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Sitting here at work, bored out of my skull. It's been soooooo quiet today. At least I've been able to get some paperwork done. I know my GM would say "Call all of your accounts! Make them buy something!". Maybe he's comfortable with that, but in my experience, it rarely actually leads to any real sales.

Been forcing myself to draw more. I'm so far behind in drawing projects that I feel buried beneath an avalanche of unfinished projects. I feel like I've lost myself, who I was, what I loved to do. I'm an artist at heart, not a big, mean manager.

Looking forward to get some drawing done tonight.

Current Mood:
blah blah
Current Music:
Aion game soundtrack
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Stream of consiousness

 

By Jason Sander

 

Volutone thoughts, part 1

 

I am not a Volutone career man. I have never planned to be, nor do I plan to be in the future. When I hired in, it was under the management and tutelage of Bruce Vann, then manager of Santa Clara. I was ecstatic to get the job.. I even dressed up for the interview in a sport coat and tie. That was old Jason… young, naïve, just a kid looking for a day job that pays decent. At the time it was great. Chuck, Mace, Steve and Anthony were great to work with. Sure it was hard learning the ropes; the guys would tease me, customers would hassle me, I would mess up a lot. Learning the software system was a challenge as well. One of the first things Bruce had me do was to research the software, talk to every employee and take notes on how every process was done. I ended up making my very own manual on how to use Navision 1.0 (as I refer to it now). It took a long while.. over a year to learn how the software worked. I continued to grow as a salesperson, even though I rejected the outside sales job, since I wasn’t ready for it. My first outing with Bruce was disastrous. I’m glad now that I didn’t take that gig. As time went along, I learned that change is rapid at Volutone. Jeff showed up one day and fired Anthony and Felix, and promoted Steve to the manager position, demoting Bruce to outside sales. When I look back on that decision, I think that Jeff’s reasoning was that Bruce is the most experienced outside salesperson at our location. Steve and Anthony really didn’t do much in terms of outside sales. However, making Steve manager was a major misstep on Jeff’s part. Steve didn’t really understand management; if Steve lobbied for the job, he lied, like he always did. He didn’t have the experience he claimed to have, and he certainly didn’t act like a manager the entire time he occupied that chair. When he was at last fired a year and some months later, the job was offered to me. Although I did see it coming, I really didn’t put as much thought into it as I should have. I accepted the job on two conditions; one, the pay was better (duh), and two, that I would receive some sort of training.

 

Well, at least I received one of those. My pay is much better than before.. I really can’t complain too much about that. But training? If throwing me into the water and yelling “swim!!!” can be considered training, then sure, I got plenty. But as I discovered, Steve left a lot of unfinished business, which promptly fell right into my lap. I ended up cleaning up a lot of Steve’s messes, and not all for the best either.

 

As the months have gone by, I have realized that in some ways, getting this manager gig has been good for me. It has taught me to open up, to think on my feet, to consider all sides of the coin before making a decision. It has taught me to be more diplomatic, to compromise, to find a solution which will satisfy all parties. I am still working on these skills; they are very difficult. I have never been much of a people person, but I have learned to work with people more on this job than in past jobs. This can only help me in the future. But what of the future? Well that is what I have to now decide.

 

December 6, 2008. New Navision goes live. Every employee is at work, working inventory and populating the new system. For at least two years prior to this, New Navision has been a buzzword, a hope on the horizon, the “fix-all” to every problem. All of our concerns with the old software would be addressed, all of the bugs would be fixed, and life would be grand. On that day, we discovered that “New Navision” was basically fresh out of the box, little more than a template software program that was being tailor-made to Volutone’s needs as we worked. Now; a template program is fine, as long as the program is completed and running to the company’s specifications by the time it goes live. Now, call me naïve, but building a custom program for a company of 100 employees on the fly, as they are populating inventory, doesn’t seem like a sound business practice. The amount of errors we encountered were astronomical! On each and every error, we had to have the main programmer, John Collins, go into the code and fix the error while we watched and waited. The entire inventory took over 12 hours, and then a second inventory had to take place, because the first one messed up. From that point on, things have never seem to recovered.

 

The economic recession has not made things any easier. Chuck, our technical advisor, and a man I respect very much, has made it clear that he can’t stand the new software. Not only does it work differently from the previous version, but it seems to do strange things on its own. It could be he just doesn’t understand the system, and he thinks he does things correctly, when in fact he doesn’t. But that only illustrates one of the underlying problems with New Navision; it’s user unfriendliness. In order to use Navision properly, a great deal of training must occur. It is extremely powerful software, but unless you know exactly what you are doing, and are extremely computer literate, something can easily go wrong. And if something does go wrong, it takes a highly trained person to correct the error.

