This is page 6 of my diary archives. Other diary entries can be found here, Page 18, Page 17, Page 16, Page 15, Page 14, Page 13, Page 12, Page 11, Page 10, Page 9, Page 8, Page 7, Page 5, Page 4, Page 3, Page 2 and Page 1, (oldest entry).
We collected our new car yesterday and although we have not driven it very much yet, I think it is fair to say we both love it. In fact it is difficult to think of anything to criticise about it, save perhaps the mis-spelling of the name, although I can see the symmetry aspect of it might appeal to to simplistically minded marketing cretins that probably thought it up. Never mind, they use the logo almost everywhere so I am not constantly reminded of it.
In fact one thing that I have instantly fallen in love with is the XM radio. At last, for the first time since I left my beloved BBC radio, I have radio without adverts or, as far as I can tell, without constant promotions for forthcoming programs. Just music or speech with channels dedicated to jazz or classical or the 1960s or comedy or Broadway shows. I am in heaven. I get a free three month subscription but I see the paid subscription is $15/month which is well worth it to get away from the constant blathering and self-promotion of the local FM radio stations. As Terry Wogan used to say on his BBC morning program, we don't have to bribe you to listen to us.
I can also buy, for $10/month more, an additional subscription for another radio and it would be great to have in the house else I can see myself spending all day out in the car.
As the keys were handed over and everything was signed and we had been given instruction on the car's many features, the salesman presented us with an embossed rosewood box of wine with wine opener, stopper etc. It was really a nice present, albeit that given the price of the car it was rather token, (it is also embossed with 'Infiniti' unfortunately, not the logo). Ploy's face was a picture as she recognised the quality of the present but as she doesn't drink wine and as she also has yet to get her driving license, both the car and wine were perhaps a little lost on her. Mind you she is now busy making sure all her friends know and see our new acquisition.
John Esmonde has died. Who? Well he was one half of the writing team, Esmonde and Larbey that wrote The Good Life, a British situation comedy that I used to love, probably because of the presence of one Felicity Kendal who took cuteness to a new level. I wrote to her extolling my many virtues; real ale drinker, cricket lover, astronomy addict, I expect she still has the letter. I got a signed photograph in return but no invitation to an intimate dinner for two at a luxurious yet discrete hotel where it just so happens a room had already been booked for the night.
The subtlety of these sitcoms is now lost, at least in the UK, (Cheers, Frasier and Friends has some the character based qualities of these sitcoms but in the UK the sitcoms died out, being replaced with caricatures of real life that it was not possible to relate to: they were also unfunny).
Based on characters that we could believe in and liked, who were portrayed by actors of the calibre of Richard Briers, John Alderton or Paul Eddington, and written from experience with just the right accent of exaggeration without any feeling of being forced to be funny, they were not just sugary concoctions. There always were undercurrents as there are in real life.
In Ever Decreasing Circles the Richard Briers character knows how prissy and over-bearing he is but cannot change himself even though he knows he may eventually lose his adored wife to the suave neighbour. Paul Eddington's character in The Good Life wants to do what Richard Briers has done, (go self sufficient), but does not have the wife who would support him as Felicity Kendal did and probably does not have the belief in himself to give up his well paid city job. In the revealing episode when they all get drunk on home made wine we hear them all wishing they were each other with Paul Eddington's character confessing he fancies Felicity Kendal.
I guess if I were to see these programs now I might not find them as endearing as I did then, they are probably very much a product of their time even though they are character based. The character traits that they portray have been changed by society; that humorous drunken night would probably be turned into a gang bang now else 'it would not realistic'. Of course it all went down hill after Clark Gable was allowed to utter 'damn' in Gone with the Wind. Everything now has to be 'real'. But surely that is the point of these sitcoms, they are close enough to be real for us to associate with the characters, but with the hint of exaggeration that makes them funnier. For me blatant humour with no subtlety isn't humorous.
It has been quite a week. After the slow start when I just couldn't get my arse into gear the end of the week flew past in a flurry of chaos.
