The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

November 25, 2015

Going Around the Table, 2015 Edtion

Filed under: Family, Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:39 pm

Yes, I am well aware that I haven’t posted anything on this Blog in, oh, around 6 months or so.  It seems I’ve been a little busy.  During that time I’ve managed to move to a new apartment, get engaged and married, go from having zero cats in the house to having some indeterminate number  between 1 and 3 at any given time (it’s a long story, don’t ask) and started a new job as a contractor that turned into a full time position six months later.  Naturally, it’s all taken quite a bit of adjustment, but I certainly can’t complain.  And yes, I know I need to Blog more, and when things settle down a bit I will try to get back into a more regular pattern, but since this is one of the few posts I do on a yearly basis that I use as something of a checkpoint to look back at where I was, I think it’s important that I get it posted.  Oh, and there’s also the part about being grateful for things too.

At the beginning of this year, I had a pretty good idea that some big changes were coming, but didn’t quite know exactly when they would get here or what form they would take.  The contract at Airbiquity that I had worked in for the past two years had ended, and although it was a good opportunity at the time and paid quite well, it just felt like the job in general and the project in particular that I spent most of my time there working on was going nowhere.  The product I had been working on at the time did eventually ship in some form, but I seriously doubt anyone was particularly happy with the end result, and some of the subsequent stuff planned for the project (including some things I actually thought were working pretty well) ended up just getting cut.

I knew it was getting to be time to start looking at my options, but around the beginning of last December I got informed that they were ending the position at the end of the year.  I was grateful to have plenty of notice, and grateful to be in a position to not have to be in a big hurry to get into something new.  Fortunately the job market for my skillset is pretty hot around here right now, but it took a little longer than I anticipated to find something that both sounded interesting and paid the kind of money I was looking for.  After some delays for assorted red tape I know little about, in mid-April I ended up starting a contract position at Groupon doing mobile app testing, which subsequently became an FTE position at the beginning of last month.

Even though it doesn’t pay quite as much as the last place I worked, I’m enjoying it a lot more.  I still get to play with all the latest and greatest devices, I work with a great team of developers and testers, the stuff I work on actually gets released (most of the time anyway), and there’s a lot more flexibility and room for advancement than I’ve had in the past.  One of the best parts of this job compared to some of the others I’ve worked in is the fact that our entire team is local, which is a refreshing change after having spent years dealing with offshore developers.  This isn’t so say anything bad about any of the developers I’ve worked with over the years (I’ve actually worked with some very smart people in China, India and Ukraine), but it’s just so much easier to get your bugs fixed when your devs are two desks away instead of twelve time zones and potentially a language barrier away.  I’m grateful to have landed at Groupon, grateful for what I’ve learned and accomplished so far during my time there, and grateful for the opportunities I have in the future.

Of course, the job is far from the biggest change that has happened to me this year.  That honor would go to my new wife, to whom I was wedded on August 15th at the Seattle LDS Temple.  Having spent the previous ten years living on my own prior to this, married life has definitely taken some adjustment for me, and at times it has been difficult for both of us (I’ll refrain from discussing the little incident that resulted in adopting another cat as part of the apology) but I’m especially grateful for my wife and her patience with me as I learn to be her husband.  I do not talk much about her either here or elsewhere because she prefers to keep to herself for the most part, but she has changed my life in ways I could not possibly imagine both before and after I married her, and I’m grateful to have her as a friend, companion and spouse.  I know we’ve both faced challenges, but we can get through them together.

As another Thanksgiving arrives, I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend it with friends and family, and to reconnect with people I see often and not so often.  I’m grateful to know that I was raised well, and have come to realize over the past few years that some people are not afforded that luxury.  I know that in my life things tend to work out one way or another, but I rarely see it until it actually happens, and I also know that for some people it can be tough to see it happening.  Nonetheless, I know how blessed I am, and even if things aren’t perfect (or even sort of perfect) I know there’s still lots to be grateful for.

