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Showing posts from 2012

National Debt not helped by Ignorant Voters

Have just been listening to the BBC trying to squeeze the last ounce of opinion out of a bored and disinterested public about the chancellor's Autumn Statement - or budget as we used to call it. One mother in Huddersfield said something which goes right to the heart of the difficulty we're in and the problem we face in the next general election. She said "There's nothing in it for me. It's their debt they're trying to reduce, not mine." And there's the problem. In fact two problems. Firstly she expects all budgets to have 'something in it for her'. Benefits good, tax bad. The second issue is that the average voter does not understand that it's her government. Her state. Her debt. I was half expecting something like 'it's the bankers fault, let them pay it off'. Pointless trying to explain public finance to her. All she knows is how much money she personally has and how far it will stretch. Fair enough. Most people can't t

She shot a man from half a mile away

I have just received this 'viral' email: The Real Miss America There's a Proud Papa out there somewhere. This 19 year old ex-cheerleader now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper, was watching a road in Pakistan that led to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target (she shot him). It turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban, and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a U.S. patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers. The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot went through his rectum and into the bomb which detonated and he was blown to pieces. The Air Force made a motivational poster of her. (Folks, that's a shot 25 yards longer than seven football fields) and the last thing that came out of his mouth ..... was his ass! If You Can Not Stand Behind Our Tr

12 Things That Piss Me Off

Kicking the back of my seat in aircraft, at concerts and especially at rugby matches. The bastard behind me knows I'm getting really angry, doesn't he. Do they have to bribe their kids to keep it up for so long? Mate - what's wrong with "Darling, please don't kick the seat in front of you. The man in front is about to rip your little head off'"? Slow drivers. I've just sat through 4 hours of a Hampshire police sponsored Driver Awareness course explaining why it's bad to speed (it was my wife's fault I was there... Minutes after I unwisely and inexcusably told her to 'shut up' over a small tiff, I went through a speed camera I hadn't spotted. 'Didn't you see it?' she asked. 'No. Why didn't you warn me?'. 'You told me to shut up...'. Doh.). Back to slow drivers. They're dangerous because I might die of neural atrophy if I can't get past them. The irony is that while I'm risking another s

Car Insurance Stops Kids Finding Work

If young people can't find work locally, they need to look further afield - as previous generations have always done. But they can't afford to drive and they can't afford to leave their parents' homes. Something has to change. I've just returned from a Driver Awareness course. Hampshire police offered it to me as an alternative to 3 points and a £60 fine (despite the course costing £85). In true Grombler fashion I have to report it was plainly my wife's fault I got caught. We'd had a small row whilst I was driving with her in the passenger seat. I might have told her to 'shut up' or something like that. After the speed camera had gone off she piped up "I thought you'd seen it. I did". "Well why didn't you bloody well warn me?"... "You told me to shut up".... Wife 2, Grombler -£85. Unbelievably for the first time in 40 years of driving I am the proud possessor of a totally clean license (although it's only

No Need for New Heathrow Runway or Thames Estuary Airport

I've blogged before about this, but now Sir Howard Davis (appointed to oversee government analysis and recommendation)  is about to read my blog, I thought I'd better bring it up to date. So in case you missed it, here's the earlier post . My plan is simple. It can be actioned immediately (not in 20 years after countless enquiries and consultations). It needn't cost anything. And at a stroke it instantly starts boosting our sorely needed export drive. Why is this so urgent? Because the people we want to export to can't get here by direct flights (but they can get to most of our competitors in Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and New York). And we can't quickly and cheaply get to them. Do you remember the brilliant British Airways ad where a British businessman is talking by phone to a prospect in New York who is flicking through a document and making positive noises. The call ends and the Brit excitedly announces to the team clustered around him "he liked

I Hate Bastadroids.

Should have listened to the wife. "Buy an iPad" she says. "No", says I, "Androids are more popular so why spend £600 on an iJobs that's incompatible with the rest of the world when I can spend £150 on a tablet that's faster and does everything any iJobs can do - and it's part of Google not Jobble". Big mistake! (But don't tell her) We'd already experimented with a Samsung Galaxy Android phone and gave up trying to sync it with Outlook (let alone get it to dial a phone number). Everything seemed deliberately hidden behind fiddly little pictures and horrible little icons that suggested nothing. Swiping and clicking and dragging and tossing in the air and shaking it and using a combination of feet, hands and shouting at it to see if there was some hidden control to make it do things I thought it might, drove us mad. We sent it back to Vodafone and paid over the top, again, for another iJobs. But I wasn't going to be sucked into a

Google discovers infected by Malware... Huh?

