Alan Porter's minimal net presence

January 2001

In January, Foong-Ha and I took my parents to Malaysia for a week and a half. The highlight of the trip was Foong-Kim’s wedding. But the trip was a good change for my parents to see what Malaysia and Singapore are like, since we will move there for a while.

Foong-Ha remained in Malaysia with her parents, since my work starts only three weeks later. Why fly back and forth so much, especially when she’s pregnant?

February 2001

All of February was spent packing and moving. Foong-Ha remained in Malaysia while I arranged for all of the moving stuff: changing mailing addresses, canceling utilities, arranging for the movers to come. It all sounds easy, since the moving company handles all of the actual packing. But this is not like a normal move. Normally, you just pack everything up from one house and move it to a new house where you unpack it all. In our case, we have to go through everything in the house and decide to either TAKE IT or LEAVE IT. This was extremely time-consuming and tedious. But I think we got it all sorted out. The actual move went very smoothly.

After we arrived in Singapore, we checked Maggie into quarantine and then checked ourselves into a hotel. We spent the next two weeks looking for houses and getting up to speed at Ericsson’s Cyberlab office.

March 2001

March was a month of transition and stabilization.

We moved out of the hotel and into a temporary apartment for five weeks. This is because the “permanent house” that we picked is still occupied by the previous tenants. We’re anxiously anticipating the move to the house, but we can not complain about the apartment. It’s very nice, with a clear view of the city and a cool pool to swim in at night. Maggie seems to like the apartment OK, and she has even learned to behave nicely in the elevator when our neighbors ride with us.

Much of the activity of this month was centered around establishing our “personal infrastructure”. We spent a lot of time shopping for furniture and goodies for our new house. We got a local credit card, and even managed to locate a “cash card” (used for small transactions like parking fees, library services and other miscellaneous charges). We’ve signed up to take a driver’s license test, and we even managed to send in our US tax return.

At work, I got to dive into a little bit of code for a prototype that we are doing. I played with the speech recognition library that our company designed in Germany. And I am scheduled for two business trips in April: one to Japan for a conference and one to a nearby tropical island for a three-day “planning” meeting. I plan to get a tan.

I also arranged to travel to Europe in May for Greg’s wedding (in Belgium). I am looking forward to visiting the guys, but I am disappointed that Foong-Ha will have to stay home. She is getting quite big now, and we are making an effort to keep from walking as much as we had been.

We also decided to sell our house in Cary. It’ll be hard to arrange our move back if we have to schedule our time around the lease schedule as well as my work schedule and lease on our Singapore house as well. Instead, when we move back, we can finally get that new house that we’ve been wanting.

April 2001

April was spent shopping, shopping, shopping.

In the first week of April, Ericsson Cyberlab went on a “retreat” to the tropical island of Bintan, in Indonesia. The two days were spent planning for the upcoming year, and building our team spirit. The former was all handled in a boring meeting room, while the latter was accomplished on a survival course. The entire group spent two hours climbing a 75-foot tower, by way of several rope ladders, wobbly bridges, a balancing beam and then the “leap of faith”. I’m not sure if we built a team, but we sure overcame our fear of heights!

The day we got back from Bintan was moving day. Foong-Ha rented a mini-van and we drove back and forth between the apartment and the new house. Of course, all we had was boxed stuff. Still no furniture.

The next few weeks were spent at the Furniture Malls, trying to fill up our house and empty our pocketbooks. I’m surprised how long it took. Every day, we focused on one or two items. One day, it was a microwave and dishes. The next, it was a bed and a TV. At that rate, it takes a long time to fill up a house.

Every spare minute of April was spent fixing stuff… re-wiring cable TV outlets, figuring out which light switches control what, spraying WD-40 on anything that moves.

Meanwhile, Foong-Ha is starting to walk like a pregnant woman, with a little waddle. All of this moving and shopping has been really hard on her, so we got a part-time maid to come in and help with the house work.

Work is getting busy, so the Japan trip was cancelled. I am not disappointed. I need to hang out at home for a while anyway.

May 2001

We did less shopping in May than we did in April, but it was still quite a chore. We have moved beyond the furniture-buying stage, and into the baby stuff stage. With two months to go, it’s time to prepare!

Work was steady with the delivery of our latest prototype to our HQ in Sweden. We were busy, but it was still a sane schedule (for me, at least). I became one of the first employees to test drive the “nanocube”, a Linux-based firewall for the home. I have it managing my internet connection, keeping the bad guys out while Foong and I share the single connection. Since Linux is a big deal at our office, I took a one-week Embedded Linux course that was being offered here in Singapore.

I had to cancel my trip to Belgium for Greg’s wedding. With Foong-Ha getting plump with the baby, we decided that it would be better not to leave her at home by herself.

Meanwhile, we are getting comfortable in our house. All of the rooms are basically furnished, and a few of them actually look like someone lives here. We can finally go home in the evenings and rest a bit.

June 2001

June was a quiet month. Many of my colleagues at work were off on vacation or on out-of-town business, leaving an empty office.

There was bad news at work, as our office in the US laid off 120 people. I knew several that were let go. Cuts here were not as drastic, but they could still be felt. All of us foreigners will have to give up our company-provided cars. (At the risk of sounding like a whiner, Singapore is a very expensive country for owning a car, and this provision was critical in our decision to move here).

