Lotsa stuff happening. As usual…
  • Health good, no big changes
  • Started a band, wrote/recorded a cool song, took a performance class, did a couple shows. Played bass, sang. Ended the band (creative differences). Taking Berklee electric bass classes.
  • Spent a lot of time in San Diego with Patricia. Interesting place.
  • First full year as a landlord. In a separate process, learned how to do an eviction.
  • 1st place in my Porsche autocross class
  • 2000 bike miles, up from 900 in 2006

Urban Fiction

Jen recording Live To Rock vocals I ended 2006 putting a band together with Jen Flaa, based on her business plan for a functioning, profitable music group. We wrote a song together in January, using her vocals and chorus melody, me contributing a verse melody, arrangement, and rhythm section. I recorded her vocals in my loft, which sounded surprisingly good. We joined her friend Didier Bouvet (guitar) in a performance master class at Blue Bear in SF, learning acting techniques to communicate stories as a group on stage. You’d be surprised how much narrative depth is available in songs like Mother Mother and Harder to Breathe. Also pretty fun. I wrote and produced the backing rhythm tracks that we played/sang to, using Berklee skills from the previous year.

However… as Jen and I worked together, we ran into differences of opinion around musical styles, among other things- she wants to do metal and harder rock, I’m really more of a funk / groove / pop guy, so we went our separate ways. Given that it was really her band, she kept the name and domain; I ended up with shared custody of the one song we wrote (Live To Rock). We ended things with a couple performances — Jen, Didier, me — with a gig at a Blue Bear showcase at the Red Devil Lounge in SF. I also got solo stage time, singing my song Creekside over an instrumental backing track.

Late in the year, I started a second round of Berklee classes, signing up for their 3-class Bass Certificate program. Hard, but useful. It’s been a great way to take bass lessons and get broad exposure to electric bass repertoire.

San Diego

Lee & Patricia at Vistage Holiday Party My calendar shows that Patricia and I spent 101 days together in 2007; not bad for a relationship with someone 500 miles away. I accumulated three sets of Southwest free travel vouchers, am on their A List, and have more free drink coupons than my liver will tolerate. She also spent a fair amount of time in SF, giving her a chance to keep in touch with her friends here. Two of our big activities were family related- her neice’s wedding in Colorado, and a Christmas trip to my sister Kathy’s place in Dallas. We also spent a week in the desert at Burning Man, my second time, her third, a weekend at Disneyland for her birthday, and did a hot-air balloon ride in San Diego for mine.

However (that word again)… long-distance relationships are costly, somewhat in cash, more in time and energy. She wasn’t getting many opportunities to engage with her new community in San Diego, and I seemed to be spending all my time flying or recovering from flying. They’re also long-distance, meaning the other person is really Not Around, in a more-intense way than just being across town. Given her career in San Diego, and my rootedness in SF and the Bay Area, we decided to end things in late January. I’m not particularly happy about the outcome, but we kinda ran out of other options.


2007 was my first full year as a landlord, after purchasing a family rental from my mother’s estate. I know landlording doesn’t have a great rep, but I find it kinda gratifying, more so even than when Betty-my-ex and I owned a house together in Campbell. I think it’s an opportunity to connect with my early family experiences of rental management- the maintenance issues, financial aspects pro and con, providing living space to people, and a feeling of being connected with the community.

A sample of Kay's plate collection I also made progress on closing out my mother’s estate (one of her decorative plates shown), getting down to a single property left to liquidate by the end of the year. I had an unexpected learning experience over the summer- my brother had invited a couple friends of his to live in our mother’s house while I was prepping it for sale, so it wouldn’t be unoccupied for several months. When it came time for them to leave, they decided they really liked living there, and declined to go. Did you know that the Solano County Court doesn’t accept eviction forms that aren’t stapled exactly right, and two-hole-punched at the top? So that stretched out the process by at least three months.

