Retropost: Visual Networks “Come Together in Cancun”

Early in 2000, Visual Networks bought the startup I was working for at the time, Avesta Technologies. Not long afterwards, they announced that the entire merged company would be going to Cancun for a week in May. It struck me as an insane waste of money. We stayed all-inclusive at a big resort hotel, with Visual picking up the tab, including airfare. Looking back seven years later, it seems impossible that we ever actually got to do this. Here are some of the things I remember about the trip.

I roomed with Uday Menon, though I didn’t actually see much of him there. He was a Smalltalker, our resident Trinity Model guru. Great guy.

I missed the mostly-developers pirate cruise ship and rode with mostly sales and marketing folks. They were nice enough, but I couldn’t help feeling I had missed out.

I walked on the white sand beach in moonlight bright enough to read by. It was so beautiful. One such walk was with Casey Comeau, who’s an amazing person, and a very good listener. I’m not sure what it is, but I always felt like I’d known her a lot longer than I really had, and I could trust her very easily. But even so, I didn’t really go into the problems with Michelle, which were on my mind and bumming me out. I can’t remember precisely what we did talk about.

HR divided everyone (yes, everyone) into karaoke teams for a singing competition. My team also included our CEO. We were assigned the Shania Twain song “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” Basically it was a setup for the big boss to make a clown of himself, to the amusement of everyone. I didn’t know the song at all, none of us seemed to. They wouldn’t even let us try to learn the song in advance. But then somebody arrived and said she knew the song, and would sing it while we all just did backup swaying and stuff. She did a pretty good job, and we guys were in drag so everybody got to chuckle at the CEO. But it turned out that our savior wasn’t on our assigned team, so we were disqualified in shame (or whatever — I can’t say I was emotionally invested in the outcome). I thought she had just arrived late.

I sat in a hot tub in the wee hours with about twenty other people. We all belted out the theme from “New York, New York” at the top of our lungs. I did my best vocal imitation of Sinatra. Very out of character for me, at least in public, but I felt pretty camouflaged in the crowd. It felt kinda liberating.

I got a bit sunburned — and also a bit hung over — and opted out of the “day trips” that were available to us on our last day. I floated in the shade instead.

In between all this I also attended some large meetings on our product lines and corporate philosophy and direction, and also some small meetings with the doc team. Michael and I were on a crusade to get everybody using Frame+SGML. I cemented my place as the technical one on the doc team, the goto guy for all things related to help and HTML in particular (and for Trinity to a lesser extent), even among programmers. I loved that.

Retropost: body snatcher dream

This little blurb is taken from a letter I wrote to a friend who was into lucid dreaming and kept a dream journal. It’s a description of what was probably the most cinematic dream I’ve ever been able to remember. And definitely the funniest.

I just had the weirdest dream. Actually, it was a reasonably disturbing nightmare, but I ended up surviving until my alarm clock went off. (Uh-oh, call the grammar police; I ended a sentence with a preposition. Everybody knows that prepositions are not good things to end sentences with.) Looking back on it, it was kind of cool.

I’m in this big house (not mine, I’ve never seen it before, but I know it in the dream), and there are these body-snatching aliens invading the earth. Nobody knows who can be trusted. There are some kids in the house with me, and I know that they’re all regular human kids (just one of those things that’s given information as the dream starts). The doorbell rings, and one of the children opens the front door before I can stop him.

My Dad walks in the front door. He looks right at me, smiling as if it’s an effort to do so. He doesn’t take his eyes from me as he steps over the door frame and over some toys lying on the floor. I say nothing, but motion to the kids to get away from him.

“So this is [my former address], is it?” he asks me. (Okay. At this point, Dad doesn’t seem to realize that he is my Dad, so it’s safe for me to assume he’s been snatched. Normally he would have let on in some way. Apparently the aliens don’t have access to all the knowledge and experience of their victims at once (only little bits at a time), and my Dad was keeping his alien from knowing that at that time by volunteering my address.)

“Yeah,” I answer as my sister (Megan), my Dad’s girlfriend (Barb), and Christopher Lloyd (from Back to the Future, etc) walk in the door. I keep the kids behind me and the intruders where I can see them.

“Where’s the bathroom?” (In case you were wondering, what they did in the bathroom was communicate with their home planet. Apparently they needed the weird parabolic curve of my big porcelain bathtub to send the signal properly. (Don’t ask me how I knew that.)) my sister’s voice is forceful and she doesn’t seem like herself.

“Maybe we can ask Bryce,” my Dad says, still looking at me but no longer smiling.

Megan darts up the stairs (the bathroom was up there, but I don’t know whether she knew that or not), and is followed by Barb. One of the older kids opens the back door and they all start to scurry off to the neighbor’s house. Dad, looking frustrated, watches them leave, but I stand my ground and he can do nothing.

“Hey Dave, get up here!” I hear Megan shout. He looks at the doors intently. The back door closes, and he goes upstairs. When I try the doors I realize that they’re telekinetically sealed or something, and go to the kitchen to try the phone. Of course it’s dead, so I start with trepidation to go upstairs.

Megan attacks me from behind after I’ve started up the stairs. (She came down to ambush me while I was in the kitchen.) I fall forward onto the higher stairs, and roll over onto my back to face her. She advances, and I kick at her shoulder to keep her away. She catches my foot. I try to kick it free with my other leg, but she catches that one too. I thrash both legs as hard as I can, and her grip holds, but her balance wavers. I push off the higher stairs with my arms, sending her (and my feet) backwards down the stairs to the landing. She’s stunned enough for me to wriggle free, and I scramble beneath the stairs to hide.

I can hear them from my hiding place. From their conversation I discover that the reason I’m so important to get rid of is because I have the ability to place little curses on the aliens. That’s why Dad couldn’t do anything while I stood my ground.

It’s also while listening to them from under the stairs that I become aware of a time pressure. I know that my alarm clock will go off at 8:23, at which point I will wake up. It’s only then that I realize that, hey, this is all a dream!

As if he knows I just thought that and wants to stop me from thinking it again, Christopher Lloyd (who had been up to now playing with the various toys on the floor) looks up toward the stairs and begins crawling this way. While he’s pulling himself slowly across the hardwood floor, getting ready to devour me or something, I dream that I remember pushing the snooze button several times, then just shutting my alarm off altogether. The hope of deliverance from this conflict with my loved ones (and Christopher Lloyd) is snatched from me as I realize that I must stop them before I can wake up.

Fortunately, however, this whole notion, along with my memory of dealing with the alarm clock, must have been telepathically implanted in my mind by the aliens, because just as I throw a curse on the rabid Christopher Lloyd who collapses in an epileptic seizure long enough for me to render him unconscious with a wiffle bat, my alarm clock sounds and I jerk awake. This was the first morning in a very, very long series of mornings that I did not press the snooze button even once.

I knew it was a dream, but it’s still scaring me because they also knew it was a dream and they almost succeeded in convincing me that there was nothing I could do about it.