Saturday, May 22

Brave Smiling Children at Whittington Hospital, a visit for the charity

We decided to go visit the Whittington Hospital in North London where some of the firm’s equipment has been donated. Here are some photographs (and slideshow) of the visit which was very emotional indeed.
Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH
The hospital.

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH
Here’s Dick Whittington’s cat.

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Couple of the bank’s PC’s still in their packing cases. 

 Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH
Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Whittington Hospital,Charity,Children,IT4CH

Friday, May 21

Vending Machines for Gold, Caviar and other strange things

What is with the damn vending stories today? First story is that a gold vending machine has been installed at a hotel in Abu Dhabi.

The Gold To Go machine sells 24-carat gold bars weighing 1, 5, and 10 grams as well as gold coins from Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Each comes in a gift box. More pics here.

Then we have Russian civil servants having caviar vending machines at work.

just found it strange, lol. There are some very strange vending machines out there. How about this one? Woman vending machine?

How about porn vending?

And before you ask, yes, there is a shit vending machine as well.


Here is a link with some photographs of vending machines selling used panties, live lobsters, live bait, eggs, pizza, french fries, prawns, ipods…

Another link where you can purchase marijuana, hot dogs, ipods, pet supplies, crow food, etc.

I love humans :) but why dont I live in Japan?

Thursday, May 20

Local health sector deficits to be made up from local taxes

Now this is an interesting perspective. If a region in Italy goes into health care deficit, then it has to raise local taxes to pay for it. Sort of makes sense, no? You spends it, you pays for it so to say. But the situation in England is different, we pay for the NHS out of country wide tax take. For example, we now have regional development agencies in England, which roughly correspond to the regions of NHS. Why dont we force them to look at local funding versus local taxes? Localisation is good. It will force local people to think more about their health. For example, the health figures for Scotland are bad, do you think if we force Scotland to raise money to cover the local health spend, that would make a difference?

It wont happen as there are quite a lot of issues with this, but as a general principle, closer the taxes and spend are, the better the management.

Wednesday, May 19

View of the world from a 13 year old boy

These are some of the responses Karn wrote for his school homework, he asked me to print them off but I decided to knick them and post them. Quite interesting to see his thought processes. First was on Citizenship


What is citizenship about? Citizenship is about various things for example:

· Working as a community

· Our roles in society

· Charity

· Patriotism

Working as a community is how we contribute to the general community we live in.

Our roles in society is about how everything we do affects the people around us. For instance, littering ruins the environment; recycling makes the area cleaner; walking instead of driving makes the air less polluted.

We also find out how Charities are run and how they are funded, why they support the cause they do.

We also look at patriotism and what it means to be British, a member of the country.

Second was on Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King – born on the 15th of January 1929, - is one of the most famous men, peacefully fighting for racial equality, more specifically for black peoples rights. He also is famous for the brilliant, speech he gave – I had a dream. Throughout his life he stayed dedicated to his cause, for human rights, equality and justice.

He also lead and was involved in many campaigns and movements, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was so enraging to some people to the extend that his house was mercilessly bombed. He was also involved in the Albany movement and Birmingham Campaign all events leading up to the March to Washington where the absolutely astounded the crowd with his ‘I had a dream’ speech with still is recognized as one of the finest speeches of all time.

However heart stirring his efforts were, there were always the relentless people that were ignorant of it, on the 4th of April 1968 he was assassinated.


Martin Luther King was heavily influenced by Gandhi due to his huge success with his non-violent activism. Martin even made a journey to meet Gandhi’s family and there he learned about the ways of non-violent resistance and increasing his determination towards increasing black people’s civil rights.

Third was on what he thinks it means to be British. Funny, eh?


This is what the kinds in England are growing up to think of what’s to be British and one of the hero’s of mankind.

Tuesday, May 18

Boycotting is a stupid idea

I think that boycott’s are a stupid idea and they simply do not work. As soon as anybody talks to me about boycotts or I read about it, all kinds of flags go up signifying that the thinking behind the idea is rather patchy and its an emotional response. I move away quietly then.

