April 27, 2009
Canadiens Streak EndsI didn't see this mentioned in the press, to my surprise. When the Montreal Canadiens (which is pronounced, by the way, exactly as if it was spelled "Canadians", the accent is NOT on the final syllable) got unceremoniously bounced out of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins, it ended a streak in which they had won the Stanley Cup at least once per decade. They only won once in the 1980s and 1990s, but still that was an impressive accomplishment. Which had been sustained by all those great players throughout the years, and now this bunch messed it up, ha! Their best chance to win this decade was last year, but they choked, the details escape me.
April 25, 2009
Goodbye Company PicnicMicrosoft just announced that there would be no company picnic this year. In fact they took the trouble to announce that there would be no company picnic for the foreseeable future.
I first attended a Microsoft picnic back in 1989, before I even worked there; I came out to Seattle to visit a friend and interview for a job here (my second attempt). It happened to be the first year that the picnic was held at Mountain Meadows Farms (the previous year it had been held at Vasa Park in Bellevue). Back then the company had 3000 people, probably 2500 of which were in Puget Sound; today the company is approaching 100,000 overall. Over the years the picnic was expanded from one day to three (you picked one of those three to attend) and they added more food stands, bouncy rides, and whatnot--but still, the place is much more crowded now. I guess driving got harder too, although in recent years we rode the bus, which worked well (when I first started going you would patiently wait through the traffic jam at exit 31 on Interstate 90, only to realize that the assurances that people would NOT be allowed to sneak in the back way were in fact false, and those who had ignored the rules were being rewarded for doing so; this would frustrate me to no end, mitigated only by the fact that usually reached maximum boil in the vicinity of the Mar-T Diner, featured in "Twin Peaks", which I found diverting enough to calm me down). It also got harder to sneak friends in; back in the day you could claim you had a wife and 8 kids and they would issue you a pass for 10 people, but in recent years they really did check your ID and, I guess, make a determination if your companions' family tree was rooted in you.
Over the years I usually attended the picnic, and looking back I could mark the stages of my westward journey by how my picnic day changed: from playing volleyball and eating, to supervising children in the toddler area, to relaxing under a tree while the kids ran around under their own recognizance.
I agree that canceling the picnic seems like a prudent fiscal move, and it also fixes an imbalance between Puget Sound and other Microsoft sites. Some of the cut benefits can be mitigated just by spending some money, such as free admission with the Prime card (or, I suppose, free soda, although there is a convenience factor there that would be missed), but the picnic is a hard-to-duplicate experience, like the long-ago-lamented holiday party (the REAL holiday party, I mean, that included all of Microsoft and ended in the early 1990s). When one of my colleagues left Microsoft the first things his kids asked was, "You mean we can't go to the picnic anymore?". I admit that when I left in 2000 I also felt a slight pang of guilt about that, although not enough to keep me around. Seen in that light, canceling the picnic removes one more difference between working at Microsoft and not working at Microsoft, which is unfortunate.