Digital Legacy

Last will and testament document

A good, if slightly macabre topic, for Halloween.  How will you handle your digital legacy?

Because the Internet is relatively new, and the population who engage on the web are relatively young, few of us have yet encountered the stress of cleaning up a digital legacy post-mortem.  When you die what will happen to your digital accounts?  How will they be closed down?  What messages will relatives and friends receive to inform them that you have passed away?

This is a very real issue.  I have encountered friends who buried parents, distributed the estate and began to return to a semblance of normality, only to be informed on an online site that a birthday was approaching and they might want to purchase a gift.  The grieving process can be set back months.

When you prepare your will you should document every email and internet account you have.  Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, think of all the social media sites you are a member of.  Then think of all your email accounts.  What do you want to do with them when you die?  This should be part of your instructions to the executor of your will.

For instance, I don’t want my Facebook account shut down until my family have a chance to copy all the photos I have stored in there.  My family may not want to close it down at all.  I don’t really want my wordpress site closed.  I see it as something that can remain after I depart.  But I may want to close it off with a final post, a post-mortem epitaph.

Solicitors & Lawyers need to update their procedures to take account of these kinds of instructions.  As things stand many solicitors don’t have a brilliant grasp of what is involved.  I can see a role for specialist lawyers who understand the digital world, and who know how it can be navigated in a sensitive manner.

When someone passes away there should be an option on Facebook/Amazon/Tripadvisor etc to move the account to a setting that indicates that this person has passed away.  This should turn birthday reminders into something more appropriate and perhaps capture the anniversary of the passing of the deceased.

The digital footprint of a person has the power to succeed them.  Let’s say that I campaign for a charity, maybe Cancer Research.  After I die I have the power to continue to influence charitable giving when an anniversary occurs.  My family and friends may value this opportunity to make a difference as a form of remembrance.  For non religious people a charitable contribution can often take the place of a prayer or a mass as a form of remembrance.

Websites and online accounts have the potential to become shrines to the memory of people. What digital legacy do you want to leave when you depart this world?

Happy Halloween!

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Crossing the bar; Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

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Criticism

Man of Aran - a Playboy of the Western World?

Man of Aran – a Playboy of the Western World?

People dislike criticism, especially when it comes from family, friends, colleagues or complete strangers!  Let’s face it, we can’t get enough of others telling us how wonderful we are.  If you want someone to listen to you, start with compliments.  If you want them to turn off their ears just begin with a criticism.

In the workplace we need to be able to examine work to find better ways of doing things.  If a mistake has been made we need to find out how to prevent it.  Much workplace conflict arises from well intentioned meetings that begin with criticism, descend into argument and end up with accusations of bullying.

In the business world you need a system for taking the ego out of the criticism.  The focus should be on the systems, the work itself, the communications breakdowns etc.  Jobs fail because of bad systems, but the blame for the failure frequently rounds onto the people involved.

The best approach I have seen to ironing out the ego is the “Critique” rather than the criticism.  A critique focuses first on the positives.  Then it identifies how we can codify the good things and build them into our processes as systems.

Then it moves on to the things that did not go so well.  Again it asks how we can codify so that we avoid repeating errors.

When you begin with the word “critique” the team know that this is system driven, and will not get personal.  Instead of fighting and blaming each other for failures they look at the problem with a positive focus.  They collectively seek to improve things in the future.  Nobody leaves the room feeling bullied or blamed.

If things are going wrong and you play the blame game then things will get worse.  Every manager should learn the skills of critique.  I recommend “Managerial Grid Model” by Blake and Mouton.

However, if you just want to react against criticism and flip someone off, at least do it with style, as in then example below!

The Curse; by J.M. Synge

To a sister of an enemy of the author’s who disapproved of ‘The Playboy’

Lord, confound this surly sister,
Blight her brow with blotch and blister,
Cramp her larynx, lung, and liver,
In her guts a galling give her.
Let her live to earn her dinners
In Mountjoy with seedy sinners:
Lord, this judgment quickly bring,
And I’m your servant, J. M. Synge.

Bulls V Bears

A bear squares off to a bull at Frankfurt stock exchange

A bear squares off to a bull at Frankfurt stock exchange

This is not a post about basketball or American football.  It is about the stock exchange.  We frequently speak of Bull markets and Bear markets.   Today is the anniversary of Black Tuesday in 1929 and one of the worst bear markets in history.  Wednesday 30th October 1929 saw a bear market rally, which is also known as a suckers rally or a dead cat bounce.