November 25, 2014

Going Around the Table, 2014 Edition

Filed under: Family, Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:32 am

Well, it’s just about time for Thanksgiving once again, which is always one of the nicer holidays out of the year.  In many ways, I actually like Thanksgiving better than I like Christmas these days because aside from the occurrence of the holiday itself people don’t really make a big deal out of it the way they do for Christmas (although the creep of Black Friday into Thanksgiving itself does seem to be something of a worrying trend.)  That leaves us free to enjoy it for what it is: a time for the family to get together from its scattered  and give thanks for the blessings in our life, enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving feast (and the now traditional complaints about we keep having turkey every year) and watch certain people get way too worked up about the Cowboys game.  Also, as I’ve previously discussed on this Blog a number of times, one of the Vanderhoeven family traditions that we follow is that in one form or another, we all take some time on Thanksgiving to talk about the things that we are thankful for.  Although the format has changed over the years, the notional idea of “Going Around the Table” still remains, so I continue to stick with that.

As I’ve done each year since 2008, I like to take this opportunity to discuss some of the things that I am thankful for in my life.  And although the idea may admittedly seem a little trite these days, I still find that these posts serve as something of an annual checkpoint for me as to where I am with my various life goals and accomplishments, dubious as they may be sometimes.  To be perfectly honest, I really try not to write too much about my personal life here on my Blog, mostly because I’m pretty boring.  That said, I do feel that on occasion it is necessary to write at least a little bit here and there, partially because every once in a while something interesting does actually happen that’s worth sharing, and partially because I do keep this Blog as something of a personal record, and it can be useful to go back and have some of these things available to read again later.

Generally in these Going Around the Table posts I do try to talk about where I am and what I’m doing at any given time, but I do have the tendency to keep things vague, mostly out of respect for the privacy of the friends and family members who might not want me plastering their lives all over the Internet (and I can’t say I blame them.)  Nonetheless, when I go back and read these posts, it becomes pretty clear to me where I was at the time, and what was to come.  And although I generally try to keep these posts (and my Blog in general) fairly upbeat, there have been times when I can go back and read these posts and see that I was clearly struggling with one thing or another at any given time.  There used to be a time when I was incredibly cynical about…  well, just about everything really.  It’s a bad habit to get into, and even now I find myself falling into it every once in a while, but at least I think I’ve managed to get better at not showing it over the years.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure it manages to sneak in every so often.  Nonetheless, it’s still instructive to see where I’ve been and where I was going at the time (hindsight, of course, is 20/20.)

That said, I really don’t have anything to complain about right now.  Even if I don’t see them nearly as much as I used to these days as a lot of us have gone off in whatever various directions life has taken us in, I’m still grateful for a loving and supportive family that I know I can rely on if I ever need them, and which has seen the addition of a niece and a nephew over the course of the past year.  I’m also grateful to have friends that share my offbeat sense of humor (I have to say that we both do a surprisingly good job of putting up with each other’s antics, all things considered) and whom I can trust to be there when I need it.  I would be the first to admit that I tend to be slow to get to know people (some of that is me having trouble putting names to faces sometimes, and some of it is just me occasionally being a little stubborn) but I truly believe that the friends I associate myself with are there for a reason, even if it may have taken me a bit longer than it should for me to realize that.  I just hope I can do for them what they have done for me.

I’m also grateful for the job I have, even if it has been a challenge at times.  I’ll admit that the first six months or so that I spent at my current employer were a particularly challenging time for me, as the project I was working on didn’t seem to be going well and there were people I was having trouble getting along with.  Ultimately I stuck with it, and over time things have gotten better.  That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges, but I think I’ve grown into it reasonably well, and it does come with some nice perks, not the least of which is getting to mess around with a lot of the new phones when they hit the market, and I get to (occasionally) drive a really nice car as well without having to pay for the gas.  All in all, it’s actually a pretty good place to work.

I’m also grateful for the ability to travel, and the traveling companions that accompany me on my various adventures.  This year has not offered quite as many opportunities to visit new places as last year did, but we did still get a chance to see Alaska for the first time (which reminds me that I still need to finish up the post about the second part of my Alaska trip at some point) and next year should have some interesting things planned as well.  I know that eventually I will have to settle down and raise a family which will presumably put a damper on my ability to do so, but in the meantime I consider myself fortunate that I have the ability and the means to do so.

I do still have my challenges, and I do still have my shortcomings (who doesn’t?) but ultimately, I do think things are headed in the right direction, and I’m grateful for that.  And sometimes, that’s the best thing you can hope for.

