17 March, 2011

Today Is a Great Day

Today is St. Paddy's Day, and doubtlessly by now the revelers are starting to feel comfortable in their initial, postprandial alcoholic rush, and are probably taking over the Temple Bar's tourist atmosphere to replace it with a giddy, Bacchanalian free-for-all.

In Italy, it is the day of Garibaldian Unity, il Giorno dell'Unita', but equally doubtlessly the Italians are not feeling like their country is particularly united, and not reveling quite in the same way as the Irish, at least as far as I can tell from friends' Facebook posts today. Having a lot of connections in Ireland and Italy, I think my assumptions are pretty well founded and close to the truth.

Today in Holland, it's a bit cooler than it has been, a no tangible sign of sun yet. But I am happy, calm, ready to face what I must and do my duty. My body and mind are being re-connected through exercise, and I am achieving the goals I set out for myself. I am re-oxygenated, and I can feel it. It feels good.

Figuring out where you fit into this Life isn't always easy, but you can only make "mistakes" insofar as much as you can hone in on what your proper path is; so there are no mistakes as such. Just experiences. Do not be afraid to experiment -- just be ready to change your course if you must, or think your efforts are better directed elsewhere. Change is good -- make it self-directed, inner change, and you really have something special.

I feel ready to change, and ready to get to work. It's fantastic knowing that what you want to do, what you should do, and what you feel good doing are all one and the same. Makes me feel like this chick:

14 March, 2011

Sperm Whales give each other names

Subtle variations in sperm-whale calls suggest that individuals announce themselves with discrete personal identifier. To put it another way, they might have names.

The findings are preliminary, based on observations of just three whales, so talk of names is still speculation. But “it’s very suggestive,” said biologist Luke Rendell of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. “They seem to make that coda in a way that’s individually distinctive.”

Rendell and his collaborators, including biologists Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero and Tyler Schulz, have for years studied the click sequences, or codas, used by sperm whales to communicate across miles of deep ocean. In a study published last June in Marine Mammal Sciences, they described a sound-analysis technique that linked recorded codas to individual members of a whale family living in the Caribbean.

12 March, 2011

A re-posting of a 2005 survey of CSR in the Economist

I'm re-posting this article here; it's one of the ones that got me interested in CSR in the first place, and made me realize that there could be problems if it wasn't implemented properly.

It's a really good survey, i.e. a broad overview; I wish they'd update it!!!

Michael Porter's newest Big Idea

Porter wants to move CSR up a notch and introduce his version of it:

"Opinion is divided on Mr Porter’s big new idea. He thinks “shared value” may have at least as big an impact as his earlier work. Many corporate titans echo his sentiments. The bosses of PepsiCo, NestlĂ©, Prudential (of Britain) and Petrobras expressed enthusiasm about his arguments at the recent Davos summit. However, Larry Summers, a former American Treasury secretary and a colleague of Mr Porter’s at Harvard, was overheard asking “Do you seriously believe this [expletive unrecorded]?”

Mr Porter is right to worry that capitalism is suffering a crisis of legitimacy. The 2007-08 global economic panic has generated widespread worries that the capitalist system is too short-term and too crisis-prone. He is also right that CSR—the boardroom’s favourite response to this crisis of legitimacy—is a tired label. Two of its loudest corporate proponents, Enron and BP, messed up dramatically. Few people outside the public-relations industry can listen to the CSR mantras of “win-win” and “doing well by doing good” without grimacing."

And a comment by Angus:
Oh dear, another business concept book by another big name!

Celebrities get richer while unknowns with originality and authenticity must run the gauntlet of indifference and outright scorn from the orthodox.

When I lost my sense of glamour in being an executive for a big company, I hadn't saved enough to make a big splash as an entrepreneur. So I wandered around in the wilderness for a long time before I regained the confidence, from a different perspective, with which I entered the corporate world with all the "right" credentials. But then one day it hit me: combining individuality with cooperation is essentially a question of balance -- balance in aim and intent and balance in communication. And of course that means "shared value".

Here's how I found the balances I needed to become a reasonably well-paid and very satisfied executive coach while helping entrepreneurs create value for their customers and clients and keep some of it for themselves. They all had a highly-developed sense of service to customers, so all I have had to add is insight in balancing the following disciplines:

Honesty: The discipline of avoiding either falsehood or deception and of being reciprocally open about intents and evolving intentions

balanced with --

Verbal Integrity: The discipline of being true to one’s word, or promptly honourable in warning of exceptions arising because one was unable to anticipate intervening circumstances

Empathy: The discipline of being actively present to understand the needs, wants and interests of others in one’s client, team, prospect, or community and of eliciting or anticipating accurately the sensitivities likely to be excited by one’s desires to share or hide potentially painful or disturbing possibilities or hypotheses with such people

balanced with --

Accuracy: The discipline of caring enough about the communication of data, observations, facts, hypotheses, findings, questions, assertions, requests, and recommendations both to avoid misdirection and to engender mutual trust that the goals of the team/organization are being respected intelligently

Clarity: The discipline of making sure that a message, either outgoing or incoming, has been understood before concluding that a communication cycle is satisfactorily complete

balanced with --

Courage: The discipline of (1) either asserting or forbearing when seemingly idiotic convention supports the opposite, and (2) either accepting responsibility for a job, project, engagement, contract, person, team, organization, or community, or articulating honestly and accurately one’s reasons for declining to accept it – but only after carefully ascertaining that one is doing neither out of either bravado or egotistical desire for acclamation

Discretion: The discipline of making faithfully practical protection, or properly authorized recognition, of the proper ownership of valuable or sensitive information

balanced with --

Coherence: The discipline of (1) searching for, and either eliminating or explaining, the paradoxes underlying one’s own behaviour, assumptions and aims and (2) gently helping others to do the same.

Will Porter's book help? I doubt there's a chance in a zillion it will.

10 March, 2011

And the Dalai Lama retired today... Tensin

Tensin Gyatso, we will miss you. You really politicized your role furthur than you had to, and you fought for your people and for what you think is right and just and wise.

Don't stop now!!! Go to China, work with them, they will respect you and they need your help. Go talk to the Chinese Communist Party, and try to help them see reason. They are smart, pragmatic and reasonable -- to a certain extent. But they can learn. And you are the Greatest Teacher!!!


Military Ranking Defence Budgets

Saudis on top, no surprise there. But will they be able to keep up with the technology race? If they throw enough money at it... maybe. But will the money they have be worth anything?

The Poverty of Dictatorship

This is such an amazing article I have to re-post it. It's kind of stating the obvious, but I guess that's what speaking out is all about.

Dani sounds like an interesting guy: Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy.

I wanna read that book!!!!!!

Stephen Roach on China's next 5-Year Plan

I love 5-year plans. I think everyone should have one. Whether or not you manage to stick to it is secondary. The important thing is to have a long-term goal, and to be working towards it. I'm in my second year of my second 5-year plan, and things are going swimmingly. Life without direction is boring, and quite possibly meaningless... or should I say less meaningful than a life with direction. There.

Soon China will be revealing and embarking upon the next chapter in its complex story. I await with typically baited breath, and hope that there is left a space for me somewhere in that tightly-packed firecracker of a country.

I swear, I will learn Mandarin one day and learn to speak it better than I do Italian.

Thank you Roland, thanks Economist, you are back in my good books

I got a lot of presents in my Facebook feed this morning, some of which courtesey of the Economist, ever the bearer of news (I almost wrote "good" before "news", close one).

I saw the Killing Fields on video when it came out, when I was about 13 years old, and it made such a big impression on me, that for the next 7 years I wanted to be a journalist and reveal to the world the atrocities perpetrated by those like Pol Pot, and hopefully help his victims find justice.

I was disillusioned with the journalism industry by the time I got to Ryerson U. for J-School. But I've never stopped being astounded by the people who lived through Pol Pot's version of hell. How did they do that? The resilience of the human spirit will never cease to amaze me.

Thank you Roland for having this idea. I hope we get to see the Playing Fields -- playing is so much better than killing.

Thanks, Economist, for printing that article. It reminded me of who we all are. It made my day. There is definitely a lot of hope for us.

08 March, 2011

Nomura just gave us a nice pressie for Woman's Day! Happy!

Nomura appointed its first female CFO, and appropriately announced it today -- good marketing on their part.

I wonder how much change is going on in that company... and in other investment houses... maybe there's hope! Silly moi, of course there is.


I saw the notification while watching a really interesting interview between Max Mosley and Sarah Montague on the Beeb: Mosley is pushing for more regulation of the British press in Strassbourg, and the interview is here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9414659.stm There is a long story behind it that I hadn't heard about, but it brought up a really good discussion about all kinds of things we should be talking about more with regards to freedom of the press.

He has a point, but then again, libel laws in the UK are already really strict, so muzzling them more might not be a good idea, as Daniel Johnson pointed out:

This debate makes me think about my own life, and how I would behave if I had responsibilities as great as Mosley had. I agree with him that in secular society, consenting mature adults should be allowed to do pretty much what they want -- I'm a bit of a libertarian in that way too, which is perhaps why I fit in so well in Holland. And I hate the behaviour of the press, the way they behave like a bunch of attack dogs. But that is their job as the fifth estate or whatever -- society needs a kind of watchdog like that, I think.

If you are a public figure and lead a double life like that, and if you're not prepared to pay the consequences of exposure, then you're a bit of a fool. You can't then go and try to change the laws because society has rejected you for what you've done. If you can't handle rejection from society, then don't do things that would cause rejection. This is a fine line, I know, but integrity is reflected in other aspects of life, no matter how hard we try to partition our brains and separate work life and personal life.

It's making me think what it means to be a true leader of people, and how much integrity you have to have in ALL aspects of your life. I'm a bit kinky too and I've had my share of crazy experiences, but I've never had any real responsibilities yet either because I know I wasn't ready for having them. I don't want to stop having fun in my life just because I want to start a career, but I don't think I'd ever do anything that I wouldn't want to become public. I know a lot of people wouldn't agree with my lifestyle or views or whatever, but I've become pretty much used to people looking down their noses at me -- they usually turn around and end up looking up to me in the end, anyways, so it doesn't matter and I don't really care about what those kind of people think anyways.

So Max, I'm really sorry but I think you're potentially doing the British people a disservice, because the law that you want to make -- though it would bring justice to some -- could potentially be very badly abused by many in power. I know it would make you feel better, and I'm really sorry for what happened to you -- that WAS unjust, and in a perfect world, people would have been able to accept your kinky sexy self (listening to your interview, I thought you are one of the smartest, hottest old dudes I've ever seen) and you would have gone on doing your job as well as you have been in the past. But you really shouldn't try to seek closure and some sort of vindication, though you are successfully subliminating it into a more noble cause, that is campaigning to change a law that you see is unjust, which is highly admirable and merits much commendation. You are a good man, Max, and those who know you know that. Don't worry about what all the stupid, small little monkeys think of you. It's a shame that they do, but it doesn't matter. I'm saying this in a mean way, but I think you would get much more relief and happiness by talking to a good psychologist, not campaigning legally.

Please stop.

05 March, 2011

How transparent is Shell? Would country-by-country reporting solve anything?

Another dream job (or nightmare, depending on how you look at it) would be at Shell, helping them in CSR projects and helping them disclose their information in such a way so that they wouldn't be completely vilified by the public. I guess I'm biased, because I live in Holland, but I think Shell and BP really try hard to walk a fine line between supplying people and industries with the drug they needs (oil) while trying not to mess up the world for the rest of us and make everyone hate it. I can't really say what the other oil companies are like, but the American ones I have very little hope for. But hey, the great thing about Americans is that they can do a 180 turn on a dime, and change completely in a moment. About certain things.

I think Peter Voser is acting in good faith, and if he thinks that he would violate laws in some countries where it has operations, then he probably would be.

But many of those laws could be regulations set up to protect corrupt regimes. And Shell of course wants to stay and do business in the countries where it has operations, so of course it doesn't want to give corrupt gov'ts a legal basis upon which to kick them out and find a more co-operative oil extraction partner (read: partner in crime, basically).

I think Shell should work more closely in co-operation with gov'ts.... to change them. I think corporations are powerful tools for good as well as for profit. I think that a company's share prices should go up and down not only according to their margins and earnings and potential for earnings... ahhhhh.... I just had an inkling of what I think might be an original idea, but it flashed out of my head as soon as it flashed in!!! Argh, hate it when that happens.

Anyways, today it's not gorgeously sunny as it was most of this week, but I gotta get going with WORK!!!!

Global Financial Integrity is fighting the good fight the way it should be fought: on paper.

"Some take the view that as long as the country enshrines bank secrecy - it is a criminal offence for Swiss citizens to reveal bank details - it acts as an enabler of illicit transfers of cash. Egypt lost US$57.2 billion (Dh210.1bn) to illicit capital flight between 2000 and 2008, according to Global Financial Integrity, an advocacy group based in Washington that monitors transfers of illegal funds.

The rapid collapse of dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, and the spread of sanctions to Libya, has left banks in a tricky position as they try to deflect public outrage.Some are more cynical about the Swiss government's zeal in hunting illicit assets.

"This doesn't mean that there's a big crackdown under way," says Nicholas Shaxson, the author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World. "Countries need to be seen to be doing something.""

Shaxson's book looks interesting, I'll have to look for it and read it.

Translating today again. Busy busy busy! Wish I had time to study, but I'm full up until the 14th, agh. Still, it beats sitting around the house shooting coyotes and rabbits in Red Dead Redemption all day. Or does it.

03 March, 2011

I am disappointed in the Economist

I think their choice of a cover this week was obvious and a bit irresponsible.

Does the Economist realise how influential it is? Judging by this week's cover, I don't think it does.

I met Peter Mickelthwait, the current editor of the Economist, at Trinity in Dublin years ago. Seemed like a cool guy, and interesting to talk with. I told him I had written letters to the E but never had any printed. He encouraged me to keep writing them, and said that just because they don't print all their letters doesn't mean they don't read them all.

I think a very strongly-worded letter is gathering momentum in my belly, I might actually voice my opinion publicly for once. This blog doesn't count. ;)))

The Fed FUQ: The Federal Reserve - Frequently Unanswered Questi...

The Fed FUQ: The Federal Reserve - Frequently Unanswered Questi...: "Who owns the Federal Reserve? The Fed website states, “The Federal Reserve System is not 'owned' by anyone and is not a private, profit-mak..."

I should have re-posted this post instead: it's a great piece.

The Fed FUQ: A World in Turmoil

The Fed FUQ: A World in Turmoil: "There's a strange serendipity, or perhaps just a sad irony, to my publishing my FAQ/Q&A piece regarding the Fed and beginning this blog ..."

I just found a very interesting blog that looks like a reliable sign of the times, the signs I've been seeing for so long, so long. It's funny cuz of my own gold squirrelling habits.

Black Swans

There is an excellent startup called Black Swan Solar, and a young man named Tom Currier -- whose goal is to solve the world's energy crisis through solar energy.


Hopefully this will provide some comfort, and a contrast to this week's cover of The Economist, which was literally a bomb.