I clicked on my iGoogle bookmark. Instead of the usual array of bits and pieces, I got this: Seems openness can backfire sometimes.

Proactive Selling

I've long espoused the need for sales and marketing professionals to stop focussing exclusively on how to promote themselves to what they call their target markets (like all their competitors), but to develop cunning ways to approach prospects who for one reason or another might be more receptive to purchasing something because of the situation they are in. I talk about finding their optimum POP - Potential Of Purchase. It might be because of a timing opportunity, a safety issue, an event, a location, something to do with the weather, their health or a combination of these and many more factors. The trick is to look for those opportunities where their propensity to buy something has been increased in some way - and then find a way to impress them. Perhaps even surprise them. For example: You're sitting at a table in a pub with an empty glass in front of you. Instead of having to take the glass to the bar to ask for a refill, wouldn't you be more likely to buy another if a

The Questions I wanted to Ask Dawkins

Yesterday I attended the annual conference of the National Secular Society in London. Richard Dawkins was the keynote speaker. Clearly, if you'll forgive my rather inappropriate choice of words, he was preaching to the converted (or unconverted if you get my drift). So his language was rather more vitriolic and 'to the point' than you might have previously witnessed on TV or in a public forum. He was amongst friends - although I didn't particularly like the way people queued to worship at the alter of Dawkins. A touch of ring-kissing seemed ever so slightly ironic. Anyhow, after every speaker the moderator, an executive from the NSS board, asked for questions. Previously he had attempted to elicit questions from different parts of the auditorium. "We've not had questions from people at the back right".. etc. Odd, I thought, to feel the need to exclude questioners because they had accidentally sat somewhere near another questioner. However, after Dawkins

No God, No Insult

Why would you want to follow an omnipotent superbeing who gets annoyed about a badly made Youtube video? (If he lived in a Surrey village, he couldn't watch it anyway). In fact he's so upset he commands his followers to kill the ambassador of the very country who launched rockets to kill soldiers who were trying to stop his followers from taking over a country that was merrily going about its business until some jerks in Washington and London decided that a word called democracy would bring order to a country of tribes wanting to kill each other over which book their prophet would have liked best if a) he could read, and b) he had lived at least another 50 years to have read them. Hasn't their god got a galaxy or two to collide together (wiping out aliens who no doubt deserved to be wiped out - more shitty videos probably), or another Higgs Boson or two to squeeze into an atom somewhere, without getting his divine knickers in a twist about this video - that nobody's act

The Broadband Joke

I subscribe to the fastest broadband my home is capable of receiving. I've got 35GB of pictures that I want to protect offsite, so I've subscribed to the excellent Dropbox service which I already use for smaller documents. My pictures are now 'syncing' with Dropbox. It will, according to my computer, take another 14 days for all of them to be safely delivered into my Dropbox account . But that's if I leave it chugging away 24/7, which I won't. I turn the back-up sync on at night when no-one is using the internet, so it's only working for a maximum of 8 hours a day (assuming I remember to turn it on). So that's 52 days it's going to take to load my pictures., and it's costing me $99 a year for my 100GB of extra Dropbox space (you get 2GB free). Alternatively I could have burned some DVDs and put them in the garden shed. Under the circumstances this would have been far faster and less expensive.Walking to my shed takes about 30 seconds. That'

British rioters vs Syrian freedom fighters

I've just watched the second part of a BBC documentary about last year's so called Summer Riots in British cities where tens of thousands of youths attacked police, destroyed cars and buildings, and stole anything they could lay their hands on. This part of the documentary looked at the riots from the police point of view. It was very scary. The police had to stand there and simply take it. Wave after wave of hooded kids threw bricks, bottles, scaffolding poles - anything they could find that might cause injury - and the police could do nothing. Absolutely nothing, except, outnumbered, try and charge at the crowds in an attempt at dispersing them - but usually failing, and time after time having to fall back so they weren't exposed and picked off individually. I felt my fists clench tighter and tighter as I watched the breakdown of law and order escalate. I wanted those young coppers to use more force. Eventually I started to feel that I wanted them to use maximum force t

