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Tag Archives: IBM

  • The Burden of Being Messi
    It’s World Cup time, so that means more stories about Messi (previously: a visit to his hometown). Nothing too new here, but a reminder that we’re all waiting for him to succeed.

    “There’s less room for forgiveness for Messi,” Sottile said. They’ve built the team around him, all hopes are pinned on him and yet nobody outside his teammates has his back. Leading your team to a World Cup championship is hard enough to do in a team game, even when everybody in your country loves you. The bar for Messi is so high — it’s not just if Argentina wins, but how — that it’s basically impossible for him to meet it.

  • The Trouble With IBM
    I was still at IBM when Palmisano introduced the Roadmap 2015 plan, and thought it was really aggressive. Now that we’re a little closer to it and more details have come out how IBM is doing, I think it is a good idea that I left when I did.

    That phrase, financial engineering, is a catchall used by critics for the variety of ways IBM has made earnings per share go up even as revenue goes down. The spectrum of maneuvers starts with common practices like dividend increases and share buybacks, and extends to more esoteric tactics like designating major costs as “extraordinary” and devising ways to pay lower tax rates. The most transparent companies present their performance according to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. IBM’s 2009 annual report didn’t use the phrase “non-GAAP” at all; the 2013 report used it 125 times.

  • Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar
    Is Stairway to Heaven a rip-off? It seems pretty likely. I didn’t know that Led Zeppelin had many other songs that were rip-offs though!

    Ultimately, the legal test isn’t what experts say. Under U.S. law, the standard a jury or judge would apply is whether the song in question sounds like a copy to an ordinary lay listener. To get an idea in this case, I conducted an informal poll of passersby on Los Angeles’s Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach, playing clips from Taurus and asking what song it sounded like. Of the 58 people surveyed, 18 named Stairway to Heaven, without being given any song titles to pick from. It was the only song anyone mentioned by name, with the exception of one young man who recognized it as Taurus.

  • Meet the godfather of wearables
    Title says it all – he’s led the field for awhile, and the lead on Google Glass was one of his students
  • Guys and Dolls: Veteran Toy Designer Wrestles With the Industry’s Gender Divide
    This article starts slow, but then goes into some interesting thoughts about how toys are being made now (especially for girls)

    So we came up with this line of girls’ accessories—they weren’t dolls—based on solving mysteries or going on adventures on your bike and solving puzzles and reading maps and finding hidden things. We came up with this whole campaign, the graphics and color combinations and everything. But the marketing people looked at this and they said, “We can’t sell these,” and we said, “Why?” And they said, “Because little girls can’t read.” And we said, “Well of course girls can read, they go to school.” And they said, “No, no, no. The little girls that we would be selling this to aren’t old enough to read,” meaning 5-year-olds.

    We were designing these toys for 10-year-olds, and it was such an eye-opener that they wouldn’t even consider marketing this type of toy to a 10-year-old. I was crushed to realize that we’re limiting a whole lot of play by only selling toys to girls who are so young that they can’t read. Any kind of feature that involves reading, whether it’s instructions or a special little book or anything like that, isn’t very marketable.

After almost exactly five years as a full-time employee at IBM, I quit my job this week! I started in the first week of January 2007, and stopped working on the last week of December 2011, so it’s very close. There is a funny retention statistic in IBM that < 50% of employees have been there more than five years, I guess I didn't want to be part of the sub-50% group! I'm moving on to another company working on other things, maybe I will blog more about it later. The whole process seemed like it happened fast, but also seemed to happen slow. I found out about the new opportunity in the beginning of December and did whirlwind research, application, interview and received an offer. Then I was in a bit of a lull for a week, while waiting for offers/counteroffers/paperwork; but once everything worked out I gave my notice and today was my last day! IBM has been a good experience for me, but it's time to try something new and hopefully it will work out even better.

This week, Jeopardy had a 3-day special where two of the best Jeopardy players of all time played against an IBM supercomputer named Watson. It is an interesting news story that has been picked up by mainstream media, and marketed at work this week, but I also have interest in it from a hobbyist AI point of view.

