Do you want to hear something new

This is the question I have been posing the researchers at a conference: for the attendees, is it better for them to learn something new or for them to get validation that they are already doing the right thing?

Maybe I’m being a little mischievous – it’s not an ‘either/or’, but rather a continuum.

In lots of ways I prefer to learn something new – but today I’m at the other end of the spectrum. Today I’m listening to presentations about an IT security issue and whilst I hear about different companies doing it their own way, I have not yet heard anything that I didn’t know. And this is good news – I don’t have to panic and make a drastic change.

Isn’t this a little counter-intuitive? I’ve come to a series of presentations with the underlying hope that I don’t learn something brand new (unless it’s a game changer).

I call it validation and reassurance.

Am I right?

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Prejudice, priests, and gay marriage

I’m getting opinionated today – inspired (and in some cases incensed) by news, facebook postings, a comedy podcast, wikipedia and google. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Anyway, if I’m going to categorise this post at all I’d say it is inspired by prejudice – perhaps a strange inspiration, but if we don’t stand for our beliefs then they are often subtly eroded.

Consider this sentence:

Priests abuse choirboys because they’re afraid of the commitment of marriage.

It was, more or less, a line from a comedy standup routine. It was followed by the comment that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) threatened to excommunicate any Bishop who revealed details of clergy paedophilia outside the church. (At first I didn’t believe it, but I found enough online references to confirm it as true. Appalling but true.)

So, now suitably interested, I deconstructed the line and looked rather more seriously at the subjects presented: Continue reading

The perils of the cloud

Hardly an issue of any IT journal goes by without mentioning the efficiencies which can be achieved through cloud computing – and as recent blogs will attest, I’m a big fan of DropBox and Evernote. Not only can such services help efficiency, but there are economies of scale to be achieved too.

Simplicity and efficiency in this context come at a price.  The cost in cash terms to “run and maintain” is easy to quantify – but how is your risk appetite for fines and imprisonment, just for saving to the cloud.  I can hear lawyers everywhere sucking in their breath!

Imagine the scenario: Continue reading

My A-Z

I shamelessly copied this concept from another blog – but I can’t give credit because I can’t remember where I found it. And I’ve adapted it a little.

Anyway, for those who pass through and are interested, here are a few things about me:

Age: fortysomething. I lost count at 40 and threatened to start counting backwards instead, but it didn’t catch on
Best night out: so long as I’m with a friend or two the evening will be good regardless.
Chore that I hate: cleaning – but I like things to be clean and tidy. I pay a cleaner.
Drink: real ale, a good single malt whisky, and recently cider. Continue reading

Friends and acquaintances

I read an blog recently entitled Friendship is a Two Way Street and, as seems to be the nature of things recently, that resonated with a conversation I had had with someone else.

There have been many phrases which have attempted to describe friends – from the humorous to the banal, the philosophical to the crass – but I tend to agree that whatever the definition, true friendship has to be bilateral.

We do turn to our friends for support when we’re down, and we must be both ready and willing to provide the same in return.   Continue reading

Increasing speeds – except in the air?

I have had an internet connection at home for over twenty years. The earliest (dialup) connection I can remember was using a 14.4kbps modem, with all of the attendant whirrs and boings which signalled connection. Like most people (geeks?) in those days I could tell the connection speed achieved from the sounds made.

As I sit here I recall writing connection scripts, tweaking the settings used for the modem handshake, and being excited as each new technology step was announced by the modem manufacturers (and the ISPs). If my memory serves, 14.4 gave way to 19.2 and then I had 28.8 (what felt like a significant speed increase). I’m sure there was something in the 30s and 40s before 56.6 came along.

Continue reading

Pride comes before a fall

I can’t help wondering whether some of the aphorisms we learned as children are self-fulfilling prophesies, some are borne from experience, some simply to scare children, and finally some which are utter nonsense.  Of course, the trick is telling which ones are which – remember the story, and pick your own category:

  • Carrots don’t help us see in the dark – but too many will turn you orange.
  • Easting the crusts of the bread won’t make my hair curly nor put it on my chest.
  • So far, going out in the rain hasn’t made me catch the death of a cold – although I do believe that the Italians could suffer from a hit of air (see an earlier blog).
  • And if it made us go blind then there would be a lot of blind people in the world!

But what made me think of this today was “pride comes before a fall”.  I felt pretty good after my training 10k on Monday, and then interval training on Tuesday, and so I expected today’s gentle 4 miler to be reasonably straightforward. And because of that complacency I didn’t everything wrong – a heavy lunch, heavy legs (although that sounds like a French complaint), and overall tiredness.  Lesson learned and I won’t be doing that again – but at least I made the mistake now rather than on the day of the race!

Anyone else done something similar?

Reality check II

As I have blogged before, in a few weeks time I’m running in a 10k race and so I went for a run outside today and achieved my objective: completion in less than an hour. Provided that I keep up the training regime from Amy, I now have a positive mental belief that I can complete the course and in a time with which I’ll be happy.

The first mile was hard going while my legs warmed up, and when I got to the four mile mark I knew I was going to finish. Having run the distance I know that I can run the distance – it will just be down to preparation, timing, and how the day goes.

But why do I mention this again so soon? Early this afternoon I was feeling pretty good – and then I had a telephone call. Continue reading

Teambuilding – suddenly it all went right

Tuckman's group development stages

I spent last week in a hotel chairing a series of design workshops.  I don’t know much about the detailed design, but I had to be there to sponsor – and to make a decision if there was impasse or argument.

Because I didn’t know enough to take a hugely active part, I brought together an international team of users, techies, and the software suppliers.  At the end of the week we had completed everything we set out to do, and all participants thanked me for a well run, focussed, and successful week.  I just ran it as I would want someone else to run it if I were a participant, so on this Saturday afternoon I’m reviewing what I did that made the week successful: Continue reading

Give me your lunch money

Magna Carta

I never had anyone try to take my lunch money but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion: bullying is fundamentally wrong.  In a civilised society we view making an unreasonable demand as, well, unreasonable, possibly as they usually have an unpalatable attached threat.

My original example may be restated as “give me your lunch money or I’ll hurt you” – a demand with a threatening alternative – the victim has to pay up, fight, or face violence (and the probable loss of the lunch money anyway).  When we grow up the law intervenes and the same example might be considered as “demanding money with menaces”, and with a different threat could become blackmail.

But as adults in a reasonable and fair society we have recourse to the police and the courts: protection from the former and societal punishment to the wrongdoer from the latter.  We have a reasonable framework where we are (in most cases) innocent until proven guilty, if necessary by a jury of our peers – a right which has been enshrined in our laws since the 12th of June, 1215.

But a news story today caused me to ask the question: is this right? One of our citizens is being extradited without any court hearing in the UK. A foreign government has said “we want him” and we have meekly said “ok”.  And we’ve done this because we agreed to a treaty in 2003.  It’s not even as if the treaty is reciprocal.

This isn’t the first such case and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I don’t know why we (the UK) signed the treaty, but I believe that it is fundamentally flawed.  There’s no equivalent treaty with any other countries, and indeed France will never hand over any of its citizens for extradition. I don’t blame the Americans for using the treaty – but I do think our politicians got it wrong and need to stand up for themselves and seek reciprocity.  If we don’t then I am ashamed to say that we are the weak kid in the playground.

(Image from Wikipedia and is not subject to copyright.)