Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Counting up to two
Glamorgan chairman Paul Russell has backed proposals to create a new Twenty20 competition in Britain.
"We have two things going for us: one is that in June the only place that cricket is played is England and Wales," Russell told BBC Sport Wales. "Secondly, all the players around the world are available."
Now surely that is only one thing and not explicitly two? Because cricket is played nowhere else at that time, that is the reason why all the players are available. All the players around the world are available, so it's pretty clear that cricket is being played nowhere else. Tautology. I'm pleased that he is chairman and not scorer.
Disclaimer: I first met Paul Russell on the very first day of my very first job after college. I was a fresh-faced new graduate, and he was the Partner in charge of Human Resources who said "welcome to the firm". We've both changed a lot since then.
The CV Newsletter
Why join a social networking site? Why write a blog? There have been numerous articles written about the risks, and there have already been many cases where something published on-line has come back to haunt. All of us in the on-line world also have a life in the real world, and reputation is slow to build and easy to destroy.
I've covered the basic reasons before, and this is not the place for a repeat of self analysis and psychology. This time the argument is simple economics, the benefits outweigh the costs.
The ever-readable Seamus McCauley recently noted that a friend of his had recently enrolled in a graduate program at a reasonably well known university in England. However, his experience there was poor, he soon realised that the course was basically just a pathetic degree provider for high-paying foreign studeents, especially from China. So great for generating fees for the particular institution, not so great for the reputation of English universities as a whiole.
But more interesting was this comment in the article: I will not advertise my degree at UEA on my CV, whether or not I graduate.
Whether or not he realises it now, it is too late for that unfortunate student. I consider that everything that he has written on the blog is already a part of his "CV", whether he likes it or not.
Employers, isn't a current, comprehensive, searchable evolving blog a much better guide to a candidate than a couple of typed pages anyway?
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
There are loads of people on Facebook who laugh at the zombie and pirate and werewolf applications, who scoff at the pokes and superpokes, who would never dream of sending random online slaps and tickles. I'm not like them.
Because I have nothing. No artificial colours or preservatives anyway. The organic food section of the Facebook supermarket.
A profile. A wall. A circle of friends. A link to this blog. That's about it. Hello.
Monday, April 28, 2008
And the title of today's article on Freakonomics: Ideas for Making Baseball More Interesting
Lots of good ideas there, some overlap with mine. Even better, Scott Adams just wrote today about America's Favorite Pastime:
Yesterday I went to a Giants baseball game. It was Little League Day, so there were about ten thousand young boys running wild in the stands. It was also free bat day, courtesy Bank of America ...
Do you know what happens when you hand an 8-year old boy a new bat, sit him behind the exposed heads of several adults, and ask him to sit patiently for four hours while nothing much happens on the big field in front of him?
Very funny. A lot of fans with sore heads the next morning. And another demonstration of the great decision making of the top executives in the US banking sector.
Finally, another quote from Scott:
I wish someone would invent a device that allowed you to watch sporting events from your home. I think that would be popular.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I spent a while living in America, but although I think I understand the game, their version of football never interested me. But for some reason baseball instantly appealed. I went to see both the Yankees and the Mets during my time there, and more than that, I loved the fact that there always seemed to be a first class game on TV, even though a hundred other channels were spewing rubbish.
Why do I like baseball? Despite what you may think, it's not about the stats. It may be the pace of the game. About 120 pitches per side spread over about 3 hours ... sorry, that's 20:20 cricket again.
But what I don't particularly like, funnily enough, are home runs. To me they spoil the flow of the game. Batting bowling and fielding should all be part of it. What I like are the balls smacked to far left field, the cheeky singles, the fly balls parried and caught. It's about "runs batted in", not "runs walked in".
Which brings me to my suggestion for cricket. The general lament from the traditionalists is that the new game favours the batsman. It's not easy to legislate on batting technology or to control the pitch. But at the very least keep the ground as big as possible, stop bringing the boundaries in.
The Twenty Twenty Test
Some hate it. However I share with many modernisers the view that the 20:20 format needs to be promoted rather than discarded. I have no financial interest, but as it seems to be so poorly advertised in the UK, I'll remind viewers here that they can watch it on Setanta.
I don't wish to see it replace test cricket. That is eternal. But perhaps a rare view, I would have no problem at all if it completely displaced the "traditional" fifty-over one-day format.
However I share with many traditionalists the view that essence of cricket needs to remain and not be overwhelmed by the razzmatazz. I like the new format because it provides an interesting condensed format of the game, not because it comes in expensive packaging.
A good match should not need music blaring through loudspeakers to create atmosphere. The cameras should focus on the play on the pitch not the celebrities in the crowd. But I don't mind the cheerleaders.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The Fast Show Comic
It's horrible. You know my views on this subject. Simplicity. Space. Sex. Speed.
However, Scott suggested that there are three types of reader:
- The first group is the ultra-techies who have an almost romantic relationship with technology …
- The second group objected to the new level of color and complexity, and the associated slowness …
- The third group subscribes to the philosophy that more free stuff is better than less free stuff …
However, recall how our image of dinosaurs has changed over just a single generation. The models of dinosaurs I saw as a child really did look like terrible lizards, roughly equal-sized legs splayed out from the side of the body.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I Want a Pay Riise
Yesterday Liverpool were 1-0 up against Chelsea after the allotted 90 minutes, and only a few seconds of injury time remained. Chelsea striker Kalou fired in a low cross from the left wing, Liverpool defender John Arne Riise was marginally ahead of the second incoming striker. In that position, 99 per cent of footballers, even me, would have swung the right foot and belted the ball clear.
Instead the defender dived forward to try to head it away. I was too gutted to listen to post-match analysis, but I have not read any explanation for his action. He earns a lot of money. But I suggest he does not do enough training.
I suggest that only a select few footballers would have attempted that clearance; Kinkladze, Hagi, Maradona, even Jon Wood. They're half decent players.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
A New Kind of Life
And the superb XKCD comically showed how artificial life could be created with a cheap PC, basic accessories and a hamster wheel.
The legendary digital cuttlefish has already written long epics about each of those two subjects, I just think of silly ways to link them:
Two of the blogs I most rated
An unholy new species created
This cuttle you see
And X K C D
Have finally now consummated!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Just like last Sunday evening, I have been watching the next installment of how powders washed whiter back in the golden days of television advertising.
It was amusing to see the main advertising strategies in the post war years. The biggest selling point was usually to emphasize just how much energy was contained (the more calories in anything, the better for you).
The other common approach was to attribute medicinal qualities to the foodstuff on display. Thankfully these claims now need to be tested before being advertised. And today we know that many supposed nutritional supplements are useless anyway.
But the main story of this week's show was about the dubious practice of directly targeting innocent children. Other groups do that too.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Elephant Siren
According to new research "an ancient ancestor of the elephant from 37 million years ago lived in water and had a similar lifestyle to a hippo"
Friday, April 18, 2008
And as it's Friday, I may risk a verse.
Sorry, that pun was a crime.
So I'll resist this time.
But next week the gags will be worse.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Death of a Salesman
The main "point" of yesterday's post was derision at the pathetic BBC attempts to maintain "balance" by bringing in prejudiced self-interested salesmanship, but there was casual personal line thrown in at the end. So perhaps a little aside about the nature of salesmanship. It's personal again, look away now if you are not interested, or if you are easily sickened by shameless self-promotion.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Bursting Bubbles and Silencing Quacks
First they reported on the credit crunch. And to unbalance the news from journalists who talk of more difficulty borrowing, potential house price falls, impending recessions, etc. what they had was an estate agent! Obviously he talked about the need to always keep talking up prices; to maintain confidence in the market, not for his own job of course. So let's ignore the evidence and the underlying economic factors, instead let's just keep talking up prices so then we can all have a pretty mansion with a big garden full of dutch tulips. Yes journalists can be too sensationalist, but it was just ridiculous to expect a sensible comment from an estate agent here.
Then, even worse, the programme reported on an independent study from the Cochrane Foundation that amalgamated the results of various antioxidant supplements and found that, unsurprisingly, they don't do much good compared to a normal balanced diet. But to unbalance these facts they also alllowed equal time to well-known quack Patrick Holford. Patrick Holford sells pills. Please BBC, the balance to objective research is better objective research, not the prejudiced rambling of a discredited supplement salesman.
Incidentally, a salesman I know left his job today.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Ford Fiesta smashes Porsche 911
According to the BBC story :
Jack Higgs, 93, was uninjured when his Ford Fiesta hit a Carrera II then flipped over onto a Porsche 911 outside a showroom in Penarth, near Cardiff.
Mr Higgs said he could not explain how he managed to lose control of his 13-year-old car and smash into the Porsches.
"It was a miracle I got out alive and I put it down to the power of prayer and God looking after me."
"But that's it - the end of my driving career, I'm never driving again."
I will not comment here upon the obvious dementia of thinking that his prayer made any difference whatsoever to the world outside his brain. But seeing the main protagonists in this incident - the doddery old man, the ancient old Fiesta and the two flash Porsches - I obviously thought of the old old joke:
The old guy in his ancient battered little Ford Fiesta breaks down and pulls to the side of the road. Fairly soon a yuppy in his new Porshe 911 sees him by the side of the road and offers to help. The old man doesn't want to leave his car. So the dude offers to tow it. The old guy is a bit nervous, he doesn't like going fast. But the guy reassures him "don't worry, I'll stick to 50. And if you want me to slow down then just flash your lights, if you want me to stop then just honk the horn".
So slightly nervously in the case of the old man, they set off. At first the Porsche owner tootles along at 50 as promised. Then he is overtaken by another Porshe owner doing 70. The yuppy does not like this and catches up. The other driver doesn't like this and speeds to 90. The first driver retaliates and accelerates to 90 too. Pretty soon they are neck and neck roaring down the highway at 150 miles per hour.
They flash past an unmarked police car. The cop radios in to base: "You'll never guess what I saw, two brand new Porsches racing side by side at 150 miles per hour..." The dispatch interrupts "that's no surprise, we see that sort of thing all the time". "That wasn't the strange thing" says the cop "right on their tail was an old geezer in a battered old Ford Fiesta. He's flashing his lights, he's tooting his horn, but they still won't let him past!"
Monday, April 14, 2008
Can we fix it?
A bad workman always blames his tools.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Voice of God Washes Whiter
The television is on, and I am watching television adverts. No, I have not lost the PVR, but it's the excellent BBC programme Washes Whiter about the advertising industry, and it is mixing work with pleasure to see something so entertaining.
Interesting that the voiceover was referred to within the advertising creative industry as "the voice of god", that disembodied prompt that triggered the wife to tell the world just how well her washing powder really worked. She often looked upwards to the camera before speaking.
But, apparently, this "voice of god" did not work when advertising men's products - a man needed a genuine source of authority, someone like James Bond, or Jimmy Hill. Men would not talk to a voice from the sky in the way that women would.
And of course, while watching these back and white stereotypes, the 21st century man just laughs at how outdated and sexist those advertisements seem. That evil "old white man elite" seeking to perpetuate its authority ...
... but there is a less discussed counterargument in there. Probably from the 1960s onwards, and certainly today, those who worked in creative advertising have actually been at the forefront of progressive values - but most attempts of their attempts to push the boundaries too far, to try to switch away from stereotypical roles, were met with either incomprehension or distaste by the mass market world, or at least by the focus groups which represented that world.
So yes conservatives, be afraid, the advertising industry really is out to keep changing society.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Well I was amused to see that a rather amusing rather obscure little note by Jeff Vrabel caused a bit of a stir in the strange world of the squid loving community. I'm not part of that community, it's a day late anyway - but here's a little filler in praise of cuttlefish and in derision of IDiots.
There was a fellow called Vrabel who
On evolution had an unstable view.
This may surprise
But octopus eyes
Can see better than we are able to.
Our optic nerves give us a blind spot
But cephalopods have somehow got
The layout reversed.
So humans are cursed
With defects that cuttles have not.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Complementary: that looks really great for a "back yard", not what I'd expect in London
Accusatory: that's just hypocritical, you with your detached house talking about "natural" rights for everyone.
Now if we did have a really expensive house, that would be nothing to be proud of. That would just be an ostentatious display of wealth. Impossible. But what I am somewhat proud of is that the house was not expensive. Barely the average price nationwide, let alone the average price in London.
Because we prioritise peace and quiet at home, we consciously chose something without attached neighbours in a road without traffic. But you never get something for nothing, so other things are compromised. The neigbourhood is hardly trendy, there are no fancy bars or clubs anywhere near. The house itself is correspondingly unfashionable, neither refurbished victorian nor stylish modern, just the cheap red bricks common in the 1970s. Inside it's equally basic. But it is also quiet, homely and convenient.
It is just a question of values and priorities.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
How To Be Happy
The question is a bit of a hot topic. There have been recent books and TV series examining the question, and there has been a recent flurry of posts in the webworld.
Obviously I don't have the answer, but the question gets to the root of economics. The Freakonomics team, the Undercover Economist and Marginal Revolution have all considered the issue recently.
The traditional profit/utility maximising models are only useful up to a point, beyond that they are garbage, because many people are generally "satisfied" at a given level of a specific variable. A recent article in Spiked magazine dissed a couple of serious attempts to answer the question, both the "enoughism" of John Naish and the academic analysis of Oliver James were rejected as anti-consumer defeatism, though I think each has its merits.
The British Psychology Society offers plenty of theories, but I think the true answer is probably to be found in the relationship of mood-influencing chemicals to neural networks. Yes, you don't need to be a brain scientist to be happy, but you need to be a brain scientist to understand happiness.
But what a marketer might say is that a good brand can make you happy.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Alan Sugar Gregory House
There are big issues in the real world, not everybody can afford the property that they would like, not everybody can afford the food that they would like, but let's retreat briefly to the unreal world of television. There are not many shows that I watch, at the moment only two with any regularity - I've mentioned both before, but have just realised that they are basically the same.
House Series Four. Apprentice Series Three. A gruff autocratic leader, maverick methods, terse gravelly put-downs, needs a shave. Character is defined as cold and rational and ruthless, only the results count. Has undoubted ability, a worldwide reputation, but only two confidants who really trust him, one man and one woman. A dozen candidates on an extended on-the-job interview. Evaluation tasks seem fairly random and unrelated to the desired criteria. Apparently decent candidates seem to lose out due to no fault of their own. Petty personal squabbles in the team seem a source of amusement. Attitude: the world is tough, there is no other, deal with it.
But one key difference. House is usually right.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The Job Interview
I have been sitting and conducting interviews for many years, and it is currently a subject of great relevance. And in the Times at the weekend was an article about the job interview, and to its enormous credit, it did not mention the Apprentice even once. What it did say was this:
Looking around, I don't think I'm alone in doubting the effectiveness of the traditional job interview. The business world wouldn't be so keen to adopt new evaluation techniques such as psychometric testing if it were satisfied. And recruiters wouldn't be forever coming up with gimmicky ways of trying to improve interviews.
So it then documents some of these new techniques:
- Talk about the weather. If they whine about it then they will whine about work and shouldn't be hired.
- Begin interrogations with the question: “if our roles were reversed what would you ask yourself?”
- Interview someone in a restaurant, and see how they deal with the waiters.
Actually that last question could be interesting for a research biologist, but I agree that a question that is "irrelevant" during an interview is likely to be irrelevant to the job too. And the Times article concludes:
Indeed, it seems there might be a good reason why the predictable and traditional job interview has survived so long: it is better than all the alternatives. [It] at least has the advantage that it requires candidates to (1) put effort into preparing answers in advance and (2) fake enthusiasm. And preparation and faking enthusiasm are the two basic skills anyone needs to succeed in business.
Broadly true. Though many managers would not like to believe it. But if I had three months to whittle twelve candidates down to one, I'd hope to find real knowledge and real enthusiasm.
Monday, April 07, 2008
What we want
Stories of the "credit crunch", potential recession and threatened collapse in house prices are everywhere at the moment. Almost everyone suffers some negative effects.
But some seem immune from this turmoil. From the Times yesterday: The luxury property market shrugs off the slowdown. Prime country houses are holding their value despite turmoil elsewhere.
They describe the perfect residence: “It must have complete peace, away from road or air noise, yet be accessible to a market town or motorway. It must be private, and so ideally come with land, and it must have protected views and some water, such as a lake or stream.”
But that is why the people who think that only absolute wealth matters are wrong, completely wrong.
Those resources are limited. With high disparity in relative wealth, if some people will have them, then others will not. However many little gadgets people cram into their little homes, these basic "rights" of peace and quiet and seclusion (while still maintaining closeness to nature and historical social and transport links) will only be available to those with the most relative wealth.
It is why immigration matters. Congestion matters. Population matters.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
April Cool Joke
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Exactly how much housework does a husband create?
That was the title of the scientific article, summarised from detailed time-diaries for a project at the University of Michigan, and the first paragraph answers:
It creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women
But a wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week
Not true here. It's also worth seeing this earlier study from the same source, and only a few months old:
Married Men Really Do Do Less Housework Than Live-in Boyfriends
Yet the summary of data presented for the recent study actually seems to suggest a completely different conclusion. Larry Moran draws the same conclusion that I saw from the data:
The average married man does eight more hours of housework than the average single man.
So the original headline, like many others, was misleading. Actually other factors like age of responder and number of dependents are the relevant variables.
But eight more hours of housework per week? I don't keep a time diary, but I wonder if it applies to me?
Friday, April 04, 2008
Sex With Vegetables
There are some things that I like about Ken Livingstone. Of course there are some things that I dislike too, for example his reputed association with religious bigots and his general support for incongruous skyscrapers.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Ironic Moronic Cricket
In England's last capitulation, I commented on the fact that the one-day game used to be 55 overs per side, New Zealand declared their test innings after exactly 55 overs, and England folded after exactly 55 overs.
But today my mother country has performed even worse than that. The Indian players recently signed up for a lucrative 20:20 competition, though that doesn't start till next month. Today they started a supposedly five day test match. And in two hours this morning, after choosing to bat, India were bowled out in exactly 20 overs. All out for 76. Just coincidence? Just embarrassing.
Something approaching conventional wisdom has suggested that immigration brings net benefits to the economy.
Various pieces of research have tended to back up this thinking, but the Lords Committee robustly takes issue with that.And despite being an immigrant myself, I take issue too. Because however much I would like certain things to be true, I know that some variables make more sense than others.
So I think The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs has finally pointed out that this particular emperor is not wearing any clothes:
The use of GDP as the measure of immigration's economic contribution was "irrelevant and misleading".
Instead, GDP per capita - or income per head of the population - would be a better measure.That seems blatantly obvious to me. Of course overall gross domestic product is likely to rise if the population increases, but what surely matters is the welfare of the people, not the number of people.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
After careful consideration, particularly of the many wicked transgressions in my youth (really), I have come to the conclusion that I should accept Jesus as my Saviour. Lord have mercy on me for my earlier sins, forgive me for my trespasses, or at least allow me the chance to repent for them. One day perhaps you too will find the one true path to salvation. Love to all. R.