A New Challenge!

Posted by Ian On June 5, 2009

I'm pleased to announce that I have started my own little company - mare ad mare, which is latin for 'sea to sea' and part of the Canadian motto (check the cover of your new passports). Our goal will be to build a fresh new brand of clothing for Canadian (and wannabe Canadian) girls. I will be using this blog, much as I have in the past - to continue showing people around the globe (over 50 countries now!) what it's like to be a Canadian girl, tracing the footsteps of our 3 girls as we explore more of this great place we call home.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Now for big girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.


Fall shirt for Canadian girls

A big pile of leaves for you here! As a Canadian summer turns to fall, the leaves change colours and then fall off the trees. Kids rake them up and play! So go on, Jump into Fall with this Orange T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Pass the Marshmallows!

Summer shirt for Canadian Girls

Summer in Canada is the time for camping, camp fires and of course - Marshmallows! Get ready to go roast some in this summer yellow T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.


Spring shirt for Canadian Girls

After a long Canadian winter, spring can never arrive too soon! Pull on this Spring Green T and go planting girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

It's not ALWAYS cold in Canada...

Winter shirt for Canadian Girls

How many times have you had to tell someone that it's not always cold here? Well, sometimes it is cold - but to make your point, grab this little winter blue T and let them know that it's not just snow and ice up here all the time! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Girls, grab this little white T, and go get your kiss ;-) Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Took a little while to recover from that last post... a nice long weekend with the fam at home is pretty good for that (yes - a week behind...). Didn't help with the job search, but that can wait a few days.

So you think you can Dance?

For those of you that know us - you know that the girls are dance CRAZY. They are members of the Elite Dance Studio here in Kanata, and practically live there... They were very happy to find out that So you think you can Dance - was going to be doing a Canadian show, and watched religiously. Being typical canadians, they didn't pick their favourites - just liked them all. They were even happier to find out at the end of the season, that they'd be going on tour and that they would be going to Scotiabank Place. Sara went online almost immediately to snag tickets - heard they sold out a very short time later.
Getting the arena and finding our seats - geez... 40 bucks doesn't get you much of a view! You can see in the vid - pretty much the view we had. I didn't have my video camera with me to zoom - so it's pretty representative.

Despite the view - the girls had a great time. And I was SEVERELY outnumbered, it must have been at least 10 to 1, girls to guys... 20 years ago I might not have thought that too bad ;-)
But pretty much all around us, and particularly directly to my one side - there was group a french girls just gushing over Nico - this seasons winner. I guarantee that not many of them were able to speak the next day after all the screaming they did that night...


The next day was family day in Ontario, and with Winterlude going on - we thought it was the perfect chance to finally see it... Going to school in the Ottawa area, I never attended - I believe that we referred to it as 'Wienerlude' - some dorky thing for tourists and families to attend. Well, guess what... we kinda fit both those categories now - so off we went!
Against a pretty nice backdrop of the parliament buildings over in Gatineau, was the Winterlude park. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for it - just hovering around 0c with the sun shining. Good weather is quite necessary for the kids to actually enjoy themselves! There were snow sculptures, tube rides down a snow hill, ice slides, snow mazes and of course food... Since we went on the monday, none of the 'exhibits' were open - but those are pretty much only advertising venues - so not really missing too much.
As you'll see in the next video - the girls got to enjoy the tubes and the ice slides, but didn't get to taste the Beavertails...

We had a hard time convincing Emma to finally go down those ice slides. She heard that someone had been hurt and was unconscious after going down one of the slides. Didn't help much when that person had to be dragged out on a toboggan by the medics! But she finally warmed up to it and we all went down together. After that she didnt' want to stop!

All in all, a pretty good weekend. But that was over a week ago! I'll write something up in the next day or so about the job search and my strategy...

This is my last day with Qimonda/Infineon.

It comes without celebration, without handshakes, without the sympathy smiles of those left behind - and without 'the walk'. No goodbye lunches, no drinking til dawn to reminisce... I am missing out on all the best things about leaving a company. I even had to mail in my badge yesterday...

I guess for me it's somewhat fitting that there is no big goodbye at any one site. For me, my life at Qimonda/Infineon was nomadic. Even when at my 'home' sites - I was never at home - well until recently when I 'formed' Qimonda Canada ;-)

While there is a lot of anger aimed at the company for its collapse, I would prefer to remember the good times. This company gave me the opportunity to travel to many places, and meet so many great people - friends - many of whom have already left the company... all I want to do right now, is remember the extrodinary times.

