Wednesday, December 30, 2009


What a great book: "Denialism" by Michael Specter. The subtitle is "How irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet, and threatens our lives."

He focuses on the mistrust of science held by many around the world. For centuries, the general view has been that science was neither good nor bad as it just supplied information and understanding. Now science is viewed by many as a special interest group that doesn't always serve our best interest. He covers, as examples the Vioxx incident, vaccines, organic food fetish, and other topics.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Beautiful Presentation of the AGW Debate

Just published at "Information is Beautiful". This is absolutely the clearest, cleanest, and simplest explanation of the debate on anthropogenic global warming I have ever seen. It's also beautiful. Recommended.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tom Friedman Starting to Shift

I enjoy Tom Friedman's articles and books but I don't always agree with his assertions and conclusions. Today, writing in the aftermath of the recent Copenhagen conference, he's starting to re-think reasons why the world needs to move on.
Even if the world never warms another degree, population is projected to rise from 6.7 billion to 9 billion between now and 2050, and more and more of those people will want to live like Americans. In this world, demand for clean power and energy efficient cars and buildings will go through the roof.
We need more, not less, energy.

Scottish Oil Club in the Blogsphere

While I would hardly characterise the membership of the Scottish Oil Club (of which I am the Executive Secretary) as "oil men", we do appreciate the mention on Andrew Montford's Bishop Hill Web Site.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Breaking the Law of Averages"

I'm doing some reading to remind myself how probability and statistics works. The last time I did this in earnest was in graduate school where I took an awful course on "Probability" which was full of equations I frankly never got my head around. I barely got through the experience.

Therefore, it was with serendipity that via my readings on climate change number crunching I came across the book "Breaking the Laws of Averages" by Dr. William M. Briggs. The subtitle is "Real-Life Probability and Statistics in Plain English". Indeed it is. Recommended.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Madness of Crowds"

Martin Cohen provides a fascinating perspective (bold marks are mine):

Is belief in global-warming science another example of the "madness of crowds"? That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible "authority". Could it indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality? After all, how rational is it to pass laws banning one kind of light bulb (and insisting on their replacement by ones filled with poisonous mercury vapour) in order to "save electricity", while ploughing money into schemes to run cars on ... electricity? How rational is it to pay the Russians once for fossil fuels, and a second time for permission (via carbon credits) to burn them (see box page 36)? And how rational is it to suppose that the effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere take between 200 and 1,000 years to be felt, but that solutions can take effect almost instantaneously?

We live in interesting times with so many non-thinking people.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hard to Discern the Truth

Last evening's BBC News had a long report on the melting glaciers in Bolivia and how people there were going thirsty due to the greedy people, like us, who pump carbon into the air. Their message was clearly that "it is all our fault and unless we make Copenhagen succeed, Bolivians and the world is doomed".

We all know that it takes temperatures in excess of freezing to melt glaciers. So I went Googling for temperature data for the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia--finding in the blog posting "Chacaltaya Melting". Here temperature data shows that there is no warming--in fact, there is cooling.

The author, Lykee Anderson, concludes that the evidence (receding glaciers, decreasing temperatures) are fully consistent with Svensmark's cosmic ray theory--a theory rejected by the "consensus-orientated scientists" since there is no anthropogenic component to sunspot variation and its affect on our climate.

Typical of the BBC to ignore the evidence, except to spin it for their own purposes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Logic Escapes Me

The UK Guardian Newspaper reports today in headlines "Climate change: Gulf stream collapse could be like a disaster movie" reports on a study (? or was it just comments ... the Guardian's report does not say) by Bill Patterson of Saskatchewan University.
"The next Ice Age could take only weeks to engulf Britain. Scientists say the last great disruption to the Gulf Stream 12,800 years ago took only a couple of months to trigger a massive plunge in temperatures across Europe."
The "trigger" in this case was:
"Such an event occurred 12,800 years ago when a vast lake – created from melting glaciers at the end of last Ice Age – overflowed and poured into the north Atlantic, blocking the Gulf Stream. Europe froze – almost instantly, said Patterson."
Mr Paterson is reported to have said:
"It was very sudden," added Patterson, "and it could happen again."
I suppose it could happen again. But what is the trigger event that could make it happen? Is there somewhere in the vicinity of the Atlantic or Arctic Oceans a vast lake that could flow into the sea? What are the threats which could cause it to "happen again".

This is a classic demonstration of the idea written here before about how people do not understand (or chose to understand) Risk. Risk is not just a situation. Risk is a threat, which causes something to happen, with results in impact.

The impact here is clear: the severe change in climate to be very cold in Northern Europe which we intuitively conclude would be a "huge" impact and a very "bad thing" indeed, caused by the shutdown of the Gulf Stream. [The Gulf Stream brings heat to Northern Europe from the Caribbean]. The "threat" or the "cause" in this scenario was "vast" freshwater lake that spilled into the sea. This makes sense.

But to "happen again" there has to be some cause that makes it happen. What are the possibilities that we can now imagine that could realistically or even unrealistically cause the Gulf Stream to shutdown? None are mentioned in this article--but we are made to be afraid because it could "happen again"!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Says it all about the Climate

I really like Terry Hughes's short article about his "Saturday's with a laptop" working with climate date in and around Phoenix. Rings true to my understandings, some of which started in grad school in the 1970's when we were looking at Chicago's effect on weather in Indiana.

There is more science to discover.