Driving & Biking

By focusing on autocross competition in 2007, I was able to build up enough points in GGR Autocross series to place first in the AX13 class, mostly stock early Boxsters and older 911s. Some of my win was just showing up a lot (isn’t there a rule about that?), but a couple of the weekends saw me doing some decent driving. The Boxster is a great car when you get into its rhythms and have it set up well. A next point up the competition ladder might be a top-10 finish in the overall handicapped standings, or moving into track competition, but both of those require more commitment- more money for setup and tires, more seat time, more weekends. Am still debating, might decide that I’m done with my bit of racing competition.

Have been increasing my bicycle time over the years, hitting 2000 miles in 2007, including SF to Palo Alto and Richmond to Vallejo. I’ve signed up for a couple of century (100 mile) rides in 2008, would like to see my overall mileage double again in 2008 to around 4000 miles. There’s a surprising number of interesting rides around the Bay Area, especially if you include Napa and the wine country.


That’s about it. Lots of smaller things, a third “however…” I’ll tell you about if you’re interested, and a few pix up on Flickr.

2006 Year-End Wrap-Up

This is the holiday letter I printed and mailed out to a few people at the last minute, with added links.

2006 was dominated by my music program. Last December, I signed up for a Masters Certificate program in Theory and Harmony, offered on-line by Berklee College of Music in Boston. The eight-course program filled in the music basics I missed when I dropped my decades-ago music-major program at CSU Chico.

Man, what a ride… I don’t know what attending classes formally at Berklee would have been like, but the challenge of getting through a year of never-ending weekly assignments was tough (see the previous blog post for examples). It was tremendously exciting to finally grok how harmony works, and to get introduced to new artists and styles. Am pretty stoked at the moment- the last 3-min song for the Groove Writing final went up two days ago, and it looks like I’m getting A’s in it and Arranging. Woo hoo!

I also spent several months taken bass guitar lessons in San Francisco, and joined a rehearsal rock band late summer. We named ourselves Sweatbox and played a couple gigs in SF, including the Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley. Pretty fun.

Going forward, I’m working with a singer (Jen Flaa) in San Rafael to start another band Urban Fiction. UF is mostly on hold while getting through the last couple classes, plus the holidays, plus Patricia’s move, but we’ve started again in January with a first-round recording session at my loft. I’m also looking for composing/arranging gigs for local theater and arts groups, and may take more classes through the CSU SF multi-media program. There’s also an interesting set of seminars at Blue Bear in SF around stage performance with an acting approach.

The year was also filled with managing Kay’s (my mom’s) trust. The first house sold in April, largely to cover estate taxes, with a second property transfer to me in early November, requiring a mortgage and all the usual real estate fooferaw. That put me in the landlord business, another new thing, though my family has been doing this for decades. It doesn’t seem much different from managing the trust.

Patricia, my girlfriend, also had a busy year. She spent several months starting late August interviewing for and accepting a position in San Diego as Chief Learning Officer for “the world’s largest CEO membership organization” Vistage International. She started 11/15, with her household stuff catching up with her on 12/15 at a cute little condo overlooking the water in Solana Beach. I’ve spent two weeks in San Diego (where I’m writing this) helping her get moved in and set up. It’s one of those situations involving excitement, reward, frustration, weariness, and cool stuff, all more-or-less simultaneously.

We’re working to figure out how to do a long-distance relationship between SF and SD. My best her-door/my-door time has been 3 1/2 hours, which seems doable. I bought a laptop in part to be productive while traveling, which has worked out great so far. Even have a little 2-octave MIDI keyboard that helped me finish classwork over the last couple weeks.

For smaller-scale things… Patricia and I did several bike trips across the GG Bridge- Tiburon and Angel Island, the Marin Headlands, and downtown Mill Valley for lunch at The Depot. She and I lead our respective classes in the Golden Gate Porsche Club regional autocross race series, in my Boxster, for the first half of the season. We planted trees with Friends of the Urban Forest in SF early in the year

I’m still serving on the HOA Board of Directors for my building, which continues to be a learning experience re different personalities and styles, some rather challenging. Have continued a small-but-regular Zen sitting practice, and have been paying attention to the book The Artists Way, which I’ve talked to some people about. No health problems to speak of, though calories have gotten bigger than they used to be.

