Monday, August 31, 2009

Invisible Immigrants, Old, Isolated and Left With Nobody to Talk To - NYTimes.com

Invisible Immigrants, Old, Isolated and Left With Nobody to Talk To - NYTimes.com

Together, they fend off the well of loneliness and isolation that so often accompany the move to this country late in life from distant places, some culturally light years away.

“If I don’t come here, I have sealed lips, nobody to talk to,” said Devendra Singh, a 79-year-old widower. Meeting beside the parking lot, the men were oblivious to their fellow mall rats, backpack-carrying teenagers swigging energy drinks.



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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fujitsu Taking advantage of economic downturn

Japanese firm Fujitsu is facing the threat of strikes over pension
pa.press.net
Japanese firm Fujitsu is facing the threat of strikes over plans to close its main final salary pension scheme and impose a pay freeze.

The manufacturing workers' union Unite said, its members had indicated in a consultative ballot that they would be prepared to take industrial action.

The union could now move to a formal strike ballot after complaining that 4,000 workers in the firm's defined benefit pension plan were being hit by the plans.

Unite said if the proposal goes ahead, the company intends to dismiss employees after the end of the consultation period in September, and offer them employment on new contracts which are unchanged, except in relation to pensions.

The union estimates that the proposed pension scheme change would reduce the total pay package of each employee by at least 15%, and is the latest in a series of "attacks" on employee conditions at the company, including a pay freeze.

Last week Fujitsu announced proposals for 1,200 redundancies in the UK, amounting to 10% of its UK workforce.

Unite's national officer Peter Skyte said: "Fujitsu Services is not struggling or failing. It is a highly profitable and successful company but one which is seeking to take economic advantage of the recession to attack jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.

"Our members are insisting that the company should pay fairly and provide decent pensions for all its employees. Following the announcement of 1,200 redundancies, they are now calling for the issue of job cuts to be included in any ballot for formal industrial action.

"We are calling on the company to meet us to resolve these issues and avoid the risk of damaging industrial action."

Fujitsu employs around 12,500 people in the UK, with main sites at Bracknell, Stevenage, Manchester, Crewe, Belfast, Staines, Basingstoke, Wakefield, Sheffield, Solihull, Slough, Lewes, Warrington, Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle and London.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Old Timer IT Terms That You should Never Use: Stay Cool!

"I don't need a cloak to become invisible, Harry."

Do you know, or can you name, the one referred to as 'Dumbledore', in your office? No! Then I guess it's probably you!

If you’re old enough to remember the rise of silicon based technology, then you may need a refresher course when it comes to talking about "today's" technology.

Techie Term Checklist
You have here a short list of outdated techie terms, phrases that you shouldn’t be using at work anymore because they will make you seem old and a practioner of the ancient 'black' arts. This is especially true if you’re looking for a new job and on the interview trail. You should be talking about "cloud computing," not "ASPs" even though they are basically the same thing.

This list is also useful for you young whipper-snappers too. Now, when your elders and betters in the office use one of these terms, you can still laugh at them but at least you'll know what their talking about.

1. The Intranet

Popular in the mid-90s, the term "intranet" referred to a private network running the Internet Protocol and other Internet standards such as the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). It was also used to describe an internal Web site that was hosted behind a firewall and was accessible only to employees. Today, every private network runs IP. So you can just use the term virtual private network or VPN to describe a private IP-based network.

2. Company based Extranets

An "extranet" referred to private network connections based on Internet standards such as IP and HTTP that extended outside an organisation, such as between business partners. Extranets often replaced point-to-point electronic data interchange (EDI) connections that used standards such as X12. Today, companies provide suppliers, resellers and other members of their supply chain with access to their VPNs.

3. Web Surfing

When is the last time you heard someone talk about surfing the Web? You know the term is out of date when your kids don’t know what it means. To teens and tweens, the Internet and the World Wide Web are one and the same thing. So it’s better to use the term "browsing" the Web if you want to be understood. Or you can just say "Google" since everyone uses that term as a verb.

