Work and Life: WISE "Holiday" Party

On February 16, 2001, the Wireless Internet Solutions Engineering (WISE) of Palm held their belated holiday party at the MacArthur Park restaurant in Palo Alto. The party served as interesting subtext for a discussion on the distinction between family and work life.

After a number of delays and false starts, the WISE group found the time to host its holiday party on February 16, 2001 at 7:00 pm at the MacArthur Park restaurant in Palo Alto. President’s Day was in a couple of days, so I guess we were celebrating that instead of the holidays; after all, Palm doesn’t give its employees the day off on President’s Day!

My arm still ached from the ultimate dislocation suffered 12 days prior. It has been difficult to carry and take pictures with my camera with, in reality, one and a half arms or hands. This is clearly evidenced in my recent photojournal from the Demo 2001 conference in Phoenix, Arizona; I only got a few shots to show from the event! I had been wearing a sling for the past week, to keep my arm in place instead of letting it hang like dead weight on my right side. This night, however, I decided to go to the event without wearing the sling. I did have my concerns, however, as I wasn’t sure how the arm would fare wielding the D30 with a big lens, battery-grip, and flash attached to it. At the end of the night, it was certainly tired; that setup weighs in easily over six pounds!

Gifts, Song, Drink, and Conversation

What’s a holiday party without gifts? Greg had arranged for a few trinkets and baubles to be distributed to the group: collared shirts, polo shirts, and pens. There was one grand prize, the Palm Portable Keyboard from Think Outside, an extremely clever and well-built folding keyboard. While Graffiti is acceptable for short memos, it’s not well-suited for taking notes, no matter how fast you are with Graffiti. The keyboard is essential if one wants to take lengthy notes on the Palm.

I personally use the Palm V version of the keyboard, and I loaned my Palm VII version over to my co-worker, Jon. As Hans Gruber says in Die Hard, “I have two myself…” The grand prize keyboard was the Palm VII version of the keyboard, and the lucky winner was Dave, who came to the party with his fiancee, Mitzy.

We had reserved one of the back rooms at the restaurant. I’ve never been to this section of MacArthur Park, which is probably reserved for large parties. Our group wasn’t that large, as we only had four tables, into which we packed about 40 people. We could have used another table or two, however, had everyone from the WISE group been able to attend.

MacArthur Park is an interesting restaurant in which to dine. At first glance, it appears to be high-class restaurant, as it’s situated at the beginning of Palo Alto’s downtown section at 27 University Avenue, a stone’s throw away from Stanford University. I remember coming to the restaurant while a student at Stanford and seeing Brent Jones, former tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. I remember softly exclaiming to my family that, “Wow, look, there’s Brent Jones!” In fact, I hear that many prominent Bay Area celebrities and business folk frequent this restaurant. All that being said, I haven’t been totally impressed by the quality of the food at MacArthur Park. The ambiance and service is certainly nice, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about the food, isn’t it?

We weren’t able to order anything from the main menu of the restaurant. Instead, our group was given a menu with three choices, steak, salmon, or baby back ribs. For the vegetarians in the crowd, there was another vegetable-only dish not on the menu. We were also able to order any type of drink we wanted from the bar. I decided to stick with my water, though I did ask our waitress, Melanie, for a straw. My right arm was strong and flexible enough to tie my shoe laces or move up and down, but I still couldn’t extend it completely straight nor could I button the top button on my shirts! It also wasn’t flexible enough to hold and life a glass up to my mouth without discomfort, hence the straw.

They started off the dinner with some appetizers of popcorn shrimp, skewered chicken strips, and some roasted green bell peppers. Littered on top of the chicken strips were pieces of cilantro, my most hated herb in the world. It’s a genetic thing, I hear, with cilantro. You either have the gene that, in the words of my friend, Eric Cheng, “appreciates the wonderful taste of cilantro” or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s probably the strongest, most pungent, and most disgusting food you’ve ever tasted this side of an episode of Survivor! Fortunately, I was able to pick off the pieces of cilantro from my strips of chicken. The popcorn shrimp weren’t that bad either!

