Tag Archives: Retirement

Retirement – Week 1

Me on my last workday

The last weekend in October, following my last workday on Friday 27 October, I thought a lot about what my first week of retirement would be like. Even knowing that I would not be working this week impacted my weekend schedule—in a positive way. Normally, I would feel rushed and pressured to try to get all the things done over the limited time I had on the weekend. But the weekend before my first full day of retirement felt much more relaxed.

Usually by Sunday afternoon, I am feeling a bit frustrated that I am running out of time and will have to postpone until the following weekend the things I didn’t get done.

This feeling has roots dating back to early in our marriage when on Saturday morning, I would make a long list of things I needed to do over the weekend and then by Sunday night, feel a sense of depression that I only got 28 of the 31 items done on the list. This used to drive my wife crazy. Fortunately I got over that phase of my life and while I am still a perpetual list maker, I got out of the habit of making weekend lists long ago.

Sunday morning is normally a running day for me followed by a trip to the grocery store to get a week’s worth of groceries. Both of these activities I skipped knowing that I no longer had to do those on Sunday. My Sunday instead felt quite relaxed and my wife and I even went to an art festival downtown in the afternoon, something we normally might not find time to do.

When I went to bed on Sunday night, I consciously did not set an alarm knowing I could sleep as late as I felt on Monday.

Maybe it was due to an excited anticipation of this significant life change but I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about what I would do first. After lying awake for quite some time thinking about all these things, I realized the first thing I really needed to do was just make a list so I wouldn’t forget them all.

In spite of remaining awake for probably an hour, I woke up refreshed and glancing at the clock, saw that I had slept in until 6:30! (Normally on a Monday I would be awakened with an alarm at 4:45.) I did my usual stretching and then went to the gym to run indoors since it was too cold outside. By the time I left the gym around 8:30, I was feeling a bit lazy and thinking my day was getting away from me. But then I remembered, it was OK, as I was not going to work.

When I got home, I had my delicious Peet’s coffee and typical breakfast—“concrete”—a concoction I create of dry oats, Grapenuts cereal, sliced almonds, and fruit Greek yogurt that I have been eating for years.

However, rather than gobbling this down while I would normally be getting ready for work, I sat down and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. It was after 9:00 AM before I was shaving and showering, something unheard of even on the weekends.

After getting cleaned up, I went grocery shopping. As I wandered the aisles, I realized that if I continued to shop on Monday morning rather than Sunday, I would see a whole different crowd than whom I normally saw, shoppers like me now who could shop during the week. Driving home, it felt like I was on a holiday since all of these things were so foreign to me during the week.

Returning home, I could even participate in my daughter’s and grandson’s daily FaceTime with my wife, a treat I normally only get to join in on weekend mornings.

After lunch, I decided it was time to make my lists. I decided to make a short-term list and a long-term list. In my mind, my short-term items would be anything I wanted to be sure and get done within three months or less. I reflected back to my many thoughts in the middle of the night and quickly jotted down 18 items on the short-term list and four items on the long-term list.

When I shared these lists with my wife later in the day, she commented that these were all things that I needed to do but none of them were necessarily things that I might want to do. I realized that I had gone back and done the same thing I used to do many years ago when I made those weekend lists. My list was filled with chores not fun activities, which usually meant I didn’t have much fun on weekends in those days. This was not a way to start off retirement.

So on Tuesday, I made a third list, a list of things I wanted to do.

It was actually a year ago that I wrote a post of the fun things I would do after retiring. I remembered seven of them before deciding to reread that post to make sure I didn’t forget any. I only missed two.

Over the week, several people asked me how it felt to be retired and I typically responded either weird or different. Reflecting back, it seemed that both Monday and Tuesday felt quite different, at times like it was a holiday or vacation day since I was not at work. Wednesday and Friday did not seem that different, as I have been working from home ½ day on Wednesday and all day on Friday for quite some time. The difference was I did what I wanted to. Thursday was very different as I worked out at the gym in the morning and then got to go to Kinder Music with my wife and granddaughter, something I have not gotten to ever do since Thursday was typically a busy day at work.

