29 December, 2010

Fantastic blog by Johns Hopkins' scientists

Just started reading this blog (thanks to Shawn McC!), which is more of a bulletin than a blog. Their article on how antibiotics in the livestock industry affect us isn't news, but gives more information and supporting data that was hitherto unavailable.

Collective Power: Use it or lose it?

The more of us there are, the more splintered we are, the less able we are to join together as a collective force. Oder? Further bulletins as events progress.

Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business

Milton was definitely a bit narrow-minded on this one. He had a point, but that point no longer applies. The world is changing too fast. Keep up!!!

Conferences: Who Needs Them? Really.

From perusing various blogs on related subjects, I've noticed that people who like to Change The World and Make A Difference (my caps) also tend to be great conference-goers.

People like conferences. They're fun, often in interesting locales, and involve large numbers of like-minded people. Great places for people-watching, for conversation and for idea sharing. Great places for having a bit of a break from the day-to-day humdrum, while still officially working and getting some fresh inspiration.


Do we really need to have so many, what with Skype and other technologies allowing for idea exchanges without the massive travel and costs impact(environmental costs especially)? Reeeallly? So much money is spent on these things. Do they actually achieve anything concrete?

Just askin'.

Conscious Capitalism

Hmmm... Cool, I like it! This is for real. I wonder if there are MBAs offered in conscious capitalism?

Conscious Capitalism differs from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) insofar as Conscious Capitalism is driven naturally and internally from within the company rather than an external notion of what counts as "socially responsible." All too often CSR either amounts to reactive attempts on behalf of corporations to placate NGOs and activists, or proactive public relations efforts that may have little to do with the core functions and culture of their company.

Conscious Capitalists are unapologetic advocates for free markets, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade, property rights, freedom to contract, and the rule of law. They recognize that these are essential elements of a healthy, functioning economy, as are trust, compassion, collaboration, and value-creation.

28 December, 2010

Jeffrey Sachs on dysfunctional US tax and wealth law

"With their backs against the wall, I predict, poor and working-class Americans will begin to agitate for social justice."

I get the feeling that soon there could be civil war in the US, but I am also a bit of a Cassandra so hopefully people like Jeffrey Sachs are more correct. He also makes other salient points, such as:

"Obama swept to power on the promise of change. So far, there has been none. His administration is filled with Wall Street bankers. His top officials leave to join the banks, as his budget director Peter Orszag recently did. Obama is always ready to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, with no line in the sand, no limit to "compromise".

If this continues, a third party will emerge, committed to cleaning up American politics and restoring a measure of decency and fairness. This, too, will take time. The political system is deeply skewed against challenges to the two incumbent parties. Yet, the time for change will come. The Republicans believe that they have the upper hand and can pervert the system further in favour of the rich.

I believe that they will be proved wrong."

I, too, believe that they will be proven wrong. Technology is a fantastic leveller.

Back on the civilised side of the Pond

No link for this post, just observations. I somehow made it back from YYZ to AMS without a hitch, despite a layover in Heathrow (I have lifted my boycott of Heathrow now that terminal 5 is up -- MUCH better security and immigration checks than previously, MUCH easier to get on a connecting), and despite blizzards in NYC and other places close to Toronto. Was a teary goodbye with the folks in TO, I've never missed them so much.

Came home to a completely random Crimbo tree with about a million lights and 2 decorations on it, a PS3 with Red Dead Redemption (pretty good but controls are a bit wonky) and GT5 (deeeadly), and new speakers with a woofer I've only ever seen at concerts and nightclubs -- massive new sound system with bass tones that I think might actually bring down the whole centre of Hoofddorp with the vibrations it causes. Hoofddorp's in a tizzy still because of the snow; no one shovelled their sidewalks, so now everyone has to walk on the bike paths, which in NL is a crime punishable by, well, getting run over by a bike. The roads are cleared too, so it's just the pedestrians who are at risk. And it's riskier than people realise -- try walking on five centimeters of uneven, glassy-smooth ice.

It's strange to be back, but good to have a proper base... for now. Time to get lean and mean again, I am sooo looking forward to that! Get my lungs cleared out and my heart back in shape again. I want to swim in a pool while there are still pools in the world. Pools of water, not human waste. Sorry. But yes, it will indeed be good to be fit again.

22 December, 2010

Gary Hamel's Management 2.0

From Gary Hamel's blog:

In my last post, I cited a survey that found that only 20% of employees are truly engaged in their work — heart and soul. As a student of management, I’m depressed by the fact that so many people find work depressing.

In the study, respondents laid much of the blame for their lassitude on uncommunicative and egocentric managers, but I wonder if there’s not some deeper organizational reality that bleeds the vitality and enthusiasm out of people at work.

Here’s an experiment for you. Pull together your company’s latest annual report, its mission statement, and your CEOs last few blog posts. Read through these documents and note the key phrases. Make a list of oft-repeated words. Now do a little content analysis. What are the goals and ideas that get a lot of airtime in your company? It’s probably notions like superiority, advantage, leadership, differentiation, value, focus, discipline, accountability, and efficiency. Nothing wrong with this, but do these goals quicken your pulse? Do they speak to your heart? Are they “good” in any cosmic sense?

Now think about Michelangelo, Galileo, Jefferson, Gandhi, William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa. What were the ideals that inspired these individuals to acts of greatness? Was it anything on your list of commercial values? Probably not. Remarkable contributions are typically spawned by a passionate commitment to transcendent values such as beauty, truth, wisdom, justice, charity, fidelity, joy, courage and honor.

I talk to a lot of CEOs, and every one professes a commitment to building a “high performance” organization—but is this really possible if the core values of the corporation are venal rather than venerable? I think not. And that’s why humanizing the language and practice of management is a business imperative (as well as a moral duty).

Good question, Gary! More on this later.

What Really Motivates Us: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose -- NOT MONEY!!!!

Linux. Wikipedia. Apache. Why did people make these? They are all free, and the people who made them all had jobs at the time that they made them. According to Dan Pink, what really motivates us is: challenge, mastery, and MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Let's make it so that there are more purpose-driven corporations in the world today. Or try to engender more orientation towards purpose in our workplace. 

BBC's and research at Uof London's take on Why the US outstrips Europe for population growth

The US growth rate over the past decade still exceeds that of China (6%), Britain and France (5%), Japan (near zero) and Germany (which experienced a small decline).

The immigrant inflow to the US has also compensated for the ageing of the native population once the post-war baby boom bulge of 1945-65 receded.

In 1950, the American age-structure showed width at the bottom among the under-30 bands and was narrowest in the oldest bands.

In 2000, the middle bands (35-54 years) were the widest, as the baby-boom bulge worked its way through the age structure. By 2050, the older bands (55 years and above) will have widened significantly, but will be supported by still wider pre-30 age bands.

This will keep the US median age around 35-38 years at mid-century, but the most pessimistic estimates suggest that the EU median will exceed 52 years (compared to 37.7 years in 2003).

This could result by mid-century in a doubling of the ratio of retirees to workers that would have serious consequences for economic productivity, pension benefits and public programmes.

As the non-white population grows, the advantage could shift decisively to the Democrats, even in states today considered Red.

If this were the case, the presently rock-ribbed Republican state of Texas may be the first to feel the effects of demographic change on its partisan leaning.

21 December, 2010

GSBI 2011

GSBI, a program developed by Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, assists social benefit entrepreneurs in developing business plans that enable their organizations to reach increasing numbers of beneficiaries. The GSBI consists of three major components:
  1. An on-line, mentored, application process hosted on Social Edge and based on three business planning exercises designed to benefit all who participate. In the applicants define their organizations value proposition, target market (beneficiaries), and “social business” model (key income and expense drivers).
  2. 20 organization selected from the application process receive scholarships for an online (4 month) and in-residence (2 week) program that involves “action learning” and mentoring to prepare a sustainable plan for their organization.
  3. On-going mentoring and collaboration for all who complete the in-residence component.  
All who participate in the Business Planning Exercises will benefit from the mentoring and feedback on their application exercises, and 20 organizations will be selected for a full scholarship, valued at US $25,000, to participate in 4-months of online preparation and then to attend the intensive two week in-residence program (to be held in August 2011).

This pretty much validates my recent decision to ditch the PhD idea

I've been grappling with the decision whether to do a PhD or an MBA for over a year now.

I've been under pressure from my parents to do a PhD. However, the world they knew and that forms their opinions no longer exists, and job prospects for doctoral graduates are not as good as for MBA graduates -- despite the fact that there are currently a lot of unemployed MBA grads too.

It's much more expensive in the short term to do an MBA. But it is also a shorter degree (therefore less time spent out of the business sector earning money) and the kinds of things you learn doing an MBA are more interesting to me.

So it's pretty much a no-brainer.

Is the Wikileaks saga a "crypto-environmental story"?

Interesting that the Dalai Lama said that environmental issues take precedence over political ones in Tibet -- I wonder how the Chinese gov't will react to that, if at all.

I have so much to say about the Wikileaks story. I agree with the Treehugger.com author that the implications of the reactions to the Wikileaks diplomatic "cables" infodump (did I just coin a word? -- somebody must have before me) are quite scary, and that transparency is a key issue.

Interesting to see the Wikileaks story linked to environmental issues. Will gov'ts try to cover up "scary" environmental stories using the precedence of Wikileaks because they are afraid how people might react (i.e. mass hysteria)?

LOTS to discuss here.

To be fair, English does tend to sound awful when spoken by Mandarin speakers

But do they really want to completely ban English words from official Mandarin? Do they want to go the way of the French?

Would this make Mandarin less flexible, and it less accessible to potential speakers of Mandarin world wide? Would it prevent proliferation of the language?

20 December, 2010

Report on the Irish regulatory and financial stability policy

My uncle (whose comment that was below) and his research group published a report on the lack of teeth of the Irish financial regulator, which is probably part of the reason it's in so much hot water now.

And also, more recently:


European Central Bank 'concerned' over Irish bail-out

Ireland, Ireland Ireland.... what hath thee wrought?

The current government is headed by Brian Cowen who was Minister of Finance for much
of the period leading up to the current crisis when the seeds of destruction were sown –
lax financial regulation, pro-cyclical budgetary policy, unsustainable wage settlements for
public servants, an over-reliance on taxes related to rising house prices, loads of tax breaks for property based investment and so on. Although the Prime Minister says he accepts his share of responsibility for what happened this somehow has no consequences, despite the high level of unemployment (13.5%), repossessions, negative equity, a budget deficit of 32% of GDP for 2009, ghost estates that litter the countryside inspired by tax breaks and lax planning whereby one county zoned for planning land sufficient to house 10 times its population.

Despite the rather bleak outlook for the economy we are not too despondent. Ireland was
ranked very highly in a recent UN Human Development Index, in which Canada always
scores highly.

How English evolved into a global language

As the British Library charts the evolution of English in a new major exhibition, author Michael Rosen gives a brief history of a language that has grown to world domination with phrases such as "cool" and "go to it".

The need for an international language has always existed. In the past it was about religion and intellectual debate. With the technologies of today, it's about communicating with others anywhere in the world in a matter of moments.


As a translator and linguist, I've always felt soooo lucky that English is my first language. It can be learned at so many levels; it can be massacred by English MT and foreign language speakers alike, and still keep its basic meaning relatively intact; it is quite mutable and adaptable -- can be concise and brutal or expansive and flourish-ridden. It's not easy to truly learn well -- few people have a ferrous-like grip on the grammar -- and yet the basics can be picked up quickly by speakers of many different language families.

Upon a quick search for a quotation that was printed in the NYPL Writer's Guide -- one decrying nobly and eloquently the need for good grammar in order to be a good communicator, lest the creative human mind read any other meaning into what you have written other than the one you intended to express -- I found instead a much more succinct, if less eloquent, expression of this:

Grammar is important. Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse, and your uncle jack off a horse. Rather lurid, but the point hits home quickly.

Moon steals Newgrange show in event not seen since Tudors

The passage grave at Newgrange was built 5,200 years ago even before the pyramids.

It was aligned so that a chamber deep underground lights up with sunlight just as the dawn sun brakes the horizon on the morning of December 21st.

It was a remarkable achievement for those who built it using horse cart and hand given it required thousands of tonnes of rock and earth.

Each year hundreds of people flock to Newgrange to be there on the solstice morning, with a lucky few chosen by a lottery winning the right to be in the chamber at sunrise.

The chamber only lights up because of the very fine alignment of the access passage to the rising winter solstice sun. The light actually enters via a shoebox-sized gap above the passage entrance.

19 December, 2010

Mummified Forest Found on Treeless Arctic Island

"Finding wood that is millions of years old in such good condition—almost as if you just picked it up from the forest floor—will provide an exceptional opportunity," he said.

For instance the wood allows the team "to get the clearest view possible of what the world was like during a time when the Earth's climate was drastically changing."

Indeed, by studying the mummified forest, the team hopes "to see how fast the climate was changing, and how the plants were responding," Barker noted."

18 December, 2010

Sooooo... re-vamp here (attempt no. 1)

I realize I've been filing up people's homepages to a spam-like extent on Facebook, especially with regards to newspaper articles etc. on environmental and financial issues, so I'm going to attempt to re-direct my enthusiasm to a less intrusive forum, one which will also perhaps more proficuous for me in the long term, and will also be more easily documented and accessible. Though this will not disseminate the information I wish on such a wide-ranging scale, I think that people are so bombarded with too many different kinds of data on FB -- from random musings, to where people are and what they are eating, to pictures and comments, to links for popular music videos, to serious issues that they are passionate about -- so I'd rather keep FB for the fun stuff (personal comments, pictures, entertainment interests) and use this as a forum for the more serious issues, or ones which should be considered by everyone with more rational thought.

So, I don't want to post just the vague ramblings and odd observations of my life, which are interesting to no one and embarrass me each time I see them. So I'm going to try to turn this site into a place where I post links from my friends on Facebook, and other links that I come across from my own web scavenging -- links that particularly pertain to issues that I am interested in and am following over time.

I will also therefore have to post on a more regular basis. I will start to get into the habit of using this site, and see where that takes me. I don't feel that the style issues are important, so I'm not going to bother changing the look of this place. I just want to start posting certain things here, if I can get into the habit.

Now I've been at the computer for too long and I have other stuff to do, so having said all that, I don't feel like posting anything serious right now.

Till later.

01 November, 2010