He sums up nicely:

The more I’ve seen, the more convinced I’ve become that the global warming crowd latched onto the parallel rise in temperatures and CO2, and built what has essentially become a religion around it. For 22 years it appeared to have been a solid conclusion that they were indeed tied together. Then the inescapable truth of the matter made itself clear in 1998 that they are not necessarily linked in the fashion that was first thought. Entire professional careers have been built around, and on, the premise that man-caused CO2 raises temperatures, and it’s too late to turn back now for most of them.

It appears that Jones and the CRU folks didn’t simply massage the data. As other pundits have pointed out, they waterboarded it. There are several blatantly obvious conclusions to be drawn here. First, any group receiving public money for research must make their data available to all. Even to guys with laptops on Saturday afternoons. Second, it seems that peer review means next to nothing. In the whole AGW thing, collaborating researchers apparently became co-conspirators. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge has no place in honest scientific endeavors. Third, science in general has taken a huge hit, making the average guy wonder if large grants create large lies and vice-versa. Fourth, where the heck has our media been? Menus at the White House are more important than what is possibly the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American public? Apparently, only FOX got the memo. Fifth, school children need to be re-educated that CO2 is not the same as phosgene and sarin.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jerry Pournelle on "Climategate"

He thinks and writes so clearly.

Risk and Probability

For reasons beyond my understanding, in recent weeks I've been involved with a number of independent conversations with a number of people the the same theme--risk. That four letter word has apparently replaced other four letter words in common use. In almost all instances, I was jarred at the diverse understands of what "risk" actually means. This is a pity since there now is so much talk about risk--in the financial world, in the climate change debate, etc.

Despite the time I've spent reading, talking, and teaching risk and risk management (an oxymoron by the way!) I now realise I haven't written as much here on risk as I had thought. I looked back and found this, and my best article here. But there is so much more from the plethora of PowerPoints in my files and some new ideas in my head. I promise here to start getting this written down and published here over the upcoming time period.

I'm going to start not with an attempt to define "risk", but instead to define how I think it must be described. All risks should be articulated as the following sentence suggests.

Because of [the uncertain event], [an event or events] might happen, which could lead to [impact or result which could be positive or negative].

Risk is not simply an uncertain event. Risk is not a "bad thing". Uncertainty is not always bad. Risk is not an event. A risk is properly articulated with all three of these elements. One must insist when talking with others about risk that these three elements are used to articulate and explain the risk. Without this articulation, the risk is not understood and is not yet ready to be "fixed" (called "mitigation" by professions).

From an understanding of risk as articulated here, we can start to understand or at least brainstorm about those things which we can influence--or not, the kind of things that can happen, and the impact (positive or negative from our own perspective). Further, we start to understand which risks we are going to try to "manage".

There are just preliminary words about a concept that I now feel I understand more clearly. It's time to get it written down.

Monday, November 23, 2009

When Scientists Become Politicians

In fact, when scientists become politicians but continue to pretend to be doing science, that is the real crime.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Making Twitter Work For Me

I do not really "get" Twitter for my personal use. I guess see it as a world-wide texting system largely independent of mobile phones companies (who make large margins on text services). I do not doubt, though, that people do use it. Accordingly, I setup a Twitter account for The Scottish Oil Club called, funny enough, "scottishoilclub". The purpose is to give greater visibility to the club for members and non members. Perhaps also it could be a way to remind members of upcoming events and club news. All depends on getting "followers" of which as of now there is only one--me.

I gave some thought about how I was going to remember to contribute something to this Twitter feed. There is no point to having Twitter with no tweets! However, that is easier said then done.

Then I remembered that the automation I use for managing the Club is mostly done in Python (with a little Microsoft Access) which interacts with the database (MySQL) and the internet (web site, email, etc.). I wondered if I could use Python to interact with Twitter? "Yes" is the answer.

A Python wrapper around the Twitter API has been created, called Python Twitter. After installing this in Python, three lines of code are required to post a tweet:

import twitter
api.PostUpdate("Hello World!")

I've added this into my little program that manages club information. When I make changes to information (new directory, email to members, etc.) I now have in front of me the option to send a tweet on the same subject. Since this is almost automatic, it is likely to happen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Managing Priorities vs. Managing

David Allen, the "Getting Things Done" Guru, has an article in the UK edition of Wired, published on the internet. If you world is full of things--especially in a corporate world--this is a very insightful and worth reading the whole thing.

Interesting idea:
I think the economic crisis was created because too many smart people focused too much on their priorities.
A vast majority of professionals are in “emergency scanning” mode. Their self-management consists of checking for and acting on the loudest immediacies – in email, in the hallways and on the phone. Everything else is shoved to the side of the desk, and to the back of their mind. Because they’re focused only on “priorities”, and are paying attention only to the most intheir- face stuff, everyone else has to raise the noise level to “emergency” mode to get any audience at all. Sensitivity and responsiveness to input are criteria for the evolution of a species; and many an organisation has a nervous system that keeps them low on the food chain.
The addiction to this myopic view of what’s “most important” is not self-correcting – it is self-perpetuating.
Sometimes your highest priority may be to just get some unimportant things done.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Scientific Data Does not Support This BBC Headline

So this guy takes a hike in the Arctic and concludes a) ice in the Arctic is soon to disappear, and b) opening shipping in the Arctic will be bad for the world. This is getting a lot of attention on the BBC web site, BBC television, and BBC radio.