First we went and bought a new car as I mentioned below. The car is due to be delivered early next week. Then I decided to finally do something about clearing out our garage. Two full bins later and task accomplished and I have also started painting it and repairing the door frame so we can have a new door fitted for the winter.
Then Ploy had a phone call, one of the companies that she went for an interview at wants to offer her a job. She accepted straight away although initially it means her working nights, from 11-7. That will take some getting used to but Ploy wanted the job and has been going up the wall effectively doing nothing all day. Although the nights will mean a change in our routine the job has prospects for promotion, (she is working in a factory that makes injection moldings for car parts), and she gets health insurance and benefits and a reasonable salary well above minimum wage. There is overtime available as well.
Also she has a friend who works the same shift so she is able to go to work with her which helps me. I don't mind picking her up at 7a.m. but I am not a night person and I would find it difficult to stay up until 11 every night. I can't deny the money will help as well. In the UK Ploy had a similar job and we just paid all the bills with my money and put all of hers into a savings account. That eventually became the deposit on our house. I hope we can do the same thing with this money and with the money from SingMai we should be able to pay a lump off of our mortgage.
Tonight Ploy starts work and tomorrow I am also back to work but it feels good to have achieved something, (the garage); clearing away all that rubbish was somehow symbolic and the week is something of a watershed for us.
We both watched the highlights of the opening ceremony of the Olympics; I can't remember the last time I did that. I have to say that despite all the human right violations, the air quality, the knowing that holding the Olympics in Beijing is somehow wrong, (surely if China wanted it so much it should have been used as a carrot to get China to improve its human rights first rather than giving them what they want and then expecting them to change voluntarily); but despite all of this I have to say it was spellbinding.
I do hope that, in embracing the West, China does not lose its identity. A culture as intricate and rich as it has should be treasured and not lost in its wish to open its trade doors. I don't endorse for one minute the actions of the Chinese governments past and present, but I do start to understand the slow speed of the change if in fact the government realise the dangers and are trying to change whilst also keeping its unique and treasurable identity.
It is Wednesday, the fifth day of my holiday and so far I have done nothing, which I suppose is what a holiday is for. A couple of e-mails for work and a couple for SingMai but that is it. I feel a little guilty - I still have a SingMai order to complete - but I am finding it hard to will my body into doing anything. I did fill out my expenses form and take it into work and we have had next door's dogs to take care of which has been a little time consuming, more so that I hoped, but aside from that my activities have been limited to us going and watching Wall-E.
Today we bought a new car. We didn't mean to. I bought my Mazda on a lease as that was the only option open to us as we were new to Canada and they don't take any non-Canadian credit history into account. So in November I have to either pay off the remainder of the lease, some 50% of its value, or more realistically borrow to pay it off or buy another Mazda. I have been very happy with the car and I was thinking of keeping it but I thought, just out of curiosity, we would look at one other car we have seen around, an Infiniti EX. And we liked it so much we bought it so instead of my monthly payments going down they will go up. But it is not on a lease so we do own the car and I have chosen the extended warranty and additional rust protection so this one I aim to keep.
I have always been a keeper of cars. The Mazda is the least time I have ever had a car for such a short time. My first car, a Hillman Minx, I kept until it fell apart and had done over 100,000 miles. The next, an Opel Manta, I kept until it fell apart, having done 170,000 miles. And my only new car before the Mazda, a Honda Prelude, I kept for 15 years until we moved to Singapore and it had done over 300,000 miles. This one feels like it is a keeper too.
It was a spur of the moment thing. Friday morning, reading my e-mails in my hotel room at 5a.m. before leaving for San Francisco airport. It had actually been a good trip although, for the umpteenth time, I had slept badly, drank too much wine and ate too much, the latter two more out of boredom than anything else. But I had left actually rather liking my new manager, I think my seventh in the last year, and with a chance to do something new and rather interesting.
Meeting the owner of the company I talked about below also gave me a new perspective on SingMai and I also had an e-mail from a company asking me to do another small special order and prompting me to send an invoice for the work I completed just before I left for San Jose. So I was feeling good about that, and I was on my way home, so I decided why not take a break. Monday is a public holiday in Canada, so with the two weekends I only need to take four days off to effectively get ten days holiday.
