1997 Christmas Letter

Well folks, it’s that time of year again– the days are getting shorter, annoying Christmas music is playing at the mall, the political forces that run our nation are gearing up for the next presidential election, and, of course, it’s time to publish my third annual Christmas letter. This brings up the question of whether I should even try to construct a letter that surpasses the high standard that I set for myself when writing the first two Christmas letters. Consider the world of movies for a moment. By the time they get to making a third movie in a series it pretty much just sucks. I am sure they meant well when they made “Superman 3”, but putting Christopher Reeves, Richard Prior, and a wacky evil computer together isn’t something to be proud of. Even “Return of the Jedi” wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Oh no, they built ANOTHER Death Star for the good guys to blow up at the very end. On the other hand, I listened to the School House Rock CD (which I own, of course) and learned that three is a magic number. I don’t think they would have made a number magical if there was an inherent problem with it. In conclusion (of the introduction), I know the risks but I am none the less going to give it a shot. If you are not completely satisfied with this product, just send any unused portion to the address provided for a full refund.

In case you didn’t already know, I left my job at Saxe, Inc. Among other things, the thought of developing software to help companies send out more junk mail slowly wore down my will to live. After a while I would wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling thinking the world would be a better place if I just called in sick for the day. Even the lure of the cappuccino machine and the ping pong table (see last year’s Christmas letter) wasn’t enough to convince me to stay. My departure was civil and professional, considering the fact that several of the upper level managers were (and to the best of my knowledge still are) minions of Satan.

One of the last things I did before leaving Saxe was use up all of my vacation time on a road trip to see the Indianapolis 500. My friend Tina and I drove a total of 2,048 miles to watch thirty-three men drive around a big loop 200 times. Of course not all of them made it all the way through to finish the race. I don’t have exact numbers, but quite a few of the racers stopped themselves by smashing into the outside walls, a few just ran into each other, and then there was one guy who was driving along minding his own business when his car just caught on fire. I felt bad for the guy, but then a bunch of people came along and extinguished him.

The sheer magnitude of the Indianapolis 500 is impressive. Hundreds of thousands of people converge to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day a year to see the big race. The planning required to pull something like this off is extensive– roads are blocked off, businesses are closed down, and special busses are brought in to move the masses more efficiently. Every effort is made to ensure the audience enjoys the race. Having taken all of this into consideration, I don’t understand why they built one of the world’s largest racing facilities in a climate that on average receives more precipitation during the last weekend in May than the entire Amazon Basin gets all year. I guess I am still a little bitter about the fact that we were forced to go to the race track three different days before the race track was dry enough to get the race finished.

I really should have had a new job lined up BEFORE I left my old job at Saxe, but then it would have been a lot harder to take the entire summer off. After a few weeks of doing no productive work, I realized my summer needed a little more structure. Applying the theory that there cannot be light without darkness, good without evil, and “tastes great” without “less filling” to my otherwise unproductive summer free time, I decided to go back to school to start working toward my Masters Degree. After a rather flimsy search, I decided to take a graduate level mathematics class at the University of Colorado at Denver. It was rough, but twice a week all summer I got up, shaved, showered, and made my way to downtown Denver in time for my 4 PM class– even if it was raining. A lesser person might have just stayed home and watched that old episode of “The A Team” where George Peppard and company save the defenseless workers from the evil bad guy while narrowly eluding the military forces that are relentlessly pursuing them for the crime they didn’t commit. You know the one. Anyway, I got through summer school with only minor bruises and am planning on receiving my Masters degree sometime in the next 8 to 10 years.

All good things must come to an end, and my “summer of unemployment” was no exception. After evaluating my bank account, I begrudgingly realized that an “autumn of unemployment” was not a financial option. I started sending my resume out to companies and eventually was hired at company called Rogue Wave Software. Rogue Wave’s current focus involves brokering brides of the Philippines to wealthy but socially underdeveloped gentlemen. Of course it’s all a front to hide the fact they are really developing, marketing, and supporting digital dynamic reusable hierarchical multi-platform modularized procedural language libraries.

I am currently working in the Technical Support division of Rogue Wave Software. We have constructed an international array of computers connected through a highly evolved network of PPP, ISDN, and T1 telecommunication lines that allow for the fast, efficient, and reliable movement of information allowing us to seamlessly communicate in our ever increasing global community. Does this investment in time and money improve our relationship with our customers? I don’t know, but it runs Quake really well.

One of the more interesting aspects of this job, besides, of course, playing Quake, involves the notion that part of our responsibility involves helping the customers so they don’t have to call us in the first place. To achieve this goal we are constantly reporting bugs in our software, finding problems with our documentation, and publishing helpful hints on the Internet. The more successful we become at this venture the more people get fired due to a decrease in the number of customer calls. But, since most of us in technical support were just recently hired, we are only performing our jobs at a level where our wages are garnished.

With the possible exception of leaving a bunch of store bought tortillas in my refrigerator for an entire year just to see what would happen (they shattered when I tried to move them), I believe that my crowning accomplishment of the year would have to be the day that I completed all the levels on the “Duke Nukem 3D” CD that I bought for my computer in January. Anyone can get through a few levels and then give up, but I had what it takes to get through all 30 levels (and one of the secret levels that I am not allowed to talk about) without getting burned out. Sure, I could have stopped half way through and gone outside or read a book, but that would have been a cop out. I stuck by my guns– knowing that I made it down a path where so few see any value whatsoever.

I am sending this letter by E-mail as much as possible in an effort to promote living environmentally friendly lifestyles. Remember to recycle folks, because if you don’t all of us will have to live with the garbage until the sun runs out of fuel and collapses on itself with the resulting explosion enveloping the planet Earth as we know it– instantaneously converting countless generations of accomplishments back into the basic building blocks of matter from which we were created. And that’s a long time.

That about wraps things up here. If you ever question how to live your life, just remember what everyone tells John Cusack in the movie “Better Off Dead”– “Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”