At a high level, what Watson does doesn’t seem difficult (at least from my couch). It takes a variety of words from the answers and other factors (like previous answers in the category and category name), and then determines what other words belong in the cluster. Then it constructs a question out of the highest confidence result, which if high enough, it will buzz in and say. I’m sure the specifics are much more challenging but that’s why you have a team of people and money to fund them.

With Watson in the news, AI has become a hot topic. I have a little AI challenge of my own going on, which is to come up with competent opponents for Condado. More on that in another post.

Strangely, both of these articles had a side mention of IBM, even though neither are talking about IBM at all!

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the usefulness of interviews. In typical Gladwell manner, it is an interesting read – but it seems to just be another story based on Blink:

If this were 1965, Nolan Myers would have gone to work at I.B.M. and worn a blue suit and sat in a small office and kept his head down, and the particulars of his personality would not have mattered so much. It was not so important that I.B.M. understood who you were before it hired you, because you understood what I.B.M. was. If you walked through the door at Armonk or at a branch office in Illinois, you knew what you had to be and how you were supposed to act. But to walk through the soaring, open offices of Tellme, with the bunk beds over the desks, is to be struck by how much more demanding the culture of Silicon Valley is. Nolan Myers will not be provided with a social script, that blue suit and organization chart. Tellme, like any technology startup these days, wants its employees to be part of a fluid team, to be flexible and innovative, to work with shifting groups in the absence of hierarchy and bureaucracy, and in that environment, where the workplace doubles as the rec room, the particulars of your personality matter a great deal.

Then, William Gibson travels to Singapore on Wired’s dime and complains that it is boring.

Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore. There’s a certain white-shirted constraint, an absolute humorlessness in the way Singapore Ltd. operates; conformity here is the prime directive, and the fuzzier brands of creativity are in extremely short supply.

I’ve also previously reached the same conclusion from my couch, which is one reason why we haven’t travelled there yet.

Last week at work, I got a piece of mail. Getting mail at work is always good, the last time I got this guy. This time was not as great, but I got this:

In the summer, I participated in an ongoing extra-curricular activity at work called So You Think You Can Innovate? where teams of people around the world tried to come up with interesting ideas. We didn’t end up winning, which explains this “certificate of participation”.

What I find funny about the whole thing is that this is a quite glorified certificate. Usually they just send you a PDF which you can print out. For this event, they sent an “award” plaque that I can hang on my cubicle wall. Maybe I’ll save my wall space for better things.

I was checking up my personal history at work this week, when I noticed that a patent application I had filed way back in August 2007 had its state changed to GRANTED. Wait, what did that mean? I did some more checking and found out that my patent application is now a true bonafide patent (in the US), US patent #7,761,415. Time to rip off that patent pending sticker.

I started working on writing an article in February. It only took a day to write, and has been in review and edit cycles for a long time, but it’s finally published now! I’m not sure how they pick the featured article, but it is currently the featured article on the site.

Writing the article was a lot like writing a research paper. There are a bunch of names, but the junior people do the majority of the work. Oh well, at least it’s another Google hit for my name.

Trying to sum up an entire decade is a whole different beast than recaping a month or reviewing a year. The years 2000-2009 occupy a third of my entire life, and with this length of time means that consequences from events have been realized and affect how I’ve grown as a person.

2000: my “graduating class” at the formal.

You would think that with several years hindsight, it would be easy to look back and understand what the impact of certain choices are. I started this exercise but ended up erasing a few blogs in the process. It is fun to imagine parallel universes where certain choices were reversed, and fantasize about what could happen; but what is unknown is the probability that these alternate scenarios would actually happen. How do I know I wouldn’t be working at IBM even if I went to University of Toronto for Engineering Science?

2001: My surprise birthday party.

Perhaps a better focus is to consider what were the key events and decisions in the past decade. The 00s still spanned my formative years and that convolutes what would have happened as a process of growing up, and what changed because of environment or choices; I would have still have finished my education, found a job, gotten married, etc. The key decision in the early 00s was probably my choice of University (and whether I would stay in Toronto or not).

