Kim & Gabe Survive

Important note: The following pages are preliminary. They have not been vetted/edited/edited/criticized/proof read/deleted/laughed at by anybody except the author. Please read at your own grammatical risk.

Friday, May 18, 2012 4:31p.m. All that was needed was one last meeting and Gabe Alexander was officially on vacation. What Gabe couldn’t possibly know was that his simple vacation was going to be nothing like he like he expected. In the end, this simple vacation would affect the lives of every single person on earth. How could he have known? How could anybody have known?
Gabe had arrived at the conference room early and was day dreaming about what a wonderful time he was going to have on the cruise. Gabe kept thinking about how nice the Alaska air would smell and how good this trip would be for his family. Just one last meeting.
The team began to arrive and sat down at the conference table. This movement broke Gabe out of his wonderful vacation thoughts and he asked, “Who’s the new guy?” “Umm, my name is John Fuller, I’m an intern.” “Cool, glad to have you here John. I’m Gabe and I’m the lead designer on the RAID Five project. But, given how this project is going, I will probably be demoted to toilet cleaner or something.”
The group burst into laughter and Gabe said, “Over there is Ramon. He is helping in layout. Over there is Gustavo who’s helping with design. Over there is James. He works with production and this is Rachel. She works with the important stuff. You know budgets, money and keeping us employed.” Rachel said in a mildly sarcastic funny voice, “It’s called forecasting. Budgets are for people who get their credit card taken away.” The group laughed and Gabe said, “OK so that’s everybody except Satto. He is the always-late project manager.
“Let me bring you up to speed on what has been going on. IBM has this old line of computer mainframes. Inside is a RAID controller on an ASIC. In case you don’t know, a RAID controller operates several hard drives at the same time. Also, case you don’t know, an ASIC is a custom integrated electronic circuit or IC. That’s what we do here.”
John asked in a confused voice, “Sort of like a Pentium?” “A Pentium is a lot more complex than an ASIC, but that’s the general idea. Anyway, IBM misplaced the design of this particular controller. Normally, IBM would simply use their own bright people to make a new design. However, they’re busy with other projects. Somehow Silicon Serpent managed to get the contract. By the way, you now work for Silicon Serpent.
“Before all this, the greatest project engineer ever, Tim Green interfaced with IBM, got all the specs and coordinated the project. It was all going really well. Unfortunately, Tim’s wife got cancer and he had to take some personal leave.
“As head designer, I took over the project engineer tasks. I was able to convince IBM to slightly alter their design. This change resulted in improved performance, reduced cost and most importantly, reduced development time.” Ramon, Rachel, James and Gustavo hollered their approval.
Gabe made a big sigh and said, “Things were going really smooth and our head of marketing decided to make Satto the project manager. Part of the project manager’s job is to sit in on their marketing meetings and I never did this. So, it kind of makes sense to have a project manager.
“Satto’s first design was the Tiger Two graphics processor for the Blackberry cell phone. It had endless delays, endless bugs and worthless documentation. Anyway, when that project was shut down, Satto took over as the project manager of the RAID Five design. Within a week, there were tons of changes and my nearly finished design was scrapped. Now IBM is upset, we’re way over budget and the schedule is completely blown.
“Today we’re going to have a pointless meeting to discuss some new changes that Satto has come up with. We’ll listen to him and then discuss how senseless his changes are. Then we’ll discuss how much time it’ll cost and James will inform the team that this schedule slip is completely unacceptable. We will then discuss the cost increase and Rachel will tell us that no matter what anybody says, the company doesn’t have the budget for any of this. Ramon and Gustavo were taken off other projects to help us get back on track.
“That kind of brings you up to speed. Do you—” Satto Tonegawa dramatically slammed opened the door and he boldly walked into the room. His is a short wiry man with thinning hair and he dressed in a silk pattern shirt. Satto was the type of person who never smiled and didn’t join in the typical company environment comradery. He looked around in disapproval at the people assembled and dramatically slammed a stack of papers on the desk. Gabe could tell he was in a bad mood and thought, Just a few more minutes and my vacation can start!
