Still on the plane from Texas to Kentucky. I’m sitting alone, which is a plus, since I doubt coach airline seats are made for people that are 6 feet tall. Pretty clear day today; we’re cruising at whatever altitude and I can clearly make out the ground, which is nice.

I didn’t really think much about this now, but the weather in San Antonio was incredible. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.
It’s going to be cold in Kentucky… damnit.

Toyota North America Facilities Conference, Day 2
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX)
San Antonio, Texas

Well, this day started off pretty well. Same free, unhealthy breakfast, and then an interesting presentation or two about manufacturing plant issues.

In the breaks we’ve had during the conference, I’ve been able to think up some technical topics to write about in my blog, so look forward to that. I’m sure whoever reading this is thrilled.

After the initial presentations, it was a day of extremes for me. I saw, in the same day, the most incoherent presentation I’ve ever seen, as well as the longest presentation, possibly ever.

For the most incoherent, it requires a bit of background. The Japanese portion of the Toyota is referred to as TMC, or the Toyota Motor Corporation. Here in the United States, the company is split into two entities, TMS, or Toyota Motor Sales, and TEMA, or Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (who I work for).

TMC had a presence at the conference, and two presentations were given. Again, TMC is Japanese, which means that the majority of the employees there do not have English as a first language. The presentation that I am going to focus on was the first presentation given.

First sign that something was awry: PowerPoint presentation was not in English
I do not know what kind of time frame was placed on this presentation, but it seems like a kind of cop-out to me. The vast majority of people in the audience were not Japanese speakers, which completely undermined the presentation. Even now, I have no clue whatsoever what the presentation was about. I seriously tried following the slides, but understanding something that you can’t read is rather difficult.

Second issue: The presenter was not an English Speaker, and the translator was not much better
My next point comes with the person giving the presentation. This TMC member did not speak English (at least, not well enough to present anything), so another TMC member was acting as translator. However, the translator’s English was… subpar to say the least. I know there were much better English/Japanese speakers present at the conference, so why this combination was chosen is beyond me.

The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that it is a matter of honor for the TMC employees; that the presenter was the guest of the translator. I know there are massive cultural differences between the United States and Japan, but this seems like something that should’ve been planned much better. The presentation could have been the uber, end all plan for Toyota to demolish all competition, but I will never know, since I followed approximately none of it.

The other extreme presentation I heard was the longest presentation I believe I was ever in. If I had to guess, I’d say it lasted for about 4 hours, and that’s a very conservative estimate.

I’m not going to mention what it was about, since that’d probably be grounds for termination from TEMA. I believe that, like the TMC presentation, the length of this presentation was due in part to poor planning. It was originally supposed to take an hour, but it ran for around 4 times that. This kind of thing makes you really think of the necessity to thoroughly plan out an important presentation or meeting. Sure, everyone’s gone into a presentation completely unprepared and has just winged it; I know I have; and sometimes that goes well. However, sometimes it goes very, very badly. I think Anthony Bourdain said it the best on his show No Reservations when he said something to the effect of: “If you spin the wheel long enough, you eventually come up with double zero.” **

The day ended with some more informative presentations that I found interesting, such as one on Risk Management and insurance on some of Toyota’s plants. I guess you can never really get away from your roots.
At night, most of the facilities attendees went out on the town, or more explicitly, went to the San Antonio Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a canal that runs through the city and has a variety of nightlife (read: bars) for people to kill some time. A group of us went out, got a good meal, and then call it a night.

Overall, the conference was a good time. I picked up a lot of information, and it was just a good experience for me. San Antonio seems like a nice enough city, although we weren’t there long enough for me to get a proper feeling for the place. Overall, I can honestly say that the people really made the conference what it is. While that may sound redundant, I just find it so interesting to see the characters that came from various locations across North America. That made it worth the trip alone.

Oh, and there were 19 audible cell phone rings today. Incredible.

** This quote may not be exactly correct, but I’m confidant that it is close enough for the point that was given. If I can find the original, I’ll change it

I know I may be posting this rather late, but it’s been really difficult to write entries during the conference. The days have been really full of presentations from a variety of people, and they have (for the most part) been very interesting. I’m currently on the flight back from Texas to Kentucky, and I have some time now when I’m not really tired to write something.
Below is my entry concerning the first full day of the conference

Toyota North America Facilities Conference, Day 1
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX)
San Antonio, Texas

The first day of the conference was quite a busy day. The conference began at 7:30 AM with a free, hilariously unhealthy breakfast. However unhealthy it may have been, the price was right, being free and all.

