A Trip To The “Ewok Village”

Inlaws CamperYesterday we took a trip up to my inlaws camper to spend some quality time with them. Jonna and I haven’t been up there for over a year, but every time we head up there I am amazed at what I see.

The camper is located in a little campground in Wisconsin. I named it the “Ewok Village” a few years ago because it really is like a miniature town. People buy campers, rent land, and landscape the hell out of it, creating their little “home away from home” where there is constant work to do (deck building, lawn mowing, etc), where golf carts substitute as cars (and everyone has one) and everyone tries to create their unique little space on their little spot of land.

The interesting thing about it to me is how committed people get to it. The inlaws have a new neighbor, which we met yesterday. He had been there since Thursday, getting ready to build a new deck. Interestingly, he said he didn’t even want one when he got the site, but here he was, buying lumber, measuring it out and building one. I guess it just catches on like that. Who wants to be the only guy on the “block” without a deck?

The place is called a campground, but what you do there is the furthest thing one would call camping. The campers have electricity, satellite TV, bathrooms and some even phones (don’t quite get this one – everyone has a cell phone these days). One trailer on the corner actually has an outdoor bar, while another one has a gazebo with a ceiling fan, for those unbearably hot days. Everyone has their little golf cart that they tool around in in lieu of cars, some electric, some gas powered. People build driveways, decks, and complete house fronts to make their camper look unique.

Each time we go up there, I realize that there is some “guy gene” that I am missing. Mine would be the camper with no driveway, no deck, nothing. Just a plain camper with a car parked in the grass – if there was grass – I don’t see myself taking the time to plant and nurture it into a lawn. Sure, I would get me one of those sweet mini-rides and tool around the park, but mine would be the plain golf cart – no ATV wheels, nothing jacked up – just something to get around. After all, who wants to WALK when you’re out camping? We are civilized after all aren’t we?

Here’s the most fascinating thing to me, that I think about every time we go up there. Its almost like the people there are building their own little Utopia. They put everything they really want in real life into these campers. The difference between this place and “real life” is that everyone has a sense of “camaraderie” here. The guy who didn’t want a deck? He had my father in law and his neighbor over there helping him build it. Everyone invites everyone else over to their fire to hang out and talk in the evenings. Everyone waves to one another and everyone knows everyones business. It really is like a little town – a small little miniature village that has all of the things that “real life” doesn’t really have. Its a community – but one in which people actually (shudder) meet face to face and hang out in, as our son calls it, “RL” (real life). For my in-laws, I would call this their version of “Second Life”.

I have to admit, every time we go up there I think about how wonderful it would be to be a part of it. I think the only thing that stops me is when I think about the amount of work it takes. The last thing I want to do on a weekend off is to go up for a “deck raising”. For me, a place like this would be someplace to go to relax, not to work.

And that would be my demise. I can just imagine all of the “neighbors” getting together at their evening fires irritated at the guy without a deck or a lawn. “When is he going to fix that place up? He’s bringing the property value down!”. Pretty soon, people are showing up at the camper late at night trying to scare me away. Or worse, they actually build a deck and plant a lawn FOR me – and now I have to keep them up. Pretty soon, I’m making trips up just to mow the lawn or plant flowers.

In the end, thats probably why I just visit. I don’t think I’d be able to handle the ‘hardcore-ness’ of Ewok Village residency, but it really is a great place to visit.

A Couple More Quotes on Change

I’m re-reading Persuasion Engineering by Richard Bandler and John LA Valle, after recently taking an “influence and persuasion” training.

I’ve always enjoyed Bandlers work. I saw him speak once and he was entertaining and intense. He is definitely the source of a lot of good quotes on change.

Two of them I hit tonight:

One thing that we learn quickly is a rut.

– Richard Bandler

I really like this one from Virginia Satir:

The will to survive is not the strongest in human beings. The strongest instinct in human beings is to do what is familiar.

– Virginia Satir

I’m on a change kick lately. I think I’m taking a break from everything else, finishing this book, and then hitting “The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which is another book I’ve wanted to reread for a while.

Machiavelli Quote on Change

I heard this Machiavelli quote on the latest edition of the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership Podcast, which was a talk given by Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

– Niccolo Machiavelli

This was an excellent lecture and this quote really stuck with me. Change is hard, people will resist – and in many cases the person who takes the lead in introducing change is seen as an adversary who is trying to “take things away”.

The main thing being taken away, I think, is “comfort”.

My Myers-Briggs Profile

As part of a training I’m in, I took one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests. I wound up being an INTP. I have to say, I think its pretty damn accurate (and I would add uncannily so). I’d be interested to hear whether this jives with people who actually know and / or work with me. Feel free to comment.


Few people are better than INTPs as independent problem solvers who excel at providing a detached, concise analysis of an idea or situation. Their objectivity is often valued by line managers who appreciate the outside view.

