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    • Cold War 2.0 Incoming
      Right, with the ban on Huawei using chips made with American manufacturing equipment (one of America’s last few places of absolute advantage); the bans of TikTok, Tencent and WeChat; the attempt to convince other countries to not use Huawei 5G; the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter for doing business with Iran along with the […]
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Monday: Calm, cool, cameraman watches world washed away

Text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross efforts in Japan

If you haven’t seen this video of the tsunami from a guy who was standing a few feet from it, you should really check it out.  It’s rare that a force of nature of this magnitude is documented like this.  Tsunami scientists will find this footage invaluable.

Follow the link here.

In other news:

PJ Crowley, the State Department’s spokesperson resigned yesterday under pressure for some intemperate remarks he made about the detention conditions of Bradley Manning. It seems that Obama was inconvenienced by having to ask questions about Manning’s state at his press conference on Friday and he was most seriously not amused.  FWIW, what Manning did was illegal but following his due process rights and treating him well before his trial is what Americans do.  That’s because it’s the right thing to do to other human beings.  It costs this country nothing to play by the rules.  Rules, I might add, that we used to hold up as examples to the rest of the world.  So, Crowley was right, Manning’s detention has been “stupid and ridiculous”.  If Obama has been the driving force behind it, then the ridiculousness and stupidity rubs off on him.  One can almost hear the sun king plaintively whine, “I will not be MOCKED!”  Off with Crowley’s head.  Yeah, that will cut down on the mocking.

Oooo, and now the left is speaking out.  He can’t take a little criticism?  What did they ever see in Obama?  Beats me.  He’s always been this way.  Remember how his campaign went after people who said perfectly innocuous things and turned them into poster boys for the KKK?  Ahhh, yes, those were the days.  Or remember when Clinton delegates at the Convention were harrassed and threatened to change their votes to Obama?  I remember it well.  How about when his trolly minions camped in our threads and applied bone crushing peer pressure to us after calling us fat, ugly, uneducated, low class sows?  Such terms of endearment.  They were so loving and kind.

Hey, this is the Obama culture.  If you don’t like someone, call them names, like “bitter knitters”, push their voters out of the caucus room doors, steal their delegates, threaten their careers, enforce conformity and uniformity.  Haven’t you guys been paying attention?  They think you’ll just end up blaming Hillary.

So predictable.

‘git.

And now, I must be off to work.  The end is coming fast.  It feels like a breakup.

Saturday: Takin’ care of business

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

As I was saying, I’ll be out of work in about a month.  But my lab partner (let’s call her B.) and I are still incredibly busy.  That’s not an attempt to make us look irreplaceable, because no one is, really (except Steve Jobs).  It’s just a fact.  There’s just an incredible amount of work on our plates.  I have about 4 reports to write up and, if I’m lucky, three more datasets to solve on Monday.  We’re also transitioning our projects to other people and other sites so there are meetings to attend.  Oddly enough, B and I are still having fun.  In that respect, we are a lot luckier than some of the other people who were laid off with us who we met up with at an outplacement orientation recently.  B and I are in a pretty good place right now mentally, well, comparatively.  We know that there’s more than enough work to keep us occupied until the very last day and even then, we might not get it all done before we leave.  Work has become our refuge.  There’s nothing more relaxing than spending time in the lab doing things that make us feel competent.

But some of my laid off colleagues have been told not to attend meetings anymore.  That has been devastating to them in so many ways.  They’re bitter, defensive and hurt.  Verily I say unto you, oh corporate overlords, don’t do this to your people if you can help it.  There’s nothing more morale deflating than to be told that your input and expertise is no longer needed.  If you still have people on site who are waiting it out, by all means, put them to work doing something. You and the employee will benefit from keeping a positive outlook.

B and I are very thankful to our colleagues, past and present, who have offered us sympathy and support.   Some of them have sent us messages out of the blue to reassure us that we are good and dedicated scientists and they want to help us.  Others have made sure to include us on project meetings and have encouraged our input.  Some of our friends ask why we even bother at this point.  It’s just that we are working on stimulating and interesting projects right now and are learning a lot of new things.  We want to keep our skills fresh and we want to keep learning in this area of research long after we leave.  B and I seem to be of a similar mindset in this respect.  We do it because we want to, we do it for ourselves and our colleagues who will still be working on our projects after we leave and we do it because one of these days, we expect to see our work turned into real results.