4. Push Technology

The debate over the merits of "push" versus "pull" technology came to a head in 1996 with the release of the PointCast Network, a Web service that sent a steady stream of news to subscribers. However, PointCast and other push technology services required too much network bandwidth. Eventually, push technology evolved into RSS feeds, which remain the preferred method for publishing information to subscribers of the Internet. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

5. Application Service Provider (ASPs)

During this decade, the term "Application Service Provider" evolved into "Software-as-a-Service." Both terms refer to a vendor hosting a software application and providing access to it over the Web. Customers buy the software on a subscription basis, rather than having to own and operate it themselves. ASP was a hot term prior to the dot-com bust. Then it was replaced by "SaaS." Now it’s cool to talk about "cloud computing."

6. Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)

Coined by former Apple CEO John Sculley back in 1992 when he unveiled the Apple Newton, the term "personal digital assistant" referred to a handheld computer. PDA was still in use in 1996, when the Palm Pilot was the hottest handheld in corporate America. Today, the preferred generic term for a handheld like a Blackberry or an iPhone is a "smartphone".

7. Internet Telephony

You need to purge the term "Internet telephony" from your vocabulary and switch to VoIP, for Voice over IP. Even the term VoIP is getting old-fashioned because pretty soon all telephone calls will be routed over the Internet rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network. It’s probably time to stop referring to the PSTN, too, because it is headed for the history books as all voice, data and video traffic is carried on the Internet.

8. Weblog

A blog is a shortened version of "Weblog," a term that emerged in the late 1990s to describe commentary that an individual publishes online. It spawned many words still in use such as "blogger" and "blogosphere." Nowadays, few people have time to blog so they are "microblogging," which is another word that’s heading out the door as people turn Twitter into a generic term for blasting out 140-character observations or opinions.

9. Thin Client

You have to give Larry Ellison credit for seeing many of the flaws in the client/server computing architecture and for popularizing the term "thin client" to refer to Oracle’s alternative terminal-like approach. In 1993, Ellison was touting thin clients as a way for large organizations to improve network security and manageability. Although thin clients never replaced PCs, the concept is similar to "virtual desktops" that are gaining popularity today as a way of supporting mobile workers.

10. World Wide Web

Nobody talks about the "World Wide Web" anymore, or the "Information Superhighway," for that matter. It’s just the Internet. It’s a distinction that Steve Czaban, the popular Fox Sports Radio talk show host, likes to mock when he refers to the "Worldwide Interweb." Nothing dates you more than pulling out one of those old-fashioned ways of referring to the Internet such as "infobahn" or "electronic highway."

Beware Trojan Horse Laptops bearing Gifts: Security Risk

The FBI has launched an investigation to find out who is sending unsolicited laptops to state governors across the country.

The Service is reporting that governors and state officials in at least 10 US states have received mysterious computers in the mail.

The mystery began in West Virginia earlier this month when Gov. Joe Manchin’s office received five Compaq computers on Aug. 5. A week later, Manchin’s office received a sixth notebook, a Hewlett-Packard model.

The Charleston Gazette, which first reported the story, said Manchin’s office didn’t turn on the machines for security reasons. Very wise! West Virginia state police said HP confirmed the notebooks were ordered online for delivery to the governor’s office, but didn’t reveal who made the purchase.

Wyoming and Vermont have also reported similar incidents, which has led to the FBI investigation.

The incidents are raising concerns that hackers are taking advantage of low-cost laptops to circumvent digital security and anti-virus controls to infiltrate high-value targets. It’s an intriguing and ingeniously simple idea, provided that they actually take possession of a machine in the supply chain.

The entire idea of having an inside, physical component to a hack is nothing new. Security history is replete with stories of hackers using social engineering techniques to enter buildings to gain access to unsecured workstations, plant bugs and monitoring devices and steal information necessary for remote access.

If you have seen the movies “Hackers,” “Sneakers,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Eraser” and others, with similar plot lines, then you know how this works. While it's possible for people to don janitor and Fedex uniforms to gain access to offices, the most common, cost-effective and likely way of making such an attack is 'Dumpster diving'. Simply, sifting through other people's trash to find discarded clues that may lead to establishing remote access.

Putting malware on a free machine that just shows up in the office, is different and arguably ingenious. Notebook, desktop and hardware costs have shrunk to the point where everyday hackers can afford the investment of buying a dozen for planting in high-value targets and the pay-off would be well worth th eeffort.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dalai Lama Welcomed to Taiwan: despite China's Protest

HONG KONG — The president of Taiwan said Thursday that he would allow the Dalai Lama to visit the island next week.

