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This is page 7 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 6, Page 5, Page 4, Page 3, Page 2 and Page 1, (oldest entry).

 

A Decision to be Made?

Things were already getting busier with SingMai. We are still waiting on an order from a prestigious German company and recently quoted for another job to a UK company which seems highly likely to happen. They also promised us there would be further work.

But on Friday I got an e-mail from a US company wishing to talk with me. We had a little e-mail chatter but on Monday we had a two hour telephone conference and the outcome is they have asked for a quotation for a large number of IP cores for incorporation into an IC. It is an enormous amount of work, just part of the work, I know from experience, took a team of seven engineers over a year to design. The US company want everything delivered in 3 months. But what an opportunity, the total order value would be my total annual salary from my day job and all of the IP cores could be sold to other companies; they were already on my to-do list.

So, encouraged by Ploy, I will quote to provide the whole job. It is not that I am superman, but a number of these cores I have already spent quite a bit of time doing preliminary design work on. Only one would be started from nothing. Of course I have to deliver, and deliver on time, but if the day job gets in the way then this just the incentive to pack it in.

First we have to get the order but I have high confidence of that based on the conversations we have had to date. The web site is busier, I have just released another new product, the EDN article has been well received, and Ploy is already planning to buy that boat. Actually the decision has already been made.

Turning a blind eye

We have been busy.

Ploy has been working nights for nearly six weeks now and we are getting into a reasonable routine. Her friend that was taking her to work has got sick so I am now picking her up at 7a.m. and taking her to work at 10p.m. It is making a long day for me and even when I am working from home, the most time we spend together is over breakfast, but her salary is being put straight into our savings account and for the first time in over a year it is slowly accumulating without being dipped into to buy some essential thing for the house.

We have a new garage door and we have painted the side of the garage and the gazebo as well as clearing almost all of the garden now; we have a new carpet in the basement living room and have repaired and painted some walls in that room also so it is nearly ready to move into; we have installed a wireless modem so I work upstairs in the office or downstairs in the workshop and I have a little workstation in each room so I only need to move and plug in the laptop; I have recorganised my workshop and installed an extra desk and bought some more equipment; our old fuse panel has been replaced with with nice new trip panel with surge protection; we have repaired and painted chocolate all the side windows and door frames to the house; we have had electricity run out to the garage and some outlets and a light installed; we have done quite a few quotations for SingMai, one in particular is looking very promising; we have had an article published in the prestigious EDN magazine under Ploy's name; and I have been kept busy with my day job which might mean another week in California in the next month or so.

This weekend we have some time off as we are off to Toronto to see a Celine Dion concert, compulsory for anyone who wishes to become a Canadian citizen, and I have used my air miles to get us a night in a hotel there.

And luckily, with all of this going on, it has preventing me from raving on about the unparalleled greed and stupidity being demonstrated currently over the collapse of several banks and insurance companies, primarily in the US. A $700B rescue package; to rescue who exactly? And this figure is being bandied around as if it were toy money.

But I have other things to do. Lots of SingMai things, my day job and some more house repairs. So I am going to refrain from commenting any more than I have. Read Will's website for a fuller exploration of the chaos. I'm off to get a bite to eat.

CrackPots

Richard Dawkins maintains that we inherit our religious beliefs from our parents. Certainly that is the case with me as my mother insisted I was not christened and I never attended Sunday school. Apart from enduring religious studies lessons at school and the occasional visit to a church such as Sherbourne abbey or Notre Dame for tourist reasons I was largely isolated from any religious upbringing. And so today I am an atheist and happy with that and grateful my parents allowed to make a choice later in life.

I don't understand the need to believe in some god. There is no scientific evidence to support such a being other than gaps in our knowledge which are often exploited by believers as 'proof'; gaps in our scientific knowledge being used as proof of the existence of god. But as those gaps get filled the weight of this 'proof' lessens. Indeed, if common sense prevails, how could anyone envisage a creature capable of creating everything from nothing, it is unfathomable, which of course is again answered by believers 'well of course it is'. OK, not unfathomable, just plain nonsense.

Belief in a god is, I suspect, related to your personal circumstances. By the latter I mean if your personal circumstances are dire the need to believe there may be something else, something better, some helping hand that will lift your from this, is probably greater. The latter is probably related to the need to believe that there is more to life than, well, life. Especially if your life is not fulfilling it may be convenient to think you can have another go at it and, even better, get to float around on a cloud with a load of other do-gooders.

