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I work for IBM, er…

Caesar Wong is an IBMerIf you’ve been following cyberseraphic, you’ll no doubt know that I work for IBM. Now if you ask any of my past or present colleagues and they’ll agree that I’m Blue through-and-through – my loyalty to the company borders on religious. I mean why else would I stay with a company for 9 years, doing much the same thing (Web), and at the rate that I’m being paid, right? :-)

However, I’m an even bigger language geek, so I ain’t always drinking the company kool-aid (blue, naturally). For example, I once wrote a scathing internal blog post criticising the capitalisation in the brand name for our server range (included for your reading pleasure at the end of this post) and another bemoaning the lack of consistency in pronoun use across the Web site (rather less interesting, and the less said about it the better). But the thing that’s bugging me at the moment is how we call ourselves “IBMers”:

Why I’m an IBMer video

Who was it that decided appendding “-er” to the brand would form a suitable descriptor? If you think about it, the label spelled out would be “International Business Machines-er” (or “International Business Machiner” if I was feeling generous). We’re not the only ones. At Google recently, ex-Late Show host Conan O’Brien made mockery of – that’s right – Googlers.

A long (but hilarious) video of Conan O’Brien’s visit to Google. The bit about “Googlers” is at 1:35.

Is there a grammatical convention that dictates which suffix one should adopt? Like how do we know which one to use for countries, where sometimes you add -an like Australian, American, European and other times -ish such as British, Swedish, etc. If the process is entirely arbitrary then I’d like to add a few suggestions, to help employees and clients alike to classify the many different types of IBMer that they’re likely to come across:

  • IBMpath
    Used to describe a colleague that takes great pains to show care for yourself and others. Or mutter it under your breath so that it sounds sounds like sociopath.
  • IBMish
    These guys are the ones who have been in the company for a long time, and resist any attempts to adopt new business techniques or technologies. They prefer to continue in their backward ways.
  • IBMling
    The corporate under-class, downtrodden and unappreciated.
    Alice: “The client is upset that their project went over budget. What shall we do?”
    Bob: “Don’t worry, I’ll send one of my IBMlings.”
    Alice: “But they’ll eat him alive!”
    Bob: “That’s OK, he just spends the whole day looking at Facebook anyway.”
    Alice: “Ah, no worries then.”
  • IBMard
    These folks have usually come into the business through an acquisition, or else they’ve been with another company for some length of time before starting at IBM. Try as they might, they Just Don’t Get It. Regardless of how many times you’ve explained it, or how much training you put them through, they refuse to do things the IBM way. Who cares that it’s faster, easier and cheaper if it doesn’t require 20 levels of management sign-off? That’s just how we do it in IBM.
  • IBMoid
    Strange creatures that manage the deeply arcane aspects of the business. Often heard speaking in alien language with phrases that resembles English, but are completely unintelligible, like “all hands meeting”, “business as usual” and “drop-dead date”.

How does your company refer its employees?


Here’s the blog post that I mentioned earlier…

Less than x-cited (originally posted sometime in 2006)
Some of you might have missed this little tidbit in the latest issue of A/NZ Newslinks, but STG is changing the name of eServer xSeries to IBM System x™. In most regards, I’m quite happy that they’ve finally dropped the very awkward eServer branding (the capitalisation of it never really fit very well with that of the other products, e.g. ThinkPad, ThinkCentre, IntelliStation, etc.) however I still have some reservations about retaining the lowercase “x”.

Granted, IBM now has to differentiate itself from the brands that it sold off to Lenovo, but maybe there should have been a move towards integrating other IBM product and service offerings into a single, consistent messaging (or naming) scheme. For example, take the Lotus software range, where each application has a functional, descriptive name: e.g. Lotus Learning Management System or Lotus Web Conferencing.

Where the “e-” prefix has stopped being fashionable, and everything “i-” is slowly being absorbed by the Apple marketing juggernaut that is the iPod, the adoption of plain-speaking names should be applauded. Imagine, if instead of “IBM System x” we simply had a range of “IBM Servers” with family groups such as:

  • IBM Mainframe Servers
  • IBM Enterprise Application Servers
  • IBM Small to Medium Business Server

… or something to that effect. Customers would be able to differentiate our product offerings immediately, without having to wade through various blurbs and summaries about the product range (does the average Joe even know who an iSeries is aimed at?) I know that my thinking doesn’t take into account the probable multi-million dollars worth of research into marketing, branding and customer research, and far be it from me to suggest that I could have done a better job (or come up with a better name), but I still feel compelled to say that I’m disappointed with “System x” – a name with such forced mediocrity that it can’t even afford to capitalise the “x” for fear of seeming pretentious or rude.

For what we are about to receive

A quick update about me: after being retrenched by IBM at the end of March, I did a short project with Access Testing, which finished up yesterday. Now that I’m officially unemployed again, I thought I might as well make an effort to try and catch up on blogging, and seeing as I haven’t done an Atheist In God’s Kingdom post in a while here’s one to kick things off.