China opposes this viist and say that it threatens to jeopardize rapidly improving relations between Taipei and Beijing.

“No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this,” the China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau said Thursday in a statement carried by the Xinhua news agency.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is expected to arrive Monday for a six-day tour of southern Taiwan, which was ravaged by Typhoon Morakot three weeks ago. It is believed that the Dalai Lama will bring comfort and peace to the victims of the flooding. At least 650 people are reported dead, in the aftermath of the storm.

The invitation to the Dalai Lama was extended by several local government leaders in the south. This was seen by analysts in Taiwan as a political maneuvre aimed at embarrassing President Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval ratings have plummeted over what is widely seen as a slow and ineffective response to the devastating typhoon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tedious Presentations: Try Buzzword Bingoconcentrating on

Do tedious presentations filled with cascading synergistic jargon make your brain hurt?

In previous years some humourous wags would have resorted to handing out corporate buzzword bingo cards to liven up the presentations or to alleviate the tedium, brought on by the men in suits.

Trouble is, they took hours to make up and you had to be somewhat premeditated about it, but thanks to the marvels of IT and the internet, we can once more be amusing and spontaneous!

If you go to www.robietherobot.com/buzzword.htm and you will be rewarded with a fresh card each time you visit. As an example, row in front of me now reads "enable, Geo-social, demographics, customer-facing, best practices", which sounds perfect for your next presentation.

Print off as many bingo slips as you need, hand them to like minded colleagues enduring the meeting with you, and be sure to advise them to try to avoid shouting "Bingo!" too loudly when the presenter has completed a row or a column of jargon.

Failure to exercise such self-restraint could result in a dynamic downsizing denouement - known in American English as a pink slip, and to Brits as a P45.

In that unhappy event, though, the ex-colleagues could always check www.robietherobot.com/jobtitle.htm for innovative income-stream identifiers: it has just suggested to us that we might seek work as a "Graphic Filtering Guru" or a "Dot-Com Evolution Administrator".

Fidel castro Makes Comments on Obama

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized President Obama for expanding the war effort in Afghanistan, but Castro also mildly praised Obama's domestic initiatives, such as health care reform.

Fidel Castro says taking on the Taliban is a mistake, noting that the Taliban "sank the Soviet Union."

In an essay published Tuesday in Cuba's state-run newspaper, Granma, Castro said drawing American troops away from Iraq to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan is a mistake, saying the Taliban in Afghanistan "sank the Soviet Union."

Still, Castro said he was astonished by U.S. news reports of declining popularity for Obama. Castro blamed "traditional [U.S.] racism" for dampening reform efforts, including health care revisions.

The former Cuban leader commonly writes "reflections" in state media, using them to comment on international issues, and he often condemns U.S. foreign policy.

This weeks' commentary coincides with the visit of former U.S. presidential candidate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Richardson, who was nominated for commerce secretary in the Obama administration but withdrew, is in the Cuban capital this week on a trade mission "designed to capitalise on potential agricultural and cultural partnerships between Cuba and New Mexico," according to the governor's Web site.
Despite the near half-century trade embargo, the U.S. Treasury Department permits U.S. states to sell agricultural, medical and IT products in Cuba on a cash basis, it said.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Women as Leaders, Bosses and Managers

Do Men or Women Make Better Bosses?Fair or Not, Employees Have Gender Biases About Bosses

My first boss was a man twice my age. He taught me how to write a headline, punch up a lede and copyedit my stories. He also made inappropriate comments about my legs on a weekly basis, despite the fact that I kept them hidden under frumpy, ankle-length skirts.

My next boss was a year older than me. When she hired me to do her filing and data entry, she promised me a raise in a year. When my 18th month rolled around and she still couldn't get approval for my pay bump, she called me into her office and proceeded to cry on my shoulder.

Then she went to lunch with her manager pals like she always did, while I ate a tuna sandwich at my desk.

Like many, I've worked for bosses of all stripes over the years, from the woefully inept to the thrillingly supportive to the borderline psychotic. Some of my best bosses were men; some were women. Same goes for the worst of the bunch; each gender's been well represented there, too.

That's why when I first read the recent New York Times interview with Elle Group executive Carol Smith, who insisted women make better managers, I bristled. How can women ever expect men (and for that matter, other women) to stop stereotyping female bosses as shrews, softies or micromanaging morons if we're not prepared to stop stereotyping male managers?