November 27, 2013

Going Around the Table, 2013 Edition

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:19 am

Well, once again it seems that Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  This shouldn’t be too big a surprise to anyone really (although one or two people I know might want to occasionally double-check the date before they take the wrong day off of work,) but to be perfectly honest, it’s managed to sneak up a bit on me this year.  Work, as always has been keeping me pretty busy lately.  Things have actually been slowing down somewhat for a few weeks now, but the past few days have seen things flare up, and just this past weekend a problem with a test vehicle in California ultimately required a last-minute trip to San Jose to sort some things out, as outlined in my last post (more on this coming up soon.)  On top of that, me and my friend are now less than two weeks away from the vacation we’ve been planning for months, and trying to get things in order for the trip is taking a fair bit of effort.  It’s amazing just how much work can go into what is supposed to be a relaxing (for once) vacation, especially when you need to account for formal nights, “smart casual” outfits for the dining room on the other nights, not to mention all the arrangements you need before and after and all the stuff you need to plan out.  Sure it’s a lot of effort, but if it lets me spend two weeks conveniently forgetting about work, then it’s worth it.

Anyway, as has become my custom over the time I’ve been writing this Blog, as Thanksgiving approaches it is time for my annual “Going Around the Table” Blog post.  For those of you unfamiliar with this, in the Vanderhoeven family we have a tradition on Thanksgiving where just before we all sit down to dinner we each take a turn going around the table and talking about some of the things we are grateful.  Naturally I participate in this along with everyone else, but for a number of years now (I believe this will be my sixth one) I have written a Blog post as well talking about the things I am grateful for.  In a way, these posts also act as checkpoints of a sort, something of a miniature encapsulation of my current state.  When I go back and read some of my previous Going Around the Table posts, it’s generally pretty clear when things seemed to be going well, and when things seemed to be a struggle.  Regardless of where I was (and where I am) I have still tried to be positive about things, and know that I wouldn’t be where I am without some help.

This past year has definitely been an interesting one (well, when you think about it every year is interesting, but the definition of “interesting” rarely seems to stay in one place.)  When I wrote this post a year ago, I stated that in many ways I seemed to be in something of a holding pattern at the time.  There were many things in my life that could have gone one way or another, but didn’t seem to be going anywhere at the time.  Fast forward a year later, and although there are still a number of those things that I haven’t quite managed to resolve yet, but quite a bit has changed in the past 12 months.  A year ago, I was rapidly approaching the end of a contract on the Kindle team at Amazon that I had enjoyed and felt that I had done quite well at, but which had pretty much wound down at that point and didn’t look like it had much long-term potential.  That ended (as expected, with plenty of advance warning) just a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving.  At the time, I had planned on taking it easy for a bit before moving onto the next thing, but the next thing showed up a lot sooner than I expected.  It was just a week and a half after the end date on my Amazon contract that I found myself starting my current job with Airbiquity, where I now test software for use in luxury cars.  Although the pay here is significantly better than my last job (and even there I thought I was doing pretty well,) I do have to admit that the first few months were rather difficult for me as I tried to get used to the system I’m working on and deal with some people I found it difficult to get along with at first.  The project I’ve been working on has consistently been challenging, and at times has taken up far more of my time than I would like, but as the past year has gone by, I feel that I’ve managed to gradually figure out things reasonably well, and over time I found that the people I had trouble with at first became a lot easier to deal with as I got to know them better.  That doesn’t mean that things aren’t still quite challenging at times, but at least they seem manageable.  All in all, even if it did take some time to get settled into it, this job has definitely been a good opportunity, and it’s allowed me opportunities I haven’t had in the past, so I’m definitely grateful for it.

Elsewhere, it seems like everyone else in my family has been changing quite a bit, and yet I’m still in pretty much the same place I was a year ago.  Over the course of this past year, my parents have moved out of Redmond to a lovely new house in rural Snohomish County, and even though they’re still close enough to visit, it’s a lot longer drive to get there now.  Also during the course of the year one of my brothers and his family moved out of the area to Provo (and added a daughter recently) while he works on a degree at BYU, and my other brother (who lives down there already) got married in May.  One of my sisters also added a fourth boy to their family, and my other sister’s husband has just finished a PhD at WSU.  Me?  I’m pretty much in the same place where I have been.  To be perfectly honest it’s a rather comfortable niche with little to complain about.  At times it does feel like I’m still a little bit stuck in a rut, but regardless of what may be happening elsewhere, at least I do have the sense that I’m at least making forward progress on things, even if it isn’t as fast as I’d like it to be.