 

This illustrates something clearly to me: Chuck is a system integrator. He is an installer. He has spent a great deal of his life perfecting the art of low voltage system integration. This is no small feat; in fact, it takes a great deal of training and ambition in order to achieve what this man has done. But now he finds himself in a position which requires him to understand a software package meant for programmers, and indeed, requires a great deal of patience to learn properly. I fear that Chuck is simply incapable of the kind of patience required to understand Navision properly, as Volutone has implanted it. I have done my best to help Chuck understand it, but there is an obstacle; the program changes on a daily basis. Sometimes, even on an hourly basis, or even less! In September 2009, one day I discovered a number of changes that were being performed live, almost right before my very eyes. Buttons moved, new buttons created, colors changed.. everything was changing. How can someone work inside of a system having learned one way, and then things are moved around and changed WHILE he is working? And when he has a customer on the phone? How can he be expected to NOT express his surprise and anger to the customer as his software system is changing right before his very eyes? This is my dilemma; HQ forever defends these changes. They say that they are good for the system, and they are good for sales. I say, if you think these changes are good for sales, fine. But make the changes in the test database, test them properly to make sure they are working, schedule the change to the live database complete with proper notice to all sales people, THEN go live with these changes! Don’t change things around inside of the live database, without any notice!

 

Bruce: The man who hired me. I’ll never forget when I received his email, inviting me to come in for an interview, on the eve of The AV Room’s closing. I was ecstatic to escape Phil’s business.. as much as I respect Phil and his work, my usefulness in managing his business had severely dwindled. The closure of the store meant the disintegration of my commission pay, which was never that great to begin with. Working at Volutone was an exciting prospect then, and I really looked up to Bruce, as a manager and as a mentor.

 

Now, several years later, I find myself as his superior. How did this happen? Was it meant to be? Was HQ’s plan all along to replace Bruce with a younger, more malleable manager? I do not know the answer to that. I can only say that being Bruce’s superior officer is a strange feeling. The man has a great deal more experience than myself. I still seek his advice even now, and he seems happy to give it. I asked him once, if it was weird for him being employed under me, and whether he wanted to be manager again. His reply? “The only thing I miss about being manager is the money.” I can now see exactly where he is coming from on that. Bruce is extremely dedicated to making Volutone North work… perhaps more dedicated to that goal than anyone, including myself and even HQ itself. But there is a problem. More on that in a bit.

 

Mace: He has worked at Santa Clara for a while. He was hired in to cook burgers at the grand opening, and was then offered a job to manage the warehouse. Macve has embraced his job, and he does a fine job of keeping the warehouse in order. I feel comfortable allowing him a lot of slack, because in the end, he gets his job done. But in recent days, I fear his focus has dwindled. He is forgetful, letting UPS orders slip, and spends a great deal of time on his cellphone with his friends and his girlfriend. He allows himself to become distracted during workhours with his personal life, and as a result has let his work slip. As the months go by, these days, more responsibility is placed upon all of our shoulders, and we all have to step up to the plate. We all have to work harder, and smarter, in order to make more money, to make our customers happy, to keep our jobs and to make our customers happy. If we don’t, we are sunk.

 

Back to the problem mentioned above. There is a disconnect between Volutone North and HQ. There is a rather large philosophy gap, a difference of opinion between how HQ runs the business, and how we want to run the northern territories. In Southern California, Volutone seems content to be smoke and mirrors, to use bullshit as a legitimate tool to sell product to dealers. In Northern California, there appears to be a trend towards more honest sales; actually connecting to a customer, asking questions, finding the right product for the right dealer. Bruce is an Honest Salesman.. his method involves marketing the traits of a product, to expose customers to it, to allow a customer to see how the product is beneficial to him. I respect this method, and I find it compatable to my own style. But in So Cal, the method seems to be talk up a product, go for the quick sale, and somehow convince the buyer that not only is it the best thing every made, but deny their return if it turns out not to be the right product for them. I could be wrong on this last part.

 

I need to stop now.. an hour of stream of consiousness is enough for one night. To those that actually read all of this, apologies; I just wanted to get some stuff off of my chest. There is a lot that I need to figure out, and it's not going to be easy.

Current Mood:
contemplative contemplative
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I have an experience to share with you all. This deals with car stereo installation shops.

