A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 1990

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I was dating Carolyn Eaton on and off. This was difficult because I liked her, I was attracted to her, and she was coming on strong. I was worried that things were moving too fast, having gotten burned so many times in the past by letting things move too fast. So I pushed her away at times. I confused her a lot in there (I think I was also confused a bit), and it was unintentional. (This story has a happy ending, really!)

It was somewhere in here that Carolyn and Kay, who had been pretty heavy-duty smokers, decided to quit smoking -- they did it cold turkey, which made everyone who knew them a bit crazy.

Working at Computer Learning Center was great -- I loved the job. I love teaching. The pay however, was not great. I got an offer for a company called SofTech, Inc. in Oakland (well, that office was in Oakland, the main office was back East somewhere) doing dBASE IV programming. I figured that I knew dBASE III pretty well, so ... how hard could it be? I interviewed pretty well and got the job with a huge pay increase from what I had been making at CLC.

The job was as a "subcontractor" for the US Department of Energy in Oakland. That office largely deals with contracts. It was required that I apply for a "Q" Security clearance, which at the time meant doing a 15 year background check. I hadn't kept exact records of where I had lived, as when I was in College I moved a lot. I did the best I could. They actually sent FBI agents out to talk to people I put down as references. I got the clearance, but the interview was annoying -- I had made one small mistake in dates for where I had lived. They hammered on that all during the interview. In the five years I worked at that job I never once saw anything even remotely an issue that would have required the clearance. Figures ...

I was hired on as a programmer, but the other programmers there were all mainframe (COBOL mostly) programmers. They were blown away by how fast I was coding things ... this was because the process on a PC was a lot faster, so it wasn't as hard, and dBASE is a higher-level programming language than COBOL. I think some of the programmers weren't really happy with me for awhile there, as I made them look bad. Sorry folks.

Softech was pretty good about paying for people to go to Conferences and such. A short time after I was working there Ashton-Tate was having a set of dBASE Technical Sessions to announce dBASE IV, 1.1. (1.0 had been full of bugs so 1.1 was a huge advance as it fixed most of those, and made the product a lot more stable ...) I'll get back to this.

Knee Surgery

Stepping back a bit ... I had visited Alaska a few times over the years because these folk were friends, and I loved seeing them. I timed my visits for the major (twice a year) Coronet tournaments held in Alaska (I didn't go to all of these, just every so often).

One of these visits was in Juneau in January. All winter it hadn't snowed. The week of the SCA event I was there for it snowed. And it didn't just drop a couple of inches of snow, it snowed hard. The folk in Juneau in the SCA weren't REALLY prepared for this and in the process of getting into and out of the lodge that was being used for this big SCA event, someone had fishtailed a van on the snow and ice and went into the ditch. In the process they created a HUGE ice patch. Rather than have more vehicles go into the ditch, when more people arrived for the event at this really gorgeous lodge they had them walk down the driveway.

I found the ice (which had been buried under snow by this point). I twisted my knee pretty badly. I spent the weekend taking some pain killers, but ... oh well. Donna was there, as were James and Verena were King and Queen, and Donna (SCA: Grün) was part of their court in the SCA. I think it was at this event that Donna and I had a talk and I apologized for how badly I'd treated her. Despite my knee it was actually a good event and I have fond memories of it. By the time I came back to the states my knee was mostly better. This was a couple of years earlier than this date. I'm recounting it now to give the background ...

During the fall of the previous year and now in the winter and early spring of this year my left knee (the one I had twisted a couple or more years earlier) started acting up. The knee would start hurting for no apparent reason. I could be spending a couple of hours sitting and reading, and it would start to throb in pain. When it hurt there was a heat difference between my two knees -- you could feel it by just placing your hand on them. I had been in to see the doctor in the Fall a couple of times, but Kaiser's doctors are pretty bad about this kind of thing. They really don't want to do surgery or anything unless you can really prove there's a problem. One doctor gave me a cortezone shot, which helped for a couple of weeks, then the cortezone worked its way out of my system.

I was sitting around my apartment with my knee acting up at one point when Carolyn was there and she insisted I go force the issue at Kaiser. So I did. I went in and insisted that there was a real problem. This time (the third or fourth) they decided maybe there was really something wrong. They tried X-rays and couldn't find anything. They tried all kinds of tests. They finally decided to do arthroscopic exploratory surgery.

I made arrangements to do the surgery, which meant taking a week off work to recover. Arthroscopic surgery was still a relatively new technique at this point (I understand from someone who had similar surgery done last year it only took a couple days of recovery). During the surgery they had me only partially under medication -- I could hear everything they were doing, and could sort of feel it. I think I was on sodium pentathol but am not sure. They hoisted my leg up onto someone's shoulder, the doctor got some tube into my knee and was looking around and found that on the inside of my kneecap I had managed to get a groove there. What was happening was that the cartilege in the knee was getting inflamed by rubbing against this groove which had sharp edges. They took a dental drill and they ground down the rough edges. That was all that they had to do.

They gave me a polaroid of the inside of my kneecap which I may still have, but if I do it's buried, and frankly I doubt most people would enjoy looking at something like that -- I don't.

