Sunday, July 1, 2018

Installment 8.3: A meeting with the devil


Mr. Liu walked into the meeting not knowing quite what to expect.

Mr Liu's company had been one of many in the Bay Area had not been able to meet the terms of the CDOs they had signed when the interest rates on the benchmark Cali 10 year bonds spiked above 12%.  There were simply not enough hard currency reserves to go around.

The companies were still viable.  They still produced products and services that were in high demand and extremely profitable.  The problem was that the companies did not have that kind of money right now.  And those companies could not raise that kind of money right now without putting their reputations into the ditch.  And frankly, their reputation was what enabled those companies to command such juicy profit margins. 

The product differentiation was the gravatis inferred by the brand sticker on the phone case or the logo when the software opened.  Damage to the brands would create incalcuable damage to the value of the companies.

The parties holding the obligations had seemed very reasonable.  They accepted stock in the companies and seats on the company Board of Directors as a show of good faith until such time as the obligations could be discharged.

That had been a necessary evil and had not seem too onerous until the Board Members started their activist agendas.  This meeting was about one such agenda.

Mr Liu and his aide walked into the nondescript conference room.  It was upholstered in industrial grade, easy to clean surfaces.

A scraggly man of about sixty arose as did his aide, a very young man of east Indian descent.

“Neh-how ma, Mr Xiaopei Liu.” the scraggly man greeted him in well toned Mandarin.  The scraggly man's aide put his hands together and bowed in the subcontinent's sign of deference.

Mandarin relies on “tones” as well as phenomes to create words.  Common tones are -, /, \, and U.  Kenny's delivery was “---, Mister \\-”.

Mr Liu's eyebrows registered his surprise.  Kenny Lane's reputation was that of a clown and a loose cannon.  Mr Liu did not expect to be greeted in technically correct Mandrin.

“You speak Mandrin?” he said in surprise.

“Oh, just a little bit.  Just what I picked up at restaurants.” Kenny replied.

“That is way more than most people pick up.” Mr Liu replied.

“I guess most people don't take advantages to better themselves when they have the chance.” Kenny replied.

After the usual pleasantries and coffee pouring, the parties got down to work.

“I have been tasked” Mr Liu stated with an unconscious grimmace, “with exploring the 'opportunities' of moving programming work down here to Sedelia.”

In fact, he had been directed to move programming jobs to Sedelia.  Damned activists!  His soul had been sold by a bunch of accountants grubbing for easy money.

Kenny said, “This is when I give the floor to Mr Dilip Bhalsad.  This initiative is his idea and I am smart enough to get out of the way of folks who are smarter than I am.”

The young east Indian man stood up and started his presentation simply...with words and not with graphics or laser shows.

“What are your biggest challenges as a business owner in Silicon Valley?” Dilip asked rhetorically.  “Judging from the number of articles written in the trade rags, they are, in order:

         Employee retention
         Employee motivation and burn-out
         Security issues associated with...employees

 “These issues all spring from the same roots.  Performing a meta analysis on the articles, the core problem is that after a certain point, money stops being a motivator for your rock-star programmers and program managers.” Dilip continued.

“We think we have a solution to your bundle of problems and we want your help in debugging our solution.” Dilip finished.

Mr Liu was taken aback.  He had expected the Prime Minister of Sedelia to hard sell and to talk about 'tribute'”.  The last thing he expected was a consultant trying to solve his problems...and then they asked for his help!

Mr Liu settled back.  It might be entertaining to hear what government bureaucrats thought about his problems.

“Our solution is a cluster of theme resorts that are tailored to be optimal for vacationing programmers.” Dilip said.  “We have tentatively named these theme resorts 'Fantasy Islands'.”

“Programmers don't go on vacations.  Or if they do, they work while on vacation.” Mr Liu injected.

Dilip held up his hand to forestall more comments.  “Recognizing that programmers work during their vacations we performed market research and focus groups with our target market to collect a punch-list of their wants and needs.”

Mr Liu scoffed.  “I have to call 'Bullshit!'  Expert programmers are hard to come by.  I think I would have heard of any market research that you had been doing.”

“You are right.” Dilip conceded.  “Expert programmers are a difficult group to perform market research on.  However, we avoided most of the logistical hurdles to performing that research by creating a virtual reality simulation and posting it on the sites most frequented by top level programmers.  We had them design their fantasy vacation spots and we are using those requirements as a series of templates for our resorts.”

In spite of his scepticism, Mr Liu was hooked.

“What were their requirements?” Mr Liu asked.

“Bandwidth.  More bandwidth.  Round-the-clock nightlife and comfort support.  Attractive young people to hang out with.  Respect.” Dilip rattled off.

“Well, there you go.  Bandwidth.  Everybody is screwed on that issue.  Don't see how you are going to offer more bandwidth than the Bay Area.” Mr Liu said.

Dilip said, “We have two initiatives to create more bandwidth.  First of all, we are gutting all of the surveillance devices in Sedelia.  Seventy percent of our WIFI bandwidth is gobbled up by surveillance related data.  They consume bandwidth even when they are in 'stand-bye' mode.  We are simply unplugging those devices.  Saves a bunch of power, too.”

“The other initiative involves a home-grown product.  Very low power, UV, Laser diodes are embedded in the ceilings.  They track mouse pads that we will hand out to our clients.  The users are literally standing beneath a data fire-hose. The whole time they are in the resort.”

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