Saturday 31 December 2005

New goggles for 2006

Day 365
The year 2005 would go down in history as the year 2005; almost as if one wakes up suddenly and it is December the 31st.
Anyway, traditionally one has always closed the year from the 21st of December since one has the advantage and disadvantage of a birthday close to year end but the closeness to Christmas deprives one of the generosities of two presents every so often.
Clean bloods
Besides that quibble, one does have a lot to be grateful for, firstly, health and well-being after a battery of tests that included venesection (blood-letting) for analysis revealed a better picture of health than one could have expected - health matters for the purposes of doing everything else.
After 5 vials, one did wonder if some serious light-headedness would result, I hate needles apart from when one re-attaches that button that just came off.
Consulting for fools
A number of opportunities came by in which ones expertise was called to change and improve practices that were failing the organisations that had “smart” in-house architects feeling threatened.
However, ones professional slant has never been to prove a wrong implementation but to address situations with the view of renewing confidence in the architects and changing the implementations for the better.
Reactions to the deftness differ, one welcomed the opportunity and despite the huge cost of having such expertise on hand one was redeployed to mentoring and development which was quite instructive as normally nonchalant staff got up and took the job to heart with fervour.
As for the other, each suggestion was met with extreme analysis by the self-same architects who implemented a dud. It made one wonder why we were needed if it was all right in the first place.
Besides that, the shameful misrepresentation of facts by the managers to higher management was unconscionable and disagreeable; it is not surprising that after six months they are still talking about talking about talking about how to talk about getting on with it.
This time next year, one would not be surprised that another batch of consultants would have come and gone with the same situation being the same set of problems.
People who want no change would get no change no matter how much expertise, wisdom and insight they gain or hire to review what has now been conclusively proven to be completely wrong.
Online school days
I returned to school last July for a Masters programme in Information Technology with the online programme offered by the University of Liverpool.
This programme is an 8-module programme which last 8 weeks each consisting of weekly seminars of lectures, discussions, projects and assignments.
Four of those modules were completed this year, and though the intention was to finish 5, some radical changes to the specialisations and the programme itself which afforded a realignment of my selected modules.
Now, I have just two to finish in 2006 and then the dissertation with the plan to graduate in summer 2007.
Competing for relevance
What I have learnt is the quest to succeed is on two levels, the first being winning the battle to remain relevant in a mixed-ability class and then the competition with oneself in wanting to achieve the best grades.
All the results for this year came down to the last week of activity I made it away with half on excellent grade and the other half on distinction grade.
The relevance of online degrees is a growing and interesting debate; commentary indicates that business and academia are warming up to the usefulness and validity of such endeavours. [1, 2, 3].
Like the university says, it might be online and flexible but it is neither easy nor laid-back.
It is both been enlightening and instructive, a sure recommendation to anyone looking to enhance their career profile by formal educational methods without losing out on relevant working experience and income generation.
Opinions in general
Whilst one has done be too consistent with this blogging activity, a number of issues have excited commentary from my perspective.
In the light of that, we can rest assured that the preponderance of religious influence on the American presidency would continue as highlighted Terri Schiavo case and stem cell research as would the issues of abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty that exert undue influence on critical political and judicial appointments.
Every public show of acquiescing to demand unpopular with the White House should be scrutinised with greater detail, since the agreement to accept the abolition of torture by US personnel came through after the Department of Defense changed the Army Field Manual just in time to accept what would have been generally unacceptable.
The topics of ethnic minorities, immigrants, immigration and integration would be burning issues through debate and physical realities as we saw after Katrina, in France and Australia.
The fact is the closeness of Mexico to the United States has not led to the prosperity by osmosis in Mexico, many of them still think the opportunities are in the United States.
If the United States cannot bring progressive change to their neighbours in Mexico and Cuba that form does not offer promise for Iraq or Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, no one seems to be able to clear highlight the blatant hypocrisy that leaves ones backyard a mess and seeks to right things in courtyards further afield.
Bad laws encroaching in civil liberties in the quest against terrorism both perceived and real would continue to be promulgated though as least the legislators in the United States are giving the Patriot Act a closer look than before.
Europe however is in need of knowledgeable parliamentarians that understand but the social and technological implications and try not to be carried away with the hysteria of child porn, terrorism and sovereignty.
Get up and do something
We all now need to get involved in a lot of things for the protection of our freedoms and liberties starting with the news.
Filter out the propaganda and extreme analysis, take the news and research the issues and how they affect you, your community, your nation, your affiliations and the globe.
Refuse to be fobbed off with officialdom, walk the red tape if you have to, engage others to weed out the inefficiencies and brick walls that stand in the way of people who are not knowledgeable of rights they have because some mandarin can exploit them better.
Start to blog, you have opinions that need to be aired, probably debated and sometimes corrected a very instructive process.
Machiavelli is alive and well in this civilised age but in a democratic process the end cannot justify the means with due process consigned the bin of expediency and changed times.
Our parliamentarians are either getting hoodwinked with falsehoods or blackmailed with accusations of being unpatriotic, we have to prod them to prevent the dereliction of duty on all sides yours and theirs.
Even if you are not an expert in a field, the expert is not the ultimate authority; your acquisition of knowledge that allows you to make good choices should be your authority. Ask questions and when you get answers review the answers to ensure that is the answer to your question.
If you had all the answers to life you will still have one other question about if that is all there is, be inquisitive, be acquisitive, be interrogative and listen carefully – life will always be the sum of what you make it in terms of how you us knowledge, apply wisdom and exercise prudence.
Become the change you want to the world to become, change yourself, change your life, change your job, change your career, change to remain relevant but keep your beliefs, keep your principles, keep your relationships and grow them productively.
Each New Year offers promise, work to fulfil those promises, then look back and count your blessing.
Happy New Year my friends – you teach me love and enemies – you teach me compassion.
Best wishes and the kindest regards.
[1] "[Employers] gain a certain amount of admiration for [online students]. They consider them savvy and creative enough to succeed online."
[2] Of the 330 useful replies, 92% accepted online-only degrees (compared with 100% acceptance for traditional 4-year offline degrees)
[3] In addition, according to Consortium findings, three quarters of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality is equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction (The Sloan Consortium: Entering the Mainstream, October 2004.)

Sunday 25 December 2005

The dog or the wild lioness

What patriotism?
Pause and think – this is the purportedly the reverse acronym or backronym for the USA Patriot Act 2001.  Methinks we have been sold a Trojan Horse.
When the news first broke out that the Presidency of the United States of America had authorised the surveillance of American citizens, one let that frustration of due process pass on.
However, the commentary that has developed since that revelation to that which now includes the secret scanning of radiation around the premises of American Muslims.
Patriotism is supposedly the love of ones fatherland, but at what cost to freedom, liberty and safety? This is a very concerning issue.
Latitude and abuse
I am of the view that the US Congress did offer great latitude to the President to fight the war on terror which is explicit in that it affords the President everything in his power to prosecute that war.
However, the extent of that power should only be exercised to include undefined and unspecified situations; meaning, where a due process and an existing explicit law exists which has not be superseded, then that take precedent.
Due process
In the case of the surveillance of American citizens, explicit due process exists, hence, it cannot first be ignored by the President nor does it fall under the remit of the great latitude.
One of the reasons for due process is the prevention of abuse; it forces the executive to work with the judiciary even in expedited situations with all evidence properly documented.
Where this process is overruled or ignored, those checks and balances are lost, because the continual review of the activities is done only within the executive without legislative or judicial oversight. It violates the rule of law and blunts the democratic principle of the separation of powers.
More so, without oversight, it means people wrongly targeted or abuse of process cannot be properly prosecuted. This is a democratic aberration and for this to happen in the , well, one wonders how strong their democratic credentials are.
The arguments
  • The President has said, what he has done is within the law and the Attorney General has waded in to extrapolate on the latitude given the President – the jury is out regarding the legality of that standpoint.
  • The President called the revelation of those facts shameful; they might be, but if due process had been followed there would be no need for the revelation to create that much commentary. One does not recall the President calling the revelation of Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA agent shameful.
  • The President has said the revelation of this information helps the enemy, however, I think the enemy is within. First the argument about due process prevails over this, then as a democracy you cannot apply the “end justifies the means” principle for the abuse of process.
  • The President says this is saving people’s lives; maybe it is, but that is beside the point, the executive cannot become a law onto itself. Principle and integrity should not be supplanted by the histrionics that prevent the objective debate of issues.
Patriot Act revisited
Now that the “fog of war” is clearing, the Congress is having another good look at the Patriot Act and they have decided that the provisions cannot be extended indefinitely.
The blanket passage of flawed legislation on the flood of patriotic support for the President in a time of crisis is now thankfully receiving better and due scrutiny.
Also, we see that senators have been able to persuade the Presidency to accept the need to have a law that explicitly instructs against the practise of torture by all American personnel after a rather bruising few months.
The principle
The fundamental principle at stake here is that even in the time of war, the President still cannot exercise untrammelled powers without due process and oversight.
This leads on to the concept that this is still a democracy, they have a president not a king, and it is neither an absolute monarchy nor a theocracy. The congress and judiciary are there to turn that Texan swagger into a stiff match, hopefully.
The guard dog or the lioness
The Patriot Act is supposed to be like a guard dog, protecting the owner and attacking the enemy. The more we look at the dog the more it looks like a wild and angry lioness that has just lost a cub; meaning it either needs to be caged to protect us from its savagery and is of no use in attacking the enemy or we have to be in cages and have the lioness roam seeking out and eating the enemy.
Do we need a guard dog or a wild lioness?
Essential liberty or temporary safety
One commentator did say that the American Muslims should be enlisted in the war against terror not blacklisted in it; they had no part in the activities of September 2001.
Furthermore, Americans must decide if they are really deserving of both their safety and liberty as the words of Benjamin Franklin ring true today as they did over 200 years ago. “They who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
At this time of seasonal goodwill, one hopes that a New Years resolution is brewing in the Presidency to go beyond upholding the letter but also the spirit of the democratic principles raised by all concerned citizens.
Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Wednesday 21 December 2005

Life begins again with 40 refreshing breaths

Thankfully and gratefully
Today, I reach 40 with a deep sense of gratitude and a wealth of appreciation.
Things happen in life that fill one with concern and anxiety, first the usual desire for youthful pre-eminence in the quest against aging which for some is a lifelong distracting quest, then there is the frailty of humanity in terms of maintaining a standard of health and well-being.
Other factors that affect one include outlook, relationships, career and security, these being issues that one through the values one acquires over life and faith that develops from beliefs and experience help determine the kind of person you are.
Landmarks and crossroads
This celebration meets me as a man on the cusp of a life changing experience where the need to remain relevant to myself, my relationships, my community and society in general becomes a passionate quest.
Maturity has a strange way of sharpening certain views and blunting other systems, I probably have become more acquiescent of considering people and less tolerant of inconsiderate people.
That intolerance however, needs to be properly managed, I hate getting angry because hormonally it exhausts me as my voice tends to tremble as I begin to lose it; that results in incoherence and that is uncomfortable.
Godliness matters
I have many things to be thankful for; most especially the power and strength that is beyond me but sustains me through the course of life; it is of great religious importance and requires better commitment and adherence to reap benefits of a godly relationship.
Enthuse and infuse
As they say, “Life begins at 40”, and like forty years ago when my quite premature arrival (at 26 weeks) left everyone wondering if I would survive, you can bet that not only is one here to survive, but to thrive, to succeed, to excel and to enthuse others with that same spirit.
There are things to set right, resolutions to make and decisions to review and conclude.
I thank everyone including my very best friends who have come to celebrate this day with me.
Thank you!

Sunday 18 December 2005

Trends come and go

I am not trendy by half
Sometimes we find ourselves in places where we are observers of people, times, events and trends. One could not help but notice when a group of people probably in their late teens or early twenties got on the bus I was on in Barcelona.
They were all wearing sunglasses, well sunglasses with huge frames that more or less gave the raccoon effect. It was quite amusing as well as interesting.
I would not call myself trendy, in fact, I have never had opportunity to be trendy and probably that is a thankful situation and less of a burden on my psyche of trying to keep up with what is IN or discarding of what is OUT.
Wearing out of fashion
I remember in times past when my father sometimes complained of that fact, somehow, I always appeared in his office in traditional apparel of no significant fashion value.
My mother who always did the shopping on my behalf to the extent that there were times she bought my shoes because we had the same size when I was 11 did get some good stuff but that meant I was wearing what was probably 2 years out-of-fashion.
You will have to excuse the pun that I never really cottoned on and anytime I tried to follow the trends I just felt frustrated by the exercise that I gave up.
This is even more evident in the fact that you cannot get a decent pair of wearable jeans – I admit – everyone who wears what is in vogue seems to like what they have.
Princess Anne once had the indignity of having worn something for an occasion so many years before and then having worn it again, the fashionistas had a field day. It is an impossible world that if you are famous you can only wear clothes like a wedding dress, once for the event and then passing it on.
Basically, the expensive dress would self-destruct after one outing.
Dancing the night away
The biggest social event when I was in secondary school was the Literary Day; there was nothing literary about the day apart from the expectation of attending the one-off disco, very much like the much-popularised American proms.
That meant we were allowed to dress up in clothes other than the regimental school or hostel uniform. As my trendless evening would transpire, I has a pair of trousers handed down from daddy which would have put me squarely on a golf course and a shirt probably four times my size.
My prankster colleagues then concealed my well-pressed clothes that I only got access to them with hardly any time to spare for the event.
Well, my oversized shirt and trousers had me dressed up to the nines with the help if some cord to keep the trousers up.
Bellies or backsides
Nowadays, I cannot really say what I find most irksome to the sight, the exposed bellies of unlady-like girls who have done no gym work looking a healthy 6 months pregnant from wearing cropped tops in the summer or the exposed backsides of underwear of young men wearing trousers very much like the cut of my daddy’s hand-me-downs.
That is fashion, they say, the trend of today. Young men walking down the street unable to keep their trousers up even though they have belts bigger than Mohamed Ali’s title belts.
The walk of big balls
More so, the trousers so affect that gait in that the full extent of stride cannot be realised with trousers so far down the legs everyone moves with a swagger almost like having to cope with genital goitre.
It is a sad state of affairs that the quest to belong is a madness of conformity that makes every foolish trend look like the best thing around and any smart observer of these trends who does no participate is almost always square and an outsider.
Hey! I’ll rather be outside this folly before I find myself growing up ever so disgracefully. I guess I am just old-fashioned.

Thursday 15 December 2005

Beyond the clouds

The trains are still slower
There have been times that I have planned a holiday or break up to 4 weeks ahead, but I am more an impulsive travel planner than a methodical pedant.
Once I realised that I had a bit of free time to the next major meeting, I was on-line looking for a destination and a hotel.
I started with thinking of Paris or Madrid, usually, I would not fly to Paris, getting out of CDG – the airport, for Paris can be a lesson in global navigation when you find you have boarded the train going North. So, from Amsterdam, it is better to travel by train.
What is most irksome about arranging this type of travel is that all the railway websites in the , , and allow Internet booking. Of the lot the German site is most flexible even allowing a proximity booking.
The others allow for planning but only with a lead time of 5 days, because they resort to postal services to send the ticket. The Germans allow you to print out your ticket as a valid document for travel.
Then compare this to Air France/KLM where at 03:00AM I got a flight for 12:40 the same day with a confirmed ticket and boarding pass to Barcelona – it is no wonder, trains are slower than planes not just in getting to destinations but in adopting sensible Internet technologies.
I would not be too surprised if some desk manager in the railway organisations has some theory about not adopting these ideas because it could put unionised workers out of work.
Working hard is out, working smart is in, I suppose trains would work on nuclear fuel before change comes to working practices – read never.
Hotels and not hostels
When booking for travel, I first look for a hotel, beginning with an Accor Hotel which handles the chains of Sofitel, Mercure, Sofitel, Dorint, SuiteHotel, Ibis, Formule 1 and Etap in descending order of sophistication and having an Accor Favourite Guest Card helps in confirming bookings and getting good deals.
Once that is available rather than confirmed, I book the flights and confirm all the bookings then pack my bags and catch a nap before setting off.
The weather reports
The weather was very dull, cloudy, probably with the expectation of rain with the temperature close to freezing. Then getting on the plane, it did look really small and there was lots of space, probably not half full.
I also found out that in the cramped economy class, if no one is sitting in front of you, you can push the back of the seat in front forward to make space. Well, I did.
Sunny beyond the clouds
As we lifted off, we were soon above the clouds with glorious sunlight lighting up the plane and reflecting off those natural shutters that made life on the ground less sunny.
I learnt something; the sun was always above the clouds and it took getting help outside of my strength to see the sunnier side of things from the gloom on the ground.
The same with our circumstances, sometimes we are ground in our mundane, ordinary, slow and routine norms that we fail to see beyond the clouds, especially when the clouds just sit there like forever.
The only message one then gets from those clouds is rain and snow, making us wrap up more to warm than loosen up to feel cool.
Help beyond yourself
Just like I had the help of a plane to see the better side of things, we need a help higher than us be it religious inspiration, a pep-talk, mentoring, sometime to get us out of the rat race and rut of our circumstances to see the bigger picture and scope of things.
We need to be enthused into optimism to make our mindsets adapt to the expectation of good things, successful things, confident things and healthy things.
At that point, you have the tonic for life and if you keep taking it, spring and summer are back again as the clouds are moved on and your circumstances have less dominance over the bigger perspective of things.

Wednesday 14 December 2005

Gubernator in Terminator IV

CNN – Breaking News!
As I packed my bags yesterday to exploit an advancement of civilization I had one eye on the television observing a very interesting debasement of civilization.
This issue had been bothering me for a while, but it represents an interesting aspect of what is called closure when a very dramatic and bad event in some people’s lives dominates every waking moment in the quest for “closure”, though I am doubtful that the completion mercifully brings release to their troubled souls.
The United States with its warped democracy stands at the vanguard of the death penalty where a man in the position of governor has the right to exercise mercy or resolve in completing to act of withdrawing life from someone convicted of a crime that exacts capital punishment.
Not three weeks ago, there was a clamour about the death penalty in Singapore, where a 23-year-old took to drug smuggling to pay off the debts of his Australian twin brother, got caught and then hung 2 years after.
One can contend that calling Singapore a democracy is a misnomer, but that is another debate which can also question the real efficacy of the American version.
At just the same time in , another was being given a lethal invention having failed to get political sway to have the sentence commuted by the governor.
This is because the death penalty just as abortion and gay marriage pull at the heart strings of what makes the American society comfortable within its own skin.
Actors in Terminator X
As I once commented, some men in leadership have not consummated their leadership without having exercised the ability to send men to their deaths. Presidents achieve that through wars both necessary and unnecessary; governors do that in at the behest of crime and punishment.
So, having spent almost 35 minutes trying and eventually successfully putting a man to death, where the activity could have just been filmed and relayed on some pay-per-view channel, we were offered a number of witnesses to the judicious murder to relay what happened.
Only 12 in a Jury
A cavalcade of 6 journalists were brought on stage to tell of what they had witnessed, each introduced themselves by name and spelling each name out their representation and gave a view of what happened.
Then another 6, until 24 journalists had given their views – I doubt if there were up to 24 witnesses that sent the man to the gallows, and a jury only comprises of 12 people.
The man was walked to the gurney and strapped down to be killed and some maintained that he was trying to intimidate the audience.
Intimidate? The guy was being lead helplessly to his death and he was intimidating – sometimes journalists should just stick to news giving than analysis.
Probably the man being killed had the grace to face his punishment, for the journalists who observed the intimidation; they might as well be filling their pants at the thought a visit to the dentist.
More blacks as CEO?
Suffice it to say that almost equal percentages of black and white people are on death row, the discrepancy is in the fact that 12% and 69% are the respective population distributions in the USA.
When the man was first sentenced it was 11% and 79% respectively. Go figure! However, more whites have had the sentence carried out than blacks though.
It is impossible not to see a race issue here, but then if any social scientist can explain this demography and suggest how to bring the numbers to proportional representation then speak up.
The great unwashed looking
One can commend for not setting up their activities as some fanfare reminiscent of the Bastille and guillotine days, where the mobs witnessed executions baying for blood and the Taliban did by filling stadiums with witnesses that saw people being shot in the head.
Feeding Christians to lions was a pastime in ancient Rome; in modern the family of the victim are accorded front-row seats with journalists as the unwashed onlookers.
We have come a long way from barbarism only to become decent barbarians – civilisation can only do so much for converting basic human instinct, fascination and curiosity still reign especially when witnessing the putting to death of another man even though man would cringe at the killing of a cow.
Getting back to civilisation, I have a plane to catch.

Sunday 11 December 2005

Don't ask that question

Managerial Integrity is tops
The last week had me in two interviews prospecting for permanent employment once again.
However, with some hindsight, I realize that I have gained knowledge about a lot of things in terms of experience and lessons but may have failed in the application of those ideas to subsequent circumstances.
In the last fourteen years of employment in Europe, 8 have been permanent contracts which exuded promise at the onset and ended in disappointment at the conclusion.
Having participated in an employee satisfaction which was part of a dissertation project of a fellow graduate student on an MBA degree, it was interesting to note the options that mattered to me.
In the end, it transpired that the one core reason why I left those jobs boiled down to the simple lack of integrity on the part of my managers.
Untruthfulness, concealment, cajoling, threatening, blatant lying, dishonest dealing and dirty politicking were some of the traits of the managers who in their minds thought they were being good managers.
They have led many of a feeble disposition to mental and health problems without any consideration that lives and livelihoods might be at stake.
In one case, it was about a manager who substituted himself for my training place, another tried to persuade of opportunities he could not offer to maintain interest and loyalty, even one had mastered the art of lying such that one was embarrassed for oneself and him too.
Potential over abilities
Anyway, I have had one manager who made an amazing difference to the work-life balance of his team.
Whilst he was well aware of everyone’s capability he did well to exploit potential, placing challenges in ways that not only developed the individual but gelled the team.
Alas! At times, management is perhaps more congenital than contagious, who knows, some people might really strive to manage their team than herd them in a bull run.
Two interviews cross purposes
The first interview was conducted with such candour and honesty, they had a lot to offer those who sought or had little and could not offer much to self-starters who have done that work of really charting out their careers.
That could easily be a foible, I learnt with some discouragement.
The other interview ended on the note of being asked to commit to employment when there were no clear indications of when the process would be completed or if it would be successful.
Biting my lip with restraint that failed woefully one could only remonstrate at what was seemingly bullying or a basic lack of decent interviewing skill. In fact, it was like interviewing a doctor from the perspective of the hospital cleaner.
10 years after the 5 year question
Where I however failed to carry over a lesson from times past was with the question of what I saw myself doing in 5 years time.
It is probably one of the worst questions to ask anyone at interview, but I am learning and still learning of how to deal with it.
This is the new perspective – layout what you see yourself doing in 5 years in the context of that job and organisation.
Then offer to ask the same question – Does the organization have the kind of career development that would view what I have said as achievable in less than that time and offer even more challenging opportunities that I have not yet considered or thought of?
Basically, this exerts the same level of soul-searching in the person, the organisation and that person’s relationship in that organisation.
The talk on interviews has only just begun.