Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handshake? no need! - A George Bush guide

Rowan over at the Fortify Services blog wrote a little bit recently about the importance of handshakes, he referenced a quote from the one and only Donald Trump who "poo-poos" the handshake altogether
"I think that the only thing better than a good handshake is no handshake at all."
If the Trump man is true then former President George Bush has mastered that tactic, watch the video below and marvel at his ability to break free from that pesky norm of shaking hands with other national leaders.
*he does seem kind of sad, as the news anchor says, almost like the kid who no-one will play with.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Absolute vs Percentage - put it in context

I have been thinking about writing a piece on this for quite some time but two events I read about in the news have spurred me on to write it without delay.
People need to realise there is a difference between a absolute number and a percentage. Without being able to put either the absolute, or percentage figure into context they are effectively meaningless.

Take example one. Absolute figure without percentage for context
The Irish agency "FAS" who are involved in training, reskilling and job creation in Ireland, were lambasted in the media for spending circa €600k on "travel and entertainment". Firstly, like it or not, that is the way business is done, building relationships with organisations is an expensive activity, business class flights, fancy restaurants the whole nine yards, as unattractive as that may be its the reality of the situation. SECONDLY, Fas's budget is €1billion. In percentage terms €600k is equal to... wait for it... 0.06% of the overall budget (odd they don't quote that figure in the media)... get over it.

Example 2. Percentage without the absolute for context
Another story that really grinded my gears was the "groundbreaking news" that the UK VAT rate will be reduced by a whopping 2%. The UK media, and seemingly government seem to think that by reducing VAT by 2% this will get people spending in the same reckless way which they used to pre-financial crisis. This is just stupid, and people are obviously not thinking of this in context.
"Plasma screen T.V. - previously £999, now starting from as low as £979"
"Bottle of Champagne - previously £60, now £58.80"
... useless.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The price of admission

A pic taken from my recent travels.
For a brief while I thought this was the extent of American security at the Canadian border. I by charging a fee to get in you are ensuring only the wealthiest of immigrants.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Media and definitions

Now don't get me wrong I am happy that the US election panned out as it did, I was very much an Obama man. However one thing I cant get behind is the general media's attitude that the election of an African American president shows that the US has turned a major corner.

Pundits will often cite the "crushing", "landslide" victory that Obama enjoyed once the votes had been counted, and I suppose the electoral college system in the US goes a long way to make the vote often appear more one-sided that in it should. Obama received 53(ish)% percent of the overall vote, now I dont know how the average person would define a landslide, but for me that just doesn't cut the mustard.

Almost half of the US voting population do not want to see Mr. Obama in the Whitehouse, and these nice folk will be gunning for him (hopefully not in the literal sense, but I wouldn't doubt it) for the entire duration of his time as the "Commander in chief".

Say it all you like but 53% does not a landslide make... thats all I have to say about that

Saturday, November 15, 2008

30 years on

This week I witnessed a colleagues 30th work anniversary (right term?). This is quite an accomplishment and from the multiple "can you beleive it" conversations going on around the office I gather it is extremely rare that someone completes such a long stint with one employer.

There was of course the standard issue cake, speech and handing over of a nice watch, and it was quite nice to see how proud the man was of being, as the MD put it, "woven into the fabric of our company".

My favorite part of the proceedings was the employee's recount of what working in the pharmaceutical industry was like all those decades ago.

I suppose for people of my generation it can be easy to forget that until relatively recently there was no internet, there were no computers, no emails, no excel spreadsheets... (that last one could be a good thing).

I can imagine that working without these things must have been an entirely different ball game, a very papery ball game. In the days when email was a few decades away, and computer based documents were unthinkable, paper must have been king and thats something I just cant imagine.

All this thinking about how weird and tough it must have been back then, made me appreciate (in an odd way) the current bains of my daily life, things like Microsoft Excel, email, Powerpoint, because I know that having to perform these functions in an analouge way would be an insane operation. By using excel spreadsheets I have the power to perform various statistcal analyses that would be totally impracticle to try on paper (I have horrible thoughts of sitting infront of graph paper with a pencil and ruler). By using a simple database program managers can check sales of every pharmaceutical product, in every County, by using video conferencing an employee in Ireland can talk with an employee in America in real time...

While all this may seem boring to the average person I do find the changes that have occured between Mr.30ths first day and today to be fairly amazing.

30 years... It's a long way off, what will things be like then?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

You know a political campaign has been a success when...

Well I suppose you know it has been a success when you have been elected, but during a walk around Buffalo, NY, I found the scene pictured above. The Obama "change" had spread beyond the electorate to the extent where little kids with chalk were inspired by the possibility of a change of direction for the US.

I am very happy that Mr. Obama prevailed in the election, however I see two major challenges for the new President.

  1. He only won 53% of the "popular vote", meaning 47% of the country aren't so happy to have Obama in the Whitehouse, these nice folk will be trying to shoot him down (hopefully not literally) every step of the way.
  2. Even with his fans the expectations of what he will deliver are unbelievably high, even if he performs adequately, or indeed above average, this will probably be viewed as "not good enough".

Interesting times ahead.

Golf Sale?

From what I gather, selection of actors for ads is a fairly extensive process which takes days if not weeks, or maybe even months. Take for example the "I'm a pc, I'm a mac ad", it just wouldn't have worked unless those actors suited the role, and were dressed in a way that would best convey the message.

I was taking a stroll through Grafton street and came across the "oh so regular" regular feature of Grafton street, a gang of homeless looking folk holding up signs for various shops which reside down some side street.

The fine gentleman in the blue jacket, with his hood up, is holding up a sign for... a golf shop. Now I may not be an expert in advertising, but I am a person with reasonable intellect, does this person really convey what the golf shop want people to think about their shop? For me, I would be afraid it is some sort of trick to lure me down a lane (which it might be).

Recently when I was in Chicago I saw a homeless man, wearing old shabby clothes, holding up a sign for a shop which sold "Luxury mens suits", I know that the advertisement may be cheap, but I would predict that it drives exactly ZERO customers to your fine suit shop, therefore although you may be paying them a meagre $5, that's five big ones down the drain.

So to those who favour "advertisement via big sign held by a homeless person" I say: Is this really the way you want people to view your business?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Airport security - dont bother asking

I used to like flying, I used to like it alot.
I suppose a great deal of my enjoyment was based on the fact that flying was like a real life google earth (I have called it this on multiple occasions).
Times have changed... the novelty I once enjoyed has been replaced with complete loathing for the amount of my life that is wasted in queues for queues, and spent answering absurdly stupid questions. Questions such as "did you pack your bags yourself" are surely unneeded, I think the late George Carlin put it very well when talking about the question "have your bags been in your possession the whole time"

No. Usually the night before I travel – just as the moon is rising – I place my suitcases out on the streetcorner and leave them there, unattended, for several hours. Just for good luck.

The one that really gets me is the set of questions they see fit to ask you on the USA visa waiver form, the little green form that no one can ever figure out how to complete (In Dublin airport they now have people dedicated to telling you how, nice design eh?).
The questions that are most ridiculous are to be found on the back of the form.
The first question regarding communicable diseases is fair enough, however if you were afflicted with yellow fever, and you really wanted to get into the USA would you really tell them? My personal favourite is:
"Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?"
Again, this may indeed be information that the US government would like to know, but do they truly believe that any person who fits this bill will ever tick "yes"?

Questions like these are a stupid waste of time, I would assume that no sane person who actually wanted to enter the US would ever tick yes to any of these questions, if you know you will be lied to, don't bother asking, and let me get on my damn plane

2 Weeks, 3 cities

2 weeks and 3 cities later I am back, what a long 2 weeks (in a good way) perhaps the key to maintenance of sanity during employment? I thought I was on a roll there with a few comeback posts but this holiday has thrown things off a bit, posts should be a little more regular now I wont be spending all of my internet time researching a holiday...

Stay tuned.

From top: Boston, Chicago, Buffalo/Niagara falls