Thursday, October 22, 2009

The same old thing

Did you ever get used to doing something in a particular way, and then have it kind of flow into something you don't really think about but just continue doing? I think of the old turkey joke:

A woman was married for many years and every Thanksgiving she prepared the typical American turkey dinner. One Thanksgiving her husband looked down at the turkey as he was about to carve it and noticed the back end with the tail was cut off. He stopped for a minute and then asked his wife if she had cut off the tail or if it came like that. She replied that she had cut off the tail, and had always done it like that because her mother had taught her to do it that way. The next day they called mom and asked why she had taught them to cut off the tail. Mom replied that she had always done it like that; her mother had shown her how to prepare it. A few weeks later they were visiting grandma and asked her why she taught her kids to cut off the tail of the turkey before roasting. Grandma thought about it for a bit, and then replied: "well, we were poor and could only afford chickens, and then one year grandpa got a big bonus and we were finally able to buy a turkey. I asked the neighbors how to prepare it, and went to put it into the tiny oven in our little apartment and found out the bird was bigger than the oven, so I cut off the tail and it fit. I've been cutting off the tail ever since."

Perhaps it's just Vegas: things change so quickly here. Well, not recently due to the financial problems, but last week I drove down a road I hadn't been on in a few years and there was a whole new shopping center that I just didn't remember being there. If you haven’t been to Vegas for ten years then the Strip will look very different, and if you wait another ten years it probably will be changed even more. I can go back to my old home in New Jersey and it looks the same as it has for the past fifty years, some areas of New England have been unchanged for even longer, and perhaps parts of Europe have lasted even longer. When we visited Arles, France we saw a Roman amphitheater that has been there for a few thousand years, and there is an art walk following Vincent van Gogh's path that has reproductions of his works at places where he originally painted them, and most of the scenes still look exactly like they did a hundred years ago.

Whenever I start a new job and am taught how things work I wonder if they are doing it that way because the oven was too small and usually if something seems strange the answer is yes. Which means that someone in the past started doing it that way and it's been done that way ever since and we don’t question it we just do it like that. I work as a computer programmer/analyst, usually for small companies that don’t have very many (or any) other programmers. A portion of my job is to figure out how a job is done, and how a computer might help with the process. Most of the time I find there are aspects of a company’s workflow that are there for no reason other than because ‘we’ve always done it like that’. It just takes someone new coming in and looking at things, asking questions and suggesting simple changes to change a system that has been in place for years. Most companies, and people, would benefit from a fresh look at the way things are done. Then again, sometimes it is just comforting to keep doing things that you have always been doing without thinking about why.

Usually it’s the little kids that ask "Why?" and we respond "because I'm the parent and we do it my way", but perhaps sometimes if you stop and think about it you too might ask why? Sorry, don’t know why myself, guess I’m just in one of those moods.

Right now I am just thinking about all of those blogs listed over there on the right hand side that I like to read. Several of them have not been updated in months, and it looks like I’ll just put them in my favorites so that I can check periodically and drop them from my list. It’s over there for my use, that way I can just click on down the list and see what is going on with people I have come to enjoy. That is a strange thing now that I think of it, here are a bunch of people that I have never met, probably never will, know little about except for the small glimpse they chose to give us and yet they seem like friends. I miss them when they are not posting, and wonder what it is they are not saying when they do, trying to read between the lines and figure out just what is going on.

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