But if there’s one thing I’m truly grateful for this year, it would be the friends I have and the opportunities I have to spend time with them.  There is one friend in particular who has become my frequent traveling companion and confidante, with whom I now find myself spending a great deal of my time.  In the interest of maintaining privacy I’ll keep from talking too much about her here, but if she’s reading this I want her to know just how truly grateful I am to have her around, and how nice it is to have someone with whom I can be comfortable just being myself.  I know we each have our own sets of challenges and complications to deal with, and I can appreciate how much it helps to have someone to share them with, even if I do have a tendency to overexplain things at times and occasionally have to be reminded not to get into swordfights with small children in gift shops (long story.)  I’m also grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to travel together over the past couple of years and the ones we have coming up.  Sure I could travel on my own if I really wanted to (and I have done so in the past on occasion) but it’s just so much better to have someone to share the experience with.  And in the end, that’s what makes all the difference.

Regardless of the circumstances I happen to find myself in at any given time, there’s always plenty to be thankful for.  And even if things aren’t ever quite perfect, at least I can see them heading in the right direction.

November 26, 2012

Going Around the Table, 2012 Edition

Filed under: Everett, Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:52 am

Most of the important people in my life all together at once.  Photo by Holly Aprecio Photography.

As any longtime readers of this Blog (do I still have any of those?) may know, one of  the Vanderhoeven family traditions we have at Thanksgiving is that before everyone sits down to dinner, we take the time to go around the table, and each person takes a turn to discuss some of the things which they are thankful for.  It’s always an interesting experience to see just how blessed we are, and on several occasions people have used this occasion to announce things like pregnancies or other major life events.  This year’s Thanksgiving get-together was a little bit unusual in that owing to various circumstances, we opted for a more casual get-together than we usually have, meaning that the customary formal tables were replaced with couches and the latest Cowboys and Jets meltdowns on the TV.  Given the fact that it can be kind of hard to go around the table when there isn’t really a table to speak of, my Aunt Pam decided that in these circumstances it would be better to just have everyone write in a book (which will be maintained and updated from year to year.)   It’s a different way of doing things, but I think it should work out in the long run even if my handwriting is terrible.

In addition to this, I am continuing with my usual tradition of doing an annual “going around the table” Blog post here (this will be my fifth one) where I can write down some of my thoughts in a hopefully somewhat more readable format.  I’ve been doing this for several years now, and I’ve found that going back and looking at these posts from previous years is a good way to get a general idea of where I was at that point, and where things seemed to be going.  Some years have been pretty good, some years have been challenging, and some have been somewhere in between.  To be honest, it’s hard to say where this past year has been, but to me it seems that I’ve spent a lot it in something of a holding pattern.  There are quite a few things going on in my life right now where it seems that I could end up going in one direction or the other, and at times it seems like I might actually manage to pull some of these off, but at other times it feels like all of them are unattainable goals.   As it stands right now, the immediate to near-term future still seems to hold quite a bit of uncertainty, which is admittedly not my favorite thing.

Nonetheless, I know that one way or another, things always seem to find a way to work out, and as often seems to be the case, it happens a lot more often in the “or another” category.  In the meantime, I’m grateful that things have gone as well as they have.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to remain employed, and even though the contract at Amazon that I’ve spent roughly nine months in is going to be ending shortly, there seem to be several good prospects for whatever will come next, and it’s been good experience in the meantime.  I’m also grateful (as always) that I come from such a great family, and that most of my family lives close enough that I get to see them on a regular basis.  As you can see above, a few days ago when we were able to get everyone together all at once, we used the occasion to take some new family portraits.  I’m also grateful to have some very good friends with whom I have shared several adventures and/or misadventures over the past year, and over the course of the several years that I have known them.  In particular, the Disneyland trip I was able to take with them in August was particularly memorable, even if it did leave me hanging out in a slightly sketchy grocery store near LAX at 1am while waiting for a thrice-delayed flight.  Then again, nobody ever seems to remember the trips where everything went exactly according to plan, right?