So here I am, home again, and I have had a lovely day. Ploy has gone to some Laos festival in Mississauga so I had to go to our neighbours to get the instructions for taking care of their two dogs as they have gone away for a week, (this was supposed to be Ploy's job but on the first day she absconded - not a good start). Then I went out to do some shopping for food and I managed to start my new regime to loose some weight as I am now the heaviest I have ever been in my life. Then I came home, made some suitably healthy lunch and ate it listening to Test Match special over the Internet. I then dozed for a hour and I was about to tinker around in the garden but it has started raining. But the dogs will need to be walked in a little while which will give me some exercise anyway.
Tomorrow I have a tiny bit of stuff to do for my day job and then I have some SingMai things to do. But it is nice feeling knowing that, for a few days at least, I only have two things to do and not the umpteen things as I usually have. I have even started reading Salmon Rushdie's Midnight's Children which I bought at the airport; I might even finish it this week.
This week I am in San Jose, evaluating potential suppliers for intellectual property cores for our new IC. Although these cores are analogue they are analogous to the digital cores that I offer with SingMai. And yesterday I met a company that exactly echoes what I would like SingMai to be.
The company was started part time by one man and later by some additional part-time help from colleagues and friends. They built the company from orders without borrowing or involving venture capitalists. Now, thirteen years later, they are profitable, have some high profile customers, are still privately owned and you can see the owner is an enthusiast for what he is doing.
I talked to him about how he got publicity for his new company and he warned me off spending money on certain websites that advertise IP cores. I was just about to decide to pay $1000/yr to allow SingMai to be listed on one of these websites! He told me, that like the Google Ads I've tried, you get inundated with responses, but most, if not all, are irrelevant and just waste your time. If you have a good product, he said, people will find out out about it in time through word of mouth.
Patience. That what I need, because I don't want to sell out and be controlled by venture capitalists that have no interest in your company except for its ability to earn them money. SingMai has more orders at the moment and slowly its name will get out there. To be where this company is in ten years time, now that is something to aim for.
For one or two weeks in late May I used to go with a friend and camp in Cornwall, just outside of St. Agnes. Both of us had our end of year exams looming, his in mechanical engineering and mine in electronic. Days were spent revising, late afternoons were spent visiting the cheese and ale shop in Truro, walking along the cliffs down into St Agnes town for a few beers and dinner in the Driftwood pub, or visiting the Heron Inn as a special treat. One day, when the weather forecast looked good, we would drive to Lizard point, and then walk the cliff path to Cadgwith and back, stopping in Cadgwith for some fresh crab sandwiches.
I loved Cornwall and dreamed of living there one day, but this article from the Independent shows the reality of the place today. Cornwall's industries, and in particular its tin mining, have all closed and rather like the New Forest where I lived for six years, houses are bought up by the rich, mostly from London, who hardly ever frequent the place, making the place unlivable for those born there.
The signs were already there. Even at the onset of the high season it was not impossible to spend the entire lunchtime at the Hawkins arms in Zelah with just the two of us, eating the best pasties in the world, having a few beers and playing pool; not a single visitor, save for us. This was after they upgraded the A30 thereby bypassing the pub so passing trade became non-existent. You could see the apartments being built along Truro river on the way the Malpas, converted warehouses mostly, and you could guess what the price of those was going to be.
It was an echo of the New Forest where the new landlords at our local pub eventually banned the wearing of wellington boots in their newly carpeted lounge and asked that we use the outside toilets so the sensibilities of the more refined would not offended by having a oil-skinned gamekeeper loudly proclaim he was off to 'show Percy the porcelain', or in a sudden fit of false modesty announce that he 'holds it in four fingers but pisses on three'.
I never managed to take Ploy to Cornwall, part of the fun of the place was camping and I haven't got Ploy that interested in that aspect of life yet. Now it looks like we might never go back and I certainly will never have that cottage looking out over the sea.
I have resigned from the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society. My brief altruistic endeavours were quickly thwarted by the bureaucracy of the IEEE and I was finding it all a chore. It means I can concentrate on other things now. I have also given up the Humanitarian initiative which was interesting but I was getting no support at all and I wasn't doing the role justice.
