Catching up at the end of the year

published: Thu, 30-Dec-2004   |   updated: Sun, 23-Jul-2006

It's the thing to do at the end of a year: review what you've accomplished and what you haven't; what was good and what was hideously awful; what you should have done and what you shouldn't have touched with a 10-foot barge pole.

For me, 2004 hasn't been a great year for many reasons, most of which I would rather not dwell on, and yet it did have some good points.

I started off the year without a job (my fault: I should have found one before resigning from Microsoft), but then landed a position with Falafel Software. I got to go (again) to the Borland Conference (was this a highlight, I wonder?).

Donna and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary during a vacation in England with an unrepairable flat tyre on our Hertz rental (the new one cost £125 or over $200 -- sheesh). But it was kind of funny pumping up the tyre with my Dad's foot pump in the drizzling rain in order to get to the tyre place (maybe I should've put on the spare).

I also started off the year by starting to write for the Delphi Magazine again (it was a condition of my Microsoft employment not to write about competing technologies so I had to stop in 2003). Talking of writing: I'm now writing more and getting better at it I think. For example, I now write regularly for CodeFez, both blog posts and editorials.

Incidentally, my wife, Donna, is of the firm belief that I use too many commas in my prose, but in our disagreement we're in good company: check out the classic disagreements between the humorist James Thurber (sparse use of the comma) and the New Yorker founder and editor Harold Ross (liberal use of the comma) on the subject:

A reader once asked James Thurber why he had put a comma after the word “dinner” in this sentence: “After dinner, the men went into the living room.” Thurber, a comma minimalist, blamed the New Yorker’s commaphilic editor, Harold Ross: “This particular comma was Ross’ way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.”

A major highlight for the year was that the copyright to my book reverted to me. That was ruddy brilliant and in my euphoric state I then made the rash announcement to have it reprinted by Christmas. Ha! A double whammy happened: the project I was on went into major crunch mode, and typesetting the book proved very long-winded and tedious (I don't have access to the typeset work that Wordware did, all I have are my original Word documents). It's a work in progress, to be sure, but I'd rather not forecast when it will be ready.

Another highlight that happened late in the year was that I was accepted to direct Cabaret for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. This is a big deal: the musicals at the FAC are full productions that cross over into the professional arena. The show has a 5 figure budget and everyone gets paid. We have twelve performances over the four weekends in February 2005.

Suddenly I've become an expert in 1960s musicals (Cabaret is an important milestone in the history of American musical theater because it was the first to break away from the "integrated musical" where songs and musical numbers form part of the dialogue and story), on Christopher Isherwood (Cabaret is based on his stories about Sally Bowles in the book Berlin Stories), and on the 1920s and 30s Weimar Republic in Germany and the rise of the Nazi party.

But it's great fun. I have an outstanding, talented cast, including a drop-dead gorgeous Sally and innocent Cliff, an evil Emcee who will stop at nothing, a Fraulein Schneider and Herr Shultz who will make you cry when their relationship is doomed, and a group of Kit Kat Klub Kittens (or should that be a litter?) who will be talked about long afterwards. The cast's voices are beautiful and crystal clear. My choreographer understands the Fosse style inside out so that the dance numbers will be fabulous. The set is going to be amazing: we're doing some innovations that won't have been seen before in Colorado Springs. All in all, this show is going to be a sell-out.

And it's remarkable how much directing a musical can be like developing software. No, really: we block it out in little scenelets and polish them (that is, unit test them) before moving on. Then the scenelets are integrated into complete scenes (integration testing). The whole thing has to be scheduled so that, for example, the set is built, painted and furnished before the lighting designer starts work. I'll have to write further on this at a later stage.

So, whoever you are, my Gentle Readers, wherever you may live (and my web stats show that the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland are in the Top Five), and whatever you do in life (would the person who Googles for "how do gay puerto ricans feel about relationships and love" and reaches my site, please go to Puerto Rico and find out), please accept my best wishes for a successful and happy New Year.