Yet the science, satellite measurements, etc. that I've read and studied do not support these conclusion. Further, the Arctic has never been closed for shipping and has been in use for years.

Great PR for a point of view, I guess.

Which is puts the world more at risk? New policy based on great PR and bad science, or new policy based on science?

Making Microsoft Project Work

When asked what I do, I say "help people and teams make great investment and project plans." This is a huge topic and is much more than just scheduling the project.

However, inevitably the conversations turns to how to use Microsoft Project and how "I tried it once but could not make it work", or "my guys tell me Project can't do [this or that]."

While this gap in knowledge will often provide an opportunity for me to help them, I freely give away some simple rules for making Microsoft Project work:
  • Schedule, plan, and estimate deliverables ... not Tasks. Keep "todo's" out of Project. Let people manage the todo's. Let Project compute the cost/schedule.
  • Keep the plan in Project as "high level" as possible. There is no "standard" work package size and believe no one who says otherwise. Use judgement and think.
  • Focus your brain power on you and your team's energy to define the logical sequence of the project. Get the critical path network as right as possible while at the same time keep it "simple enough". Sometimes yet more complexity is a great thing because probably that complexity is indeed in the project you are about to embark upon and there is no reason to avoid it in your project model. Better to let complexity hit you in the model than let it take you by surprise in real life.
  • Put no start/end dates on any task except for the start. Break this rule when in fact the date is a date that will not ever change, e.g. the date and time of a future solar eclipse ... things like that. Project deadlines are never fixed in Project even though the boss or client insists "it must be done!"
  • Fix project deadlines in Project in the Deadline field. Let Project alert you when Project forecasts your plan is computing forward as missing future deadlines. [Hint: use the built-in field "Status Indicator".]
  • A detail but worth a lot: properly manage the mpp files with respect to versions, backup, etc. Avoid relying on manual methods like email, file shares, etc. wherever possible. Create "one version of the truth", and if not true, make it so.
If this topic interests you, contact me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Discussion Deleted on Apple Mac Discussion Forum

Gosh, but I received an email today from "Apple Discussions Staff" telling me that my posting on the "Apple Discussions" has been removed. I tried to launch a "discussion" about battery life experienced by others. I posted this "discussion" on the "Apple Discussions" forum dedicated to "Power and Batteries on a MacBook 13-inch Aluminum (Late 2008)". Gosh, but I guess it too controversial as they sent me this. Three people replied before it was deleted (see bottom). Guess they don't like "discussion" on their "discussion" forum.

Dear Robert,

Recently you posted a poll on Apple Discussions. We are including a copy of your message at the end of this email for your reference. We understand the desire to share experiences in your topic "What is Your Battery Life?", but because these posts are not allowed on our forums, we have removed your post.

These forums are intended for technical questions that can be answered by the community. We want everyone to be able to contribute to our forums and have their issues addressed. We feel that we have a very strong community and that it is an excellent resource for users to get assistance. I encourage you to continue using the Apple Discussions while abiding by our terms of use. The Apple Discussions Use Agreement, which also includes helpful information about using Apple Discussions, is located at

If you would like to share your experiences with Apple directly, you can submit feedback here:
As part of submitting feedback, please read the Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy linked to the feedback page.

Apple Discussions staff

This message is sent from a send-only email account. Any replies sent to this address are deleted automatically by the system.

A copy of your message for reference:

Collecting info about what would be a reasonable expectation of how how much time to get on a battery charge using a MacBook. I get at most 2:25 as shown on the battery indicator (top right of screen), but in clock time about 2 hours max.What about you?

Three people provided me their experience before the posting was deleted:

1. Battery life really depends on how the computer is being used (screen brightness, disk burning, wi-fi, BT, etc.) and can vary considerably. Just sitting here surfing the web about 4 - 5 hours for me.

2. Basic web browsing (low brightness)- 4 hours. Streaming video/Music - 2.5 hours

3. I have similar battery life as the other 2 posters, with optimal energy saving settings, about 4.5 hours. If I'm playing a video game, I can expect about 1.5 hours give or take.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

UK Government Abusing Children?

This is a gross mis-use of taxpayer's money. £6 million to do scary bedtime stories--a father is telling his child how scientists found that global warming “was being caused by too much CO2, and it was the children of the land who’d have to live with the horrible consequences”. I wish we had a much certainty and solutions as this for our other problems in the world.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Google Wave?

If anyone reading this has a spare Google Wave invitation, I'd greatly appreciate having the honor of taking one from you. I'm keenly interested in collaboration technology and am considering some ideas. At this juncture just want to get a look at it, especially the API.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Water In Huge Quantities Required for Renewable Energy

Worth a read in today's NY Times ... nothing is for free despite what some folks think.
Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.

We have a lot of water, but we have a growing population who continually need more water, more energy, more food.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trouble Should Brew with Tree Ring Data at Heart of IPCC's Case

Steve McIntyre at "Climate Audit" (linked above) last week managed to gain access, via Freedom of Information request, to the raw data used by Briffa et. al. which used tree ring data samples collected from locations in the Arctic to look for evidence of climate change. Briffa's work has been central to the IPCC and their temperature reconstructions which suggest that recent climate change has been unprecedented. Many other investigators have used Briffa's data to support the concept of anthropogenetic climate change.

McIntyre's work since last week, reported on his web site, indicates that Briffa's work only chose tree ring data which supported their hypothesis of unprecedented climate change. They excluded tree ring data that did not tell the story they wanted told. The IPPC's case for anthropogenetic climaate change rests firmly on this hypothesis.

