Welcome to my fourth annual Christmas letter. Well, I can’t pretend my life wasn’t drastically changed this year when my dad died. I’ve tried not to dwell on it too much, but I don’t think that I could write my annual Christmas letter pretending that it never happened. Don’t worry though– that isn’t all that has happened to me this year.January 6, 1998 was the date. I’m not going to explain what happened in any kind of detail, but I will say that he went to the hospital with Pneumococcal Pneumonia and died two days later from complications that followed. His down fall was very quick and relatively painless– not a bad way to go.The one piece of advice I have when someone is forced to deal with the loss of a loved one is to ask how to help instead of assuming to know what to do. Some of our neighbors brought over a bunch of greasy Chinese food and had dinner with us the night after my dad died. While I am usually a big fan of greasy Chinese food, that night I just wasn’t in the mood. They meant well, but it just didn’t really help much. On the other hand, I asked one of my best friends to drive me up to my apartment in Boulder so I could get some of my things. There is no better feeling than being driven across town in rush hour traffic so I could change out of the underwear I had been wearing for the past three days.
OK, I guess I can go on to talk about the rest of the year.
The next Saturday morning I tried to put the events of the previous week behind me by going on my company ski trip. It started out innocently enough when I boarded one of the two busses Rogue Wave chartered for the day. Once everyone was settled the busses headed up I-70– destination Summit County. A light snowfall greeted us as we arrived at the base of Copper Mountain. After making a not so quick stop in the ski rental shop I hit the slopes. The light crowds and constant snowfall made for excellent ski conditions. A dozen or so runs later I climbed back on the bus wet, sore, and immensely satisfied from the day’s activities.
Instead of commuting straight back to Boulder the plan was to stop in Silverthorn for dinner and drinks. The idea was to enjoy a relaxing dinner and miss the evening ski traffic returning to the metro area. The intentions were good, but the results turned out disastrous.
After a hearty meal at Old Chicago’s we got on the busses to head home. The only problem was that I-70 was closed by the highway patrol minutes before we arrived. Instead of preparing for hot showers and comfortable beds we patiently waited near the on ramp to I-70. Information was scarce and the mood quickly changed when we realized the busses were not moving anytime soon. To say that everyone handles stress differently would be a monstrous understatement in this situation. Most people slept, talked, or played charades. Some people, however, didn’t handle the situation quite so gracefully. The names are not important, but I honestly believe the threat of legal action was the only factor preventing some of the occupants of the bus from being physically restrained and placed in the under carriage storage compartments for the duration of the trip.
In February I had the honor and privilege of representing Rogue Wave Software at the 1998 Software Development West conference held in San Francisco, California. My only responsibility for the week was to spend several hours a day at the Rogue Wave company booth answering whatever questions the attendants would throw at us. I answered a lot of questions during my booth duty, but the most common question by far was “What is the coolest thing I can get from you guys for free?” It was kind of sad to see people who make a good living as computer programmers going from exhibit to exhibit begging for cheap pens and crappy T-shirts.
The coolest thing about going to trade shows is having an expense account and a whole lot of free time. Despite the week long cloud cover and constant drizzle, we sampled quite a few lovely restaurants and bars in the downtown San Francisco area. The most exciting evening started out at what was called the “Vendor Bender” party. As a reward for countless hours standing on the concrete floor of the convention center, the organizers of the convention hosted a party that included a dinner buffet, two open bars, a DJ, and a live band. As best I can remember, we stayed at the party for the entire time and didn’t leave until the bouncers started kicking people out. After a quick cab ride back to the hotel there were still quite a few of us that just weren’t ready to go to bed. We had a lot of fun in the wee hours of that morning, unfortunately I can’t reveal any more of the specific details of the night as a high level company executive reminded everyone that the events of the evening were not to be made available to the general public. I was kind of worried about waking up my roommate by coming in at such a late hour, but it turned out to be a non issue as he was already up and getting ready to go downstairs to eat breakfast. Needless to say I didn’t join him.
When the spring rolled around my mom decided that she wanted to move out of her big house and into a townhouse. Of course before that could happen we had to sort through the belongings all four members of our family had accumulated over the past 21 years. It’s easy to say that you love someone when things are going well in life. It’s even pretty easy when things are going bad. The true test of love is when you have to spend countless hours in the basement trying to decide what you want to keep and what to throw away. The whole thing was so stressful that I ended up getting in a big fight with my mom when I thought she was putting too much tape on the packing boxes. For a woman in her early fifties she put up quite a struggle when I decided to take matters into my own hands and wrestle the tape gun away from her. There were a few tense moments, but we somehow managed to survive the whole moving process.
In my continued half hearten attempt to earn a Masters degree, I enrolled in a graduate level mathematics class during the summer session at the Denver campus of the University of Colorado. It turns out the class was taught by the same teacher and convened in the same room as the class I took last year. This year, however, I had to deal with a full time job in addition to the demands of the class. This drastically reduced the amount of time I could allocate to my homework. Sometimes I could work on my assignments after work on the nights I didn’t have class. When that wasn’t an option I employed the time honored tradition of doing my homework on the bus on the way to school. At the rate I am going I will have all the required credits for my Masters degree in the year 2007.
That pretty much describes the important and/or entertaining events for 1998. The year didn’t go anything like I imagined, but I guess that is what life is all about. As I am writing this I am getting ready to spend the next 6 months in Europe on company business. I’ve never been out of the state of Colorado for more than two weeks at a time or out of the United States at all, so traveling half way around the world will be an exciting experience. Since I am leaving the beginning of January it will have to wait until my 1999 Christmas letter. Until then, I’ll end this letter with one of my favorite song lyrics:
Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there’s so much more
I live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.