Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Showgren California Adventure

We just returned from a week long vacation to southern California with the Showgren clan. The trip produced many lasting memories - some good, some not so good. Here's a brief recap of the adventure.

I drove the Suburban down with Braden, Jason and Alyssa. We listened to some books on cd to pass the time. The second one was a terrifying tale with a dark chasm of damned souls and a big, booming voice for God. It kept us awake for sure. We made good time, but as soon as we arrived we had to leave to pick up Lori, Kaylee and Traven at LAX. All of this went smoothly, and we were resting at a reasonable hour. Traven even slept through the night, which was amazing. Incidentally, he has done this now for over a week in a row!

Wednesday we were off to Disneyland. I was amazed at how well Traven did. He loved to be held out so he could watch everything. He was good about taking his bottle even when it wasn't warm. He even didn't complain when I bundled him into about 20 layers of clothing!

He was getting a bit tired towards the end of the day, so Lori and I took him and his cousin Caleb back to the hotel to relax. Caleb must have been exhausted, as he just laid on the bed for close to an hour.

It was awesome vacationing with Glenn, Allison and their kids again. It reminded me of the fun we had on our trip to Houston last year. They are easy to get along with and our kids get along well.

It was also nice to have the grandparents along. Sally paid for most of the trip, which was a fun Christmas present for all of us. Eric helped with watching all the grandchildren. Jeremy was a riot, and Emily seemed to enjoy herself.

I won't go into the details of the less-than-enjoyable portions of the trip. I don't want to offend anyone. See me for details.........

The lines were not bad at all on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday we went to Knotts, which in my opinion is not worth the money. The atmosphere is just not as fun as Disney or even Universal. I don't know that I'll bother going back there.

The crowds at Disney were AWFUL on Saturday. I have never seen it so crowded. We could hardly move at all. Traven was still awesome. Man, he was a good baby. Actually, all my kids were awesome. There was not much complaining at all.

By Sunday, we were all worn out. This was when things got to be the worst. Again, see me for details. Let's just say it wasn't anyone I've mentioned by name that made the day miserable.

Monday, everyone but our family left for home. We slept in, spent a few hours at Disney, grabbed some dinner at Cocos and got ready to head home.

The drive home Tuesday was hard. I started off with two hours of driving to get Lori, Kaylee and Traven to the airport. We ended up leaving around 10:00 am. I was so tired, and suffering from a bad cold, that we stopped a lot. We arrived home around 10:00 pm.

I thought I'd list my favorite rides, but I actually enjoy everything at Disney. I guess if I had to pick my very favorite I'd go with Soarin' over California.

Some things I learned:

  1. Plan in a rest day. 6 days in a row of theme parks is way too much.
  2. 22 people might be too big of a group with which to vacation.
  3. 22 might work if the group did not include any immature, irrational, insane or unstable people.
  4. Use a sling or some other carrier to help with transporting a baby. Traven started to feel like he weighed a 100 pounds by the last days.
  5. Food is dang expensive at theme parks.
  6. Fast pass rules. Did you know you can have more than one active at a time? At one point, I had three of them.
  7. The parades are lame, but the kids love them.
The best part is sometimes watching the kids have fun. There was a ride at Knotts that was called something like the 720 degree spin. Braden's face was priceless. At first he was thinking it was no big deal, but then that ride started throwing them around in small circles while rotating in a big circle. I laughed so hard at them.

I also got a kick out of Nick and Zack on a kiddie ride at Knotts. They were such big chickens. They were screaming like they were going to die. Allison was laughing so hard she forgot to hold onto her stroller, and Caleb started rolling downhill. It was priceless.

All in all, I look forward to more family vacations, but I'd like to reduce the number from 22 to 17. Yeah, that's a good number!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Frog is Dead

The Frog is Dead

As you might recall, some time back I took a somewhat philosophical approach to life here at work. I felt a tear form in the corner of my eye as I remembered the good old days. Quarterly bonuses. Year end raises. Compensation for on-call coverage. Hundreds of hours in accrued time off. Training. Employee stock purchase plan that actually made money. Stock options that were usable. Life was good. I suggested that we were like a bunch of frogs in a pot of water. As each benefit was stripped away, the water temperature rose. However, since the changes were strung out over years, we didn't notice the change in the water. It still felt good to be in the water. Who cared if it was getting hotter?

This train of thought missed a piece of the puzzle. I failed to realize the benefits of working in a sane environment. We used to do things that made sense. It didn't require a committee to make a decision. What we did made a difference. People listened, and we got things done.

Now, we live in sad times. When a project or need comes up, we have no input. In fact, any sense of sanity has been tossed out.

Let's say we have a need for a wheel. We've been using wheels for years. They are round, they are useful for moving things around. Everybody knows how to use the wheel. We have years of experience with wheels.

We check into things, and sure enough, the wheel still works for this new need. We even decide to use an existing wheel, thus eliminating the need to purchase an additional wheel.

Word of this recommendation goes up into the nebulous hierarchy. The decision is made to no longer use wheels. Our new model requires the use of only square solutions. We try to explain the shortcomings of the square approach, but to no avail. We will be using the square.

Things are worse. All our wheel expertise has been moved off to other projects. We have basically no skill sets with the square, but are expected to use it. Our customers are confused. They paid for the wheels, they want to use them, and now we are telling them no more wheels?

Worse yet, we have lost most of our contacts with our customers. They are all gone. We now have no direct voice with the customers, and no developers with which to team up.

Far worse is the fact that we have lost our voice in our own hierarchy. The voices of reason have been squashed. The square regime is fully entrenched, and we lack the power to do anything about it.

We have been shackled with chains of gold. We can't afford to go find another wheel shop. We are now enslaved wheel experts in a sqaure world. Our only choice now is to ride this ship until it sinks. We will continue to arrange the deck chairs on this Titanic, even as the ship tips farther and farther. The life boats are launching for some. We've seen a number of good people escape recently. Sadly for most of us, there is no life boat. Just a giant square hole waiting to swallow us up.

The water boiled, and we didn't even notice.

The frog is dead.