Mike's Timeline
Home Up


This is a timeline of my life. It was originally started to have a record of my High School, College, and early WA state years because that's when a lot of interesting stuff happened in very rapid succession that I want to get documented and sorted out before I forgot all of it. But, it sort of snowballed into my entire life with interesting tidbits and "memory milestones" tossed in for reference as I created it. As I remember more stuff I add it here, and I'll try to come back and add more for each new year that goes by, probably after a while so I can get some perspective on things.


Born. Gotta start somewhere.  No memories.


Sept: Turned 1. No memories.


Sept: Turned 2. No memories.


Sept: Turned 3. No memories.


Sept: Turned 4. No memories.


Sept: Entered Kindergarten. Turned 5. Earliest clear memory - a week long road trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL. I remember waking up in the car somewhere in Delaware and watching seeing the sunrise while we drove - we left very early in the morning to get a head-start on traffic.


Sept: Entered 1st Grade. Turned 6. No major memories.


Sept: Entered 2nd Grade. Turned 7. No major memories, though I think this was the year one of my close friends was chosen to repeat the 1st grade and I virtually never saw him again for the rest of my schooling even though we were in the same district. We were good friend's outside of school.


Sept: Entered 3rd Grade. Turned 8. Worst teacher I ever had - Mrs. Katz. I have distinct memories of her being so bad my father would send back the notes she sent home with me - with the spelling errors corrected in red pen. I also have a vivid memory of one particularly gross kid - Andrew - leaving in the middle of the year and the scene when they unpacked the crud that was stuffed into his desk was unreal. Think moldy food meets books, papers, and other typical school stuff. Dad bought a Radio Shack TR-80 Model 1 and one of their earliest dot matrix printers. We started off loading stuff from a cassette tape drive! I actually bought Zaxxon (remember that?) on tape - and promptly learned you could make copies in the home stereo for friends. I vaguely recall knowing that Carter lost to Reagan and that later someone shot Reagan but he was OK.


Sept: Entered 4th Grade. Turned 9. First required class presentation, discovered I had horrible stage fright and fear of public speaking. Crashed and burned hard. My parents never understood how bad this was, and their reactions managed to turn what could have been a learning experience into something that took me years to overcome. My dad finally got a 5 1/4" floppy drive for the TRS-80 along with a memory expander kit - can't recall how much but 64K sounds about right. I began doing lots of work on it and learning to program it in Basic. I remember having to get permission to turn in homework done on the computer (I was the first kid in my school to attempt to do so, IIRC) and the teachers had a heck of a time with it mainly because the printer had no "lowercase descenders" - aka, a lowercase "g" was printed with the entire letter above the baseline of the text, and looked like a lot like a "9". Lame, but you got used to it after a while.


Sept: Entered 5th Grade. Turned 10. Had my most boring teacher ever - Mrs. Skinner. Discovered I had near photographic recall of classroom teachings even when I was not paying attention, and promptly used this skill to annoy and embarrass the teacher, with the expected results of getting to know the principle well along with lots of "being talked to" by the teacher, principle, and my parents. First time I willfully blew off homework because I already knew the subject matter. If I recall correctly, it was a massive long division practice worksheet just before Christmas shaped like a stocking.


Sept: Entered 6th Grade. Turned 11. The school psychologist and my parents couldn't decide if I was a bored genius or just plain emotionally disturbed. They flipped a coin, crazy came up, so I got moved out of mainstream classes. Mr. Harris was one of my best teachers, though I was socially branded for life in my hometown as a result of being in the "weird kids class". And I do mean weird. The kid in front of me did not shower until he was told to over Thanksgiving  break. Gag. So much for even having any hope of fitting in. Graduated from Ben Franklin Elementary school, still have the little Ben Franklin shaped porcelain head they gave us. It was a double-year graduation that year - they were moving 6th grade to the middle school (used to be Junior. High) and 9th grade to the High School. Distinction of the last 6th grade class to graduate. Dad bought another computer - a Radio Shack Model 4P, a sort of portable monstrosity with something like a 8" green monochrome screen and built in dual floppy drives. He used it for basic tasks and not much else.


Sept: Entered 7th Grade. Turned 12. Big new school, first experience with "shop" classes - wood shop and metal shop stick out. Passed out in metal shop class one day, diagnosed with severe allergies and asthma as a cause. Last time I ever took breathing for granted - oxygen deprivation due to restricted airways bites. The school computer labs used Radio Shack Model 3 and Model 4 computers. The main data center for the school that held all the grade info and what not was stored on two massive 8 inch floppy disc drives sitting right off the waiting area of the main office. The school psychologist and my parents decided I was a "bored genius" and I was moved from the "weird kids class" into the "gifted and talented classes". More help for my social status - now the normal kids really hated me, the gifted kids thought I was a leper, and the weird kids were just as weird as ever. It was a lonely time of advanced English and Math classes with very small class sizes. Even better, I was the only male with 7 other females in the "gifted" classes, and they laid into me most badly all year long. Yep, that change last year really helped my development of social skills along nicely...


Sept: Entered 8th Grade. Turned 13. First time I was interested in a girl and she was interested in me back. She was even more of a social outcast than I was, and I panicked and stopped talking to her to preserve what little social credibility I had. Peer pressure does funny things to kids like that. That June was the final time I would walk in a school graduation. I distinctly remember having Mrs. Goebel for "gifted" math this year, and I remember being so bored waiting for the other 7 girls to figure out lessons that I often blurted out answers to questions she asked them just to get new questions to figure out. This resulted in me being beaned in the chest by - you guessed it - Mrs. Goebel with a metal chalk holder from 4 feet away at one point. I did zero homework and got a B-/C+ average based on my test scores. It's pretty sad when you so that far ahead of the "best and brightest" in the entire school district that even the advanced math classes are 20% learning and 80% sheer boredom. No wonder I got into so much trouble and I never learned how to finish stuff.


Sept: Entered 9th Grade. Turned 14. Welcome to High School, where you have to grow up real fast. Those wishing to prey on the physically weaker were a lot bigger and meaner, and a lot smarter and harder to avoid. Gym class and lunch were the hardest because they were way outside my normal tame social circles. Algebra was a fun class, Mr. Fig was a good teacher. Most memorably, I got in big time trouble for playing with fire during one of the science classes - I managed to get expelled for an entire week. Terrified the entire teacher/dept head hierarchy. Even the tough guys in my lab group decided I was kind of psycho and gave me a bit more space as a result. On the flip side, I now know that fireproof lab tables will not burn, but they will support alcohol-fueled fires nicely. :-)


Sept: Entered 10th Grade. Turned 15. Bought an Apple IIc from my Geometry teacher, promptly started copying all the free software I could find from friends. Started hanging out with another guy who was back into the Gifted program after being out a few years due to being sick - Rocco Vergoglini. He was an another aspiring geek with an Apple IIe, so we learned how to code together. He was somewhat more socially well adjusted than I was, which was a plus - he'd tell me when I did something incredibly dumb in a direct enough way that I paid attention to it. The most unusual moment of the year was being sent to the principles office for talking during a filmstrip because Rocco, who was sitting next to me, farted quite loudly - after us being warned not to talk anymore during the film. Wrong person, wrong action, but I got detention anyway. To this day, I can't recall that incident without laughing out loud. In the end I failed Biology with a yearlong grade of 40 out of a 100, and had to take it again in summer school. Met John Longcope there and spend a lot of the summer hanging out with him. Bought a Moped to ride to summer school, and promptly seized the engine because the seller never told me it was a 2 stroke. Oil in the gas? What? I wasn't much of a gearhead back then. Dad was nice enough to pay to get it fixed for me and I rode it everywhere. I also began learning about cars from John but lost touch with him after summer school was over. I also remember failing my History class that year - which was my first experience with a genuinely crazy and reverse racist teacher. I think his name was Bruce something-or-other. Dumb as a brick, he once sent me to the principles office for catching a mistake he made on a test and calling him on it to get it corrected. Figures he was one of the baseball coaches - he was a very stereotypical "dumb jock". One of the other class members got so fed up with his crap and his intentionally cheating people out of good grades (yes, you read that right - I watched him do it to me!) that someone stole his grade book around mid-semester so he had no record of anyone's grades. Bruce was one of only two teachers my father ever agreed was a complete loser and agreed pretty much none of what Bruce was dinging me for was my fault. In later years, he made sure both my sisters got the other history teacher instead of Bruce.


Sept: Entered 11th Grade. Turned 16. Rode my moped everywhere, had some first experiences with vehicle vandalism from some of the local creeps from school. Was working in the Cherry Hill Mall at the JC Penny restaurant as a dishwasher, had my first experience with being let go from a job. Met John Longcope at the mall one night and also met his brother, Peter Longcope for the first time. Began hanging out with both of them on a regular basis even though John was in 12th grade and getting ready to graduate and Peter was already out of school.  Met Steve Shockley through John and Peter for the first time. Got my learner's permit and passed Driver's Ed with flying colors. Had lots of fun driving around, even took the class a second time for fun. Actually won a drag race while in a driver's ed car, and had much fun scaring the hell out of the two girls who were in my class who couldn't drive very well and were scared of their own shadow. Riding next to a truck would make them slither into the center of the car and start to squeal in horror, until the teacher made me pass or back off. :-) I also have distinct memories of one particular dolt in my Driver's Ed class who tried to cheat off my written test so he could get his learner's permit. Sadly, he passed. Peter Longcope bought his first new car - a 1989 Hyundai Excel in which he was brave enough to teach me to learn to drive a stick-shift. I learned most of my driving skills cruising about in the 1973 Electra that at the time belonged to John's mother, and sometimes in the 1980 Granada owned by their Grandmother. We had some wild late-night driving sessions playing "follow the leader" with Doug Garzon and his 1987 (or was it 1988?) Hyundai Excel down various back streets, alleys, and unknown roads around our houses. I also remember two particular jokes I played on Pete. One where I was in the back seat of the Electra while Pete was driving and I turned on a flashlight pointed right at his rearview mirror and he nearly lost control of his bodily functions. John was in the passengers seat laughing his proverbial you know what off while Pete tried to recover his composure. Another joke was when I driving the Granada and still learning to drive a stick shift smoothly. It was late and dark, and I pretended to be driving the automatic Granada as a stick shift - complete with fake hand and foot motions for the shifter and clutch. Pete was busy complimenting me on my smooth driving for about 5 minutes, until someone else in the car pointed out the car we were in the Granada which had an automatic. Pete nearly strangled me for that one, but we all had a good laugh out of it in the end. Began attending church with Pete and John out in Medford, NJ and Come Alive New Testament Church. Tried as hard as I could too tick off the religious folks, but Pastor Harry was always nothing but gracious to me and had good sermons too. Bought a 1974 Mustang II from Peter Longcope with what I later realized was a seriously misguided hope of reviving it. My Dad finally entered a semi-modern computing era when he paid Steve Shockley to assemble a XT-class machine for him, amber monochrome screen and all. Got an external Hayes 2400 baud modem for Christmas and promptly hooked it up to my Apple IIc and started looking about for local BBS's. We had call waiting on our single home phone line and the local phone company did not support disabling it before you dialed (the only phone company in the entire country who was that outdated, I might add), so getting booted offline was common. Tried to write a game for the Apple II with Rocco, even went so far as submitting our game design and ideas to one of the big game companies at the time - Broderbund, IIRC. It was "BMX Construction Set" a game that allowed you to build your own BMX bike tracks and then race on them. It was going to be done in the Apple IIe's "super high res mode" that was ill documented and hard to use. We never got very far with the actual coding, though it had a nifty intro screen. We were writing it in assembly language while we were teaching ourselves how to write in assembly using books and trial and error - I was getting pretty good at it after a while. This was also when I did my single longest coding stint - something like 15+ hours without realizing the time. I remember sitting back, stretching, and thinking "man, I'm sore - what time is it?" and as I looked at my watch and the time dawned on me, my bladder sent me a very urgent message about my next high-priority task. :-) Started working the night shift at Roy Roger's on Route 130 in Cinnaminson, NJ where Pete worked on the day shift. John worked there for a while too, IIRC. At one point in the winter, Pete was driving Steve's 1972 Mustang (bent rear axle and all) and we all got the crazy idea to drive to FL to see his father. We got Pete to Richmond, VA before he chickened out and turned back for home.


