Reports of UK Demise Greatly Exaggerated – Just Don't Trust A Word The Government Says

UPDATED with BBC News link

Pray for Britain“? UK “off a cliff“? Yesterday, I thought not.

omnologos says:

Hey, it’s the UK Government, they’ll fiddle with the figures and tamper with the reports of independent panels appointed by them, declare “victory!” and move on without having achieved any practical goal at all.

omnologos says:

the UK has a long history of bummer pledges met by creative accounting. This’ll be another example.

And in fact…the BBC flagship “Today” programme had Roger Harrabin pondering a few hours ago how the new “legally-binding” emission targets can be dependent on what the rest of EU will do (mysteriously, there’s little on the BBC website as yet). And the FT reports that it’s all going to be about a fantastic “2030 target“, and Chancellor George Osborne made it known that “nothing has been agreed“.

So the rule is as usual…especially when “targets” are involved, do not trust a word that comes out of the UK Government. Ever.

Build-Your-Own "Anthropogenic Global Something"

Commenter Alvaro of “After Mein Kampf, Mein Klima” Splattergate-era fame has just published another gem in Italian non-warmist site “Climate Monitor“. Its edited and expanded translation is published below as a way to help budding entrepreneurs to identify a niche “Anthropogenic Global Something” where to build their fortunes from.

(Please DO send 10% of the profits).

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Having learned the lessons of AGW, I wonder if we could emulate the process, starting from scratch though with the aim of finding (and funding) my own place in the sun.

  • First of all, we need a juicy topic, similar to Electrosmog, but not as easy to debunk
  • It also needs to be catchy whilst sounding good in news bites

How about something “magnetic …” – it sounds right and is already well received by the general public, as shown by the never-ending popularity of “magnetic bracelets“.

So, what interesting and “magnetic”? Two minutes spent on Google lead to this (by NASA, no less!), that can be summarily distorted as:

Red alert! The Earth’s magnetic field is no longer constant, indeed it seems that is weakening – and very few percent per century, much more than the changes induced by AGW! And if that field goes, the magnetosphere goes, ending life on earth …

CreatedIdentified the problem, there’s still two important details to care about:

  • We must figure out some “anthropogenic” cause, possibly associated to some kind of “guilt”. Otherwise, there goes the business opportunity
  • Some evil giant corporation has to be the at the root of the problem. This will increase the guilt factor and greatly help in the recruitment of unpaid volunteers

Consider now an old CRT computer monitor. It needs degaussing when it starts being troubled by nearby loudspeakers. That involves the use of of a bit of AC – just as in deleting old music and video tapes. Best of all, there is lots of man-made ACs around. Can you feel the Eureka moment too?

Over the last hundred years, ever since Westinghouse (the evil giant corporation) opted for AC (Tesla’s idea) instead of DC (Edison’s), we have built and then – alas – even synced a giant electricity grid all around our planet, based on AC at 50-60 Hz: a formidable “degaussing grid” of planetary scale!

Of course, this is not enough. Where’s the catastrophe?

  • A sobering message is in order, followed by suitably-placed apocalyptic predictions for decades in the future, in case of inaction

Here comes the message!

We are now painfully aware that we have been unwittingly tampering with Earth’s already-weak magnetic field, risking the wearing out of the magnetosphere. Compared to that, the ozone hole looks like child’s play. So if we do not act now, jetzt, ora, pronto, to stop Anthropogenic Global Degaussing (AGD) we will all fry in a radioactive holocaust, like microwaved mice, in a veritable ELE – Extinction Level Event, We’ll be following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs, in about thirty years’ time, according to accurate peer-reviewed computations.