Belief in a god is also related to your education. As this website says, only 7% of members of the National Academy of Science believe in a personal god, yet 90% of the American general public believe. Worse than this, 47% believe in creationism - believe that the the earth is less than 10,000 years old. And this report suggests belief in creationism is rising in the UK with the first creationism museum being founded in my old home town, Portsmouth. Indeed, we could soon have a creationist as the most powerful woman on the earth.

There are now calls to teach creationism in schools, to give pupils the chance to choose for themselves. A strange about turn, for in science we are often taught 'facts' when we are younger that are later overturned as our knowledge grows. But in terms of religion, which requires education to make an informed choice, we are going to let children decide for themselves; children who still believe in Santa Claus. As Richard Dawkins advocates. children should be protected from the the beliefs of their parents, and also of schools. Let them decide for themselves after a reasonable amount of knowledge is inside their heads and they can make an informed decision.

It is bad enough we have leaders that invoke the name of god in their decisions, but soon the leader of the free world could soon be someone who chooses not to believe 200 years of scientific fact.

What is this world coming to? How can we expect to move forward as a society when we are constantly dragged back to the dark ages by ill-educated, ill-informed leaders. You think things cannot get worse after Bush but they could in fact get a lot worse. Our leaders should not be voted in by an increasingly stupid populace, they should be chosen from the greatest thinkers we have, scientists and philosophers, people who spend their time exercising the odd neurone on a daily basis. But everyday that looks less likely to occur; indeed it is currently about as likely to happen as finding out that god is indeed real and shops at Safeways on Friday nights.

Southampton

When Ploy first moved to the UK I was renting an apartment in Southampton. We later bought a house there, albeit only staying for less than year before we emigrated to Singapore, but as I also worked at the university there for three years before I sort of thought of it as home rather than my hometown of Portsmouth which is about twenty miles along the coast.

So yesterday when Ploy suggested we spend the afternoon out somewhere I thought let's go and have a look at Canada's namesake. Southampton Ontario is altogether a smaller beast, a town of just 3000 people nestled on the coast of lake Huron. It takes about two hours to drive there, 150km north east of here, a pleasant drive mainly through farmland and our first stop was an indoor market which we wandered around for an hour or so.

We then drove to the High Street and while I walked down to the beach Ploy wandered around the few shops they had. The beach was wonderful with just a couple walking their dog and another couple making a sandcastle. I sat in the small cobbled area and enjoyed the sun.

It was already 5p.m. as Ploy had slept in in the morning and neither of us had eaten that day so we drove down to the neighbouring town of Port Elgin where we found an excellent Italian restaurant, Rosina. We were the only people there but we got a rather haughty waiter deliberate over his reservations book before finally sitting us at the best table in the place by the front window. By the time we had eaten the restaurant was full and they were turning people away so I guess we were just lucky.

The food was excellent, Ploy had smoked salmon and fennel to start which she promptly swapped for my lamb chops and cucumber salad. Ploy then had a surf and turf for her main course and she scoffed it down, no thought of swapping this time. I had a boullibaisse style concoction of salt cod and squid in a tomato broth which was delicious.

We then took a leisurely drive home to complete a lovely afternoon. Definitely a place we will return to.

 

Thailand as a Home

It is nearly two years since I last visited Thailand; I stayed there for three weeks while we were waiting for our Canadian visas to come through. The longer I spend away from it, and especially impatiently reading about the political chaos that is currently unfolding, the less I want to go back. And Ploy shows no sign of wishing to return so I don't know when it will be that we visit again.

It wasn't always like this. When we lived in Singapore and the trips to Thailand were frequent, when Ploy bought our land and our house there, Thailand seemed the place we would eventually live in. We talked of building on our land, of maybe having a Thai B&B there as it is very near a tourist area. We would buy a another house in Chon Buri which we both like a lot and Ploy has friends there and which would also satisfy my desire to live by the sea.

But Canada has changed that. We have a house, we both have good jobs, we have a great car and best of all, we like the country and its people. The best word I can use to describe Canada is benign. People are laid back, relaxed, the government is faintly ridiculous and most people seem to accept that, but it doesn't seem to to anything too badly, certainly not compared with other countries. We can get permanent residency here, we can get citizenship here, we can both buy land here, buy houses here, open bank accounts, all things virtually excluded from me in Thailand. Unless I can find a way to get permanent residency there I have to visit a police station every three months for the rest of my life to tell them where I live. That is hardly welcoming. I can't work in a whole series of industries that are deemed to compete with the Thais for jobs. I probably could run SingMai, but the logistical problems in just getting the simplest things like electronic components reliably delivered become a nightmare.

