Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting Ready for a Vacation

My wife and I are going to Hawaii on vacation. We're leaving the kids with some very good friends (whom we will owe big-time) and escaping parental duties for some well-delayed frolicking-on-the-beach time. The last time we took a vacation without the kids was in August of 2003.

My wife is our own travel agent, finding the good deals, planning the agendas, and making all the arrangements for airplane tickets (that's been fun lately, let me tell you, with airlines declaring bankruptcy and flights canceled due to hardware concerns), hotel stays, rental cars, and tickets for various excursions. We're spending about four days on Oahu doing all the touristy stuff and an additional 4 days on Maui doing the not-so-touristy stuff.

My wife, not so surprisingly, is growing more frantic by the day as the time between now and our departure contracts. Her list of things to do is slowly getting shorter, but the list of things to pack is growing at about the same pace. We're taking so much stuff, that I think we'll probably have to check the water heater on our flights rather than taking it carry-on.

The funny thing is that she believes that my life is a veritable party -- that I'm sitting back watching her make all the preparations, biding my time and just waiting for the credit card bill to show up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My life at work is a nightmare. I'm writing this blog entry in a self-imposed moratorium from work because I needed some sanity time. At work, we're frantically trying to get ready for the arrival of the next lander, called Phoenix, at Mars. It arrives on May 25th (a Sunday on a holiday weekend -- darn those navigators!). Before that time, we've got tests to run on our spacecraft (the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), tests to run on the ground system, training exercises to finish, paperwork to finalize, agreements to finish, procedures to practice, and members of management to reassure. It ain't exactly a picnic.

So, this vacation is putting a big gore in the amount of time I have available to take care of things. To make matters worse, I'm committed to go to a conference in Germany two weeks after I get back from Hawaii. Looking at the calendar, this means that between now and the time of landing (not including today), I have 13 working days. Wow. I'm in trouble.

So, yes, as far as my wife can see, I'm just waving the credit card around and saying, "It'll all work out ..." And I have no doubt that our vacation will work out just fine -- and I know that because my wife is on the task -- everything she touches turns out just fine.

Now, whether or not the lander will crater on Mars, on the other hand, is an entirely different story ...

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