There are a lot of them. In fact, there's one right around the corner from my place, that actually came highly recommended. They do work for several of the auto dealerships in the area, and it is there that I had my windows tinted.  I decided to invest in a sound upgrade for my car, a 2008 Honda Fit Sport. I selected the deck I wanted and the speakers I wanted, and left the car with the shop for the day. Upon my return later in the day, it was installed, and it looked nice.

But there were two problems I noticed. One dealt with the deck's voice activation features. They didn't work! At all! And to top it off, somehow something came ungrounded and a terrible buzz was coming through the speakers. Utterly unlistenable, but I had to endure until I could make an appointment to have the shop fix the problem. Turns it the deck was defective, and the shop was good enough to replace the unit for me at no charge. So they kept my car for the day and when I picked it up, there was a shiny new unit installed, and all seemed good.

That is, until I noticed that the installer had screwed up the wiring and didn't ground the parking brake wire properly. He also didn't hook in the dimmer wire that dims the backlight when the headlamps are activated. So I had to take it back *again* so the installer could rip into my dash and fix the wiring that he screwed up. This time I watched him work; more specifically I watched him struggle with the center console trying to get it off and then back on again. I kept having to tell myself "he's not gonna break my dash.. he's not gonna break my dash, it'll be OK!"

Eventually he got all of the functions working, and on the center console went. *BAM BAM BAM* went his hand on the dash, to get the clips to set in. Of course they didn't set in right, but I was tired and wanted to get out of there. On the way home I noticed that he managed to break something else: my fan control. It no longer clicked. Great.

So back I went a week later to get someone to fix my fan control that was jacked up. This time it was a different installer. Feeling a little bad about having to come back all the time to have the shop fix something else that installer broke, I made the time more worthwhile for the shop by purchasing a small subwoofer and having them install it. They gave me a good price. The sub was put in, and the installer fixed my fan control for me. All was good.

Until something else went wrong. This time, it was the iPod cable hooked to the deck to control my iPod. A horrible noise would come out of one speaker, and then it cut out entirely, at random times. Turns out the iPod cable was defective and needed to be replaced. *sigh* Here we go again. So back to the shop I went. The original installer was the one who was called to replace the cable. This time I purchased an HD radio tuner in thanks to the shop for being this patient with me. Center console comes off (again with much struggling), the iPod cable is replaced, and the tuner is installed into the dash somewhere behind the glove compartment. The installer checks everything, makes sure the fan control works (I made him make sure), and puts the console back in. Of course it doesn't fit right.. this time there's a noticable gap at the top, where the console meets the dash assembly. Oh well.. I chalk it up to the cheap console from Mitra and decide to live with it. At least my system sounds good.

A couple of days later I noticed something wrong with my Mode control for the HVAC system - which on the Fit is a small rotary switch, a part of the center console. It wouldn't turn properly.. in fact it wasn't changing the HVAC mode at all! *sigh* So back to the shop I went (hung over from a party), and talk to the installer. The manager of the shop has him pulled off of another job he was working on to fix my control knob, because he seemed to know exactly what it was - that the HD tuner was blocking the lever inside the dash and preventing it from moving. Really easy to get to, behind the glove compartment. Turns out, that wasn't the whole problem. Yes, the tuner was blocking the lever, but the cable that attached it to the knob wasn't moving.

After completely removing the deck, the center console, unplugging absolutely everything, and getting at the HVAC assembly, it turns out that the teeny cable had snapped and was no longer hooked into the mode control switch. He attemtped the salvage the snapped cable by bending it and reinsterting it into the switch, and we even had the entire console reinstalled and clipped back into place, before the jerry-rigged cable came loose once again. A replacement cable would have to be obtained in order to repair this. Great. To top that off, turns out the customer whose job the installer was pulled from to do this repair work had driven a hundred miles to have his subwoofer made at the shop, and was getting pissed at the store because the installer was pulled to fix my car instead. So I said thank you to the installer and left to go to the Honda dealership to order a new HVAC control cable.

1 Honda Fit HVAC control cable = $8.43.

Today I picked it up at the parts department, and set to work. Having watched my dash taken apart a couple of times now, I felt much more confident about digging into my dash myself. I managed to get the console off, and with much effort, unhooked all three control cables, the entire mess of wiring connecting the deck to my car, and could get at the broken cable. I discovered that with the way cars are manufactured now, everything clips into place, and the clips are designed to go only one-way; IN. Getting the damn thing out of it's cradle was the hardest part of this.. I could only finally do it by using a set of tiny scissors and sliding the cable's sheath to shreds, and forcing it out. Fortunately, the replacement cable came with a new sheath, which clipped easily right into the cradle. With the new cable now hooked, I was able to reinsert the assembly, hook everything back into the deck, reattach all three control cables to their respective lever controls, and slide the console back into place. As a bonus, the center console piece, which had up until this point never fit correctly into the dash, clipped into place PERFECTLY, leaving no gaps and looking factory-made! The shop's installer had NEVER been able to get it to fit right, and I did it on the first try!