And then I read about all that political unrest, not that it is unusual of course. I was in Pattaya when there was a coup in Bangkok and it largely went by unnoticed, at least from there. But there is a clear split in the country between the poor Isaan area, which through bribes have continued to support one party, and the more well off which object to the corruption of this government. And that is the problem with Thailand;  corruption. It is just something that is indigenous and every Thai just accepts as a way of life. So when Ploy registers her company she pays the young chap 200 baht, not because that is the fee for registration, it is free, but to ensure we remain near the top of his pile. When the policeman stops us for some trumped up reason, Ploy pays him 200 baht and we are on our way again. It just happens and no-one stops it. For some of these people Ploy tells me that is their salary as they are so poorly paid. And, in the grand tradition, keeping the population ill-educated helps enormously.

But then I read this article and it brought back some of the feelings I had when I first visited Thailand, twenty five years ago. That warmth of the people, their uninhibited charm, their sense of fun comes through in reading that article. I remember visiting Thailand during their King's 60th anniversary celebrations and it was an unforgettable experience, and as memorable as the royal barges were and the fireworks were, it was the warmth of the people that I remember, especially as the few foreigners there were lost in a sea of yellow Thais. I remembered walking through the markets and trying my Thai on the sellers, whilst also remembering Ploy telling me to get out of sight as she wanted to buy something and they would charge more if they saw me. The longer I spent in Thailand, the more I was exposed to the other side.

But maybe we should never say never. We still have our house there but it is likely we will give that to Tang Mo at some point. And the land, I have no idea. It some security for Ploy I guess, if I was to get run over by a bus tomorrow I think she may go back to Thailand and she will have something to go back to. But then she has a job here now and earns enough to pay for the house here. That idyll of living in a house close enough to hear the sea lapping against the wooden pier, writing my novel against the backdrop of old ladies gossiping in Thai and seagulls crying and walking down to pier in the evening for some fresh seafood and a beer Chang may yet come true.

My Top Fifty Movies

I was looking through this list of the top 100 books and although there are a number of omissions from the list, as all lists such as these are controversial and personal, I was somewhat disappointed to find I had read only six of the books and have one of them partially finished, (Midnight's Children). I used to read avidly but mostly non fiction, biographies and science books but I seem to have got out of the habit of it. The last book I couldn't put down was the Reginald Perrin anthology but I am finding Midnight's Children hard work even though it is an enjoyable read.

However I did note that I had seen the movies to a lot of these books so I thought it might be fun to compile my own list of my favourite movies. I made it a top fifty list and they are not in any particular order. They are chosen merely on the basis of movies I want to watch again and again without ever tiring of them. I am sure I have forgotten some and there are a couple I couldn't decide between, but none the less, here it is in all its glory.

Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)
Casablanca (1942)
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Schindler's List (1993)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
12 Angry Men (1957)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
North by Northwest (1959)
American Beauty (1999)
Alien (1979)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Jaws (1975)
High Noon (1952)
Fargo (1996)
Gladiator (2000)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
AirPlane! (1980)
Naked Gun (1988)
The Big Easy (1987)
Life of Brian (1979)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The African Queen (1951)
Ed Wood (1994)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Hero (2004)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Carry On up the Khyber (1968)
M*A*S*H (1970)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
The Day after Tomorrow (2004)
The Pink Panther - (1963)
The Front Page - (1974)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Nosferatu (1922)
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Shining (1980)

Three Hail Marys for this priest's initiative. But let's hope it doesn't get out of hand and we don't start having those notice boards outside churches proclaiming 'Jes s L ves', (they always have letters missing), replaced with posters of your local village priest dressed only in bra, panties and a winning smile.