If this were science, the hypothesis would be declared "not proven".

I hope this will cause widespread debate in the world. Trouble should be brewing. I fear it isn't.

Hat-tip to my friend the professor on this!

Update 1 Oct: See the well-written article at

Go Green with China

It really does not matter if climate change is "our fault" or not. It really does not matter if the climate is or is not going to change. Because the climate has changed for as long as there has been a climate, we can safely say that the climate will change and it's not productive to blame ourselves or others.

Because people exist and want to continue to exist, people need energy. People cannot exist without energy. Energy makes the world go round. We need to create ways to get that energy that do not kill.

China is on getting with this.

As Tom Friedman points out in this article, China's leaders are mostly engineers. Yes, they are politicians, but they area also engineers. Compare that to the West's leaders in government, media, and education. Much of our world has strong forces discouraging science and technology--at just the point we all need more.

The new energy infrastructure requires innovation, invention, design, investment, manufacture, marketing, and sales. Let's get on with it too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The World is Starting to Get a Little More Understandable

Michel Totten writes in "Commentary Magazine":
It’s hard for most of us in the West to believe that some people prefer war to peace when they could have either, but they do.

Now beginning to understand; yet I don't.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Viewing a Project on a Mobile Phone

On a recent posting on the Microsoft Project Newsgroup (microsoft.public.project), Daniel Howden asked about the availability of a Project viewer program for WM6 (Windows Mobile 6). So far nobody on the newsgroup has reported such a best.

Jim Askel replied that it it would be possible to prepare a PDF to display on the mobile phone, or publishing to a SharePoint Site. I contributed that I've satisfied some executives who were using iPhone to view projects this way. I thought I would show here the some screen shots of my demo project published in SharePoint. I like this approach much better than a "project viewer" because it is not raw data. Even better would be a summary of project status to for reading on the SharePoint site.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unintended Consequences Yet Again

As reported in today's New York Times, "Egypt Discovers the Flaws in Killing all its Pigs" is a story about unintended consequences happening on managing risk.
"When the government killed all the pigs in Egypt this spring — in what public health experts said was a misguided attempt to combat swine flu — it was warned the city would be overwhelmed with trash.

The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba."
Concern about "swine flu", which despite the name apparently has nothing really to do with swines, is the result of flaw risk and controls management.

"What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation.

It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences and where follow-up is often nonexistent, according to social commentators and government officials."
This article should be required reading for all decision-making executives and managers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Found a Bug in Snow Leopard which Apple Acknowledges

I apparently am the first person in the world (!) to report this real bug to Apple regarding their newest version of OS/X (Snow Leopard): cannot drag and drop photo into Address Book.

I noticed it when trying to drag and drop from iPhoto, but it also doesn't work when doing it from the Desktop. Apple didn't promise to fix it, but I suspect they will.

Meantime, the work-around is to drag the photo out of iPhoto (if there) onto the Desktop. Then in Address Book, double click on the space for the photo and go through the buttons presented to "choose" the file from the desktop copy.

Update 11 Nov 2009: Apple's update to OS X Version 10.6.2 fixes this problem.

Strange BBC Headine

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC)--you know, the one based in the UK--has a headline on their web site "Obama tackles UK PM on Lockerbie".

Why not say:

"US President tackles UK PM on Lockerbie"?
"Obama tackles Brown on Lockerbie"?
"US President Obama tackles UK Prim Minister Brown" on Lockerbie?


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Snow Leopard Upgrade

Reports on the internet were clear: it's ok to upgrade to Snow Leopard. Further, it's a "great" upgrade that really makes a difference, they said.

Upgrade went as expected. The computer asked me a few questions and then took about 40 minutes or so of chugging away. I frankly could not tell if the performance was any better and everything pretty much looked the same to me. I did get back about 7 gb of disk space which I suppose is ok. Despite rumours to contrary, Office works just fine as far as I can tell.

The upgrade did kill my installation of MySQL database server and Django--both of which are required for some work I'm doing with further automation of the things I do to run the Scottish Oil Club. I guess this was caused when the upgrade over-wrote the symbolic links in /usr/local and included an upgrade to Python 2.6. Following easy instructions at the links below got MySQL and Django back in operation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MacBook Battery Life Less than I'm satisfied with

I am enjoying my new Apple MacBook--a change of technology a choice deliberately made following the crash of my Sony Vaio laptop hard disk crash. However, it is disappointing how short-lived the battery is.

As I write this the machine is just off being powered with a full charge, and it reports 2 hrs 36 minutes of power left. I could get 3-5 hours on the regular Sony battery, and up to about 6-7 using the over-sized one I bought.

I'm pleased this is the "old" MacBook that has replaceable batteries. I've bought 2 extra.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Galileo Recognized

Originating my my childhood reading (and I read a lot then), I have a number of heros. One was and is Galileo Galilei. It was refreshing to read about him again in The Economist. He used the power of his telescope and his mind to recognize that the "accepted" science--the science that was not under debate, had "been decided", and was no longer is an issue of "debate"--was wrong. He changed the world, and paid a price for his understanding of that world.

Something we should remember in the 21st century.

Healthcare Debate in USA

I have been following, from afar, the debate in USA about healthcare. This is of great interest to me for a number of reasons--the most significant being that I have experience with both the UK and USA "system". It is disappointing to read in the USA media about what some in USA say is so terrible about other countries including the UK.