Which brings me to a new book I’ve been listening to, Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan.  Well, that wasn’t a very smooth segue.  So, why do I bring it up?  Heffernan has written a book about the perils of conformity and competiveness.  Heffernan’s book suggests that competitiveness leads to conformity and, subsequently, to blindness, that inability to see or acknowledge when you’re going off a cliff in your business, political and personal life.  I’d recommend this book to Obots who could really benefit from its insights but, ironically, I doubt they’d see themselves as suffering from the shortcomings described in this book.

What Willful Blindness describes really well is the pitfalls of modern corporate culture and the deleterious effects that conformity, distancing and competitiveness can have on a business’s core function.  Heffernan uses BP, Electronic Arts and Enron as poster children for what not to do to your employees if you want to succeed.  BP, Enron and two Wall Street firms, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns are particularly egregious when it comes to the number of business school grads who are assimilated and conform to climb the ladder to success.  They are so caught up in their own careers and oneupmanship that they become completely disconnected from the industry they oversee.  In BP’s case, cost cutting measures and staff reductions at a refinery in Texas City, Texas, resulted in the death of 15 people.  The operators were burdened with so much work after a 25% reduction in staff that some of them had gone over 30 days without a day off and were subsisting on 5 hours of sleep a night.  The Texas City explosion whalloped BP in the stock price for a couple of years and the stock was only beginning to recover when the Deepwater Horizon disaster hit.

Willful Blindness recounts many such corporate horror stories of cost cutting for bonuses and lax oversight due to disconnection that you’d think the business community would have learned their lessons by now.  But, paradoxically, their lemming-like behavior in pursuit of out Jonesing the guys in the next office up or the next corporation over has accelerated.  While the underlings look on with horror from their sleep deprived minds, the business guys drive the whole enterprise over a cliff.

I’m on the last chapter where Heffernan poses some possible solutions.  Most of them involve having the guys in the front office appoint independent auditors and reality checkers.  Heffernan’s experts recommend that the CEOs and executives encourage dissent and reward people who do not have a personal agenda.  But that relies on the executives realizing that they have a problem, er, which seems to be the point of the book- they don’t want to know.   And anyone who has been in an environment where cost cutting is all the rage knows that to speak up is to invite an unwelcome outcome.  So, for the time being, in the Obama age, don’t expect there will be a new honesty from the people most affected by the conformity in the boardroom.

I haven’t found anything technically wrong with Willful Blindness but I’m going through it slowly and critically, as the author would suggest, to see if all of her points hang together.  In the first chapter, she explains how it is that you will probably never hear anything out of your comfort zone on Pandora because your preferences have all been carefully analyzed.  All the recommendations will be based on what you already like.  Oddly enough, her book was an audible recommendation for  me, probably because I had read Malcolm Gladwell’s books that are similar in style and content.

She also talks about the Cassandras.  Anyone who has read this blog for the past three years will know I and other co-bloggers here and in a subset of the left blogosphere fall into this category.  Psychologists don’t know what makes us tick yet.  There’s no clear pattern that emerges.  Maybe we’re just born that way.  I do suspect it’s a bit of both nature and nurture.  Someday, they’ll pin it down.  Maybe it can be taught.  But maybe it just has to do with being comfortable in our own skins, not seeking or needing as much approval from our peers as other people.  If there is a neurotransmitter feedback loop in conforming to the crowd, we have either less of it or have learned to neutralize it, substituting our own positive reinforcement.  But until we figure it out, we should expect that target audiences, whether they are in business or politics, will “go along to get along” and savvy manipulators will exploit the tendency to short circuit analysis with group dynamics.  The Cassandras will see it coming, speak up and get ignored until the rest of the population suffers enough to catch on.  Until then, we can expect a lot of sleepless nights as the wheels of business grind on.