When my first company started looking like it was taking off we moved from our rented two rooms above an estate agent's office to our own 2500 sq.ft. office unit. Our company was called Framestore Technologies and we had already designed a logo which involved a pixellated version of FT, (that is pixellated as in showing individual pixels and not pixellated as in the Gary Cooper movie, Mr Deeds goes to Town). We decided to get a sign made for the office which was duly mounted, but within what seemed like seconds we had some visitors; the office across from us who happened to be a data gathering unit for the Financial Times. They insisted that we took down the sign as we infringed some copyright on the use of FT. My salesman argues they had no right to do that as we were not in their industry segment or anything like it. I pointed out two other companies that also used the initials FT. They suggested our lawyers sort it out. We didn't have a lawyer and even if we did the chances are we wouldn't have had the resources to fight it. I therefore have enormous sympathy for this film company who are being sued by Warner Bros. for having a film name too close to Harry Potter. I wonder, as in our humble case, what possible impact their continued use of their film name, or ours of our FT logo, could possible have on any sales of the bigger company. Petty in the extreme.

I watched the highlights of the Beijing Olympics last night and although not quite so impressive as the opening ceremony it was still amazing and I did feel somewhat for a somewhat dishevelled Boris Johnson, the London mayor, as he took the poison chalice, (Olympic flag), and now has four years to better what most seem to think is the greatest Olympics ever.

Britain had a small spot at the ceremony to give a taster of what was to come. And they did by way of a London bus, (that the Canadian commentator I was listening too amusingly noted had actually arrived on time - four years is not enough to overcome decades of prejudice), that spewed forth a variety of rather strange and overly energetic characters.

This apparently is to be the theme of the London Olympics, 'yoof'. Not youth, but 'yoof'; there is an important difference. Whilst pensioner Jimmy Page sweated his way through a note perfect rendition of Whole Lotta Love the vocals were taken by a young girl I didn't recognise, but who apparently recently 'charted', who did everything she could to appeal to the tone deaf in the audience.

Meanwhile at a Beijing party, Visit London appealed to yoof to do just that by flashing up an image of Myra Hindley. I accept the fact that most visitors to London probably don't who she is or what she did, but as an example of the best artwork available for viewing in London, it seems slightly questionable to say the least. And the artist doesn't come from from London which I thought might have been a qualification. Perhaps Turner might have been a better choice. In a strange and masochistic way I am already looking forward to the next Olympics.

A Touchy Subject

I should start with a list of disclaimers so I might avoid the expected abuse in the comments section: no I don't have children of my own, (although I do have a step-daughter), yes I am a weak lily-livered pathetic human being, no, in no way do I condone paedophiles, and yes I deserve to have my gonads cut off with a blunt knife.

I am talking about Gary Glitter's return to the UK as a convicted paedophile and in particular the frenetic reaction to it amongst the UK tabloids.

If you are unfamiliar with story then this is a non-sensational account of it. The Thailand-UK forum seemed similarly over-the-top in its reaction as you can see here. I was interested therefore to read, what seemed to me, to be a more considered view which I posted on the forum. The reaction was predictable, 'Quote from the above drivel.', 'To say he has done his time in jail and all is square with society is *******s IMO.', 'stay the **** away from my kids then , attitudes like that lead to kids suffering because good men don't act.' There is even a disclaimer from a moderator of the forum, 'Members are reminded that posts [are] those of the author alone and are not neccessarily those of the moderators,administration and web site owners and any incitement to violence or other criminal acts/civil torts remains the responsibility of the original poster.'.

Let's look at one of the UK tabloids and the language employed, 'Pop pariah', 'foul pervert', 'You are a piece of scum who has ruined numerous children’s lives. You deserve no rest and no peace and if I and many Brits had our way you would be performing the Saddam shuffle.' Here is some of the reaction to that latter article.

OK, enough. I don't defend what this man has done, (and I'll leave aside whether the conviction in Vietnam was trumped up or not. Gut feeling says it is not, but these same people and newspapers would be pretty quick to condemn Vietnam's justice system if it suited their story. Such is the duplicitous nature of tabloid journalism today, 'In the meantime we could learn lots from Vietnam and the way they treated Glitter during his three-year sentence.').

The point is he has served his time, even according to the Sun where apparently 'He received no visitors and had no contact with the outside world.' It is suggested he would have got off more lightly in the UK, certainly the prison conditions would have been better. So as the the Independent article alludes to, why continue to hound him. Any other convicted prisoner would be given the opportunity to start their life anew whether murderer or rapist. If this is a special case because paedophiles will always recommit the offense and we are certain of that, then the measures like needing to report his whereabouts to the police, being denied Internet access or being prohibited from leaving the country would seem to address that. If they do not then stricter measures should be brought it. If there is firm evidence that paedophilia is a mental illness then it should be treated accordingly.

