This is page 8 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 7, Page 6, Page 5, Page 4, Page 3, Page 2 and Page 1, (oldest entry).
Ploy has a new manager, the one above her immediate line manager, and he seems to be from the modern school of useless management. He told Ploy's line supervisor that he wanted her to fill 5 pallets per hour. That is 120 pieces. Ploy does 96 hour and has peaked at 100. That is compared with the second best person who does 85/hour, (no wonder they like her). So this manager thinks she can increase her throughput by an arbitrary 20% when she is already 20% better than anyone else in the factory. Would it not appear that his effort should have been spent on the others and not on stretching his best worker even further. On top of that the line supervisor carefully explained that the injection molding machine cannot make more than 100/hour - a small point. You do wonder how these people get to these position but I am guessing having an MBA was one key requirement.
When I was young my managers were usually engineers who felt they wanted a quieter life. But they understood engineers even if they were perhaps a little out of date with the hands-on stuff. By understanding engineers they could plan properly with realistic timescales and they knew when an engineer was struggling.
All my recent managers were MBA idiots all shewn from the same mound of steaming excrement. They think and act alike and importantly, they have no idea what engineers are talking about and certainly cannot decode the engineers language. So when an engineer says something will be 'tricky' the old style manager will look for an experienced colleague to help him if he gets stuck and will schedule at least two extra weeks overrun to allow for solving the inevitable problems. To the new MBA managers 'tricky' means the engineer is incompetent and he is incapable of 'thinking outside the box' or 'providing a helicopter view' or 'looking for synergies with other unrelated projects'. He brings forward the project schedule because he knows that's what his manager wants to hear and it leads to the inevitable consequences but because his manager is also an MBA prick when the project runs late and becomes a festering sore the engineers get the blame and he steps aside to let the crap drop directly onto the heads of his charges. He did his job by filling in the project schedule, it was not his fault the project ran late, obviously.
It is getting worse where rather than these managers being expected to have some engineering knowledge, or knowing the actual limit on the number of injection molded components you can produce an hour, engineers are now expected to also have an MBA.
So I was thinking what the collective noun for these MBA idiots could be.....
It is with regret...
I had a few things to do like renew my social insurance card so I delayed sending the letter. But last Friday Ploy and I pressed the send button together and we formally started our life of self employment.
The reaction was muted. Whilst I didn't have high expectations of managers weeping at my feet pleading with me to stay, a small bribe would have been nice instead of the perfunctory and belated, 'good luck' which had the addendum 'make sure you finish all your work before you leave'.
So my last day is the 28th November and I have a few tasks to finish but nothing too demanding. This week I will incorporate SingMai so it will be 'official'. And then it is down to those orders and hopefully also bringing some more in.
I feel more nervous about this decision than I remember being when I started my first company. But I was younger then; now I very much doubt I could get back into employment so easily, certainly not with the salary I used to have. I am in a country that has still not given us permanent residency or even acknowledged receipt of our application after more than five months. If things go bad there are not so many options. And I think as you get older you tend to weigh things up more instead of going with your gut feelings. Well there is no way back now.
It is difficult to explain how these things have come to pass. I earn the highest salary I have ever earned. I can work from home most of the time. I work for a small off-shoot of the main company and the people are nice. I am in my comfort zone work-wise; I know stuff others don't which ensures my position and I can do the job in my sleep. So I have tossed all that away, but for what reason. Because of some tenuous dislike of the way the company is run. Because the company is just following the same mistakes that my previous two companies made, lots of management school managers managing too few engineers. Processes replacing common sense. Marketing idiots that do not have a clue about the market we sell into, getting all their information word for word from Google and customers without adding an ounce of interpretation. Managers who micro-manage, unable to trust even the most senior staff to wipe their own arse properly. Cost cutting measures involving fourteen hour flights in cattle class to save a couple of hundred dollars when the incompetency of the management wastes millions. Just watching it all slowly die and being unable to do anything about it or even get anyone else to see it.
Yet people do stay. A few have left but most stayed. Do they see it or do they have some ability to to perform nonsensical tasks without feeling their life energy being sapped from them? Do they have no self-respect? When I look back I see I have never been happy in a job for more than 3 years. Beyond that the relationship starts deteriorating, on both sides. I have never stayed in any one job for more than 5 years, except for my own company which I ran for eleven. Where do I get this unrest from?
Ploy had commented that every job I had was better than the last. Except for my current one I countered. No, even that one, she said, because if it wasn't so bad you wouldn't have started SingMai. Her support will be invaluable; with my first company I spent a lot of time battling nay-sayers.
