James C. Armstrong, Jr.


A strange man for a strange world

 

Welcome to my personal home page. I developed the first generation of this page many years ago (1994) when I set out to learn some HTML. That page is long since lost (although, occasionally, a search engine will still have a pointer to it), as was an earlier page at netcom. This page is a redesign of a page I had on the Internet Mall, a previous employer.

I am restoring that version of the page to keep as my basic design since it is now so anachronistic in the modern web. I retored the page at the end of August, 2014, after a five and a half year hiatus.

I still think personal pages are indulgences. I don't expect there to be very many visitors here, and I do wonder about those who do visit. Shouldn't you be working?

Anyway, this page uses basic HTML 3.0. I don't want to use any fancy browser specific tricks, and I certainly don't want to put Java on this page. Personally, I wouldn't run a program on my machine unless it either came from a known vendor or I could see the source code.

Enough of my paranoia. What else is there to say about me?



Let's see... I was born a poor, black sharecropper in southern Mississippi... No, that's not right.

I was born in Washington, DC, the day before a blizzard in 1960. If you really need to know the specific date, send me some email. My parents were James C. Armstrong, Sr, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and Valentine McMillan, a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I inherited from my father a keen analytical mind, from my mother I inherited a love of barbeque and from them both a love of nature.

Seventeen months later, my sister Lillian was born.

I lived for ten years in various refugee camps, better known as suburbs, in Maryland: Hyattsville and Lanham. In 1970, my father got an assignment in New York, so we moved to Morris Plains, New Jersey, for a year. We moved back to Lanham in a hurricane, then in 1972, my father accepted a job with AT&T, so we moved to Mendham, New Jersey. I stayed there until I was expelled from high school in 1978.

Despite the expulsion, Duke University accepted me, and I went there for four years. Managed to get a BS in Computer Science with minors in Mathematics, Physics, and Basketball. Lillian followed me to Duke.

1982 was a bad time to try to find a job, so I went straight to graduate school, where I spent two years at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. Out of time and money, I came back to the US and worked at AT&T for almost six years. When Lillian graduated, she also got a job in the area.

Two minor, life changing events occurred while I was at AT&T, both in 1987. I bought a house in Easton, Pennsylvania, and I acquired two cats, Leela and Nyssa. The house is the biggest albatross I have, and the cats were a great joy. Alas, Nyssa died on my 40th birthday. On June 9, 2001, I adopted Gremalkin, a 4 year old Russian blue cat. He weighed 17 pounds, and still acted like a kitten.

Leela never liked Gremalkin, which is unfortunate, because I don't think Gremalkin has a malicious bone in his body. This eventually identified a serious problem when, in September, 2004, Leela and Gremalkin got into a dispute at the food bowl, and Leela took a feline swing at Gremalkin, and I heard a snap. Leela broke her leg, and I rushed her to the vet. An X-ray yielded a diagnosis of bone cancer. I tried to take care of Leela, but it was clear she wasn't happy. I had her put to sleep a month later.

Since then, Gremalkin was alone, but he doesn't seem to mind. He finally died early in the morning of November 24, 2012, while I was in London.

At that point, where I lived did not allow more cats.

1990 saw a lot of changes. My employer had relocated to Lincroft, New Jersey, resulting in a 90 mile commute each way. I had to get out! In the process, I came to realize exactly how much my computer skills had stagnated at Bell Labs.

Everybody hears "Bell Labs" and immediately thinks of the Nobel Prizes, research, etc. That's only a part of it. I was in the software sweatshop part, where we did maintenance on small switch "cost allocation" software. I remember how our marketing people were so afraid of being liable for billing errors that they insisted on the term cost allocation. I had to get out!

That I did, in September, 1990.


I moved out to California for a short-lived job, and found I really liked the place. I felt more alive here than back in New Jersey. I met a wonderful woman, Amy Snader, and we spent many pleasant hours together. She even helped me find a permanent job, with Highland Software, where I was given the opportunity to do some software development.

Amy really seemed to like me; she even watched the Duke vs Kansas NCAA Championship game in 1991, even though she said she didn't care for sports, just because she knew I did care.

June 17, 1991, she died in a hiking accident.

That summer was a difficult summer for me. It may be cliche, but I learned who really was a friend and who wasn't. In the long run, Amy's death first made me introspective, and did more to mold my current interests than anyone else outside my family.

When I moved out here, my sister gave me a camera. I used it to take some snapshots, and that was it. After Amy died, I retreated from other people for a while, and the best places to do that were in our wilderness areas. This helped rekindle a love of nature that I had as a child, but that had become dormant in my teen years.

I took the camera with me, and took some pictures. Turns out that enough people thought I had an eye for this, and some encouraged me. I'm now an avid nature photographer.

It took a while longer for my career to get on track. Highland Software changed focus enough that I eventually left for a writing job with SunWorld. A year there, and I entered contracting. The best contract was at Aim Technology, where I developed the event generator and logfile scanner for the Solstice SyMON product. I later moved on to be a Vice President of Engineering at the Internet Mall. That organization fell apart (I guess as a VP I can't blame management any more!) and I became a senior architect for Netscape. I put together the web page delivery system for their personal home pages.

Meanwhile, the writing I did at SunWorld lead to several book contracts. I'm the author or co-author of several books, including Teach Yourself the UNIX C Shell, UNIX Unleashed, UNIX Secrets, and Teach Yourself UNIX.

After just under 2 years at Netscape, I moved on to a new position at a startup, dotRocket. Things went OK for a while, but I ended up not being a good match with my immediate manager. So, I moved on.

2002 was a really bad year, career wise. I had been laid off by another company in October, 2001, and needed work. I found a contract with a group that first claimed to have lost the first invoice, then refused to pay the second invoice. Then, I hooked on with a startup that failed to get funding.

I guess I really did get a tax cut that year. Down to $0.

In 2003, the contracts started coming up again, and I survived on that for a while...

I had a job as Director of QA at Open Country, starting in November, 2004, and I have recently completed my MBA at the Fuqua School of Business, graduation from their Global Executive program in December, 2006.

The MBA restored my career path to a certaine extend; I became the Senior Director of Techical Operations at Glam Media, until the Great Recession. Then, I became the victim of an acquisition, and had to look for work in the worst environemnt possible. I found work... But at a lower level. I ended up doing a contract for a while, and then was a senior individual contributor with a couple small startuos.

Dasient was acquired by Twitter in 2012, and I thought it meant I had a shot at returning to a senior management position, but that never developed. I left Twitter in January, 2014, for a stealth startup, where I am now.


Anyway, some of the work I have done is on the web:

My cats have their own web pages:

My hotlist is here. It was last updated on Sunday, Augiust 31, 2014. No guarantee of the links working is provided.

I've also put listings of some of my entertainment on-line. This is primarily to have a record for insurance purposes in case of disaster. (Needs update)

To keep up to date on me (why you'd want to do that, I don't know, but what they hell...) I have ten mailing lists, with archives. You can subscribe to any of them by sending subscribe listname to majordomo (at) jamesarmstrong.com. Major announcements are sent to a union of all the lists. The lists are:

 

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