It is difficult to see what evidence there is for 'He has a right to life and a simple operation with a blunt knife would remove the risk of him re offending.'. The News of the World newspaper in the UK decided to go it alone and publish the names and addresses of known paedophiles with this reaction; it was not an isolated case. The tabloid newpapers incitement goes on unchecked and the people who read this bullshit have little capacity for individual thought themselves. Paedophilia may or may not be big problem; a case can be made for the fact that one case is one too many. But it is difficult to see how this hounding of a man in any way solves the problem, in many ways it makes the problem worse as today's sound-bite driven governments pander to the perceived majority without finding the root cause. Why do these men do what they do and how can we cure them?If Gary Glitter had not achieved some level of celebrity before then I think it is safe to say this story would be relegated to the inside pages. The tabloid invective is there to sell papers, they like nothing better than a fallen celebrity to illuminate their front pages. Better still he is guilty of that most heinous of crimes, paedophilia; the story is a gift from heaven. What is disappointing is that people get duped by it all. Anyone that in way does a 'Lord Longford' and shows an ounce of compassion is immediately grouped with the offender. As a quote above indicates, they are the 'good men' and we are the bad.

And so it will remain. Paedophiles will continue to offend, and they will occasionally be spashed over front covers if the story warrants it and if the tabloid thinks its self righteous diatribe will increase readership. Interestingly Chris Langham's story did not warrant such publicity from the tabloids. The worry is the influence these articles have. The Sun has the highest readership of any UK newspaper, but at just over 3 million that is only about 5% of the population. Yet its influence goes far beyond that. There is already a suspicion that guilty until proven innocent should be allowed to apply to paedophiles. In some ways the child protection register is an example of an increased vigilence over this crime compared with others.

I'll say it again, I do not endorse paedophilia. It is a crime and in particular a crime against children which in modern Western society is deemed particularly offensive. But how this excessive reaction in any way helps solve the problem is beyond me. It seems so typical of today's short termist society that rather than face up to a problem and find ways to solve it we will just make a splash about how appalling it is all is as if this in some way makes it all better. It is as if all the smoke and fire can be used to cloud the fact that nothing is being done.

A modern society should be a compassionate society. I guess we will never be crime free and we should not condone or accept anti-social behaviour, but these tabloids and their readers actually inflame a situation and prevent a real solution being found.

Zombies

I have watched Ploy, save for a brief recovery over the weekend, slowly deteriorate as the days have gone by. It is her job you understand. On the second day of her new job they asked her to work overtime which meant a twelve hour shift from 11p.m. to 11a.m. She did that two more days out of her first five.

At the weekend she recovered somewhat but again this week she has worked two consecutive twelve hour shifts from 7p.m. to 7.a.m. And each time she comes home from work her eye sockets are darker, her smile is more forced and she bears an increasing resemblance to Wednesday Addams. Tonight she has a regular eight hour shift.

She has been told by friends that whilst in her probation period she should accepts offers of overtime. If there is a downturn, they say, and they lay off production staff, those who refuse overtime are the first to go, which does make sense. But it is certainly taking its toll on her, more so that I think she thought it would. Yes, she did work long hours before, but she was younger then. I too am knackered by the end of the day where before I used to work well into the night without a thought.

When her first salary payment arrives in her bank account that may perk her up a little though although that may be tempered somewhat when I suggest she is earning enough to keep the both of us and I can afford to give up my day job. Perhaps I will hold back that joyful news for while until my Christina Ricci lookalike gets used to her night time existence.

Shortly after I joined Philips in the UK I was asked if I would join the marketing people on their Far East forays and provide technical support for them. I agreed immediately as the first country to be visited was Japan, a country I had always wanted to see but had never yet managed to get to.

And so began two years of constant flying to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. It was on these trips that I fell in love in Singapore and promised myself that I should find a way to live there and that I met and fell in love with Ploy.

So seven years after that initial request I am now being asked to do the same thing again for my present company and the first country to be visited is again Japan. Whether this will become a regular thing or just a one-off I do not know. As those initial visits were done when I was single and were done flying business class and these new trips will be done as a married person who rather likes coming home to his pipe and slippers of an evening and it is now cattle class flying, I rather hope this is a one-off. But as a one-off I think I can tolerate it and it will be nice to see Japan one more time.

More.....

 

 

 

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