Ploy is back to work this week after a two week layoff which helps the finances. She got back from a Laos party in Newmarket at 3.30a.m. this morning. I had tried to call her to tell her to keep an eye on the weather. Newmarket is a 90 minute drive from here and snow was forecast. When I went to bed last night the snow was falling quite heavily and more is forecast for today. The winter has arrived.
I won't bore you with the details.
The California trip started badly with a delayed flight that meant it took fourteen hours from leaving my house to arriving at my hotel. As this was a trip I saw as pointless anyway it did not put in the best frame of mind for the rest of the week.
And so it turned out. On Wednesday morning I was queuing at the United ticket desk in San Francisco Terminal 3 to change my flight back to Toronto, and by Wednesday evening I was back home. I have walked out of a few meetings in my time, but rarely, if ever, have I have done so and then just flown straight home.
I managed to call Ploy at the airport just before I caught my flight to find out she had had a bad dream which apparently, according to her dream book, meant something bad was happening at work. She had been trying to call me for hours. She knew what I had done. When I arrived she ran out to the car to hug me, her face all smiles. 'Let's go out and eat something, you choose' she said. I told her what had happened, details I have promised not to bore you with. She told me I should leave the job and concentrate on SingMai. Needless to say I had done nothing on the SingMai orders whilst I was away.
I read my e-mails once we got back from the meal. There were one or two angry ones - 'where are you, you have missed meetings'. I made an excuse to give me a couple of days thinking time but the decision is made.
On Monday I will resign from my day job. I am sleeping better already although I shouldn't be. I am behind with the orders and if I don't deliver these things we will have no money. We have almost nothing in the bank and I have to pay quite a big bill for materials in the very near future. But I have Ploy, and she has been encouraging almost every minute of the day. I know we can make this work. Ploy believes I can make this work. But it is a risk and we could lose everything. Ploy says she will sell her jewelry if we have to. 'We have to do this, you can't keep working for rubbish companies'. And I can't.
Today is my birthday; I am 51 years old. I have no pensions or savings and although I get a good salary it is clear this company are in their death throws so that could disappear at any time. More importantly, as a tolerably competent engineer, I command absolutely no respect. Incompetent, aggressive managers and marketing people rule the world these days and I just can't take it anymore. Having my own company is the only way out of it as I can't just turn a blind eye to it at work.
If it all goes belly up Ploy says she will open a noodle shop in Thailand and I guess I could get a English teaching job there or maybe I could even find an art history job. Actually I am quite competent at cooking noodles. Maybe I should open an English restaurant there and introduce ham hocks in a mustard sauce to the Thais. This is the right decision; I know because, although there are one or two butterflies, I feel better. I feel freer and I feel like there is a future worth aiming for. As Ploy says, next year we will be millionaires.
Saturday afternoons in the UK used to be 'B' movie time and I noticed in a number of these movies, usually featuring Mexican Aztec or Egyptian tales that they finished atop a pyramid of some description with a woman singing to the masses below. Her voice was remarkable: she did not sing any words that were recognisable, but she trilled like a bird and had a fantastic range. My mother told me she was Yma Sumac but it was many years later that I thought to find out about her. My mother said she could span seven octaves, but it seems (and much of her story seems woven with myth), she can span a barely credible five octaves. The CD on the left from Elect is from a live concert she gave in Russia in 1961. The sleeve notes tell us she gave 30 concerts in the Lenin Stadium, each a sellout to 80,000 people! Her voice is not always ingratiating, but it is quite remarkable, and there is something special about her, perhaps she was descended from the Gods as she claims.
This is a sample of her voice, Tumpa.
It has been a frustrating week. I nearly resigned from my day job and I spent an unreasonable amount of time working out how we could afford to do that. It is not just trying to balance SingMai and my day job, but it is the waves of nonsense I am expected to cope with. If it was genuine work it would feel more energised but it is just paperwork for the sake of it, presentations and reports for people who can hardly read, let alone comprehend anything technical. It is the last nervous twitches of a company about to die. And all of this has put me well behind with my SingMai orders.
So I saw an accountant on Thursday. SingMai is a partnership so we get charged personal tax rates on its profits which are not trivial in Canada - between 30-46%! Worse than that, unlike in Singapore, any tax due is due in full, no deferment or monthly payments. And even worse the following year's tax is then due in advance, paid in quarters. So you pay the tax on your assumed profit even if you don't sell a thing. That makes a big impact on what is in the bank. So Ploy and I started thinking seriously about moving to Singapore or Thailand.