Sept: Entered 12th Grade. Converted to Evangelical Christianity, kept attending Come Alive. Turned 17. Rocco thought I converted under the influence of drugs (for the record, I don't take 'em - I'm so boring I never even drank) and we started drifting apart. My Apple II coding time dropped radically after we drifted apart and Broderbund rejected the idea of taking up our game idea and publishing it. Spent most of the year driving Pete's brand-new 1989 Hyundai Excel because Pete had his license suspended and I had agreed to drive him to work in exchange for "borrowing the car". It really ticked him off that I treated it like my car, too. I almost didn't want to give it back when he got his license back. Moved the external modem to Dad's XT class machine (or maybe he got a modem of his own - I can't recall which) and I started BBS'ing from downstairs on a better machine - Dad had a hard drive and a nicer dialer program than I could find for the Apple. Parted out Pete's old Mustang II while it was still in his side driveway and bartered the transmission to Steve Shockley for use in his Pinto in exchange for a 10Mb hard drive - yes, my very first car was a "parts car". I was a regular caller to a few local BBS's such as Atlantis and Gateway. Started my own BBS - Norad BBS, it went with my online handle of David Lightman - and convinced Gas Man over at Atlantis to let me pull networked room feeds from his BBS to mine. I was running on Pete's 286-class machine using my hard drive for storage and a phone line I paid to have installed at their house all because Dad wouldn't let me run a BBS on his XT machine and the software I wanted to run (Citadel/K2NE) would only run on an IBM-compatible machine. Pete got pretty sick of me tying up his computer after a while. Began learning some basic CAD skills from Pete - he had a copy of AutoCAD on his machine - and found out I was pretty good at it. I finally talked Dad into letting me get my own phone line at home and promptly ran up an enormous phone bill in like the third month before I learned that not all calls inside the same area code were free. Oops. Quit working at Roy Rogers up on Route 130 at some point, though I can't recall why. Pete worked there for years more, eventually becoming one of the assistant managers. This year we had a better car (Pete's Hyundai) and we went for broke on the FL trip idea - we actually did it, driving from Pennsauken, NJ to Miami Beach, FL and back for the weekend. Yep, young, crazy and stupid. It was fun, though. The Hyundai did 94 MPH flat-out with John, Pete, and myself in it, and we drove it like that pretty much all of the way down. I distinctly remember being passed around 2am by some guy in a 'Vette with a huge digital speedometer and he had his cruise set at 95 MPH. I had the throttle pinned to the floor and there was nothing we could do to keep up - he just slowly pulled away 1MPH at a time...


Bought a 1973 Cadillac with my own $375 and got it registered and insured, sort of. (Insurance in NJ was expensive and coverage would lapse if you had not paid your bill...) Dropped out of school because I had flunked a Health course around March on some dumb technicality and they would not let me retake it or come back next year to repeat the year. Think about that logic for a minute - they said point blank I could not graduate that year, could not come back next year, and wanted me to complete the year anyway. And that was supposed to motivate me to be a better student? Sorry, but whatever the Vice Principle was trying to communicate was very ill-considered and badly presented. I walked out of his office and never went back. First and only time I got up and slammed his office door in the middle of one of his little speeches. Dad was furious with me (The vice principle was a friend of his - double whammy) and demanded I start paying rent even though I was still only 17, which I called his bluff and refused to do - the source of a good bit of friction between us until after I left home. Started working at Roy Rogers on the NJ turnpike. I got the job because Pete used to work there and was a living legend with the old timers there, so when I dropped his name as the one who said to come apply, I pretty much got the job instantly. Met Leona Wescher at work and eventually started dating her. Moved Norad BBS to my Dad's old XT machine - I believe he had upgraded by now or given up on it because it was so outdated and I pretty much claimed the old machine for my own uses. I may have even upgraded it to a 286 using a cast-off motherboard at one point - it might have been Pete's old machine. The BBS was still on the same bartered hard drive, and I have a distinct memory of the mounting screws for the drive not fitting in the holes in the XT case, so I wrapped the drive in a paper towel to prevent shorts and carefully laid the hard drive in the bottom drive bay. It ran that way until the machine was powered off because it was simply too outdated to be of any use. Discovered the Rutgers University dialup modem bank in Camden, NJ (a local call for me) that gave you access to this wild thing called "the internet" and somehow found my way onto Quartz BBS. This was way before the World Wide Web, and it was text-only all the way. Blew the motor in my Cadillac in the late summer when the trans jumped out of gear at 80+ MPH when I was at full throttle (but I won the race!) and went car-less for a week or so until my Dad offered to help me buy another one with the college money he had saved up for me. How generous of him! I found a 1980 Datsun 200SX and started a relationship with a car that was the stuff of legends in my family. Had to learn about repair and maintenance real fast when the heater core exploded on me just a few months after buying the car. I learned that antifreeze dissolves PC boards after the splash of hot coolant went into my radio, among other places. Got my GED that summer. Turned 18 in September and started a few college classes in the fall down at Camden County College. Dad graciously agreed to pay for the classes. The closest thing they had to a computer degree at the time was their CAD/CAM program, so I took up that as my major and started working towards my AA. I had occasional fleeting thoughts of transferring to a real four year college instead of what I referred to as a "drive through college" because it didn't even have any dorms. Another popular term was "13th grade", especially for the day classes. The night classes had people who wanted to learn, the day classes were crap in comparison. I took night classes whenever possible after the first semester. Leona went back to Houghton College in upstate NY, I began to hang out at her parents house a few days a week, and go visit her at school for at least one weekend a month. I'd drive up after work on Friday, crash for part of Saturday, hang out with her all day Saturday, then either crash in my car or at someone's dorm room for the night, hang out with her all day Sunday, then leave for home either late night Sunday or early morning Monday depending on my class and work schedule. Spent all of my free time writing her real live snail-mail letters - she was not into computers and had no Internet access at school, nor did she want it. My hand was always cramped from writing so much. I sent whatever I had every time it got to be about 6 pages or so - about once a week, maybe twice a week. Helped Roy Wescher (her Dad) a lot with his computer, and got to know the Wescher's very well. I remember John's grandmother loaning me $600 at one point to pay off a transmission repair bill on the Datsun. She was a very nice lady.