Of course, what’s past is past. What’s future is, as it always seems to be, looming somewhere off in the distance, never close enough to see more than vague hints of.  And while I do have a few good ideas of where I would like be in that future (well, being there in the first place is always a good start) I’ve also clearly got some work to do in order to get there. Even so, it does seem attainable, and I’ve got plenty of the right people around me to help get there.  And it is for that which I am most grateful.  I do admit that I have my faults every so often, and that I do still do dumb things on a shockingly regular basis, but at least I can keep most of those in the category of learning experiences. 

Anyway, once again I did make ornaments for our family’s ornament exchange this year, and once again I did the project with the laser cutter (which took up most of my time during the week prior to Thanksgiving, making this annual post just a little bit tardy this year.  You should be hearing more about this soon.

November 22, 2011

Going Around the Table, 2011 Edition

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

(TODO: Take a new Thanksgiving table picture so I don’t have to keep recycling old ones over and over again.)

Every year around this time Thanksgiving rolls around, and for some odd reason, every year around this time I always seem to mention something here about how Thanksgiving just seemingly snuck up on us out of nowhere.  Naturally this is a rather absurd notion, as anyone who has been paying attention probably would have noticed Halloween popping up on the calendar a few weeks ago, and taken that as a clear sign of impending turkey.  Nonetheless, it is with anticipation that we look at the arrival of Thanksgiving, as it provides one of the few chances we get each year to have the whole entire family together at once.  And as it always does, Thanksgiving also provides an opportunity to look back and take stock of the past year to see where I have been, and what blessings I have received.

For those of you who may not have read one of these posts before, every year at our big family Thanksgiving get-together, we have a tradition where we all go around the table, and each person takes a little bit of time to speak of some of the things that they are thankful for.  For those of you who are familiar with Agile development, the whole thing’s basically like a Scrum meeting, only with a lot more people, and last time I checked people usually don’t bring donuts to Thanksgiving.  When I started writing this Blog over four years ago, I also started doing a “going around the table” Blog post around Thanksgiving time each year as well, with several other members of the family (depending on their varying degrees of motivation to actually maintain their Blogs) making their own posts as well.  The previous Going Around the Table posts can be found here (2008), here (2009) and here (2010).  So without further ado, here are some of the things that I am thankful for as we once again approach Thanksgiving.

For those of you who have been reading this Blog for a while, you are probably aware of some of the various interesting circumstances of the year that preceded Thanksgiving 2010, and the couple of months prior to Thanksgiving in particular.  This year has, thankfully, been a lot less tumultuous for me, and has allowed me a chance to settle down a bit.  In particular, I’ve finally had the opportunity to settle down into a good and reasonably stable job after years of working as a contractor that resulted in the need to frequently be searching for the next job at the end of each contract.  Although this was far from being an ideal situation, I found that I would always be able to find the things that I needed at the times that I needed them, and it is through that period that I came to a firm belief that if I am doing the right things, one way or another things would work out (and quite often I’ve found things to happen in the “Or Another” category.)  Granted, I don’t intend this to be a claim that I am doing the right things all the time (or even most of the time, for that matter) but through these years of wandering from contract to contract, I saw it happen enough times that I can’t believe it to be mere coincidence.

I wouldn’t exactly say that this past year was marked by any sort of profound change from previous years, but in many ways it’s provided a chance to settle down a bit.  For the first time since I worked in my first Tech Support job out of high school (I don’t really like to talk about that one much to be honest) I’ve spent more than a year consecutively in the same job.  Granted, even in that there’s been a bit of turmoil here and there, but all in all, I have to say that I’m grateful for where I am right now.  The job I am in has given me an opportunity to grow in a number of the skills I need to achieve my long-term career goals, I have good managers who I get along with very well, and who trust in me enough to mostly just stay out of the way and let me do what needs to be done, my daily commute is a ten-minute walk to the office, I managed to finally get my car paid off a few months ago, and I have actual vacation time, something I’ve lacked for quite a while.  Sure, it might be nice if my stock options weren’t so far underwater that I don’t think even Jacques Cousteau could find them at this point, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.  I know I can’t expect this to last forever (and in fact, I know I’ll have to take some steps toward making some changes myself in the not-too-distant future as I come to realize that now is the time to seek out my eternal companion,) but I’m grateful to have a bit of stability for the time being. 