Sadly, our lab’s founding father, Frank Reichert left for Sweden (he leaves us in the good hands of Andreas, but we will certainly miss Frank’s personality).

The baby’s arrival date is approaching. My cousin Lynn had her baby at the end of May, and our friends Lowell and Tina had their baby early this month. Ours is next!

July 2001

Audrey joined us right on time. Foong-Ha went to her routine appointment on July 4th, Audrey’s due date. She joked that she would just pop in and deliver the baby while she was there, to save us an extra trip to the hospital. And that’s exactly what she did!

So needless to say, July has been spent getting to know our baby. For the first two weeks, we had a house full of extended family, as well as a confinement maid (a nanny who helps the mother recover after the ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth). Most of the time, they were helpful, but the house did seem small at times. The nanny has worked out extremely well, and I can’t imagine having a baby without the extra help. We will certainly miss her when she leaves.

August 2001

With our confinement period over, we had to see our nanny leave. Now we are on our own. But just for a while.

The highlight of August was a visit from my parents. While we could have spent the entire time seeing touristy things around town, they preferred to stay at home and do some serious grandparenting instead. We did manage to get out a few times to see some of Singapore’s natural beauty (the Botanical Gardens, and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens). And we experimented with taking Audrey out shopping and eating. She did really well! We had a great visit, but it was too short.

One highlight of their visit was when they bought us a video camera. This was a “late Christmas and Graduation present”, but it is much more meaningful now that was have some good subject matter for our movies. We hope to make tapes from time to time and send them home for everyone to see.

September 2001

We kicked off the month with a visit to Malaysia to see Foong-Ha’s family. Since Malaysia had their national day that weekend, everyone had a little bit of time to visit. One interesting thing we saw was the festival of the “ghost month”. People made offerings of money and other material goods to the ghosts by burning paper replicas of these items. This is supposed to keep the ghosts happy, so they do not disturb your family during the rest of the year.

At work, we are starting a new era. The first significant event is the official start of the Sony-Ericsson joint venture. This means that our mobile phones will be produced by the JV, while the network equipment and the “technology” (like microchips and IPR licensing) will be done by Ericsson. So now we are trying to figure out how that affects us here in Ericsson Cyberlab Singapore.

We had several big events at work this month. The biggest was the visit from some of the ministers from Singapore’s parliament!

Audrey now weighs 12 pounds. She has learned to smile. Sometimes, she will try to have a conversation with you. She knows three words: “ooooh”, “coo” and “ah-goo”.

Like many Americans, I spent a lot of time this month watching the news of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

October 2001

October was an interesting month.

The weather turned pleasantly warm (compared to the normal hot), but we don’t expect anyone to take advantage of this by coming to visit. No one feels like traveling internationally in this time of terrorism and war.

At work, we finally received some indication of what we would be working on for the next few months. It has been a bumpy ride, since the mobile phone division has been split off into the Sony/Ericsson joint venture. It is not so obvious how our research group will work with the phone manufacturing groups.

Audrey’s favorite trick these days is “pedaling the bicycle”, although she is also pretty good at making some squeaky talk-like noises. We had a good time at the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Moon Cake Festival. And we even dressed up (a little bit) for Halloween.

November 2001

During the first half of November, I worried about Audrey because she suddenly got very grumpy and refused to eat. This lasted for about two weeks. We finally decided that she was ready for solid food. Now she is eating rice cereal, carrots, apple sauce and peaches. And she loves it. So she has returned to her normal pleasant self… the perfect baby.

Foong spent a week with her family in Malaysia. Then, we brought her brother’s three kids back with us to stay for a second week in Singapore. So I enjoyed a quiet house, followed by a noisy house. It was a lot of fun, but it’s nice to be back to normal.

At work, I was given a dubious promotion (more responsibility, but the same pay). Not only do I have to keep myself busy, but now I have to keep two of my colleagues busy as well. It looks like I’ll be making PowerPoint slides from now on. <frown> Our group of three is responsible for creating software prototypes of our lab’s research projects.

We’re preparing for our trip home in December. The main thing we have to do is mentally prepare for the cold weather. Here in Singapore, it is warm during the day and somewhat cool at night. They say that November is the best month to visit, and I can see why (it’ll start raining every day in December).

December 2001

December was a hectic month.

We spent the first half of the month preparing for our annual “home leave”, a three week vacation in the US. I was very busy at work, trying to get my project in order before I left. I am working on another tool to prototype and evaluate user interface ideas. The last few days before I left felt very rushed, but I think we did a good job.

Then, abruptly, we were on our long vacation. We worried about taking Audrey on a plane for such a long trip, but she seemed to travel better than we did. I guess to her, it did not matter where she was, as long as she was fed and rested.

Our holiday had four distinct phases: (1) the initial cool-down period, where I found myself getting frustrated if we were not making some sort of progress, either visiting friends and family or shopping or whatever (2) the week with the relatives, where we took a trip to Georgia to visit both of my grandmothers (3) a week of visiting friends around North Carolina (4) the home stretch, where we did nothing at my parents’ house – it snowed during that part.

We had a great time, and we managed to see a lot of friends. This was important to me, since this was the first chance for them to see Audrey. However, in retrospect, I wonder if it might have been easier to have our vacation at some other time besides Christmas. It’s just so hard to catch up with people during that time.

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