At 8, the presentations for the conference began, with mixed results. It’s funny the little things you pick up from presentations. For example, I counted 18 audible cell phone rings during the day (not counting overly loud vibration motors). For the record, at 21, I was by far the youngest person at the conference. Maybe it’s silly for me to notice a thing like that (I started counting in the morning after 3 phones went off in a 5 minute period), but it just seems to be incredibly disrespectful to the presenters.
Seriously. At least fake interest. I know not all of the presentations were the best, but I did make a conscious effort on each to at least pick up something useful.

Actually, I think the most useful bit of information I picked up was learning how Reverse Osmosis water filters worked, at least at a high level.

The morning was mostly informative meetings about the various workgroups that are a part of Facilities Engineering, such as Major Breakdown and Compressed Air groups. The end of the day, however, consisted mostly of request presentations about help with projects and issues at various plants. Most of this stuff is probably uninteresting to the majority of people outside of Toyota, but the presenters were quite good, and the presentations had a good amount of pictures. I like pictures.

This night also had an official dinner, which was paid for by the company (I think; it was paid by someone who wasn’t me). The food was acceptable; salad, London broil and some kind of fish (Mahi Mahi I believe). The drink system was… different. Instead of an open bar like the usual case (at least, from what I’ve heard), we were issued two “drink tickets” that could be exchanged for drinks. Any drink after that needed to be paid for out of the person’s pocket.

I ended up with a total of 5 drink tickets at the end of the night. Why is not important.

Speaking of drinking, and this is what I’ll close on here, some of the employees down here could make college students blush. I am, by no means, a heavy drinker, but I do like to think I’ve got a decent tolerance to the stuff. Some of these people, though, could probably drink me and a few friends under the table and wake up with no hangover whatsoever.

Unbelievable.

My luggage got searched by the TSA. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if they wouldn’t have put a little flyer saying they did. I don’t exactly pack in the most… organized manner, but still. I took a picture of the flyer, so I’ll post that here if I can.

TSA Search FlyerTSA Search Notice

The hotel we’re in is called the “El Tropicano Riverwalk” and is a Holiday Inn hotel. It’s not really in the best part of town, and it’s a decent walk to any of the Riverwalk nightlife. I think it’s enough, though. I’ve stayed nights in worse places, so I have no real complaints. Apparently, many of my coworkers have issues with their rooms, but I must’ve gotten lucky. I took some pictures of the room also, and I’ll post them if I can.

0520 Hotel pic 1Pic 1

520 Hotel Photo 2Pic 2

524 Hotel PicPic 3

524 Hotel PicPic 4

526 Hotel PicHuge Bathroom

528 Hotel ViewAwesome View

Nothing really going on tonight, just mostly getting ready of the beginning of the conference tomorrow. Apparently, a bunch of TEMA people are going out as a group soon to get some dinner, and they invited me to come. They’re leaving soon, so I have to cut this entry rather short. I’ll write more when I can, but right now, it’s time to go out and get some food with some coworkers.

Who wants to stay cooped up in a room anyway?

Hi everyone. I know that right around Christmas time, I said that I would write more in my blog. In all honesty, I just haven’t felt the urge to write anything. Sure, interesting things have happened to me since my last entry, but I doubt many of you out there really care about that.

To all of those people that read my Amazon.com interview posts and commented, I sincerely thank you. It makes me feel good that my posts here have helped some people with their interviews and possibly even their careers. That sort of thing validates what I’ve done here, and it makes me feel like I’ve actually done something. So, again, if any of you out there are reading this, I sincerely thank you all.

To anyone out there who is reading this on Facebook, feel free to check out the homepage of this blog at https://gatacoma.wordpress.com. I’d appreciate any comments you have to be posted there, since it’s better than the RSS import that Facebook has implemented.

I’m currently on a flight from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport that is destined for San Antonio, Texas. The group that I am co-oping with at TEMA (Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America) has a conference at the Toyota plant in San Antonio, generally referred to by the group (and company) as TMMTX, or Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas.
I’m hoping for a fun trip. The trip lasts from today (Monday, February 4, 2008) to Thursday, February 7, 2008, at which point the group will be flying back to Kentucky.