Here’s a report on how Israel is coping with this. I quote:

On the face of it, the make-up of the Israeli economy should indeed render it acutely vulnerable to boycotts and divestment campaigns. More than most other countries, Israel relies on exports – which account for about 40 per cent of gross domestic product – to fuel economic growth and jobs. The country’s much-admired technology and software industry, meanwhile, is heavily dependent on venture capital funding from abroad, in particular the US.

Yet experts argue that looking at Israel’s reliance on foreign buyers, suppliers and financiers alone is not enough. “Yes, you can boycott Israeli oranges and dates. But what Israel is really good at is providing inputs into other products. That means if you want to boycott Israeli goods, you have to boycott computers and cellphones altogether,” says Dan Catarivas, the director of foreign trade at the Israeli Manufacturers’ Association.

That view is shared by Leonardo Leiderman, an economics professor and the chief economist at Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s biggest lender: “People are not really paying that much attention [to political criticism]. The number of delegations coming here from abroad, whether related to high-tech or the stock market or financial services, is quite amazing.”

And now OECD has invited Israel to join it. Go figure.

And just as I wrote this, I came across this link. Found it funny, lol, there is some paint dripping down her jumper, lol.

Also, read what Amitav Ghosh writes when some anti Israeli rage boys talked about him rejecting the Dan David Prize. He also thinks that boycotts are silly and he doesnt believe in them. And as typical, these people who ask for boycotts are mainly interested in sound arguments, just sound.

Monday, May 17

Squatters take over ex-minister's Colosseum flat

You really couldn't make this up. The bare faced cheek and corruption is gobsmacking. I quote:

Leftist youths campaigning to free up housing in Rome on Thursday moved into a flat overlooking the Colosseum vacated last week by a minister who quit when he was unable to explain who paid for it.
Industry Minister Claudio Scajola was forced to resign after claiming not to know who put up 900,000 euros of the 1.5 million euros paid for the flat.
He denied it was a Rome businessman, Diego Anemone, embroiled in a string of graft probes.
Several dozen members of a leftist militant squat called Pack Your Bags moved into the minister's former home.

This is unbelievable. Sort of puts the duck ponds and moat cleaning expenses scandal in the UK Parliament in the shade, no?

Sunday, May 16

Small firms in Wales looking for mentors

Ok, so right off the bat, I have to admit to having a sneaky admiration for the Welsh. Of all the home nations, they do not have as strong an identity as the Scots or such a history like the Northern Irish, nor are they as rich as the English. However, by Jove, they are just wonderful in their warmth, their togetherness, their desire to be one with the land, their love of the language and so on and so forth. This is highly visible when you see things like football and rugby games, but those are the very visible signs. It is at the informal levels that you can see evidence that a strong, yet understated, current of nation building is happening. Mix in the rumours that King Arthur was in Wales, dragons can still be found in some of the valleys, mention the bravery of the miners and the ancient history of tin mining in Wales, the ruined castles, and all go forward to make a plucky little admirable country.

With this background in mind, I agreed a few years ago to teach at Swansea University School of Economics and Business. Once or twice every year, I toddle over to Swansea, spending eight hours on the train, to meet with the students and faculty at the business school, talking about a variety of topics ranging from banking, financial institutions, stochastic calculus, regulatory regimes, career opportunities in Banking, etc. In addition, I am also part of the advisory board of the business school. Something that we in the board are heavily pushing is to try and fix two things within Wales. (1) The low productivity of the Welsh economy and (2) the diabolically low rate of job creation and ‘Small and Medium Scale Enterprise’ (SME) creation.