I have also cancelled our trip to Washington as it was centred around the next AdCom meeting. Although it would have meant a break for us there are other places we would like to go.
I got an e-mail this morning from our old neighbours in Singapore; we must plan to return to Asia for a holiday. It is eighteen months since we both left Singapore and although I had a couple of brief business trips back I had no time to visit friends. Maybe April next year when we could visit Thailand for the New Year celebrations there (SongKran); it would be good to aim for something like that and we would have just endured another Canadian winter so the break will be welcome.
I used my air miles to book a night in a hotel and we spent the weekend in Toronto. There was a Thai fair there on the Saturday and Sunday so I thought we would get away from it all rather than try and cram it into a day and spend a leisurely weekend forgetting the work and rejuvenating us.
We got to Toronto at eleven and being too early to check in we parked the car at the hotel and walked to the fair. Despite warning that we would have to walk Ploy insisted on wearing high heels which she hadn't worn for a long while and after many complaints about 'why are we walking when we have a car', (try parking in central Toronto on a Saturday) and 'why don't we get a taxi' etc, all unsympathetically batted away with some aside about wearing new high shoes for walking and a helpful I told you so, Ploy eventually went into a department store and bought some sensible shoes. Suffice it to say things didn't start well.
The Thai fair was disappointing, it took us thirty minutes at most to walk around the stalls, we watched some Thai dancing, (Ploy rather unkindly pointed out they seemed to have picked the ugliest girl to portray the story of a girl who is supposed to be the most beautiful), we ate some very poor Thai food most of which was unrecognisable as Thai and we sweltered in the sun as there was no shade at all. And then we walked back to the hotel.
There I tried the rather tacky swimming pool which had the most stringent hygiene rules and regulations I had ever encountered yet I could wipe the grime off the tiles, and then we walked along Yonge St., popped in a couple of shops, found a decent place to eat and were in bed by 8p.m.
The next day we went to Chinatown which was fun. There was a downpour in the morning but it wasn't cold so we just wandered around getting wet. We had an early lunch, Ploy bought some food, and then we drove home.
The whole weekend was an anti-climax and rather than being refreshed I just feel I wasted a couple of days that I could have spent on fulfilling SingMai orders.
The stage events at the Thai fair were OK but the stalls were very disappointing. I queued for what seemed like hours to get a mango smoothie and a very Thai strawberry daiquiri smoothie for Ploy all the time wondering why there wasn't a stall selling fresh water melon slices. The Thai massage was $65/hr which was just too expensive to consider. The other stalls all seemed to be life insurance or selling some rather tacky touristy stuff. There was no Tourism authority or Thai airways stalls and, as I mentioned, no stalls selling fresh fruit or vegetables; it seemed a missed opportunity and I don't think we will bother going again.
There were a couple of highlights, Ploy met Bill who runs the Thai consulate in Toronto, (rather strangely as he is Canadian), and he had translated her driving license and officially stamped the translation which will help her get a full driving license, and I spent some time watching this incredibly cute young girl do a Thai dance.
But, as Ploy summed it all up, 'nothing very interesting'.
It is ten days since I last posted anything on this blog. It is months since I last updated any of my web pages. I haven't written a word on my novel or art history book for months either.
I do have orders for SingMai and I also have my day job of course. And there are still renovations to be done on the house, although that has almost slowed to a halt. And there is that AdCom work for the IEEE which is becoming an increasing annoyance.
It is difficult to put my finger on it. I keep trying to galvanise myself into action but I am tired by five or six in the evening, albeit after having woken at five at six in the morning. Next week I have to travel to California on business which is a pain although it might allow me to kick start one of the books.
I am getting a little fat and I do almost no exercise, spending every day sat behind a monitor screen. Even the house renovations are physically demanding but not the sort of exercise that gets your heart pumping. I think I need to change my regime. Obviously I need to keep the main jobs going, but maybe at 5 or 6 I should try and go swimming or something and see if that energises me to do something in the evening other than sitting in front of the TV. Easy to write, not so easy to do but I think something has to be done.