I understand the need for politicians to create issues; alas, but what a waste of time to create issues based on false information and lies. And shame on the large number of people who appear to believe these lies.

Paul Krugman writes on this more eloquently than I in today's NY Times in a article entitled "Swiss Menace". Killer point:

But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work. So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

James Fallows also nails it today

This illustrates the biggest change in the rhetoric of health care reform over the past year. Last summer, during the campaign, Obama succeeded in focusing attention on the real problems of the patchwork insurance-and-care system as it actually exists: rising costs, bureaucratic inflexibility, perverse incentives, inevitable delays and de facto rationing, implicit decisions about life and death. Now, various opponents of a reform plan have succeeded in shifting attention to the imagined problems of a post-reform system: rising costs, bureaucratic inflexibility, perverse incentives, inevitable delays and de facto rationing, implicit decisions about life and death. It is an achievement to ponder.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SharePoint Explained Simply

A very creative video which explains what Microsoft SharePoint is all about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Project Planning

Been using Microsoft Project for years. It's a great tool. One reason it stays in my repertoire is that I am continually learning new things about it. That being said it's a stagnant product. While Microsoft has grown the market by building and selling Project Server, Project is pretty much the same as it was in the last century. But still with many things to learn about!

I learned recently there are a few competing tools out there that until now I didn't know anything about. Yes, Primavera is out there (too big, expensive, with much legacy) and now that Oracle has bought it who knows where it will go.

Two recent discoveries: OmniPlan by the folks who brought me OmniFocus and OmniGraffle--both of which I use daily. US$150. And a "free" open source project which produces OpenProj which appears to be using Microsoft Project as their design basis.

I also really like and use Risky Project as it changes everything. I consider it "Project Planning 3.0" and has a great future.

I'm going to be experimenting with OmniPlan and OpenProject over the next few weeks in prep for attending the Microsoft Project Conference in September. [I am still a little puzzled why Microsoft, a global player, is limiting the "free" licensed copy of Project Professional 2010 to only those participants at the Conference who are from USA or Canada!.}

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Physics for Future Presidents

I am reading a tremendous book. It was written by Richard A. Muller, a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. The book jacket does not mislead when it says "Physics for Future Presidents is a fascinating, lively, and nontechnical primer on precisely those topics that a future president and the electorate must master." And since I can't say it any better than the book jacket already does, "After treating the physics behind terrorist weapons, from airplanes to anthrax, Muller goes on to examine energy, nukes, space, and global warming. He turns many previously held assumptions on their ear, assumptions which, if uncorrected, could lead policy makers to serious mistakes."

I'm about half way through and I'm fascinated with his explanations of what radioactivity is, how it works, how it decays, how it disperses, how it affects human tissue, how human tissue responds, and how it is measured. He is explaining the physics of it. What's even more fascinating is how the physics is complete different that how I believe most people believe. And that leads to the large risk of mistaken political decisions.

Highly recommended.

Upgraded Apple Safari, Killed my Access to my bank

Apple released a small upgrade to Safari this week and from I read includes security improvements. My bank has decided they don't like that version and report "we do not support this browser". Sigh.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

NY Times Notices SharePoint

The New York Times has an interesting article about Microsoft SharePoint in today's edition. Probably the result of good PR by Microsoft, but the truth as I understand it.

I introduce SharePoint to teams as a way to get a "single version of the truth".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Burma with Nuclear Capability

Mentioned by Secretary of State Clinton a few weeks back as I recall. Now a newspaper report. The world remains bonkers.

(first noticed at James Fallows's blog).

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Why SharePoint Scares Me"

Good reflective article by Peter Campbell on why SharePoint scares him. Scares me to but my take is that by keeping it simple, avoiding MOSS, use by teams with leaders (not individuals), it can work. I'm proving that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Office for Mac vs Windows

When I bought the new MacBook, I vowed to myself that since I was going to install and run Windows XP via VWware Fusion, I would not need to move to Microsoft's version of Office for OS X (Office 2008) . However as time went on I grew curious about how Word and maybe Excel would be if run natively in the Mac. I downloaded and tried the demo version and was pleasantly surprised to feel that I liked writing in Word 2008 for the Mac than using Word 2007 on Windows. Word 2007 is just "too much" sometimes, but I do appreciate it's richness of functionality.

I discovered that the Office for Mac version was really not that expensive (about £100 here) so I splurged and bought a copy. I find that I'm using for many of my writing projects as I do like it. [It reminds me of Word 2.0c from the early 1990's which I think is still the best writing program ever--alas, that for another posting someday.]

Today I discovered why Office on the Mac is a "deal". The product lacks macros. I cannot do keystroke recording of macros. I cannot create macros. I cannot edit macros. I'm told it "respects" macros in files created by other versions of Office, e.g. Office 2003 and 2007 for Windows. But macro functionality has stripped out. Gosh. There are times that with a small macro I can do a lot to remove the drudgery of something.

What a surprise. No macros in Office 2008 for the Mac.

Time Logging Programs

I decided to take the plunge with my new MacBook to use one of the time logging programs. I needed to be able to show my customers what time was spent; more importantly I wanted to understand where my time was going. I did my research for the possibilities with the help of Google (as you do). I tried out a few.

Billings. Heard about this from Apple's web site. The good is that's is "pretty" and the reports look great. The bad is that the data is hostage. Can't get it out into a database or a spreadsheet.