Don't Give Start-ups More Money, Help them by Giving Less

My title sounds wrong, doesn't it? Journalists and economists - you know the types: instant experts on everything, but where the priority is not to inform, but to be considered smart - are telling us "What Britain needs is for the banks to free up credit to help more people start businesses". Politicians are telling us the same. "Let's lend or even give loads of money to get the economy jump-started." "The more money you make available, the more jobs you'll create" is Labour's mantra. In my opinion that's the opposite of what actually works for most start-ups. I understand that some businesses simply can't get going without a modest amount of funds, and a tiny few can't get going without an awful lot of funds (tricky to get a nuclear power station cranked up in the garage). But my advice is to starve start-ups for as long as possible. In fact if they can't get going and survive on virtually nothing, then you're simply

NegaTED Update

I'm delighted (if a grombler can be permitted to show delight) that there's a fitting addendum to my previous post about the antidote to TED enthusasteria . You will recall NEGA TED  was conceived following a chance encounter with a delegate from Sydney at the final lunch. It seems she had put her name down for a TED cycle ride to end the conference - very TED. Skinny exercise fanatics demonstrating zero-carbon transport combined with off-the-beaten-path tourism and a shared sweating experience. Far too positive for my mind.... and, as it turns out, hers too. Here's what she has just emailed me: Hi, Well actually I managed to squeeze in an extra TED story. One of my shoes spectacularly fell apart on the bike ride, and had to be tied up with a bike strap. The bike ride was actually a bit less organised than I expected and though we were taken there by bus they did not pick us up and, no one knew how to get back. It turned out we had to walk back (strangely challenging for

Why Radical Islam is Attractive and how to Defeat it.

I was struck by the story of Maajid Nawaz , a British citizen growing up in Westcliff-on-Sea who is by any definition an Islamic fundamentalist. He spent four years being tortured in an Egyptian prison (ironically now run by the Muslim Brotherhood) and emerged to found a movement known as Quilliam opposed to radicalising Muslims (and anyone else for that matter). He wants Islam to return to being a religion rather than a political movement. To explain how radical Islam originally charmed him into its embrace, he tells the story of growing up on streets filled with white skinheads armed with baseball bats and razors, intent on driving brown skins out of their territory. These thugs were nihilists with no moral values and imperceptible intellects. Lethal bullies, blind-eyed by the local authorities defending free speech, a fear of violence spreading, and a concern for votes (the BNP and NF were and are strong in places like Westcliff). Nawaz relates an incident where he and his brother

NegaTED - the Antidote to TED Conferences

I've just returned from TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh. I'm addicted. It was my third TED experience including a brilliant TEDx at the London Houses of Parliament I attended the previous week. TEDx is a sort of mini-TED organised by enthusiasts, but with fewer Americans. So at the end of 5 days full-on brain porn (I sat through around 100 presentations or acts of varying degrees of wow ), there I was, balancing precariously on a beanbag while trying to keep equally precariously balanced 'healthy' food on my fork, when my similarly struggling neighbour from Sydney (younger but no less inept) introduced herself - as you always do at TEDs, in talks, bars, on escalators, even in toilets (yes, really). We sized each other up reasonably quickly - again, as you do - to discover that she too was a Grombler (although self-evidently not a Grumpy Old Man - but you get what I mean). It was her first TED and she asked me if people were always so effusive about everything that happened

Private Enterprise

Laugh and cry! I have no idea whether this is true or not, but you can see how it might happen. I suppose you could argue that someone had to manage the parking and he ended up being a paid volunteer, but at the end of the day, it's theft of course, from both the visitors and from the zoo who should have had the money - but then the visitors would still have paid someone, so maybe it's not theft from them. More complicated than it seems perhaps.

Charge Tourists for Museums and Galleries

Most art galleries and museums in the UK are paid for by the state and/or private fundraising. Why don't we keep them free for British citizens but charge foreign visitors to use them. Not only might this cut down overcrowding, but it would raise essential funding where government grants are being slashed to the bone (and beyond). All you have to do is bring your passport. Another problem sorted.

The Sin and Virtue of Pride - and how we must use it to get out of this mess

Politicians would universally fail as businessmen. They'd be more worried that I haven't included business women in my opening sentence than worry about what business means. Politicians' customers are their electorate. What they sell is popularity. Their currency is votes and their mission is to promise Nirvana within a world of mirrors. What they can't do is build and sustain a growing economy (a business) because they are measured on short-term deliverables by people who all want as much as they can get, for the least personal cost and risk, but who nonetheless believe they have a right to wealth and welfare. Promise the people 'change and prosperity' (assuming your hairstyle is appealing), and you'll get into power - until you inevitably fail to deliver it and then the next bloke has a go. That is why successful businesses aren't democracies and turkeys don't vote for Christmas - although if they realised their species' survival depended on i

Nalbandian Banned - I was there.

