Friday, November 28, 2014

Getting Work Done


You have a small job that needs doing.  Say the replacement of a fitting in your house or car. 

You have a choice of two workers.  You think the job should take about an hour.  Each of the workmen quotes for the same time, say two hours.  But that’s acceptable, it allows for contingency, the almost inevitable exposing of hidden issues, the development of requirement, and more importantly it is a standard figure that all workers quote for this type of task.  

One knocks off the work in a hour.  Doesn’t tell you she has finished.  Doesn’t bother you with the inevitable little difficulties encountered.  Just finishes the work and goes home.  Great.  But you wish she had told you of these things, so while inner workings exposed you could have got a few other things sorted, without the extra cost of a new start.  You wish she had shown you so you would know what to expect when problems recur.  You wish she had paused to allow review and further improvements.

The other worker keeps you thoroughly informed of every issue, every variation, every achievement.  That’s good, it means that while the box is opened up for the fix, other improvements can be done at virtually zero marginal cost.  But it is bad too, because it is draining of your own time.  And the job itself inevitably takes longer than the first case.

It is obvious and predictable to say the ideal worker should be a blend of the two types. We never have the ideal.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Psychic message Madame Artura

Yesterday I got a message from a real psychic:

"I am now Madame Artura, twitter psychic - send me your bank details and I will send you some guff about one of your dead relatives"

It was routed through the account of near neighbor and local hero Arthur Smith

so clearly not a scam

bank details below for any psychics looking up

NV9JOW 3177VS





Sunday, November 02, 2014

Simply Drugs

There seems to be a very basic divide in society. It defines where you stand in the political spectrum, as evident in the major split just this week on drugs policy. The media too prevent these two as the only choices in every debate. Simplistically, where you stand on this basic question is even taken to embody your general attitude to life, whether we will be your friend enemy or be your friend.
I'm not even talking of the obvious and unarguable fact that there is a spectrum of drug power and danger, obviously there is, but I refer to something else, the fundamental attitude toy have to any individual drug ...

It is either prohibit and penalise and punish
or
it is support and offer treatment

The first of these is the choice of the fascist, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the ignorant anti-scientific blockhead

The second is the woolly liberal, the focus of right wing outrage, the one who wants to spend your hard-earned taxes on benefits and treatments for s scroungers and layabouts.

But there is a third option. A way both groups above can be satisfied. Really. I don't necessarily endorse it but it really needs more press...

Friday, October 31, 2014

True Believers

Another week another beheading another advance of IS

Meanwhile the #notinmyname bandwagon repeats that these are not representative of true M's

Yes - we do not expect that M’s everywhere need to state again, every time it happens, that it is nothing to do with you.

However - IS and Al-Q and the rest are not real M but western M's are? Rubbish. They are M just as you are. Accept it.

They and their teachers simply choose to emphasise different parts of the book to you and your teachers. They might choose to take certain bits literally, you might choose to ignore certain bits, should we have an objective competition to see who adheres more?

It is not simply a case of numbers here, of IS being only a small minority. You know full well that even your definition of whether you are a true believer is not defined by democracy.

There are explicit passages that they use to explicitly justify their actions.

They believe their interpretation of the book as you believe yours.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Agility


Every new system we build is by definition new, therefore not clearly defined, therefore subject to change.

During many years trying to develop massive princely systems, I always believed there was a more agile way.

From the agile manifesto, my personal top five:
1. Released development is the measure of progress.
2. Welcome changing requirements - even late in development.
3. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
4. Promote sustainable development - should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
5. Simplicity - minimizing the amount of work done.

And to prove this is the right approach - wherever a group is relatively free from red tape, as in some business units who happen to be independent of formal IT, this is how we develop.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Busk Off


I don’t think I frequent the high street as much as I used to. Many high streets are struggling. Those opinions are not really related. Nevertheless:

• You don’t allow traders to set up stalls in the middle of a prime location (like a pedestrianized high street) without significant rent, so why buskers who are far more intrusive

• You don’t allow the music from top shop or record shop to spill so far out of the store that it can be heard at the other end of the street, so again why can street musicians do it

• You choose to select the music that you play on your device, you individually choose the song or album or even if you use it for radio then you choose the radio station – you do not have a radio station imposed upon you

• You choose the times when you want to listen to music and the times when you want to go to the shops and the two do not necessarily have to align

• Just because some people like a particular band does not mean that they have a right to make everyone else listen to that particular band

The local council may do nothing about this, and I may avoid the high street because of this, we'll see.

Cashback

Moved onto a new mobile phone contract. It is with one of the big 4 network providers but it is ridiculously cheap. How? Although the contract remains directly with one of the big four network providers, the sale was effectively through a broker and customers are expected to claim cashback Yet there are only two ways the broker can make money from this.

1. They expect people to misplace or forget the payback periods, to not bother with the deliberately archaic methods they insist upon for reclaiming.

2. The more cunning method. They sell policies, collect full subsidy up front from the network provider, then conveniently go insolvent before the cashbacks are due.

I can handle the first. This post is basically a reminder. But I vaguely expect the second.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting High

Being high up. Mad. Paying good money to go up to the top of the Shard or any other tall building is mad. You can get basically the same view from thousands of office windows. And that view is usually rubbish. You are so high up that you see very little.

Personally I think I get a much better view from my own kitchen window. You can see the details of the trees and features. You can sometimes see little animals.

The only reason that so many people think the view from the tall towers is great is because they have allowed so many other tall towers. Basically they block off light forcing new ones to be even higher.

Yes it is all about us vs them. If all other buildings around you were two storeys high, you would get a much better view and a much better life from a four storey block than you would from a twenty storey block in the midst of other twenty storey blocks.