TimeCache. From This appeared interesting. It had a lot of settings and it appeared that the data could be sent from a report to a CSV file that could then be imported. It seemed like it was written by and for accountants as it used a lot of nomenclature that I found non-interesting, e.g. Posting. While it had a lot of settings and it appeared to be the one I wanted. I went ahead and bought a license key. However, after a couple weeks of use I grew less enthralled with its odd user interface (caused maybe by its Mac roots), the complexity of getting data in and out, and all that. I looked around again.

OfficeTime. I can't remember how I found this. At first glance it looked great. Less complexity than TimeCache which could be good or bad. Sometimes with complexity the software can be around for the long term since it can handle most anything. I used it in parallel with TimeCache for a few days and soon discoved that OfficeTime was just better for me. It's now the "standard" around here. They even have a Windows version which could be useful for some business opportunities I see.

Since it had only been a few weeks since I bought a license for TimeCache, I wrote them and asked for refund, explaining why I wasn't going to use it anymore. I got back a snotty email from them about how they had a problem with that since I had full opportunity to test the software before buying it. True. But who would have thought to treat a customer that way. I told them to keep the fee and and I'm glad the relationship is severed.

Meantime, I'm using OfficeTime. I've been in contact with the developers to suggest how they could do some simple integration with SharePoint to make it a more valuable product. Hopefully that happens.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Advertisement

I found an opportunity to include a small advertisement in an up-coming supplement in a major UK daily newspaper "Report on Project Management". They plan to focus on why project management is vital to every business strategy as efficiency & effectiveness is key to succeeding in a recession. Here's what will be published. I was going for the "look" that I remember from Mobil Corporation's ad's on the editorial page of the New York Time from the 1980's.

Saturn V Launches

In honor of the Mercury, Gemni, and ultimately the Apollo missions and people behind them, watch this video of Saturn V rocket launches. The most powerful machine ever built my humanity.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Math on the Television

Last evening on UK's Channel 4 news there was an alarming report about planned increases in charges by water companies to customers. Gosh, but they propose "9% increase from £345/year now to £375 by 2014".

Isn't that slightly over 1% per year? Isn't that a reasonable plan? (Unless of course deflation occurs, but how can water companies or us know that?)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Example of the Media Not Serving Us

On a weekend with Iranian authorities arrest employees at the British Embassy in Teheran (, the media (television news, newspapers, etc.) are leading with stories of the tragic death of a sad and damaged man.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Windows 7 Install Scratched my Laptop Screen!

Not really. But it sure seemed to.

At the invitation of Microsoft I download the ISO image of the latest Release Candidate for Windows 7. It was about 2.3 gb and amazingly the download worked. I launched the install process inside of VMWare Fusion running on my brand new Macbook.

Once the black screen turned into Windows 7, there was what looked to be a scratch on my beautiful and brand new Macbook screen. Upper left quadrant there was this ugly white streak. I went searching for my screen cleaner cloth and try as might I could not remove it. It was hard to see in the daylight as I was running the laptop in the back garden on one of the first beatiful sunny days this year. But none the less, the "scratch" was there.

After Windows 7 finished loading, I noticed it was not a scratch, but some sort of light flare on the new Windows 7 desktop. Sigh.

In any event. Windows 7 seems to work just great in VMWare Fusion, alongside XP, Ubunt, and OS X (the host operating system).


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Five Disease Outbreaks that Are Worse Than Swine Flu

Joshua Keating writes in Foreign Policy Magazine about five outbreaks THAT EXIST NOW that are worse than Swine Flu which are not discussed in the media. More support for my view not to worry about risks that talked about in the papers and TV news.

: Cholera
: Spinal Meningitis
: Ebola
: Dengue Fever

Friday, May 01, 2009

Wow. The Reference Still Exists

I was meeting with someone this week who was heading out to the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. That conversation made me remember that many years ago I was a co-author of a paper presented at that conference.

Thanks to the internet, found it!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

NY Times Notices Zoho

The April 4 edition of the NY Times has an article by Randall Stross about Zoho, and in particular its word processor tool:
The best online word processor, however, may be the one from a tiny company, Zoho, a nimble innovator. Zoho Writer is running close enough to Word to imagine that it and other online word processors will be able to do most everything that Word can do, and more.

I've been experimenting with Zoho for a few months now. I'm impressed at it's capablities for team collaboration. Collaboration requires much more than a word processor, and Zoho has what's required.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two Articles on "The Other Side"

In my daily newspaper reads, I have ran across two articles each with the common theme of looking at the "other side" of the convential (politically correct?) view.

In the New York Times, Daniel Hamermesh writes I Fell for Their Data in Freakonomics about

I fell for a stupid article and turned off my home PC last night. The article says that Americans who leave computers on overnight are wasting $2.8 billion on energy costs per year.It ignores the cost of turning computers off — and having to turn them on again the next morning.

And in the Telegraph there is an article The rise of sea levels is 'the great lie ever told' by Christopher Booker who writes about Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, "the sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century it will "not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm". And quite apart from examining the hard evidence, he says, the elementary laws of physics (latent heat needed to melt ice) tell us that the apocalypse conjured up by Al Gore and Co could not possibly come about. The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on "going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world".

