Monthly Archives: January 2010

Want to stand in the BCS ELITE committee election?

I got this email today from the ELITE chair at the British Computer Society. ELITE is the IT director-level group of the BCS. They have a number of vacancies on their board. If you fancy putting your name forward for a place then just follow the instructions listed below… If you need a proposer and seconder then take a look at the ELITE website to check on the board members.
—-
Dear Elite Member,
We have a number of vacancies on the Elite committee. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the work of Elite, and I urge anyone who
wants to become involved to put themselves forward for election.  Any member of the Elite Group who is also a member of BCS can be nominated to stand for the position of Committee member.
A Proposer and a Seconder (who are also Elite members) will be required for the nomination to be entered into the election process.
A Committee member shall be elected to serve a maximum term of three years at which point they must stand down. They can offer themselves for re-election but may only serve a maximum of two consecutive terms.
If you would like to stand, then please e-mail a profile and photograph of yourself, no longer than 25 lines plus the names of your
proposer and seconder to Judith Taylor at  elite@hq.bcs.org.uk by Friday 5th February 2010.
Please note that HQ cannot provide you with any Elite membership details due to the DP Act.
We encourage members to attend meetings to meet with other Elite members so they could nominate a member wishing to stand for election.
If you would like to find out more about what is involved then I would be happy to have a talk.
Yours sincerely
David Tidey
Acting-Chair ELITE
David.Tidey@bcs.org

India Inc

Vikas Pota and his new book, India Inc, need no introduction. It has been suggested that I blitz the media with information whenever I have a new book coming out, but Vikas has surpassed my efforts and managed to get information about his book everywhere.

And it’s a timely book too. Just as the world is heading into a recovery from the past few years of economic slowdown, Vikas has studied and interviewed – at length – ten of the most important entrepreneurs in India. Rather than the usual corporate sound-bites, we have here a masterclass from each leader.

The official launch is at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Westminster tonight. If you are going to be there then please do say hello. If not, then take a look at the book website and get a copy. It’s time to hear what some real leaders are thinking.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

I know that the British government doesn’t have much control over private enterprise, and it’s not desirable for them to have strict control over what companies can get up to. Can you imagine the situation if companies had to ask permission of the government before borrowing, lending, or buying interests in other companies – we would be similar to China.

But, the recent situation with Cadbury seems quite bizarre.

If Cadbury shareholders believe they have now got a good price for their shares then there is nothing to stop them selling to Kraft. That is just business and the emotional response to the loss of another British company is actually not fair – though it’s worth remembering that the majority of shareholders are just funds (pension funds) and so they have no emotion anyway. If British people want to prevent foreign investors buying into Britain, then that restriction would apply in the opposite direction too… Britain would find itself unable to invest in foreign businesses as a reciprocal measure.

But, Kraft had to borrow money to finance the deal. And the British bank Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) financed Kraft. And Royal Bank of Scotland is 84%-owned by the British government, and therefore by the British people. So the British public are effectively financing a deal to buy their favourite chocolate manufacturer.

The government is claiming that RBS can’t be controlled like a government department, that it needs to operate as a regular bank so it can return to profit and that’s mostly correct. But surely someone must have seen this public relations disaster looming on the horizon? Billy Bragg has initiated a campaign where he is refusing to pay income tax, until the government starts controlling the publicly-owned banks – particularly the hefty bonuses bankers are already starting to pay themselves again so soon after the economic collapse.

Bragg won’t change much with this campaign. Even he acknowledges that the government will get their tax from him in the end, but he is demonstrating that the British public are not stupid. They care about how the banks behave and when they own a share of those banks they have a right for their views to be respected.

The cheat in wolves clothing…

When I saw this photo of a wild wolf up close and captured with flash, I remember being stunned. It was such a gorgeous photo, and so impossibly framed. The photographer had apparently set up a flash system and camera that would be triggered by any animal jumping the gate – and he knew it was on a route often used by wild wolves. It was said that he had planned this single photograph for many years.

So, imagine my disappointment reading today that the entire photo was staged. It doesn’t detract from the beauty of the photo, but it does mean that the photo was really as easy to take as getting my pet dog to leap over a gate in the darkness while I take a snap.