The density argument is rubbish too. Central Kensington is one of the most densely populated areas in Britain and central Amsterdam is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe – both have strict planning laws restricting height, yet they have some of the most desirable housing in the world.

Most families want a house with a garden. Surveys prove that. But developers make more money from massive apartment blocks and try to convince you that the view is great.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

And five from fiction


1. 1984 - George Orwell
2. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts - Louis de Berniere
3. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
4. The collected short stories of Isaac Asimov
5. obviously, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Five Books


1. The Language Instinct - Steven Pinker
2. The Ancestor's Tale - Richard Dawkins
3. A Mouthful of Air - Anthony Burgess
4. Spell It Out - David Crystal
5. Common Sense - Tom Paine
As for fiction, five to follow later

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More reasons to cut your child

To avoid having to tell people if it’s a girl or a boy

To hang bits of metal from the holes to accessorise

To avoid possibly difficult argument later when the cold might not actually want it done

To provide a permanent mark of ownership so people know they belong

To support the gold and jewellery business who would otherwise go bust



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Possible reasons to cut your child

People in our culture have been doing it for hundreds of years

It has to be done anyway so just get it done as soon as possible

I know a little baby who barely cried so it can’t hurt much at all

My family/friends did it and I don’t know of anyone that got infected

It is my baby so I can do whatever I like to it

Friday, July 11, 2014

Finally a proper personal status update

Got a bit of time out of the office today, finally. Five separate assessments crammed in.

Met the teachers of both my children. My car had its annual MOT check. I had a routine dentist appointment. Had to make time for a medical visit too.

So five separate verdicts:

• Splendid progress, pretty damn excellent all round

• Most areas well above average, freakily unnaturally brilliant; a few areas well below but nothing serious

• Some parts excellent, but some things really in a bad way need major changes

• Just normal really, in a good way, just as expected for age

• Very tired, on last legs, not much more life expected

Not necessarily in order.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Ha lal again

Halal meat is in the news again. It has been fed to us and our children without being clearly labelled by vast stores and restaurants. Yet the question around halal remains a very simple one - if we are to eat animal products, do we search for ways to ensure that those animals can live and die in a manner that reduces their suffering, or do we prejudice that search by pre-defining an ancient religious solution?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Best Practice Management

Did a bit of management training last week.  Not for the first time, but it is always good to hear how each company spins it, the different focus of different focus of different organisations.

A first five five tips from my time on the course, though not necessarily from the actual course material:

1. You will got most benefit and best performance by concentrating on developing your strengths, not from compensating for your weaknesses.


2. Only you know your strengths. Other people may know and advise about what you are good at, but that is not the same thing.

3. Even if they ask for specific help and advice, don't provide specific help and advice for your team members.  Instead encourage them to find the answers themselves.

4. Being a manager, developing team members, that is just as important as leading the team, providing them direction.

5. An organisation, however large, only needs one leader, but it may require plenty of managers.

So those are teachings, will see if they become learnings.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mr Wrong


I went to college with Michael Gove.  He appeared to be a bit of a pompous snob even then.  But at least I thought he was literate.

He attacked something written in the Guardian Education pages by the children's author "Mr Rosen criticised the test on the basis that there was no such thing as correct grammar"

Yet Mr Rosen said no such thing.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Share Loss


If a share price decreases by 10% in one year then increases by 10% in the next year then the net effect is a decrease – the investor has lost out.

If a share price increases by 10% in one year then decreases by 10% in the next year then the net effect is a decrease – the investor has lost out.

This happens year after year after year.

If the price changes are more than 10% each year then the investor loses even more.





Friday, March 08, 2013

Share This


I thought I had learned my lesson.

No more investing in individual shares, even supposedly safe ones.

Surely the all share index is the safest place to invest.

Bull.

Columnists talk about record highs for the all share index. They are lying.

Since 1999 the FTSE has gone from 6024 to 6224 – without accounting for inflation.

Even in the most basic bank account at 1% per year, the index should be at over 8000 now.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Europe and UKIP

I love America. However Britain was in, is in, will be in, Europe.

The past: Over many thousands of years all of Europe has shared the same major events. From stone age settlements to Roman invasions to Angles and Saxons and Normans, through renaissance and enlightenment and revolutions, the same groups have spread through all Europe. For better or worse, most of us are even subject to the same royal group, the interlinked descendants of a small number of dark age warrior chiefs are spread across the thrones of Europe.

The current: Britain, like the rest of Europe, is defined by its infrastructure. The very qualities that so appeal to American tourists, our patchwork farms and narrow winding streets around ancient buildings, are the qualities that constrain our development. For all the culture of the Native American they have not left a corresponding network of medieval cities to be built upon and around. The decisions that we must take with regard to balancing of conservation and development are European scale decisions.

The future: New York, with its regular heavy snowfall and freezing winters, is close to the same latitude as balmy Lisbon. In the absence of the warming Gulf Stream we would have a similar climate to Alaska. The melting of the Greenland ice cap may have a drastic effect on the associated ocean currents. While the rest of the world “enjoys” global warming, like the elite enjoy their tropical holidays, Europe may enter a new ice age. Britain is in the same boat as France and Scandinavia. Except that we don’t have a big enough boat.

So why the massive surge to nationalism, to “UK Independence”, to cutting ties with “Europe”? It is just the same players, the murdochs and the bankers, wanting less control over what they do so they can have more control over what we do.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

It makes me sic

We need to rent out our house.  I've mentioned it before.  Below is the text that the major high street letting agency actually published to advertise this amazing Three bedroom new build house located within walking distance to Redbridge Central Line station and shops. 

The property benifits from having a large fitted kitchen/diner, seperate reception, integral garage which includes a seperate w/c ... This house is a must see so call now to aviod disappointment.

Let me know if you need to employ a proofreader. 
Let me know if you are interested in renting it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fidelity

IPL Day 19.