For the AGD PERP (Precautionary Emergency Response Program) the plan is the following:

  • Take three TRIPs – Temporarily Redundant Important Politicians – and put them in charge of a sky-blue-badged global initiative to coordinate (a) an immediate and massive effort to communicate the seriousness of the AGD emergency, (b) the subsequent coercive-yet-negotiable mitigation initiatives of the impact of the world AC grid and (c) the final big effort to restore Earth’s magnetic field
  • Provide the motives, I mean, encourage large research institutions to align themselves with mainstream AGD in order to harmonize the overall funding for a massive research effort that will confirm the overriding urgency of the TRIPs’ plans
  • Prepare draft Wikipedia article to lay the foundation for a Nobel Prize

And here are a few ideas on what to tell people:

Global Degaussing is the most significant issue of our times, and too important for us to delay it any further. People tend to focus on the here and now. The problem is that, once global degaussing becomes something that most people can feel in the course of their daily lives, it will be too late to prevent much larger, potentially catastrophic changes.

All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous degaussing patterns and devastating electric storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not magnetic change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.

The warnings about global degaussing have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global magnetic crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences. Etc etc

Only remaining issue is how to deal with AGD deniers, those unable to listen to reason, and able instead mostly to sacrifice truth on the altar of profits yada yada yada…

Suggestions?

Yes, The News Media Can Only See Alarmism

Andy @Revkin and others (here and here) note with John Fleck of inkstain that

Fleckstain: Media skip Science paper on energy solutions while hyping 1 on Arctic CH4. Problems hotter than solutions?

I do not think so. Simply, it’s all been Allcott’s and Mullainathan’s (the original authors’) fault. In fact, this is what they wrote:

Just as we use R&D to develop “hard science” into useful technological solutions, a similar process can be used to develop basic behavioral science into large-scale business and policy innovations. Cost-effectiveness can be rigorously measured using scientific field-testing. Recent examples of scaling behaviorally informed R&D into large energy conservation programs suggest that this could have very high returns.

And this is what they should have written instead:

It might be one of the most ominous bits of evidence yet that global warming could run out of control. Unless we use R&D to develop basic behavioral science into large-scale business and policy innovations, the most-feared potential self-reinforcing effects of climate change may be starting to get under way. Recent examples of scaling behaviorally informed R&D into large energy conservation programs suggest that this could have very high returns. Otherwise, the effects of climate change will persist becoming evident faster than anyone predicted.

(click here for the original alarmism)

Obviously, Climategate notwithstanding, an enormous percentage of newsmedia people still firmly believe only titillating stories about upcoming disasters will ever attract the interest of their readers. I have a feeling that’s the kind of newsmedia most likely to go the way of the dodo, at least regarding scientific journalism.

Does Back Scratching Cause Planetary Warming?

Perhaps it does!

Climate change research bungle – The research institute run by the head of the UN’s climate body has handed out a series of environmental awards to companies that have given it financial support, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

UK Government: Met Office Source Code 'Available For External Use'

As one of the signatories of the epetition on “CRU Source codes” I just received the following message:

—– Forwarded Message —-
From: 10 Downing Street
To: e-petition signatories
Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 4:18:55 PM
Subject: Government response to petition ‘CRUSourceCodes’

You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to “Force the Climate Research Unit, or other publicly funded organisations to release the source codes used in their computer models.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to that petition and you can view it here:

http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page21266

Prime Minister’s Office

Petition information – http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/CRUSourceCodes/

And this is the text from that page 21266 (my emphasis):

The Government is strongly committed to the principles of freedom of information, and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 specifically implement our international obligations over access to environmental information. The Met Office’s commitment to openness and transparency in the conduct of their operations and to the sharing of information is set out clearly on their website (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/legal/foi.html).

Simple and transparent licences are in place to facilitate the re-use of the Met Office’s meteorological and climate data, and large quantities are freely available for academic and personal use, for example through the UK Climate Impacts Programme and the British Atmospheric Data Centre.

The Met Office’s climate models are configurations based on the Unified Model (UM), the numerical modelling system developed and used by the Met Office to produce all their weather forecasts and climate predictions.

You may be interested to know that the UM, including source code, is available for external use under licence. For general research, the licence is free; the Met Office just asks individuals to submit an abstract describing the research to be undertaken, and to provide an annual report describing the work undertaken, the results achieved and future work plans.

To improve access to their climate models, the Met Office has worked with Reading and Bristol Universities and NERC to develop a low-resolution version which can be run on a PC and is available to all UM licence holders.

Further Information on how to apply for a research licence can be found on the Met Office website.

(http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/science/creating/working_together/um_collaboration.html)

GlobeScan's Survey Of Climate Change Decision Makers 2009

Just received via e-mail:

Dear Colleague,

The fifteenth UN Conference of Parties will take place in Copenhagen in one month. To ensure that the opinions of professionals who work in climate change related fields are voiced prior to the summit, GlobeScan is seeking your participation in a short online survey. The influential survey results will be publicly released just before COP15 begins.

Please click here to go immediately to the survey page.

This new survey is the third in the Climate Change Decision Maker Survey program that began in 2007 as a collaboration between GlobeScan and many other organizations, including UNEP, the World Bank, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the International Development Research Centre.

In return for 15 minutes of your valuable time, we will send you a summary of the results of what your peers have to say about climate-related topics. We will also widely publicize the results in order to inform views and influence actions across sectors and geographies prior to the Copenhagen COP this December. Please note that this survey is different from the others you may have been invited to complete recently.

Please visit http://surveys.globescan.com/cdms09 to access this new survey. The survey will remain open for the next two weeks.

As always, we encourage your participation in this important initiative and are grateful for the opinions you provide. We remind you that we will only publish aggregated information, not individual responses.

Climate-related Faculty Position, University of Georgia Campus in Griffin, Georgia (USA)

Announcement just received (and no, I have no relationship whatsoever with the University of Georgia):

POSITION: PUBLIC SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE/PUBLIC SERVICE ASSISTANT IN BIOLOGICAL and AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING.

This is a 12-month non-tenure track faculty position with a 75% outreach and 25% research appointment in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Georgia. This assignment may change in accordance with the needs of the unit. The position is home based at the University of Georgia Campus in Griffin, Georgia and is supported by grant funds.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: The faculty member will be responsible for implementing an extension and applied research program aimed at reducing climate and weather risks in agriculture and natural resource management in Georgia and other southeastern states under the auspices of the Southeast Climate Consortium (www.SEClimate.org). He/she will conduct research on the impact of climate variability and climate change on agriculture and natural resources, with an emphasis on the development and implementation of decision aids that are to be used by extension agents, farmers, and natural resource managers. This includes responsibilities for implementing climate and weather related decision aids as part of the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network (AEMN; www.Georgiaweather.net) and linking with other web-based climate and weather information products and sites. He/ she will work with Extension Specialists, the State Climatologist, natural resource managers, and researchers in carrying out these responsibilities. He/she will be responsible for holding workshops and meet with focus groups to determine priorities for decision aids and information products, for informing clientele of the products, and for training users.

BASIC QUALIFICATIONS: A Ph.D. in one of the major disciplines related to agricultural and environmental sciences or a closely related field is required with training in weather/climate effects on agricultural systems and in the use and application of crop simulation models. Experience with the development of web-based information and decision support systems is desirable. Candidates should have demonstrated skills in verbal and written communication, interpersonal relationships, and an ability to work well with the public and with an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Candidates must be supportive of the mission of the Land-Grant system.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Applications received by January 1, 2010 are assured of consideration.

APPLICATION: Applicants should submit electronically a letter of application, curriculum vitae, unofficial college transcripts and names of four references to [contact me if interested].

Shameless Plug: Solar Panels For Europe, the Middle East and Africa

I have been contacted by the (new) Europe/Middle East/Africa representative of a Chinese company specializing in state-of-the-art solar panels. Whoever would be interested, or would know anybody interested in the field of solar panel distribution/installation , please reply in a comment to this blog with your real e-mail or phone number and will be contacted back.

Business can be conducted in English, French or Italian.

(I will not “approve” the comment unless asked to do so)

Novel System for Improved IT Support Efficiency

A novel IT Support Call Handling Scheme guaranteed to improve efficiency:

  1. Having received a support call or e-mail, do nothing about it
  2. If there is no further contact —> the issue is solved
  3. If the user calls again, pretend you care. Keep doing nothing about it
  4. If there is no further contact —> the issue is solved
  5. If the user calls again, provide assurance the problem is being looked at. Once again, do nothing about it
  6. If there is no further contact —> the issue is solved 
  7. If the user calls again, repeat from step 5
  8. If the user acts unreasonably and calls your boss, look busy and go to step 5
  9. At this point, the issue is either solved, or an absolute emergency
  10. In the latter case, start dealing with it

The above is based on the established fact that most of the time issues solve themselves, because the user gives up, moves to another job, or finds a way around the problem out of frustration.

As the end result is that everybody in IT support works on emergencies all of the time, their jobs will be safe for the foreseeable future, and users will just be grateful whenever any issue is actually solved.

Is that “maximum efficiency” or what?

First, Fastest, Tallest, Fat- and Cancer-Free, Money and Sex News

London, June 30 (MNN) – Breaking a new, safe, easy and fresh way forward for the blogosphere, Maurizio Morabito, the green, environmental author of the blog Omnologos, is revealing the tricks and secrets “to get some ink in the general audience media” and to help “put your release at the top of the search engines.

Capitalismo Autoritario in Cina: Meglio della Democrazia Liberale?

(la risposta e': no, non lo e': cosi come provare a guadagnarsi da vivere al tavolo da gioco non e’ meglio dell’avere uno stipendio, anche se i potenziali ritorni economici sono molto piu’ alti)

Il capitalismo autoritario della Cina e’ forse meglio della democrazia liberale (come “condizione necessaria e motore dello sviluppo economico”)? E’ piu’ o meno quanto si chiede Slavoj Žižek, co-Direttore del Centro Internazionale per gli Studi Umanistici al Birkbeck College, una delle Universita’ di Londra, nella sezione delle lettere sulla London Review of Books (volume 30 no. 8, datato 24 aprile 2008), dopo aver descritto in maniera straordinariamente equilibrata le relazioni passate e presenti fra Tibet e Cina (che, a proposito, non sono una storia di buoni e cattivi). Scrive Žižek:

Fareed Zakaria ha indicato come la democrazia “attecchi” solo nei Paesi economicamente sviluppati: se un Paese in via di sviluppo e’ “democratizzato prematuramente”, il risultato e’ un populismo che si conclude nella catastrofe economica ed nel despotismo politico. Nessuna sorprese quindi nel notare che i Paesi del terzo mondo economicamente piu’ riusciti (Taiwan, Corea del Sud, Cile) hanno optato per una democrazia completa solo dopo un periodo autoritario.
Seguento questo stesso percorso, la Cina ha fatto uso di un sistema autoritario per gestire i costi sociali della transizione al capitalismo. La combinazione bizzarra del capitalismo e del potere politico comunista e’ risultata essere non un ridicolo paradosso, ma una benedizione. La Cina si e’ sviluppata così velocemente non nonostante l’autoritarismo comunista, ma grazie ad esso.

In realta’ c’e’ da mettere i “puntini sulle i” a questo discorso. In primo luogo, Taiwan, la Corea del Sud ed il Cile si sono transformati “Paesi del terzo mondo economicamente piu’ riuscitidopo avere superato il “periodo autoritario“. Con quelli come esempi, sembra che una dittatura possa fare da gestante ad un’economia di successo, ma che l’autoritarismo si trasforma poi in una madre soffocante, se non in una cattiva matrigna.

Ancora piu’ importante, la Cina in se e’ in un certo senso soltanto la piu’ recente manifestazione di una “verità”: una dittatura (economicamente) illuminata puo’ essere molto piu’ efficiente di cumulo di trucchi e trucchetti conosciuti come “democrazia”. Voltaire probabilmente ha creduto in questo, e anche Platone e tantissimi altri, ed anche se il tutto suona come un concetto elitista, e’ pur tuttavia ovvio: un Principe intelligente, che si preoccupa del suo Stato e dei suoi sudditi, politicamente ed economicamente saggio può decidere la cosa migliore per tutti nel giro di minuti, invece che sprecando mesi provando a convincere e negoziare, magari forse in interminabili Commissioni Parlamentari.

Un tal principe può anche garantire decenni di buon governo, davvero una benedizione per il suo popolo. C’e’ un piccolo aspetto pero’. Immaginiamo che il Principe sia Ottaviano Augusto, e la pace e la prosperità sono di tutti.

Dopo viene Tiberio, e le cose cominciano a peggiorare con la sua paranoia. Tocca quindi a Caligola, e a Nerone non manca molto.

Le cose non sono cambiate granche’ durante i passati 2.000 anni. Il problema dell’autoritaritarismo, e quindi del capitalismo autoritario, non e’ la sua capacità di generare prosperità: piuttosto, la perfettamente analoga capacità di degenerare, rapidamente perché quasi senza controllo, arrivando quindi a impedire lo sviluppo della prosperita’ se non ad ucciderla completamente.

Come si dice nel mondo finanziario: cosi’ come un nuovo Amministratore Delegato puo’ far risorgere o distruggere un’azienda, analogamente un Principe despotico (o un Comitato di Principi, altrimenti detto “Comitato Centrale del Partito Comunista della Cina”) e’ una ricetta per nuove opportunita’ di guadagno e, per gli stessi motivi, per un aumento del rischio. E cio’ andrebbe decisamente considerato, quando si vuol dare un giudizio circa che cosa scegliere come “la condizione necessaria ed il motore di sviluppo economico”.

Dopo tutto, chi desidera scommettere continuamente tutta la sua ricchezza?

Ha Senso Votare? Si’, Ha Senso

Ha senso andare a votare? Tim Harford del Financial Times dice no.

E sbaglia.

Come segnalato nella recensione del nuovo libro del Harford “L’Economista in Incognito” sul New York Times:

Non ha senso votare.. come atto puramente logico. Se realmente desiderate “fare la differenza“, comprate biglietti della lotteria – le vostre probabilità di vincere sono approssimativamente uguali alle vostre probabilità di decidere da soli un’elezione – e dedicate i soldi vinti a fare del lobbying politico.

E non preoccupatevi nemmeno di tenervi informati su cio’ che si decide, con le elezioni. “Poiché la probabilità che il voto di un individuo qualunque cambi il risultato è molto piccola, i benefici di trasformare un voto non-informato in un voto informato sono anch’essi molto piccoli,” scrive Harford. “Razionalmente parlando, a che pro la seccatura di andare a votare?

Per saperne di più circa la saggezza dietro queste dichiarazioni, si puo’ visitare il sito web di Tim Harford stesso, in particolare l’articolo “Il Vostro Voto Non Conta“, pubblicato il 10 novembre 2007:

Notoriamente, il voto di un individuo non fa differenza alcuna. Secondo David Boothroyd, il britannico che studia le elezioni, in 24 elezioni politiche dal 1918, ognuna con centinaia di seggi parlamentari in gioco (più recentemente, 646), c’e’ stato solo un’elezione valida dove il vostro voto avrebbe potuto “fare la differenza

Trovo un tal ragionamento piuttosto deludente. Le elezioni non sono decise da ciascuno elettore individuale, ma dal comportamento di molti elettori individuali: e a quello bisogna riferirsi quando si voglia capire cosa possa “fare la differenza“.

======================

Pensiamo dunque se sia opportuno andare a votare oppure no: immaginate che (a) la maggior parte della gente la pensi a riguardo come voi. Se decidete allora (a.1) di votare, sapete che la maggior parte della gente penserà la stessa cosa ed andrà a votare. In quelle circostanze, la gente che non vota è in minoranza ed ha poco senso unirsi a questi ultimi: il voto è la scelta logica.

Se decidete (a.2) di non votare, sapete che la maggior parte della gente non andrà a votare neanch’essi. Ma in quel caso le opinioni di chi vota hanno un più grande peso del solito: il voto è, ancora una volta, la scelta logica.

Immaginate ora che (b) la maggior parte della gente non la pensi come voi. Se decidete (b.1) di votare, sapete che la maggior parte della gente non andrà a votare. Motivo in piu’ di andare alle urne: il voto è, per la terza volta, la scelta logica.

Infine se decidete (b.2) di non votare, la maggior parte della gente voterà. Ovviamente, invece di rimanere sperduti con la minoranza, avrà senso seguire la maggioranza: e così votare è… la scelta logica.

Il voto è sempre la scelta logica: indipendentemente dalla “differenza” che un singolo voto possa o non possa fare.

======================

Quanto sopra è liberamente ispirato da “Metamagical Themas” di Douglas Hofstadter, una meravigliosa collezione di saggi da Scientific American dove il famose autore di “Goedel, Escher, Bach” studia (nell’ultima sezione “Saggezza & Sopravvivenza“) alcuni modi non immediatamente evidenti di risolvere i “dilemmi della cooperazione“.

Magari Tim “Economista in Incognito” Harford avesse il libro di Hofstadter ed espanso il suo proprio ragionamento per includere… i modi in cui si ragiona, invece di limitarsi, da economista, ai meri numeri delle elezioni.

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Ci è una possibilità ancora non analizzata: il cosiddetto “sciopero degli elettori“, dove la gente decide di protestare in blocco sperando che la loro assenza sarà notata.

In questo caso, ci sono due risultati potenziali: (c) poca gente partecipa allo sciopero o (d) molte, molte persone rifiutano di votare.

Se accade (c) lo sciopero è un disastro, e votare ha decisamente più senso. E se accade (d), visto che poche persone votano, è definitivamente tempo di farlo (come in a.2 ed in b.1 qui sopra).

Non si puo’ proprio scampare dal fatto che votare e’, da un punto di vista logico, l’unica opzione.

Millennium Bug A Different Virus

Seven and more years later, we can definitely close down the story of the Millennium Bug as one of the greatest wastes of money in the history of Humanity.

In hindsight, it has been as useful and as value-generating as one of those chain-mail messages, just a different kind of computer virus.

Nothing of significance happened on Dec 31, 1999. Perhaps nothing at all, zilch, nada, niente (but it’s hard to demonstrate a negative).

Even the stories with the flimsiest relevance and interest should have surfaced by now.

People that were actually employed in fixing the fantasy Bug don’t usually like such a train of thought. Somebody actually tried to tell me the Bug caused no trouble because of the dedication of so many people and resources to fix it.

I do not buy any such excuse.

Surely a lot of people worked on the Bug very professionally and conscientiously.

But then we all know any kind of software does contain errors…the Millennium Bug Fixes by miracle or extraordinary coincidence, not even one. How can that be possible?

And how can it be likely that everybody everywhere on the planet lost their capacity to make mistakes in the process of fixing the Bug? Italy was a well-known laggard on considering the Bug, and in Kenya there was no funding to do anything until March 2000 (three months after the Bug should have stricken).

Outsourcing – A Daft Idea?

I have never been a big fan of all the Outsourcing fashion that came into vogue around 2000-01 with untold savings promised by getting non-core-parts of a company’s business managed and conducted by outside personnel and structures.

Now I am starting to think there is something potentially quite daft about the whole idea. Let’s say there are three types of Outsourcing:

(a) One-to-many: for example the relationship between a company and courier services;

(b) Many-to-one: for example all the clients of news- and data-gathering enterprises such as Reuters;

(c) One-to-one: the modern way of Outsourcing, when for example part or the whole of the IT functions are managed by a single external company.

Now, in case (a) the client has the upper hand, as it can shift business from one courier company to another in an instant and for whatever reason. Service has to be pretty good to prevent that.

Also in case (b) the clients are reasonably safe: even if costs can go high in a situation of quasi-monopoly, any problem on the Reuters or Bloomberg side would cause a massive uproar. Once again, service has to be as good as needed.

Unfortunately, that does not necessarily happen in case (c): the external company, in fact, does know its contract is large and complex and it covers many aspects without which the outsourcing company’s business will fail. And the latter has to invest much money and time just to start the process, whilst exiting from the contract is almost just as expensive and long an endeavour.

The end result then is that in (c) it’s the service provider that obtains the power to make expensive decisions for its client, for example justifying an incredibly complex hardware or data processing arrangement on the basis of unverified risk scenarios.

 ————-

Of course nothing is fixed, nothing is preordained. The opposite strategy may in fact be just as bad, when Insourcing means creating a self-sustaining internal apparatus of un-necessary costs and complexity, also called “the IT Department”.

Still it would be great news the day when companies, especially the largest ones including the public sector, will consider the downsides properly and protect themselves (i.e., their shareholders’ interests) against being taken advantage of by their Outsourcing Partner

Perhaps it is time for a new business field: independent outsourcing auditors.

Business IS Personal

British society (but not only British society) is trapped in the myth that business is business, whilst personal stuff is personal stuff.

This brings out all sorts of pretensions, such as the illusion that business deals can simply be rooted in “logic” with the consequence that the most important learning topic is “how to debate” as power is firmly in the hand of the Best Talker.

The Best Talker is the person able to talk everybody else into doing anything he or she wants.

Cue Tony Blair, and now David Cameron not by chance much on the way up compared to rhetorical troglodyte Gordon Brown.

This is truly a pity and a missed opportunity, as it removes content, ideas and personality from the main focus, in business as in politics.

The best one can hope is that invisible advisers will actually implement something good for the country, when it doesn’t interfere with the leader’s personal advantage.

That’s something more akin to Enlightened Dictatorship than to liberal democracy.

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But in truth Business is Personal. For most of us at least. Business is impersonal for bored public sector employees and stressed-out private sector middle managers (aka “Cannon Fodder”).

For everybody else, there is a reason to be engaged in business activities that goes beyond the actual performing of our particular duty.

The existence of one’s salary is often vital to the persons one cares about most, one’s family. The desire to perform well and/or to get a promotion or expand one’s business, it’s all deeply rooted in one’s own need for self-esteem and fulfillment.

Being able in one’s business to cut a deal or even keep one’s job in the face of adversity is very much personal stuff.

And that’s why logic cannot be enough. We have to recognize that in the choice of a new IT system or Managing Director or people to fire during next cost-cutting exercise, gut-feelings and emotions are just as important as what’s “rational”.

Business is Personal, and it will remain so until negotiation will only be done by machines.

BBC: Last for News

Either the people at BBC News are having a Seriously Bad Monday, or there is something fishy in the relationship between the BBC and British Airways.

(Alternatively: here some evidence of BBC incompetence and tardiness:)

British Airways has been forced to reveal that there is free upgrade to First Class available for you and your family, if you happen to die during the flight.

As of now (10:30AM GMT) , such piece of… news is absent from BBC News.

According to Google News, it is appearing in 45 other news outlets on the web, first of which was 21 hours ago.

====================

I always find it suspect that the BBC News web site mostly finds lead stories in the morning, rather than randomly during the day. So much for being a leader in web-based news provision. The first-class-corpse episode just will make things look even odder…

As for Brutish Airways, why oh why am I not surprised to find them out once again with procedures taking precedence over common sense?

The Economist…and the economists

(Letter sent to The Economist)

Dear Editors

One wonders how much to read in what you don’t appear to be daring to explicitly write, in your commentary about Sir Nicholas Stern’s review of the economics of climate change (“It may be hot in Washington too“, Nov 2nd 2006)

Let’s see: Sir Nicholas, the “head of Britain’s government economic service” and with a past in very senior positions at the World Bank, delivers a series of economical figures…perfectly in line with what is politically needed by the commissioner of his latest effort, Gordon Brown

Contrarily to the Financial Times, only very obliquely you suggest that all that economics may as well have no value (apart of course from Mr Brown’s effort to get “America involved in the global effort to mitigate climate change“)

All in all, Sir Nicholas’s report may end up being remembered as a travesty of economics

Do you really hold expert economists in such a low esteem, not to feel any outrage at seeing their profession so heavily manipulated for political ends? And if that is true, what is the point of your Buttonwood and other economics columns?

One may even ask, what is the point of your magazine? Why not close it down, perhaps, to open it anew as “The Politician”?

Natural Sleep, anybody?

Some may already know that I hardly need more than 4 hours of sleep every night, apart from peculiar circumstances.

Sometimes I think with appropriate training I could be able to shorten that time to 2 hours: and if I could switch to power-napping (15 minutes every 3 hours or so), I’d do it without much of a thought (but sadly, without much of a family around me either…)

Having had to deal with countless criticism about this supposedly harmful behaviour, I can only be pleased in reading this comment on one Op-Ed’s by Alex Beam on the International Herald Tribune:

In his 2005 book "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past," historian A. Roger Ekirch [...] argued that the transition from old-fashioned "segmented sleep" to today's continuous sleep pattern hasn't helped mankind. "There is every reason to believe that segmented sleep, such as many wild animals exhibit, had long been the natural pattern of our slumber before the modern age, with a provenance as old as humankind," Ekirch wrote. Up until the invention of artificial lighting, he noted, men and women went to bed earlier and woke up in the middle of the night to smoke a pipe, make love, or analyze their dreams.

Segmented sleep, that’s what’s healthy and “natural”: not 8 or 10 hours in a row

IT misalignments (aka Dilbert right once again)

There was a Dilbert strip in the 2003 desktop calendar a few weeks ago (I can try to describe it here) that looked very true and sounded very true.

Now it appears to have been demonstrated true

Joe Santana in yesterday's TechRepublic

To my surprise, almost 90 percent of the items listed by the teams as their key objectives differed from the key objectives listed by their managers. What's more, the key objectives listed by the managers were different by almost the same margin from the key objectives I had been given by my new bosses."

Among the layers of organizations, there is clearly a deviation in the focus and priorities of each layer due to lack of clarity about how they can and should specifically contribute to the goals and objectives of the layer above. Information moves from the "aligned" CIO, to a slightly less-aligned VP, to the less-aligned director, to the even less-aligned managers and supervisors who are guiding the purchase of resources and the actions of the staff” which at this point is 60 to 90 percent off the original objective

The solutions proposed appear straightforward, yet who's going to implement them?

  • Use and communicate a portfolio management vehicle as a means of categorizing IT investments
  • Have every layer of the management team create and maintain an alignment chart
  • Teach every layer of your management team to focus on objectives
  • Dilbert strip

    1: CEO to Senior VP "The Research supports my strategy"
    2: CEO to Senior VP "You can read the Research but don't make any copies"
    3: Senior VP to VP "I can tell you about it but you can't read it"
    4: VP to Assistant VP "I don't remember the reason but I am sure there is one"
    5: Assistant VP to pointy-haired Boss "There's no reason"
    6: Pointy-haired Boss to Dilbert "Our strategy is a huge mistake but we have to do it anyway"
    7: Dilbert to Dogbert "After I fall asleep tonight please smother me with a pillow"
    8: CEO to himself "My people love me because I manage with data"