Saturday, March 19

The first 100 days

Couple of weeks back, I spoke at Essex Business School on the first 100 days. As a lowly project manager who has to pick up projects on a fairly regular basis, deliver them, and then go forward to do a new job, I think i can talk a bit about what one needs to do in the first 100 days. Its the first 100 days that makes or breaks a job. Anyway, pretty basic stuff about all this process but I was reminded about the lecture when I read about how Abraham Lincoln collapsed in his first 10 days itself when he couldn't manage the job. I quote:

That Abraham Lincoln brought to the presidency a modest record in public office — eight years as a state legislator, one term in the House, an unsuccessful Senate candidacy — is well known. What is less often acknowledged is that Lincoln became the nation’s chief executive with almost no executive experience — even his two-man law firm had been managed largely by his partner. And that lack of experience showed.

But here is where Lincoln’s management inexperience showed. He made it harder on himself by endeavoring to fill every post personally. Charles Francis Adams, despite being named Lincoln’s ambassador to Great Britain, underestimated Lincoln then and underappreciated him later. But Adams, whose grandfather John and father, John Quincy, had both served as presidents, was observant on this point, writing in his diary that the “difficulty with Mr. Lincoln is that he has no conception of his situation. And having no system in his composition he has undertaken to manage the whole thing as if he knew all about it.”

Russell of The Times of London pointed out that “at the very moment when the President and his Cabinet should be left undisturbed to deal with the tremendous questions which have arisen for their action, the roar of office seekers dins every sense, and almost annihilates them.” One senator, at about the same time, observed “Our poor President is having a hard time of it. He came here tall, strong and vigorous, but has worked himself about to death.”

A look at Lincoln’s calendar in his second week in office illustrates the point. While trying to stave off disunion and civil war, the president took time on Monday to name a federal judge in Kansas, on Tuesday to meet with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to discuss appointments, on Wednesday to interview and appoint a candidate for surveyor general of Kansas, on Thursday to name his minister to Sweden and on Friday to nominate an ambassador to Guatemala. Each such choice represented the culmination of a process: interviews with those selected and those passed over, congressional and other political consultations, messages to be reviewed and signed.

At the end of March, as his attempts to manage the secession crisis foundered, Lincoln collapsed with a migraine headache — “keeled over,” in the words of the First Lady. The next day he lost his temper with a political delegation, tearing their petition into pieces and throwing it into a fireplace, dressing them down and showing them to the door. Lincoln soon said of this period that its trials “were so great that could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.”

Much to learn about how to do the first 100 days, that lays the foundation for your next 2-3-4 years in that role. BTW, if anybody is interested in this topic, this is a good book to use. Good 10 step plan.

Friday, March 18

Raising Kids–the tiger mother method

I quote:

Chua has accepted, in a way that the good mothers will not, that most children today can’t have it both ways: they can’t have a fun, low-stress childhood and also an Ivy League education.

I agree with Amy Chua. Life is a matter of choices and every choice has a set of positive returns and a set of negative returns. The way I am raising our kids, well, hopefully we are ok with this but I push both of them. I am called as paranoid and many have said that I should let them play a bit more. Yep, tick, they do play and have fun, but at the same time, I keep on showing them that there is much more that they can do. How else are you going to get them to excel? To know their boundaries? For heaven’s sake, I haven't found my boundaries yet and that’s not for the lack of trying either. Also, if you don't push yourself, how do you find out what you don't want to do? Sometimes that is more important than knowing what to do.

Take his internship ideas which I talked about before. Had an idea to give him some international internship experience. He can go to India or USA to work with some of the family / friends and get some experience during his summer holidays. What is extraordinary is how many people say no or have objections to this idea. Very few actually agree to the idea that he can spend 2 weeks out of 6 weeks of his summer holiday improving himself. Including him. But tough, he will be doing this. Why? because he will be the 1 person out of 10000 who can show international working experience on his cv when the time comes for him to apply to Harvard, Oxford or what have you. And lets see, 2 weeks of summer holiday versus a top class education. No contest at all.

Lets put this in another way, I would much rather they regretted how hard they worked as a kid when they are old rather than regretted that they did not work harder when they were a kid. If that means that I have to hear that I am paranoid, pushy and and and, so be it. In the meantime, go read the article which I linked above.

It could be cultural as well, and the socio economic statistics in the USA and UK point out the importance of education. I take the following graph from National Statistics UK.


Who are the top 3 in the lowest exclusion rates?

Ok, so how about people in managerial or professional occupations?


Who are the above average ethnic minorities? So tough titty, kids, be prepared to be pushed.

Thursday, March 17

Baking brownies for Red Nose Day

So tomorrow is Red Nose day. When people do silly things for raising money for charity. Diya is going to be dressing up in funky clothes, while her Baba is baking brownies at bloody 2136hours on a Thursday night for sale to other people at 50p a piece.