2002: The classic student photo!

I had a choice between staying close to home at U of T, moving to Kingston to attend Queens or attending Waterloo, a quick 1.5 hour drive from home along the 401. As it is with most kids, this was a half traumatic/half exciting experience. I was moving away and living beyond my parents’ watchful eye (although they were only a quick drive away if need be) and my newish relationship with Pauline would have to be a long distance one.

2003: Pauline and I on the ferry to Center Island

I ended up spending half of this decade in university, yet at this point I have all but forgotten about my experience there. I met a lot of people, learned and forgot a lot of things and received two pieces of paper for my efforts. I truly do not know if it made a difference that I chose Waterloo over the University of Toronto. The details would be different but my key experiences and decisions could have occurred at both places:

  • Coop vs PEY (I would still have work experience)
  • Working in the US (lots of top-tier U of T student get hired in the US)
  • Coop Rankings vs InternSHARE (opportunity to create a either)
  • Living away from home (I would have had to do it in the US anyways)
  • LDR vs a local one (still got married!)
  • Joining CAS and then working at IBM (again, many follow this path from U of T)

2004: Team WILD and our fourth year design project.

These decisions have affected me of course. My coop experience in Canada and the US have prepared me to excel at IBM and given me an understanding of how I want my career to proceed. School and entrepreneurship has made me into a better organizer and rational thinker, and I’ve had my experience and opportunity to refine myself to be better at things than when I was a teen. But all of these only matter in the particular direction I am following; at the same time there are other parts of life that I haven’t or didn’t experience because of this. What did I miss by not joining others clubs during University, or having to work non-white-collar jobs? Even if I may not be better off, can I say I would be the same person I am if I had those experiences under my belt too?

2004: Thanksgiving trip to Las Vegas with various Seattle/California coops

In the middle of the decade, the biggest growth was having the facility to travel. This was initially spurred by working in the US and truly living away from home; where I could spend weekends on travelling if I wanted to. Travelling most importantly meant exposure to different experiences and thought processes then I would have had if i turtled in Toronto.

2005: Climbing Mount Ranier in Seattle

Looking back, I regret that I didn’t take greater advantage of my freedom (in terms of time) as a student to travel; I should have went on a grad trip instead of doing another internship, and tried to publish so I could travel as a graduate student. But I’m satisfied that I’ve gone to many countries this decade and still have some opportunity to travel in the next ones.

2006: My parents and I at the Great Wall of China

2006 felt like a lost year to me; I guess it was a year of transition. In terms of day-to-day work, I spent it in my Masters degree; but because it was a bit directionless I don’t think it changed me. The other big news from the year was that Pauline and I got engaged brings us to the last phase of the decade.

2007: One of the photos from our pre-wedding photography

The end of the 00s was when I became an adult. I started my first full-time job, moved out, got married, and made big purchases with my own money. I wouldn’t say that it was a big change, because I think I was capable of taking on these responsibilities (or had grown properly and enough to take them on).

2008: We had a small ceremony, here’s everyone who was able to fit.

But I think it is a period of growth which I won’t be able to reflect upon for several years (or decades). I started this decade having almost 15 years of experience being in school. It has only been in the past few years where I have had the opportunity to be an adult without excuses; I’m no longer under my parents’ wing nor can I say I’m just a coop/intern. People look at me and now I have to be the mentor, be the leader.

2009: On the Brooklyn Bridge, NYC.

I’m still a baby at that. It will take more trials for me to become comfortable and understand what is involved to be a leader. But that is the great thing about life, you keep growing and getting better and that’s what I plan to do.

You won’t see me tagging posts with both Facebook and IBM much on this blog since it is not good to mix work and personal life. But this is an exception.

The moral of this blog is that you shouldn’t work at IBM, file a fraudulent insurance claim, and post pictures on Facebook! Ha, it wasn’t me though, which makes this story an awesome tag cocktail instead of a rant.

Last week was CASCON, IBM Centre for Advanced Studies’ annual conference. I haven’t participated (i.e., presented) anything in a few years but still go to see what people are doing. Actually most people at the lab make it a habit to go because you get free lunch! I guess this is one of the perks at working at IBM </sarcasm>. One thing that was notably different was that instead of a CD with the proceedings, we got a USB key!

