I am going through old pictures on CDs to get rid of the old media. Wow, this is an old one. I thought it was before Matt had contacts but that’s not right. He must have been wearing his glasses in preparation for laser correction for his eyes on this day at the zoo with Summer’s preschool class mates.
Recently, I started thinking about buying myself a pair of aviator sunglasses. Not because they’re my style or because I think they’re especially flattering to me. No, I bought a pair because they remind me of Matt when I first started dating him. I remember that first semester of sophomore year, Matt would sit out on the Cut at Carnegie Mellon in his aviators with his curly hair, boat shoes and what I called his snaggle tooth and I thought he was so cute and cool. He dropped two of his classes that semester because he was failing them so he had a really light load and could sit around a lot.
The other night I found myself at a Soundgarden concert. I was never a serious fan, but they are one of the iconic 90s bands and their popular songs were certainly part of the background of my life at the time. Matt was a fan, and I swear I remember him singing “Black Hole Sun” to me. But I don’t really remember if he did or not…
I’ve come to realize that remembering Matt after he has been gone for three years is a very different experience than remembering stories about him would be if he were here to look at. I’m not sure how I’m going to come up with stories to tell the kids about things he did when more often the things I remember about him are triggered by some physical sensation. The memories are not so much story-like or even visual, but physical and emotional instead. It doesn’t translate to words the way I think I would like to talk to the kids about him. And it puts me at a loss as to what I am going to write here. Up to now I feel resistant to writing about my life now as it relates to my memories of Matt (publicly, on the internet). I am coming to see that it is inevitable.
So as I let the experience of Soundgarden wash over me, it sank in and for a moment there was a lot of pain. At this point, the pain is some mixture of memory and reality that is so precious to me. I really do know what a black hole sun is, and I am in awe at what a shared experience it is, albeit the superunknown. Thank you, Chris Cornell, for singing “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” back to back.
This is what Matt was listening to the last month or so before he died.
- Black Keys – both bought and gifted by a friend so he had to figure out how to return digital music.
- Girl Talk – we went to the concert in January
- Coldplay – he always did and it’s weird or me that he never heard Mylo Xyto
- Cake – we saw them for New Year’s Eve at Austin Music Hall
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs – recommended by my sister
- Radiohead – In Rainbows was a favorite with us and now I don’t listen to it very much
This is music I have listened to since Matt died that he never heard:
- Florence and the Machine – recommended by my sister
- Katy Perry – a major star in the world without Matt
- Metric – first concert I went to
- Mumford and Sons
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs. – Mosquito
Before Matt started LiveMosaic, he worked for a start up called Integral Wave. (Integral Wave didn’t make it past some stage of funding and I’m not remembering right now what product they made.) I believe that Matt did there what he had done before, what he was best at, strategic planning and chip architecture. His title was Director of Strategic Innovation. I remember laughing with him that it was the best title ever.
LiveMosaic was Matt’s private family website start up business. It is an honor to know that I was the inspiration for his business. Since Summer was born I have maintained a family website for stories and pictures. In 2003, I started a self hosted WordPress blog. Matt liked that I did it. I never realized how much he liked it until he started talking about making a business out of it. He felt that everyone should be able to have a website like the one I made for our family, that it should be easy to use, that it should be private and the content protected, and that everyone should have their own domain name. I think it was 2007 that he started thinking about it and it was the fall of 2008 that it went online.
He started out with a few people helping him, including a developer, and he searched out advice. The strategy was to invest a little money himself and bootstrap his way through. Since 2008, LiveMosaic took the place of any hobby he might have had. He worked hard on it and eventually became the sole person working on the project. From the beginning he had a very slow trickle of customers which increased slowly to about one new customer a week. He was obsessive about customer service and he was always looking for the feature that would be the break through to getting more customers. With background uploading (which didn’t really exist at the time) and true high definition video before YouTube had it, LiveMosaic was a really high quality product. Unfortunately, I never felt like it got beyond a niche market and that apparently, no one really wanted what we wanted in a family website.
I considered myself an investor and primary support so that Matt could pursue his dream. When I think back about the experience of having a family business a lot of thoughts flood up, but really no strong emotional nostalgia for the business. I think maybe I was good at supporting Matt but not such a good business person. I know I hoped that a steady increase in the number of customers would eventually mean financial stability even if it wasn’t a money maker. Running the business did not cost that much anyway, except in time. But I also tend to have a strong sense that if no one is going the direction that you want them to, then the direction you want to go is probably not the right one. I think this was definitely the case by the end of 2010 when Matt started to think about selling LiveMosaic as a service for photographer websites.
I always thought LiveMosaic was an awesome product. There is such a heap of trash on the internet, that I will always make it a point to support sites that are high quality and have an aesthetic like what we had with LiveMosaic. I’m sure I have many more thoughts to post about LiveMosaic, but I wanted to give a simple overview of what Matt did. It was such a large part of his life for several years. Just for a moment, I wonder where it would be now if he were still alive, as it comes to five years since it went online.
In the first five years we were married, we owned six different cars (not all at once). Until we had kids, Matt’s primary hobby was working on cars. I remember doing an engine overhaul on the Porsche 951, and Matt put a turbo charger on the M3. The other sports cars were left alone except that Matt did all of his own maintenance. It was a big deal to buy the four door 330 in preparation for having a baby and needing a “family car.”