I didn't even know about this, had forgotten completely, and then the office girls attacked me. I was told, note, I was TOLD, that I will be providing something baked for a cake sale tomorrow. Dammit, if this was indeed going to be the case, then I might as well as remained in the damn navy where you are ordered, “you are volunteering”. Ok, enough whining. So 2 large baking tins full of brownies are currently baking. But I am not going to have even one. I tell you, its a promise. Seriously. Ma ki Kasam. Tetua daba kar. Swear it on the life of my TV remote. And iPhone.

sighs, who am I kidding?

anyway, its for a good cause, right?

For Every Green Job, Four Other are Lost (UK)

This report is quite interesting. I know quite a lot of politicians are very interested in riding the green stuff gravy train, but what’s the cost? As it so happens, and I quote:

A new study called “Worth The Candle?” by the consulting firm Verso Economics confirms the experience of Spain and other countries: The creation of “green” jobs destroys other jobs through the diversion of resources and the denial of abundant sources of fossil fuel energy. The Verso study finds that after the annual diversion of some 330 million British pounds from the rest of the U.K. economy, the result has been the destruction of 3.7 jobs for every “green” job created. The study concludes that the “policy to promote renewable energy in the U.K. has an opportunity cost of 10,000 direct jobs in 2009-10 and 1,200 jobs in Scotland.” “The Scottish renewable sector is very reliant on subsidies from the rest of the U.K.,” co-author Tom Miers adds. “Without the U.K.-wide framework, it would be very difficult to sustain the main policy tolls to promote this industry.”

Now this is a big question mark and has political implications as well. What is the cost? And my thoughts about subsidies are clear, we need to avoid subsidies as much as possible because subsidies are regressive by their very nature. Since they come out of general taxation, they end up penalising the poor much more. Anyway, besides this issue, what about the time when the Scots will have more economic independence? Then will the Scots subsidise this level of job creation which actually destroys more jobs than it creates? Much to think about.

Wednesday, March 16

My religion is Jedi

A big thick white envelope with purple lettering dropped into the mailbox today. Its the 2011 UK Census form. Man, these people ask some ugly ass questions, but one question I am happy to answer. I am a Jedi. So there.

Then again, read this plea for people not to mark them as Jedi. I was seriously confused. Sorry, mate, I am a Jedi. I quote:

At the last Census, over 390,000 otherwise sane people listed their religion as ‘Jedi’, which completely screwed up the national religious statistics. There were [allegedly more] Jedi’s in the UK than identifying Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists combined.

By choosing to be officially registered as a Jedi, the true number of non-religious Britain’s was fudged, and this allowed the continued justification of religious influence on policy making. We can’t afford this same mistake again.
The reason we in Britain still do not have full equality for same-sex couples falls at the feet of the 26 Protestant bishops in the House of Lords. They came out in force last year to vote against the Equality Bill, which made the discrimination of gay people to public services a criminal offense.

This is only due to get worse, (as Johann Hari reported in the Independent last week) – rather than remove the bishops from the House of Lords, Nick Clegg intends to renege on his election promise for a 100% elected House of Lords and instead welcome unelected figures from Jewish and Muslim faiths into the upper house to join the bishops.

The 2001 census data has been used to justify amongst other things, an increase in the number of state maintained faith schools and the increasing level of government money spent on faith organisations.

By ticking anything other than ‘no religion’ if you do not practice a religion is grossly over-inflating the true refection of religious belief in the UK. This number of non-religious is further split, as a percentage of the British public may wish to register their religion as ‘humanist’, but there is no box for this choice.

By option to select ‘other’, and writing in ‘humanist’ in the box, you are splitting the non-religious numbers still further.

So, in summary, if you are thinking of saying you’re a Jedi, please consider ticking “No Religion” instead. Obviously please feel free to ignore this plea if you are genuinely a Jedi.

So only insane people mark themselves as a Jedi according to the top line while the last line says that being a Jedi is fine. If this is the level of logical argument, then god (or should I say the force or Yoda?), I am happy I am a Jedi Smile with tongue out

Tuesday, March 15

British Corruption punished in USA Courts

Now this is shameful for the United Kingdom. Its a British man, who was corrupt to hell and beyond. And he had to be extradited to the USA to face corruption charges? Why couldnt he be prosecuted in the UK? When was the last time you heard of anybody big convicted of corruption here in the UK? Of course not, we are all very nice and comfy here, all whiter than white. I quote:

Jeffrey Tesler pleaded guilty to two counts related to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a court in Houston, Texas

A London lawyer pleaded guilty on Friday to taking part in a huge international bribery conspiracy that lasted a decade.

Jeffrey Tesler, 62, who operated from shabby offices in Tottenham, north London, admitted helping to steer bribes worth more than $130m (£80m) to Nigerian officials and politicians to land big energy contracts.

He pleaded guilty to two counts related to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he appeared in a courtroom in Houston, Texas, on Friday.

Tesler will be released on a $50,000 cash bond and required to live in the Houston area until he is sentenced on 22 June. He faces up to five years in prison on each count.

Tesler had been sent to the US from his north London home after losing a long legal battle against his extradition. The high court rejected his argument that the alleged crimes did not have a substantial link to the US.