Whilst we work through all the scenarios, of course, I am not working on SingMai. And everytime I look to start work I get some idiotic e-mail asking me to just detail, for the hundredth time, why I had come to some conclusion I had over a certain supplier. But on Friday the breakthrough came. We would incorporate the company. I talked to the accountant about that but he didn't recommend it as the administrative charges are much more, and if we just use all the money for our salaries then we pay the same rate of tax anyway. But we don't need all the money for our salaries. We have Ploy's salary and we only need a top-up from SingMai to put some food on the table. The rest of the money can stay in SingMai, business expenses can be paid for directly from SingMai, and we pay 15% tax on SingMai profits, nothing in advance and we can defer our first year's tax by setting our own financial end of year. We build the money up in SingMai, hopefully, and then we can do with it what we want. We can take it all to Thailand or Singapore if we want to move there, or resign ourselves to paying tax on it and spending it unwisely and extravangantly. But by then it will hopeful be a more substantial sum and not our only meagre source of income as it would be if I left my day job. decision made, although a week wasted and tomorrow I fly out to California for week for a round of pointless meetings.
Key to that decision was we decided, tax and weather aside, that we like living in Canada, (and yesterday was unseasonably warm anyway). We have a nice house that we could never afford in Singapore, a nice car which we couldn't afford in Singapore or Thailand, Ploy has a reasonably well paid job which she wouldn't have in either country, and everything just works here which it certainly doesn't in Thailand.
And we have decided to wait until we get the first payment from the big SingMai order and then we choose to leave my day job whenever we want to. If the nonsense continues that will probably be at the end of December, but if things quieten down it maybe sometime in the New Year. But the time has come to go it alone.
So for now I just have to find some time to get this SingMai work done. I only have today so I will have to find some time in next week's evenings if I can. Hopefully though, after meeting anyone and everyone for this week, things should go quiet for a while. The company have decided, after months of dithering, to not use my AV decoder in the first IC, so in theory I have nothing to do, (I don't want to imply that the company made a decision through consideration of all the information, like technical, marketing and schedule plans, they 'decided' because they couldn't reach a decision of how to move forward - sort of making a decision by dint of not making one).
Last year we turned off the porch light for Halloween, an indication that we do not want to be 'trick or treated', another civilised thing about Canada, whereas in the UK if you refuse to join the 'fun' your house is firebombed. But this year, maybe because of our decision to fully embrace Canada, we turned the light on and were visited by some non-aggressive and rather well dressed children. It actually was fun, sort of.
Last night we had our first dusting of snow. Needless to say it was cold too with a strong wind. More snow is forecast for today. Of course having early snow doesn't mean the whole winter is going to be bad but I still wish it could have held off for a little longer, especially as the summer wasn't so great.
As I am travelling to California next week I am trying to get as far ahead with the SingMai orders as possible. I have shipped the first part of the order and I am currently designing a new PCB that I hope I can have manufactured whilst I am away. I have located a local company who can do the PCB assembly for me and they will also order all the parts which helps me considerably; overall I have been very impressed with their service so far.
The balancing between SingMai and the day job is getting more and more difficult. The German company have finally placed the order for the item I delivered four months ago for them evaluate, but have had the cheek to ask for a discount which I have to find a polite way of rejecting without having to research the German word for arsehole, ('arschloch' apparently). And I have two new enquiries this morning which need some response. Ploy and I have decided that we will keep trying to balance the two jobs, giving priority to SingMai, until my day job eventually sack me should they ever notice I am not actually doing anything. They are mooting sending me to China which I managed to put off to the new year but I am finding their nonsense increasingly difficult to ignore so it will be a blessed release when it happens. I just don't seem to be built to be a salary man.
I enquired about our Canadian permanent residency application last week and it seems, all being well, we should get it within nine months. That will take the worry out of going it alone with SingMai. Tomorrow morning I see an accountant about SingMai with the thought of taking it to incorporated status.
Ploy's job, after a number of lay-offs, seems to have calmed down. Some production lines are still running four day weeks but Ploy seems a star employee and next month she should be made permanent staff. She has also found someone to take her to and from work which helps me a lot. Early mornings are not a problem but the late night drop off was killing me.
