Saturday, January 01, 2005

It's been a while since I last wrote. Being near Christmas I was just interested in getting things in order before I took a break, and blogging was just low on the list of priorities. That didn't mean I wasn't working or researching inferencing (I know a lot more about Rete now, plus how I could take advantage of it for Kowari), I just wasn't blogging it.

However, now that Christmas has passed I find myself in a very different position.

For a start, the devestation in southern Asia has been quite large in my mind. The loss of life is so large that it's stunning to think that there was ever a single natural disaster larger than this one (why had no one ever told me about the '76 earthquake in China?). What frustrates me the most is hearing news reports that of the 100,000 or so casualties, about 10 of them were from Australia. I know that the news services just want to report things in a way that people can relate to more, but the way it's put, it sounds like those 10 people somehow rate more highly than the other 100,000.

I'm not a big fan of the media (ask me some time about personal experiences), but this time they seem to be doing some good. Sure, they're exploiting the situation, and they're desperately trying to find individuals who've flown back with personal stories of loss that will give you a lump in the throat, but this has led to people being generous in their donations. Indeed, I think it has been the media's contribution which has forced various governments to increase the level of aid being given.

Speaking of governments, Australia is a small country, and the money we have here is an order of magnitude less than we see overseas. When we spend a million dollars, it's a really big deal. So a $65 million dollar contribution is actually a significant amount, to my way of thinking. I was really pleased to hear it. The fact that big countries (who's budgets are in the trillions) could have donated less really did seem stingy to me. I'm pleased to hear that the US increased the value "tenfold" to $350 million, but it really appeared that they were embarressed into it. I don't know what really went on behind the closed doors, but in politics perception is reality, so they get to wear that particular mantle.

Back home
In our own little lives things haven't been all that happy either, though on a different scale.

Anne's brother, Ian, has been partnered to Amanda Bardon for over 10 years. 3 months ago she woke up with chest pain, which turned out to be a tumour (caused by a skin cancer that hadn't been treated in time). A short sequence of new tumours and operations ensued, and on the 27th she passed away at the age of 34.

Anne and Luc left for the memorial in Melbourne today. We'll miss you Amanda.

After several successful contracts, numerous negotiations in the final stages, and gaining interest in Kowari, one of the principal investors got cold feet. After announcing that all was well on the 22nd, the company was closed down on the 26th (27th in Australia). We get our last fortnightly paycheque, and that's it. With everyone on holidays it took 4 or 5 days before everyone could be told about it.

This is frustrating for several reasons. The first is that no one is working over this period. It has not been possible to speak to anyone to see what my prospects will be like. I'm told that business continues in America over the Christmas/New Year period, but that's not what happens here.

Second, it appears that we will not be getting any entitlements. I spent several years trying to take holidays at various times, but for numerous reasons I was refused. Consequently I've lost quite a bit of holiday time. While I'd have liked to spend it with my family, at the moment the money would have allowed me a little time to look for a job. The Tsunami puts this into perspective, but it's still frustrating.

Another frustrating is that Tucana was the best job I'd had in years, which is why I stayed so long (5 years, including 4 months when I took unpaid leave to go contracting when Tucana ran out of money). We all know quite a lot about RDF and OWL now, and I think we've made something pretty good in Kowari and TKS, but that expertise is all about to go to waste. While some people in Australia are looking at RDF, there are no commercial organisations in Brisbane who have moved that far ahead yet. As a result, everyone will end up working in completely unrelated areas.

From my perspective, I was enjoying learning how to infer for OWL in Kowari. Since my Masters relies upon this I'll be continuing to work on Kowari in my own time. I'll just have to be disciplined as I won't get the opportunity to work on Kowari in my work time.

Working Notes
So what am I doing now?

Well my blog won't be describing my work in the same detail, as I don't think that this is appropriate in many companies. It will keep up with OWL and Kowari, but I won't have the same incentive to write that I used to.

I've stayed in Brisbane to look for work while Anne goes to the memorial in my stead. I have to update my resume today... if I can even find an old copy.

Other than that, I'm trying to keep expenses down (I could only afford a small donation to the Red Cross for the tsunami work), helping a friend renovate and move house, and running around looking for work. I've been feeling a little down, which has led me to not do any triathlon training this week, but I suppose I should start on that again too. I'll have to skip swimming I think, as I can't really afford to be paying pool entry for the moment. I've also avoided using the computer, since I was on a "break", but I'll eventually have to get back to Kowari development too.

If anyone has any ideas, then let me know! :-)


Anonymous said...

I'd like to chat (email?) with you about some possible consulting regarding Kowari (TKS?).

Please drop me an email at


Anonymous said...

You probably don't want to go there, but according to US law, a company that closes its doors still has an outstanding debt to pay off the vacation time of its employees. And in fact, this debt is quite a high-ranking one, stading in front of many others (including the preferred stock held by those investors).

When a company decides that it will cease operations, the board is supposed to calculate what it needs to pay to pay off all outstanding salaries (that last paycheck you got) as well as any outstanding debts to employees (like vacation time and sick leave). If it fails to do this, the members of the board can be held personally liable for these debts.

I don't know if the Tucana you were employed with was a US firm, or an Australian one. And even if you do have this recourse, those board members are probably your friends, and you don't really want to see them declare personal bankruptcy if they can't pay you. Then again, maybe they aren't . . .

Quoll said...

Thanks, but it's kind of tricky. Yes, it's a US company, but I was paid by an Australian subsiduary, and it makes the liability waters very murky.

As for not pursuing it because I'm friends with the owners... that's not the case. I'm friends with the OLD owners. However, they had to sell out their ownership in order to keep the company running. In fact, I think that final repayments of debts to this couple will not happen because of the shutdown, so they are in a pickle as well.

In a nutshell... liability is all on the VC who shut us down. I have never met her, and would gladly do what I could to get enough money to live from her (just to pay for food and mortgage until I find a new job!), but that won't happen, so I'm just searching for work as best I can.

In the meantime, after a flagship airline company went out of business in Australia the federal government put a levy in place to fund future entitlements of employees of companies that become insolvent. I don't know how this will work out for me, but I'm now entitled to make a claim from this service. Fingers crossed that I get something back.