It’s only 512mb which is less than a CD, but I was surprised that it only contained less than 50mb of content! I guess there were no AlphaWorks this year. But if it’s so small, they should make the proceedings available solely on the web rather than spending money on giving employees attendees free memory sticks (I mean we get free lunch already).

This week was TechConnect at the lab. TechConnect is a mini-conference where we can share ideas and technologies with others at work, and a means to pad our resume. Like last year, I presented a poster this year too.

This year, we were given the option of presenting our posters in Second Life as well. Second Life is a 3D online environment where you can virtually interact with other people; kind of like World of Warcraft except there is no real goal or reward. IBM has a big presence on Second Life and setup TechConnect on one of its islands.

The point of the exercise was so people from outside the lab would have an easy way to participate. There is a neat piece of scripting in which they placed our posters into Second Life as really big slide show projections. You could navigate through the deck like you were reading a Powerpoint presentation. Here’s my poster.

Aside from that though, the experience was pretty dumb. I didn’t have to interact with anyone, and no one really read my poster. Also I tried making my avatar look like me, but it was incredibly difficult! Hence my twin is standing off to the right.

Starting last year, I was part of a committee at work to organize an IBM team to climb the CN Tower as part of one of the semi-annual climbs. That also put me on the hook to actually take part in the climb (which I had never done before), since it would look bad if the organizers didn’t go to the event they organized right?

I didn’t really want to do the climb, but a lot of people had done it and so it seemed like a good challenge to take on. We had a display during lunch one day at work, trying to get people to participate; but most people just looked at our sign, grimaced, and declined. Maybe I would regret taking on this challenge.

To prepare, I started walking up from the parking lot to my apartment (16 floors), and that was a tough challenge. I would get up to my floor and be out of breath. And it wasn’t even 16 floors, because the stairs didn’t go down to the parking garage, so I had the ride the elevator up to the 2nd floor in order to start climbing!

Oh well, I wouldn’t let a little training deter me from my goal. The CN Tower is only some 144 stories or 1776 steps or 10x my tiring “training” run! So I went on Saturday and struggled up the tower with a couple of other people from work. It was a great exertion, but I didn’t need any paramedics and made it to the top in under 30 minutes.

It feels good to have done it, but I think this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing (unless there’s a really good reason for me to go again)! The whole experience was tough; waiting in multiple lines to go up, getting kicked back to the registration area since I tried to sneak in my cellphone, the actual climb, and lining up for even longer to take the elevator down.

The resource action has been over for awhile (at least for people not in Services), and I’ve actually heard about a lot of people affected (but they were not directly related to me). Surprisingly, we’re not in lockdown mode; which is good because morale isn’t the greatest.

But I expect it to improve, I learned a couple of weeks ago that the “raise” program would still be continuing this year; and from this story, I found out we gave out 386,000 bonuses this year!

March passed by quickly as I was pretty busy. We booked a flight to NYC a week before March break and headed there for a week. At the same time, I ordered a Dell Mini 9 but it took 2 weeks to get to me so I couldn’t bring it along (it was for the best anyways, I didn’t want to lug around a backpack). I got it the week after I got back, and spent pretty much the week getting it the way I want it to be.

I also spent some time getting Coop Rankings integrated with InternSHARE. We got on TechCrunch, which meant being syndicated in the Washington Post. There has been a further fury of activity as the result of that promotion, and still a lot of things to work on there.

On the work side, there’s a rumor around that IBM will acquire Sun Microsystems, the funny thing is that there is absolutely no information about this at work and I actually first heard about it in an elevator in Manhattan. I also found out that the merit salary increase program is still active this year, so hopefully I’ll get a raise.

The weather has been nice this month, I’ve seen people on their bikes and even some people in flip-flops! I have no idea what happened in the world though, it doesn’t seem like anything noteworthy happened.