Someone who retired two years ago recently told me one of the things he had gotten to do was catch up on his sleep. I guess I must have done that sleeping in on Monday and Tuesday as on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I slipped back into my work habit of waking up around 5:00 AM. Each morning I lay there a while thinking I should go back to sleep but since I was not tired, decided I could get up not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

After just one week, I can’t say that I fell into a new routine but I did definitely identify some additional things I might want to consider making a part of a new routine. Over the week, in my old list making fashion, I did manage to strike several items off that short-term list and only occasionally did I feel I needed to be more productive thinking my “vacation time” was almost over. But then I remembered that next week I would again be free and the week after that, and so on for many weeks ahead as I am no longer working full time. Having achieved one of life’s major milestones and only being one week into it, I think I am really going to like this retirement thing!

Retired!

After years and years of anticipation and months and months of planning, I retired last week. This is a self-photo I took of myself in my office on my last full workday. While my last official day was the 27th of October, I was actually on vacation for seven days before that so my last real work day, the day I took this photo was the 17th of October.

So what was it like on my last day? Well it was a day mixed with emotions of happiness but also sadness. After 35 years working in the same location and even in the same building, it should not come as a surprise.

The day before, I had sent out a mass e-mail saying goodbye to all of my work colleagues—those who were remaining behind as well as those who were moving on to other activities (some of which were also retiring). Part of my last day was spent reading the very touching responses I received from many reflecting on our productive and instructive work life together and wishing me well in retirement.

Another part of my day, I spent touring other floors of the building I had worked in all of these years. I decided to go by all my old offices that were on the four different floors I had worked on. Some still looked the same but others were no longer there having been torn down to make space for an expansion of our laboratory operations. Touring the labs was a bit sad as all of the equipment had been boxed up and relocated to other company sites. This was a part of the process of closing down our work site, the main reason I was retiring at this particular time.

But the most distressing sight I saw on my tour was when I came to our stability chamber area. When I rounded the corner of the second large room where many of these chambers were located, I was met with a gutted room. What previously had been our first chamber expansion area that housed four walk-in chambers and four large reach-in chambers were all gone. All that remained were the water, air handling, and electrical utility connections dangling from the ceiling, like bloody tendrils from savagely excised appendages. For 25 of my 35 years, I had responsibility for our stability program and these chambers had incubated the thousands upon thousands of samples at a multitude of environmental conditions. It nearly brought tears to my eyes.

One bright spot though was an unexpected visit by my youngest son who lives in town. He stopped by to ask me some questions about a research project he was working on and after his questions were answered, I gave him a tour of the two remaining floors that were still occupied. It was his first visit to my place of work in many years and he was amazed at the changes that had occurred. As we ended our tour, he suggested we get a selfie, which thanks to his rather long arms, hardly even looks like one.

After calling into my last teleconference of the day, I began to box up my few remaining personal items. After more than 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I had accumulated a number of reference documents and texts that I planned to use in my “retirement.” Many of these I had taken home the previous day so that when I walked out for the last time, it would only be a single trip with the one box.

My Bose speaker that I continuously played jazz music and my two phone chairs, where my work and personal phones reclined while I was sitting at my desk, mostly took up the box. I know my daughter will recognize the thermal mug on the left; the one I drank ice water from all day long at work for at least 15 years. I got this mug one year in the early 2000s when I picked her up from college after the close of a semester.

Over my 35-year career at this location, I spent 32 years in management. My first three years, years that I absolutely had had a ball, were the years I worked in an analytical laboratory. When I was cleaning out my desk, I found this spatula that I had used many years ago to weigh out milligram quantities of samples and standards.

Knowing that I had used this tool on a daily basis whenever I was working in the lab, I decided to take it with me as a memento of those really fun days in the lab.

I carefully placed my box on the passenger seat and put down the top for one last fun workday commute. As I pulled out of the parking space, I realized this was the last time I would be driving out of this parking lot and the last time I would be waving my ID badge at the security gate to exit.

Tomorrow starts the first full day of my retirement, a period of my life I have been looking forward to for some time—a time of freedom, a time of relaxation, a time of adventure, and a time of unexpected pleasures. But none of this was I thinking of that last day. No, my thoughts as I drove away were about the three phases of my life. The first phase was the years of educational preparation for work; the second phase was my professional career; and the third phase being my retirement years. All of us spend a different number of years in each of these depending on our level of education, our career, and ultimately our life expectancy.