He is the second Briton to be extradited from the UK to the US and plead guilty over the same corruption scandal.

It marks another success for American prosecutors, who have been delving into the corruption allegations for many years. The US prosecutors have compelled three companies implicated in the scandal to pay fines and penalties totalling more than $1bn to settle the cases against them. The US prosecutors make vigorous efforts to crack down on the payment of bribes by executives to win contracts.

In this case, the corrupt payments were made between 1994 and 2004 to secure contracts worth $6bn to build a gas plant on Bonny Island off the coast of Nigeria.

Tesler acted as the middleman for a consortium of four construction firms and funnelled the payments via bank accounts in Monaco and Switzerland.

At one point, Tesler arranged for $1m in $100 notes to be stacked into a pilot's briefcase and delivered to a politician's hotel room to fund a Nigerian political party.

The second Briton, Wojciech Chodan, a 72-year-old retired sales executive for one of the firms, MW Kellogg, pleaded guilty in December after losing his extradition battle and is due to be sentenced on 27 April. Chodan, who lived in the Somerset village of Nunney, faces five years in prison and has agreed to forfeit $720,000 to the US authorities.

The Americans can prosecute corrupt people, but we, supposedly the birthplace of modern law making, are crap at doing this. Our entire political system stands condemned of being a completely useless bunch of wankers. Disgusting.

Monday, March 14

Criminalise lack of Kindness and Helpfulness

This news story bewildered me. I quote:

The report on a so-called civil courage (duty to rescue) law contains the recommendation that those who passively stand by in a situation of acute danger could land themselves in prison for up to two years or incur fines.
Olle Abrahamsson, who led the inquiry at the justice ministry and will hand over the report to the minister
Beatrice Ask on Friday, however advised against following the report's recommendations to introduce the law.
"It would be even harder then to get people to stand witness," he said to the Dagens Nyheter daily.
A "Good
Samaritan" law exists in several other countries, including Sweden's Nordic neighbours. The report is the result of an inquiry into whether Sweden should follow suit and adopt a similar legal praxis.
Abrahamsson argued that the law had little effect in many of the countries, arguing that those disinclined to assist would not change their behaviour just because they could be held to account in the courts.
He furthermore more pointed out that US studies indicate that more die while helping out those in need, than are actually saved.
France's good Samaritan law is perhaps one of the most well-known in a European context.
While the law requires bystanders to assist those falling victim to crime or accident, the law generally excludes assistance that would endanger the person who is offering it.
Good Samaritan laws take their name from a parable told by Jesus commonly referred to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan contained in Luke 10:25-37. The parable tells the tale of aid given by one traveller to another traveler of a different religious and ethnic background who had been robbed and beaten by bandits.

So now I am going to be prosecuted for minding my own business? oh! goody, this just follows this news story. I quote:

MORE than a dozen emergency workers refused to pull a man from a waist-deep boating lake because of ‘health and safety’ fears.

For half-an-hour charity shop worker Simon Burgess, 41, was left face down in the shallow water as they waited for a specialist rescue crew.

Mr Burgess, who had gone to the lake to feed the swans, was pronounced dead at the scene but friends claim that if rescuers had waded straight into the water he could have been saved.

The crews of two fire engines, two police cars, two ambulances and an air ambulance were told not to enter the lake, which is no more than three feet (one metre) at its deepest point, in case they ‘compromised their safety’.

Europe is becoming moronic and stupid, the state is seriously become stupid. What the hell is this? where is the reliance on individual rights, liberalism and self responsibility? Somebody has to legislate to tell you to be nice and kind and helpful? This is shameful indeed.

Sunday, March 13

Interesting Interview questions by a trader

From here.

1) To assess energy, drive, initiative

1.Why are you here?

2. How did you prepare for this interview?

3. What was on the front page of the FT today?

2) To assess personal growth and performance over time

4. Tell me about your job?

5. What could make you fail here?

3) To assess past accomplishments

6. What was the biggest success you had over the last 12 months?

7. What is the most pressure you have ever been under?

4) To assess problem solving skills

8 Is your intelligence above average? What percentage of people have above average intelligence?

9. Does the quality of your decision making improve under pressure?

10. How many buses are there in London?

11. What is 32*32? How confident are you about that answer?

12. How many degrees between the hands on the clock at 3.15?

5) To assess overall talent, technical competency and potential

13. What makes you a good trader?

14. What is the most money you have ever lost?

6) To assess management and organizational ability

15. If I gave you £100,000 what would you do with it?

16. What is the most difficult decision you ever had to make?

7) To assess team leadership and the ability to motivate others

17. Do you react better to compliments or criticism?

18. How do you deal with authority when you perceive them to be wrong?

8) To assess character - values, commitment, goals

19. What would you wear to the office?

20. How are you with money? Are you a big spender? Are you in debt?

21. Would you screw someone over to get ahead?

9) To assess personality and cultural fit

22. How do you measure success in your life?

23. Why should we hire you and not someone else?

24. If things go wrong do you tend to blame other people or take responsibility yourself?

25. How do you think the interview went? If you were me would you hire you?