More than once, the question of whether going to grad school was a good idea has wandered into my mind. By spending a year and a half in grad school, I ended up behind my peers who haven’t gone for more education financially and career-wise. I don’t think career-wise is that much of a difference, but financially that’s at least $100k which is quite significant.

But, I’ve come to the realization that it would have been hard to get to my current situation at IBM without going to grad school. So it seems to have worked out for me. Although I’m still not sure if it’s worth the investment.

Generally though, I still think grad school is a bad idea. I share a lot of the beliefs of this article on the problems of going to grad school, but hadn’t thought of this point in the age of change®:

8. Graduate school forces you to overinvest: It’s too high risk.
In a world where people did not change careers, grad school made sense. Today, grad school is antiquated. You invest three to six extra years in school in order to get your dream career. But the problem is that not only are the old dream careers deteriorating, but even if you have a dream career, it won’t last. You’ll want to change because you can. Because that’s normal for today’s workplace. People who are in their twenties today will change careers about four times in their life. Which means that grad school is a steep investment for such a short period of time. The grad school model needs to change to adapt to the new workplace. Until then. Stay away.

I think the idea of more education = success is too firmly engrained in immigrant minds. This leads to the though that more degrees, certifications, or titles will help, when that’s not always the case anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a rumor floating around that IBM would be laying off a bunch of people. This was rather surprising, since our fourth quarter, and 2008 results were good; but like a lot of businesses, IBM is being cautious and proactive in saving money. The (first?) axe hit last week and almost 10% of my lab was let go (at least that’s what I hear). Luckily, I wasn’t one of them.

There have been a lot of watercooler talk, as can be expected. And a lot of times a link to Alliance@IBM has come up. I had never heard their site before, but it looks like a site which is pushing to unionize IBM employees. There’s a specific forum dedicated to job cuts and you can read the angry comments from people who were let go. I can only think of this as a bad thing for people who aren’t affected. The comments are skewed because everyone brings out their good points and questions why IBM is firing them, which doesn’t present an accurate view of why they were let go. For still current employees to read this, it raises a lot of FUD. No wonder there are rumors that the site is blocked in several IBM locations around the world.

There’s a contest going on at work to create a 1-minute recruitment video for IBM to use to attract new grads in Canada. I’ve been working on an entry with a couple of people at work. Here’s the end result:

The bad thing about this contest is that in submitting the video, we have to sign over all rights to the ownership of the video to IBM. We can’t just give IBM a free, perpetual license. So I figured I’d better post this on YouTube before I lose my rights.

This week, a feature that I had been working on for the last couple of months got pulled from the product’s upcoming release. That’s not that rare, except that in this case, testing had almost been finished and we were only a couple of days away from Gold Master. There were a couple of people pissed off about this, most of them on the test team since they had already spent a lot of time testing the functionality. But not me. I already put in the effort to design and write the code, and it has all been done; so I don’t think my time has been wasted (plus I got paid for it right). I guess I’m supposed to feel bad because my hard work is not going to be shipped (at least not yet), but that’s not important to me. Is that weird?

I’m actually glad that it’s delayed because the last few weeks I felt like I’ve been tossing a water balloon around, and one day I’ll show up at work and have to clean up the mess. The problem is that the base framework I built upon has a lot of bugs (it’s also developed at IBM which is both fortunate and unfortunate). I tried to mitigate many of the risks, but once testing got into it, they did a lot of tests in areas I wouldn’t look (i.e., on Vista or in weird languages like Polish). Surprise surprise, some potentially huge problems were found and it got the hook.

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of presenting as part of my job, and some as part of work extracurriculars. Our team has switched to agile development, and one of the deliverables in Agile is to do a demo of your completed work. So last week I’ve been preparing, and recording a demo of my feature. I also ended up doing a live, web-conferenced version of the demo which after having preparing for so long was pretty easy.

On Wednesday and Thursday, IBM held an internal conference called TechConnect which was a showcase of technologies that people have been working on around the lab. The last few years, I’ve done a lot of poster sessions so I’m kind of used to it by now; so used to it that I didn’t prepare, so the first couple of talks were a bit awkward. But overall, it was pretty straightforward and fun. I had two posters, one of which was that old topic that I wrote my thesis on, and submitted a IEEE paper. I think it’s finally time to retire that idea, at least I’m really tired of talking about it.