Now, finally, after many months, the system is complete and working correctly. It took months, and countless visits, and in the end I had to perform the somewhat complex repair myself, but it is done. And from this experience, I learned the following:

1: Cars these days are made cheaply. Everything clips in, mostly using one-way clips designed to make it fast and easy to assemble, but absolute Hell to remove.
2: If you plan to install an aftermarket anything on your vehicle, don't even waste your time with discount car installers. Sure, they may give you a cheaper price, but either study up your car's repair manuel and do the job yourself, or pay someone who really knows what they're doing.

Above all, never trust your vehicle to a cheap, second-rate car stereo installer!



Current Mood:
accomplished accomplished
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Last night, I met a childhood hero. I shook hands with Nobuo Uematsu.

As the Distant Worlds concert series finally came to San Francisco, I got to hear the music of the Final Fantasy games performed live by one of the finest orchestras in America. Even though I know the music inside and out, it was a real treat to hear it played live, surrounded by others as much into the music as I was. It was unlike any other concert I've attended, and even though it was more than two hours, I wanted it to go on. It felt so short!

But the real treat was the after party. I almost didn't go, because of the price of the ticket; but I decided that it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and so I went. Crocuta ended up coming with me, so we both shuffled into a tiny lounge called the Crimson Lounge, two blocks away from Davies Symphony Hall. There, we were served horse-deouves, and we could order drinks from the small bar. They must have packed that lounge to capacity. I met a cool guy named Brian who works as a sound designer for the studio behind the Ratchet and Clank series. Then Nobuo-san and Arnie Roth arrived, and the party began. Even though they were upfront about wanting to party with us and not sign autographs (we were each handed a signed CD of Distant Worlds when we entered the lounge), they came prepared with silver pens all the same. I ended up getting my original SNES cartridge of Final Fantasy II signed. Nobuo-san is definately a guy who loves his parties, as he was having a grand time with the fans as they took pictures with him, clinking beer glasses together, shaking hands. I Got to thank him for all the incredible work he's done. I even got to talk a little with meastro Roth about the possibility of concert band arrangements of Final Fantasy music. I Wished I had gotten more time to just chat with Nobuo-san and Arnie, but given the sheer number of people there, I really can't be happier with the time that I did get with them.

A grand night indeed!



Current Mood:
happy happy
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So it seems like the overwhelming consensus from my last post comes to "Do it you idiot!!!"

So today, I purchased the ticket. I'm-a goin' to the party y'all!!

Pictures will be forthcoming. Please, Torrent, don't kill me. And please, White_Wer, don't hurt Clyde!!! :)

Current Mood:
awake awake
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So next month, I will be attending the Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy concert in San Francisco. I have been wanting to see this concert for years now, ever since they first began the series several years ago. I am extremely excited to go see this, and listen to it live, even though there will be little in terms of new material; I already know all of the music inside and out. I grew up with music from Final Fantasy music, and it is a rather large part of me. I believe it has helped mold me into the man I am today.

As excited as I am to be attending this concert, performed live by the incredible San Francisco Symphony, I find myself with a dilemma. The tickets themselves were rather expensive, even for mid-class seats, and between that and travel fees the evening will already get pretty pricey. But this week, I received an email inviting me (and many, many others of course) to purchase a "meet and greet" ticket, for after the show. You see, it was announced that The Man himself, Nobuo Uematsu, will be attending this concert, and after the show they will be throwing a cocktail party. There will be photo opportunities with Uematsu-san (not sure if that's right.. I'm a dumb American), hors-d'orvres, and an autographed copies of the Distant Worlds CD. The problem is the price of this special ticket, available only in limited numbers, is quite high.. over $100. And I have until tomorrow morning when they go on sale to decide.

At this point, despite the cost, I am seriously considering it. After all, the question I am asking myself is: "How often does someone like me get to meet someone like Nobuo Uematsu?" After all, I grew up with his music, since FF1. This is an opportunity to shake this man's hand and tell him face to face how much I respect him and his work.