I know that this note would really be the only fair way to say goodbye.

Rough start
One of the best stories I used to hear, was from Bussey. He was the manager that was hiring me. He called up one night, and Sara answered and told me who it was - now the way Bussey tells it - she yelled down to me 'It's that guy with the southern accent from Texas!'. In one sentence, she managed to offend him twice ;-) One - he doesn't claim to have an accent, everyone else does and two - he wasn't from Texas! Now to be fair, the hiring agent that we were working through WAS from Texas, so probably got them confused... nice start to a new job!
It was all good though, and he still remembers that to this day.

A few weeks in to the job - it was February - Richmond, VA. A little snow was falling... I thought nothing of it of course, having just left 6 feet of it - but everyone was at the window watching it fall. I joked about it with Peterson, the IT manager, a northeast guy, but snow in Richmond was serious stuff. Schools and government agencies would close in advance of even the threat. Bread and milk were the first off the shelves in all stores, and the local news would be sitting at the airport - literally watching the sky - for the first snowflake to fall!

The guys...
I got to know the guys in my team a bit better, and you'll have to indulge me a few inside jokes in this little section... The 'warroom' became a bear's den of sorts for us. My shoeprints might still line the wall in one little area. Chris was/still is - the butt of most of our jokes. Over time, we built up a nice little arsenal of quick jabs on Chris, and he never helped himself... 'clean water', 'pitt stains', 'colour blind', 'and I'm g__!?!' to name but a few. In the first two years with Infineon - there were times where we had WAY too much time on our hands, had a lot of great laughs - some great trips to Germany with lots'o'beers involved - but that all came to a crashing stop one day in September of 2001.
This was the day we were having our final meeting in Richmond, with Brooks representatives and colleagues over the phone in Portugal, Germany and Austria. Presenting our case as to why we were cancelling the 40 million dollar software deal... Tim received a page and left the room, over the phone one of our Portugese colleagues Joao, interupted the session by saying that the World Trade Center had been struck by a plane. Moments later, Tim came back in and shouted that 'we are under attack', that the second tower had also been hit by a plane.
I have no idea how that actual meeting ended - other than the fact that we were able to get out from under that contract. But that day, that event - affected us all forever.

International Business
We did manage to resume 'normal' business again, and soon we were on our first major international project. It's the thing that not many people understand about these international business trips - you're there to work. Not tour. We don't get the time to really look around and take in the whole experience. I was luckier than most, and was able to go back to many of these places time and time again, get to know the people, and have them tour me around - to really get to know the places as the locals do - for the great places that they really are...

Our first implementation was in Porto, Portugal. Now I have had many, many trips to Portugal in the meantime - but these trips, during this project, left us with a not-so-good impression of Portugal. Long workdays meant meals in the factory and the hotel, and the general consensus was that Portugese food was bland food 'cum ovo' meaning with egg on top... We spent plenty of time joking about this with our Portugese colleagues, but over time I got to love it there. They got tired of me bashing them, and so I told them - show me Porto! I had a great day in downtown Porto on a walking tour with Tiago and his wife. Augusto took me with his wife and son, to a fishing village in the north and his favourite restaurant and introduced me to vinho verde and a special crab dish - fantastic. Joao took a few of us to a place where they had his favourite bacalhau (codfish). One night, some of the DC guys took me for an evening out on the town to show me the Portugese nightlife.
A few things that I got to know and love about Portugal. My hotel - right across the street from the ocean, and the beach bar - bar de la playa! Franciscina (sp?), a hot sandwich with all sorts of stuff on it... The Brasileirao, a Brazillian steakhouse - drool... and Portugese wine. My favourite region is the Alentajo.

I don't have near enough time to describe all my experiences in China. I've spent almost a year in total in China helping get the factory up and running (through many, many long trips), and got to know Suzhou quite well. It almost deserves a chapter to itself - and I will have to write about it all some day. But I'll highlight the good, the bad and the insane work...
I'll remember the insane traffic, that almost seemed to work for them. The seemingly never ending number of high-rises going up. The overwhelming pollution that prevented us from seeing the sun through the summer. The absolutely wonderful food - provided you knew where to go ;-) The shopping and bargaining with the locals and my portugese colleagues that managed to turn it into a sport... The beautiful gardens (on the odd day that we were off). Tom's Bar (I have the shirt!). The hot as hell, sweaty summers. The circa 1984 VW Santana Taxis - blue if you wanted the cheaper ride, but safety and A/C were optional - or gold, for the 'nice' ride with A/C. The Indian restaurant that we found on our last trip, and were there almost every day (yeah - you do get tired of chinese food after having it at EVERY meal). TEA! Found a love for tea there - still have some leaves. Last but not least - the singers. The ladies from the Phillipines that entertained and tortured us each night at the hotels, restaurants and bars...

Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 1.
We had spent months preparing for an upgrade. Friday afternoon, 4 days before the go live, we found a problem (which should have been detected by their testing - but I digress). Tiago and I stayed in the office working through the problem for 40 hours from Friday night til Sunday night where we finally found the fix! That was the weekend that introduced me to Portugese swearing! We had our Austrian colleagues bring us beer and pizza to the office - that's right - beer! We got about 6 hours sleep TOTAL that weekend. Stood outside waiting for a taxi from 4am to 6am after we couldn't think any longer... Then Monday morning came, we arrived did some work and went to lunch. Came back only to be told that they were cancelling the upgrade.
We got up. Walked out. Went drinking.

Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 2.
Another major upgrade months in the making - I inherited partway through, all came down to the last 3 weeks somehow. 14 hour days, we worked 16 of the 17 days there (the Irish Ian actually worked all 17) and narrowly made it... Even the night of the rollout, the mgmt team was not confident and tried to cancel. I stretched the truth saying how long it would be to fall back - just so that we could continue and successfully complete the project - WHICH WE DID!
The best night though was on day 14 - after having worked 14 days straight - we finally had 99% of it done. I told the team to take the next day off - we were walking zombies... We arranged a team dinner, and then went to Karaoke! I piled in the beers, and everyone had a great time. Enrico singing Christmas songs and David brought his fancy dance moves ;-)
It was a great way to release some misplaced energy over those long days...

Sick in Austria
One of my worst trips ever, a short week trip to Austria to work with the team there. I wasn't feeling well, but decided to go anyways. My head was clogged by the time I arrived at the airport - and once in the air, the pressure on my head was immense. I still think that trip screwed up my hearing in my right ear. (not the punk rock band...). At any rate, I attempted the first day of work, but felt the fever ripping through me. Stayed home the next day - could barely swallow - was officially the worst I had ever felt. Slept for almost 24 hours straight - came out of it STILL SICK AS A DOG. Couldn't eat/drink/breathe... finally called in a doctor who got me some meds and back to health. But that was my worst week ever - without a doubt.
Luckily, the winter Olympics were on the TV - better than having to sit through Austrian soap operas!!!

The Richmond project
This was the most hectic time of our lives. Years of work to fully automate a semi factory - that will now be closed.
This project was absolutely BRUTAL on all of us. I'll try to avoid the bad stuff - you can add whatever you feel appropriate later if it helps you vent...

I'll remember the fishbowl. We jammed 30 people in there to work together and get the project rolling. I remember the flip chart, where I wrote our first list of code snippets we needed to have delivered from our Porto DC. Making the daily calls to prioritize, and then trying to establish some sort of process. Having to introduce this offshore development process to a team in Richmond that was used to writing their own code... building the UTP process for requesting changes. Fighting with Applied for fixes to their horrific system... a system we finally were able to help them make somewhat useable in the end - I guess their new customers will appreciate it - but they'll be one customer short in the near future ;-) The clown in the corner, that the guys used as a punching bag when things got really bad. The UML model for how to operate the coffee maker, a clever distraction blurring the lines between our overwhelming workload, and our brief escapes... and Marcus... how he barely escaped being strung up by the locals.
For me, the project was shorter than for others - as I was asked to move to Germany (well actually Austria...which turned into Germany a month before we were set to move!).

Dresden, Germany
We lived in Dresden for 2 years. These years were the most challenging of my life. I was to setup an Integration Center, a test and deployment group for our product set. My problems in Dresden are well known, and I don't need to get into that. But I did have some great times there too... I was lucky enough to have another Richmond guy with me - to help me through it, someone to drink with non-stop at times...Gene had to go through the same thing, and we both endured the ups and downs - but came out stronger for it.
Upon leaving Dresden, I did a bike tour and wrote up some blurbs about the different aspects of life in Dresden, and the parts that we will look back on fondly. Please have a look at this entry for more on that.
Setting up my team was very interesting. Half the team was local German guys, and then the rest was a mish mash of foreigners. I had hired an American, a Portugese guy and an Irishman to balance the team. These guys helped me through our many projects, I couldn't have done it without them - and couldn't have been happier with having to go through it with them. Winding down my time in Germany, the 'band' started to fall apart. I left the team and headed back to Canada. Ian followed close behind, was nice enough to last through the last crazy project in Malaysia before leaving. John's contract wasn't renewed and now poor Tiago is the only one left.

