Tuesday, 22 February 2011


My daily commute takes me around 35 minutes one-way (on a bicycle), so every day I have about 70 minutes of private "thinking time". It is a great way to wake up in the morning (especially the last few days as it was sunny and around minus 5C), and to switch-off from work in the evening. But sometimes I can't help to reflect on the day at work that has just passed, and today was one of those days. I was thinking to myself that "without me, this company would have been bankrupt long ago" but also that "with me, this company will be bankrupt soon". Once again we are running out of money and without fresh investments by the owners we will have spent all our cash before the end of March. And the big question is: will the owners inject fresh funds this time?
It is easy to see what mistakes have been made in the past. We have been spending loads of money on people with a quick talk and a sexy story, and my bosses are extremely gullible, don't do background checks and don't check these stories, so we have been attracting con-artists disguised as reliable business partners as honey attracts bees. I have warned my bosses innumerable times, played "devil's advocate" every other day, and sometimes they listen but most of the time they don't. Hence the piles of money we have been losing.
We currently have 5 marketing type alpha-males in our office, and one more conservative person (me), so it is hard for me to steer all their ridiculous plans in the right direction. They are great at making plans, networking, getting people together, and are tireless in designing half-baked new business initiatives. The strategy of the company changes every 15 minutes and depends mostly on the latest con-artist they have spoken with.
It is true: these kinds of people are needed in every company - but we have too many of them. The skills they have I lack: I hate networking with people I don't like and I am conservative with spending money on "new stuff", and they easily allocate tens of thousands of euros to unproven and highly doubtful business ideas. Time will tell who is right: if I am out of a job by this time next month I guess I was right after all.

Monday, 7 February 2011

"In sickness and in health"

This song was a big hit by Dutch group Doe Maar in the 1980's mainly for its lyrics that most Dutch of my generation will be able to sing along: "If you win, you have friends queueing up". The lyrics are about how easy it is to make friends when all is going well: when you are handsome, or sexy, or young, or healthy, or rich, or successful, or -even better- all of the above.
I remembered this song cycling back from Sunday night out in the bars yesterday. Few people turned up, and only MA, HE, XX and I shared the drinks. I hadn't seen XX for a while after he had an achilles tendon rupture while playing volleyball. He needed an operation and is still walking with the help of crutches.
His latest boyfriend didn't have time for him when he was in hospital so XX dumped him. And his best friend (or so he thought) and drinking-buddy GW promised to fetch him from hospital and transport him home, but when XX called from the hospital to agree the exact time to pick him up, GW informed him that it was inconvenient and he was busy. So in the end XX's reliable ex-bf had to arrange transport and accompany XX home from the hospital.
So once again someone learned the old lesson that many of our so-called "friends" are only friends in good times and can not be relied upon when sickness or disaster strikes. As the lyrics of the song go, it is easy to have "friends" when you "win". But are they really friends?
There is truth in the marriage vow "in sickness and in health". When you are in hospital or in prison you get to know your real friends.

Friday, 4 February 2011


Uxbal is in an unhappy marriage, separated from his schizofrenic wife, and trying to take care of his children when his doctor tells him he has prostate cancer and a few months to live. "How long do I have?" "A few months" "Months?"
He is a businessman in the grey economy in Barcelona: buying handbags from Chinese illegal immigrants who run a small factory where they employ some 25 Chinese workers/slaves, and selling the bags to African illegal immigrants who are in a constant cat-and-mouse game with the police and who are trying to sell the handbags.
All groups are trying to survive and make some money: our friend Uxbal needs to buy as cheaply as possible, and sell at a profit, bribe the police to leave the Chinese and Africans alone, and hopefully have some money left to pay his rent and buy food for the children.
Then things go wrong: the Africans are arrested and get beaten up and are expelled from Spain, the Chinese factory workers all die in the badly ventilated basement where they sleep, and Uxbal's illness progresses rapidly which means he can't hide his imminent death from his children.
After seeing this movie I realized how blessed everybody is who is in good health, has a roof above his head and money to buy food. This movie makes you vote socialist.
Biutiful is beautiful.