Retirement Part II

March 28, 2013

This is my second and final post on my thoughts on my impending retirement. The first post spanned from birth to hiring onto E-Systems.

My first big shock at work was working on a team and interacting with other people.  I toiled virtually alone at all my other jobs from driving a tractor on the farm to repairing microwave transmitters for Continental Electronics.  My first assignment was with a group of around 7 of building computer system based on a 24K mini-computer with 7 level paper tape as the only IO device.  My, how technology has changed!  My cube-mate was Sharon Horton.  Steve McNeil sat in the next cube. He knew more cuss-words than anyone I ever knew and used them in a very casual manner.  Jim Snow was our lead.  After that project I moved onto another one lead by the Sarge, Dave Scott. Other members of the team I will never forget are George Hall, Dave Hooker, Jim Dunn, and, Roland Rentz.

After a couple of years I volunteered for an assignment in Alice Springs Australia. We lived there for five years. I was a maintenance programmer there instead of building systems. The kids went from babies to just young enough they don’t remember anything except what we tell them. We formed some great friendships there and camped out bush a lot. We learned to enjoy soccer, rugby, and Aussie rules football. We saw the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, Hawaii, Fiji, and our favorite – Adelaide.  We returned home with mixed feelings but I was bored with work and the kids were getting older.

After returning from Australia I was talked into switching from Software to Systems.  The  switch was promised to be temporary but lasted the remainder of my career. I enjoyed the Systems journey. It was a journey literally. I traveled most of the rest of my career- Australia, West Coast, Denver, East Coast, State College, San Antonio, Florida.  Other than I traveled I can’t really say much about what I did except:

  • I made money
  • I had fun
  • I did something useful

I did get to know many really good people. Also, some of them were really nerdy. Like let’s calculate the gravitational effect of a proton on Halley’s Comet on the Earth at Midnight GMT April 23, 1587. I’m not going to mention any names because at my age with my memory I’ll leave someone out and wake up at 3AM in a panic.

Meanwhile on the home front the kids grew up, we grew older, and our previous generation passed away.  We, mostly Gwen, must have done okay because the kids all graduated from Texas A&M, started careers, got married, and procreated.

They say its the journey and not the destination.  I really enjoyed the journey and am ready for another one.

Best advice: He that is not busy being born is busy dying.

Best moments: 

  • Fixing a righteous problem in a component I developed.  Talk about immediate high
  • Flying home after a long and successful installation

Worst moments:

  • It’s Friday afternoon at 4PM. We are trying to install a new System.  The head Customer dude tells us if our System crashes again this weekend to turn it off, tear it down, and go home.
  • Its the day before Thanksgiving. Both sets of parents coming to visit – mine for the first time.  My VP tells me to get on a plane and fly to Australia tonight to fix a problem or turn in my badge.

The best moments dwarfed the worst moments by far.  And it’s true: If you love your job you will never work a day in your life.

Retirement Part I

March 1, 2013

I’m retiring a month from today and…

I was born in 1946 along time ago in a country far away called the Midwest.  It was quite a different place and quite a different time.  In the place where I grew up everyone was a farmer or had some connection to farming.  We thought diversity meant Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists attending the same school.

Fast forward to 3 years of school in Chicago – what an eye opener.

I discovered Polish saugages, Wrigley field when I needed a day off from school, and roomed with good friends from exotic Pittsburg who had never seen a cornfield.

Then, fast forward to Fort Worth — another eye opener.

My only previous connection with Texas was John Wayne movies.  I imagined mountains, cactus, sage brush, and cattle. However, after graduating from DeVry Institute I found myself and my two Pittsburg friends driving Southwest to Texas to start work at Generous Dynamics building F111 aircraft.  Mile after mile we kept expecting the scenery to change.  We were really excited driving through the Arbunkle Mountains (actually small hills) in Southern Oklahoma.  Well, we thought we are finally getting close to Texas: plenty of red rocks, cactus, hilly, and everything looks dry. How disappointed we were when after a few miles the landscape returned to close to the midwest.  It was a little drier, the weather was a little drier (in March), but otherwise looked much the same as the Midwest.

My first August I wondered why anyone lived in this hot hell hole. But then January came and I could play golf.  I was hooked on Texas.  As Daryl Royal used to say “Son, after you’ve worn Florsheim’s you never want to go back to Tom McCann’s.

My three years at General Dynamics did not change my life substantially.  I was still a Midwest nerd, single, and, my idea of a good time was driving around aimlessly all night – going nowhere, seeing no one, and doing nothing. I was laid off from that job along with 30,000 or so other people.  So, I went back to school.

It was at school that I meant Gwen, my future wife.  At the time I thought she talked to much and was pretty naive because she had never heard Simon and Garfunkel sing Sounds of Silence which by that time was the anthem of my generation.

Nothing much happened until one Thanksgiving week. I was home studying like usual (probably proving the set of real numbers given the set of integers. I always liked math).  Gwen called my roommate because her battery had died. He was out at a bar so I hopped in my car and repaired her battery. The rest is history: love – dating – marriage – kids – grandkids.

Back to retirement. When we tied the string I was still in school so I hired onto Continental Telephone in Useless Texas.  I attended UTA in the day and repaired microwave transmitters at night.

During my senior year I interviewed with a number of companies. I was a math major with minors in physics and computer science. At the time there were no Universities in Texas offering degrees in Computer Science so the high tech companies were hiring math majors to fill their positions. My two most memorable interviewes were EDS (Ross Perot’s company)  and E-Systems.  EDS want me to cut my hair and wear white shirts and ties.  E-Systems did not care as long as I produced so I went to E-Systems.  I remember May Sue Thorton, Ed Redwine, Jim Snow, and John Harris interviewed me.

I graduated in December 1973. On January 2, 1974 I started my employment at E-Systems in Garland Texas and moved to beautiful John Glenn Drive in Garland Texas. A few days later on February 2 our first child was born – Claudia. Meanwhile I was sitting in the E-Systems leper colony. But that is a story for another day.