Carolyn took care of me, staying over at the apartment during that time. She spent the whole week helping me get up off the sofa when absolutely necessary (bathroom time), doing needlework while I slept (codeine), and making sure I ate and had water. She watched a bunch of movies, I tried, but I kept falling asleep. Basically it took most of that time for the gas they pumped into my knee to work its way back out of my system, and the knee joint itself was settling back to its usual place (which is not a pleasant experience).

When it was over I used a cane for awhile. I had bought the cane before the surgery knowing I'd need it. I looked around for awhile before I found one I liked. I still have it -- it's been used as a prop in some plays, but I haven't needed it since.

Back to the dBASE Technical Sessions. The one I was scheduled for was the Monday and Tuesday after I had the surgery. I was on a cane, had to go to San Francisco on BART, walk (partway) up one of those wonderful hills, and get to the hotel. From there it wasn't so bad. The sessions were interesting, I was surprised at how much I already knew, based on some of the questions others were asking. I discovered that Ashton-Tate had a bulletin board system to help with technical support.

On Tuesday they held a raffle to give away various software and other door prizes, the grand prize being a full developer's copy of dBASE IV, release 1.1. This was not a cheap prize -- at the time this software was selling for over a thousand dollars! They got down to the grand prize, I was hoping I might win something, but really didn't think I'd win. I got up, was putting my jacket on trying to get ready to leave (several others were doing the same thing), and my name was called! I won the big prize, which was really pretty spiffy. I got to try to carry the software (in a HUGE package, because the manuals were thick) down the hill, with the notebooks from the technical sessions, and using a cane, get on BART, walk from the BART station back to my apartment ... I was exhausted when I got home! But for the first time in my life I had a legal copy of dBASE!

A month or so later I was still on the cane (it takes awhile for this stuff to go away!), and Carolyn and Jeff and I decided to go to Disneyland. Cool. Carolyn and I hadn't been there since we'd been children!

Our relationship (Carolyn and mine) was still a bit rocky in here. I was trying to be cautious, but unfortunately was still confusing her. We did this as a road trip and on the whole trip there, I held her hand in the car. I insisted that we sleep in the same bed in the hotel and Jeff got the other one. This made CJ (Carolyn) happy but I think confused her even more, as I'd been pushing her away a bit before the trip.

We had a good time, although trying to get into the teacups as an adult with a bad knee really wasn't a good idea. I think Jeff felt a bit like the "third wheel", but ... we tried to avoid making him feel that way.

Going to Disneyland started to become a "regular thing" for awhile -- once a year or so, we try to get to Disneyland, depending on finances, and other factors (time ...).

I don't recall much about the summer. Lots of SCA events, work. Carolyn was living with Kay still, Jeff had his own apartment somewhere, he had the cat Max, because Emily left Max with Jeff when she moved out on him. Life was trundling along. I was still being a bit edgy about the relationship with Carolyn, but I was trying to get past that.

I can't recall exactly when but somewhere in here I had become the Seawolf Herald for the Mists -- this is the Principality of the SCA in the central San Francisco Bay Area. It was probably a couple of years before, as I stepped down from the position this year when Valgard and Megan stepped up as Prince and Princess (had nothing to do with them, it was just that my two years were up and I wanted to move on).

Late this summer SofTech sent me to a Windows and OS/2 conference in Boston. That was a strange event. Windows was just starting to take off and OS/2 was attempting to derail it. Doing this in Boston in August was nasty (hot and HUMID). I was there by myself. In order to save some money for the company I made arrangements to spend Saturday night after the conference in the area, and stayed with some SCA folk (Justin and Jane Waks). (We did some "inter-kingdom anthropology" -- comparing how and why traditions worked in different parts of the organization, and a lot more.)

At some point in here Carolyn, Kay, Jeff and I went to the Dickens Faire, run by the same folk doing the Renaissance Faire in the Bay Area. That was fun -- I'd never been to one before.

SofTech, the company I was working for, had a Christmas party on one of the Hornblower Yachts that year. I took Carolyn -- it was a bit nervous for her, as she's had a long-standing fear of big boats. But, we had a good time.

Carolyn and I were mostly settling into a decent relationship by this time, but there were still some moments that it didn't quite feel right.

Carolyn Eaton -- the most important person to step into my life here. Despite a rocky start, we had enough in common that we kept trying to get a relationship going ...

Jeff Boylan -- had become my best friend by this point. We did a lot of trips to SCA events together ... if we worked it just right we got everything into his car with a small amount of room to spare.

Kay Boatwright -- Carolyn's best friend and roommate. We always got along despite my earlier attempts at trying to date her ... somewhere in this time, she became the "Commenting Herald" for the local SCA Kingdom, and had weekly meetings at my apartment because I had a computer. Every Wednesday evening a bunch of heralds trudged over to my place and we had our meetings. They were fun. She bought me a cheap dining room table and set of chairs from Salvation Army as the table I had wasn't big enough.

I know there were other folk in here. I just cannot really remember much of what went on besides the events noted above, and that makes it hard to note specific people.

A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)

Dickens Faire

Christmas Party

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