Mark Maxham


I grew up in Richardson, a suburb of Dallas, in the great but deranged state of Texas. My youth was spent reading, riding bikes, visiting my grandma and uncle in San Antonio, calling electronic bulletin boards, having an erratic academic record, exploring creeks, helping my dad with his rose garden, going to a YMCA camp called Grady Spruce, phone phreaking, making tree-forts, riding bikes, and hacking on my Atari 800.

At various times I have had jobs tutoring science, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, tending roses, working at a Taco Bueno (ugh), grading papers, babysitting, selling TI 99/4a's in a mall, writing computer game reviews, working as a summer camp counselor (you may read my journal), and photographing weddings. In the summer of 2001, I started doing a little work as a trapeze catcher.

I spent seven years at Rice University and lived in Wiess College. I did a lot of college theater stuff (mostly producing and such but a bit of acting and directing as well). I built the Wiess mascot, the War Pig. I loved and lost and loved again. I played ultimate and frisbee golf. I goofed off. I met lots of cool people and made many friends. I had a great fucking time. Eventually I got bachelors degrees in computer science and electrical engineering and a masters degree in computer engineering. I did my thesis work under Dr. John Bennett, who is a total stud. For my thesis, I designed a shared memory multiprocessor with toroidal memory interconnect. I haven't pursued this research because I got fed up with not making money and not making things. (No offense, John.)

My dad recently retired from Alcatel, then his startup imploded due to the telecom meltdown in semi-retirement he is active in the Iris Society of Dallas. My mom is a retired attorney and later schoolteacher, and for a while was doing -- of all things -- computer consulting. My sister used to work out here for a company called Netcentives but is currently living in Virginia, doing database work; my brother used to work at Foveon but is now at and part-time DJ. My uncle is a professional photographer in San Antonio, who recently became a father. I am immensely proud of all of them.

I used to work work for Apple Computer in sunny Cupertino, California. I was building parts of Apple's videoconferncing product, QuickTime Conferencing. In a burst of entrepreneurial fever, I left to found a small software company called Glassworks. (See neat image by my friend Scott.) We started doing pie-in-the-sky multi-user virtual reality tech, but then we got sensible and put some time into a pair of nuts-and-bolts projects: an email filter and a graphical chat room. Sadly, that went belly-up in July '98. For a while I did some consulting to pay the bills. One of my clients, The Big Network, asked me to be an employee to make it look like a better buyout candidate. I stayed there until November of '99, and came to the conclusion that the lack of vision at the top was going to make it hard to really go anywhere (or make my stock worth anything). If I'd stayed, I would have made out like a bandit, because they canned that CEO and the new guy got the company bought out for big bucks. Oh well! After that fiasco, I went to ONI Systems to build network simulation tools. That was fun for a while, and we had a monster IPO, but the telecom bust and a merger with Ciena blew that all to hell. Then I spent two years building the Mirra Personal Server, which was somewhat fun although not especially technically challenging. Finally I made that jump into biotech that I'd been eyeing for a long time, rejoinging old ONI CEO Hugh Martin and partner-in-crime Kevin at Pacific Biosciences.

Activities and Interests

I like to play ultimate frisbee (previously with the Rice team and occasionally with a great group in Edinburgh), fly, play with my cat Henry, read anything and everything, and snowboard.

When I find time, I travel, hike, rollerblade, climb, go scuba, water ski, and hack on my side projects. Though there hasn't been much time for out-of-work hacking lately.

I am married to former pilot and aspiring fashion designer Shannon. We think she is from Minnesota but we're not sure. Six-foot-two, eyes of blue, she is benignly insane. We accidentally have a daughter, born in April of 2004, named Margaret. I'm hoping for a second but am not holding my breath.

Lately I've gotten married to this cool chick, Shannon, a former commercial pilot and aspiring fashion designer from Minnesota. Six-foot-two, eyes of blue, she is benignly insane. We accidentally have a daughter, born in April of 2004, named Margaret. I'm hoping for a second but am not holding my breath.

After I joined ONI, I picked up ice hockey with the ONI team and the Icecutters (thanks for the gear, Pop) and taking trapeze lessons on the weekends. Last April Sha and I went sea kayaking in Monterey, which was very cool.

I start the year already having figured out how to spend all of my vacation days. I go to Tahoe, to Yosemite, Burning Man, to Nashville for squirrell hunting with Cousin Bill, to the Blue Ridge to see Giselle and family, to Pittsburgh for the family reunion, to Dallas to see the folks. One of these days I'm going to quit my job, and then the real travelling will start.

My geek interests include robotics and embedded control, computer architecture, distributed systems, shared memory multiprocessing (from both the hardware and software angles), network protocols, and operating systems.

Side interests include economics and finance, philosophy, politics (especially lassez-faire policies), robotics, artificial life and emergent phenomena, neural neworks, religion (from the rabid atheist perspective), cryptography, nanotechnology, biology, genetics, and architecture. Sadly, I've spread myself so thinly that I don't know nearly as much as I'd like.

Likes: cats, Indian & Thai & Japanese food, running jokes, tree houses, family reunions, Joe Bob Briggs, down comforters, kids, Babylon 5, redheads, Monty Python, e-mail, turbochargers, theater, Legos, cherries, practical jokes, Macintoshes, the Muppet Show, mountains, PJ O'Rourke.

Favorite movies:

Weaknesses: random attention span, pride, fear of confrontation (although I'm getting a lot better about that), overcommitment, poor vertical leap, need for 8+ hours sleep daily.

Who are you?

How do you answer that question? What is identity? Attitudes? Interests? Those things change. Our bodies change, our minds change, our hearts change. Do I have some responsibility to be consistent? Should I be loyal to last year's me, to the approach to life I had then? How about I just say who I am at the moment.

A snapshot of me, circa January 1999:
I'm honest. I flirt. I like to play with kids. I was picked last for sports as a kid but am now athletic. I was a social outcast, the nerd with his nose in a book, but seem normal enough now. Sometimes I'm unsure of myself because I've learned a lot about people later than most and still have a ways to go. I'm loyal. I alternate between idealistic and practical. I like to laugh a lot. I'm frugal but not cheap. I like to be impulsive but gettting my pilot's license has taught me to be methodical, sometimes. I want to have kids, someday. I want to be good at lots of things. I'm competitive. I like plants and trees and being outside. I'm silly. I work hard so that I have time to be lazy. I'm good at putting myself in other people's shoes but bad at thinking like others (which is, I think, the biggest impediment to me writing fiction). I'm a good starter but not the best finisher. I have strong feelings but am sometimes reluctant to show them. I used to think that my notion of who I am today should be tightly coupled to who I will become, but now I'm not so sure.

Who are you? Who will you be tomorrow?

My .plan file:

    play    learn    teach    create    travel    love    understand 

    Each of us                        Genetic blends
    a cell of awareness               with uncertain ends
    imperfect and incomplete          on a fortune hunt that's far too fleet

                        RUSH, "Freewill" 

Last updated 16 Apr 2001 by max