Still working at Roy Roger's on the NJ turnpike, still dating Leona, still driving the Datsun, still hanging out with John, Pete, Doug, and Steve on a regular basis. Still attending Come Alive, though Leona was asking me to start thinking of attending her church or going to her father's church - he was a pastor with the Presbyterian Church of America and was helping start up a new church. A bit stodgy for me and I couldn't quite agree with their theology, but they were nice folks. Leona came back home for the summer and we worked at Roy's together along with Chad, the older of her two younger brothers. I took her on a day trip to Wildwood, NJ to celebrate for her birthday. I eventually started attending her church - Grace Bible Church - and we had a regular Sunday gathering at her parent's house. I would drive up to her parent's house, pick her up for church, drive to church, then drive home so I could get changed, then drive back to her parent's house, have a nice relaxing early dinner (Kathy Wescher is a great cook) and often pizza in the evening, then around 9-10pm I would drive back home. It was something like 50+ miles of driving every Sunday on my "day of rest". In the fall, I briefly moved to working the graveyard shift for the pay increase, quickly found out that my body and mind could not deal with the all night shift for more than a few weeks straight, even for the $1/hour raise you got. It turns out second shift is much more in tune with my natural body rhythms, so went back to second shift. Two of the all-night shift guys got hit by a drunk driver one night, killed one instantly, put the other in the hospital for months. Bill something, IIRC. They had moved out to the NJ area and were living in a hotel and working at the same place trying to get their feet under them, and wham, some dumb drunk wiped that all out in an instant. Leona and I were some of the only folks to head down to the hospital to see him - he was unconscious for a week or more and had a ton of metal in one of his legs. Turned 19 in September. Found a better paying job at Radio Shack in the Moorestown Mall, and quit Roy's. Started working nearly full time there opening and still going to school. I was in debt pretty good for no good reason (young, stupid, girlfriend, car - typical), so I took a second job delivering for Domino's Pizza in Pennsauken, NJ. Learned the streets in the area pretty fast, got a quick education in why not to go down "bad" streets at night. Still going to school full time as well as working two jobs, but man, was I always flush with cash and I got out of debt in about 4 months. Ended up quitting Domino's over a dispute with my manager, interestingly he was fired the next day for doing drugs on the job and stealing out of the safe. Just my luck, huh? Without that second income, I went right back into debt. John and Steve ended up both working at the same Radio Shack, so we had a blast hanging out all day. I moved to working nights and we often were the three closers for the store. Steve bought my Dad's Radio Shack Model 4P and managed to cram a miniature AT class machine into the case, and had his own portable computer - amazing for the time. Norad got shut down sometime during this year, IIRC, for lack of interest and me wanting to re-claim my phone line back so I could call Leona more. I spent hundreds of dollars in long distance phone bills calling Leona as much as I could. We really did talk a lot. I had a really long phone cord and I like to pace while I talk on the phone, so I developed a habit of going out onto the roof and walking around while we talked on the phone. Annoyed my mother to no end the first time she looked up through her kitchen skylight and she saw me looking down at her. Turned 19 in September and kept on doing what was doing. I transferred to another Radio Shack at some point - this one was out in a strip mall in Marlton, NJ. During the summer, I worked part time doing construction in Atlantic City, NJ for my neighbor. It didn't last long, but it was an education in daily physical labor and a long daily commute. My hours at Radio Shack dropped off a lot due to school and the long commute to Atlantic City and back, and I eventually got let go in a mass-firing of about 50 salespeople instituted by our regional manager for no good reason. (My first downsizing...) Met one of Leona's old friends and ex-boyfriends - Marshall Webber. His father ran the sound system at Grace. On the birthday celebration trip to Wildwood this year, I proposed to Leona and she accepted. Her parents had a very tough time accepting it and were a bit upset because I had not asked them first. Ended up out of work and Steve didn't have a license, but was paying me gas money to take him to work and back each day. I helped Roy Wescher on odd constructions jobs when he needed help, but was generally not doing well-job wise for a while in the summer. I ended up taking a short job doing telemarketing for Thermal Guard Windows. Sleaziest outfit I ever worked for - I quit after a scant 3 weeks. The commute didn't help - Thermal Guard was almost an hour away from my house and Steve's job was about 45 minutes in the almost the opposite direction - in another state (PA), and I was still taking him to work. Thankfully, he got his license back real fast. Roy Wescher then introduced me to some folks starting up a small software company in Marlton, NJ - Logos Research Systems - and I took a job doing phone sales for them that soon moved into a more or less full-fledged technical support position. I believe I was the first full time employee of the company who had not put up money or time to help start it. Still online at Quartz daily, started hanging out with lots of folks from there like Bob Williamson and others.  This was the year I went out for involuntary U-boat duty in my Datsun and blew up the engine, and had to replace it. While that was happening, I drove a 1965 Valiant given to me by Dan Birchall - aka "Shag". Fun car, scary brakes. My Datsun had power 4 wheel disc brakes in good shape, and the Valiant had 4 wheel drum brakes in really bad shape. Dan was (and still is) an interesting guy too. Turns out Dan went to the same private school Kathy Wescher taught at and all of the Wescher kids attended, so when I brought the car home Leona freaked out because she knew exactly who used to own it - Mrs. Birchall used to drive to school and drop the kids off in it every day. Talk about a small world... At some point in here, John Longcope bought the 1973 Electra from his mother and then I bought a half interest in it from him so he could get it insured. I remained co-owner of the car for a year or more.


