Sunday February 15, 2004

I've Been to Georgia and California...

[ Today's meme is courtesy of Past, Present, Future Round 52. This is the last round for this meme; however, as I didn't start until round 41 or 42, I'll probably go back and pick up some that I missed. ]
PAST: Where have you been?

PRESENT: Where are you now?

FUTURE: Where are you going?


I grew up in central Pennsylvania, in a reasonably functional and fairly happy nuclear family, with my parents, sister (3.5 years younger), three (sequential) dogs and a cat. I lived in the same house from shortly after I was born until I moved to Connecticut for Grad School (coming back briefly for 5 months in between Grad School programs). My parents continued to live in that house for several more years; eventually, they sold it and bought another, smaller and newer, house on the northern side of town.

My sister and I both went to Penn State. Our father was a professor in the Architectural Engineering department; neither my sister nor I ever really considered going anywhere else to College. Nevertheless, after College we both left Pennsylvania. I went first to Connecticut, then to Maryland, then to California. My sister went first to Maryland, then to Oklahoma (then to several cities in several states!). We both met our spouses in Grad School.

Following my successful release from Grad School, Spouse and self packed everything we owned (including a 6-foot diameter redwood hot tub :-) into a 24-foot rental truck and a VW minibus and drove across the country to California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area. After a brief (4 month) stay in the East Bay, we settled on the Peninsula, renting a house in Pacifica for 3 years, then buying a home in San Bruno. We'll celebrate our 16th anniversary in this house on Memorial Day.

Growing up, in elementary school and High School, I was fascinated by all things technical and scientific. I subscribed to a perfectly-named monthly kit called "Things of Science" that included such wonders as experiments in smell, light, growing beans, mirros, magnetism, and so much more. I looked forward to those little blue boxes arriving in the mail!

I also recall my delight at discovering a large indigo blue salamander with yellow spots once, when we stopped off at a state picnic area on the way to my grandmother's house. I sketched it in a notebook. (I never seem to have a camera handy.)

I always expected to become a scientist and enrolled in every science course offered through Jr. High and High School. In my junior year of High School, one of the courses I took was a 1-semester course called "Computer Math" (actually FORTRAN programming in disguise). When I was choosing a major at Penn State, I had a difficult time deciding between Biochemistry and Computer Science. I picked Biochemistry but soon applied for a double major in Comp. Sci.

In my third year of College, I realized that Biochem was not my future field (the 5-hour nucleic acids lab told me that, as did my difficulties in a required Biochem course). I was unsure about finishing the Comp. Sci. degree as well, after meeting a senior one night with four or five boxes (of 400 cards each) of punch cards. (In the years that followed, I learned that programming is ever so much more fun when you don't have to punch the cards! ;-)

I transferred into Microbiology, as much to get a degree in 4 years as anything else. Strange as it may seem, Micro was an easy switch (the Biochem program was intense). Then, well educated but needing something to do for a living, I tried a Forensic Science Masters program (realizing in less than 1 month that it was Not To Be). I left the program, returned to central PA, and enrolled in a Microbiology PhD program in Maryland for the following fall.

In Maryland, I met Richard, the man who became my spouse (and who, coincidentally, helped me to realize that working with computers is the most fun job in the world). I dumped my (loathed) Micro advisor, researched possibilities in "computer applications to microbiology", was supremely lucky in being "adopted" by the best and brightest Micro professor in the UMD Department, wrote a bunch of programs, learned Unix, wrote and defended my thesis, ported my programs to my advisor's CalComp plotter (!), and graduated with a Masters Degree in Science and a plan to find a job in scientific programming.

Then we moved to California and I got a job at Genentech.

We've been in California for 19 and a half years now. I've done scientific programming, "regular" Unix programming (specializing in shell scripting), Quality Assurance, and Technical Documentation. I've stayed with Unix, moved into Mac OS and acquired excellent reasons to explain why I dislike Windoze. I've co-authored a book on MacPerl and published a large number of technical articles. Along the way, the Web sprang into existence, creating fascinating new fields of endeavor for people like me.

Looking forward, I don't see any voluntary changes ahead. I'm happy in my career choice, happy in my living situation, and happy in my home life. I'm unemployed at present, but hopeful and content with life as it currently is. At least there are more jobs to apply for, even when I don't get interviews or offers. Besides, I like working at home! I'm on the right path, headed in a good (and right) direction.

The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning...

    — David Hume (1711 - 1776), Scottish philosopher.


[ The title of this piece is taken from the song "Never Been to Me", sung by Charlene. While I like the song (I find it pretty) it has no relationship to my life, other than the fact that I have also been to Georgia (once) and to California (I live here). The rest of the song describes a life very different from my own... and I have been to me. ]

I've Been to Georgia and California... ( in category Memes & Prompts ) - posted at Sun, 15 Feb, 12:36 Pacific | «e»