So Bull markets are when things are on the up and up.  Bull markets are positive, shares are gaining in value and traders are happy.  All decisions seem to be good decisions.  You buy a stock and the stock rises in value.  You sell the stock and you bank the value.

A bear market is one that is heading down.  If you buy a stock in a bear market you instantly see your value fall.  That makes people sad and discourages trading.

In a bull market trading is brisk and fluid.  In a bear market the trading stagnates.  So why do we call them Bulls and Bears?

There are many guesses as to the origin of the terms and I don’t have any conclusive proof, but here is what I believe.  Bull derives from the Latin “Bulla” which is the term for a lead seal.  Most legal transactions were carried out in Latin until relatively recently and Latin terminology still suffuses legalese.  If you agreed a contract for a trade it could be nicknamed a Bull.  In the same way that a letter from the Pope is called a Papal Bull.

The first stock market trading in derivatives in the European markets was on Ships cargoes.  Amsterdam and London were the early leaders in stocks, as the hubs of trading for the Dutch East India Company and the British East India Company respectively.  As an example let’s look a the British Tea trade.

A ship owner sends a ship to China to pick up tea.  That ship may be the first of the season to return, when the market is empty of fresh tea.  If that is the case he can make huge profits on the tea.  But if he arrives a month later, behind the majority of the fleet, he may find the market saturated with tea, and prices could be rock bottom.

To hedge against uncertainty the ship owner sells tea contracts.  Each contract is sealed with a bulla, so they are nicknamed bulls.  The contract for tea is at a fixed price.  Let’s say it is for one crate of tea for the price of 1 pound sterling.

As the tea season approaches the mood of the market begins to shift and fluctuate.  If last years tea has run out there is a lot of interest in the new stock.  The contract at a fixed price may be a good bet.  Traders will place bids to try to buy the contract for more than face value.  So a Bull for 1 pound may rise in price to 1 pound and six pence.  There is a market for contracts, or a “bull market”.  Every time a contract trades the price rises.  Ship owners may be encouraged to sell more of their pending stock as contracts in such a market.

On the other hand if there is a rumour of a tea glut in China then the traders may be happy to wait for the ships to arrive and for the tea auctions to establish the market price.  There is no interest in buying the bulls.  Any offer to purchase a contract is below the face value already paid.  The owners of contracts are left to “bear” the price they have paid up front.  They may have paid more than the tea is worth on the open market.

So a bull market is where trading is attractive and a bear market is stagnant or shrinking.

The bear market rally occurs when prices are falling.  Everyone is feeling bearish and trading volumes fall.  Prices stagnate.  Some traders believe that the lower price now represents a new floor value and that the share price will rise again.  They buy shares, raising the price a little on low traded volumes.  Then the falling dynamic cuts in again, and the cagey traders release larger volumes of stock onto the partially stable market.  The result is a headlong tumble, and those traders who bought at the new floor realise they have been suckered.

It was Munehisa Homma, the Japanese Rice Futures trader, who first understood that prices of derivatives have more to do with emotion of traders and the herd mentality than with the physical value of the commodity.  Time and again we have seen boom and bust cycles driven by psychology rather than economics, Mississippi Property, Dutch Tulip Bulbs, South Sea Company, 1920’s Florida property, the British Railway bubble, the .Com bubble, Enron and all the way up to the Irish Property bubble of 2007.  All driven by buyer psychology.

Homma was nicknamed the God of the Market because everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.  Sort of an 18th Century Japanese version of Warren Buffet.  He is also known as the father of the candlestick chart, an elegant method of capturing activity in a market.  The “Candle” is a rectangle which describes the opening and closing positions in the market while the “Wick” indicates the highest and lowest traded prices in the session.  By charting market movements Homma could see what psychology was doing, and could make market predictions that gave him an edge over traders who were reacting to circumstance.

Now there is an entire science founded on the candlestick chart.  It comes with enigmatic Japanese terminology to describe patterns, the hanging man, the inverted hammer, three black crows or three white soldiers.  For each pattern there is a predicted response.  But now that the responses have been programmed into computers there is almost an inevitability to certain market movements.

Of course, if you know what the computer programmes will do, a savvy trader can still find an edge…..or can they?

Early Feminism

Laetitia

Laetitia Pilkington  was a Dublin poet of the early 18th century, a contemporary of Dean Swift and a very early feminist.  Daughter of a respected obstetrician, clever and self-educated.   She abhorred the notion that women should suppress their God given intelligence in case they upstaged their husbands’ wit, or lack of same.