(As a reminder for those of you who are new to the series, my aim is to try to speak against the militant anti-religious brand of atheism championed by Dawkins, Hitchens and their ilk, and point to a more tolerant, moderate form of atheism that embraces and welcomes the wonderful things that religion continues to bring to the human experience.)

Kids saying graceThe practice of saying grace before meals comes from the biblical references to Jesus giving thanks to God before taking a meal. Take God out of the equation, and you’re left with an act of thoughtful consideration towards the food in front of you. Here are a few things to think about when your Christian friends are saying grace, or even if you want to make a habit of pausing to think about your breakfast/lunch/dinner before you scoff it down (might be a good diet tip!):

What you are eating
This isn’t about counting calories or suffering buyers’ remorse over picking the (large) Big Mac Meal instead of the McSalad. Look at what you’re eating – really look at it: how it’s been prepared, and what ingredients are in it. Have a think about where those ingredients might have come from, especially if you’ve got a green bent and are interested in things like food miles, slow food, food security and sustainability. It’s amazing how little we think about what we eat considering that it’s critical to our survival – I know when I’m hungry and tired, I’ll just cram anything even remotely edible into my mouth, and I can recall many occasions where a little deliberation might’ve saved a lot of pain and suffering.

The person who prepared it
Putting together three square meals a day is no easy ask, and unless you’re lazy and eat out regularly, you’ll appreciate the effort that goes into planning and preparing meals. It’s not just the cooking, it’s also the shopping, preparing and washing up afterwards. If you cook for yourself it’s a good time to think about your own skills – be they good or bad – and reflect on what you’ve just achieved.

Those without
I know this is wandering dangerously close to moral high ground turf, and I appreciate that some are turned off by the idea of taking a guilt trip with each mouthful. Still, I believe there is such thing as a healthy dose of rationalism, especially when it comes to food waste. Check out this recent CNN article that reports up to 30% of all food is wasted. So in thinking about those without, it doesn’t have to be “oh won’t anybody think of the starving orphans!” so much as having a respectful attitude towards our ability to obtain food easily and cheaply, and not treating it as an endless resource magically created by supermarkets.

Feeling hungry? Remember to “say grace” before your next meal!

Da Vinci would’ve thought of a better post title

As October draws to a close, I inch forward towards the end of my September ad-French-ure. Technically, this is the penultimate post for the series since parts 9 and 10 are about other countries. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. Like the holiday itself, it’ll be over all too soon…


One of the more popular subjects in this series so far has been about food, yet I haven’t shown you very many pictures of what we ate throughout the trip. I should be more proud than embarrassed, but I do feel a little shame in admitting that we spent most of the time “eating in” simply because we found the ordinary French food so delicious. As I already said before, even supermarket croissants were sublime.

Eating inside the close quarters of the mobiroom was an interesting affair – made even more so because under the table was where we kept the Apple iMac that we brought over from Australia as a gift for Jenny’s parents. So we don’t have any pictures of that. Therefore when we came across a picnic area (in the carpark of a strangely deserted aquarium) we took the opportunity to stretch our legs. It also afforded us a rare photo of one of our meals – fondue:

Who knew pieces of bread dipped in melted cheese could be so delicious!

Later that evening we continued on to Amboise (you actually pronounce the ‘s’ here because it has an ‘e’ after it – am-BWAH-ss). We found it difficult to locate the camping site but eventually discovered the tiny little carpark in some obscure back street. It was really small and cramped, but it was home for the night.

We managed to get a few evening shots, but most were blurry. This is about the only one that wasn’t:

Amboise in the evening, with its bridge that straddles the Loire river

The next morning, we set out for Clos Lucé. It’s not the chateau of Amboise (there is one, but we’re sick of chateaus now, aren’t we?) rather, it’s a nearby mansion where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. The place is now a sort of “Da Vinci museum” in his honour. It’s a shame that we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the buildings; there was a display with models of some of Leonardo’s famous inventions, created by IBM from some of the master’s original drawings.

We're a long way from Paris...

A garden. I'm sparing you more pictures of flowers

One of Leonardo's many flying contraptions: the whirly thingamebob

They seem to be enjoying this a little -too- much...

An omnidirectional tank

A wind-up wheel

Jenny getting some perspective on life

Getting in touch with our inner child


What all this has to do with Da Vinci I have no idea, but it was fun

I'm sure you would've done the same

A double-decker bridge

That evening, we discovered that there is a much nicer camping park on an island just outside of the city. We spent a much more relaxing evening there:

Another outdoors dinner - I made tomato fried rice and chicken stir fry

We also saw a whole heap of balloons being launched:

Preparing for lift-off

And up she goes...