Finally today, our early-career networking group did our quarterly presentation to our executive sponsor. I’ve been taking more and more of a leadership role on the executive council so I ended up driving the planning and organization for this meeting. Although our group has kind of been lazy lately, so it’s tough to BS that we actually did stuff the last few months.

Being a huge company, we have a lot of pedantic rules that are supposedly enforced. One is that we have to keep our laptops inside lockable furniture overnight (so no one comes by with a saw and cuts through your day time cable lock). Our co-op student is using a laptop, but her office doesn’t have any furniture so I lent her my filing cabinet to lock her laptop in. This morning she came in and said she forgot my (only) key. Oops!

Well being a huge company, we have procedures in place to take care of this. We can make a facilities request for a new key and all our cabinets and closets have numbered locks so a key can be quickly mapped. I looked up my closet’s lock, called them, and told the woman on the phone that my lock number was 8622; to which she said that there were no locks in the building numbered over 4000!

Oops, ok maybe I screwed up, maybe it was 3622. I went and took a closer look; and it sure did look like 8622, so I said I was fairly certain that it was an 8. Anyways, she said she would come take a look, plus she had to unlock the filing cabinet. In the meantime, I went down to the co-op’s office and examined the lock on the cabinet again. It was there that I had an A-Ha! moment. If you looked at the number upside down, you could read it as 2298 (imagine 2s written like Ses). I was sure that was the screw up.

In the end it turns out that I was wrong. It was 3622. There goes my theory…

It’s almost summer! How do I know? because all the summer students arrived at IBM this week and went through their orientation etc. That means that are really no more empty spaces here at the lab, although hopefully the parking lot will get emptier (since people go on vacation, and students don’t drive…usually).

This is worthy of a blog because this year, our team has a co-op, and I get to be the “Connections Coach”. At other companies, I think a co-op would have a mentor, but even though we have the mentoring concept at IBM, coop’s aren’t assigned a mentor. Instead, their Connections Coach is the go-to person to get them up to speed (i.e., installing software, getting access to stuff). It’s a bit weird really, because there is no assigned mentor; so either the entire team has to fill that role or they get the shaft.

Most of the co-ops or IIPs (16 month terms) start in the summer. There were about 150-200 people starting this week. Now, if you were in charge of matching up these ~150 people to their 100 Connection Coaches, what do you think would be the most efficient way to do it? I know that our method of sitting all 150 people in a room and the having each Connection Coach come up one-by-one to the stage and announce the name of their co-op out loud is not high on that list…

This Saturday I had to go to work. Kind of. Work reserved my Saturday because they planned a team outing to celebrate/reward us for our recent efforts. It’s by far the most grandiose event since I started at IBM and from what I’ve heard I shouldn’t expect stuff like this happening very often. Oh well. Anyways, the event started with a matinee showing of (The Life and Adventures of) Nicholas Nickleby. I’ve heard this was in town, but didn’t know too much about it aside that it’s based off of a Dickens’ book. We had Orchestra level seats, right at the boundary where the second level starts (above us), which are the best seats I’ve had at the Princess of Wales.

I didn’t know much about the story or the play, fortunately the programme included a synopsis of what happens. It was also at this point that I realized that there was a Part 1 and a Part 2 of the play, and our 3-hour showing was only Part 1! Unfortunately for Nicholas Nickleby, it’s not Lord of the Rings. I realized this about half an hour into it as it went on and on about the life of some English guy. This is definitely not a show for my generation and maybe the movie would be more interesting.

Fortunately for us, we didn’t have to sit through part 2 because our agenda brought us to the CN Tower (no we weren’t doing the CN Tower climb). About 200 of us rode the elevator up to the Horizons Cafe (above the glass floor level) for some cocktails (no open bar though) before making our way up to the 360 restaurant. This was my first time there and I was kind of disappointed that the entire structure didn’t move, but only a track on which the tables are on. We had a set menu to choose from (Chicken, Salmon or Vegetarian) and were given color coded cards beforehand so that we could display them for the waiters. As you would expect from a group that took over half the restaurant, the food was mass produced and I didn’t think it was that good.