She was well known and well regarded in Dublin literary circles and became shockingly famous on a fateful night when she was caught, in October 1737, in her bedroom with a well known rake “reading a book”.  Her husband arrived at the door with a dozen men, the worse for drink.  They proceed to break down the open door and roughly handled both Laetitia and her male friend.  She was beaten over the head and had fingers broken while her man friend was held down and throttled by the husband.

The incident signaled the end of her marriage and any connection with Swift, who wrote that she was a “profligate whore”.  She moved to London and lived in considerable poverty until she published her memoirs, serving time in a debtors prison.  She became a celebrated author and wit, and all the rage in social circles.  She highlighted the unfairness of a world where a husband was blameless for keeping his own affairs, but could treat his wife as a chattel, his property, and physically abuse her at will.

Despite her social disadvantages she fought back against her accusers with her razor sharp mind and her incisive pen.  Her poetry is funny, at times lewd, savagely cutting and highly entertaining.  She is a great example of the concept of #tainment.  It is not the best reasoned argument or the most morally compelling one that wins.  If you want to win give us an argument that grabs our attention, or shocks us out of our complacency or makes us laugh.

The Wish, By a Young Lady; by Laetitia Pilkington

I ask not wit, nor beauty do I crave,
Nor wealth, nor pompous titles wish to have;
But since, ’tis doomed through all degrees of life,
Whether a daughter, sister, or a wife;
That females should the stronger males obey,
And yield implicit to their lordly sway;
Since this, I say, is ev’ry woman’s fate,
Give me a mind to suit my slavish state.

Beat

The Blue and White Tablecloth by Nan Hass Feldman

The Blue and White Tablecloth by Nan Hass Feldman

I like things that are “beat”, used, worn but still serviceable.  I don’t like brand new, out of the box, pure vanilla, spotless.  I like things that have a bit of character, that have been broken in, are comfortable.

I remember buying a brand new Musto Offshore Sailing suit when I started serious sailing.  I felt like an idiot.  I thought the brand new oilskins were like a sign on my back saying “newbie”.

Never take a new pair of hiking boots on a 20km hike.  You need to make sure you and the boots are on good terms before you commit to an engagement of that sort.

“Beat” is a term coined by the beat generation of writers in the 1950’s.  Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, Kline, Pollock, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth etc.  They straddled the worlds of French Surrealism and Hippy Counterculture.  The beat generation rejected the rampant post-war material culture of post war USA.  Hence the rejection of the shiny and the “brand new” in favour of the tried and true, rough around the edges and a bit beat up.

The Beatles name is an homage to the beat generation.  Not a beat poem this, but captures the sentiment for me.  I don’t revere objects, but I do think they can serve as memory vessels, repositories of personal experience and memory, a focus, like a photograph, for a shared sense of experience.

The Blue and White Tablecloth; by Carolyn McCurdie

Should we throw it away?
Your fingers rub at a stain by your plate.
Not a stain. It’s a hole,
and I could mend it, but won’t.
When the light shines through it, you notice
the thinness, and soon, here and here, more holes.
And see how the blue lines are worn
by the pull of connection
from my side of the table to yours,
by paths of conversation,
of passing gravy, salt.
How many years have we stood
pegging it out,
watching its white,
its snap, salute blue
kick high, swing, kick,
touch toes with the blue-white of sky?
This is the one that still drapes
fresh air across our table,
that smiles a picnic invitation
of lettuce from the garden,
apple from the tree.
Of course we should throw it away,
but on the days when it’s just me and you,
we bring it out again and laugh
at how silly we are.

Taking Stock

charging_bull_sculpture-01 (1)

October 24th is an inauspicious day for stock market trading.

In 1929 Thursday Oct 24th was called “Black Thursday”.  It saw the market shed 11% of its value at the opening bell.  A panic meeting on the trading floor saw the big banks pour money into the exchange to buy back 5% and avert a panic.  Their strategy was ultimately futile.  Investors spent the weekend scouring the newspapers and thinking about what was happening and the following week saw Black Monday and Black Tuesday and a crash in the value of the DOW.

In 2008 Friday Oct 24th was labelled Bloody Friday.  The US stock market had already been gutted in early October.  The 24th saw record losses posted on stock exchanges all across the globe.  Banks were collapsing like dominoes and we all learned about securitization of “sub-prime mortgages”.  I remember reading “Liars Poker” by Michael Lewis and learning that these had been created in the 1980’s.

In Ireland we were comforted by the Government which under Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan, had decided to give a blanket guarantee to Ireland’s banks.  Still, people were spreading their money around from bank to bank, to keep within the guaranteed amount.  I should take this opportunity to thank the two Brians for saving the Irish banks and for plunging the country into five years of recession marked by misery and austerity.  You taught me a valuable lesson guys!  Politicians haven’t got a clue, and they make it up as they go along.

