Sunday 30 January 2011

Fabulous comment on computer modelling

From here:

Atomic, I did my PhD work in modeling and financed it working at a national simulation lab, which led me to identify the following scientific law: when carefully prepared, with full rigor, a good physical model, realistic rate constants, and the best numerical methods, a simulation model will tend to converge on the result most likely to assure continued funding.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Someday photos

Crikey, whaddaya ya know? Another batch of photos from sometime in the not so distant past. I must have been up early that morning, as the Boot Camp nutters were doing their thing on the oval.

I didn't bother to stop for this bloke as he looked like he had everything required to fix a flat. Not a good place to get one - there's no room to spread your tyre changing stuff around.

This bloke looked like he was about 70, and still going strong.

My pet hate - why is it that Sydney Council will happily put up a rabbit for the Chinese year of the rabbit, but won't put up anything even vaguely Christian for Christmas?

Thursday photos

I'll be blowed, I just found a few days worth of photos that I forgot to post. These aren't from Thursday by the way - it's just to differentiate them from Friday's lot.

A bloke fishing along the Bay Run. Don't see that too often. As the land around parts of it is reclaimed industrial something or other, that water is probably full of fish with nine eyeballs.

I'm not getting up earlier - the sun is getting up later.

I saw this bloke in the orange vest a few times - what was odd about him is that he is riding in a blue business shirt. I could never do that. Even though I wear all the air breathing lycra stuff, by the time I get to work, I have sweat dripping off my arms and pouring down my face. One good thing about this photo is the amount of room the passing ute is giving us - notice how far out he is from the white line. I like it when drivers give you plenty of room.

I stupidly went fast and caught up to this rubbish truck - getting a lung full of that was not pleasant. Almost heaved up my breakfast.

No, the bridge is not about to fall down. That's just me taking a photo whilst trying to pant up a hill as fast as possible.

A couple of hubbards, there for the taking.

It hasn't been cold, but this lady was well rugged up - woollen top, thick long fingered gloves etc etc. Some people feel the cold. Not me - too much insulation.

A sucker for punishment - not only did he play tennis in the hot afternoon sun, he rode to and from his game. Some people are just too fit and active.

Friday photos

Yes, I've been through a short hiatus. I couldn't think of anything to write, so I packed away the keyboard for a week or so. Prior to having a family, I used to do some of my best writing very late at night - like at 2am kind of late. I'd wake up with an odd idea, sit down at the keyboard and bash it out (this was also in the days before blogs existed). That doesn't happen any more - usually because I am so shattered by 2200hrs that the thought of getting up at 0200 is just too much for my brain to bear. It gratefully shuts down and doesn't think of anything at all until the sun comes up.

Speaking of the sun coming up, I think I'm getting back into that season when I'll catch some good early morning photos. I reckon the ingredients for a good early morning shot are as follows - get up early to catch the dawn (duh!), have enough clouds to give the sun something to reflect off and if possible, have still water for the clouds to reflect off. The sun gets up too early for me in summer, so I miss the most important bit - get there at sunrise. There's also not enough cloud cover around. However, as the days get shorter and cloudier, the odds improve on me grabbing a good snap.

Speaking of grabbing, I almost grabbed the fixie with the blue back pack on Friday - as in my wheel grabbing his as we nearly smacked into each other. It was mostly my fault (not looking in the right direction), but it didn't help that when I did something totally stupid, he was completely unable to slow down. Being a purist, he didn't have brakes. Yes, he was fast and fit and went over the bridge at a good clip, but I have to shake my head at the antics of these guys at times.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Sunday photos

In an effort to put on a few more miles after the Xmas break (in order to take off a few extra kilos), I headed west on Sunday morning for a few laps of the Olympic Park precinct. On the way, I spotted this mad bastard cycling across this rather large bridge in the car lane - sensible people like me stick to the bike track. However, with his speed, and with the next to nil traffic at that time on Sunday morning - why not?

This bloke was making a big deal of racing up this short rise, so I had to take his photo. It was accompanied by lots of huffing and puffing and throwing of the bike from side to side.

