Saturday, August 6, 2011

Reno Journey

Next week I will be in the good state of Nevada in the city of Reno.  It will be my second time in this quaint city near lovely Lake Tahoe.  The only thing I am worried about is the plane ride into the city where we descend through perilous air pockets caused by the surrounding mountains. Reno is a small casino town very much different from the great oasis of Las Vegas like a poor cousin to a mega billionaire. But Reno has its charms with past echoes of oil and gold mining and legendary Western towns like Carson City made famous by Hollywood cowboy movies. It is a more family friendly town compared to the glitzy sin city of Las Vegas. Nowadays the town functions more as an adjunct to Lake Tahoe with its picturesque lake, ski resorts and scenic mountains. Reno is also near the site where the great pioneers of the past perished in the snow bound hills north of Tahoe. This was the pathway westward from the cold Northern cities where people strove to reach the sunshine paradise of California.

It is also the path way of the great railroads built by Chinese coolies ‘shanghaied’ from China - railroads that link the American continent from East to West. The story of the Chinese travails is still to be told – a neglected chapter in the civil rights story of America. The hardships experienced by the Asians justify their claim to being rightful citizens of the Western perimeter where large Chinese communities exist in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver. This is the distinction of the westerns states with a large proportion of Asians crossing the Pacific into the promised lands of California, Washington, Oregon and the Canadian provinces facing the great Ocean. There are more Asians of Chinese extractions in Reno than the Southern states along the Eastern perimeter. One feels more at home in the west with the diversity of Asians who live here.

Reno is also the locale of the John Huston film, ‘The Misfits’ starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift on a story by noted playwright Arthur Miller (and Monroe’s husband). It’s a film that has multiple legends as both leads died after making the film – making it their last known work. The story is also worthy with the theme of the dying west. Reno represents a city who has seen better times in its history where legendary wildcatters stuck gold or oil, cowboys and gun fighters, gamblers and misfits. The landscape of barren hills and near desert like conditions reminds one of the romances of the old west. Now it is a struggling city trying to live up to its giant sister city of Las Vegas and in the shadow of Lake Tahoe one of the most beautiful places in the world. It serves as a place for recreation of Northern Californians likely from San Francisco going to Reno to gamble in the way Los Angeles residents go to Las Vegas.   

We will stay in a large hotel near the airport called the Grand Sierra. The lobby contains a statue of a rider and his horse depicting the travails of the Pony Express. It has a large lobby with gambling tables and slot machines and multiple restaurants. It is a nice place to walk around and observe people. Hopefully I can try to explore places I have not seen in my last trip and use its sports facilities and pool. The project we are working on requires us to install a program in a number of facilities spread out across the country. This will be our second site and we have been testing the application all of this week. There are a few bugs but we hope to fix all of them before travelling west.  It feels like the old days when I used to travel the different sites in Asia like Bangkok, Tokyo, Ohta, Shanghai and Shenyang. It is a different place from the Asian cities that we use to frequent. But the temptations and the difficulties are still the same.

The journey to Reno is a culmination of the project that started 2 years ago when I transferred from Singapore. Finally we are in the end game where the program is being rolled out to the different sites. The team has overcome a lot of obstacles to get here and there were moments where no one else seemed to be leading except me. It is not one of those large or highly visible projects in the company but one that has its own share of complexity and problems with significant changes in project personnel. It feels like being the last man standing. One is also involved in another much larger project where a larger system is being deployed to the different sites as well. We have pulled forward a bit as we got off the gate slightly faster and there may be a slight element of rivalry. But both projects are moving forward breaking out from the seeming inertia and gridlock that prevented its progress. Travelling to the different sites is the final culmination of the work.

This week has been about testing to prepare for next week in Reno. Most of the time was spent writing emails or meeting with IBM and our software contractor in Ohio, working with our support team from India and doing remote tests with our Reno team. It’s been a slow week – a much slower pace than in Asia – a place that seemed to be working on steroids. Issues were found and fixed in a relaxed pace. I also attended a good seminar on Civil Rights in the nearby Furman University – one of the most beautiful colleges I have visited. I also attended a seminar on Cloud computing and volunteer teaching in nearby schools. It was an exhilarating week where the debt ceiling crisis was finally resolved amid nerve racking fights in congress. Yesterday the stock markets worldwide crashed amid worries about the global economy but the job figures came out today with some optimistic gains, contrary to the prevailing opinion. It looks like a promising future lay ahead – capped also with the president’s birthday this week which was a fitting end to the previous political struggles in Washington.

No comments: