One more time: How not to sack a manager

May 24, 2016

Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal is sacked as manager of Manchester United. At least, that is what a thousand media reports said soon after his team won the FA cup this weekend Read the rest of this entry »


Holiday Father is Local Hero: Variation on the Leaders We Deserve theme

May 19, 2016

Local Hero

A battle with authority has propelled a father into the role of champion of the underdogs against authority. The case illustrates how we create the leaders we deserve

Our story concerns a child who was caught up in a legal battle after being taken on a holiday from her school on the Isle of Wight during term time. The father, a local businessman Mr Jon Platt, after preliminary skirmishes with the School,  was taken to court after refusing to pay the fine imposed.

Read the rest of this entry »


Billionaire donates millions to Brexit, but may lose them more from the undecided vote

May 17, 2016

Marmite

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves is the leading donator to the Out of Europe , or Brexit campaign. But other supporters worry that his enthusiasm for creative destruction may cost them the election

I have tried to remain an impartial observer of events in the build-up to the EU referendum.  This week [May 9-15] it has been easy, as David Cameron for the In group, and Boris Johnson for Brexit have been equally strident and over-the-top in their main offerings.

Shooting Self in Foot Award

But my candidate for a shooting-self-in-foot award is Peter Hargreaves

Much admired for his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr Hargreaves was a student at Clithero Grammar School, an education which equipped him in life to find success from a financial start-up ‘in the spare bedroom of his Bristol flat’ in the early 1980s.

More recently he has backed the Brexit campaign through his substantial financial resources and high voyage energy which helped him accumulate his Moola.

Not a vote-winning message?

But his message, while likely to bring a resounding round of applause at an Institute of Directors meeting, may not swing as many votes as he is hoping for.

Voting for uncertainty and creative destruction may be counter-productive among a sizable proportion of older voters believed to be sympathetic for a Brexit . It could produce the well-known Marmite effect.

Mr Hargreaves could consider staying stum, but sponsoring Uber to ferry voters to the polling stations.

Oops. Have I suggested a better use of his millions?


The Great Chess Notation Rift: Why I never became a Grand Master

May 12, 2016

I have given up chess four times since I left school. Each coincided with a change of geographical location. Maybe I was never completely serious about quitting, because for every physical move, most of my collection of chess books came with me.

Today, inspection of what remains of my mini-library reveals a secret of an archaeological kind.

The great schism

A great schism occurred towards the end of the last century. Before the disruption lies the age of descriptive notation, after it the era of algebraic notation.

It is still found in movies n which typically a player, perhaps the villain, will say in suitably sinister tones. “Pawn to the king’s fourth”. This is accompanied by a dramatic move forward of a central pawn.

to which the hero might reply “Pawn to the king’s forth”.

A non-chess player might exclaim “Oi! He’s just done that move!”

Indeed. Well spotted. If the game was being recorded the moves would have been written as

1 P-K4  P-K4

In this notation, each player writes the move from his or her perspective. No puzzle. Bergman’s Knight would have pushed the Pawn in front of the king two squares up the board. Death would have pushed the Pawn in from of his own king also two square ‘up’ the board. Don’t get that Knight confused with a common or garden chess knight, though.

This is the basis of the descriptive notation I was taught as a schoolboy and how I still think. Almost all of my chess books and magazines until around 1980 were written in that notation. Flicking through the pages of one, I am now astonished at how simple the system is.

The early descriptive form

It is easily traced to its ancestor, the early descriptive form, found in the great handbook of the 1880s by the English champion Howard Staunton. In that form it was rather more laborious to write down.

I took down my own prized copy nostalgically, to remind myself of the notaion. Opening it at random. I found a typical game,  was being described. In those days, compression was ignored, and the first moves I came across were

K.B. to Q.Kt’s 5th 10. P to Q.R.’s 3

I was taught to write these moves as

10 B-Kt5  P-QR3

Enter the algrebraic format

But Staunton’s descriptive approach already had a rival in other parts of the world where ian algebraic version. This got away from the apparent Anglo-Saxon silliness of having pieces apparently being moved on the same square.

