Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Big brother doing what it's supposed to

Now, say what you will about the Big Brother tv show, I still think it has a purpose as an experiment in human nature.

I think it’s sad that the direction has been somewhat lost in character selection. Subsequent series to the original were bound to have to do it in order to keep the ratings up. Channel 4 have to cash in where they can I guess, but still it is a shame it is at the sacrifice of the fabric of the show.

So, getting back on track, why is it still a valid experiment? The fame factor has now dissipated. This is because winning isn’t directly related to the fame that leads on from it. All you need is a “character” and a good enough stint to show it off. 4 or five weeks tends to cover it. The difference now between the sixth series and the first is that they know people are watching.

The characters in there are still people being trapped in a house with a dozen other people, trying to form relationships and accept other peoples’ mentality, culture and ways of living. All this whilst still attempting to carry on with their own life.

A great example came in tonight’s show where Craig had a little breakdown, being “overwhelmed”. Competing for attention, not receiving his p’s and q’s had all taken its toll on him. Makosi and Science’s methods of healing didn’t help a great deal. It was Roberto’s rather shockingly friendly and reassuring manner that helped Craig shake the feeling.

Now something about those events felt very real. They may be wild and wacky people, but they are still real people.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Technology, evolution and the workplace

I've been a reader of Peter Cochranes blogs/articles for quite a while now after I stumbled upon some of his comments on ZDNet News. I just find his style and outlook on things in the business world refreshingly youthful and amusing.

His latest blog is on the subject of continual reorganisation, a subject reasonably close to my heart as I find myself often looking at models and how to improve them, especially within the workplace (in some cases, being part of my job).

An integral cog in this machine is technology and its constant evolution. I sit on the borderline as to whether this is a good thing. For instance, I see many cases where there are things that I want to do and know can be done by the new, freely (not to be confused with free) available applications. But at the same time I know it's probably not sensible given that other, mainly human, resources are not so readily available for implementation.
Now what this tends to mean is that when I get an idea I have to take it home with me, quite literally, to conduct some feasiblility tests. Is it possible for me, with my limited but ever expanding knowledge of the application, to create the settings, databases, documents and whatever else is needed to get the application up and running, doing the job I want it to do.

What I'm entering here is the paradox that technology is supposed to make life easier. Sadly, we've been getting this idea wrong for ages now. All technology does is make tasks easier. Look at the farming and clothing trades. The past 100-200 years has seen an immense development in technology in these industries. But are the working hours any shorter? Is the quest for ever more productive methods over? No.

Now back to continual reorganisation. My feelings are that business and indeed people have grown too impatient and that competition is so fierce that if you aren't seen to be changing your work methods you aren't seen to be working.
This is, of course, fatally flawed. Evolution and reorganisation aren't a bad thing by any means. But probationary periods for new work methods have got to be given the chance to establish themselves before change, else you won't learn as much from them and you'll lose customer focus by concentrating too much on the business innards.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Victory

Simple as that really.
Has to be said, I had absolutely no faith in the boys winning the Champions League Final since they beat Chelsea... until half time. Even at work today, I was asked an I getting nervous about the final. No, but a ray of hope in the world.

Now I'm by no means saying that I developed an overwhelming belief that after they head to the tunnel 3-0 down they would win it. But there was the sudden inkling that it could be done. And it would all be about the half time team talk. If one side can score 3 goals in one half, so could the other. And quite frankly, it’s a lot better to be the side that does it in the second half, carrying momentum with you to the end whilst the other team gets deflated after throwing away a great lead.

Gerrard was fantastic, Hypia was great, Carragher put on another brilliant showing, despite developing “cramp in both groins” towards the end. I’m very proud of the lads and well done to Benitez. Hopefully this will lead on to us being able to get a couple of quality signings in the summer and get us challenging for the Premiership title next season.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Top news story. Really?

I was a little shocked this morning as I turned on the TV for BBC breakfast news (as always) before tucking into my Weetabix. Paraphrasing Dermot Murnaghan:
"Marks & Spencers profits fall as expected by the market. That's our top story." Cue jingle.

Um... are you kidding me? Of all the things going on in the world, one of our dozen or so Supermarket chains loses a bit of money is the top news story for this country on the morning of 24th May 2005. They are still making well over half a billion pounds of pre-tax, pre-exceptional profits. So its not like they are Corus or anything.

Give up the fashion business, Simply Food is a much better idea. And BBC you've got to find a better story.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Competitiveness and the clock

Recently I've undergone quite a lifestyle change. I've never been ridiculously large or anything, but for a man of my size I'm carrying about a stone more than I should be.
I signed up to the local gym over a month ago and am now getting well into the routine of it. Danger is, Wednesdays are my rest days and I actually missed not going. Traditionally, Sundays are another day of rest too, but today I broke with it.

Through all this I'm noticing one of my most underlining traits, competitiveness, come to the fore.
Very different from the competitive D. in the work environment, as I'm not competing with people. It's just me and the machines telling me how I'm doing. And this is proving to be the fun factor that's making me want to go there every night.

However what does make it work like is that I find myself looking at the measures, trying to get everything to match up. 12.2km/h on the treadmill to burn 20 calories/minute. 2 minutes/500 metres on the Rower to burn 1000 calories an hour, and so on and so on.

So far I'm feeling better but not seeing it yet (not striking me as a surprise, by the by) and time will tell whether my beat the numbers approach is going to be the most beneficial.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Travesty in the relegation zone

Well, the Saints' long run in the top flight has ended today, not as a surprise to most, but still a very sad day for me and a lot of my regional mates and colleagues.

Certainly, the worst team of the four that were for the drop today stayed up. I'm a fan of Bryan Robson, so good on him, but I haven't seen much of the Baggies that shows me they are a Premiership side.

Norwich's dire defeat was amble justice in saying that you've got to have some sort of away form to play in the top division. They haven't and deservedly went down for it.

Crystal Palace. You don't get far as a one man team. Johnson isn't enough to carry a whole team and so for them, the drop was harsh, but fair.

As for Southampton, bottom of the league is a dismal showing. But they shouldn't have been anywhere near the drop-zone in the first place. Middlesbrough, Everton, Fulham, to name a few of the games where they dropped 2pts a time for lack of concentration. If you're outplayed like you were today, then fine. But if the players insist on thinking a game won and not knuckling down in the last few minutes of a game then the blame is solely on the players' shoulders.

The fans deserve better, and I hope they get it next season where they should at least be able to give Southampton their first trophy at St Mary's.

Work and the dole

Now I'm not being a revolutionary here, I'm not the first to come with this as a quick google search will prove. But it has been my opinion for a long time now.

Why on earth do we pay people to do nothing well there's so much that needs doing. Total the value of the benefits these receive, divide it by the minimum wage and you get the number of hours that the person should be working on either community projects, charity work or other such worthy activities. With a cap of 30 hours so that it gives them time to hunt for work.
Considering that those of us in work doing 40 hours+ a week can still go and hunt for alternative employment as well, this is plenty of time.

It would be much better to have them doing productive works for companies for the greater benefit of the economy and gaining work related skills that would have them more employable but that would be far to open to exploitation. So it's best to keep this simple.

Having the government as the employer means that flexible working practices would of course be applied and there will be plenty of time for them to look for work and go to interviews.

In a society where there's no such thing as a free lunch, it's about time that it was the case.

Offenders to wear uniforms

The government has unveiled a new idea to have our young offenders wear uniforms whilst doing community service, running parallels with the chain gangs in the US.
Now, a certain Mr Chris Stanley
head of policy for the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders is against the idea because there is no evidence that it will act as a deterrent.
Missing the point entirely sadly.
Quite frankly, no one in this country either knows, or is brave enough to come forward with an idea that will act as a deterrent. The whole point of this idea is for community awareness, because we never see community service sentences in action.
It's well publicised that we don't see the same number of Police on the street and similarly, we don't see justice being served as often also.

This would be a great start into the public building some confidence in our lack lustre criminal justice system.

Of course the uniform isn't going to mean a great deal to the offenders. Sure it will look daggy for a couple of weeks, but we can be virtually certain that they will be turned into a status symbol and labelled cool by our large numbers of sheep youth.

Despite that, I'd still wish to be able to put faces to the local criminal youth. Hell why just the youth. Should be a one-size fits all policy in my opinion.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What a bizarre question: Can the Conservatives win the next General Election

With the Labour Party continuing to dig their holes in Education, Transport and increasingly the Economy it is hard to see their popularity buck the downward trend. In which, in rather the same way that back in 1997 threw Labour into power, all the Tories need to do is keep their noses clean and wait for the rest of the British population to chant "Anything but Labour".
Rinse and repeat.

Variable thrown in. Brown replacing Blair at some stage. Is that going to make us more willing to give him a chance, similar to Major taking over Thachter.

This depends greatly on what happens with the economy in the next few years. And poor old Brown has got to fix it. We can see the downturn, we know about the "black hole". If he leaves the Treasury to be the Prime Minister with the tail end of his legacy going to the dogs then he is in a lot of trouble and you'll hear nothing but the faint hums of Tory hands rubbing together all the way 'til 2010.

Can the Conservatives win the next General Election? Well, it's not at the point where it's theirs to throw away but Labour will need to pull out a decent sized rabbit out of a less than decent sized hat.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

24/7 working

It's a Friday morning and you can see the work is piling up, not exactly untypical at the end of the week.
It's not like you haven't already put in the extra hours earlier in the week, so you feel pretty safe that since you started at 8:30 this morning it's not such an unreasonable wish as to want to get out the door at 5pm to go have that end of week pint in the beer garden as it's one of the nicest days of the year thus far.
So you prioritise your workload, get on it, have your plans ruined again by some outside, unplanned force (mental note to figure out what it was all about on Monday), reprioritise, get on with it some more and realise you're nearly out of alloted work time.
There's something you really want done and out the way so that you can start a new week fresh (which is the only way to enjoy a Monday morning) so you're left with two choices:
Work late and miss the pint or do a couple of hours worth at home on the Saturday or Sunday.

Simple decision really. No doubt I'll find a couple of hours on the weekend, since I'm trying to keep it cheap and intended to do some work on Rock & Pole which could easily be sidelined.

Saturday proved to be a true day of relaxation and as such there wasn't a chance of me doing any work then.

Sunday midday. Ok, lets give it a go. Three-quarters of an hour trying to log on and nothing but connection time out and error messages...

So, as much as we live in the time where working from home is increasingly the norm, it doesn't pay to rely on it when you know that you won't be able to get hold of your IT department during that time.

Moral of the story is to keep the weekend work to the nice to do's, and nothing that's absolutely necessary.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Understanding Americans and guns

As a Brit, living in a society where guns are illegal (barring the air rifle on the farm) I've always found the American model intriguing.
On my regular haunt of zdnews.com I somehow managed to run into some thoughts on the subject, but bear in mind the actual subject at hand is having third parties hosting corporate IT:

“Especialy American people. Here's the thing, Americans believe they can do things better, how ever you define it, than a large organization.Hmm, I feel an analogy coming on...Americans has the highest gun ownership in the world, we also have the most police to defend/protect us. The plain fact is there is a huge part of the population that believes when push comes to shove, they can do a better job themselves. The funny thing is, you have a gun, I have a gun and it comes out about even. We *could* both give our guns to the police and we remain about even, but it's not going to happen.In many ways we competitively own our computing infastructure the same way we own guns. We *could* turn them over to Sun - Ibm- Who ever and end up about even, but it's not going to happen. Why? Because I believe I am just a little better than the next guy and can beat him at the IT "draw".
Posted by: No_Ax_to_Grind “

Response to that:

“We *could* both give our guns to the police and we remain about even.Not even close...that is why the right to keep and bear arms was written. The founding fathers believed that all citizens should own firearms as a patriotic duty. They never belived that if you gave up your weapons you would remain even! It is the law of the land, and the scared mommies try to chip away at it every day...just like free speech, pmrc, fcc....etc. I know this wasn't your point, but the casual way you said that we can give them up would offend many people who fight to maintain constitutional rights every day, people who fight against a large society of people who are content to be zealots.
Posted by: vinnym ”

Constitutional rights to bear arms. Patriotic duty. I think I’m just going to have to concede that I am never going to understand this mentality. Don’t get me wrong, as a nation of people, I do like them but what would it say about a country that says its patriotic duty is to own an implement of mass murder.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Now wash your hands

Well, I've gone and done it and turned away from my instincts of the past 5 or 6 years.
I've been a Tory supporter all my adult life but somehow it all went horribly wrong a couple of days before polling.
An old phrase that was used in the last election about the Tory's was that "they were making themselves unelectable". I thought it was something of the past but the last few days have made me think otherwise.

Tony Blair's performance on ITV the other night was the overtaking point. He finally displayed a convincing argument to go to war with Iraq. The thing that always caused a struggle was justifying the invasion after WMD's were not discovered without referring it to intentional regime change.
How was this done: bring in the French. Blame the French for undermining the UN.
If military action isn't taken, what does that say about the UN? When resolutions are broken and nothing happens...
French say, "don't matter, the UN is not backing military action because we say veto."

So, not ideal, but at least it's a reasonable response to the allegations against him. And in closing he says if you don't trust me, don't vote for me. Isn't that refreshing...

Labour is what I have gone for this time around. I've in one of those constituencies where it's not going to make a difference but I'm a firm believer in using your vote and voting with your soul in it.

Mine is telling me that Labour have done enough to be given the time to go through their 10 year plans in transport, the health service and education. 2010, times up. I recall Mr Blair talking in great amounts about delivery back in the late nineties. They will have had their decade and there will be no excuses left.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Liverpool in the final

Well, I never saw this one coming at the beginning of the season. The boys put on the best defensive performance I've seen for a long time.
I do like Jose Mourinho, but have to say he got it wrong with his "the better team lost" comment. Liverpool have leaked goals like nothing on earth this season, so if all you need to do is force a score draw against them, you really are odds on. If you can't manage it, you ain't half the side you think you are.
Carragher was an inspiration and was certainly the best of the England team members on display. I've haven't seen the Chelsea side so short on ideas this year which was a bit of a shame for the neutrals, but never mind. I'm a very happy man, as my three fellow Flying Aqua Badgers found out a split second after the final whistle when I thought I'd make a point of making sure all my neighbours were still awake...

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Tory Liar Campaign

Well, the Tories have finally gone and done it and killed off their last chance of success in this year's General Election.
Four short weeks ago I thought they were in with a shot. There was even one poll going about which had them in the lead. (Mori poll, based on data from people that say they will definitely vote).

So, what's gone wrong?

Well, the fact of the matter is that Labour totally changed the game when they broke their way into office back in 1997.
Back then, sleaze mattered. And that was combined with the fact that the bulk of the population wanted the Tories out, whatever the cost. All Blair and Co. had to do was sit back, make some easily agreeable policies (how could you go wrong with "Tough on Crime, tough on the causes of Crime" and "Education, education, education"?) and not say/do anything stupid.

Nowadays, Labour exposed the spin model. In the short term, it looked like it would be their undoing when it all came out. In the long term, it was a spot of absolute genius. Why? Well, it now means we can no longer believe a word a politician says. Cynicism rule. And this is any politician, whether they are in government or opposition.

There is still something about today's Britain that makes it easy to forget the ills of the Labour Government. And the rules have gone and changed on the Tories. We all believe that all politicians have skeletons in the closet. Robertson, Mandelson, Cook, Blunkett, you can have all the poor morals and indiscretions you like, it doesn't matter anymore.

Tories, I implore you not to waste your time with it, it has failed you the past election and it isn't going to help you now. And that brings me on to your latest gem. Poster after poster of Blair and his untrustworthiness on every other billboard.
Not smart, we already knew all that, well before you made this last ditch attempt at tugging the swingometer.

We all know why we shouldn't vote for Blair, what we want to know is why should we vote for you?