Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Missed Calls of Misery

We have this machine, named ML1, in the chocolate factory. It has the lowest reliability performance in the last week report. And the week before. And weeks before. The reliability team for this machine has been under a lot of pressure to get the machine up and running, from the current 57% reliability to the target 80%. The expert for this machine from the reliability team was Gordon.

I was with Gordon in the office last night. We had a long trouble shooting and adjustment work at ML1. The cooling tunnel got stuck very frequently of late. There were mechanical misalignments at many critical points. Each time it happened, the chocolate got too cold due to the long storage and formed cracked lines. We had big time downtime to remove all the chocolate and to rework it. Gordon was our man to lead the corrective work. He has done all the precise alignments and new settings adjustment of the cooling tunnel. So we had this little talk in the office at 11PM last night.

Gordon : I'm leaving after 11PM. Since 7PM we don't have any carriage jam.
Myself : Tell me what you've done today.

My tone was a little sarcastic since I have heard the same assurance since few weeks but the problem kept coming back. He sensed that I was not convinced. So he took the trouble to take a piece of fresh paper and illustrate all his work today. In order not to discourage him, I was patiently listening to his explanation. It seemed endless, then I cut him.

Myself : Hey Gordon, we bought KFCs for the contractors working extra hours today. There are a few packs extra. Grab one before you go home, will you?

Gordon smiled at my thoughtfulness. He ended his explanation and headed to the cafeteria.
I was minding my own affair in the office. The server has been down. My work has been slowed. After about half an hour, Gordon came back with a happy full stomach. I signed off his late night transport arrangement.

Myself : Thank you for tonight. But stay tuned. I might call you up if we face a problem again.
Gordon : Ok.

He left the factory close to midnight. I left hours later. The next morning I woke up late. When I woke up my phone battery was low. So I charged it by my bedside. I left my apartment to pay some bills and did a little shopping at the Mall of Emirates. I'm flying home this Friday and I haven't bought anything to pack along. I spent hours there without carrying my mobile phone. When I got home, I had 7 missed calls. I noticed one of the numbers was my wife's. So I dialled.

My son Hadiff fell down from bed this morning. He has bruises on his cheek. He is in paediatric ward for further monitoring after he vomitted twice. My wife said there is nothing to worry. It's just a formality in paediatric practice just to be certain. It is a huge relief but the thought of my little boy sleeping in the hospital gives me some kind of uneasiness. Next, I dialled the other missed call. It was my counterpart, Harry's. Harry answered my call.

Harry : Man, we called you many many times. Have you heard?
Myself : What's wrong?
Harry : Gordon passed away.

It was hard for me to swallow. The man was with me last night. He was very much alive - no sign of dying, not at all.

Gordon has been with the company for a good 10 years. He died today of heart failure at the age close to 40. Life is short. Death seizes us without warning. I was one of those who occasionally pushed him to get results. He tried hard to prove himself. It might as well be that damn f***ing old machine and it's stupid design that stressed him up and killed him. It is a depressive thought that I was also playing a part when I was thinking of the possibilities of factors that push him to his early exit, leaving his wife alone in this world to raise his three young daughters. What a misery.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I was lost in the real world for a while and had difficulty to find my way back to the blog sphere. Thankfully, I'm not dead and gone. Indeed, I have friends who held the torch high. They have guided and encouraged me to come back into this virtual space. So here I am. During the stint of my disappearance, I have been busy with a couple of things.....

The Home Search
My tenancy contract is expiring this June. It's the time of the year to check various sites in the net in search for a spot to live in from hundreds of options available. It makes no sense for me to continue renting in my current apartment when there are better and cheaper options available in abundance now. It's kind of nomadic when I really come to think about it. There is no permanence and no sense of belonging. I found myself checking out from one apartment to another, to see if I can fit in. One day I found this nice place in Dubai Marina, affordable (since the rental rate has gone down now and my accommodation allowance has been increased by 40%) but relatively pricey and deadly tempting. It's got a view to die for, from the balcony on the 9th floor. It was really a boastful view of the chic Marina Walk with the nicely moored yachts and the tamed green waterways which narrowly open to the Arabian Sea. A yearly rent for this apartment is equivalent to the full ownership of a single storey terrace house in Malaysia. Luckily, I'm 36, old enough to resist the temptations that are so rife in Dubai.