In algebraic, all the squares were numbered in a grid starting at a1, the (bottom left as white would see it, top right as black could see it) to h8, the square closest to black’s left hand

Staunton’s early notation would have changed from

K.B. to Q.Kt’s 5th 10. P to Q.R.’s 3

to

10 Bb5  a6

You can see the advantages in using the algebraic system.

In the 1980s, the international chess body FIDE announced that all official games were to be recorded using it. This monstrous denial of human rights left a generation of British players struggling to sort out their a5s from their QR4s.

It must be said that FIDE has from time to time shown tendencies found in their football equivalent FIFA, but that’s another story.

Reluctantly, all chess publishes that had preferred the descriptive notation began to accept the in algebraic notation.

The consequences are there to be seen on my book shelves. Only a few dear favourites remain in descriptive formats. Many were discarded and replaced in the great defoliation era of the 1980s. The latest I can find is the classic My Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer, published in 1972.

From then on its algebraic all the way. It turned out to be far more convenient for pesky computers to manipulate chess data, which is another story.

Impeding my progress to world champion

Meanwhile, mentally stunned, most of my contemporaries mutter to themselves in descriptive dialect before writing down the moves in algebraic. We do so slowly, and often wrongly. My own scoresheet still often shows numerous corrections, still ending up looking as if I have played a different game from my opponent

It is one reason I never became a grandmaster. The other is a lack of talent. But that’s another story.


Microsoft launches Operation Sudetenland, and I don’t like it

May 9, 2016

Winter of discontent

 

 

My feelings of wrath against the mighty Microsoft empire were triggered by an act of invasion into my PC’s heartland, an act unprecedented since Hitler’s troops swept through the Sudetenland, in October 1938

Of course, I had already left open the opportunity for the invader to advance. Arguably it was the brilliance of General von Gates that established a foothold in the unsuspecting IBM PC world, and which started the rise of the Gates imperialist ambitions.

Now, many years later von Gates owns the electronic empire over which the electronic sun never sets.  Or maybe nearly never; there are still insurgent hackers resisting anonymously, perhaps encouraged by the other World super-power Apple and its newish President.

Enter Windows 8.1

A few months ago, I retired my ancient PC and accepted that a new model would require me to move on technologically. The machine arrived loaded with what I now know to be Windows 8.1.

Also known as California Widows 8.1, a system marginally less dysfunctional that Windows 8, so one of my tech savvy friends says.

I tried to learn 8.1. Quite a challenge, and I am approaching the facility with which I used my earlier version, now known as Windows Archaic.

Meanwhile, every day, uninvited, the machine updates itself. So does Windows 8.1. Simultaneously I receive a message which amounts to

It’s really time you upgraded to Windows 10. This is, thanks to our generous spirit free. For the moment. In the future if you don’t change, Operation Sudetenland comes into force.

Like many others I ignored this bootstrap bullying. If I couldn’t go back to the user-friendly older version, I had no intention of meekly accepting another change I suspected would be even harder to learn how to use.

An ultimatum

Then, last week, the final warning. An ultimatum would be a better word. I was hastening to complete a post for LWD. The screen went blank. Panic blank.

After a few moments the ultimatum flashed up.

You ignored all our friendly warnings. You don’t know what’s good for you. Fortunately, you are now under the protection of the all-powerful von Gates imperial forces. Your conversion to Windows 10 is proceeding. DO NOT SWITCH YOUR MACHINE OFF OR YOU WILL HAVE TO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CONSEQUENCES. Further instructions will follow shortly.

PS you will just love your own electronic personal advisor.

I left the room, unable to witness the complete subjugation of my PC.

For all its efforts at giving us a fully-joined up world, I am not completed convinced that the motives of the von Gates empire totally coincide with my wants or even my needs.

To be continued [if Windows 10 lets me]

Right. My friends connected, coercered or compelled to switch to Windows 10 tell me how much better it is than 8.1 which was so much better than Windows 8.

I turn to Firefox, which is now (suprise, suprise) not my default server. Guess I must learn to live with Windows 10.


Locard’s exchange forensic principle: Every contact leaves a trace

May 3, 2016

Edmond Locard

The great forensic scientist Edmond Locard is known as the French Sherlock Holmes. Locard’s exchange principle is that every contact leaves a trace

A gun fired leaves residues that are revealed in the hair, on skin, and most markedly on the thumb and forefinger of the shooter. Unfortunately for the criminal investigator, and fortunately for the perp, the residues can be transferred.  Not just to another person using the gun, but by the act of shaking hands, or other physical contact.

Read the rest of this entry »


BHS and the Demonization debate

April 28, 2016

BHS

 

BHS, not unlike Boots, is a British icon of the High Street.  Its decline makes it open season for demonization of its current owners and more significantly for Sir Philip Green, who sold it for £1 a year ago

A year ago, Philip Green signalled a tough time ahead for BHS with his peppercorn sale of the retail stores, throwing in a modest sweetener towards its huge pension liabilities. The new owners were either a brilliantly visionary group of entrepreneurs, or a bunch of body snatchers. As BHS heads for administration, the second looks the more realistic.

Its new leader, Dominic Chappell, was described by The Mirror as an ex-racing car driver and former bankrupt. In a last desperate effort to rescue the company, Mr Chappell was reported to have moved £1.5 million from the company in an imaginative but ill-fated manoeuvre more suited to the racing track. He has since paid most of it back.

As the Mirror explained:

Representatives confirmed the news today [April 25th 2016] after talks with Sports Direct – owned by Newcastle United billionaire Mike Ashley – to sell some of its 164 stores collapsed at the weekend. A formal announcement is expected at around noon.

The collapse of BHS would be the biggest retail failure since Woolworths folded in 2008 with the loss of almost 30,000 jobs. It is understood any buyer would only step forward if it did not have to take on the £571m pension deficit.

The Financial Times

The Financial Times offered a rather half-hearted defence of Philip Green. Its article was headed The demonization of Green, arguing this was a result of the prerences of the tabloid press. Then it got down criticisms of the commercial judgement of the life style and financial practices of the tycoon which could be seen as something of a demonization of itself.

These included a charge of ‘Pensions dumping … as the entrepreneur was taking delivery of his third superyacht to his Monaco bolt hole’.

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail, one of those tabloid media, did indeed give Philip Green a thumping, although the ‘demonization’ was as much it that newspaper’s style than its substance. Its headline ran Can the man who milked the millions from BHS really be allowed to keep his knighthood?

The Mail added to a chorus of demands that Sir Philip be banished to the naughty chair, be relieved of substantial amounts of Moola, and be stripped of his knighthood.

The main points were covered in more robust terms than was found in the Fnancial Times, although the Mail actually cited the FT as for one of its sources for ‘a staggering billion or so moved from BHS into the family coffers under the Green machine’.

The Guardian

The Guardian having done a right royal anti-royal piece on the Queen’s knees-up, last week kept the top on the vitriol bottle.  The article was pretty much like the Mail’s, with perhaps more distain for Green’s life style and the milking of BHS assets.

Mary Portas

Mary Portas was more dismissive. In a radio interview [Monday 25th April 2016] she talked of the lack of vision by BHS over the years, and its failure to grasp a future more like pound savers and the need for more visionary leaders. [Note for business students: can you see some tiny flaw in the reasoning of the person charged by the Government with reviving our High Street?].

To be fair, anyone can get a bit carried away in a radio interview.

In a piece for the Guardian, the Queen of the High Street explains under the headline how I would have saved BHS

If I had been at British Home Stores I would have looked at today’s market place and created a brand that is relevant for today’s shopper.

I would have gone totally after the value market, but made it functional and cool.

I would have started with where it was good – the lighting. Then I would have extended that to become a modern British lifestyle retailer at a great price.

Nice move, Mary

So that’s what Philip Green missed. Fixing the lighting. Mary avoided mentioning him by name. Probably best.  He has been known to sort out opposition in a not particularly functional or cool sort of way.

To be continued


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