Still hanging out with Steve, John, Pete, and occasionally Doug, still driving my Datsun 200SX, and still engaged to Leona. Kept attending at Grace Bible Church, pastor Bob Spicer is still one of the best biblical teachers I have ever listened to. I was still working at Logos, and was hanging out online every day as well. John's grandmother passed away (I was one of the pallbearers), and John and Pete moved down to their father's place in FL at some point, so I didn't see them anymore. I hung out often with folks I knew from Quartz, and Steve and I hung out almost daily. Denny's was a favorite haunt for us to hang out and talk. ("That sort of thing is socially acceptable these days" was Steve's favorite line to get under my skin...) When Leona came home for the summer, we hung out a lot, but I was very stressed out due to many things going on in my life and she was just not able to be there for me. Compounding things was that she thought she was under a lot of stress as well, and though very real to her, her stress was, from my perspective, insignificant, and we had a big argument about all of it in late spring before she came home. I was pretty much an insensitive jerk (typical male), but she wasn't winning any "acting like a real grown up person" awards either. Basically, we were both young, stressed out, and acting stupid. It was amplified by how different our backgrounds and our daily circumstances were, plus the distance. Not a good combination. I turned 20 in September. The culmination of that previous argument with Leona was that she broke off our engagement and our friendship when she came home for Thanksgiving break and returned the ring to me. I had never been that open with someone before and then been so utterly rejected - she didn't exactly let me down easy. It broke my heart and made me a very angry young man for a very long time. I also found out she had more or less been dating someone else (not literally, but pretty darned close), so then I was even madder at myself for not having seen it coming. (She's married to him now, so I guess they do OK together.) A few weeks before the breakup, I remember going to opening night of the Metallica and Guns 'n Roses concert tour in Washington, DC. (at RFK stadium, I believe) with some folks from Quartz - Bob, his sister, and her boyfriend Chris (?) - and having a fun time. It was a good place to be angry at the world, which I was even before we broke up. Though my personal conduct was purely "bemused spectator in the upper deck", much of what I got to witness is not suitable for this site. In retrospect, it was a lot better than it could have been with 20,000 drunk heavy metal fans in one place rocking out for something like 6 hours straight... Unrelated to rocking out, I managed to keep my relationship with Roy and Kathy Wescher going through this - they had a very large role as parental figures in my spiritual growth over the previous few years. I still visit them every chance I get when I get back to the east coast, I've even seen Leona once or twice, though she still doesn't talk to me. I guess I really was an insensitive jerk.


Moved out of the house and across the country in February with Logos - unknowingly/unwittingly leaving town on my mother's birthday. She still hasn't quite forgiven me for that one. Logos consolidated their NJ sales office and their WA development office into one office in Oak Harbor, WA. I made the cross country trip driving my little Datsun behind the moving van the company rented. The Datsun was packed to the roofline with everything but my furniture, which was in the company moving van. Except for my desk which wouldn't fit so I left it at home. I loved that desk - it was huge, sturdy, and had lots of drawer space. I even put a rooftop cargo carrier on the Datsun and filled that to the brim - you really need to see the pictures to believe it. That poor car was so overloaded for the trip out here that the rear springs never did recover. My trip out to WA was the first time I left the eastern time zone - I vividly remember seeing the sign on the side of the highway that said "central time" and being a bit freaked out like I just drove out of the known universe or something. Anyway, I changed from an hourly position making some pitiful wage to a salaried position making a whopping $15,000 a year. I also got $1000 for moving expenses. I started living in a dumpy little "furnished" studio apartment for $325 a month and learned about bills in a hurry. I started attending Family Bible Church along with most of the rest of the folks at the company, became active in the FBC Singles Group where I met Debbie (my future wife) for the first time, and started playing with the church softball team in the spring/summer where I met John and Dicy Sheppard. I don't recall meeting Deb, but she sure recalls meeting me - we did not become friends until much later. Moved into a move development oriented role with Logos writing data conversion programs for the electronic books they were buying the rights to - they called it Electronic Text Development. Basically, we had to convert the formatting and publishing data along with the actual text of the books from the custom and obscure publishing formats they were stored in, into RTF format for input into our own custom electronic publishing system - it was a precursor to eBooks that was fully Unicode, multi-lingual, and ran on Windows 3.1. Very advanced, very cool. I was still very angry at the world and had few friends outside of work, so I poured my life into my job. My wife's comment about the first time she saw me sums me up nicely for this period in my life - "he was dressed in all black and was very scary looking - I wanted nothing to do with him". It took me over a year to get over my breakup with Leona in any real way, longer to really get over it. Also, we had no internet access at work and I had no computer at home - I was too broke to buy one and no one even sold internet access yet in Oak Harbor. This meant I was completely cut off from all my online friends and I was really alone out here in WA. I celebrated my 21st birthday very much alone in my studio apartment. I don't drink (I'm too much of a control freak to let myself be under the influence, I guess), so I didn't go out and party, and it was one of the most lonely times of my life. I did meet and got to be good friends with Brad Shantz during his time at Logos, someone I consider to be a good friend today that I still heard from regularly. By chance, I found another 1973 Electra in Oak Harbor and decided to buy it because of the good memories I had of the one in NJ and of my adventures with the Longcopes. My parents flew me out to meet them in FL for a trip to Disney World, and I convinced John and Pete to come up and get me for a trip down to their place. IIRC, this was the last time I would ever see John. He was killed in a car accident a few years later and I didn't even find out about it until a year after he died. He was the first person that was really close to me that died, but it's very surreal to me because of how I found out about it after the fact and that we had not seen each other in so long.


Continued working at Logos, moved further up the food chain as the company grew and hired more people. More or less adopted our new "fresh out of college" and only female developer Calie Berk as my "little sister", and to this day  Aunt Calie is a very close friend of the family. There was a very memorable incident during her interview where the other "fresh out of college" developer asked her if she liked to dance. It was a "group" interview, so the rest of us could head him off pretty easily, but Calie still recalls it to this day as "being hit on in the interview". Quite amusing in retrospect. Lots more Electronic Text Development. Lots more hanging out. Some feeble attempts to primer over the rust damage on the Datsun and fix the bodywork ensued. I did spend a lot of money getting new side rear window seals and hardware from Datsun over a few month period, though. I spent most of my time in Oak Harbor and rarely ventured "off the island" - look it up on a map to get an idea. I was in full-fledged Denny's withdrawal for a while because there wasn't one on the island. Started hanging out with one of the guys from the Singles group, Doug Findlen and helping him work on his car - a 1985 Olds Cutlass with a Buick 3.8L V6 engine in it. He was a Navy electronics tech and a geek through and through. (Oak Harbor is home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and there are lots of Navy folks there.) He's out of the Navy now, but still living in the area and I hear from him now and then. I also joined the leadership team for the Single's group to get to know folks and do something with my time. One other thing I started doing was hanging out with the local crowd that chatted on the CB and hung out together at night to play a version of Hide 'n Seek known as CB Tag. Moved up to full-fledged Software Development Engineer at Logos sometime during the year. Marshall Webber (one of Leona's old boyfriends) started working for Logos as a Graphic Designer. Since we knew each other pretty well, we decided to find a 2 bedroom house in a nicer area than either of us could afford on our own and to split the rent on it. I moved out of the studio apartment in town and out to a house on Deception Circle - right under the flight path for the NAS Whidbey jets. It was a classic Odd Couple setup, with Marshall turning out to be the sloppy one and me the neat freak. Most odd, but true. I turned 22 in September. I kept in regular contact with Roy and Kathy Wescher. I flew back to NJ for a trip to see friends, and was sure to drive up to see the Weschers for dinner.


Still working at Logos, the same types of activities continued. CB Tag, Singles group, softball in the summer, etc. I even had a brief couple of dates with a local girl whose name I can't recall, but she turned out to be really not my type and a bit of a nut-job. Deb re-joined the singles group, and I started hanging out at her house a bit with a bunch of the other singles. We were babysitting her sons so she could get a night off - and at least one of them was so she could go out on a date with some Navy guy. Deb and I got to be pretty good friends. Marshall left Logos and I rented the other room of the house out to two of our summer interns to help cover the rent - my first experience as a landlord. Good practice for what was to come with Jon and Jason... :-) In the late summer, Debbie and I started dating, then decided to get engaged, and then got married on October 7th, 1995. It was all rather whirlwind-ish, but when God says to do something, well, you better do it. While we were engaged, I turned 23 in September. When we got married, I became a step-father to two teenagers and had to grow up in a hurry. Other memorable events were getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled 3 weeks before the wedding, then getting flown out to CO for a week to do some development work for Logos with another company were were buying out - and having to deal with Jon getting in massive trouble for something while I was in CO. Flying with freshly pulled wisdom teeth hurts, plus I was in the final stages of getting the wedding ready to go, plus dealing with Jon. Trial by fire... One odd fact is that my parents could not - or would not, to this day I'm not 100% sure which - come out for my wedding. By the grace of God, the Weschers managed to get standby tickets from a friend for free and they flew out for the wedding. In honor of their role in my life, I sat them in place of my parents and got a great conversation bit out of it. ("Is that your parents?" "No, that's my ex-fiancée's parents. They flew out here for the wedding but my parents didn't." "Excuse me?") I loved it, and I was deeply honored that they would fly out here on such short notice for my wedding. To receive their blessing on it was a very powerful affirmation for my new marriage. On a less philosophical note, shortly after the wedding we bought the 1967 Karman Ghia that was being stored at my house by my boss (Kiernon) with hopes of restoring it.


Married, dealing with teenagers. I was still working at Logos doing development work. I'd gotten a few raises along the way for good work and was now pulling down something more respectable like $30,000/year. Deb continued working at the Oak Harbor Police Department as a secretary for part of the year, but the stress was too much and she found another job as a secretary at a small boat brokerage firm down in Coupeville. I managed to get another small raise to help cover the difference. We started hanging out with the Sheppard's - Deb and Dicy got to be really good friends, as did John and I. We were over at their house or they were at ours at least 3 times a week. We played cards, played darts, watched TV, helped each other on house or car projects, and generally just hung out a lot. Someone once told me that every man needs three other men in his life - a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy. (Translation for the not well Biblically read: A teacher, a partner, and a student.) In this period on my life, in John I found what I feel is the hardest one to find - Paul. More senior to me in physical years, spiritual years, and in married years - I learned a great deal from him in this time. He filled a role that Roy has previously filled and was sorely needed in my life. In general, Deb and I focused on growing our marriage and dealing with the usual trauma of having teenagers.


Logos was trying to go public, and looked like it would happen. They had staffed up in anticipation of this - and then they decided to not go public. Layoffs occurred, and I was one of them because I was one of the higher-paid devs and not working on the core product at the time. Logos was the only software company in town, so I started pounding the streets looking for work down in Seattle. The boys were in denial about what this all meant and kept insisting I had to stay in Oak Harbor no matter what - I would have if only I could have found a programming job there. I was young, responsible for a family of 4, and terrified of being out of work - the thought of moving to a new city scared me a good bit. It took a bit, but I found a job doing contract consulting work on-site at Microsoft working on Encarta. This was the big city, and I was working at (but not for) the biggest software company around. But my family was living 2 hours away from me and I was renting a basement room for 3 nights a week from the parents of a friend of ours at Family Bible Church. It was hard times, but we made it. We opted to let the boys and Deb live in Oak Harbor through the end of the school year, then in May/June we rented a house in Bellevue, and started the moving process. Right up until when we packed the boys' rooms, they were still in denial. I got a lot of earfuls about that move from them. It didn't help that Bellevue was snob-city (something I did not know at the time) and the boys had a horrible time fitting in at the school. Both of them basically tried to hide from it all and hated it all the way, and in retrospect, I can't say I blame them. It was my first experience with enrolling kids in school and I wasn't particularly good at knowing what questions to ask and what to look for. Near the end of the year, I did change roles from working on Encarta to doing developer support. I hate doing support, but I am good at it, and it paid the bills. Before we moved (actually, before I got laid off from Logos) I got the 3am call every parent dreads - "Hello, this is the hospital, your son has been in an accident and you need to come down here right now." In the end all eight of the kids in the car were OK, but not after some scary times for recovery on a couple of them. Dealing with the insurance company was not fun either. The wrecked family car put us in need of a new one just as we needed to move, so we bought a 1975 Suburban to help us haul stuff around. After we moved, Debbie also got hired as a contractor onsite at Microsoft doing printer testing for Windows, though she was going through a different contracting company than I was.


