Modern Working Life

Hostelworld

Hard at work in Hostelworld

Jobs I did

Lounge boy in McGowans Broadstone Inn

when it was a cabaret.

Lounge boy in Finglas Castle,

not Finglas and never a castle.

Steward on the B&I Line ferries

to Pembroke and Liverpool Docks.

Storeboy in Dunnes Stores

on Georges St. with a blue shop coat.

Attendant in James Connolly Memorial Hospital

cycling to Blanch through Finglas and Dunsink.

 

Clerical Officer in the Dept. of Posts & Telegraphs

a civil servant for 4 months,

then becoming an uncivil servant, Executive, Administrator,

in Telecom Eireann, which became Eircom, and then Eir.

If anyone else buys it I expect it will become E.

 

Senior Scientific Officer in Enterprise Ireland

or Forfás, or Forbairt, or whatever it was called.

Bórd Gais market development manager,

market research manager, heat sales manager.

Leo Burnett Strategic Planner,

I don’t advertise that one.

I donned a robe and a mortar board,

and cultivated the minds of tomorrow,

and more than a few of yesteryear.

 

And then the real work started,

the self employed work,

the contract work,

never a dull moment, never a routine.

Finance today, beer tomorrow,  pass the fags,

sporting clothes, babywear, cooking pots,

pan handling, networking, adding value,

finding syngeries and changing games.

 

I changed the sheets in Hostelworld,

not bedsheets, spreadsheets.

I worked in Waterford for the Canadians,

life in the sun, with Sun Life, was testing,

data testing.

 

Sometimes Project Manager or Senior Business Analyst,

a DQA for the USA an MBA Association Panellist.

You see him here you see him there,

the contract guy is everywhere,

three workplaces in one year,

three job titles in one chair,

dedicated follower of management fashion,

no wonder I have grey hair.

 

Tiles

Real work!

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Revoke Article 50

 

Article

This petition will hit 5 million signatures today.  The March in London yesterday had 1 million participants.  How many British People have to ask before the Government give them an opportunity to have a say, now that the British people understand what it actually means to leave Europe?  What exactly is wrong with Theresa May and the Tory party?  Why is it a betrayal of the people to ask them “are you sure about this?”

Why are the Tory party driving forward to the worst possible outcome?  What is wrong with taking time over a decision that is going to have such a huge impact on Britain?  Who is profiting from this haste to leave?  Who is profiting from the chaos?

One thing I am certain of.  The ordinary British person on the street is not profiting from this, and will never profit from it in any way.

And I still blame David Cameron.  History will be very unkind to that man.

Brexit March

 

Springy spring

Damson

Damson flowering. Prunus Domestica

Its a beautiful day and I am just in from tidying up the garden, clearing the ravages of winter, stopping for a moments rest to have some beer and onions.  Once I post this I will pop back out and shout at the plants in their latin names.  They are all bursting forth so I know they can hear me.

Nostalgia; by Billy Collins

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

Happy S&BJ Day

steak_and_bj_day

One month following Valentines Day, the supposed romantic highlight of the year, comes S & BJ Day.  You can look up what that means yourself, you didn’t hear it from me.  It is supposed to be the opposite of Valentines day, an anti-romantic holiday.

At its heart I think it is a reaction against crass commercialisation rather than against romance.  It is, at it’s heart, still a quest for companionship.  It does not reject the fundamental notion of two people wanting to be together.  Instead it rejects all the socio-cultural and commercial baggage that gets between two people.  It tries to pare the relationship back to raw basics.

In this regard it treads a well worn path.  How many times have you seen the narrative of the US Bachelor Party movie, where the groom or bride and his or her buddies have one last fling?  And how do these movies end?  With a wedding.  With true love and a lifelong commitment.  They end in happy ever after.

 

A Contingency Plan: by Suzannah Evans

What if we’re apart when the asteroid comes,
or the magnetic storm that shuts off the power?

You could be waiting for a train as the sun’s bulb
flickers out, high above the glass-panelled roof.

I’ll be at work. We’ll lose the phone lines,
the door-entry system will go haywire.

I will eat from the vending machine,
drink from the competition cupboard

and sleep on nylon carpet with my colleagues
all of us three-weeks unwashed. Stay where you are –

I’ll abseil down eight floors on a rope
fashioned from the supply of festive tinsel,

loot M&S, steal a bike and make for the M1
forty miles of silence and abandoned cars

so we can witness the collapse of civilisation
with a picnic of high-end tins

so I can lie in your arms on a rooftop,
our dirty faces lit by fires.

Homonyms

SCHWEIZ, GLOCKE, GLOCKEN, GLOCKENGUSS,

I love when people inadvertenly use homonyms of words with completely different meanings producing a comic effect.  If you need multiple examples look up the hashtag on twitter #heardnotread.  They are real life examples of things people have written down, spelling them wrong, because they heard them spoken, but did not think through what they were hearing.