I think my favorite vacations with Matt were the ones where we saw lots of natural sights. These vacations usually involved more driving, but that was okay. Matt never wanted to go to the same place twice and he was always financially savvy about our plans. The first years of our marriage, I did most of the planning, especially for the road trips. Later, Matt did the leg work although I had a big say in where we went. (Yes, you can read this as Matt being a bit of a control freak. I was always happy with his plans and was happy to not have the burden of planning.) We did a lot of beach vacations and they were never Matt’s favorite. He didn’t like to swim and he didn’t like all of the salt and sand. Still, Matt usually remembered the vacations fondly, even if I wasn’t sure he was enjoying himself at the time.
- Cancun – This was a really good vacation except for the day that we tried scuba diving. The weather was grey, the boat was small and I threw up several times. The hotel we stayed at was really nice and reasonably priced.
- Road trip to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and San Francisco (2000) – We drove in the Porsche 951, with Oliver in the back and it was a fantastic vacation. We drove very fast through Texas. I remember camping outside of Yosemite and freezing at night and then just driving through the park the next day and being disappointed that we couldn’t spend more time there. We visited a friend in San Francisco and a waitress at one of the restaurants guessed we were newlyweds. Then on our way back we drove through the Grand Canyon for the second time.
- Bahamas (2001) – I remember this vacation being a dud. We stayed at the resort Atlantis, although not on the main property, and everything was prohibitively expensive for us. We didn’t feel comfortable trying to navigate the island outside of the resort so we mostly sat on the beach and read. It wasn’t the sort of vacation Matt liked– he preferred being fairly active, doing activities and seeing sites. This was the first vacation that we had a digital camera.
- Road trip/camping to Colorado and New Mexico (2002) – This time we had two puppies and a BMW M3. We camped in Mesa Verde on our way where there was a lot of wild fire damage.
- Maui (2004) – Summer was six months old and every day of the vacation at dinner time, she would melt down without fail. But Maui is beautiful and we saw and did many wonderful things.
- Caribbean Cruise (2005) – This was the vacation that our marriage counselor encouraged us to take. I don’t like cruises; the idea of being confined on a boat with a bunch of people does not appeal to me. But we took the advice, leaving Summer for the first time. I don’t remember it being a strained vacation.
- Colorado (2006) – Rocky Mountain National Park, the Denver Zoo, Garden of the Gods
- California (2007) – Yosemite, Los Angeles, San Diego Zoo. Once again, an infant (Cole this time) meant a lot of crying, but this is the sort of vacation we liked best with lots to do and see and wide open spaces.
- Miami and Disney World (2008) – We went to visit my sister Anna and the beach. Last minute, Matt decided we should take a trip to Orlando and go to Disney World. (I think he was tired of my family.) We were reading Summer The Wizard of Oz at the time and we told her that we were going to Oz. We got right up to the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom and she still didn’t know where we were till we told her.
- Paris (2009) – To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (sans kids). I had just found out I was pregnant with Luke before we left and by the end of the vacation was starting to feel morning sickness.
- South Padre Island (2009) – I remember the turtle rescue center and running after Cole at 6 months pregnant when he took off across the beach and Matt had already gone back to the condo.
- Michigan (2010) – This was such a good vacation, even with three children. I just remember turning on the vacation switch and feeling so relaxed the whole time.
All of our big vacations were week long vacations. Before we were married we took a road trip to the Grand Canyon, went to Daytona and Niagara Falls. We did other shorter trips after we were married to New York City without the kids, Dallas for a baby moon before Luke was born, ski trips before the kids were born to Salt Lake City, Wolf Creek, and Angel Fire.
Tonight I finished up archiving Matt’s original WordPress site. It was using a really old version of WordPress and last week I discovered that Google and OpenDNS had blocked the site completely (and this one) after finding malware. It didn’t take too much effort to back up the databases, remove all of the files, upgrade the software and start new with fresh php, css, and html. I did not want to spend the time to recover the old site exactly as I had it, so I used the theme Misty Lake which is the updated version of Mistylook. Once I got everything back up I took some screenshots of the original classic WordPress theme from way back who knows when, as well as some shots of the administrative pages from WordPress 2.2, the version current to the time I set up the blog for Matt in 2007-2008. (Images to come.) Take a screenshot of a website for posterity before changing it? It’s like taking a photograph and I find myself similarly emotionally attached and thus embroiled in the art of web archiving. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any screenshots before everything went down.
These days, apps and the iPhone camera have turned old camera imperfections and mistakes into filters and effects that are considered retro. I wonder if website designs from yesteryears like Web 2.0 will at some point become retro. Not just what we record but how we record it has become food for nostalgia. I certainly found it difficult to kill the WordPress 3.5 installation on www.matthenson.com tonight. All the while knowing that it is all practice, practice to set about a project to web archive LiveMosaic if I can and to still shut it down if I can’t, practice to do it with minimal effort on my part and to be open to what that archive may or may not look like, practice to continue on.
Did you know that for Matt and my wedding reception I wore sneakers? I wore white pumps for the ceremony and they would not stay on my feet. I had predetermined that it would be more comfortable and cool to just have a pair of sneakers to change into and that is exactly what I did after the wedding. They were white canvas with a two-inch sole and I don’t think Matt even thought twice about them. I even danced our dance in them.