The people and random events that shape our lives (Part 12)

When I met Julie in April 1990, I had already quit my job. Even my Mom took her aside and said: “you know he doesn’t have a job”.

She went out with me anyway and on August 1992 we were married by her uncle Lyall (a retired United Church Minister) at the home of her sister Marguerite. Marguerite had dressed up 6 of her friends as maids and butlers and our daughters took us aside and tried to tell us about the birds and the bees. Dad was in a lot of our photos (usually drinking or eating) so we had to have him airbrushed out to get the photo of just Julie and I.

Afterwards we had our honeymoon in France. Both her daughters had taken a year of school in France and Julie wanted to go see where they had been. We had a lot of fun. The most exciting thing about the trip for me was watching Julie get excited.

By that time I had done all my course work for my PhD, passed the comprehensive and the oral and had put together a 140 page thesis proposal. All that was left was to finish the thesis.

My supervisor was a very flamboyant character. We had gone to dinner at his house and later to his cottage on a small island in the St Lawrence. When we were at the cottage we went out in his catamaran with his wife. She was supposed to take over the helm while he put the sails up. What happened though is the catamaran started getting close to the rocks so he got excited, started swearing at her and in his excitement fell into the water and ended up underneath the catamaran. It was interesting watching his head bob in and out of the water through the the webbing in the catamaran with swear words coming out each time his head went above the surface (what was obvious is that the mistake he made was that he should have pulled the boat further away from the rocks in the first place before putting up the sails; instead he was in a hurry and then made this pathetic attempt to blame his wife for his own mistake). Eventually things got under control and it was fun sailing at about 30 knots (60 km/hr).

A few things came to mind from that experience though: why did his wife put up with him, why did his students put up with him and thirdly – why was I putting up with him.

He was working on the visualization of real-time software. His approach seemed to be: come up with some brainstorm, test it on an audience; if they liked it he would incorporate it and if not he would pretend it never happened. It was more like a marketing exercise than engineering.

He wanted me to formalize his visual language using math. There were two problems with that: firstly I didn’t want to do it; secondly, it would be like chasing a moving target from one brainstorm to the next.

Instead my proposal was an elaboration and extension of the visual language. Not surprisingly, he didn’t like the proposal because it was treading on his territory.

I checked his track record with PhD students and most had taken 5 years. I had already put in 2 years and would have continued if I could finish in 3. I could see that wasn’t going to happen so I quit. By this time it was the fall of 1992.

After that I taught a spring semester at Algonquin College and toyed with the idea of going back to teaching. Then I met a very good teacher they had been dangling a carrot in front of for about 5 years and he was still only part-time with a salary that was considered below the poverty line. That’s when I called Carmine Ciancibello. I had already been working a bit with Carmine as part of my PhD. Carmine had a lot of contacts and within a very short while I had a job offer.

I worked for Carmine along with with Brent Webster and Gary Hoffe. We were working with a tool called ObjecTime that generated code from state machines and code snippets. I enjoyed those years – fun job and a nice group of people. Then something happened that made me change gears again.

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