I’m also grateful for the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to do some traveling this year, as I know that this is something that not a lot of people get to do.  It’s always good to get the chance to expand one’s horizons, and even though I begin to worry that I might b getting myself a bit stuck in a rut with this whole cruise thing, I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to take several of them this year, and to bring my brother who I don’t see much of these days along with me for one of them.  I’m also grateful that I got to take a trip to Disneyland back in September with several friends, which gives an entirely different perspective than I’d get from traveling alone.  I know that for quite a while during my twenties, I had a tendency at times to be a bit of a loner.  Sure, I’d get along with people just fine, I just didn’t place as much importance on the friendship of other people as I really should have (which probably has a lot more to do with how I ended up being still single at age 30 than I’d really like to admit.)  It’s easy to let this become one of those things you don’t really think you need until you finally find friends like that and begin to realize what you’re missing.

All in all, I realize that I have a lot to be grateful for this year, even if I’m not always as good as I should be about expressing that gratitude.  Now, for anyone else in the family who still happens to be blogging (I know of one or two, not so sure about the others), it’s your turn.

November 22, 2010

Going Around the Table, 2010 Edition

Filed under: Family, Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:37 am

Yeah, I really need a new Thanksgiving dinner table photo.

As it always does, Thanksgiving week has arrived, bringing with it family, food, and hours of sub-zero camping out in front of stores for incredible bargains (for other people at least, such bargain hunting requires being awake at hours I’d probably never be awake at if I could help it.)  Owing mostly to the now standard three months of wall-to-wall Christmas (it would probably be four, but they’ve got to find somewhere to stick all the Halloween stuff) we get subjected to these days Thanksgiving has a tendency to sneak up on you, but at the same time it also seems that at some point the whole thing turned into one big weeklong turkey-flavored blur.  I’ve already spent several evenings over the past week and most of my Saturday afternoon working on Christmas ornaments for the annual Vanderhoeven ornament exchange (you’ll be seeing more on the ornaments after Thanksgiving, since several of the attendees will be reading this and I don’t want to ruin the surprise,) and tomorrow evening is the first of several Thanksgiving dinners which will be consumed over the course of the week, with a drastically shortened work week somewhere in between all that.  In a way I almost look forward to Thanksgiving more than Christmas these days, but each of these is enjoyable in their own way.

Of course, with Thanksgiving comes the annual family tradition of going around the table before (or occasionally after) dinner and talking about some of the things that each of us is thankful for.  For the past two years I have also done Going Around the Table Blog posts as well, and once again the time has come to count my blessings and take another trip around the virtual table.  Although a lot of my relatives seem to have pretty much given up on Blogging over the past few months, my sisters have been doing things that they have been thankful for as a theme on their Blog posts all month now, so at this point pretty much all I’m doing is trying to catch up. 

In preparation to write this post, I have gone back and read the past couple of Going Around the Table posts that I have done in 2008 and 2009.  Back in 2008, I was at a point where I felt like I was finally making some progress toward my long-term goals after years of stagnation, but was also at a point where I was just beginning what would ultimately be a fairly lengthy challenging period, first being out of work for six months , then ultimately having to settle for a Microsoft contract which was a signifcant downgrade both in pay and a significant step backward in my long-term career development.  Although the team I was on had some good people on it, the work was repetetive and things didn’t work right a lot more often than they did work, making the whole thing quite often a frustrating experience.  Even so, the job was getting the bills paid without too much trouble, and working is always better than not working, so I certainly can’t complain about that.  Thanksgiving of 2009 saw me at this point, where I had gone through some challenges and knew that there were more ahead, but I definitely knew that I could have been in a lot worse shape than I was, and I was certainly thankful for what I had. 