The view from an apartment that I almost signed an annual deal

My search has been quite extensive that my final decision has gone beyond my expectation. I have linked up with this desperate banker who offers me to own an apartment. It's a mutuality business deal given the current situation in Dubai where supply is exceeding the demand, people are losing their jobs and leaving Dubai and properties values have touched the bottom. The bank need buyers and cash. I need an affordable home. After a tedious scrutiny of my financial statements, my application has been approved. So now I can skip the annual home search and I have a place I own. I'm buying at almost the lowest price. If the property value bounces back and the rental rates goes high again in years to come, I am unaffected. The unit that I own is an apartment, not as breathtaking as the one in Dubai Marina, but it has a peaceful view from the balcony on the fourth floor. Looking down there is a courtyard, a square garden and close to a small swimming pool. I will have my hands dirty cleaning the apartment and probably I will be doing wall painting too. There will be furnishing work to be done next. By the way, the apartment is numbered 408. I really hope it's not going to be a freaky lost chamber in a wild and out-of-track time as shown in the movie 1408.

The view from the apartment that I finally signed an ownership deal

The bedroom window which I plan to fix a built-in settee for the daylight reading

The empty living room of my new apartment.

Joining the Club

My running has caused me to loose a lot of essential muscles. It freaks me out thinking that my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandma, my aunties and all, would nag me the next time they meet me. They would say repeatedly either " kau tak makan ke apa? " or " kau sakit ke? ". So I join this fitness club. They have assigned me a personal trainer to look into my needs, make a plan and assist me in the execution. My trainer is called Ren. He has trained many marathoners in Dubai. In our first session, Ren asked me, "So what do you want to achieve?". Really, I like this question as I am a dreamer and it has led me to endless happy dreams. But I only remembered telling Ren, "I want to clock in below 4 hours 30 minutes in my next marathon. In doing so, I want to maintain my ideal weight. I want overall good muscle tone with good flexibility. Mind you, I am 36 now. And I want that six packs too on my ab". Ren said, "Well, considered done". After that happy scoping session, life has been really tough for me. I am working out with Ren 3 times a week and he has really worked me out. It's regimental and dreadful. There are days when I wake up and can't have my limbs straightened. But it makes me feel good. No pain, no gain.

Back to the Desert
Amer, an extreme sport enthusiast and my other office mates had organized a marvellous desert trip for our team building and bonding last weekend. This has been my second outing in the desert. The desert setting was somewhat different from what I remembered in my first trip. We were there after series of rain that hit Dubai lately. The sand was moist and hard as our 4x4 traversed through it. It was not as barren as before. The rain has brought about patches of vegetation in the desert landscape. We had fun. The weirdest thing we did was taking turn to drive on the 4x4 blind-folded, while others gave direction. But kids, don't try it on your own.

The lost people in the desert and the green patches that grow after the frequent rain

The sightless lady boss driving in the desert - she's a natural cool driver

Coco Cola tastes better in the desert

Back Home
I have booked my ticket home on the 24th April to spend time with my daughter on her birthday. She is a Taurean, a really hard type to figure out. I am pondering on ways to reach her core in the nick of time. Another tough task that I'm also strategizing at the back of my mind. Lately my wife has informed that my daughter has displayed an early sign of unpleasant negativity, which worries me. In order to leave the chocolate factory for 11 days, I found myself soaked in my work trying to get things done well in advance.

So there you have them. My excuses for not blogging for the past 2 weeks.