We got good seats however, and stayed around for almost two hours (or 1.5 revolutions) as the sun went down. I didn’t bring my camera SLR though, maybe I should have because the light was pretty good even if there was a bit of a cloud cover. After dessert, ever employee got a gift, which turned out to be a teal 1GB iPod Shuffle. It’s not too useful since I already bought a 2GB one, and plus I can’t sell it because it’s engraved with a personal message from IBM!

What’s been happening this week? Well my parents are off on a duckling tour so I have the place to myself (yay) but I also have to make sure I don’t burn it down or flood it (boo).

The Senior VP and Group Executive of the IBM software group, Steve Mills, came by on Wednesday to visit the Toronto Lab. If IBM only made software, I guess he would be the CEO of the place. It was a big event, but not for the employees. The public areas of the building were cordoned off for media and I suppose there were various tech demos for them. All we got was a one-hour town hall with Mills, although I am not complaining because I usually don’t get a lot out of these “we’re a great company” rah-rah things.

On Thursday, our early career employee group hosted an ice cream float social for the lab, so I ended up scooping out a lot of ice cream and pouring out a lot of pop. The purpose was to get people to show up, hang around, and chat. But we got a lot of people that either had a lot of work or were freeloaders, because they left right after the received their float. I suspect the latter because many of them also did not fit the first-five-years-of-your-career criteria, unless they were all working on their PhDs until they were 30.

Because Lotus is a subsidiary of IBM, we use Lotus Notes as our corporate email and general collaborative software. Normally dogfooding your own products is acceptable, but I think most people frown upon using Lotus Notes. It sucks compared to Microsoft Outlook, and feels like you’re using a Windows 3.1 app.

It’s the little things that makes Outlook look polished, because for the most part the major features are there in both products. For example, the Out of Office assistant. When I took a day off to do studio pictures, I activated my Out of Office to send an annoying reply message if anyone sent me mail. I didn’t bother changing my phone message, because it’s not like I get business-related calls. Plus, I have a message from Pauline that’s been flashing on my phone for over 2 weeks now; which I haven’t retrieved because I forgot what my voicemail password was and have been to lazy to reset it (also because I don’t want to deal with the internal help desk).

So short story made longer, when I came back on Monday; I had an email in my Inbox from myself welcoming me back from vacation. Apparently Notes has a neat little feature that sends an email to yourself reminding you to turn off the Out of Office assistant. Nice little example of something that Notes got right for once, now for the other 12349872394823983453984 bugs…

I’m part of a volunteer group at work which organizes events for early-career employees. This past Friday, we organized a Movie Day to see The Simpsons Move on the day it came out. We rented out a theatre in the afternoon and invited people who weren’t swamped with work to come see The Simpsons for free. It went pretty well and actually didn’t require a lot of planning.

I haven’t watched The Simpsons religiously in maybe 5 years. And by that I mean I haven’t even caught a single episode in the last few years. From what I hear, the quality of the jokes is no longer as good. However, it seemed like a lot of people had high hopes that the movie would be funny and great. After watching it, I can’t say that I’m overly impressed. It felt like a 22-minute episode idea that was more drawn out to fit 90 minutes. I mean the gist of the story is pretty simple which I could explain in 3 sentences. This meant that they could spend more time setting up gags and executing them, which I suppose is good for random humor.

In terms of funiness, there was never an opportunity or incident that made me laugh and laugh endlessly; and I think the rest of the audience was like that too. They had the requisite number of social commentary jokes, inside jokes for fans, and slapstick humor. Nothing huge was revealed or changed, and the town reset after the movie. Because of that, I wasn’t overly impressed and give The Simpsons 3 out of 5 stars.

Afterwards, we headed over to Kelseys for some networking, free food and drink. I think when restaurants hear that companies have something like this planned. They start jumping for joy, because they earned a lot of revenue without needing to provide a lot of service or food!