Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Stealing Another Meme - My 2000s

I'm stealing a meme from Spencer Ellsworth, who has an interesting review of his decade over on his live journal account. Interesting enough that I decided to steal his idea and run with it. My 2000 decade in review.

2000: I'm getting old, it's hard to remember that far back. I started the year with fresh memories of Italy, where I trained with some engineers for the company I started working for in 1999. I changed jobs from product to device engineering. It was a decision based on cross-training and the opportunity presenting itself. In retrospect, it might have been a major mistake but what is done is done.

We experienced for the first time what it's like to have the Phoenix Open in our back yard. Think Superbowl 7 days in a row, progressively worse every day.

We got two dogs. We had no kids in school. Rica's mother, (aka Grandma) had a garden and roses.

2001: The Diamondback played well all season, making it easy to adopt the local team over the previous favorite San Francisco Giants. The company I worked for made the decision that no headcount would be lost, and they remained mostly true to that during the bubble-burst known as the "Tech Wreck." We all feared it, but that company turned out to be a safe harbor in a bad storm.

Audrey started Kindergarten. We enrolled her in a charter school run by Tutor Time. She did well.

The first tower had already been struck when I came downstairs on the morning of September 11th. Having never been to NYC, I didn't realize the magnitude of the hole in the side of the building until I saw the second plane hit. At that point, I made a prediction I wish did not come true, that both towers would collapse, and in the correct order. Unfortunately, I was right.

The Yankees and Diamondbacks played a whale of a World Series, something that the country needed. Textbook says the Yankees should have won, and despite Byung-Hyun Kim trying to give the series to them, the Diamondbacks won in the bottom of the ninth of game 7.

2002: The Tutor Time charter school turned out to be a bait and switch. After the Kindergarten year, they tried to get all the parents to enroll in their new private school. I think they had around 60 kids in the charter school. Only one child was enrolled for the private school. We enrolled Audrey and Reanna in the public schools, while Russell stayed home with Grandma. I honestly can't remember much else about 2002.

2003: All three kids were now in school, and help with homework would become a growing task for me. I think it was in 03 that I started working nights, something that lasted for around a year and a half. It was working, but the company reorganized and reallocated us. I started working in the parametric test area, something closer to where I started, and liked it better.

2004: This is when they did away with the old position and reallocated me to a more technical position working on the Keithley testers. It also marks the year I really consider that I became a writer. That is because I started a novel, Neanderthal Swan Song, and made the decision that I would finish it no-matter-what. And I did, but not in 2004. But I did work on it regularly from October through December. I also made my first fiction sale, to Alien Skin Magazine--a publication that is now on my, to be kind, do not submit list.

2005: At work, I moved out of parametric test and back into Product Engineering. Turns out, I did this three months before the company announced that the work would move offshore. I spent much of the second half of the year looking for something else, and without much success.

This was a huge year for me as a writer. I finished that novel. I met David Gerrold, who has been something of a mentor for me. I attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp, where I met Spencer mentioned above, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brad Beaulieu, and a dozen other writers, many of whom I have lost track of. I didn't sell anything, but I wrote a lot. I also joined Codex Writer Group, an online group that has been a great source for networking and I have grown quite fond several people I met through it.

2006: The job situation got a bit hairy. They told us that they would fund our salaries through June. I found another job in May. That job seemed wonderful, though they didn't feed me enough work to keep me busy. how that would change. The company experienced a leveraged buy out a few months after I started. Little did I know how much that would soon change the company culture. But, that's a story for 2007.

Audrey won first place in the Arizona Flute Society Young Artists competition for her age group, tying for first with another fabulous young Arizona flautist.

Three fiction sales happened in 2007, including my first pro sale that would eventually qualify me for associate membership in SFWA. I wrote at my best pace until I finally did NaNoWriMo in 2009.

The Cardinals hired at some point Dennis Green to coach, and despite his antics, he made some excellent player acquisitions that would reap benefits after he left, including a backup quarterback by the name of Kurt Warner. I started paying attention to a team other than Green Bay.

2007: Wow things changed. Without going into any work-related details, I was working on an automotive product with some serious but low PPM problems. I was the guy who absorbed much of the incoming fire, and work on this problem saturated my time for the rest of my tenure at this company.

I rewrote Neanderthal Swan Song, finishing just as the corporate hell was getting started, expanding it from 74,000 words to 114,000 despite dropping a sub-plot. That concluded the bulk of my fiction writing until now, mainly due to stress-related exhaustion. Work in previous years carried the day, as my fiction appeared ten times during the course of the year.

The Cardinals fired Dennis Green and hired Ken Whisenhunt. They went 8-8 and looked to be getting better.

2008: A miserable wretch of a year, where the combination of the leveraged buy-out issues and the product problem combined to be pretty much all-consuming. Quote of the year: "No personal activity on company time. Company time is defined as 2008." I should have known it would be bad when a colleague died of what I will never be convinced was not a work-stress related heart attack during the holidays of 2007, and I learned of it on New Years Eve about an hour before 2008 started.

I wrote some of my worst fiction, much of which has not sold and is trunked. I did manage to appear seven times, but the job situation really set me back about two or three years in my writing career, and I am still struggling to get my output back to what it was in 2006.

In the fall, an economy already in recession took a turn for the worse. The auto industry was hit hard, and even an idiot could see the fallout coming back to the part suppliers. Later, Yertle the Turtle announced a significant reduction in force world-wide. The ax came out of the shed in December to cut the dead wood. A handful from our division were gone and the ax went into the shed for the holidays.

The Cardiac Cardinals were reborn, going 9-7. Playing well, this team could be anybody. Playing less than well, oh boy they stunk. You never knew which team would show up, and we went into the new year expecting a one-and-done from the Cardinals in the playoffs.

2009: But, the Cardinals got hot and finished the season with a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds of Superbowl 43 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The strong playoff run helped to soften the blow that landed on January 14th around 10:00 am. January 14th is when Yertle the Turtle pulled the ax out of the shed and flailed it around with berserker vicious disregard for who it hit. The group of engineers I belonged to had 16 people when we got to work. At 5:00Pm it had only 8. This was a massive reduction in force so large that those who were let go were probably envied by those left to pick up the pieces. The talent drain was tremendous. Needless to say, I was part of that wave and I spent the rest of the year unemployed or underemployed.

I started my video company, but this Great Recession had nobody buying anything, and the company continues to struggle to find work. I spent August to December teaching in the math department at Paradise Valley Community College, where I taught night classes back in 2000-2003. They were, fortunately, happy to have me back, which provided a needed ego boost.

We also lost Grandma, Rica's mother. That added an unwelcome financial strain to an already strained situation. Her side of the family pitched in, and a lot of little contributions can add up. Although it didn't come close to covering the expenses, it did help get us through those difficult days before I started teaching in the fall.

On the writing front, my fiction appeared a personal record 13 times, including finally my second SFWA-qualifying sale, my first audio fiction appearance, and my first book, "Winter" which is a pairing of a novelette "Winter" with a reprint of the story that was my first SFWA-eligible sale. I also guest-edited issue #12 of M-Brane SF, which was released not only in the usual pdf format, but also as a trade paperback as a collection under the title Ergosphere. I also took the opportunity to keep my word to my niece Hazel Abaya to help her get an opportunity to get her art published. Her colored pencil drawing graces the cover.

It took a very long time to decompress from all the stress of the job I no longer had. I struggled to write through most of the year, only getting back to it in the fall. Some important video work did steal some of the creative juices. Still, the habit of not writing was so hard to break that it took NaNoWriMo to get me going again. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I did it in 29.

My intention after finishing NaNo was to take a break to complete a video project for a couple days, then go back after the novel at the same pace, finishing it by the end of the year. Then my hard drive crashed and I couldn't do either.

I did manage to get the computer back in time to barely make the deadline on the video project, and the client was very pleased with it, but I completely lost the NaNo momentum. I expect to get back on that novel before the end of January 2010.

And the Cardiac Cardinal are back for more, wining the NFC West and ushering in a new decade with another hold-your-breath which-team-will-show-up post-season on deck.

2009 was a tough year in many respects, but in a lot of ways, it was a better year than 2008. Actually, the whole decade was rough, though it had some stellar moments too. It would be nice if this upcoming decade had more of the stellar than of the rough, but we have to play the hand we're dealt. Right now, I still have cards dealt the past few years in my hand. Maybe I'll bluff, because I refuse to fold.

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