P.S. Why can't Mr. Booker punctuate and capitalise his title correct? When did the apostrophe replace the quotation mark? I frequently see apostrophes when quotation marks should be used.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

One Line Project Plans. Makes for Higher Performing Organisations

When I talk to people about using Microsoft Project as a great tool which can save managers an awful lot of time and bring valuable MI into the organisation at low cost, some (many/most?) share back with me how their experience with Microsoft Project was not satisfying. Often that experience is based on one or two examples--after which they abandoned the tool. The common themes that emerge:
  • "When we used it, the project plans ran to scores of pages with hundreds of tasks and we didn't have a clue about what was going on".
  • "Project gives funny answers. " they say.
  • Those who don't use Project because of these issues, then report proudly how they keep it "simple" by using Excel and, if they use Project it's only to do a Gant Chart that they paste into PowerPoint.
I respond by saying "Sound like self-inflicted complexity. That's not Project's fault. And "funny" answers is a clue about possible deficiences in the plan. Project, far as I know, has very few--if-any--calculation bugs. In any event, Excel is hardly simple as it's no better than a blank sheet of paper. Programming complex project management algorithms in Excel is always complicated and error-prone. "

"Keep it simple and enjoy complex benefits. Why don't you simply require your organisation to have for each "project" one-line plans in Microsoft Project?"

That floors them. "That can't possibly be enough detail", I hear.

I think that level of detail for most organisations is much better than projects with hundreds of trivial or individually-managed tasks, or projects "planned in PowerPoint". Maybe once 1-line project plans are achieved, you can move on to 5 or 6 line project plans. But no more.

Here is an example.

See the screen shot where we have a project called "Project 6" with one task: "Do Project 6". This project is slated to start on 27th May 2008 and use four resources:

• 2 Geologists
• Half of James Roberts' time
• A small amount of Susie Thomas's time
• A little less than half of Anne West's time

Project computes the total cost, based on the billing rates for the above people, to be £133k.

But this isn't the only project or activity being done by the organisation. There are many more, and nicely each has their own one-line model. The following shows how all these line projects are pulled together into a single view in a master project

They now don't have just a simple one-line project, but they have a much richer understanding of eight activities, all which have time demands on the organisation. Without going into all the details here, you now have all the capabilities of Project go look at deadlines, milestones, resource planning, etc.

So what other benefits do we get by doing this simple project setup in a complex product like Microsoft Project:
  • Project handles all the complicated time-based computations.
  • If one resource file is used, we can use the built-in capability of Project to show resource commitments, clash, over/under allocation.
  • Simple scheduling can start to occur, for example make sequence the 8 projects in some sort of order--not by priority by but by successor/predecessor links.
  • Let Project do the work of telling you when the projects will get done. If you don't like the answer, then change the plan.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This Brings Back Memories

I was a fluid mechanics lab instructure while in graduate school in the '70's. The favorite experiment we did was to demonstrate "Non-Newtonian" liquids by mixing cornstarch with water. The mixture has amazing and fun properties. Always a hit with the students. Sadly, we could never explain how it worked other than to say it was "Non-Newtonian".

Science Friday has video both demontrating and explaining it. I especially like the idea about tryingit out on speakers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Global Warming News Flash: Global Hurricane Activity Reaches 30 Year Low!

Ryan Maue of Florida State University shows how the recent peak of hurricanes in 2005 has receeded to a 30-year low. From their web site see where global hurricane activity has "sunk to levels not seen since the 1970's."

Food for thought when we think of the media message on climate change projections.

The Days of a Document are Numbered

SharePoint Joel writes on the future of documents, and concludes their days are numbered.
What is a document? Is it that restrictive format that has a bunch of text in it with all that formatting to make it presentable? Sometimes they get corrupted. Not so much as the late eighties, but really what is a document is it the file? Is it the format? Is it the information inside of the document that is what really defines it? The .Doc and .DOCX today is simply a description of the text and layout of the information in the file.
I especially like his observation--which closely matches my own thinking:
Putting information into a .doc is like throwing something in a closet. The closet might get opened again, now put it in a folder and it's like putting it in a filing cabinet in a closet. Nest those more and more and it's likely to never be read again. SharePoint to the rescue and search might make those stats more likely to be found. Meta data and all that jazz will again increase the likelihood of it being read again.
I've learned that we don't need most documents that are created and emailed in Corporate Land. We don't need them and we don't need to invest to make, publish, read, store, or retain them.

We probably need some of the information, and that information needs to be put into places which work better. Those places are being discovered.

If it's difficult to pronounce, it must be risky

Study published on by H. Song and N. Schwarz:
" additives were rated as more harmful when their names were difficult to pronounce than when their names were easy to pronounce."

They also studied the relation between the names of amusement park rides and the expectation of excitement.

Yet more proof of the irrationality of risk management by most people.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


A few weeks ago a friend of my son invited many of her school friends to a party via an internet site that promised to inform everyone. Indeed, emails were delivered to everyone. The emails contained attachments. Most everyone opened the attachments. Most everyone's computers got infected and commenced delivering mail to everyone in their contact lists in MSN.

Everyone, that is, but my son.

He knew my message of "don't open attachments in email unless you are very sure." That message was drilled into the family the earliest age. He ignored the first email about the party--probably didn't want to go anyway. He ignored the scores of emails from all his "friends" which were generated and propagated by the malware on their machines. He smiled when he told me all this.