Damn it. I think I'm going to do it.
Current Mood:
contemplative contemplative
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Back in the snowy winters of 1997, in the outskirts of Toronto, I met a wonderful person: Furp. Great sense of humor, warm, kind, and good-looking as hell, I spent a weekend with him, Dracon and Chronos. We all spent the weekend, hanging out and doing whatever, had a wonderful time. I even drew a couple of dragons having wild gay sex on his back in semi-permanant marker! I still have that picture somewhere...

Last night, a horrible thing happened, and because of a drunk marine, Furp was taken from us.
http://www.insidesocal.com/news247/.....n-twentyn.html

It isn't fair, and it isn't right. We had drifted apart a bit, only seeing him occassionally at a con, or saying hello online. I didn't keep very good contact. It's true what they say, you can't take anything for granted, and you never know what you really have until you lose it.

Poor Furp... he really, really deserved much better than this; taken away at such a young age. So much energy, passion, and potential... Now the world will never know.

Rest in peace, my good friend. Until we meet again.
Current Mood:
sad sad
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Today I've begun the process of making an appointment to see a psychologist. Lately, I have been feeling a great deal of stress, and I feel I need a stranger to talk to and blow off some steam. Work has been hell... loads of stress caused by corporate BS, pressure from customers, upper management and co-workers.

Last night I nearly went postal on my newly-repaired Xbox 360. I expected to relax and play some video games to try and let some of the stress melt off of me, but none of my downloaded games were cooperating. I couldn't even play them unless I was connected to my Xbox live online. Turns out, after three or four hours of ranting and raving and three calls to India, I figured it out with the help of a friend I was chatting with online; the DRM on the games kicked in. Turns out the Xbox I got back was not in fact the one I sent to be repaired, and the downloaded games are licensed to the console, not the hard drive. So I was pointed to a license transfer tool on Xbox.com, one you can only use once ever 12 months, to transfer the licenses to the new console. I redownloaded the games, and they're good to go now. But my stress meter was off the scale, so I just went to bed.

So here I am today, still stressed out, and it's not getting any better. I'm lashing out at people, being negative, my mood's shot. It's affecting my job performance, and it's most assuredly affecting my art, as I can't seem to muster up the mnotivation to draw. This is a serious problem for me, and I need some help.
Current Mood:
stressed stressed
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Now that the election is over for 2008, it is as one more chapter of American history has been finished, with another just starting. It is indeed a historic election, representing a new age not only for our country, but for the world, as a black man has been elected US President for the first time in history. To me, this signals a major shift in overall public attitude in regards to just what an American is. To me, this country was founded by outcasts, wanting to form their own government, and accepting of other people from other places wanting the same thing. But it didn't turn out that way, and I'm happy to see things are finally changing.

On the other hand, I am disappointed to see that bigotry and discrimination still reigns in California. Prop 8 has passed, and it is now no longer legal for gays to marry in California. Although the leader of the "Yes on 8" campaign has said that "it was never about discrimination", that is exactly what it was all about, regardless of what he may say. Marriage is a sacred vow between two people who love each other, whether they're the same sex or a man and a woman. "Yes on 8" represents a selfish desire to deny one group of people this special right; and contrary to what "Yes on 8" says, marriage and civil unions do _not_ represent the same thing, it is still drawing a line. This seems to me to be a similar idea to blacks and whites having separate bathrooms during the days of segregation. Yes, blacks could still use the bathroom, just as long as they used the "black" bathroom. Marriage and civil unions represents the same thing. "You can have the same rights, you just can't be married. That's for straight people."

Look, folks: people just want to be entitled to the same rights that other people enjoy. It's time to finally let go of the old bigotries and prejudices that have plagued our people for centuries. We've already come so far, let's keep moving forward, not backward.
Current Mood:
blah blah
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Greetings all! The CD my band, the Ohlone Wind Orchestra, has worked on with trumpet player Mike Vax has just been released! Available from Summit Records, the CD, "Vaxuosity", features Mike performing alongside my band, with whom I play percussion. It is conceived as a "summer concert in the park" kind of experience, with a varied program including jazz, classical, and modern concert band repetoire.

It is available through Amazon.com, but if the CD is purchased through the band's website, the Ohlone Wind Orchestra will receive a percentage of the proceeds, which goes towards supporting the band. Since we are non-profit, music purchases and operating expenses are paid through donations, concert proceeds and CD sales. So if you like classical/jazz and want to help out a community band, please help out by purchasing Vaxuosity from this site:

http://www.ohlonewindorchestra.org/recordings.html

Thank you all for your support!!


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