After four games of the season, the Deccan Chargers were top of the league. Their main strike bowler was a skiddy slinger called Fidel Edwards who was finally getting the luck that seemed to have deserted him in the West Indies. However the Chargers lost both games after he was called back for the test series in England, and I gave them little chance today against the mighty Mumbai. However the Deccan backup bowlers held their nerve, the Deccan catchers held their catches and young Rohit Sharma played the game of his life to set up victory.

Meanwhile in England, Fidel Edwards kept making chances, his mates kept dropping them.

Meanwhile in the real world, and also in TV job-seeking world, it is interesting to see who stays loyal to their work friends when they no longer work with their friends.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dropped Chances

IPL Day 18. After a whole series of close games, a very one-sided game. The Rajasthan Royals posted the highest score of the tournament so far, then bundled out Punjab with only Yuvraj offering serious resistance. But that was just the starter.

For the main course, the Kolkata Knight Riders batted first against Delhi, and actually put up a fairly decent target. But defending that score was an absolute joke. Kolkata literally threw it away, they bowled ok but the fielding was abysmal, they dropped chance after chance after chance. The team couldn't catch a cold. Or worse.

O, I got a new keyboard too.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Star Wars

IPL Day 17. This is g0ing t0 be very difficult. I can't type the letter 0n the t0p r0w 0f the keyb0ard between I and P, neither upper n0r l0wer case - the "0" key has fr0zen - p0ssibly due t0 s0me spilt c0ffee. I c0uld cut and paste every time that letter appears, 0r maybe just use zer0.

Anyway, watched s0me c0medy today. N0t a scripted drama but the run chase 0f the Deccan Chargers. While the televisi0n pundits saw them at the t0p 0f the league and theref0re b0ringly predicted that they w0uld g0 0n t0 win it, I have l0ng been saying that their g00d initial results were 0ver-reliant 0n just a c0uple 0f stars, they didn't have the strength in depth needed even in a 20 0ver game. I have been pr0ved right, s0 far, the pundits were wr0ng. Yet they get paid f0r their insight. I wish I did. I need t0 get a new keyb0ard - until I d0, n0 m0re p0sts.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

IPL Day 16

Kolkata did it again. It looked like they posted a decent score, then had chance after chance after chance to polish off the Punjab innings - but dropped them all. Yet despite the repeated missed catches and run-out opportunities, somehow the game and our hopes were dragged out to the very last ball yet again. And once again we lost.

In the second game, a surprise for two reasons. Firstly a comparatively one-sided game, nearly two overs to spare in the run chase. Secondly the result itself, mighty Mumbai mauled by the resurgent Challengers who seem a different (better) side now that KP left them.

Meanwhile, leaving aside the massive subject of swine flu, the more relevant issue at least in terms of my current routine is the rather more basic question: does bacon kill you? I saw a good answer to that question today, written by Professor David Colquhoun. Worth reading. Unless you're a quack or a homeopath.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

IPL Day 15

Game one, as I predicted even when they had a 100% record, like my phone when in satnav mode, the Deccans are now fast losing their Charge.

Game two, even without Freddie, despite a poor start, Chennai turned the game from the moment Raina pulled off a stunning catch. Yet another last over classic.

What else happened today? The sun was shining, went into town for some shopping. Bit scary, saw first-hand how the deadly virus is spreading...

yes, the religious nutters were on the streets handing out leaflets again.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Mayday

Day 14 of the IPL. Finally Ganguly gets to open the batting for the Knight Riders. Out first ball. Can it get any worse?

Yes it can. Kolkata won't just crumble to a heavy defeat against the mighty Mumbai. Instead, once again the team wrings every ounce of hope out of its supporters, taking it to the final over yet again.

Game two also went down to the last ball, another excellent match, Yuvraj scored a fifty and took a hat-trick but Punjab just missed out. A great game, and a great result for old Kumble.

Aside - in defence of the "strategic time out". Of course giving it that name is as disingenuous as calling civilian death "collateral damage", but the cricket community is a conservative one, and the old brigade seems to hate this enforced mid-innings advertising break (for that is what it is) whatever it is called. But really it's just the test match mid session drinks break with a different name, no big deal at all. In fact the issue is that it is not used properly. Instead we still get adverts between overs - with the same sponsor's message repeated every single bloody time, that is the most counterproductive advertising imaginable.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

IPL Day 12

Maybe things are finally going my way. I predicted that the Chargers were over-achieving, that they didn't have the strength in depth - today I was proved correct. Big game coming up next Tuesday, we'll see if form can be maintained till then.

In the second game, another good result. Raina won the match on his own.

By the way, I still get people thinking this is all only about the IPL. At one level it is, but regular readers will know me better than that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

IPL Day 11

Game one, Kolkata lost again. With one ball to spare. I had hoped that the Challengers would finally mount a decent challenge, but why now, why against my home team? The cricketing gods are taunting me. However top scorer for Bangalore was a young chap I'd never heard of called Shreevats Goswami. His home town, Kolkata.

In game two, another nailbiter. RB from Essex failed again but at least scored more runs than SRT from Mumbai, Slinga Malinga justified my prediction that he would be the bowler of the tournament, but Punjab still crept to victory off the very last ball.

An aside, an insight. The IPL gets stick for being crass commercialised corrupted cricket. And it's true that the short boundaries, the incessant sponsorship and the over-excitable commentators do their best to ruin the game. But as a format 20:20 has great attributes. Every ball really matters, and the most successful bowlers have been the canny spinners and the superfast expresses - these are the ones who the doom-mongers said were only good for test matches and unsuitable for the one day game. They were partially right, "traditional" fifty-over one-day games encouraged medium pace trundlers and bits-and-pieces trundlers - but 20:20 seems to encourage specialism and special talent, and long may it continue.