Consequently, the business school has been heavily engaged in pushing entrepreneurship and economics as a discipline, in conjunction with a variety of local Welsh authorities, sprinkled with a liberal dosage of EU funding. It is a steep climb. One way of checking the health of the local economy is to walk up and down the high street. Over the past three years, the Swansea high street has been-to put it politely- pockmarked with a whole series of boarded up shops, charity shops, pound shops, kebab shops and the like. The number of buildings with weeds growing out of their walls and roofs is astounding. I have never seen anything like this before. In other words, the demand is simply not there or even if it is there, the demand is being fulfilled from somewhere else rather than from Swansea high street. One does not need to say that an economy exhibiting a high street like this has challenges.

Today I was shocked to hear that in Swansea, 42% of the jobs belong to the public sector. Tesco is the largest employer with a majority of jobs relating to the bottom of the food chain and the next one is Admiral (the insurance firm), where the jobs relate mainly to call centres. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, but one cannot really have high productive growth, good value generation and good high paying white collar jobs simply based upon call centre, checkout and public sector jobs. It is like a bloody inverted pyramid with most of the jobs frankly being administrative /unproductive from the public sector or from very large firms. In the event that one large firm decides to up and leave, it shocks the locality horribly, which doesn’t recover at all, as we have seen over the past few decades losing one large manufacturing firm after another.

One needs the manufacturing jobs, the high value added service jobs and other similar jobs. Research has pointed out that a good heavy duty sprinkling of small and medium scale enterprises provides the bedrock of prosperity, jobs, good social relations, high productivity growth, demand and in turn offers the funding for good public services. In this case, we are upside down, as we are overloaded with a public sector which is being funded via debt or grants and in the coming decades, both avenues of funding will either become very expensive or rare.

So what do we do? What the business school is therefore doing in conjunction with various Welsh governmental bodies is try to encourage the formation and proper functioning of SMEs in Wales. At this moment, the programme is primarily oriented towards Swansea and Bangor environs, but will extend to all of Wales in the fullness of time.

The programme is based upon a pilot programme run in North West England where SME owner/managers were given up to £10,000 equivalent of training, coaching, education and mentoring. This resulted (as measured by an independent evaluation) in an equivalent return of minimum £15k value to each firm’s owner, average turnover increase of £200k, profit increases and 1/5th of the pilot study members went on to set up new ventures. Soft benefits included increased job creation, better leadership, improved staff development and a better motivated workforce. These are good results and now it is being rolled out to Wales with an aim to train 1000 SME owners in 2010 – 2012.

I have set up and run several small enterprises and one of the biggest problems a small enterprise owner has is that there is nobody to talk to, nobody to bounce ideas off, nobody to tell or teach about technical skills, no ability to grow from a single man team to a multi man team, no ability to stand back and evaluate oneself and the strategy of the firm. The programme hits these points. The owner / managers devote 2 days a month for 10 months in a variety of targeted intervention programmes relating to leadership, team management, economics, financial, strategy, business problem solving, etc.

Part of the programme includes a 1-2-1 coaching session with a professional coach over the 10 months. They also have a volunteer mentor from business, with whom they end up spending about an hour a month or so. The mentor (they are debating whether to call them as grey wolves or wise owls) provides an independent voice to the SME owner/manager and just provides that little bit of help and independent advice that they so desperately need. The first meeting is face to face, but the subsequent meetings are over email/phone or over a beer. The first sessions have just started in January 2010 and the programme is looking for suitably qualified bankers, consultants, relationship managers and business people who have experience of SME’s (either directly owning, working for or lending/advising them).

If there is anybody in and around Wales who can assist, or who has any links with Wales or who travels to Wales on business or perhaps just somebody who might be interested in making a direct difference in getting Wales up the prosperity curve, please drop me a note. I am very happy to link you up with the programme manager. Don’t be shy or sell yourself short, many times these SME owners just need somebody to talk to and have a bit of a common sense debate and discussion over business matters. They are not looking for heavy duty Lord Digby Jones, but Joe Blogs who is in business. This is obviously good for us, but more importantly, it’s good for our country and good for Wales.

Looking forward to hearing from you.