Their Introversion gives them a quiet, reflective demeanor, although they can be talkative when discussing topics they know well. The iNtuition helps them see possibilities where others might observe only problems. The Thinking function assists INTPs in focusing on cause and effect, quickly seeing any inconsistencies even in the most complex problems. Their Perceiving gives them a flexible, spontaneous approach which they frequently use in adapting to a quick-changing corporate environment.

INTPs value intelligence and competence and apply their high standards to themselves. They prize precision in communication and dislike redundancy, which makes their progress a pleasure to read. Their love of the new makes them a source of ideas for others, yet they often prefer working on their own. This independence extends to their thinking; they consider taking ideas from inception to a complete theory as an art form.

A few challenges INTPs face include:

  • Like many iNtuitives, INTPs can get lost in the Never-Never Land of ideas. An INTP might think a problem through to a logical conclusion, but then delay excessively in writing the report, a real danger when dealing with action-oriented line managers.
  • Their Introversion may cause them to seem too detached – they come across as aloof or withdrawn.
  • They can become insensitive to the needs of others for information and emotional connection
  • If they feel unappreciated, they may become cynical or negative, or isolate themselves.
  • They may fail to appreciate the need to observe all the rules and regulations, a shortcoming in someone who is expected to keep others on the straight and narrow!
  • They may miss connecting with others in the organization in purely social ways; INTPs enjoy deep meaningful dialog, but are impatient with events that are more relationship focused, such as the annual picnic.

INTPs contribute much to our intellectual basis. They provide the conceptual framework by which manuals, organizational procedures, and even work assignments are put into action. Their strengths in a company will be particularly pronounced in projects with aspects of organizational development.

Four Days in Vegas

Jonna and I took our first “away” vacation in about three years this week. It was also the first away vacation without the kids. We decided to head out to Las Vegas since she had never been there and I had never been there with her. We had also decided that while we would take our two digital cameras, we would go without any laptops so that we could ensure no distractions from each other. We would fill the cameras with as many pictures as would fit and upload them when we got home.

The Trip Out

This trip was also the first time that I had flown US Airways. Big mistake in my opinion. We left at about 10a for a 4:00 flight, so that we could make sure to get into long term parking, through baggage check and security and to the gate in time to be at the plane about 2 hours early.

Security, I have to say, was much less hassle without a laptop around. Once we had checked our luggage all we really had was our camera bags and we got through security pretty quickly.

We sat at the designated gate for about 3 hours. About 1/2 hour before boarding, Jonna noticed that “Las Vegas” was not posted at the gate and we quickly realized that they had changed the gate on us – no announcement, no nothing. Next was a mad scramble to find the flight boards so we could figure out exactly which gate we were supposed to be at. Apparently there were quite a few people who ran into this problem (mostly those of us who had checked in extra early) as we later found in line on the way back.

Crabby Ron By the time we actually got on the plane, we sat another hour before we actually took off. I’ll tell you a great recipe for an unpleasant trip for a non-smoking wife. Take your chain-smoking husband on a three hour flight that takes 3-4 hours in the airport and another hour sitting on the runway. I wound up being so irritable that Jonna felt compelled to pull out the camera and take a picture. It wasn’t a fun time for me but she took it all in stride (and was actually a little amused).

But it did get better. We touched down in Las Vegas 3 hours and 26 minutes later and headed for the baggage claim and took the shuttle off to the Mirage, where we would be staying for the next four days.

Day 1

On Monday morning, we woke up extra early, strapped on the cameras and headed down towards the far end of the strip. The strip looks small until you pound the pavement for five hours or so. For someone as out of shape as I am, this is not a good idea. My legs were so cramped by the end of the first day that I had a hard time even moving without my legs tightening in pain. We got a lot of great pictures the first day, but it wouldn’t be until today, well after we got home, that I could walk without wincing.

For some reason, the Venetian was something that every time I walked by I had to take a picture of it. I think it was because it looked like a huge computer tower, and I was without my laptop – but I’m not sure. All I know is that every time we walked by, I felt like I hadn’t gotten a good picture and had to take one more – just in case.

Obsessive-compulsive behavior at its finest.

Day 2

On Tuesday, we decided to hit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I enjoyed all of this except one part. They had some horror movie exhibit that we decided to go into, thinking that it would be wax figures of horror movie killers (you know, Jason, Freddie and the like). They made a really big deal out of the fact that no pictures could be taken in this section so we thought that we would definitely be seeing something cool. It wound up being a glorified spook house, that had really nothing in it except people popping out at you. Nothing really picture-worthy and definitely not worth the detour we took from the main attractions. I do have to say though, that once you see the movie House of Wax, this place is pretty creepy without the spook house. Perhaps it would have been more effective to just screen the movie and have you walk through afterwards.