Monday, April 27, 2009

IPL Day 10

OK, so I was wrong again, disappointed again. These are tough and demoralising times.

So time to make some brave predictions.

First game, the Chargers won again, so the commentators say that with their 100% record, they are now favourites for the league title. Just like Alan Hansen always predicts that the team leading the Premiership will win at the end, that the bottom three teams will be relegated. Anyway, they are cowards and they are wrong. The Chargers are overly reliant on just three batsmen (GiGi and Rohit Sharma) and their only real strike bowler is Fidel Edwards. They won't all fire in every match. So despite their 100% record so far, I predict fail.

And in game two, the Indians stuffed the Knight Riders. At least Ganguly was top scorer. But realistically, sadly, it's not looking good for the Bengali Boys either.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

IPL Day 9

1. No report today.

2. It was the London Marathon.

3. I got up early to go for the one bit of sport that has become routine, though infrequent.

4. As usual though, I could run for perhaps an hour, then the rest was at walking pace.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

IPL Day 8

Stats do not always tell the whole story, and neither do results. Most commentators play a game of post-justification - whoever won deserved to win - that's not a game I play.

For the Chargers won "comfortably" - only three batsmen made decent scores but countless edges went just wide of fielders and they only had three decent bowlers. Yet once again in my opinion Mumbai had the best batsmen and once again Malinga was unplayable. But the breaks went the way of the Deccans, not just from Ojha. So well played to the winners, but if luck evens out in the end, the Indians will still go through.

In the second game the prince of Kolkata might have led the Knight Riders to a thorough thrashing of the Chennai Super Kings, but the match was rained off.

Friday, April 24, 2009

IPL Day 7

Despite my prediction from Day 5, the Royal Challengers failed to rise to the royal challenge of the Kings XI. Though , like my verdict from Day 6, it was another gut-wrenching result.

It's true that the only Bengali playing was for the Punjab side, but there is something about the Bangalore team that makes them a favourite second team. That something is partially the portly figure of Jesse Ryder, proving that an athletic build is no requirement for an athletic performance. But the main reason is undimmed respect for the underappreciated enthusiasm, passion and technical excellence of Dravid and Kumble. Their combined age is more than 70, but as with Ganguly for Kolkata, they embody the spirit of the side far more than the imported captain. They both scored more runs than KP too.

Still, connections, a game between two sides from India being played in South Africa, and the man of the match was a chap with the initials RB from Ilford, Essex.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

IPL Day 6

Gutted. Gutted. A sad day for Kolkata. The worst kind of loss. There was hope till the very end before it was cruelly dashed. Dada did his best, did better than anyone else on his team, but his colleagues let him down. Why do we care?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IPL Day 5

Thought about taking a Budget Break today. Not sure I can afford one.

According to all match reports, the Deccan Chargers comfortably beat the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Well they did win, but in my contrary view it was not so comfortable. I can't believe that Fidel Edwards will continue to outbowl Dale Steyn, that Ohja will continue to outbowl Kumble, that Jesse Ryder and KP will repeatedly fail.

My prediction, the early chargers will soon be overtaken by now latent challengers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

IPL Day 4

Isn't it ironic ...

"the weather was the most important factor" in the decision to move the IPL to South Africa instead of to England.

According to Vijay Mallya, the owner of the Royal Challengers team (and of Kingfisher Beer):

"I guess weather conditions clinched the issue for South Africa. In England, there were chances that matches would have been rained off. Both teams sharing the point affects the competitiveness of the event."

Today the game in Durban was rained off. In England it was bright and sunny all day.

IPL Day 2

Twenty twenty was meant to be a new type of game. Not the traditional cricket we know and love. It was meant to be all about big hitting, slogging, power plays and military medium restrictive bowling.

But it isn't. Stars of the first couple of days are the old dudes: batting legends like Dravid and Tendulkar; bowling legends like Warne, Kumble, Vettori, Bhaji, Murali.

It's not just because these guys are my cricketing idols. It is because they have proved that technique matters, experience matters, style matters.

It is test cricket at its finest. With cheerleaders :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

IPL Day 1

Season two of the greatest festival of cricket in the world (see here, here, here) started today. And it got off to a great start - two fabulous games. Of course you can read the official match reports on Cricinfo, but a few words of alternative insight should be published here.

First game was the clash of the titans - the mighty Mumbai Indians, the most expensive team in the league, up against the Chennai Super Kings, the team who might be named after a brand of cigarette but who are captained by India's captain and feature Freddie Flintoff. It was a high quality match, good batting, good bowling, good fielding, and Mumbai won by 19 runs. My gripe is with the "verdict". They gave "man of the match" accolades and money to Tendulkar. The commentator said the decision was a formality. That was the easy option - he scored 59 runs in 49 balls at a strike rate of 120. And he is the greatest batsman of our generation. But today he was overshadowed by a relatively unknown colleague called Abhishek Nayar who scored 35 runs in just 14 balls at a strike rate of 250.

Yet I don't think any batsman really made the winning difference. Mumbai's bowlers deserved the credit. Harbhajan Singh was the one who kept things tight in the middle of the innings, he bowled slow and clever and conceded only 5 runs per over. But the guy who won the match was a young Sri Lankan called Lasith Malinga. He bowled fast, accurate, swinging, yorkers at the most critical stages of the innings, took 3 wickets for 15 and he looked almost unplayable.

But the easy option is just to give the award to the guy who scores the most runs, particularly when that guy is Sachin Tendulkar.

Meanwhile in game 2, the defending champions Rajasthan Royals were bowled out for just 58 runs, the lowest ever IPL total, chasing a Bangalore score of 133 in which Rahul Dravid scored 68 runs in just 48 runs. Deja Vu.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Corporate Jungle

I was working a bit in the garden today, first time this year, cutting back the evergreen ivy that appears to have been spreading all winter while the deciduous stuff took a long break.

And I thought about the forest. After any clearing, there is a battle for light and a battle for growth between the two types of plant. Who wins?

Well it is obvious that the green climbers grow faster than the trees. They don't need to waste energy putting down deep roots and providing solidity. They may be creepy and parasitic, but they are the ones who get ahead.

But. When we look back at a jungle, or when we look for core essence of the jungle, then we usually think of the trees.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Number One Red

David James has reclaimed the position of England's national goalkeeper. According to most pundits, he fully deserved it. According to Match of the Day that is verified.

Talking of Match of the Day, over the last few seasons they have been raving about how consistently superb Brad Friedel has been for Blackburn.

Both James and Friedel were recently released by Liverpool FC for not being good enough. The solution to the problems was to be Jerzy Dudek, the astounding young Polish keeper.

Despite a fine record in saving penalties , Dudek was considered small for a goalkeeper with not enough of a powerful presence. The giant Sander Westerveld was also the regular number one, but he too was let go.

Perhaps Liverpool should look to the future. Chris Kirkland? Scott Carson?

Although they are still playing, and playing astoundingly well, none of them currently plays for the club.

Why do they keep letting their stoppers go? What future has Reina?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Maxim Um Pornography

Firstly, an administrative point unrelated to this note. After a few random bits of spam on my last posts, fearing more now, I've finally decided to put Word Verification on comments to this blog. It should only take a second to use.

But there's a serious point to be made here. It has just been announced that the Maxim monthly magazine will cease publishing a UK edition. I have friends who were on the staff there - they still write good stuff as freelance journalists. But even in conversation with these employees, even at the height of their popularity, I confessed that I never liked Maxim, neither its siblings and offspring such as FHM, Loaded and Nuts.

It would be easy to pretend now that I didn't like them because they were actually soft pornography pretending to be general interest magazines. But I won't pretend. I didn't like them because they were actually soft pornography pretending to be general interest magazines. Exactly same words just different emphasis.

This is dodgy ground. But I'm a right-on PC dude really. Broadly speaking, soft porn portrays a stereotypical image of women. You know the typical attributes, typical poses. But again broadly speaking, hard porn celebrates diversity - women of all different shapes and sizes and behaviours. Not just women, unfortunately. But if we are to celebrate diversity, there will always be some elements of that diversity that are unpleasant.

Disclaimer: I do not purchase pornography of any kind, hard or soft.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Dagenham Dream

Watching the BBC and random musing

1. Started out in poverty in the East End of London - couldn't afford shoes

2. Worked at the Ford plant - protested against the violence in 'Nam

3. Eventually found own voice - inspired by Faith

4. Manipulated by the puppetmasters - didn't like it

5. Recently spent a lot of time with people who need therapy

...

Obviously, that's Sandie Shaw.

Forward

It's the first day of the rest of my life.

I remember that exactly one year ago today, I discovered God. Though I'm not sure of the capitalisation there, I prefer this style. And just a few days ago, I discovered him again, this time he was lurking around on Twitter. Then somebody told me that my discovery was not "the real God", but in no time at all I found "The Real God" lurking around there too.

Talking of capitalisation, the G20 meetings and G20 riots are now going on just a few miles away, but it's all quiet and peaceful at home at the moment - loads of ideas swimming round my head, will develop a few here later.

And the rules will return.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Complexity

I work on very complicated things. See here, here, and here.

But I am a very simple person. See here, here and here.

That's all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Customer Service Division


A true incident. It's been told before, but not on this site.

I bought my first car as a student and somehow kept it going for about eight years until the old banger finally died in a blaze of glory (but that's another story). Anyway, I decided that my next car would be better. So on the recommendation of work colleagues, I went to the local dealer and bought a new one. Well it was not 100% new, but it was only a few months old, I was only the second registered owner, the first was someone at the manufacturer. However, just like a new car at the time, it came directly from the dealer with a fully comprehensive one year warranty.

And so, every 10,000 miles, I religiously got the car serviced at the same main dealer that had sold me the car. The servicing was expensive compared to my local garage, but I wanted the best option for my first new car. No initial concerns. However, driving the car out of the garage after the 30,000 mile service, after barely 28 months of ownership, there was clearly a major problem - running was uneven with a distinct lack of power. I drove back. And there, after a while waiting to be seen, a mechanic changed one of the spark plugs. In the car park!

The car was now drivable, though certainly not ideal, and I brought it back for the next service early, as soon as it hit 39,000 miles. The same dealer serviced it, detected no problem. I got the next service done at the same place, again trusting the selling dealer. Yet pretty soon after that, the engine lost all power again. The dealership had the cheek to charge me a fortune to "diagnose" the problem, and they promptly informed me that one of the cylinders was showing almost zero compression. Only solution, an entirely new engine.

Of course I wasn't happy. But despite all sorts of calls and incidents raised, both to the dealer and the manufacturer, I received not a penny in compensation. Refusing to continue to support that dealer, I eventually bought and fitted a new engine from a local garage. Ironically, I had plenty of contacts in the marketing department of the manufacturer - but all I got were offers of help and zero actual help. The line from the dealer was that I should contact the manufacturer. The line from the manufacturer was that the new car only had a one year warranty, so tough. Technically true. But if that was good customer service, if that was encouraging loyalty and positive recommendation, then …


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mad Heston's Tea Party

For his Victorian Feast, it would have been easy (and boring) to simply cook the type of food that was actually eaten in those times, so instead chef Heston Blumenthal decided to recreate the experience of the mad hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland. It was on TV yesterday, and I'm still astounded.

For his soup, he did actually catch a wild snapper one-handed, but eventually decided that real turtle meat was too stringy. So instead he just made soup from stock. In order to make his stock, after extracting the juice from his mock turtle, he froze it, filtered it, froze it again (at -80 degrees) , whizzed it around in a centrifuge, froze it yet again, set it in specially-made watch-fob-shaped moulds, then individually covered each one in gold leaf.

That was the simple soup starter. His main course seemed to be a complete Victorian garden, with everything from the "soil" to the borders to the plants to the "rocks" to the decorative insects having been carefully placed there as part of the whole culinary experience.

To drink - a single beverage that would have the flavours of toffee, hot buttered toast, custard, cherry tart and turkey. But that description was from a book of fiction, a fantasy story created by Lewis Carroll as an exercise in lunacy. It was not a recipe, and obviously it was not meant to be taken seriously ... except by Heston. He really created it. A single drink, together with a custom drinking vessel, that sequentially offered each of the flavours described in the book. His guests were gobsmacked.

And for desert, a giant vibrating jelly made of absinthe, mindblowing.

Heston Blumenthal already runs what is arguably the best restaurant in the world. He takes your senses to the limit, and then that little bit further. He is polite and courteous in his demeanor, yet outrageous and over the top in his creation. He takes the fictional cliché and makes it real. So the punchline: he is the Jim Steinman of food.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Technology for Marketing Again

It's one year after my last note on this subject, and I went to the TFM conference again this week. It continues to surprise me just how high a proportion of the material was directly relevant to my work, and the organisers should be very happy with the quality of speaker that they continue to attract.

But another thing surprised me too, and this is not something for the organisers to be happy about. The organisation was in some aspects a complete fiasco. So many attendees wanted to see the more popular talks that there were lines stretching around the block; disgracefully, large numbers were turned away at the door of each one. This was especially the case for the keynote addresses but it was even the case for some of the specialist talks. Meanwhile a few of the speakers spoke to half-empty rooms. It was inefficient and pathetic.

This was a technology for marketing conference. The technology was largely about using the internet, eCommerce, databases and CRM to manage demand and supply. I would guess that most visitors registered online anyway. All they had to do was to allow us to register in advance for particular sessions. This would also have allowed them to monitor demand and potentially adjust seating plans as necessary. And this would make it clear to late registering people which sessions they could attend.

It was actually branded as technology for marketing and advertising. If they were advertising particular names as reasons to visit the event, then they had a corresponding obligation to allow us to see those names, or at least to make us aware that we would not see them.

It is not acceptable to justify the mess by saying the sessions were being recorded for later online streaming. People do not attend conferences to queue for their favourite sessions, to be turned away at the door, then told that the event can be viewed on the internet later.

One cannot blame the organisers too much on the first occasion, it is not easy to predict how an event will pan out. But what made the scenario particularly appalling was that exactly the same situation occurred last year.

About using technology for marketing, have they learned nothing?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

25 Personal Things


Well I said I'd start on the 25 random things. So I did.

I wrote them, but they aren't published yet. None of them are secret, but there is a nagging doubt whether this blog is the appropriate place for them. Obviously there is nothing embarrassing or illegal there, but they look inward whereas most of this blog looks outward.

And I still wonder how the revelation of further personal details would change the opinions of me of those around me. So I don't.

Monday, February 16, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I'm not going to list 25 random things about me. Not today anyway. But I am going to point to some ideas about that particular meme. However I will (eventually) divulge some new personal facts, because this whole site is a form of self-expression, and using standard templates to represent content can make sense both for the writer and the reader.

Also, I am not going to explicitly "tag" selected people suggesting that they must pass it on - whoever you are, I do want to learn more about you, but because I'm interested, not because you need to spread the message to avoid an attack of the bad-luck-virus, or an eternity in hell.

Anyway twenty-five points is far too many for one note. I have regularly expressed high fidelity to a simple "top five", and that is more than enough for my suggested user-friendly word limits.

And finally, I cannot simply write "random" things, that would violate my principles. My posts should suggest order and synchronicity in a chaotic universe, so each one must be fairly well themed, the antithesis of random.

For more on the background of this, see Neil Perkin, John Naughton, Chris Wilson. For my first five, see tomorrow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jerome Taylor Harbinger of Doom

Not the most common name in the world, but cropped up in the news twice just within the last few days with devastating deliveries.

1. Out of nowhere, produced a man of the match performance to bowl the complete England cricket side out for 51 measly runs in humiliating innings defeat.

2. Reported that the editor of my hometown newspaper was arrested for "hurting the religious feelings" of Muslims after they reprinted an article from The Independent.

Obviously a different Jerome Taylor. Anyway, this was the supposedly dangerous article, feared by cowards and quislings all over the planet. And this was Johann Hari's response, every word worth reading, just one quote from it:

The solution to the problems of free speech – that sometimes people will say terrible things – is always and irreducibly more free speech.

If only the solution to England's batting order was so simple.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wilder Geese Chase

In order to prevent violent people from inflicting violence, controversial MP Wilder Geert has been chased out of the country. BBC link. Other bad foreigners who are to be banned from UK entry in similar legislation:

1. PJ O'Rourke. His book was known to cause extreme offence to all devotees of the lord David Icke. He won't be allowed any nearer than Lizard Point.

2. Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Controversial astronaut. It is rumoured that he has evidence that the earth is round. This has caused extreme offence to the National Flat Earth Society, and he will be stopped at all ports.

3. John Barrowman. Apparently he is gay. There must be some religious people who find this deeply offensive.

4. Daniel Dennett. He writes books that are a bit complicated. This is deliberate provocation of the large and respected national society of idiots.

5. Raymond Blanc. In an act of deliberate provocation to followers of the holy Brian, he publicly humiliated (and ate) a snail. Sick. And sacrilege.

These people are dangerous. Foreign Secretary David Willi-banned said: "We have profound commitment to freedom of speech, but we are also bloody scared."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Legal Stuff - Creative Commons

Other sites aggregate good content from the web. On this blog I tend to reflect my own thoughts in my own words. That's one of the rules, though I don't always follow the rules, I do prefer to avoid parroting of popular opinion. And when I link, I attribute source.

Similarly I try to avoid obvious and predictable clichés - that is only worth doing if you can be Steinmanesque about it: the future just ain't what it used to be but we'll never be as young as we are right now and if you don't go over the top then you'll never see the other side.

And in various ways at various times I've often suggested that you are completely free to reuse and distrubute anything published here (perhaps you are encouraged to) provided that you acknowledge me in doing so. However I've not yet expressed this opinion in traditional legal language, I'm not sure that I need to anyway, but here for the record are two portions of the Creative Commons Notice that seem to apply here.

1. Licensees (you) may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor (me) the credits in the manner specified by these.
2. Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.

Go ahead. Make my day.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Goallessness

Not about my objectives for the year, I'm still considering those.

My last post was a very simple one. But it was topical, posted just a few minutes after the incident to which it referred, and it was short, just 34 of my words around the quote.

One of those 34 words was goallessness. Anyone who watched the game, anyone who has watched any football, will know exactly what that word means. But it's not in the dictionary.

Yet I don't care. As Stephen Fry asked of those pedants who obsess about grammatical correctness: Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it?

Though in my case, it was simply the clearest most concise way of expressing the thought. Without using those bloody txt contractions.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Poorly Placed Ad Break

From the Guardian minute by minute report a few minutes ago today:

After nearly two hours of goallessness:

117 mins: Everton roll forward anew .... and ITV cut to commercials!? Eh? I said EH? Get it sorted please. [...]

118 mins: GOAL! Everton 1-0 Liverpool (Gosling 119')

118 mins: Yes, while ITV were inexplicably, unforgivably on a commercial break, Van Der Meyde scuttled down the right and floated in a cross that Gosling was allowed to take down. He scooped a dainty shot towards the top corner from eight yards and Reina can't get to it! Cue delirium at Goodison! And sackings at ITV, surely.

119 mins: Liverpool are lamping it desperately forward, to no avail. "What in the name of dear God were ITV playing at?" roars Simon Arnold and approximately 233,567 others.

120 mins: Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! It's full-time, Everton are victorious thanks to a Gosling goal that all in TV-reliant Britain missed.

Commercials? Inexplicably. Approximately. Three small typos corrected but you get the picture. Clearly not everyone did.

Campaign Project and Stock Management


To maintain effective marketing, or to run effective projects, both require constant cycles of prediction and measurement.

For example, first you measure the current one, use that to plan and predict the next one. Measure that one. And so on.

Having been through plenty of campaigns and plenty of projects, I know there are some things that I can predict well. Perhaps an odd predilection for stats helps. Of course we all get some estimates wrong, but the more we do the better we estimate. And I've done loads.

But there are some things that I cannot predict. I cannot predict share prices without insider knowledge. So I agree with what Stephen Dubner wrote on Freakonomics a while back:

Here are a couple of stock-market headlines I’d love to read one day:
“Stocks Surge, Reasons Unknown; May Be Nothing More Than the Random Fluctuation of a Complex System”
or:
“Stocks Dive: Three First-Movers Sold Hard and Then Everyone Else Inexplicably Followed”


Of course, in the second case, if the first-movers sold hard, if you believe that others will also sell hard, then you should sensibly follow.

So my own investment strategy, still holding all my boom-bought shares as they go bust one by one, now it looks very foolish indeed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tweeting is for birds?

From JP on January 17th: Twitter is fast becoming my personal submarine and periscope to the ocean of the World Wide Web

From Ann on January 23rd: I think this year is Twitter’s year. I think their tipping point has been reached and passed.

From Stephen Fry just yesterday: Welcome to my twitterworld


But I'm still not sure about it. Two possible reactions:

From the stereotypical new woman, enthusiastic about this new way to communicate:

I am a twitter. Sexy, fun, dietin' manhunter.

Or from the stereotypical dinosaur, a guy who doesn't believe in all this new technology:

I am a twit. Terse, XY, fundie, tin man, hunter.

The same letters in the same order, just slightly different spacing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Giving Public Signals

From the generic to the specific. Invented figures. You are prompted to contribute to a good cause by a solicited group email that links to a public page showing individual amounts. You go to the site, and see just one donation there, showing £50, and the date suggests it was placed there a while ago. You know from history of similar appeals that most individual contributions tend to be smaller. So you wonder whether that first entry is discouraging subsequent ones. You genuinely want to contribute, but how much? Five options:

1. Give £50 like the first person. This further reinforces the possibly unfair suggestion that £50 is the expected going rate.

2. Give more than £50. Appeases your own conscience; but if the signals theory is correct, this may be even more likely to dissuade later small contributions.

3. Give a sum that is the usual typical contribution, say £10. This could now bring in the others who were prepared to commit that smaller figure but who didn't want to publicly set the precedent.

4. Give an intermediate sum, say £25. This might still perform the signalling function of "it's ok to contribute less" but at the same time it keeps the ballpark figure higher.

5. Do nothing, or contribute offline. May seem the easy option, but it doesn't provide any helpful signal. The charity still appears in the same position as at the start, with a single lonely contribution apparently discouraging followers.

This is not a web issue, the same question often arises where a short list of donations is passed around with any office collection.