My purpose there is, for the most part, to observe and take in as much of the event as possible. Being a co-op, I have nothing to present that is of any real concern to the majority of the people at the conference, but I really am looking forward to the other presentations that will be put on. Should be a new experience, at the very least.

I hope to take this blog in a more technology-oriented direction. I’ve done little recently to make this blog more than just a blurb about myself, and I’ll try to change that. I want to make it a bit of a hybrid, if you will. I could fail miserably, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

That’s really all I have to say right now. I thank all of you that actually spend some time and look through my entries here. Feel free to comment; I’d really appreciate it.

Take it easy, everyone.

Merry Christmas, Everyone

December 25, 2007

I haven’t posted here in a while. I really have meant too, but it’s just been one of those things I’ve been putting off.

I really do plan to write a real, content-laden post soon, but I really don’t have the urge to do it at the moment, which sounds awfully like the issue I’ve been having.

All I want to say, to everyone reading is, is to have a Merry Christmas. Or a happy Hanukkah. Or, to quote Krusty the clown, a “Crazy Kwanzaa”.

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, if any at all, have a happy one, as well as a Happy New Year.

This has been going through my head for some time now, and I figured that now that I have a little free time, I could write a post about it.

What in the hell is happening with insurance company advertising?

I’ve been familiar with the Insurance industry (if you could call it industry. Sector maybe?) since about the time I was born; it’s a family business of sorts. Which makes me the family oddball with going to school for an engineering discipline.

But enough about that. I recall a time when there weren’t many commercials about it. Times when Progressive was much smaller, Westfield was Old Guard, Esurance and Geico didn’t exist (at least in my knowledge), etc.

But now, everyone and their brother seems to be advertising about insurance on the TV. And some of these adds are alright. I especially enjoy the Allstate commercials (I think they’re Allstate) where people are all helping each other. But that also brings me to my issue.

When did advertising for insurance become so insanely far removed from insurance itself?

Case in point: Esurance. I just saw a commercial that involved the song “What I Like About You” by The Romantics and a montage of their cartoon character fighting villains and singing.

What. The. Hell.

All of Esurance’s commercials seem like this, with wacky off-the-wall themes that appear to me to range from “Save paper, get our insurance” and “other car insurance has become a giant mechanized monster and is blowing up a city!”

Esurance isn’t the only company that’s been going this path. Geico and their caveman commercials. I found them witty and interesting at first, but now they’ve become a beast of their own.

I’m fairly certain the newest one I’ve seen doesn’t even advertising insurance. At all. The commercial tells you to go to a website at the address www.cavemanscrib.com.

I took a venture there, and it actually appears to be a fairly quality site. However, I think it’s going a bit to far away from the company itself.

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe the fact that the advertising is so far removed from the product itself helps it. I remembered it due to that. It doesn’t make me want to purchase from them, but it makes me remember them. I don’t know if that’s successful or not.

I think that insurance companies should try to instill confidence in their product with their ads, not make them think of a wacky caveman party or a woman with pink hair fighting giant robots.

If you want to see a good commercial, keep a lookout for Allstate’s commercials. I think that they are the prime example of what I’m talking about.

Now I’ll kindly step off my soapbox and end this rant.

With my co-op with Toyota ended, a thought came upon me: I’m not going to have a summer off until I retire.

And the odd part is, I’m fine with it.

Maybe it’s this whole “growing up” crap, but something about it reminds of when I entered middle school (grades 5-8 where I come from) and where recess did not exist. It seemed prior to that, everyone was all “What’re we going to do? No more recess!” but then we got to middle school, and our attitudes on it were “Meh.”

I know that’s probably a terrible comparison, but I think there’s some truth in there. You live with certain things for so long, and then sometimes when they’re gone, you couldn’t care less.

I mean, I worked during my summers. Maybe that was part of it. Also, maybe it is that I don’t find work as hard as school, and it seems like a vacation; at least from RIT. I honestly don’t know.

I know a lot of people from RIT, at least in my discipline and year level, are right now finishing up what I’d imagine will be their last summer vacation. I had a summer vacation slashed since I joined the RIT CE dual degree program, which forces students to start co-op a year earlier.

Any thoughts on this? I’m actually looking for some external input on this to see how people actually feel about it.

People looking at this on facebook, I highly encourage going to the actual site (gatacoma.wordpress.com) and posting any comments there. I’d appreciate it.