Satto began speaking in an angry loud high-pitched voice, “I listened to everything you said! I want you to all to know that none of what this man has said is true! The Tiger Two is an extraordinary successful product used in billions of cell phones all over the world! As for the RAID Five project, we would be ahead of schedule except all of you never do any work!”
Gabe said in a sarcastic voice, “Billions of cell phones? The Tiger Two has never been in production. Plus, how many work around’s did it have?” Satto had a defiant look and Gabe said with a slightly angry voice, “There were over 1,100 of them and they were all poorly written. My last project had two, Ramon’s Delta II had eight and Gustavo, I think the Cornerstone Revision C don’t have any.” Satto grasped a thick red binder with anger.
While gritting his teeth, Satto said in a deeply controlled voice, “You are well aware that the Tiger Two requires another revision and all of those minor inconsistencies would be corrected!” Gabe shook his head and said in an annoyed voice, “Minor inconsistencies? You had 12 revisions to get it right. Twelve! Your design got worse with each revision. Finally, Blackberry stopped us from wasting their money.” Satto stood up and slowly walked around the room to collect his thoughts. Gabe watched his angry display and thought, This is almost over. Just a few minutes more and my vacation can start.
Satto looked defiant and spoke in slow well thought out words, “This isn’t why we’re here today. I have been in discussion with IBM and these are the changes we agreed upon.” Satto handed out some neatly bound pages. Gabe, Ramon and Gustavo looked them over carefully. Gustavo was the first to speak, “You are changing all the logic processing? Umm—I don’t understand this part. What’s a ‘quad to delta’ converter?” Ramon picked up the conversation and said confidently, “You are using matrix logic? Matrix logic is for doing graphics or computations. Not a disk controller.”
Satto cut the two men off and said in an overly dramatic loud voice, “I have made my decision! You will carry out my orders! There will be no further discussion!” He picked up his binder and started to leave. Gabe spoke up, “You’re scrapping every single instruction and then putting in some sort of emulator? OK, we will have to start from scratch and this is going to take at least six months to sort out.” James interrupted, “We have to get to production ASAP. Six months isn’t going to fly no matter what anybody says.” Satto turned in anger and said dramatically, “It won’t take six months!” Satto straightened himself and began taking measured paces around the room. The assembled people wondered what he was going to do next.
Satto suddenly stopped walking and spoke slowly with slight pauses in between each word, “We will use the graphics core from the Tiger Two processor as it is well understood. This is why I have carefully described the matrix instructions. This will save us time and get us back on schedule. Gabe, I forbid you from conveying this meeting with Al. He has personally approved of my decision!” With that, Satto dramatically left.
The team looked at each other and Gustavo was the first to speak, “Use a graphics core in a disk controller? Talk about apples and oranges.” Ramon said, “That’s just not going to work. The logic scheme would be totally different. Plus, it isn’t in the spec. IBM would eat a plateful of crow before doing that. And by the way, the Delta II only had three work arounds thank you very much.” The group laughed.
Gabe got up, walked to where the intern was sitting and said to John, “Not bad for your first day? I got a plane to catch and this is going to take me two hours to write up and email to Uncle Al.” John looked confused and stammered, “I thought Mr. Satto said not to? He is my boss. Right?” “OK, Al Horne or Uncle Al as the inner circle calls him runs the company. When this project started slipping, I asked Al if I could copy him on important emails.”
Gustavo got up to leave and said, “Gabe, what are you going to do?” “Write an email, get on a plane, not think about this place for a week and have the most relaxing vacation ever.” The group laughed and left the conference room.
Back at his cubicle, Gabe was writing out a long email describing all the changes and their impact. He also started a backup of all his work. The backup was both on the company server and on a portable hard drive that he was going to take home. Gabe knew that taking company confidential information off site was strictly against company policy, but he was concerned that his work might be compromised in his absence. He was especially concerned that Satto might try to sabotage his work. Gabe knew that this kind of activity would be unprecedented, even for Satto, however, he still felt it was a good precaution.