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining.  If you have the cash, a crash is a great time to buy bargains.  I just wish I had the cash!

Lorca, the Spanish poet murdered by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, was in New York during the Wall Street Crash.  He captured the emotions of that time in his poem, Dance of Death.

Dance of Death; by Federico García Lorca

The mask. Look how the mask
comes from Africa to New York.

They are gone, the pepper trees,
the tiny buds of phosphorus.
They are gone, the camels with torn flesh,
and the valleys of light the swan lifted in its beak.

It was the time of parched things,
the wheat spear in the eye, the laminated cat,
the time of great rusting bridges
and the deathly silence of cork.

It was the great gathering of dead animals
pierced by the swords of light.
The endless joy of the hippopotamus with cloven feet of ash
and of the gazelle with an immortelle in its throat.

In the withered, waveless solitude,
the dented mask was dancing.
Half of the world was sand,
the other half mercury and dormant sunlight.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Sand, crocodile, and fear above New York.

Canyons of lime imprisoned an empty sky,
where the voices of those who die under the guano were heard.
A pure, naked sky, identical with itself,
with the down and the keen-edged iris of its invisible mountains.
It finished off the slenderest stems of song
and was swept away toward channels of sap,
through the stillness of the last parades,
lifting pieces of mirror with its tail.

While the Chinaman wept on the roof,
not finding the nude of his wife,
and the bank director was watching the gauge
that measures the cruel silence of money,
the mask arrived on Wall Street.

It isn’t a strange place for the dance,
these cemetery niches that turn the eyes yellow.
Between the sphinx and the bank vault, there is a taut thread
that pierces the heart of all poor children.
The primitive impetus dances with the mechanical one,
unaware, in their frenzy, of the original light.
Because if the wheel forgets its formula,
it will sing nude with herds of horses;
and if a flame burns the frozen blueprints,
the sky will have to flee before the tumult of windows.

This isn’t a strange place for the dance, I tell you.
The mask will dance among columns of blood and numbers,
among hurricanes of gold and groans of the unemployed,
who will howl, in the dead of night, for your dark time.
Oh, savage, shameless North America!
Stretched out on the frontier of snow.

The mask. Look at the mask!
Such a wave of mire and fireflies above New York!

I was on the terrace, wrestling with the moon.
Swarms of windows riddled one of the night’s thighs.
The sweet sky-cattle drank from my eyes
and breezes on long oars
struck the ashen store windows on Broadway.

The drop of blood looked for light in the star’s yolk
so as to seem a dead apple seed.
The prairie air, driven by the shepherds,
trembled in fear like a mollusk without its shell.

But I’m sure there are no dancers
among the dead.
The dead are absorbed in devouring their own hands.
It’s the others who dance with the mask and its vihuela.
Others, drunk on silver, cold men,
who sleep where thighs and hard flames intersect,
who seek the earthworm in the landscape of fire escapes,
who drink a dead girl’s tears at the bank
or eat tiny pyramids of dawn on the street corners.

But don’t let the Pope dance!
No,
don’t let the Pope dance!
Nor the kind,
nor the millionaires with blue teeth,
nor the barren dances of the cathedrals,
nor builders, nor emeralds, nor madmen, nor sodomites.
Only this mask.
This mask of ancient scarlet fever.
Only this mask!

Cobras shall hiss on the top floors.
Nettles shall shake courtyards and terraces.
The Stock Exchange shall become a pyramid of moss.
Jungle vines shall come in behind the rifles
and all so quickly, so very, very quickly.
Ay, Wall Street!

The mask. Look at the mask!
And how it spits its forest poison
through New York’s imperfect anguish!

Three random items

national_war_memorial__ottawa__ontario__canada_

Item 1:  The Response, which is the name of the Canadian National War Memorial and tomb of the unknown soldier in Ottawa.  It was the scene yesterday for the murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was on duty at the monument.  The suspected murderer was a criminal with 12 convictions for petty theft.  Somehow I do not believe that he was a representative of any Islamic organisation, but maybe I am naive.

SAM_1939_1

Item 2:  A camshaft for a VW Passat Diesel.  I have one of these in the collection of nuts and bolts that I lovingly refer to as a car.  Seems it is a bit worn around the edges and doesn’t open the valves properly.  That would explain the rattling when I hit the accelerator.

Item 3:  A Drinking Song; by William Butler Yeats

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.