As I zoomed down the road on my way home, I thought this was indeed the end of an era. But at the same time, it was just the beginning of a whole new exciting phase of my life.

As a view of my office building receded in the passenger’s side mirror, in spite of the iconic phrase that “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR”, I shifted my gaze forward through my windshield to the next phase of my life—retirement—which was now closer than anything in my rearview mirror.

What’s It Really Going to be Like to Retire?

Now that my retirement date is less than two months away, I have really been thinking a lot about what it is going to be like to be retired. I know it is going to be a big change as I have worked full-time for over 35 years, ever since I was in graduate school. But I am looking forward to this next phase in my life.

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This biggest change will simply be to have all the extra time available to do things I want or need to do. I’ve talked to friends who have retired and many of them say they are so busy in retirement, they don’t know how they ever found time to work. I am looking forward to finding out that for myself.

Over my entire career, I have never been on vacation from work for more than two consecutive weeks. And the longest I have even been off from work was three weeks last year when I was off recuperating from surgery. This gave me my first taste for what retirement would be like although I certainly was not able to do whatever I wanted to do.

With all the extra time, I know I will want to spend a lot of it on projects that I have just not had time to do (I enjoy doing things with my hands). Rebuilding this garbage blind is high on my list, as it looks very worn out in comparison to how it looked when first built.

And while I have the table saw set up, I will likely rebuild this old and worn fence that is sorely in need of refreshing.

Our wooden deck overlooking our pool is over 10 years old now and a number of boards need to be replaced. Over the years, I have pressure washed and re-stained it but this time it will need major restoration.

Pulling weeds and mulching flowerbeds is a job that I have had to relegate to weekend days while working full time. Because of this as well as business travel I typically have in the spring, I always seem to behind the 8-ball and never seem to get it all done before the summer is over. My wife works in the yard too but her time has also been limited in the past by her work hours. Next spring, I am looking forward to having five days a week to work in the yard getting the beds ready for spring. And a reward will be that I will have my two weekend days to relax since I will have so much more time to work during the week.

Travel is another activity that my wife and I will have more time to do. Even though towards the end of my career, I have had over 6 weeks of vacation time available to me, I took much of my vacation days teaching the professional courses I have taught for many years. Combined with travel to visit our kids/grandkids, this left little time for as my wife says, “a real vacation.” One where I am not working and we are not visiting relatives.

And now that my wife has a really comfortable car for travel, we will be able to take many more road trips. Some of these could be weeks-long grand tours to places neither of us have been.

Speaking of road trips, I too am looking forward to some of “my road trips,” ones that are simply for the pleasure of enjoying the road (these are not ones my wife will want to take and so I will probably go solo). The last time I took one of these was in 2010 when I took my 2002 Mazda Miata on a 5-day, 2,000-mile trek to drive the Sky Line Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). I’m thinking of doing another drive of the BRP in my new and more comfortable WRX.

Another thing that will be different is likely the end of the day check in my wife and I have had for so many years.

We have what we call “our club” where we typically enjoy a beer and talk about our day. Since we are apart most of the day, there is usually much to talk about. But since we will both be home most days, we may not have as many things to talk about as we may experience our day together. A friend of mine who retired said while he was working, he and his wife usually had a lively conversation over dinner but now they had a hard time thinking of things to say that the other doesn’t already know and so sometimes have a meal mostly in silence. Hopefully that will not be our problem as we still have separate things to share, books we are reading, news we have heard, or interactions we have individually had with our kids. And there is always talk of making plans for what we will do now that we will have more time not working (my wife also retired this year).

So it is with eager anticipation I await my final workday. And after that, not even the sky will be the limit of what we can do!

Painting at Work

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about exploring the artist in me—an artistic challenge that was inspired by my admiration for a painting that hung on the wall where I work. I was so fond of this particular piece of artwork that I decided to try to paint it myself. In that post I wrote:

My first attempt at creating art grew from an appreciation for a painting I passed daily at work on my way to the cafeteria. I was drawn to a modern painting of a couple of buildings. Maybe this was a resurfacing of my adolescent love for architecture. I admired the interesting colors and the straight lines and I thought, “I could do that” and I am going to try. I knew aspiring artists often developed their skills painting other artist’s paintings. But I knew I couldn’t sit in the hall at work all day attempting to paint this painting. So I took a digital photo of it and took it home. You can even see a reflection of me in the glass.

