2004 has been great. Jenny is happily employed. Charlie will be retiring in January. And Mark has a "real" job again, after several years doing temporary contract work. (Mark's job announced in last year's letter lasted a month before he was laid off, but they called him back later this year.) We are immensely proud of the way he managed to keep his sanity (and his finances in order, including his house) over the last several years of irregular employment, without needing our help.
Jenny continues to be the controller of several start-up companies at a time, through Virtual CFO, a local firm that provides CFOs, Controllers, and Office Managers "for hire." She loves the variety of working with different companies on different prob-lems as they start and grow or fade away. If a company isn't ready for a full-time controller after a year or so, Jenny can switch to a different company before she gets bored.
Jenny's computerized sewing machine, just over a year old, must almost be worn out. She has become an internet junkie, downloading sewing projects and embroidery de-signs to try on her machine. We joke that when the men in the lab coats come to take her away, she will probably embroider her name on the straight jacket before they can catch her.
Nine years ago Charlie was hired to bring some special technical expertise to his group in CSC. The good news is that his group has become proficient at those things. The bad news is that they no longer need Charlie to fly in and help for a few days at a time. Therefore he has been assigned to projects much like the rest of his group - traveling to cities around the country each week, months at a time. For example, he worked a few weeks in Indianapolis with one company, then 12 weeks in another part of Indianapolis with a different company, then an assignment in rural New Jersey, followed by a couple months in Jacksonville Florida. Great for the frequent flyer miles, but being gone every week gets old pretty fast. If you have to stop and figure out which city you are in, maybe it isn't as glamorous as being a tourist.
A couple of Charlie's co-workers, about the same age, retired this past year. Charlie is jealous - they are having way too much fun. Charlie's job is interfering with his projects around the house, and the furniture he makes for others. After much thought (and Jenny's adjusting to the fact that she might be living with an old retired guy), Charlie has just decided to "pull the trigger" and "retire." Note the quotes around "retire." To most people, that means collecting an annuity and fishing or playing golf. Charlie is going to wait for a few years until he is 65 to start collecting his "retirement" pay. Therefore, this is really a change to a new lower paying job… building furniture for others (see www.plesums.com/wood), a hobby that got out of control a few years ago.
Practically every woodworker would love to make "heirloom quality" custom furniture, where quality, not cost, is most important. But the people who want heirloom furniture also want entertainment centers and bookcases. In August Jenny and Charlie went to a commercial woodworking and furniture making show in Atlanta (that is a story in itself). Although we could afford one of the computerized machines to cut cabinets out of plywood, the separate 15 horsepower vacuum pump to hold the plywood being cut would dim the lights in the neighborhood and be loud enough to wake the dead. Someone suggested a $25,000 combination saw as an alternative. But we found that machine really costs $35,000 when the options are included. After months of searching, we selected the MiniMax CU410 Elite. In use, it is almost 20 feet long and 15 feet wide, can cut a full sheet of plywood within a few thousandths of an inch, plus a shaper, 16 inch jointer, 16 inch planer, and mortiser, powered by three 5 horsepower motors. The cars really didn't like being in the garage, did they? Even Jenny is excited by the safety and potential of the new machine.
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