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and once again I was facing a great deal of uncertainty.  The Microsoft contract I was on had come to an abrupt end, and prospects for finding another Microsoft contract without having to go through the 100-day break in service looked shaky at best.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for an opportunity for some short-term work to come in, and within 2 1/2 weeks, I found myself reporting for a 2-3 week contract assignment for some company I had never heard of in a 120-year old third-floor walkup in Pioneer Square, where I was promptly informed that I would be testing the Beavis and Butt-Head app for iPhone.  This, of course, thoroughly horrified my mother, but the pay was good, and it was giving me an opportunity to work in some new things  Don’t tell anyone this, but the day I walked into this place was actually the first time I had ever used an iPhone (well, an iPod Touch) for more than a few minutes of playing around with a demo unit in the Apple store.  Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice this (filing some 15+ bugs against the app on the first day probably helped), and apparently I did a reasonable enough job with this that the 2-3 week contract ultimately turned into seven months, providing opportunities not only to work with iPhone and iPad, but also with Android (which I hadn’t used at all before that) and Blackberry (which mostly served to make me wonder who in their right mind actually uses this stuff, but that’s another post.)  If there was one thing that I really got out of the time I spent at Teleca, it was the realization that although I have (mostly) enjoyed the time I spent contracting at Microsoft and had learned quite a bit from it, at this point it had really turned into a dead end.   Getting some time to get outside of the artificial bubble that Microsoft forms around itself and getting a chance to work with and gain some skills with competing products has turned out to be very good experience, and one that I am certainly thankful for.  Getting into a FTE position at Microsoft was one of my long-term goals for many years, but now I’m not so sure that would necessarily be the right path for me to take (although I would certainly consider it if the opportunity came up.)  I’m glad that I got a chance to figure that out without necessarily needing to do so the hard way.

If you’ve been reading the Blog you’ve probably already been through the 2,700 word epic I wrote about the whole Amazon/Motricity situation (if not, scroll down a couple of posts and prepare to have your insomnia miraculously cured,) so I’ll refrain from rehashing that again here.  To make a long story short, as Thanksgiving 2010 arrives, I am finally getting into a more stable job situation with a good salary, good benefits, paid time off, room to grow and a walkable commute, and although the past 10 1/2 months have certainly been an emotional roller coaster in ways that have both been expected and completely unexpected (with more ups than downs, fortunately) I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have been given even if they do inconveniently all show up at once, and that I know that the Lord is continuing to watch over me in spite of my shortcomings.  I am also grateful for my family (which has grown once again this year as Jared and Emily’s first son Benjamin was born in May) and the support that they continue to provide.  I am also grateful for my other nephews (Connor, Corey and Brooks Jr.) as well.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to come to the conclusion this year that my whole Mean Uncle Brian routine was never going to work out, so I’ve decided to go with Crazy Uncle Brian instead.  I’m also thankful that in spite of the various difficulties that I’ve gone through over the past couple of years, one way or another I’ve always been able to make it through everything in one piece, and without ever reaching the point where I have been unable to pay the bills.  A combination of my parents’ teachings and experience (quite a bit more experience than I’d like really) has taught me to be careful with money and to plan for the unexpected (which in most cases has turned out to be a lot more expected than I’d care for,)  but the right things always seem to happen at the right times.  One way or another (and as I’ve said before, lately it’s been happening mostly in the “or another” category) things always seem to work out, and it is perhaps for that which I am most grateful of all.  There are still some things that I need to fix and that I need to find (foremost among those being a wife) but I’m grateful for all that I have.

Anyway, for those family members who might be reading this, if for some reason you haven’t been doing posts on things you’ve been thankful for all month, feel free to dust off your badly neglected Blogs and put together a post of your own.

November 25, 2009

Going Around the Table Again

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 6:32 pm

Well, it looks like Thanksgiving is just about here once again.  As some of my regular readers (in other words, my Mom and my siblings, and a few other people out there here and there) may recall, last year when Thanksgiving came around, I put together a post that served as something of a virtual version of the Vanderhoeven family tradition of going around the table at Thanksgiving and talking about some of the things that we’re thankful for.  Although this Thanksgiving will see the Lutz family returning to the traditional Vanderhoeven get-together after a year’s absence, I thought it would also be good to revisit this here.

I suppose one could say that this past year has been interesting, in much the way the same thing could be said of a slow-motion train wreck.  Between the economy, politics, the outbreak of Porky’s Revenge and all the other various things that have been going on, it hasn’t exactly been the easiest of times to live in.  I’ve also found myself needing to make a difficult transition or two during this past year, and  for a brief period, it even looked like there was a very real possibility that I could have ended up pulling up stakes and moving down to Utah, although that one ended up never actually materializing for some reason that I have never been able to figure out.  This past year has definitely been one of those “interesting” times that end up being both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