Nearly every day I read the news from the UK and nearly every day there is some news item that shocks or dismays. This is yesterday's article, BBC suspends broadcasters. By itself I guess it is a bit of a non-event but again it shows the continuing fall in standards in that country. There will always be the 'freedom of speech' or 'comedy always pushes boundaries' arguments, but the fact is this was just bad taste and very unfunny. It is astounding that so many layers of management and producers must have approved this, at least implicitly. I am sure there will be some fudged response, some heartfelt apology, some token suspension, and then they will both be back earning preposterous sums of money again, (Jonathan Ross is reported to earn six millions pounds per year), all paid for the UK public. At least it isn't my money anymore.
We had an employee communication meeting this week. Things are lurching from bad to worse and despite having a 'critical' IC to design and tape out they announced a Christmas shutdown for two weeks. We are told it will save $400k but as they are just forcing us to take paid holiday that must mean there is a hell of an electricity bill somewhere; probably all the secretary's dildos. If we turn the electric off in Canada for two weeks it will take us three months to thaw the building out when we get back. What do I know, I am just an engineer.
I have to travel for a week to California at the beginning of November. Given the parlous state of the company's finances that seems unnecessary and extravagant, especially as the only meetings that are thought compulsory are two meetings with the CEO. And they are only compulsory on his side. You may know the sort of meeting; I spend time preparing a presentation on some aspect of the new IC's design, but five minutes into the presentation the CEO asks a question that is so disconnected with what you are explaining it completely throws you. There is no way back after that; After a fleeting consideration that the man might have a brain the size of Star Trek's 'Q' and is capable of solving world problems in a single bound you quickly revert to what you knew already - the man is an idiot. Unfortunately he thinks he can 'see through' issues by having a helicopter view, thinking outside the box, thinking laterally. thinking holistically, thinking 360 degrees or drilling down into the problem. Unfortunately he, and his nodding cronies, will not be able to do any of that because all those actions require a brain. Wankers!
Those two meetings will be difficult and I don't have a good track record of actually remaining in the room for their duration. I have promised Ploy to at least not ram a coat stand up his anus before decapitating the cronies and turning their empty heads into flower pots, but I had my fingers crossed when I promised so I can do it, can't I, eh, eh!
To help save costs my direct flight of choice to San Francisco has been vetoed for a flight via Denver with just a forty minutes transit time. I am not expecting my luggage and I will arrive at the same time. I have to leave Toronto at 7a.m. on Sunday, meaning leaving the house at 4a.m. The return flight arrives in Toronto at midnight on Friday, and my transit time, in Denver, is again 40 minutes. I shall, with luck, whilst running between gates that will be situated in different terminals, be able to pick up my luggage that is still waiting to be shipped to San Francisco. Friday is my birthday. I might celebrate by buying a glass of wine on the flight, (a trifling $6 for an amusing vintage served warm if it is white and cold if it red).
But today I sign the contract between SingMai and US company and I have had a good week of progress on the job and I'm even slightly ahead of schedule. Ploy is back in work after a temporary lay-off; she is not permanent staff yet but she was the first to be asked back as the new equipment was put on line; she seems to be a star employee at the moment. I have also been making SingMai more kosher by talking to an accountant and getting liability insurance sorted out. I am considering going to a broadcast exhibition in April next year in Las Vegas. I will see how the enquiries come in in the next month or so but I think it will help fill up our order books and I may yet be prematurely forced to go full time with SingMai. In fact that is just a matter of time now I think.
I am in Mission Viejo in southern California visiting the US company that I hope are going to place the big order with SingMai. The day before I travelled I had a awful night's sleep, waking at 2a.m. and then being too tired to do anything meaningful and too awake to just go back to sleep. As my day job lurches from one stupid decision to another and my confidence in the company being around in year's time decreases there is a lot riding on today's meeting; they could still go back on their verbal offer if they think I am an idiot after meeting me.
The company has paid for my flights and put me on WestJet, a budget airline, but actually despite my snobbishness it was very good. The plane was fine, it even had seat back TV with satellite TV, and the service was exemplary; the stewardesses actually looked like they were enjoying themselves and were very chatty and efficient. Ok I don't get airmiles the but the cost was 40% of the same flights via Air Canada.
I picked up my hire car and drove the hour to the hotel. The hotel offers breakfast but no dinner but again the staff were friendly, the Internet if free and rooms are big but rather noisy, especially if the air conditioning is on so instead I left it off to have sweaty fitful night's sleep yet again. Yesterday, after reading my e-mails I was left in the quandary of it being just 3p.m. here, but 6p.m. on my body clock and me being hungry and wanting an early night. So I went out for a drive to Laguna beach having randomly picked a restaurant to eat at from the in-room local events magazine. Seafood and Mexican, I can't go wrong. And I didn't.