We did get some great pictures of me with all of my friends, like this one:

Liberace and his friend at Madame Tussauds
Liberace and his friend at Madame Tussauds

Day 3

On Wednesday, we spent quite a bit of the day at the pool in what would be the last of the halfway decent weather we would experience in Las Vegas. For some reason, as soon as we got down there, weather reports called for the coldest weather that the area had had. So the rest of the time, while it was nice in Chicago, we spent in 50-60 degree weather on the strip. Thats what I call “Bieber Luck”. It follows me everywhere. It looks something like this:

Ron and the storm approaching him in the desert
Storm Comin!

The Show

Madame Tussauds - Jonna and Elton JohnWednesday night, we had tickets to see the Elton John – The Red Piano show at Caesars Palace. Jonna has always been a huge Elton fan, and soon after we met she renewed my interest in his music. We thought this would be a great capper to the vacation – and it was. The Caesars Palace Colosseum is the perfect venue. I could not find a bad seat in this place. We were seated way at the top of the stadium (these shows tend to sell out pretty quickly) but we had a perfect view of the stage. The Colosseum is laid out very well and Elton still puts on a great show after all of these years. The show lasted until around 9:30 or so and Jonna and I quickly headed back to the hotel, completely exhausted and ready to go to sleep.

One thing I really enjoyed was the orderliness of the crowd. This wasn’t like going to a Metallica concert where everyone is yelling and screaming on the way in. The atmosphere was very, um, “grown up”. People walked single file, didn’t push, and sat down and were polite through the whole show. I can’t remember a show where I was as pleased with the environment. Elton was certainly at the top of his game and the stage show itself was – well – interesting.


Jonna and I are not big gamblers. Jonna threw $5 into the nickel slots the first night and doubled it in 15 minutes. Then she gave half of it and I lost it in what seemed like under a minute.

We did spend some time playing $.50 BlackJack at the bar. I turned $1 into $9 in about 15 minutes and then lost all of it in about 5. Thinking I could repeat, I threw another $5 in – which was also lost in a little under 5 minutes. If they paid out for how quickly you could turn cash into nothing, I would be rich right now.

Smoking in Vegas

There are quite a few changes to Vegas since I was there last. The most obvious was the smoking legislation enacted in November/December of last year. There are quite a few restrictions related to smoking in Vegas these days, which seemed kind of odd to me. While I am a smoker, I do not necessarily disagree with the legislation the way it is written, it just seemed odd given Vegas’s “anything goes” reputation.

We’ve got a lot of these bans going on in Illinois right now, disallowing smoking within 40 feet of an entrance to a public building. Bars in neighboring counties are completely non-smoking and smokers need to head out to the parking lot (not just outside the door) to indulge in their habit. I’m ok with that. However, I definitely think twice about traveling these days, as four hours in an airport for me is torture. It would be nice if there could be some way that we could go somewhere to smoke while we are sitting in the airport. I was shocked to find all of the smoking sections in the Las Vegas airport removed due to the new legislation. While the smoking sections they had last time I was there were not pleasant (I would only go in there if I really had to and would get out as soon as possible), at least they were there.

The City May Not Sleep, But We Can’t Help It Anymore

They say that Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps. I have to tell you, as we get older, we wound up doing a lot of sleeping. We were up past 10 one night out of the 4 we were there. The rest of the time, our old bones were exhausted and we couldn’t wait to get back to the room by 9:00 or so. We would fall asleep in about a half hour and roll out of bed at 8 or so if we were lucky, 10 worst case.

Summing Up

In summary, I think I’ve made a few observations after taking this long deserved vacation away from home:

  • You really have to get away from “real life” periodically. I can’t tell you how nice it was to not have the computer as a distraction for four days. It gave me the ability to really enjoy time with Jonna, without thoughts of work or other things that I always feel I “need to do” when we are at home on vacation.
  • I am in really bad shape. There should be no reason that five hours of walking should have trashed me so bad on the first day. Jonna and I need to take walks every now and again to offset all of the time I spend at my desk. Walking around from meeting to meeting just doesn’t cut it anymore.
  • Jonna and I had a brief conversation during the trip about my inability to separate work and home life. It seems that if I’m home, I’m unable to recognize that I don’t have to work on something, whether it be my day job, or things that I want to work on outside of it. I need to get some balance in my life. I was amazed at how relaxed I was being away from home with no access to email. I really need to figure out how to create this separation, because the way I am going just isn’t healthy.
  • While I’m still not very good at it, I really enjoy digital photography. I should be spending my time learning about it more than I do.

I am … Venom?

I saw that Jason Calacanis posted his Which Super Villain Are You results, so I figured since I did the super hero thing I might as well post these as well.

Your results:
You are Venom

Dr. Doom
Lex Luthor
Dark Phoenix
Green Goblin
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Poison Ivy
Strength, disguise and adrenaline are your greatest weapons.

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test