Petulant, puerile, spoilt brat. I was there. I watched David Nalbandian, the otherwise brilliant Argentinean tennis star (Wimbledon finalist a few years ago), despite being a set up against Marin Cilic in the final of the Aegon Championship (the grass warm-up for Wimbles), lose his temper and injure a line judge. The previous point (an unforced error) he bounced his racquet twice on the ground (right in front of me). In days gone by, the umpire would have fined him a point for racquet abuse. This might have either immediately controlled his anger, or driven it deeper. But he would NOT have reacted in the way he did after he lost the following point - which was actually a really well played cross-court from Cilic. There was no alternative except to disqualify him. The crowd hated it because they wanted to see good tennis. But to have gone on to win the championship having injured a line official would have been totally wrong, so they were unfortunately right to call a ha

The Mobile Con

I'm typing this on a train between Guildford (the wealthiest city in the UK) and London, 35 miles away. Mobile signals (forget 3G) drop out between 10 and 15 times during this popular 45 minute journey through mostly built-up areas. And when I am connected, I'm hanging onto 1 bar (did you know that means 1 bar for reception, not transmission). Where I live, in SW Surrey, we rarely get a mobile signal at all. So much for the UK being in the vanguard of technology. We're in the dark ages compared to most developed countries, and many more far less economically successful. Why? Get used to it (notice the bars mean nothing) There are four major mobile networks competing for our money in the UK (now that Orange and T-Mobile have combined). In 2000 the British government had a wheeze. 'Lets have an auction for the mobile 3G bandwidth'. So every company who wanted to provide a 3G service tried to outbid each other for a slice, and ended up paying billions of pound

Phillips screws - yes I'm angry about them too

Don't get me wrong. They're a brilliant invention to assist automation and prevent screwdrivers from slipping off screw heads - damaging furniture, paintwork and fingers in the process. Interestingly they weren't invented by Mr Phillips at all, but by a John P Thompson who sold Mr P the idea after failing to commercialise it. Mr P, on the otherhand, quickly succeeded where Mr T had failed. Incredible isn't it. You don't just need a good idea, you need a great salesman and, more importantly, perfect timing to make a success out of something new. Actually, it would seem, he did two clever things (apart from buying the rights). He gave the invention to GM to trial. No-brainer #1. After it was adopted by the great GM, instead of trying to become their sole supplier of Phillips screws, he sold licenses to every other screw manufacturer in the world. A little of a lot is worth a great deal more than a lot of a little + vulnerability (watch out Apple!). My gromble is abo

How to Prioritise

Everyone's got a ToDo list. But I've always found that a long list of things to do (or even a short one) still leaves you agonising over where to start. Typically we use one of these strategies: Pick off the easiest first Start with the one at the top and work down Look for the most urgent and start there Randomly plunge in and hope you can get them all done Delegate them and play golf (by far the best strategy, but during the round you'll think of twice as many items to replace them) Do the one that someone is shouting loudest at you to complete All reasonable approaches perhaps, but I was taught a more logical way. It uses what's called a UI chart where you decide what's Urgent and what's Important. The method is beautifully simple and can best be performed in an adapted spreadsheet or perhaps on a whiteboard with post-it notes. It's a dynamic process needing regular reviews. It works like this. Take each item on your To-Do list and place

History will blame climate change on a wall

There is a nuclear power plant at Onagawa in Japan. So what, there are lots of nuclear power stations in Japan. There are two interesting facts about the plant at Onagawa. The first is that it was apparently built faster than any other nuclear plant in the world - and that was in 1980. The second, and this should surprise you, is that it is on the coast and only half the distance from the epicentre of the March 2011 earthquake that caused the devastating tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant which sent the world into a tailspin of terror about nuclear power. Onagawa not only survived unscathed by the tsunami, it even provided a refuge that saved the lives of hundreds of local residents. Japan has now shelved it's plans to build 14 new reactors by 2030 and every unaffected reactor in the whole of Japan has now been shut down . Angela Merkel has declared that all nuclear power in Germany will be phased out. The UK's nuclear programme has been shot to ribbons as a m