Bells ring.  When you make a bell it is “tuned” to a note.  The way you tune a bell is to take metal off on a lathe.  A tuner matches the bell to its “true” tone and grinds away the metal until the bell “rings true”.  We use the phrase “to ring true” to assess if something is on point or if it is a bit off.  I might assess a business plan for an investment and if I think something does not seem right, but I can’t exactly put my finger on it, I might say that something about this proposal does not “ring true”.

A bank manager assessing a loan application might look at a person, their education, their career, their house location, the car they drive, and feel that something about the person does not ring true.  The person in front of them does not match what you expect from the details supplied.  Something is “off”.  For the bank manager this represents a risk.

When cash registers were invented they were a form of control on staff theft.  Before the arrival of the cash register all pricing had to be simple, because sales of multiple items had to be added up either in your head, or on a piece of paper.  With simple maths a dishonest employee could manipulate sales to cheat the shop owner or the customer and pocket cash.  With an automatic cash register the shop owner could set complex prices involving fractions of units such as old money prices like 1s 4 1/2 d which is one shilling (12 pence) and four and a half pence, so 16 and a half pence.  If the next item is thruppence farthing (3 and a quarter of a penny) you can see that the maths begin to get complicated.

As a further staff control the register manufacurers introduced a further feature.  A bell that rang each time a sale item was added.  The shop owner could lurk behind a shelf and make sure that the number of rings on the register tallied to the items in the basket, so the clerk was not handing out freebies to friends and family.

From the introduction of the cash register we got the concept of “ringing up” a sale.  And some clerks would use a homonym of ring true and say something like “if you come over to this register I will ring you through”.  Ring true – ring through.  Sounds the same.  Totally different meaning.

Then the phone was invented, along with switchboards to connect calls.  An operator connecting your call would usually say something like “I’ll put you through now” but some also said, because the phone used to have a bell “I’ll ring you through”.

Now we have three meanings for ring true/through.

Then someone decided to attach buzzers to automatic doors.  You arrive at an apartment block and call the resident on the intercom.  To let you in they need to unlock the front door automatically.  They might say “I’ll buzz you in” or they sometimes say “I’ll ring you through”.  Doors have bells.  Bells ring.  Ring through.

When it becomes funny for me is when I get an email from someone about a business case and they say “What do you think on this?  Something doesn’t ring through for me.”

For Whom the Bell Tolls; by John Donne

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

Telling Lies #7: Confirmation Bias

Female scientist doing Oil and gas research

Are you a Blue Pill or Red Pill kind of person?

Below I envisage the structure required in a research agency to eliminate confirmation bias 100%

One of the great enemies of market research the confirmation bias is also the enemy of good science.  Good science needs to make use of  carefully designed samples, control groups and double blind testing.

Samples must avoid confirmation bias.  If you send out someone to recruit a “random sample” off a busy shopping street with no rules they will come back with an awful lot of people who are of a similar age, ethnicity and social background as themselves.  Without conducting the first experiment they have affected the results.

A control group is a set of people who are tested without having experienced the subject of the test.  In market research we might expose a group to every product except the one we are testing.  In science we might use a placebo, or no treatment at all as a control.

The purpose of the control is to uncover test treatment errors to research.  These are situations where the setting of the test itself (such as a lab, doctors office, research facility etc) impacts on subject behaviour.  The test subjects don’t know they are changing behaviour because they are being tested, but they do.  The testers themselves may also be amending their behaviour, and consequent test results, unintentionally, but significantly.

The purpose of the double blind is to ensure that the tested person does not know if they are in the test group or the control group, and, more importantly, neither does the tester.

Lets say you have a new type of alcohol to test.  You give it to men and women.  They report the impact and complete some tests.

A classic confirmation bias is where a tester belives in advance (due to personal experience, or test assumptions, or any other reason) that the females in the group will react to the alcohol more strongly.  Without intending to falsify results they allow their own confirmation bias to impact on the results.  They “see” more effects in the females and the “edit out” effects in the men.  Their initial assumptions prove prophetic, they find exactly what they expect to find.

Control groups and double blind testing as well as “fair” samples can be expensive to run in market research.  In many cases the market researcher, or scientist, comes under subtle forms of pressure to relax the rules.

When it comes time to write up the findings the person paying the bill can call the tune.  Researchers and scientists are remarkably able to find conclusions that are exactly what their paymaster wants to see.  Commercial company managers like to work with market research companies that “understand our product and market”, and find the results that they hoped the research would find.

None of the lying is overt, but it is systemic.  Each bias builds upon the last one until the research results may land very far from reality.  Bad science!

