Notes from Seattle, Dec 1996

Text by Michael Broschat, with Melissa Meier

After the last half of 1995, which was characterized by so much traveling (at least, on Melissa’s part), 1996 saw us operate more from the home base of Seattle.

The activities of any particular year can probably always be divided into “ongoing” and “special” events, and we had our share of both. For me, work is, thankfully, the most ongoing of the first category. I work for Paul Allen’s Asymetrix Corporation, now in my fourth year. The Database Division was “spun off” into a separate company, and I joined several others in moving to a different division. I’m now with the Internet Tools Division—specifically, the SuperCede Java development tool. We (almost miraculously, it always seems) actually shipped the product, and before year’s end. You can rush down to your local computer store, and buy several copies. You’ll be glad you did.

[Melissa] I dove back into editing and translating this year after some time away from my keyboard, spending most time on two German books, the first a monster 800-page work on psychology, (which I affectionately called the “psycho” project), and the second a gorgeous coffee-table book on icons. I also took an advanced French translation class as the final Ôrequirement for the certificate in translation I’d been working on.

Two other activities form part of the ongoing category—dance and teaching. For those who don’t know already, I took up social partner dancing not long after meeting Melissa (who had been dancing for a couple years already). It’s an interesting experience, and more fun than I would have imagined. I don’t take it too seriously (we’re not part of a competition community), and manage to learn enough to stay out there until the song ends. Or, in the case of polka, until I fall to the floor, exhausted.

[Melissa] Michael, as many of you know, has the patience of Job (except for parking the car). It takes a long time for most people to learn to dance, but he’s persisted and is now quite a respectable dance partner. And the grin that replaced his earlier grimace makes me think he’s even having fun! I’m partial to “vintage” dance, which includes dances from 1800 through 1920. Lots of elegant waltzes, polkas, and mazurkas, with a bit of Charleston, too. Country western dance comes in a close second, but we’ve only gone to cowboy dancing once. One step at a time....

The teaching activity has certainly been a time-consuming one. A couple years ago, I began teaching a course on how to make use of technology in the translation profession (for a local institution training translators). Melissa was one of the students, and now she teaches with me. For a while, it seemed as if just preparing one term’s course would be enough to last for the rest of my “career,” but it turns out that with all the changes in technology and our increasing understanding of translator needs, the course has to be reworked both during the term and, worse, after the term ends. In other words, forever. This year, we’re developing our materials as Web pages, so that’s another radical change in our teaching materials.

Other events of note during the year were the kitchen remodeling project and a trip back East. The kitchen, mostly the work of my brother Lyle, involved complete removal of the existing kitchen, and refurbishing with new everything, including one of those fancy stoves that has no apparent burners and beeps at you. At least, it beeps at us. If we get too near it.

[Melissa] We’d started talking about having a birthday party for Michael, and it seemed a good idea to have a kitchen in place for the occasion. We ended up postponing the party till next year but went ahead with the kitchen anyway. No more brown appliances! The day Lyle left (and 4 months before we finally got things put back in place) my dear friend Marie-Pierre came to visit from France (she’s the one we visited last year over there). She and I took a little trip to Victoria for a couple of days, took in some culture here (a concert, a play, an opera), and, of course, went cowboy dancing!

The trip back East was quite interesting. Melissa is from the Philadelphia area, and served as an especially informed guide to the local historical and artistic sites. We also trained over to the other Washington, where we spent a few days with the Stites family, but mostly wandering around D.C. Highlights of that experience included a visit to NPR and, most impressively, to Ford’s Theater. We went back that evening to see a wonderful production of The Fantastiks, seated just a few feet from where Lincoln sat more than a hundred years ago.

[Melissa] I love art museums! Every time I go home, I visit my favorite places: the Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Brandywine Museum (home of the Wyeth family), and Longwood Gardens. The PMA had a marvelous exhibit of Cézanne works (which I ultimately saw 3 times), and the Barnes collection is so rich that eating whole sticks of butter would seem watery by comparison. Longwood Gardens was a DuPont summer home—it’s about 1000 acres, with formal gardens, woods, fountains, meadows, and a huge conservatory with whole rooms devoted just to orchids, for example. To me it’s the most beautiful spot in the world. D.C. is gorgeous, too—the Metro made it easy for us to get around without a car. And we sat right next to Lincoln’s box in Ford’s Theater!

Back at the ranch, we made less extensive visits to sites and events in Portland and Vancouver, B.C. We rode a new Spanish-made train called the Talgo up to B.C.—what a great ride! Melissa is an art freak, and such trips either have to do with art or with translation-related activities. I’m less interested in art than she, but especially enjoyed the look at Wyeth paintings we had both in Pennsylvania and also in Portland. Portland we visited twice—once to see a Gauguin exhibit, and then again to see some Wyeth paintings for the last time (they’ve been bought by a private collector who’s taking them home to Japan).

[Melissa] I also took a wild and wonderful road trip in August with my eternal best friend Betty and her two daughters, 12-year-old Amy and 9-year-old Eri. We went to Idaho to a Basque picnic, then came back along the Columbia River to Portland. What a great time! We listened to The Sheep Pig (now called ‘Babe’) and Ramona the Pest, read by Stockard Channing, rode a steam train up to see Mt. Hood, and visited an outdoor museum about the Oregon Trail.

[Melissa] Then Lyle and Robyn came to visit over Labor Day weekend, spending two whole days working in our yard. Thanks to them we can see the ground again now! There was a little time left over to play—we spent an evening at the Bumbershoot festival and drove up to LaConner for a day, too.

[Melissa] Back in January Michael and I had braved Seattle’s icy hills to attend a Valentine’s Day ball sponsored by a local high school orchestra. At the silent auction Michael bought me a certificate for an hour’s worth of live bagpipe music—it took till September to figure out what to do with it! We finally had a party in a park overlooking Puget Sound, where our honorable piper provided lovely music til the sky opened up and nature cordially invited us to pack up and go home.

Translation-related activities included a visit to Colorado Springs, where we gave a talk at the American Translators Association convention. I’m no longer translating, but Melissa does (from French and Finnish), and it seems we’re deeply involved with that profession, in one way or another.

While in town, we indulge in my particular interests—opera and the theater. It keeps a guy broke, but happy.

That’s an outline of the year’s activities, and I’m kind of tired just reading it, so I’ll stop adding more. For the future, who can say. We’re investigating a move to the Washington, D.C. area, so we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here’s wishing you well. ’Til next time…

[Melissa] We’re getting ready to spend Christmas in San Jose visiting Michael’s mother and siblings (and the San Jose Art Museum). We come back Christmas night and leave the next day for dance camp in Port Townsend, WA. Our class starts January 10; I’m going to San Francisco the week before that to attend the MacWorld Expo; I may go back to see my folks in February (and some photos I entered in a photography contest at Longwood Gardens); in March I teach an editing workshop; in April we may go to a Johann Strauss waltz ball at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C.; sometime in the spring we’ll be teaching a two-day workshop for translators on using Microsoft Word; and in May Michael turns 50…