I took that photo in 2004 so the refection you see of me in the glass (in front of the red building) is a much younger version of me. In that 2013 blog post, I went on to describe how I painted my version since I was not a trained artist:

I decided to make my version of the painting the same size as the original so I could judge how well I achieved my goal. I printed out my photo and began to measure the dimensions of each of the features. Knowing that I needed to accurately translate the building’s dimensions from an 8 X 10 photo to a 16 X 24 canvas, I pulled out my calculator and determined the proportions necessary to “blow up” the scale. Using a ruler, I drew all the straight lines on a piece of paper to allow for any necessary corrections and then once I had the 16 X 24 drawing on paper, I redrew it on the canvas.

 I knew with my hand skill limitations and my desire for precise straight lines that I was not going to be able to paint straight lines either. So I used blue painter’s tape to block off a section at a time for painting. I didn’t even try blending colors; I just used the paint right out of the tube. While this can be a slow, tedious process, taping and painting and repeating, it allowed me to achieve my goal. And I thought a fairly true rendition of a real piece of art.

This is my finished painting that, thanks to my wife’s encouragement, we hung on our wall at home. I loved my rendering of the original painting and was very proud that I had been able to recreate it. It has hung in several different locations in our home for the past 13 years.

If you are a regular follower of my blog post, you know that I will be retiring later this year—as a result of the 2016 announced closing of my work site. While this will mean huge changes for me and my family since I have worked at the same location for almost 35 years, interestingly one aspect will remain the same.

With my work site closing, it was determined that certain assets would not be relocated out of state to where our operations were being consolidated with an existing company site. As a result, employees were encouraged to take home the plants located throughout our facility. I found this nice one to take home.

In the fall of 2016, I learned through the grapevine that employees would also be allowed to take home certain furniture and fixtures that would not be moved to the new site. And included in this allowance was some of the corporate art that had graced our walls for all the years of operation.

Some of the art work; in particular original oil paintings of our company founder and of one of our iconic corporate brands, will hopefully find new homes in local museums. When I inquired about the painting I had admired for so many years on my way to the cafeteria, I was told I could have it. Now almost a year later, that painting has now moved to our home.

With the two paintings side by side, I could easily see that while I had intended to reproduce it in the same size, I had far under-estimated the original’s size. In fact, once I got it home and held it up in several different places in the house, it was too big for the space being much larger than I even remembered. With its ultimate location uncertain, I temporarily leaned it up against our dining room table until we could figure it out, at least until my 2-year old granddaughter pulled it over onto herself with a resultant loud crashing sound. Other than being frightened by the sudden noise, my granddaughter was unhurt and when I picked up the framed painting, I was glad to see that it too was undamaged. Finding a place to hang the painting then moved up in priority.

With a two story entry hall, this wall space offered the scale such a large painting needed.

And so it now hangs.

I don’t recall when my company first purchased this particular piece of art so I cannot say for certain how many years I have walked past it on my way to lunch. Now in its new home, every time I stride through our entry hall, I will walk past this long-admired painting. I do not know if it will always remind me of work, only time will tell. But whether or not it does, it will still serve as a reminder of when I actually began to explore my creative side by rendering a likeness of it by my own hand, a pleasurable artistic activity I plan to spend more time enjoying once I do actually retire.

Photos on My Office Wall

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Some of the items that I will need to take home when I retire are these 11 framed photos hanging on my office wall. I cannot even begin to fathom how long they have hung on my wall, but I know they have moved from one office to another each time my office changed. Considering that I have worked at the same site and in the same building for over 30 years, they are probably quite old.

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A close up inspection reveals that these are really cheap, 8” X 10” metal frames with a “faux-wood” finish.   I think I probably bought them at Target years ago. At least once when I moved into a larger office, which had a larger wall, I had to search for additional frames of the same design to expand my gallery.

Over the years, I would occasionally change out a photo for a newer one but with one exception, the photos were always either of my family (wife and kids), travel, or my cars. And the reason I know this is because each time I added a new photo, I simply put it on top of the photo previously displayed.