And yet, somehow I’ve managed to make it through all of this, and come out the other side relatively unscathed.  Sure I still have some things I haven’t quite figured out (like the little matter of trying to figure out how to stop being so freakin’ single all the time,) but one way or another, I’ve managed to get through all of this.  I’m still here and in one piece, I’m employed, The bills are getting paid without too much trouble, and I have my health.  Somehow, I’ve managed to dodge the Swine Flu on at least two occasions that I know of, and aside from what is probably a slightly irrational aversion to the Whitman’s Sampler (long story) I have managed to get through the year with no ill effects.  I’m especially grateful that I have my family nearby, that I gained a new nephew this year (and have another niece/nephew on the way sometime around May of next year,) and that as long as you don’t lock us all up in a crowded apartment for three days we all get along quite well.  I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had to travel over the course of the last year, and for the natural curiosity that I have about things that leads me to dig more deeply into many of them than most people would (even if it has been known to get me into trouble a time or two.)  In short, I am thankful that the Lord is mindful of me,  provides the things that I need, and even manages to put up with me and my slightly-too-abundant shortcomings.  Sometimes I don’t quite end up taking the path I would have preferred, but ultimately I do eventually manage to end up where I’m supposed to be, and I have faith that I will continue to do so.

So…  Who’s next?

November 22, 2008

Going Around the Table

Filed under: Family — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 3:36 pm


One of my family’s longstanding traditions on Thanksgiving is that either before or after dinner, we will all go around the table and state the things that we are thankful for in our lives.  This year, things are a little different, as the family seems to have become a lot more far-flung than we have been in the past, which means that for the first time in thirteen years,  there won’t be any representation from the Lutz family at the big Vanderhoeven Thanksgiving get-together.  Instead, myself, my parents and the Keenans will all be renting a big 8-passenger SUV and driving down to Provo to have Thanksgiving with Jason, Heather and Brooks.  While it should be fun to get the family together down there (assuming I manage to survive the 13+ hour drive  each way with two toddlers in the car at least,) at the same time it means that we won’t have the usual chance to go around the table (although I suspect that the obligatory “Oh no, not turkey again!” whine from all the kids before dinner is served will probably proceed as usual.)  In lieu of this, my Mom has decided to put this into a Blog post, and Heather and Jacki have followed suit, so I guess that means that it’s my turn to post some of the things that I am thankful for in my life.

These days, when everything seems to be off to you-know-where in a handbasket, I’m fortunate that so far, things have worked out pretty well for me.  Sure, there are a few things that I need to work on (mostly little things like figuring out who I’m supposed to spend the rest of eternity with and actually ensuring that I actually meet that person at some point in my life,) but all things considered, I can’t complain (but, as Joe Walsh observed back in the Seventies, sometimes I still do.)  I’m thankful that I’ve finally managed to get past the point in my career development that I felt I was stuck at for several years, and that I have been able to find a good team at Zune to work with to help get versions 3.0 and 3.1 (released earlier this week) out the door.  My contract there is actually just about to end as my annual 100-day break in service comes up, but it’s been an excellent opportunity, and it’s kind of cool to be able to go to the store and see a product that I helped make sitting on the shelf (even if I have to dig through a big pile of iPods to get to it.)  There are definitely some interesting things planned in the next couple of years for Zune, and although I can’t talk about any of them right now, I hope to be able to go back when I am eligible to do and continue to help bring those ideas into reality.

Sure, there seems to be a fair bit of uncertainty ahead, but I know that throughout the years, one way or another things have worked out.  On occasion I find myself getting just a bit impatient with the whole process, but one way or another, things work out eventually.  I’m thankful that I have a loving and supportive family to fall back on when needed, and that my parents are the ones with the dogs so I can go visit Imola and Minardi whenever I want, but that I get to go back to my own nice clean house (yeah right) afterward.  I suppose if I wanted to, I could claim that I timeshare on a couple of Beagles since I seem to be over there dogsitting a lot lately, but that’s beside the point.  I’m also thankful that in spite of some of my shortcomings and occasional shortsightedness, I have yet to make any of the really big mistakes, and I hope that I can continue to avoid making any of those.  It’s kind of nice not having my life be messed up too badly…

Finally, I’m glad that I’ll finally be able to take a vacation down Florida in a few weeks, even if I haven’t got the slightest clue what I’m actually going to do with that time yet (aside from figuring that I can probably skip most of the Princess-related stuff for the time being.)  Sure, it may not have all the excitement and thrills of driving down bumpy old highways and  taking pictures of abandoned Route 66 gas stations, but I’m sure I’ll manage to figure out something to do while I’m there. 

So, who’s next?

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