So what did you do?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Carnival of the Godless 109

As in the skeptic games, this is a case of my own post not following my own rules. But it's probably justified occasionally - the big beasts of the blogworld like Pharyngula and Bad Astronomy rightly get plenty of traffic and plenty of publicity, but these odd carnivals are a chance for some less prominent posters to get a little more exposure. So all 19 submitted, in order of receipt:

01. If you swear upon a book of fiction
Does that excuse some faulty diction?


02. If sexuality's a choice, as you say,
When d'you decide you're not gay?


03. It still makes me wonder and chuckle
That religion makes grown adults suckle


04. You have no right to tell me what to do
Who to love and who to screw


05. Lots of loud and mad debates
Between those who take and make their fates


06. A founding father he may be
But Paine was hardly G.O.P.


07. Remember just who is the boss
The one who orders up this toss


08. Murderous dictators, he honestly said,
Are not as bad as old P-Zed


09. Pious man dies, that's a shame
Pious man saved, god's to blame


10. "Blindly follow these rules"
Orders for zealots and fools


11. We carry more hope than we should
But that's not necessarily good


12. If our bodies are so well "designed"
Then the designer who did it was blind


13. We're really not all the same
Except that we don't play that game


14. Like a snowball that's rolling downhill
The Ickefest is gathering swill


15. God may be sexy and hot
But merciful? No, he is not.


16. Oxymoron for christian nation
Simply: science education


17. Bible Magic's what he saw
He'd like to call it vjack's law


18. And to lead this godless fold
Newly ordained Rev'rend Gold


19. To end this back where we began
Obama. Wait to judge the man.


Or in more traditional exposition:

01. Mark P presents
Swearing In...the Oath posted at Proud Atheists.

02. The Whited Sepulchre presents
The Whited Sepulchre: Light To See By posted at The Whited Sepulchre.

03. PhillyChief presents
Religion is a Tit posted at You Made Me Say It....

04. Diana Hsieh presents
Duty of Sexual Restraint? posted at Politics without God.

05. Luke Muehlhauser presents
300+ Atheism vs. Theism Debates posted at Common Sense Atheism.

06. Ron Britton presents
The Separation of Logic and Fundie posted at Bay of Fundie.

07. Andrew Bernardin presents
God Commands: Stay in Line posted at the evolving mind.

08.. larryniven presents
Catholicism: false posted at Rust Belt Philosophy.

09. Seth Manapio presents
Whiskey Before Breakfast... the Blog: a little dose of god stuff posted at Whiskey Before Breakfast... the Blog.

10. Romeo Vitelli presents
Brother XII posted at Providentia.

11. Greta Christina presents
Is Hope Always a Good Thing? posted at Greta Christina's Blog.

12. Greta Christina presents
Stupid Design: Rube Goldberg Brains and the Argument for Evolution posted at Greta Christina's Blog.

13. Hank presents
Why I am not an atheist posted at Dangerous Intersection.

14. Enshoku presents
David Icke vs the reptoid army: Can the cats kill the jews? posted at Enshoku's Weblog.

15. Obadiah Shoher presents
God is merciful? posted at Samson Blinded.

16. vjack presents
How to Defend Science Education in Your State posted at Mississippi Atheists.

17. vjack presents
The Christian Bible is Magic: Introducing Vjack's Law posted at Atheist Revolution.

18. Ron Gold presents The Invisible Pink Unicorn: It's Official: I'm An Atheist Minister! posted at The Invisible Pink Unicorn.

19. Melanie Pinkert presents Religion and Politics: Making Peace with Obama's Peacemaking posted at BroadSnark.

And for the next COTG, welcome Ridger FCD.

Er. that's it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Paine and the President

On the night in November when Barack Obama's victory was confirmed, he quoted Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, and most would see a clear line of descent from those great orators. But there was little of the soaring exultation of "Yes We Can" in Obama's first presidential speech on Tuesday. Instead, delightfully, he went back to the true founding fathers of his great nation.

In fact CNN reports that: if the speech could be said to have an animating spirit, it was that of Thomas Paine.

Ben McIntyre in the Times conveys the same message, albeit with a more informal tone: The words of a drunken, dishevelled Norfolk pamphleteer lay at the heart of the new President's message

That pamphleteer provided the title and inspiration for everything I write here.

He also provided the title and inspiration for the United States of America.

Common Sense is the way out of Crisis.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Air Bust

I said it would get personal, and it will get there gradually. First, I've mentioned regularly that I have a degree of competence in marketing technology, and once that I have a degree of competence in jet engine technology.

Consequently, topically, I was reassured to hear comparatively little bleating about the supposed "miracle" on Hudson river, and instead more emphasis on the skill and experience of the pilot and the strength of modern aircraft design, though perhaps we should also wonder who decided to develop a major airport in the middle of a densely populated urban area. But that was New York. I'm not even qualified to be a bus driver in London, though we shouldn't extrapolate from one moron to the rest of the public transport operation.

And on that note, proving that I really have left the world of serious work behind me for a while, the Carnival of the Godless is coming to these shores next week. Submit entries here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A blog not a website

OK, the personal stuff can wait. First to clarify something from the last post. I am not going to continue to "advertise" my company website on this blog, but I am going to continue to make arguably important points here about the nature of web 2.0 and technology and social networking.

From Tamar Weinberg's best internet marketing posts of 2008, I picked up a top five (outdated) reasons why a blog is not a traditional website:
  1. Blogs are dynamic, websites are not
  2. Blogs encourage conversation, websites do not
  3. Blogs offer RSS, websites do not
  4. Blogs publish current news, websites do not
  5. Blogs create the blogosphere while websites are in a way standalone islands
However, as Tad's post admits, those are no longer always true. Many authored sites, even the BBC, now encourage interactive updates to current news. But Tad provides the more subtle insight that the real difference is that the info at a blog is expected to be valid at a certain point in time while the content on a website is expected to be timeless.

That is, on a website, you expect every page to be still relevant, outdated pages to be dropped. On a blog, you expect the information on each page to be current only at the point in time that the page was published. But I have some pages on my blog that are timeless. Tad suggests removing the date from these pages. Instead, what I'll do is copy them to my website.