I recently took down each frame and took off the back just to see what treasures were hiding inside the frames.

In some, I found just a few photos but in others, the frame contained four or five photos. As I looked through the photos “archived” in each frame, I saw some of these images for the first time in many, many years.

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Harahan Bridge over Mississippi River

The earliest of these photos were black and whites. Prior to getting married, I had bought all the equipment necessary to develop and print my own black and white photos from black and white film. But some of the ones in the frames I realized I had printed from color 35 mm negatives as I recognized the image as a familiar color snapshot from my first year of marriage (back in my “artsy” pre-digital camera age when the only way I could make a black and white photo was to either print it this way or to use black and white film).

Based on finding just four black and white photos, my earliest wall gallery must have only included four frames.

Once I started traveling internationally, I began to add pictures from my travels, replacing all of my black and white photos with color photos.

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

Aquaduct of Caesarea (Israel)

And as my travels increased, I needed to add additional frames to accommodate photos from all my trips.

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

Lisbon Oceanarium (Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal)

When family members traveled with me on these international trips, they appeared in my displayed photos as well.

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Sometime in the early 2000s, I began to display photos of my cars (at first two and then three cars in 2006) and then in 2011, I added photos from my two oldest children’s weddings.

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As my travels continued, I began to replace old travel photos with newer ones.

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In May of 2016 when I bought my latest car, I planned on replacing the picture of my Mini, which we no longer owned, with my new WRX.

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But then just days later, I got word that my work site was closing.

So rather than adding to my collection, I began to think about what I was going to do with my photo gallery when I left. Since the frames are so cheap, I wouldn’t want to display them inside our house unless I invested in much nicer frames.

And then I came upon the idea of hanging them all in our garage over my workbench. After all, once I retire, I will be spending a lot more time at my workbench doing one of the things I love doing, working with my hands.

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I’ve wanted to take down these shelves for quite some time since they just end up becoming a storage space for old paints and chemicals that are not even good anymore. Now I have a good reason to.

So rather than boxing up these old frames and sticking them in the attic or worse yet, throwing them away, they will simply relocate to one of my “new” office walls. Because after all, every time my office moved these gems moved with me. And so they will!

Unquenchable Thirst for Reading

I can’t get enough of reading. For someone who read very little for pleasure up until about the age of 25, I’ve sadly missed a lot of years that I could have been reading. But a reader I have turned in to! These are some of the bookcases filled with books I’ve read over the years.

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Once I started this blog several years ago, I began to keep a digital list of all the books I read in a calendar year. And for several years, I’ve been keeping an Amazon “wish list” of all the books I wanted to read. I’ve written before about all of the books I have in waiting on that list, but unfortunately that list is growing faster than I can read.

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Not long ago, my sister-in-law introduced me to BookBub, a service you can sign up for in which you pre-select the types of books you would be interested in reading (I signed up for both fiction novels and non-fiction history books.). Once activated, you then get a daily e-mail message that lists digital books that are on sale—just for that one day—priced from “Free” to $3.99. Who can pass up these kinds of prices? So far this year, I’ve purchased eight BookBub books, each for $2.99 or less. Even with the current price of gas, I can’t drive to the public library and check out a book for much less than that.

My problem is, as always, I am a slow reader. I marvel at my wife for how fast she can read.

My Wife's Bookcase

My Wife’s Bookcase

Often when our evening is almost over, we will each get up on our bed and read a digital book on our iPad. It is amazing how quickly she is touching her iPad to move to the next page. Sadly for me, I often end up falling asleep while reading being so worn out by the end of the day.

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One of the best times for me to get to read is when I am traveling by air. I honestly don’t mind sitting in the airport waiting to board when I have a good book to read. And once on the plane, I often put ear buds in to discourage any conversation from fellow travellers so I can have hours of uninterrupted reading pleasure. Thank goodness we can now use our e-readers below 10,000 feet and while waiting to depart.

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My favorite flight is on my return trip from Amsterdam each year when I typically have a seven to eight hour flight during day light hours when, despite the 7-hour time difference, is still when I would normally be awake (The flight to Amsterdam is overnight so I usually try to sleep as much as I can rather than read to better acclimate to the 7-hour time loss).