More of the usual family fun. I started working on Encarta again and also on a new project, Encarta Language Learning. Jon was off to college around this time through the Running Start (or is it Head Start? I can never remember) program and barely living at home - he was living back in Oak Harbor and attending the community college there for most of his classes. Jason was living at home and determined to call my bluff on him having to be a productive member of the family. I joined the Buick Club of America somewhere in here and started thinking about working more on upgrading my cars. I was one of the first people in the area to sign up for DSL when they offered it and have never been without it since then. We also bought our own domain name and I've been at rowand.net ever since with no plans of moving. At some point Deb moved to working for the same consulting company that I was in and became a recruiter for them. That meant a one month trip to VA for training, which was really hard on me. We did manage to combine a visit to NJ at the start of it so we could visit folks. Somewhere in here I bought a motorcycle and a 1958 Buick Special for Deb.


Late this year I made my first planned and voluntary job change - I started working for a company called Conversa. They did speech recognition software, Kiernon worked there, and they seemed to have all the right ingredients to make it big. I was hired by a guy from NYC and as fellow East Coast guys we hit it off right away. Debbie continued to work as a recruiter. Jon got invited to the High School National Debate tournament in Phoenix, AZ and Deb and I took him and the rest of the debate team down. Jon really is that good. I figure he cut his teeth arguing against me, so he had a good teacher and lots of hands-on experience. :-) Jason continued to have problems and went so far as to throw a massive party at the house while Deb and I were down in Phoenix. At least the house stayed intact and the worst problem was Jason threw up on the carpet. Sometime in here Jason got notified that he needed to either pay rent, go to college, or move out when he turned 18. He ignored me and later found out that I don't bluff.


Debbie got hired at Conversa as a tester - by the same guy who had originally hired me and who was now my peer. I got promoted to a manger and got a team of my own to handle all of our builds, setups, and various Configuration Management stuff. We decided to buy a house and started the hunt. On 8/15/2000 we closed on our current house. We had the rental house in Bellevue through the end of Sept, and Jason was turning 18 in Sept, so we used this as a perfect time to show him that we were not bluffing - we moved to the new house, he didn't, and the landlord got the keys to the rental at the end of September. I hated to do it to him, but after about a year, he really wised up and is now doing quite well - I believe as a direct result of the hard lessons he learned in those first few months on his own. For a while before we moved, I was wondering if he understood that he could starve to death if he didn't get a job to buy food...


The big jump to Microsoft was this year. Conversa began imploding due to bad management (Way to go, guys!) and as one of the outspoken voices against problems, I was let go. Good news for me - Microsoft recruiting contacted me within a week of my resume being "out in the wild". I also had two other job offers on the line, and I decided to go with Microsoft. I was now the lead for the International Build Team for Windows! Sweet! Deb continued to work at Conversa for a while more until the implosions reached her level. Being related to me, she was the first to go, and not by her manager's choice. I told you upper management was really screwed up, and the sheer number of lawsuits Conversa got nailed with after they laid folks off speaks to how poorly they did things. Everything from discrimination to unjust terminations. Many more folks (myself and Deb included) simply shook our heads and walked away not wanting to harm the company any more for the sake of those friends still working there. Right before she got laid off from Conversa, Debbie and I found out we were pregnant very unexpectedly. After that, Debbie moved to working part time doing data entry as a contractor at a airplane leasing company. Oddly enough, Conversa is actually still around. I have no idea how they are surviving, but their web site was up to date last time I checked and looks impressive enough, but I also drive by their building a couple times a week and see how small they are compared to when I was there. Careful readers will note that this is the only hyperlink to their site I have, and that's intentional. I'm still mad at them.


More growth for me at Microsoft. I shipped the languages of Windows XP with great success in the Redmond build lab, then took over all of the languages to ship them for Windows XP SP1 and Server 2003. Debbie worked out an arrangement to work from home near the end of the pregnancy - they had her doing data entry into a web application hosted in Sydney Australia, so being in the office in Bellevue or on her computer at home was about the same. Caitlin Andrea Rowand was born on March 15, 2002 and our world hasn't been the same since. Deb and I made a big decision to focus on getting out of debt so we could have Deb quit work and begin to home school Caitlin as soon as she is ready. We paid for a lot of Jon's college, so this is going to be no small feat. You'll notice that the entries have started to get a lot shorter. That's happening for two reasons. First, this web site really began to get larger and it documents the various stuff in our lives in excruciating detail. Second, things got much less hectic for me in the sense that I was working on fewer things for more time - mainly work and family life. In my college years, every week was a new adventure of sorts and there was a lot of stuff to write about. Now, stuff is more career focused and at work I participate in projects that are measured in months or years, so the line item for "shipped XP SP1" takes up months and "Server 2003" took up over a year.


My role at Microsoft continued to grow, change, and evolve. I ran the entire build team for a while - US + international, plus the burn lab, plus doing some development work on my own - and had 11 people reporting to me. I took over the Longhorn lead role as well and was responsible for shipping the Longhorn "PDC" release. Later on XP SP2 started up and I took on the build lead role there, as well as being one of the main developers for the build process itself. Debbie has continued to work from home and Caitlin is growing and learning at a rapid pace, her first Christmas and birthday party were a blast, though more for the adults than Caitlin. The debt mountain is slowly coming down and we look to be on track to being debt free in time for starting home schooling. 