The restaurant was on a cliff overlooking Laguna Beach, see photo, (I didn't bring my camera so I pilfered a photo from this website), and food was exceptional, especially my ahi tuna starter. There are few perks to business travel these days, but this one of of those perks. So today is the meeting, I think it is going to be a long day and I will probably be existing on adrenaline for most of it, but at the end of it, it might just be the start of a very big adventure.
Today probably owes a lot to my teenage years spent in the reference section of Portsmouth central library. Before they moved to the new building the reference section had its own room bathed in a yellow light and enshrouded in an intellectual smog. Stillness was what I remember from that room. I spent every Saturday there trawling through every book they had on astronomy, writing down by hand large sections of the books, (the reference books were not allowed to be loaned out), for my own book, and encyclopedia of astronomy (which is yet to see the light of day). I used the opportunity to look through some anatomy books, particularly on women's composition. Whilst the latter may have added little to my intellectual development it may be that the former, whilst giving me a interest in acquiring knowledge for no other reason than the fun of doing so - and it is fun - also gave me confidence in being able to find solutions to problems that led to me starting my own companies; solutions are out there and if you know how to find them and have just enough nous to apply them to the problem, you have product which you can sell.
So when the reference section of the library was closed and they opened a new library in a new building and the reference books were spread amongst the other books and even available for loan so they were never there when you wanted them and then, god forbid, they installed computers and loaned CDs it all started going downhill. And now, according to this report, libraries need chatter and coffee shops. No they don't - that's a coffee shop. Libraries are places for people to read books. If people are not going to libraries to read books then turning the library into something else means it is not a library anymore. Why a coffee shop, why not a cinema or a sex shop where they can loan out dildos to go with the latest Mills and Boon corset ripper. More dumbing down. Less children reading, less they use their imagination instead preferring to be spoon fed information, the less they have opportunities to explore those side alleys of knowledge which just might ignite a spark in the child - as my reading on synchrotron radiation could lead to me reading about the details of woman's vulva. More teenagers with no aspiration or drive or curiosity, youths aimlessly hanging bus shelters and leading to new generation of people that don't know which way round a baseball cap should be worn. A generation that thinks Bush or Sarah Palin is a credible option for President of the US. Where will it stop?
Well we got the order from the US company. They are so keen to have us involved they are going to pay us a bonus if the IC comes back successfully and also give us share options in their company to ensure our commitment.
And the outcome of that; this weekend was write off. Ploy had already arranged to go out with some friends on Friday night so I went out alone and treated myself to an excellent meal at this place. When I got back home I ended up falling asleep watching an Oscar Peterson DVD I had recently bought and only woke up when Ploy came home. I had a bad nights sleep and found it difficult to get into work Saturday so I decided to drive into Toronto to buy this CD player to complement the amplifier and speakers I bought last week.
Ploy was also awake by then so we went in together and I dropped her at Chinatown for the day whilst I went to buy my new present to myself. I had a quick lunch before getting a call from Ploy asking me to pick something up she had bought; a travel case as she says I need to look good in front of the new customers when I visit them; (which I will have to do later this month, almost the same time that my day job want me to visit them as well).
After some instructions to Ploy on how to find the train station I drove home intending to start the new work. But as soon as I got home I had an urgent need to visit the bathroom which is where I stayed for most of the next hour and a half. I slept for a couple hours after all had calmed down somewhat and then went to pick Ploy up from the local station. She was hungry so we went to a local pub only to find they had some do on and our meals (mine a very plain salad) were accompanied by a Scottish Pipe band; as if I wasn't feeling bad enough.
And this morning, after a good nights sleep I just felt exhausted so I decided to have a day off. Ploy has been temporarily laid off for a week as they install some new equipment which at least means I don't have to take her to work at 11.30p.m. every night. Combined with my body's insistence on waking up at 5.00a.m. that means I have been surviving on just five hours sleep every night for a couple of weeks now and working the weekends as well. Two days off, one enforced. may not be enough to properly recuperate but it will have to do. I have to put a detailed proposal together and get a demonstrator working before I go and see the company and sign the contract. I am also told I will get the UK order this week and, as I mentioned, my day job want me to visit them in California later this month.
I did manage to clear out the garage and tidy the garden earlier today so it was not a day completely given to hedonistic pleasuring but that is going to have to be it on the house and the pleasuring for a while. Heaven knows what I will do if I get another order! So before all hell breaks loose, I am off to open a bottle of wine and play some CDs.
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