The Dresden Project...
This project was doomed from the beginning. Despite our best efforts, we never did get the buy in from the user side - and that never ends well... They delayed, made changes, kept the target moving long enough to burn through 30 million+ euros before it was finally cancelled.
But again, there were good times mixed in here. Living in Dresden, we were able to host a number of foreign colleagues for evenings out, or dinners at our place and show them around for a change.

My last major international project was in Malaysia. I was living in Ottawa by this point, and had to make the 35 hour trek to Malaysia a few more times than my back would have liked! This was a site still being built when we got started. There were stories of robberies and rapes, abductions - heard that it was not near a city, but in the middle of a jungle... all sorts of crazy things were being reported to us out of that part of the country. Of course, most of these stories were coming from the Singapore team - who were accustomed to it being a little more comfortable and safe ;-)
We did finally go - and no, it wasn't the best of work conditions... no working bathroom for the first day, and chairs and desks weren't available for the first few days. Witness the evidence:

But it was hardly dangerous or scary. We stayed at a nearby resort - that had a pool (would have been nice if we could have seen it during the day!) and golf course. I even got to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road here! (Barely survived a road trip to Kukup for our celebration dinner)
I was also able to go into Singapore for a short tour the one weekend. Goh Pei Boon, gave me a great walking tour - unfortunately while wearing my work gear... I was sweating so bad - that I had to ring out my shirt at the end of the night!
I have a few videos posted about this trip to Singapore and Malaysia - please have a look.

Romantic Weekends and odd dinner dates?
It wasn't always work though. I had a few rare occasions that was not quite business as usual... like the weekend in San Francisco with Andreas.... Or the Valentines Day dinner with Ricardo in Porto... The weekend in Vienna with Fui-Lian Liow... Mike almost kicking my @ss in Villach... beer tastings at Separ's...BBQ's at Meredith's... and certainly Andreas' wedding in Vegas with Marcus and Gene. - to name but a few.

The actual goodbye...
I watched a tv commercial this morning - saying that everyone should have one extraodinary chapter in their biography - for me, this will be one of them.

Please help me add to my memories of Qimonda/Infineon - by adding a short note in the comment section of an interesting (good/bad/otherwise) time we had together.

Thanks - and good luck to all of you.
As you may know - I have a little more time on my hands lately, and thought that I'd get a few edits done and get some more Canadian Kids related posts up...

Meghan and I made a birdfeeder awhile ago out of a few things we had lying around.

What you'll need:
  • empty peanut butter jar (plastic - duh) if you are not in north america, and don't have access to a peanut butter jar, try Nutella...
  • old coat hangers (not plastic!)
  • pliers
  • birdseed
  • some bacon fat (not absolutely necessary)
  • Bamboo skewer (or reasonable facsimile)
  • masking tape
Step 1.
Untwist the coat hanger, use the pliers here if you're not superman with the hands. You don't have to straighten it, just get it apart.

Step 2.
Poke holes in the Peanut Butter jar. Positioning of these holes is the key... if it were laying on it's side - the hold should be just above halfway to the top, and just over halfway to the lid.
This allows it to stay upright - but allows for movement so the squirrels aren't able to stay on it.

Step 3.
Put the coat hanger through the two holes and then twist it back together so it looks like a normal coat hanger. (that's how you hang it!)

Step 4.
Cut hole in lid. Just big enough that birds can get in.

Step 5.
Poke hole in lid, just below opening - for the bamboo skewer. Something for the birdies to land on.

Step 6.
Fill with birdseed.

Step 7.
Nuke the bacon fat. Then pour it into jar with seeds. Give it a good shake.

Step 8.
Put the lid on.

Step 9.
Put a little tape on the hanger, on either side of the jar. Stops it from falling to one side or the other...

Step 10.
Hang it.

Now just a warning... I tried this at first without the bacon fat. The squirrels figured out that they couldn't stay on it, but could knock it over a bit, and spill some of the seeds out. That's why I went for the bacon fat... The bacon fat (not too much - don't want to weigh it down!) holds the seeds in - no spillage.

Here's how I found out that I needed to add the bacon fat...

And here's what it looks like in action! A birdfeeder... feeding birds!