Gabe could hear that somebody was walking toward his cubicle. Suddenly Satto began yelling, “Because of your actions, I have rescinded your vacation! You are to work here all weekend if you value your job!” Gabe kept typing and didn’t look up. Satto asked in an animated louder voice, “Did you hear me?!” Satto watched as Gabe calmly type and he said in a wildly dramatic voice, “You will answer me!” Gabe raised his eyes over the screen and looked at Satto. He quietly said, “I don’t answer to you. I had this vacation approved by Gloria a long time ago. If you had left the project as it was, it would’ve been finished two months ago, and I would be halfway finished with some new project.” “You are to stop typing now!”
Gabe briefly looked up from his typing and said, “There is an old saying. ‘You can attract a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ You should think about that.” Satto looked furious, started to speak and then stopped. Gabe looked at him for a moment and returned to typing. Satto made a huff sound and dramatically stormed off. Gabe shook his head and wondered why such an abusive person was still employed at Silicon Serpent.
Gabe finished the email and printed out a sign for his cubicle stating the he would be on vacation. Gabe got his portable hard drive and put it in his gym bag, left his cubical and said, “Vacation officially started! Yes!”
Gabe was walking toward the exit when a confident voice asked, “Working late?” Gabe turned to see Al Horne walking his way. Al was a big intimidating guy in his mid-sixties with a gray crew cut, in a white shirt with thin black tie. Gabe always thought he looked like a linebacker rocket scientist from the Apollo program.
At the moment, Al seemed relaxed and was smiling. Gabe smiled and said in a friendly voice, “Hi Uncle Al, I’m guessing you have looked at my latest email.” “Yes, yes I did. Satto came by and we chatted about your performance. He wants me to fire you.” Gabe nodded his head from side to side. He knew that Satto had threatened this action many times. Gabe suddenly felt a sense of relief that he would never see Satto again. The pressure had been substantial and Gabe knew that it was affecting his home life.
Gabe made a deep sigh and replied in a low voice, “That’s unfortunate. Is this my last day?” Al, looked at Gabe and placed his hand on a nearby cubicle and began making small circles with his index finger. He appeared to be deep in thought and asked in a faraway voice, “Do you know how we got the IBM contract?” Gabe shook his head and Al answered, “I play golf with Nick Stanley. He is the vice president of development, at the IBM mainframe division. I have been carefully letting that punk win for the last four years hoping to get some decent IBM business.
“Finally, that SOB threw us a bone which was in reality us saving his pencil thin neck. When you were running the project, do you know what that fool said about you?” Gabe shook his head. Al said in a slightly raised voice, “He said nothing! That chicken-choker is a perfectionist. He is always criticizing everyone and everything. Always going off on how I make my putts. Always saying that I slice to the left when I play strait. Saying nothing is the highest compliment that worthless excuse of a human being can give. When Satto took over, I started getting calls. I got calls at home, in the car and even when I was on the can! You know what the worst part of it all was?”
Gabe had no idea where the conversation was going, shook his head and Al answered, “The worst part was that all of Nick’s high-minded complaints were completely on target. The absolute worst part was that schmuck was actually holding back his true opinions, out of professional courtesy.”
“I’m tired of making excuses for that fool Satto! I told him that he’s off the project. Now, I want you to have a nice vacation and don’t worry about this place. When you get back we’ll get everything back on tract. Gabe, you do good work and we’re happy to have you here. Say hello to Lydia, Christy and Victoria for me.” Gabe was floored and said in a happy voice, “Wow, that’s a relief. Thank you, Al. Have a wonderful weekend.” Gabe was instantly relieved and began feeling good for a change. He was also amazed that Al had remembered his family’s names. On the way home Gabe wondered if Al actually remembered their names or looked it up in the personal files before they met. Gabe thought, Either way, doesn’t matter. I am not thinking about anything technical for a whole week! I’m on vacation now!
Copyright © 2018 Bill Conrad