XP SP2 finally shipped shipped all languages successfully, and my life is slowly returning to normal at work. XP SP2 was quite a challenge both personally and professionally, and I think I did quite well. XP SP2 was a high intensity project lasting over a year, and during it I had very reduced time to spend with my family and friends. In the end I think it will be worth it - I grew my career/job skills significantly in this time period, and that will hopefully pay dividends in my future salary. I also learned a lot about myself in the process and I think I've become a much better person as a result of this. Caitlin is still growing, and her second birthday party was even more fun that her first - she can tear open wrapping paper now. Server 2003 SP1 is in full swing and I helped out a good bit on that for build process changes, though for the first time since coming to Microsoft, I wasn't a build lead for a major Windows release. the time to wind down from a project of this intensity was much more than I expected. While this was going on, Server 2003 SP1 came online and was following along behind XP SP2 waiting to be "top dog" in the product release plans, which is was once XP SP2 shipped. I eventually took all of December off to recover from XP SP2, relax, and get some focus back into my life. While I was off for December I got re-orged into the Build Engineering team against my wishes, which my first experience with that happening.


This year has been one of changes all around. Server SP1 shipped all languages successfully, I'm settling in on the Build Engineering team focused on the Longhorn (er, I mean Vista...) localized build process. I have a single person reporting to me now, much better than the 11 folks back in 2003. I'm caring about work-life balance more, my debt mountain is finally down to a hill and the end is actually in sight, exactly when that ends depends on bonuses and unexpected expenses. Caitlin is 3 now and doing the stuff that 3 year olds do - learning, pushing boundaries, and trying to understand her world. She truly is a miniature version of me - the classic Mother's curse of "I hope someday you have a child just like you" worked here, much to Deb's dismay. I happen to like having a child like me - I understand her much better than I understand other kids because she thinks like me and acts like me. It is a double-edged sword, though. She is just as stubborn as I am, maybe even a bit more. And that's a lot.


This year was one of a number of big professional and personal milestones achieved. We shipped Vista and all of my design and planning paid off - the international releases went off without any major hitches in the build process - quite a feat for the sheer size and complexity of things that were involved. I grew my team by one more person, and near the end of the year, lost the original one to a local startup company. Oh well - good luck, Jared! We managed to - briefly have zero consumer debt - only the car payment and the house, but the debt bounced back a bit temporarily, which was sort of expected due to the holidays. Still hitting a "zero bill bounce" even temporarily, was a Really Big Deal. Caitlin is still growing strong and learning fast. Her "spirited" nature is still driving Deb nuts at times, but all are managing acceptably. I hit some long-standing goals around salary and "scope of influence", which is a large source of pride for me. I worked hard and got some good recognition for what I did. Somewhere during the year I discovered Craigslist and began to go on a parts-hunting binge for my 1964 Ranchero project. I ended up buying and parting out several Fords to get parts I needed, and somehow I ended the year with a garage full of Ford stuff, a friend's F100 in the driveway with a blown motor and a promise from me to get it fixed, and another F150 I bought with hopes of giving that to him - but it also turned out to have a blown motor. Yay. Buick lover by choice, Ford mechanic by circumstances. My little sister Nicole finally got married (6 years into her infamous 5 year plan...) and we flew back for the wedding - Caitlin was the flower girl. We got some awesome pictures of Caitlin and my grandfather together at the wedding - as well as some "four generation" pictures. The wedding was beautiful, even if I did have to wear a suit, it was worth it to see the entire family, welcome a new half of the family to the "clan", and see a lot of old friends. Since we were back there, we also toured the east coast in the fall - and Deb got her first chance to see the leaves in full color. I had forgotten how breathtaking a drive through the mountains can be in the fall in the northeast - pictures simply do not do it justice. We got another chance to see the Wescher's, and Caitlin was old enough to remember them this time - now she prays for Grandmom and Grandpop Wescher every night along with her prayers for the rest of the family. As you may notice - personal things are taking up more space this year; the meaning of "work/life balance" is changing for me as Caitlin grows. We also ended up finding an eye doctor who could help Deb with her non-existent depth perception - it turns out lots of folks do a poor job of using the information from both eyes - even I am going to vision therapy once a week as of the end of the year, and it's made a huge positive difference in my work and personal life. If you have never been to an eye doctor who specializes in "binocular vision", find one for your next eye exam and get tested. I kind of knew something like this had to exist, so I went looking for it to help Deb out. After we went there and got tested, even I was amazed at how subtle but pervasive these problems can be. The personal experience of going through eye therapy has really driven home how important this is and how easy it was to miss in a regular eye exam. Testing one eye at a time only tests for a certain class of problems. Testing if your eyes and brain work well together is something else entirely - something as simple as reading can be a huge problem without proper eye/brain coordination and function. After a few months of simple eye examinations, my prescription changed fairly radically - my eye muscles were so used to doing weird things that they were deforming my eyeball enough - even at "rest" - to change my prescription. Wow. In my case, the therapy was sometimes creating noticeable changes in my vision after as little as a few hours of simple eye exercises. With my glasses I should have had 20/20 vision, but I didn't. Now I know why - and I'm seeing lots better. Deb is too. Even Caitlin will be checked as she grows to ensure she's doing well. Watching Deb's face as she suddenly saw the world in 3D was like watching a child explore an incredible new world. The best part? Other than the fact that Deb can actually catch a set of keys when you toss them her way, Microsoft has awesome health insurance so it's all been covered. Woh-hoh! Even if it wasn't, we'd be paying for it. It's that good. Dr. Amy, Dr. Kristi, and all of the therapists at Sammamish Vision rock! I mention you to everyone I see squinting or having trouble with depth perception. Give 'em a call for your next eye appointment if you live or work in the Bellevue/Redmond/Issaquah area.


I'll put something here in early 2008. :-)

Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM