Thursday, September 27, 2007

[bloody burma] generals do what they know best

Sadly, it appears to be coming:

Despite threats and warnings and despite the beginnings of a violent response, witnesses reported tens of thousands of chanting, cheering protesters flooding the streets. Monks were in the lead, "like religious storm troopers," as one foreign observer put it.

A foreign diplomat described "an amazing scene" Wednesday as a column of 8,000 to 10,000 people flooded past his embassy following a nucleus of about 800 monks. They were trailed by four truckloads of military men, watching but not taking action. The diplomat, in keeping with embassy policy, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Everyone knows what's coming. There is something childlike in the Asian mind which allows simplistic overkill solutions to be sought. The west also does the stormtrooper stuff but operates a little differently to the Japananese/Chinese.

This thing is going to get very bloody and though we can sign countless petitions to our local member, what can we really do to stop it?

Read Mr. E on the subject.

[the telephone] the need for etiquette

This post follows on from the last one and from the comments by Shades, JMB, Bearwatch, Welshcakes Limoncello and Colin Campbell, which makes one think further about the issue:

The Catch 22 of businessmen and women is that no one wants to have to waste any time on unproductive potential customers and yet a certain amount of "wining and dining", of browsing if you like, is necessary to effect the sale.

In the case of the business people I know, this involves racking up huge phone bills. Every lead must be followed, every possible customer allowed his/her head up to a point. Largesse is the name of the game over here and for every invitation to the businessman's dacha for shaslik and banya, there are "customers" with no real intention to buy but who are just there for the free treat.

And through it all, the businessman must keep his equanimity. One down side is the mobile telephone, the key link in the chain. It's the downside for the person who doesn't stand to benefit and in my situation, a necessary evil.

One of my clients comes, lays three phones on the table before him and each has its own buzz, its own different ringtone, which drives me crazy but its part of his system. Then, during our time together, one or other of the phones always calls and he judges firstly by the tone and then by the number of the caller.

Sometimes he answers abruptly, "Srochno?" ["Is it urgent?"]. A woman who comes to me has a different, softer approach. What both do is, just before answering, to put out a placatory hand, a pained expression comes over the face and he/she asks, "May I?" "Is it OK if I answer?"

What both are doing is assuring the "incumbent sittee", me, that I am the major priority but this really is urgent, if I don't mind. This is nice - everyone likes to feel special and the businessman knows how to make you feel it. Work for his benefit and doors open, things fall into place.

My friend has an added technique. When the phone goes whilst he's with a client, he apologizes, reaches over, switches on but holds the phone at half-arm's length for a few moments whilst he assures the person sitting down that it will only take a moment and does he/she [the incumbent sittee] have enough coffee?

The caller gets the message softly and yet clearly that my friend is currently busy. Then he turns to the phone and is all friendliness. Anything longer than a few seconds and he asks if he can call back in twenty minutes or in an hour.

Of course, there is something inherently demanding in the telephone. When that imperious tone begins, shattering the coffee and chocolate laden pleasant afternoon atmosphere, it doesn't stop - it rings on and on and on, demanding the receiver be picked up.

I deeply resent this imperious manner of the phone. It should give one tone to warn of a call and then patiently wait. I need a new phone.

But worse than this is the caller. For some reason, callers who suddenly find themselves with either time on their hands or an "urgent" matter to resolve right there and then [and why must it be right there and then?], get it into their head that they can simply phone and the one at the other end will suddenly drop everything and deal with their concern.

This is ego beyond and my friend deals with it very cleverly with that half-arm held phone technique. The caller realizes he/she must wait just a little whilst the incumbent is dealt with first and this produces one of two reactions - resignation that it must be so or the other reaction - resentment.

The self-actualizing process is that the resenters tend to drop away and give up after some time but the real customer perseveres and then the relationship is always on the understanding that both are giving of their valuable time in a mutual pact to resolve a specific matter, be it only coffee and torte.

My technique is less good, I admit and not so conducive to business. Dial up has been a boon for me because I'm either in the net or out of the house with the answer machine on. With my system of no door buzzers, no domaphone, no way to get to me physically, the caller gets no immediate response - there's a filter in operation.

I always tell people they can get me by e-mail and that I check it constantly throughout the day. The type of person who wants his/her demands met instantly doesn't like that and suggests I get a mobile. No thanks.

Later, having listened to messages with a cup of tea in hand, composed and relaxed and on my own terms, I call back and deal with the matter, documents at hand. Then it's a check of the e-mails and the filtering of those and then the comments section of my website.

This achieves sanity and equanimity for me, which is what all callers and message senders needed in the first place - a person in possession of his full faculties and in a good mood, dealing with their concerns. Remove those filters from me and any call would soon get a snarling, savage, half thought out response - my mental processes work slowly.

This is the central thing with me - no caller is going to get the best response possible instantly. You might be the epitome of brilliant repartee and instant response yourself but I'm not - I need to think out my answers and advice.

All of this comes down to the concept of everyone reining in the ego and being reasonable, which most callers do not do and I blame the very nature of the phone, whether fixed line, mobile or the new-fangled type, designed for quicker, quicker, quicker response and no waiting whatsoever. In other words, technology is simply feeding people's egos.

But the callee on the other end of the line is human. The incumbent seated on the other side of the table has rights too - he/she has taken the trouble to visit and the imperious caller is an intruder. My whole face to face manner in my work is that the person[s] sitting opposite have my whole and undivided attention for that time - they are the most special person [s] in the world at that time.

The caller who realizes that and immediately asks, "Is it convenient?" or "When's a good time to call you back?" gets far better treatment from me and not only that but in so doing, becomes the higher priority when he/she does recall, simply on the grounds that the call was prearranged and there's now an obligation on my part to devote myself to his/her concerns.

The other type who cacophanously shatters the quiet of a pleasant session with imperious demands generally gets short shrift.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

[blogfocus wednesday] fishy stories

The common thread linking these excellent bloggers, as you'd be aware, is fish. Fish are part of our life, our heritage, they're the chips' best friends. So without any further ado, read on, fish lovers:

1. Wat Tyler shows through this quote that, even in the world of finance, fish may lurk surreptitiously:

£87m pa on MPs' fishtanks and iPods - "MEMBERS of parliament are using their taxpayer-funded expense accounts to buy iPods, plasma screen televisions and even, in one case, a fish tank, insiders allege. Finance administrators have been approving a wide array of executive gadgets despite widespread public concern about abuses of the parliamentary expenses system. MPs routinely claim thousands of pounds a year without having to produce receipts or other evidence that they have made any purchases...

2. Alice has also had to negotiate fish tanks, an educational tool, it seems:

I’ve had a four foot fish tank lurking in my kitchen for a couple of years now. There must be a lot of energy involved in making a fish tank, from the manufacture of the glass and the glue to the transport involved in getting it all from source to manufacturer to retailer to my flat, so I didn’t want to just throw it away without first applying “The Four Rs” as best I could.

The Four Rs are principles to put into practice as often as possible to avoid creating unnecessary waste, and they stand (depending on who you ask) for Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Recycle. Applying these principles to a large fish tank is proving pretty difficult, especially as I try to organise its final transport to fish tank heaven in a responsible way.

3. Tony Sharp finds the analogy of fish useful in illustrating political tactics:

Cameron, I believe, could have made the changes the party needed in presentation without departing from our traditional ground. This is why I believe so many in the party are upset and frustrated at his tactics and execution. We have been letting Labour off the hook. Why go fishing in deep water when the shoal has finally come into your own shallows? Why stay out in the deep water when you can see a rival fleet has followed the shoal into your waters and is hauling the fish in with huge nets? The Tory approach needs to sharpen up rapidly.

4. There is clearly some connection between David Cameron and fish, as the Norfolk Blogger attests:

I see Dave is planning permits for producers of fatty foods. Read about it HERE. I always read and hear Tories going on about "the nanny state", but this is obsessive. Having a permit for fatty foods is hardly going to endear Mr Cameron to fish and chip shop owners in Glasgow who have been known to deep fry Mars bars. I guess though that the Tories have few votes to lose there !

5. Richard Havers takes a musical approach to our finned friends from the deep with this piece on Memphis Minnie:

Minnie also tackled crime, voodoo, trains, health and the perennial blues subject - chickens! Minnie was constantly touring, playing jukes and fish fries, which certainly helped in maintaining her popularity. She stayed in touch with her audience, singing about what they both knew, and understood. The lady who was at the forefront of transforming the Blues into ‘Pop Music’ continued to record up until 1954.

6. Blognor Regis is not satisfied with any ordinary fish - oh no - he has to have a snoek:

I mentioned 'snoek' last weekend, and now look: A new word entered the vocabulary - snoek, a fish from South Africa, vaguely tasting of mackerel. Ten million tins went onto the shelves, and the Ministry of Food publicised eight snoek recipes, including one with salad called "snoek piquante". I've already read plenty about the era bit I'm still tempted.

7. Trixy leaves us in no doubt that fish and my beloved Tories are somehow connected - perhaps they swim against the tide?

Fish are scaley and odd colours. Still, as much as I don't particularly like them, they aren't anywhere near as slimey as Tory politicians! I grant you, many of the other denominations are bad - but their hypocracy never fails to astound me. The reason I mentioned fish was because this new gut wrenching Tory comment is about fish, fishing, the Common Fisheries Policy and a stable. At least, that's what the Shetland box sounds like.

8. Mopsa winds up the evening with the revelation that fish are basically childish:

My oldest friend (not as in aged, but as in I've known her longer than any other friend) came to the farm for the first time and spent the weekend here. It was grey and it rained, but we chirped and chirruped and chortled and chatted and totally reverted to the girls we once were. The old nick names and fish-lips face contortions were greedily adopted and enjoyed again and luckily this time I refrained from wetting my pants under the duress of hysterical laughter plus full bladder combo.

Croydonian, Charlie Marks and Heraklites had nothing whatsoever to say about fish but Celia Green did. And on that note, a very good night to you all and see you on Saturday after your fish supper.

[yuck] that salty taste

Here's a really good one. Follow Bob's link here back to his post, read, click on the pic until it zooms, scroll down the sitemeter readout.

Ha ha. One wonders about people.

[major league ball] umpire attacks player


How much U.S. baseball do I usually run here? But this one has to be run because it's so unusual.

You've heard of players being suspended for language, for bad tackles, for brawling and so on but have you heard of an umpire being suspended for the same?

Umpire Mike Winters was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the regular season on Wednesday because of his confrontation with San Diego's Milton Bradley last weekend. The Padres claimed Winters baited Bradley, who has a history of losing his temper. Bradley tore a knee ligament when his manager spun him to the ground while trying to keep him from going after the umpire during Sunday's 7-3 loss to Colorado in San Diego.

Bradley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will need surgery, which is expected to sideline him for at least six months. His injury was a blow to the Padres, who began Wednesday with a one-game lead over Colorado and Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race.

Question is - whom do you sympathize with - the bad-mouthing umpire or the hot-headed, would-be umpire attacker?

Political Blogging Guide 2007 - Other Sections

These are all the ones from my blogrolls I could find - Blogpowerers or ex-BPers are coloured maroon and in bold, as usual:

Guide to Blogging 2007 Top 100 Left of Centre Blogs

Big formatting problems on Iain's site with these:

4-2 BobPiper

12 ChickenYoghurt

[ex-BP and I hope future]

17-9 MarsHill

19 Ministry of Truth

24-14 Tygerland

29-19 General Theory of Rubbish

[whose testimonial I carry in my "About"]

30 Stumbling&Mumbling



Guide to Blogging 2007 Top 100 Liberal Democrat Blogs

12 NEW Norfolk Blogger

Guide to Blogging Top 30 Media Blogs

4 Paul Linford 7 Melanie Phillips 8 18 Doughty Street 10 Oliver Kamm 12 Stephen Pollard 17 Bryan Appleyard 22 Clive Davis

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top Twenty Scottish Blogs

7. Freedom and Whisky (CON) 8. 1820: Rise Like Lions (SNP) 9. J Arthur MacNumpty (NON) 12. Havering On (NON)

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top Twenty Welsh Blogs

Today we have the TOP TEN WELSH BLOGS, chosen by Sandeff Rhyferys, who writes the Ordovicius Blog. So Ordo selected it but where is he himself?

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top Ten Newcomers

3. Matt Wardman (Tech) 5. Grendel (Con)

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top Ten Underrated Blogs

4. Waendel Journal (Conservative) [I count him as one] 5. Little Man in a Toque (Right wing) 8. Tygerland (Labour)

Blogging Guide 2007: Top 10 Medical Blogs

1. NHS Blog Doctor 2. The Psychiatrist Blog 3) Dr Grumble

Guide to Blogging 2007: Top Ten Religious Blogs

1. Archbishop Cranmer

Well done to all those who made these lists and to the BPers who graced them as well. Have I left any out?

[capital v labour] it never goes away

I have mixed feelings about this very political issue, which raises the late 1800s Capital v Labour spectre again:

For staff at a Melbourne call centre for internet service provider Netspace, one-fifth of a minute is considered time enough for a rest break between calls. Staff have also been told they are now only to leave their desks four times a day - during set breaks - to increase the number of calls handled.

As a former headmaster and in the light of my current work, it is clear there is a mindset which continually moans about conditions, rights and time off without considering the success and solidity of the company which provides them with their salary and benefits in the first place.

This sort of person is rife in schools and is ultra-quick to react to apparent breaches of his/her rights and knows them all off by heart. If you said there are no rights - only those you gain by securing your workplace in the market in the first place, they think you're Attila the Hun.

And don't even start me on political correctness.

On the other hand, on the face of it, Netspace appear to be out of order, running a sort of sweatshop, using young employees which it knows it can squeeze and this is the worst sort of capitalism. I don't think legislation does a lot because of three things:

1. There really are lazy good-for-nothings who want an easy wicket instead of embracing the company they work for and these are the people forever quoting regulations at you whilst sitting on their bums - in other words, malcontents, ne'er-do-wells and bludgers [naturally I never said anything like this to their faces at the time];

2. It's more effective to hurt the company in the market place over its tactics, such as this MSM article on it. They're far more likely to alter their behaviour on that basis. Legislation simply causes them to shift the problem sideways by taking on, in future, employees least likely to cause a stink.

3. When you tie up a company or an industry in a plethora of regulations and bureaucratic restrictions on every little thing, you stifle the company's effectiveness and freedom to move, i.e. it's ability to keep functioning. A company is not a big mother pig to feed off - it needs space to breathe and expand or restructure to suit prevailing conditions.

It's not a one way street and there have certainly been milestones such as the stopping of child labour and the 40 hour week but then look where unionism went with its little coteries in their cushy positions at the top, dictating to businesses with nothing to lose themselves.

A good worker is a good worker and a good boss will recognize and provide incentive for the good worker to remain. However, when you get the allegedly Alisha the Hutt type and allegedly Netscape type, the pendulum swings and they have to be stopped or exposed for the doings.

As this article said at the outset - a very political issue.

[the dale lists] perspectives

On December 9th, 2006, a small blogger said this, about the American Weblog Awards:

The whole thing is a total w—k. Worthy candidates like Norm, Samizdata, Jon Swift and one or two others aside, this poll is flawed for these reasons:

1] top blogs are left off both in terms of content and in terms of traffic;

2] it’s completely swamped by the Americans, who have five times the population. And what about tiny New Zealand or Australia?

I mean, seriously, who’s going to compete with Malkin, a most overrated blogger or with Instapundit? As I say, it’s a w—k.

He then went on:

It annoys the hell out of me to see some big names promoting themselves shamelessly [not those on my blogroll], getting major traffic and they’re truly neither quality nor well laid out. Of course, they say people visit for the expertise, to read the pearls of wisdom but this seems a very MSM thing to say. Why are they emulating the MSM? Is that what they’re trying to get into?

He then called for a collective of little bloggers to be set up. It was eventually called Blogpower. So how does this malcontent feel now that he finds himself on a 100 list?

Predictably proud, especially as it was 12 peers who did the voting, not one man. And equally proud of the little association we have called Blogpower, who featured well in the rankings and it vindicates the belief that there are some truly great blogs out there largely unsung and some of them now recognized. This is largely Dale's doing.

It's part of our job, methinks, to find them and promote them too. This is the Blogpower ethos in a nutshell. On the other hand, there seemed some anomalies but that's what happens when people vote on things.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

[political blogging guide] non-aligned results

These are the ones from my blogroll and congratulations to all. Blogpower is in red:

2 NHS Blog Doctor 9 As a Dodo 10 Westminster Wisdom 12 Little Man in a Toque 22 Pub Philosopher 23 Not Saussure

Congratulations to all of these and to Iain Dale for the hard work.

[political blogging guide] centre-right results

Lot's of hard work, Iain. These are the ones from my blogroll and congratulations to all. Blogpower is in red and the 2nd figure in some cases is last year's position:

1 2 Iain Dale’s Diary 2 5 Dizzy Thinks 5 14 Croydonian 7 3 Burning our Money 8 NEW Devil's Kitchen 9 NEW Tim Worstall 10 6 8 Archbishop Cranmer 7 James Cleverly 11 23 Mr Eugenides 12 NEW Waendel Journal [the one BP lost and hope to get back] 16 64 Prague Tory 19 9 Ellee Seymour 21 NEW Daily Referendum 23 NEW Sinclair's Musings 24 NEW An Englishman's Castle 25 52 Theo Spark 28 36 UK Daily Pundit 29 58 Freedom & Whiskey 32 NEW Islington Newmania 33 NEW City Unslicker 34 NEW Matt Wardman 35 48 Man in a Shed 37 NEW Nourishing Obscurity 38 NEW Samizdata 40 50 Martine Martin's Lebwog 41 NEW Daily Propaganda 42 NEW Musings of a Reactionary Snob 43 22 Bel is Thinking 44 NEW Prodicus 51 NEW Nation of Shopkeepers 54 79 Thunder Dragon 56 NEW Little Man in a Toque 59 NEW Last Ditch 60 31 Gavin Ayling 64 NEW Is there more to life than shoes? 66 41 A Conservative's Blog 71 NEW Blognor Regis 81 24 Road to EU Serfdom 84 NEW Istanbul Tory 85 NEW Neue Arbeit Macht Frei 86 NEW Pub Philosopher 98 NEW Martin Kelly 100 71 Laban Tall

I don't see how Devil's Kitchen and Tim Worstall are new but there you go.