I recall eating at the restaurant after returning from my studies in France and having a really bad soupe à l’oignon at the restaurant. The food this time wasn’t as bad as I remembered it in 1996, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. The salmon was a little dry, and the steak wasn’t particularly tasty. Before you think I’m a pig and had two entrees, I shared half of my dinner with Greg! Yes, I’m a big eater, but I don’t think I could have downed food for two people. Pat, Jon’s wife, certainly had her hands and stomach full of those baby back ribs!

Following the main course, we had two choices for dessert, a delectable cheesecake, which I ordered, or a chocolate mudslide, which looked equally yummy.

Mini-musings on hair

John let me know that he had been reading my web site lately and that he was finding it quite interesting, especially my musing on hair. I remember during my first stint at Palm that we talked about hair shortly after I shaved my head for the second time in early 1999. On Friday, we talked about it again, and he told me that I had inspired him to grow his hair out like Tom Cruise in M:I-2. The problem was that he just cut his hair! No worries, John; it’ll take about 6 months to grow from that length to my current length. Interestingly enough, I was watching the first installment of Mission: Impossible on video the other night and was commenting to myself that Cruise looked much better with longer hair than the militaristic short cut he had in that movie and in others, such as A Few Good Men and Top Gun.

Work and Life Balance

This party was different from previous get togethers of the WISE group, such as our rock climbing trip to Planet Granite in October, 2000, in that we were able to bring our spouses or significant others.

I had come alone to the party, something not overlooked by some at the party; a few of them questioned why I didn’t have anybody with me, which was to be expected. I often ask myself the question, “Is it wrong not to come to these events alone?” Of course not — there’s nothing wrong with “going stag” to events. I guess they figured I’d have someone in my life. While that’s not the case, it doesn’t mean I’m wallowing in misery at home in the evenings with no one but myself! I enjoy life, being with friends, and exploring the world. Work/Life balance? To me, life is work; it’s take work to live life to its fullest, to enjoy all the moments as if they were your last. I don’t always have that mindset, but I do my best.

I especially enjoyed meeting everybody’s significant other or spouse at the party. At work, we typically only see one side of our co-workers, the professional side. And yet, there’s a completely different side to them, their personal and family side. Although no children attended the dinner, the event was good enough for a great glimpse into that side of us that always exists, omnipresent at work, but that we don’t see.

I often wonder to myself if the person that I show at work is the same person that I show when I’m not at work. In the past, that wasn’t always the case. I was more reserved and quiet about my personal life. Now, with a personal web site such as tow.com, it’s more and more difficult to not see the personal side of me!

Departure

Nearing 9:45 pm, people started to rustle in their seats and began to get ready to leave. Life began creep its way back into our “not about work” holiday party. Couples had to race back home to the babysitters to pick up the kids. Others may have had other plans for the evening. I made a note that, come Monday, I’ll see the professional side of these people once again. But, I’ll see them in a slightly different light, as I have the perspective of seeing the other half of them for a brief moment in time.

As for me, I had to make a quick drive over to campus to check my mail. Yes, after nearly four years past graduation, I still keep a mailbox on Stanford’s campus. People ask me how I could do that, to which I simply reply, “Well, it is a standard U.S. Post Office, so you can just go up to the counter and ask them for a permanent mailbox!”

And so the night ended, with people returning to their homes, others enjoying the Palo Alto nightlife, and me heading to my mailbox before driving back to the quiet solitude of home.

The Pictures

I took over 100 photos at the evening. The 54 you see here were the ones worth keeping. I still have a few things to learn about depth-of-field when using flash photography, as a had a few shots where one person was in focus, but the other person in the picture wasn’t sharp. There is still much to learn, but that’s one of the points in life, to learn, isn’t it? Without further ado, enjoy the pictures!

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