I hope everyone has had a great year, and that the New Year is bringing more good stuff. IMG_0055

2005 Yearly Holiday Card

Hi. Am going brief, in hopes of getting cards out before Christmas. The big event of the year was Kay, my mother, passing away in May after a fall and short hospital stay. She was 92, meaning we all knew this was going to happen sooner than later. Even though I didn’t get over to see her often, I miss knowing she’s there, and being able to talk to her.

The big event unfolding now is that I was laid off from Adobe in early December, after 11 years there. I was largely responsible for initiating the event, connected to a reorg around Adobe buying Macromedia. I’ve been living in San Francisco for three years, and the commute to San Jose finally became too much. I also wasn’t clicking with being in Quality Engineering full-time, am more interested in developing (doing everything, actually).

Other events in 2005- autocross racing in my Porsche Boxster with Patricia, and bicycling with her around SF. We flew to New York for my birthday in August, spent several days in Ashland at the Shakespeare Festival, and joined my nephew Rob in Seattle for Labor Day.

There’s more, of course, but I’m outta space on the card and outta time to get to the PO. Have a great New Year!

2002-2003 Yearly Newsletter

Hi, and welcome to my 2002-2003 holiday letter. Lots going on over the last couple years; I’ll try to stick to the high points.

I’ve made both home and job changes over the last couple years. On the home front, I’d been living in an apartment in Los Gatos, a pretty, historic little town tucked into the South Bay Area foothills on the road to Santa Cruz. Finally, after decades of thinking (and waffling), in April 2002 I closed on a loft in the South of Market area in San Francisco.

The loft is a classic 1450 sq-ft new-construction space in a 1915-era warehouse- soaring 16′ ceilings, aged concrete and industrial steel, windows and light everywhere. I’m close to downtown, shopping, Golden Gate Park, theaters, and restaurants galore. A mixed industrial/residential neighborhood is not for everyone, but things like the sometimes-noisy nearby clubs are more than offset by SF culture, wonderful bits like the neighborhood fire twirlers that practice in my street every Sunday evening. It works for me, feels right, and is almost always energizing. I’m thrilled.

My job at Adobe changed a few months later. I’d been in engineering for the Adobe publishing software FrameMaker for 8 years, with the last couple years as the Senior Engr. Mgr. After shipping FrameMaker 7.0, Fall 2002 came with news that FrameMaker would be transitioned to India, and that my engineering team of 30 would move to new jobs or be laid off. The result: uncertainty, anxiety, frustration, anger, and resignation, with liberal doses of irony and gallows humor. My managers and I eventually found homes for a majority of the team, successfully moved the product to India, and threw a killer bon voyage party.

After all that, I took the opportunity for a long anticipated 7-month leave-of-absence from Adobe, starting at the end of 2002. My oldest brother Jim passed away in March 2002, leaving me as the administrator of his estate. His house needed to be emptied and sold, and I wasn’t able to focus on it while working full time. The LOA provided time to find Doug, my agent, hire contractors, and dispose of a house full of stuff in a 3-day Mother of All Garage Sales. Stuff. Man, am I tired of stuff. But I’m also pleased I was able to fix up the house, and leave it and the neighborhood in good shape.

The LOA also gave me the chance to hang out with my mom, for the first time in probably too long. Kay turned 90 at the end of 2002, and is still living in the Vallejo house I was raised in. Her tendency to help out both stray cats and stray people had resulted in a cast of unsavory characters essentially living in her garage and spare bedroom. It took 3 months of getting to know the county probation officers, learning new social engineering skills, and selective direct action, to get everyone evicted. Yuck.