Into the bright blue yonder

Free plug - you owe me one,

There were heaps of them

And Jenny and I took a night stroll around the town:

The Chateau d'Amboise by night

Water under the bridge

The streets still look nice even when deserted, and all the shops are closed

Another busy street (actually, the nearby restaurants were doing a roaring trade)

Except for this pirate-themed "restaurant"... or is it?

Finally, I wanted to point out that the French have a funny way with words. Or alternatively, let’s just say there is a lot of room for misinterpretation between French and English:


I wonder what kind of service we would've gotten here

It saddens me to think that our tour of France will soon be over, but before that happens, there are a couple more interesting destinations…

Smarter Planet

building-a-smarter-planet-logo-ibmEarlier today, Sam Palmisano, IBM’s chairman, delivered a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations called “Smarter Planet”. In it, he outlined IBM’s vision for the future, a vision where technology helps improve people’s lives all over the world by becoming “digitally aware and interconnected”. But the thing that interests me is how the proof points deal almost entirely with efficiency problems: electricity losses from the grid, wasted food, petrol burned while sitting idly in traffic, and more besides.

The timing of the announcement couldn’t be better. As I stated at the end of my previous post, the topic of efficiency has been on my mind for a while now and quite serendipitously, this gem gets dropped into my lap. I didn’t plan to start writing about it so soon, but I got caught up in the Zeitgeist sweeping through the IBM community.

Let me start by stating the problem: humans are manifestly inefficient; the primary evidence being the amount of waste that we generate. Our limited brains and selfish nature mean that we spend most of the time doing things that are either necessary for our personal survival, or leads to our pleasure. So what a rare time in history we find ourselves in today, when humanity is starting to wake up to the fact that its collective burden on the environment is causing negative change. Scientists are even beginning to label this as a new epoch: “the Anthropocene” – the time when human activity started having a significant impact on the earth.

Like most, I worry about the future, but I tend to focus on unusual resource management issues, such as what will happen if we keep flinging our limited terrestrial resources out into space? And I think several people have heard me talk about my career aspirations as a garbage sorter (it’s not enough to separate the recycling from the ordinary rubbish in my own home, I want to do it for everybody else too). It is from these thoughts that spring my visions for the future.

I dream of crazy machines that liquify garbage, with nanobots to sort the output into piles of base molecules and elements ready for resuse. I imagine computers that can keep track of every single object on earth, so nothing in good, working condition that could be reused by somebody, somwhere, is ever discarded. I’ve considered starting a global database of instruction manuals and spare parts, so that whatever can be fixed, will be. All of this makes perfect sense in my head – I just wish somebody, or some business, would make it a reality. And it seems IBM could very well be that business.

I often tell people how much I love my job. Now that it has become apparent that IBM’s vision aligns so closely with my own, I know that I couldn’t be happier anywhere else.

The wee hours

This morning, I got up at 5am to buy a laptop.

Thank you, I hope your collective gasping will lead to a whole bunch of adverse weather conditions to torment the damn butterfly that keeps creating climatic chaos by flapping its wings.

Some people like to suffer for their art. Me? I like to think that my suffering is the art itself. Basically, what happened was that yesterday I discovered there was a crazy IBM Employee purchase deal involving a very limited number of laptops going for half price. So of course, being the overzealous and misguided romantic that I am, I decided to purchase one for my girlfriend Jenny despite knowing full well that I am more likely to receive expressions of incredulity and surprise rather than the lavish praise that my warped geek-imagination would have me believe was coming my way.

Long story short, I took advantage of a little bit of, shall we say, insider knowledge, to ensure that I was guaranteed to get one of these things – ie. I had to get up really, really early to beat everybody else. Wow. I am so smart.

As it turns out, I was the 5th person to make an order. 5th dammit! Apparently there was one guy who made an order 10 minutes after the promotion went live just before 3am in the morning. (At least I can tell Jenny that there were at least 4 other people in IBM who were even more desperate than me).

So here I am at the end of the day, and what do I have to show for my efforts? Nada. Zip. Zilch. They didn’t call me to confirm the order, and my Jenny is still sans-ThinkPad. I’m thinking that the other 4 guys ahead of me just bought them all and are probably listing them on eBay even as we speak (ok, ok… as I write, and you read… yes, even with the inherent time difference between when I was writing this and when you get around to reading it – there were quite a few laptops… yes, I have also considered the metaphysical implications of my addressing you when you might not even be reading this at all, kinda like that jazz about sounds of trees falling in forests and one hand clapping, etc.)

For the fellow geeks out there, the model that I picked up (supposedly, *ahem* pending a certain phone call *ahem*) is a ThinkPad X40 ultraportable with 12.1″ screen, 1.3GHz processor, 40GB hard drive, 256MB RAM, Windows XP Pro and all the usual accoutrements such as wireless, modem, USB ports and the like. Priced at $1,125.62 (Less with salary sacrifice option.)

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