He is, however, chagrined to report that the only way his friends and their parents could stop the deluge of outgoing emails was to shutdown the machine. Further, he hears that some of the machines will no longer work. That cuts into their collaborative game playing (Football Manager).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Further Great News About EasyJet - Not

My wife has submitted the following email to EasyJet Customer Services:

Never again, Easy Jet. My three hour flight from Alicante to Glasgow was torture thanks to a drunk sitting next to me. He was already hammered getting on the plane but the Stewards served him 3 double vodkas within minutes of take-off. As the abuse and taunts increased I finally hit my call-button. Only to be told they could not possible move him, but that I was free to find another seat. Difficult as the flight was close to full. Giving unlimited alcohol to these louts guarantees trouble, but profit comes first, I guess. Why is alcohol not limited? It is completely irresponsible and dangerous to fuel those already inebriated. Your comments would be welcomed.

Their reply:

We would like our Customers to have a speedy response to their enquiry, with this in mind we have looked at your email and have provided you with some suggestions for an instant answer to your question. We hope you will find these helpful.

If we have not found an immediate answer to your question, we aim to respond to your question within 12 hours.

Yours sincerely
easyJet Customer Experience Team

Monday, February 16, 2009

I was a Sucker

A few weeks back we bought four tickets on EasyJet's web site for a
week in Spain (for the sun which has not shown up yet!). I noticed
when we checked in that our trip was insured with travel insurance. "I
didn't want or buy travel insurance!" I said to no one in particular.

Additional travel insurance is a dumb purchase for most buyers and a
huge money maker for sellers. It is dumb for buyers since the risks
covered are low but cost is high. It is often in addition to already-
covered risks like death, medical, etc.

While on holiday I looked more closely at EasyJet's web site. Amongst
all the other extras they flog at the customer is travel insurance.
Nicely hidden with the default "buy" switch on. Nice one.

I was suckered.

Why can't EasyJet treat me as a customer instead of treating me like a
cow in a herd of cattle?


It Just Keeps Getting Better

Google Calendar now has a facility for synchronising a calendar in iPhone with Google's Calender. Useful.

Apocalyptic Predictions of Climate Change

The weather this winter (note that it is "winter") has been a bit cold, snowy, etc. British people tend to have a short memory about weather and forget that in winter it can get a bit cold, snowy, etc. When the snow does arrive, there is such uniform shock and surprise that the government didn't do anything it. Weather like this also generates yet more articles in the media about this weather is all proof of the apocalyptic future caused by climate change.

Experts at Britain's top climate research centre have launched a blistering attack on scientific colleagues and journalists who exaggerate the effects of global warming.

The Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world, says recent "apocalyptic predictions" about Arctic ice melt and soaring temperatures are as bad as claims that global warming does not exist. Such statements, however well-intentioned, distort the science and could undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions, it says.

In an article published on the Guardian website, Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, calls on scientists and journalists to stop misleading the public with "claim and counter-claim".

Finally some science gets attention in the media. While the above was in the Guardian for which I have a lot of respect, I do note it appears as if this news is not being reported by the BBC (or at least as far as I've noticed).

Climate change politics in the UK centres around the Kyoto Treaty, which itself is focused around wealth creation and redistribution.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sometimes "What We All Think" Could be (Maybe) Not True

Wal-Mart is a political issue. People and organisations line up on both sides of the "issue".

Charles Platt, a former senior writer from Wired, has published a fascinating story in the NY Post about his experience of actually working at Wall-Mart.

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

We have other big political issues in our world: The Economy. The Climate. The Environment. Families. War. What can we learn from Wall-Mar?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

This Rings True to Me. Technology.

Susan Cramm writes at the Harvard Business Review "Don't Use Technology to do Dumb Things". See

Technology can help us do almost anything - for better and worse. In considering the options, leaders need to ask the question: "I know we can do it, but should we?"

I particularly resonate with the following two principles she gives as they match my experince and I notice that few others actually do this:

1. Increase breadth of impact by pushing technology as far down in the organization as possible.
2. Increase the depth of impact by implementing features that simultaneously serve individual and business interests.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The War on Terrorism Continues ...

Now photographers are the risk. From the British Journal of Photography regarding new laws in the UK:

The relationship between photographers and police could worsen next month when new laws are introduced that allow for the arrest - and imprisonment - of anyone who takes pictures of officers 'likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism'.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NYTimes: Coffee Linked to Lower Dementia Risk

This explains my mental health and all other good things catalysed by my daily coffee intake.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cleaning Air Has Led to Climate Warming in Europe

A European study of the impact of cleaner, and thus "clearer" air, due to the concerted effort to reduce air pollution has led to additional "warming in Europe"

The researchers found this clearing of the air in the past 30 years may have amplified the warming of Europe.

They report their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The research was led by Robert Vautard at the Atomic Energy Commission, Gif sur Yvette, France.

Since the 1970s, European temperatures have risen by about half-a-degree Celsius per decade.

This warming rate is faster than the global mean change (roughly equal to 0.18C per decade) and the trend averaged over all the Earth's land (roughly equal to 0.27C per decade) during the same period.

The regional climate models used by scientists have failed to simulate the European experience, say Vautard and colleagues; and they point to legislation that has cleaned up Europe's air as the probable cause.

Begs the question if we really know enough about the atmosphere to base our actions primarily on the results of atmospheric modeling.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Linux Gets a Boost from The New York Times

The New York Times notices Linux and Ubuntu.

Elements of Spam

My email accounts attract a lot of spam. Fortuntely, running the incoming through SpamAssassin takes care of most of it. Accordingly, I don't get the "opportunity" to read much of it. I also have a strong interest in effective writing for which the small book "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. Andrew Sullivan provides this link to writing guidelines for authors of spam in the spirit of Strunk and White.