So I got a little taste of what my next line of work might be...

With Sara working, and me not so much - I was put in charge of dinner last night! And before we go any further down this path (cuz I can feel the comments coming already) just want to be clear in saying that I enjoy cooking. But Sara likes to cook, and doesn't like me to cook - unless it involves the grill...so there.

Anyways - I climbed into the freezer - to see what we had, many frozen meats that I wasn't exactly sure what they were - and then found some chicken legs.
Went online to find something interesting to make - and found this recipe for Firecracker Fried Chicken Drumsticks.

I gotta say - TASTY! The whole family enjoyed it - really they did... and I did a pretty decent job of cooking it up. Even made a salad to go with it.

Check this out - it's like looking in the mirror!

I dunno - I could get use to this... ;-)
Yesterday I went downhill skiing with Meghan's school as an outdoor activity class. With not much happening at work lately, thought it was the perfect excuse to get away for the day and just enjoy (and we were advised to take some time off...). Got up nice and early, crammed the skis into the car and headed off for school. I was put in charge of a small group of kids - was more of a symbolic post - no real power;-) In all, there were almost 200 kids going that day! We were all sardined into 4 regular old yellow school buses and driven over an hour away to Calabogie Peaks.
Once we arrived - the kids and supervisors were given little in the way of direction - it's lucky most of them made it on the hill... But we did make it. Meghan had to go for a quick ski test, and then had a 1 hour lesson. I took advantage and headed up the hill.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for skiing. Clear sky, warm sun on the face, little in the way of wind and around -10c. There weren't many at the hill - it was a tuesday after all - mostly retirees and the school kids. The lifts take a little while to get to the top, but getting into the lift on my first trip up, I got to ride up with a retired couple. Since it does take a bit, there's lots of time to chit chat, and downhillers are among the nicest out there. Friendly and chatty. Any given day, you could hear a hundred different stories. Who they are, where they're from, line of work, kids, other ski hills and of course the weather... every story is unique. They're usually surprised to hear that I have 3 kids, have lived in the U.S, Germany and worked in so many different places. Have to admit, that feels pretty good.

And then there are the times, when you get to ride up with just your thoughts. Just look around, take it all in. There's a great view of the Ottawa Valley, the local lake and river, the hills of Quebec can even be seen from there. And there's lots of time to think...

Of course, I'm thinking about the company issues, where I should apply next... but really being quite content at just getting away from it for the day. Relaxing. Having fun. Enjoying life. I'd only come to find out later, that while I was trying to forget about it all - it was happening anyways. But more on that later.

Meghan and her friends had a great time. Had lunch at the chalet, and then a full afternoon of skiing. Took a little longer than expected to get everyone back, as the buses were running late, but all in all - it was a great day.

On my way back, I received a text from Sara that 'the sh!t had hit the fan today at Q' - doh, that didn't sound good. I had already agreed to help our friend pick up his new car that day - so was running late for that, but had this news looming overhead. He was happy to finally get his RAV4, the bus strike had been a huge pain for him just arriving and not having any mode of transportation... We were going to hit Canadian Tire for a shovel and a few other things, but I asked him if we could skip it for the day - I had a few other things to take care of...

Got to the house, rushed downstairs to check my voice mails, sure enough I had one from my boss. Uh oh - that's not good. Tried to login, as the first that happens when you're laid off - is that your account is removed. I was able to login, good maybe I'm not quite done yet... Spoke to my boss a little while later, and he broke the news.


Well - it wasn't exactly like that...but you get the idea. They had announced it earlier in the day (ironically while I was busy trying to forget about it all going up the lift!) that the factory would be closed, and that I had two weeks left. I wasn't really surprised. The company had been on life support for sometime, and I had been looking around - but didn't quite start looking soon enough I guess.

Luckily - it won't be a complete break. There won't be any severance package - but they'll be paying out a few things at least... we'll be ok for awhile, but I won't have to chance to be as picky now. It's the kick in butt I needed - time to try something new.

So, that's how you have a perfect day...almost.

    About Me

    My photo
    It's not about the money you make, the toys you have, the clothes you wear - it's about the life experiences you go through, the challenges you face and the stories you tell... Having just moved back to Canada (after almost 8 years in the U.S and Germany), we have lots to show our girls and our friends around the world about Canada. We're going to be telling our stories, hope you enjoy our adventures. Mare ad Mare means 'sea to sea' and we want to show the world, from Sea to Sea - this is what it's like to be a Canadian Girl!