Even highly rated scientific papers in peer review journals fail the test for confirmation bias.  Follow the money I say.  If it is a university paper they should be declaring their sources of grant funding.  Look up the funding agency, find out what their goals are and read up on the history of the research they funded in the past.  Always follow the money.

The Business Model:

I have a vision for unbiased research.  On the one hand are funding clients, companies, foundations etc who submit both the question, and the funding.  On the other hand are the front line scientists or market researchers.  In the middle are three layers of administration, with chinese walls between them.

Layer 1 is the business engine and has nothing to do with the research.  Layer 1 accepts the research applications.  Their job is to anonymise the research question and distance it from the source of the funding.

Layer 1 makes a submission to Layer 2.  The client on the job is Layer 1.  The research question is carefully set out to meet the real client needs, but never identifes the client.  Layer 2 receives a budget and a research task.  They make a proposal on how to carry out this task with the available budget.  They specify the sample, the test type, the control etc.  They submit a detailed proposal to Layer 1.  They are the research “pitch team”.

Layer 1 submits the proposal to the client, who approves or rejects the research.  If the research is approved Layer 1 gives approval to Layer 2.

Layer 2 engages a team from Layer 3 to carry out the research.  They are the field research admin team.  They pull from a pool of qualified front line researchers or scientists to perform the work required.  Layer 3 assembles the results and prepares the analysis.  They return the results, finding, limitations, conclusions etc to Layer 2.

Layer 2 run a cross check to ensure all research objectives have been met.  All being well the final report is given back to Layer 1.  Now you have a piece of research with no confirmation bias.  You present the findings, unvarnished to the client.

Then, and only then, if they want the findings “brought to life” will you pull together a team from all layers to make a presentation to the client.

This is all very bureaucratic and very expensive.  It gives absolutely no comfort to clients that they will get the results they are looking for.   But they will get proper research.

The one proviso of this model is that your organisation needs to be large and have so many clients that making “educated guesses” about who your client on any job is would be a waste of time.

 

Who Knows?

nose

We’ve all been there.  You can feel that THING growing in your nose.  You feel your nose swell up.  It is hot.  The skin is tight, stretched and painful.  When you rub your finger over it you can feel the thing, turgid, massive, disfiguring.  It must be on the point of exploding!  You can feel everyone looking at you.  The disgust in their faces.  You must look like Quasimodo at this stage….

Then you get to a mirror and……. where is it?  You can’t see anything.  Oh, well if you look really close it’s obvious, but just nothing like as big and disfiguring as it feels.  This has been impacting on you all morning.  You are full sure everyone was staring at your face.  But now you know it was all in your imagination.

Some things are like that.  Some physical attributes or character traits can dominate your life.  You are full sure that everyone can spot them and that they are judging you for those traits.  But often you are wrong.  Nobody even notices the things that cause you so much angst.  Those are not your real problem.

The real problems are the character traits and bad habits that you carry which are not on your radar, but are impacting on your life.  There are things we do without noticing that can severely impact on how others behave around us, and the opportunities opened to us.

I have seen people eat their meals with mouth wide open and half chewed food on display for all to see, with small flecks of their meal spraying freely across the table onto everybody else, on their clothes, on their food.  These are people who come from a family of open mouth eaters who are unaware of the impact it has on others.  They wonder why the boss did not bring them to dinner with an important client and why Dave, the junior analyst who chews with his lips together was tapped for the best contract of the year.

Personal habits are things we need to be aware of.  We need to be very aware of them in business situations.  Personal hygiene and grooming.  Clean and ironed clothes.  Down to polished shoes.

Habits that can drive others insane.  Noises such as constant tapping on tables, kicking chairs, sniffing, coughing and sneezing relentlessly.  Talking loudly on the phone, talking loudly on the mobile phone while walking up and down the office.

Selfish or inconsiderate usage of common facilities.  Leaving toilets in a disgraceful state.  Cooking smoked fish in the office microwave.  Leaving dirty dishes on your desk.  Stealing (borrowing) other peoples food. Regularly asking to borrow money.

Personal traits are a big issue.  You may come from a family that settles disputes by shouting at each other.  You can’t bring that to the office.  Nor can you ghost your boss and give colleagues the silent treatment.  Aggressive or over assertive behaviours were accepted back in the 1970’s or 80’s but not any more.  Passive-aggressive behaviours have endured, but do you no favours.

The big problem with all of these traits and habits is that normal polite people are reluctant to take you aside and tell you that you have a problem.  They will try to ignore it, or drop vague hints that fly totally over your head.  Your career stagnates, or goes into reverse, and you have no clue why.

I once attended a week long residential Executive Communications Workshop (Grid Management Training) where the week concluded with everyone being rated objectively by their peers.  It was a fantastic opportunity to hold a mirror up to myself and see how I was perceived by a room of strangers.

From “An Essay on Man: Epistle II” by Alexander Pope

I.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!