Arty, sculptury type things along the river bank. It took me a minute to work out that they're supposed to be boats.

Nice bit of tile work around the base of those poles - I could do with this in my bathroom. I'd feel very Roman Emperor then.

A bloke paddling out to his yacht in a very tiny boat - like a cockle shell. If a ferry went past, even the smallest bow wave would have swamped him.

It was definitely the time and place for lots and lots and lots and lots of cyclists - and almost no cars. I reckon I saw five cars over a few hours - during peak hour, the route I took is balls to the wall traffic. Not far from where I took this photo is an Ikea store - as soon as that opens, traffic madness descends on this whole area. It's best to be gone from here at least half an hour before Ikea opens up. Never get between a desperate weekend decorator and an Ikea store.

There are seven cyclists in this shot.

There are nine in this one. I could bore you all night with lots of photos of streams of cyclists, but I won't. Just accept my word that there were an awful lot of them about.

Tai Chi was also pretty popular in a few spots. Yes, there are only two doing it here, but there were singles and pairs and small groups dotted all over the place.

I was dying for a coffee after a while, but the only place that I could find was the Gloria Jeans at Rhodes. A few desperate cyclists were stopping for a coffee, but I decided to press on and try and find an open cafe somewhere in the area. I completely failed. There are cafes out there, but none were open when I went past them. I somehow struggled home with caffeine depleted blood.

When I got into Olympic Park, the amount of traffic made passing difficult in places. Most of the cyclists appeared to be blokes my age and older - no young whipper-snappers tearing around at that hour. I noticed later that although I saw hundreds and hundreds of cyclists that morning, not one was riding around without a helmet. I'm used to seeing at least one person a day without one, but I guess the Sunday morning demographic is older and much more risk averse that the hip young unhelmeted people I see when riding to work.

Rollerskates - I reckon this bloke was middle aged when Rollerball came out in 1975. (What a great movie that was).

As part of the housing development out that way, the developers have put this fitness thing in. I guess it was part of the development approval. There was no sign anyone had ever used any of it. I did spot an empty sauce packet, which suggests it's a nice spot to sit and eat a pie and sauce. I think what the locals want to do out here is walk, cycle and do a bit of Tai Chi. Doing pull ups and push ups and crunches is just not their cup of tea.

Monday 17 January 2011

Willing and able - a tale of two sectors

I was having a chat with a work colleague recently, and he was raving on about the concept of "willing and able" - or if you're talking about the public sector, "unwilling and unable". For the benefit of Cav, I will now ask my "brother", the management consultant, to take over this post. (For the rest of you, just ignore the fact that I now have two voices in my head arguing with each other).

After 20 years of working in the public and private sectors, I'd have to say that the biggest difference in performance between the two is how they treat the dullards. The private sector has them, but they tend to get rid of them on a regular basis and they also tend to not allow their numbers to build up to the point where they become a risk to the company. Any operation can afford a couple of idiots - but when the number of clowns gets so large that they take over the circus, then the place turns to shit. The public sector doesn't do any regular house cleaning of staff, so over time, the number of oxygen thieves builds up to a point where they reach a critical mass, and then the performance of the whole department goes down the toilet.

As far as high performers goes, I've met plenty in both the private and public sectors. In fact I'd go so far as to say that at the top level of performance, the proportion is about the same across both sectors. There are some very bright, very hard working people in the public sector - unfortunately, they are dragged down by some absolute boat anchors.
I'm not saying that the oxygen thieves and WOFTAMs are stupid (Waste of Flipping Time and Money) - in fact many of them are exceptionally bright. Their problem is generally that their priorities are not aligned with the aims of the department. They go off on tangents and do their own thing, and sometimes work like mad to sabotage the work of anyone that isn't following their tangent. Others are manic empire builders, or serial organisational reshufflers, or followers of every management fad that ever made it into paperback. Some are lazy as hell, or spend all their time running a business on the side. I have met a few genuinely thick people in my time, but they are pretty rare. The rest are smart people doing very stupid things.

This is where we get to our "willing and able" matrix. Anyone who has ever seen a BCG matrix will recognise where I stole this idea from. Your top class performers - the "A" crowd, are willing (motivated) and able (skilled, educated, experienced) to get he job done. The "B" performers are a bit less motivated or don't have the top level skills of the "A" crowd. Those in the "C" group are just getting by - doing enough to earn their pay, and not much else. The "D" group are both unmotivated and unskilled.
I worked for one government department that looked like the above - it was quite new, so it hadn't been around long enough to accumulate any barnacles on its hull - and the CEO was also ruthless enough to sack anyone that failed to perform. That was a once-off performance; I have never seen another public sector CEO with the balls to do that (and our CEO was a woman). That department was a great place to work - it really got things done, and morale was excellent.

I've also spent a bit of time in a department like the picture below - it had been around for a long time, been through endless restructures (which always resulted in the good performers leaving) and was completely hamstrung by a huge dead weight of under performing numpties. In fact a massive amount of organisational time was spent in trying to prevent the oxygen thieves from sabotaging and destroying the entire place. Sacking them was not an option, so management spent all its time putting out the fires that the WOFTAMs deliberately lit on a regular basis. They work very hard to create a crisis, then sit back and watch the fun start. It's how they got their kicks. I suspect a fair few of them were psychopaths. Working there was the pits.

Since leaving that sinking ship, I've worked for a wide array of private companies. I spent some time with an well known entrepreneurial company - the owner deliberately employs young, enthusiastic people, and the image of the company reflects that. Unfortunately, those young staff tend to be wet behind the ears, and are not as highly skilled as older, more experienced workers tend to be. They're as motivated as hell, but sometimes they don't have a clue what they're doing. It's an interesting strategy, and it would probably work really well if the youngsters were leavened with a few older, wiser grey heads - but that wouldn't suit the hip, young image of the company, so they are left to blunder on regardless. A fun place to work, but a bit tiring after a while.
Another mob I worked for went through a takeover and about 40% of the staff were made redundant. Unlike the public sector, the redundancies were involuntary. If there was one job and two candidates, the candidate who failed got the boot. They were paid well on their way out the door, but the process had a pretty shocking impact on those that survived. Essentially, they did just about nothing for 3 months except work on ensuring they got a job. Their regular work was put aside - if they failed to get the job, they wouldn't have to worry about catching up on it, would they? Many of them ended up with jobs that they didn't really like, which upset them no end. In short, a lot of willing and able people were turned into unwilling and able - skilled, but annoyed and thus underperforming.
A company that I recently worked for laid off 10% of its workforce when I was there. They did the same a few years ago when I did another job for them. (I'm sounding like the kiss of death, aren't I?) Management worked pretty hard to ensure that they got rid of the dead wood during that process. In some cases, they had to get rid of people who were quite good - it was simply a matter of letting the bottom performers go in each team. In other cases, a team was carrying quite a bit of dead wood, but they only got rid of the worst cases, leaving a few useless ones in place. Each team had to get rid of 10% across the board. It didn't matter if one team had 5% useless and another 15% - 10% had to go. I didn't hear anyone complain too loudly - the payouts were very good, and since the object was to save money, they got rid of the most expensive people first (the CEO and a couple of other top managers).

The public sector does it all arse about though by offering voluntary redundancy. A lot of people in the "A" and "B" groups take the money and run, knowing they will get a job elsewhere very quickly. Those in the "D" group hang on like grim death - and they always seem to survive every purge. The department is then faced with recruiting more top performers (always a difficult task) and getting them up to speed in a hurry.

I'm not saying that sacking lots of useless public servants tomorrow is the answer. One challenge of being a manager is working out why people are not performing, and then trying to turn that around - either through re-training, putting an unhappy person into a different job or even moving staff around (some people just can't stand sitting next to certain personality types). If you can't fix them, then it's time they looked for a job elsewhere - they're either in the wrong industry, or the wrong company within that industry. (eg, a boat builder might be unhappy with the boss at one boat building company, but perform much better with another boat builder - that's moving between companies within the same industry. Other boat builders might just be jack of building boats - it's time they tried another industry, like running a florist or a cafe).

Here's the number one difference between the public and private sectors; in the private sector, managers are generally held accountable for the performance of their teams. That means they either motivate or improve the skills of their staff, or they sack them. If they fail, the manager gets the sack. In the public sector, managers never have to worry about losing their jobs. They really aren't under any pressure to make tough decisions - like getting rid of people.

Bah humbug revisited

I found out this morning that one of the clients that I am doing work for has donated nearly twenty grand for banana bender flood relief. They did a whip around of the staff on Friday, and the company matched the staff donations.

I won't tell you the name of the company. You won't read about this in the news - the only people that will ever know probably are the local employees of the company. This company doesn't have an office in Queensland, and doesn't really do any business up there.

It's just an example of people getting on with it without a lot of cheering and waving.

Saturday 15 January 2011

A couple of vids

Blogger's video processing engine stalled on me a few days ago - it simply refused to process the video in this post - I think it has finally emerged and is ready for viewing.

Here's the first in a series of short-short vids. This first is called "death by taxi". I wrote about it a few days ago. I was annoyed at being held up by the slow moving taxi in front of me, but I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and decided against making any potentially suicidal overtaking moves. A cyclist coming up behind me thought he could safely overtake the taxi on the outside, but he was wrong. I know from experience that when cars go around this corner, they always go wide to the right. That's what this taxi did, and the cyclist almost got squished between it and a low concrete divider.

The second one shows a mum carrying a kid stepping out in front of me without so much as a glance in my direction. You can't see her head in the video - and I couldn't see it in real life either. Her kids head was blocking her view in this direction. Instead of looking around her kid, she just stepped off the tram platform. I've seen boneheads do this in the past when a tram has been coming along instead of a bike. Luckily for both of us, I saw what she was doing and guessed that she was about to step in front of me, so I stood on the brakes before she actually departed the platform. A more aggressive and less aware cyclist would have cleaned her up - along with the kid. Headlines would then blare "mother and child run down by insane cyclist", rather than "idiot steps in front of cyclist without bothering to look".

Friday photo

I feel ripped off - I'm sure I took more than one photo yesterday! How could I go a day with taking just one photo? It's not like I dropped the camera or the battery went flat. Maybe my reactions are slowing down - I'm just not whipping the camera out quickly enough to catch the action as I zip by.

This bloke was dawdling around the Bay Run. This section is rarely used by cyclists because it essentially ends in a dead end just ahead. What's the point of riding along a section of track that goes nowhere? I ride along here because I jump onto a street at the end and that takes me towards town, but for cyclists wanting to do laps of the Bay to keep fit, it's a bit of a waste of space.

I guess it is a case of "build it, and they will come" - but only if you build it properly and complete 100% of whatever you are building. Cyclists won't use a track that is only 90% complete - or in this case, about 50% complete.

From reading the local rag, I notice the missing section is going to be built soon. However, the numbskulls in charge aren't going to build properly separated bike and pedestrian paths (like you see in the above photo - pink for bikes, black for people). Instead, they're going to but in a single, 3 metre wide shared path.

That's about the stupidest thing possible - but that's what we've come to expect from our incredibly stupid Labor government. They can't get the big things right, and they can't get the small things right. They fuck everything they touch.

Friday 14 January 2011

Thursday photos

I know today is Friday - at least it's Friday here in Sydney. Although it is getting close to Saturday. I've named this "Thursday photos" as I was busy last night and these are the photos from yesterday. As I don't have much time tonight, Friday's photos will be loaded on Saturday. So there.

I didn't do anything arty or funny with the camera to get this shot - I simply set it to auto, pointed and clicked as I rode along. It came out this way - honest. No post-processing performed either. It's actually a good reflection of how the light looked at that time and place on Thursday morning. I'm chuffed with my skill with the camera.

God knows what I did to get this effect - see how it's all blurred and twisted on the right? Camera must have slipped slightly in my glove.

Here is this bloke photographed without any pretentious arty wankiness - he seems to be dangling a few containers of Chinese take away from his handlebars, which would be a strange thing to do at 0700hrs.

What is this - blue shirt morning?

And another blue shirt! Trust me - I didn't set out to photograph only cyclists in blue shirts either.

Phew - a non-blue shirt. Don't worry mate - a few thousand more kilometres, and you'll be as sleek and lithe as me (says he who hasn't seen his navel in a decade).

Bloke doing a bit of overtaking as we go through Pyrmont.

Cyclists bunching up at the Pyrmont Bridge lights. There's a bloody traffic jam of bikes here some mornings.

When I came past here a few days ago, there were several photographers setup here with fancy equipment taking photos of the wall opposite. I figured someone was going to come along and do something special with the wall - like paint a Picasso mural on it or something.

Nope. I was wrong.

Coming home was windy as hell - a good day to fly a kite, which is what this bloke on the beach was doing (the yellow thing is a great big kite). Of course he had to reel it in just as I got my camera out to take the photo.

And that was Thursday. I'm off to bed.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Taking orders literally?

I wonder if this undercover cop was told that his mission was to "fuck the protest movement"?

Tonight, a woman came forward to add to accusations that Kennedy in his undercover role had sexual relationships with women in the protest movement. Her allegations raise important questions for his senior police handlers about his conduct while operating undercover.

Giving details about how Kennedy gained her trust and slept with her many times over the course of a year, Anna, 26, said she felt "violated" by the actions of the police officer.

She now questions whether the British police have allowed a string of undercover agents to use sex as a "tactic" to disrupt and glean information about environmental campaigns

I don't do empathy

The floods in Queensland have brought out the usual Clinton-esque "I feel your pain" comments across teh interwebs.

Sorry, that's not for me.

I can relate to the personal difficulties that friends and acquaintances are having, and I don't mind offering my sympathies or help to them. However, I just can't muster up the gall to offer a hug to all of Queensland. For starters, that would involve hugging Queenslanders, and I'm not sure that would be very pleasant. Especially if they haven't showered for a few days.

I blame Princess Diana for all this mawkish outpouring of faux-sympathy. People feel the need to say the appropriate thing - and after that, they don't have to lift a bloody finger to help. They've expunged their guilt by offering meaningless sympathetic noises.

Yes, accuse me of bah-humbug if you like, but unless you personally know people who have been badly affected or who have died, how about you just clam up and keep your "pain" to yourself. I'm much more impressed by people who give freely of their time and money, and who don't say a thing about it.

Besides, Queenslanders are a tough lot. I'm sure they can do without a lot of southern cockroaches crying over their plight.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Trams and Darwin Awards

Thought I was going to see a Darwin Award issued this week. There I am, waiting for the lights to change when I see a bloke across the road walk right in front of a tram coming towards us. I don't think he even glanced to his right before stepping in front of the tram - the tram honked at him and he had to do a little run to get out of the way.

The video flattens the perspective so it doesn't look like the tram gets that close to him - from where I was watching from, I'm surprised the tram didn't clip him on the way past.

Morons. They're everywhere.

Wednesday photos

It started as a grey and miserable day - I thought it was going to rain again - but the sun came out and it hit 31 degrees on the way home. Humidity is around 80% - I am currently leaking water from every pore. Last week, there was a bloke in a tinnie just off here having a fish. Today, it was a couple of blokes in kayaks. There were also a million runners out this morning - amazing how many people are up and about at 0700 doing stuff like this.

A very speedy older gent who came roaring out of a side street just in front of me. I don't think he expected to see a bike in the bike lane - he had a slightly surprised look on his face, as in, "Oops, maybe I should have braked and looked first".

Don't see many rollerbladers anymore. Boy, was that a flash in the pan.

I had a quick chat with this bloke at the lights - then he took off and left me looking at his tail light rapidly receding into the distance.

A stack waiting to happen - what this bloke doesn't realise is that cars come up the street from the right and cut the corner here as they turn right. He'd be lucky if a car only ran over his front wheel.

Cyclist about to jump the red light.

Huffing and puffing over the ANZAC bridge.

A very fit looking bloke.