But they all finally left, and I was able to remodel her spare room into an office, with a computer and white-board. Since Jim passed away, I’m helping her with her rental business; having the computer, file cabinets, and a place to work makes a big difference.

We had another death in the family this fall, with Kay’s sister Marian passing away after a major stroke in October. Kay and my sister Kathy handled the arrangements, but that means Kay has to get used to living in the house alone. We’ve all been worried about her, but I think she’s enjoying having the place to herself. Aldrick (her raconteur and opera aficionado brother) comes by 2-3 times per week, I drop in when I can, and she has other acquaintances visiting often enough that I don’t think she has THAT much time by herself.

I managed to get in the requisite recreational activities through all this. Street and mountain biking, yoga, and telemark skiing have been the biggies. My two big outdoor accomplishments were climbing and skiing Mt Lassen with Ellen, and getting to the top of Mt Shasta by climbing the backside. Ellen and I also rafted (American River) and sailed (SF Bay), did a handful of rock climbing trips, and lots of cooking. We read all 5 Harry Potter books out loud to each other, a few chapters being done over the phone (some couples do other things over the phone, we read Harry Potter :^).

I went back to Adobe in July of this year, finally getting a Real Job as Director of Quality Engineering in Core Technology. Woo hoo! Other than the reentry shock of returning to the corporate world, I’ve been enjoying the promotion- it’s a chance to try out things I’ve learned with a new group of people, and to see how much of a difference I can make. It’s unfortunately also added greatly to my stress level; I’m hoping that will ease off as I get more settled.

Having a Real Job has diminished the amount of time I have with Ellen, which neither of us are happy about. She sold her house in Palo Alto a few months after I bought my loft in 2002, subsequently buying investment property in Nevada City. She and I tried living together in SF, but she has strong trees-and-open-spaces preferences, and I need a lot of space and time to myself, such that she’s been spending most of her time in Nevada City (she’s actually about to close on a second property in the same neighborhood). We see each other when we can, working around the challenges of a 2 1/2-hr drive.

Finally… Betty and I finalized our amicable divorce last year, which was a relief to all concerned (we shared a good lawyer, still a lot of work). She’s doing fine, living in the same Campbell house, working for HP. Ellen’s son and wife are expecting their first child in June, down in Los Angeles. I have 85K miles on my Boxster, with added bike rack to extend my biking range. My new job mates invited me to play in their band, so I did my debut as a rock-n-roll bass player at our holiday potluck a couple weeks ago.

I hope your year and holidays have been great!

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).

1995 Year-End Newsletter

Well, so it was supposed to be a decennial letter. Yeah, well…

Seems like it’s been a busy year for Betty and I. ‘Course, it seems like most of them have been busy, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. In reverse chronological order-

Betty and I are now living in the same house again (cue the sighs of relief from various family members and friends). She moved back in over Thanksgiving vacation, and it’s really been kinda nice. After almost three years of talking about our relationship and developing skills, we’ve both found that living with the other again is almost easy. 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.

Two weeks before Betty moved in, I went from Claris Corporation, where I’d been working for the previous seven years, to a company called Frame Technology in downtown San Jose. (Frame’s big product is called FrameMaker- a high-end publishing product used by places like Boeing to publish all their manuals.) Claris was really my first big job out of college, so it’s been an adjustment for me. I’m now the Manager of International Engineering, responsible for the translation of Frame software into other languages (mostly European, Japanese later).

As part of both my former and current jobs, I’ve spent four weeks in Europe since August. Betty was able to join me for two weeks- one in Dublin, Ireland, where she got a chance to sightsee while I was working, then a week in London where we did the ‘castles, churches, and beheadings’ tour. (Wherever we went, there was always some mention of how many people lost their head on a particular spot. Condemned royalty tended to practice before the event- one didn’t want to look awkward while being done away with.)

Betty, still at Tandem, had her six-week sabbatical during that same period. (Draft newsletter ends here – I don’t think I ever finished or published it.)

1993 Yearly Newsletter


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.