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A typical day in my life
Published on January 1, 2004 By Phil Osborn In Business
The new Windows version of Gimp is out! REALLY nice. So many features that one could spend a year just learning them all. Meanwhile, my 700Mhz Pentium, state of the art two years ago, but hardly a decent home system by today's standards, has slowed down enormously, barely able to multitask any more, since LH installed some kind of anti-virus software - and, I assume, more stupid spyware.

During recent months, I have heard several discussions of the pending implementation of total video surveilance at SL (where I work). There was question, apparently, as to whether a 16 input multiplexor would be sufficient. Keeping in mind that there are only six to eight regular employees besides MB and the Chinese owner family, and most of them are at virtually all times in full view of MB as well as Ch and Lh, it is puzzling what purpose will be served..

At one point the issue of taping that many cameras was raised, and my understanding is that no continuous taping is envisioned. Thus, either MB and/or Mr. H will be using the system for realtime surveillance. No slackers at SL! - or initiative or thought - just robot obediance. This is certainly more and more the case with my job. At the old location, my isolation served the purpose of allowing me to initiate projects such as the graphics experiments that produced the KYM separations (separating product photos into red and black inks that look exactly like full four-color process), or the various custom graphics such as the AMP... box..

No such initiative is now possible. Anything which does not involve continuous motion of the mouse or keyboard entry is assumed to be frivolous or evidence that I do not have sufficient work. If I move from my machine to the one that has internet access, then immediately MB starts with the agonized squirming and heavy sighs, and, usually within 30 seconds, or almost always within five minutes, he finds "something for me to do." The fact that I am responsible for the website - 850+ pages - and my ONLY source of info is the web, as LH has taken all the CDs and my reference books are all vintage 1997 or before - is irrelevant in the face of training No. 1 son, LH, to be a BOSS.

What kind of idiots they expect to be able to retain when they finally have to replace me is open to question, as no person at even 25% of my level of expertise would stay under the current policies any longer than they absolutely had to, and would quickly start rebelling in between. Which is what happened before I arrived, and they were in truly desperate straits at that point, too, having gone thru a half dozen people in less than a year. .

They're no doubt betting on a continuation of the recession, which will allow them to suck in recent UCI grads, promise them all kinds of total BS, then replace them with another victim. Just like the early '90's recession. Of course, even then, they still had to pay double to retrain every employee every few months, but, given the huge profits they take in Taiwan, not paying much of any taxes here in the U.S. as they sell to themselves, they can still afford to run with incredible inefficiencies here.

Thus, my expertise and the extent to which I have kept current with internet technique have slowly slid toward obsolesence. The idea that anything could possibly take more than five minutes to learn is totally abhorent to MB, implicitly threatening, as it implies that an employee might know something important which he does not, and, furthermore, utterly beyond his experience as he clearly cannot absorb complex information except by picking other people's brains. Then he only picks up collections of facts in isolation, without integration or real understanding, almost like some kind of epistemological parrot..

In the early days of MB's CCTV campaign (to make SL, which had never sold ANY CCTV products before, a major CCTV distributor), when it became apparent that he had no real understanding of the technical issues (and neither did anyone else, other than myself), I located several sets of fairly comprehensive introductory documentations online. One of them I printed out for JK, who was in charge of the CCTV manuals, even though I provided most of the input as well as the final formatting and the diagrams. This particular document was notable for explaining fairly technical issues, such as choosing lenses, in sufficient detail and with sufficient supporting data to be of real value as a general reference during sales contact.

MB found the printout during review of JK's work and, not knowing that it came from me, I think, announced that this was perfect(!) and should be copied and distributed to all SL personnel. He instructed LH to make copies for everyone. LH then proceeded to make copies and give them to everyone but me. Later, a technical issue came up regarding the manual and MB accused me of insufficient attention to detail. "It's all right here in the documentation, Phil. Why didn't you look it up?"

I pointed out that I didn't have a copy of the documentation, at which point MB querilously asked LH why I hadn't received one. I forget LH's reply. MB cut him off and ordered him to make a copy for me, to which LH assented, but of course he never did. If any employee was as unreliable as LH they would be out the door in a minute.

The whole CCTV affair is a good illustration of various aspects of the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese business practices. Because MB can only ask owner family members to do jobs, and, of course, they can refuse or simply not do the work, he is notably loath to make any demands of them, lest they simply ignore him. Mr. H is a different matter altogether. He can disown his children or make life miserable for them, and they live in terror of his displeasure. For any typical Chinese business, trying to bring in outside, non-family management must pose this sort of problem.

On the other hand, Chinese rulers thrive on keeping everyone afraid of everyone else, and thus unable to build a power base to challenge them or use for bargaining.

Potentially more dangerous is the utter failure to base decisions upon hands-on personal knowledge. At no point to date has SL had the in-house capacity to actually test any of the CCTV equipment in-house. They have literally never plugged any of it in, and, until the recent security show in Miami, no one from SL had ever seen any of it function.

I suggested on several occasions that Mr. H had some nice composite display monitors that could be used to test the cameras, but this was met with blank stares. Why? Instead, MB sent out samples to various dealers who he knew were into CCTV, asking for their evaluation.

Or, when purchasing a product for resale in quantity, knowing one's reputation rests on the quality, one could opt to simply believe whatever specs one is handed. This procedure was also followed up to the point that I started doing the manual and, upon accessing several different online or print sources from the Korean manufacturer, noticed direct contradictions in various major specifications, such as infrared capabilities for the color CCTV cameras, or lux levels of sensitivity, which varied more than an order of magnitude for the same product, depending upon the particular source.

Contradictions and discrepancies existed both between various sources and between the claims made and common sense or technical possibility. Each time I requested clarifications and JH finally deigned to make some meager effort to speak to the Manufacturer's rep, at which point I got back a new set that contradicted the others. I doubt personally any of the specs, especially things like lux, as SL still has absolutely no capacity to test them independently. (still all true - 2004)

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