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Another favorite time of mine is on vacation when I can also spend many hours reading non-stop.

Having turned 60, an age I’ve always thought of as “old” (although less so now that I am actually 60), I’ve had the sad thought of wondering just how many more years of reading I have left.

One of the items on my “to do” list once I retire is to read more. So even though knowing each of us has a limited number of years to live, I plan to accelerate my reading. Not that I will necessarily become a speed-reader to rival my wife. But with more hours available to read, I’ll be able to read even more books. But I suspect that even with that change, I’ll still have trouble keeping up with all the books I want to read. Because there are just so many great books out there, and the universe of books continues to expand ever larger.

Old Files

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Even though my retirement is still months away, I have already begun to clean out some old files as the archiving staff will be leaving before my last day. I have been the head of Stability for over 25 years so some of my files go back that far. On the first day of our site-wide clean up, I began to go through some of these quarter century old files.

It was really interesting looking back at some of the reports I approved in 1991. Even more interesting was seeing the names of fellow workers from that period that I had not even thought of in probably almost that long. Sadly, a few of them are not still alive so as I ran across their names, it was with a touch of sorrow.

But as I thumbed through documents from some of the other companies we worked with in the past, it was joyous to see names of people I know now that back then were just another name on a report. It is truly amazing how small the pharmaceutical industry really is.

That first day, I only managed to clean out one 5-drawer lateral file cabinet so I have a number of other files still to go through before I’m done. I fortunately didn’t come across any original documents that would have to go through the lengthy archival process. I did, however, generate a lot of recyclable waste. I can’t image how many trips I made to the recycle bin but I know I met my Fitbit 10,000-step goal that day (I even had to search for additional bins as along with fellow employees, we filled up all the ones close by.).

In advance of this clean-up day, I actually started going through some even older files that dated back to when I first started working.

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I ran across this photo of me that I think must have been taken for the company newspaper (remember those?).

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When I pulled out this file labeled “Programs”, I didn’t quite know what would be hidden inside. I was floored when I opened it.

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Inside was a Basic computer program I had written to crunch method validation data. My boss, when I first started, was very much into computerization (this was 1982) and challenged me as one of my first special projects to come up with a program to perform these method validation calculations.

When I was in college in the mid 1970s, I had studied Basic programming in a calculus lab course I had to take. Back then, the computer we had was a mainframe the size of two deep freezers end to end. We hand wrote out our program (there were no word-processors) and then typed each line of code onto a punch card (e.g., 100 cards for a 100 line program). Our task was to write a program to take multiple inputs of student’s individual test scores, generate a semester average for each student, assign a letter grade, and then rank order the students from highest to lowest average. I had had no exposure to computer programming in high school so this first semester freshman class proved to be a challenging assignment that I ultimately was not able to finish.

Imagine my chagrin when my boss assigned this project to me, a task far more challenging than my college assignment. Maybe it was the motivation of wanting to impress my boss (or the fact that I was being paid to do this rather than just earning a grade) but I remember taking home books on programming in Basic and hand writing my program at the kitchen table. Fortunately less than a decade after college, we were working on a “mini-computer” using a text processor that could take our lines of code and compile them into machine language—no more punch cards—so once my program was complete, I typed it into the text processor.

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Turns out writing it was a blast! I had to write several subroutines to perform the actual linear regression and to output the data in a table. I even figured out how to sort the data with a single pass through the calculated results, a functionality that had eluded me in college.

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In the same folder, I also found that I had started writing a computer program to manage our family budget. Only problem was this predated the invention of personal computers and so I had no computer of my own on which to run this program. But for a more “legitimate” business use, I did find that I had written a program to track our golf league participant’s scores and total them up to determine the season’s winners. It was almost like that student’s test score program I never was able to write correctly in college, only with golf scores rather than test scores.

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As I looked over these 34 year-old documents, I recalled the fun I had had writing these and the sense of pride that on my own, I had taught myself how to successfully program in Basic. It seemed that once I had slayed that old nemesis from college, I was bubbling with confidence to try even more.

I wonder on our next clean-up day what other treasures like these I may uncover that bring back such fond memories. I guess only time will tell.