This photo won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award and Jose Luis Rodriguez was much feted as a patient master. Now it appears he was little more than a dog trainer operating at night.

The photo has not changed, but our impression of how it was created has. So are these prizes awarding the aesthetic quality of the photography, or the difficulty involved in getting a picture. It would seem far more of the latter.

News: A (Digital) Decade of Destruction?

A public discussion organised by the Commonwealth Journalists Association (UK branch)
Chair:
Nick Higham, BBC Correspondent, News
Panellists:
Charlie Beckett, Director of Polis, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics
Dominic Young, Director of Strategy and Product Development, News International
Stephen Pritchard, President, Organisation of News Ombudsmen
John Fisher Burns, London Bureau Chief, New York Times
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, writer/commentator on technology, outsourcing, globalisation and corporate change
  • Date: Wednesday 27 January 2010
  • Venue: Committee Room 12, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
  • Time: 6.30 – 8 p.m.
With special thanks to Mohammed Sarwar MP and Third World Solidarity Movement for venue arrangements.
You are advised to arrive early to allow time to pass through security.
RSVP: Rita Payne, tel: 07834-845240, email: ritapayne@hotmail.com

It ain’t easy being veggie on Mexicana

Why do airlines find it so difficult to get special meals right? I’ve flown 4 times with Mexicana in the past month and on just one of the four flights did I get the vegetarian food I had ordered.

It’s a real problem for me because the 12-hours between London and Mexico City is no fun without some food along the way and airlines now don’t really carry spare food – they have exactly the right number of trays for the number of passengers on board. Or at least, they don’t carry any spare special meals beyond the ones ordered.

On one recent Mexicana flight, I was told there was no vegetarian food for me – even though it had been ordered, and the check-in staff confirmed it was on board – and so the cabin crew gave me a salad instead. The salad contained chunks of ham. Nice try? I must ask for more vegetarian pig in future. I wonder if they serve that up to their Jewish customers?

Each time I complained, the cabin crew told me they could do nothing. It’s true. Once you are cruising above the ocean at 11,000m above sea-level, it’s hard to get some more supplies, but why do I need to keep on complaining? The option was booked when the flights were booked, yet the cabin crew even told me that the ground staff just “don’t really know what’s going on…” I hope their safety engineers know what is going on.

The wasn’t my only gripe about Mexicana. The online checkin doesn’t work… apparently it only works for domestic flights so international passengers have to go through the old long snaking check-in line some of us remember from years ago.

And, on flights of around 11 or 12 hours, perhaps some entertainment might be nice? Don’t expect an entertainment system on Mexicana – even in business class. You had better bring a good book as there is nothing, other than ye olde projector screen showing old episodes of ‘House’. Any book would be better than that.

Mexicana is cheap, but far from cheerful.

Ballet… again

So here I am again and I did make it to the ballet on December 19th in São Paulo as I had hoped (the show in Bixiga). But even though the show was better in the second half than the first and it featured principals from both the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, I left a bit disappointed.

One of the great things when you watch one of the classic Tchaikovsky ballets is hearing the orchestra play live. I know there is an entire theatre full of people, but I always feel like the orchestra is playing just for me when I see them all performing. Sometimes, I’ll be watching them instead of the dance, especially the percussionist just waiting for the right moment to hit the triangle.

Yet, the show in Bixiga had a recorded soundtrack. So even with great dancers from great ballet companies, they just put on a CD for the music. That took some of the romance out of the experience.

Plus, there were some strange liberties taken in the choreography. I was a bit non-plussed on a few occasions. The Nutcracker is a simple fairy story. Most people know the story, or have some idea of it if they have not read it or seen the show for a long time. Yet I was wondering what was going on sometimes. Particularly on occasions like the battle with the rats. In all the productions I have ever seen, Clara saves the Nutcracker from a final attack by the King Rat. When they go to the magical land of the sweets/snow, the Nutcracker mimes the battle and explains how she saved him. The mime was there in this version, except she had not saved him from the battle at all. And the music at the end of the battle, where a pas de deux marks where they fall in love, did not feature a pas de deux at all… these are all quite fundamental plot developments and yet I had not idea what was going on.

Still, it was fun to see a completely new production. I’m just glad I saw some other productions in the UK first!