The Double-Bind for Women
Fair or not, people do have their biases. I have an entire inbox of e-mails from workers of both genders telling me why they dislike working for men (too grabby, competitive, uncollaborative) and why they dislike working for women (too weepy, petty, ineffective).

Only now that we've reached the 21st century, women with grumbles about female managers often pepper them with caveats and apologies.

"Although I hate to say it, men are much better to work for," Jane, an office manager, said via e-mail.

Of a previous job at a counseling center, where most of her colleagues were female, she explained, "There was always some kind of drama, gossiping and backbiting going on -- from people who were trained in conflict resolution."

Not so in her current position at a law enforcement unit comprised mainly of men.

"Even considering their high-stress jobs, I've never heard any of the petty complaints, whining about their co-workers and outright hostility that was always taking place at the counseling center," she said.

And some women who've had positive experiences with female managers still said they'd rather have a male boss.

"I have had great bosses of both genders, but I still have a preference to work with men," wrote a corporate trainer who didn't want her name mentioned. "When there is a problem with a male boss, it's normally about the work. When there is a problem with a female boss, it could be the work or something personal. I hate to say it because I am a woman."

And I hate to hear it. Because even today, only 15 percent of executives in Fortune 500 boardrooms are women. And the faster we recognize that some bosses, companies and industries are more toxic than others -- regardless of gender -- the easier it will be for more women to reach the executive suite.

Turning Women Into Men Isn't the AnswerI suspect that no matter how many surveys and studies on the merits of female leaders think tanks and universities churn out, we'll still be having this conversation for years to come.

Sunday's New York Times "Room for Debate" blog post on whether women make better bosses drew hundreds of heated comments from readers, some outraged by the question in the first place, many strictly in favor of either male managers or female ones.

Thing is, so many workers have so little faith in the people they work for, be they male or female. Earlier this year, 52 percent of 3,000 U.S. employees and managers polled by international staffing firm Randstad said there aren't enough qualified managers in their organization.

Unfortunately, failing miserably as a manager is much more of a burden for women, said Jan Combopiano, vice president and chief knowledge officer of Catalyst, a nonprofit that researches women in the workplace.

"If a man fails, you're not going to think it's because of his gender," she said. But, she explained, that's not necessarily the case if a female boss falls flat on her face.

There's no denying that, in general, men and women have different communication styles. (Witness the dozens of letters in my inbox about less-than-nurturing male managers and female bosses who have difficulty giving a direct order.) Yet any workplace consultant will tell you that managing well is a skill that can be learned, no matter what your anatomy.

"We're never going to make men into women and vice versa," said Betty Spence, president of the National Association for Female Executives. "We really need both ways of seeing, both ways of thinking. We need the male focus, and we need women's ability to multitask."

In other words, men and women need to collaborate in the workplace and draw on each other's strengths, not try to change every last trait of each other.

"When men are sitting there watching a football game and you walk in naked, they aren't going to see you," Spence said. "We're just going to need to accept it and use it, because that focus is necessary in business."

Women Bullies as Managers


Psycho Managers: The Crimes of Bad Managers are often Buried

Like many employees, I had a boss who could be a lovely person but had terrible mood swings. She had no idea how to talk nicely to people and was not well liked. She was the wrong choice to manage people and couldn't manage a multi-skilled team to save her life.

One minute she was clearly working hard at being the kind, supportive maternal figure who wouldn't hesitate to pick up the lunch bill or to dole out helpful career advice. The next, she had flipped and became the tight-assed, briefcase-swinging monstorous Psycho killer of film legends.

Immature managers
Typically, when things are not going their way, they will cease to communicate; throw a tantrum; yelling, screaming and then even hiding from the situation.

Being unhappy with your work is one thing and this may incur direct but constructive criticism. All this is to be expected, but to express disgust at a document's content by ripping each page out of the binder and throwing them at the owner, one at a time, and at the same time throwing abuse and insults around like confetti. Well, that's simply childish and immature.

Faulty Hierarchy
Unfortunately, promotion does come too often to people who have a history of terrorising their subordinates. Revealing that the hierarchical selection criteria is flawed and is self-replicating.

It's no secret that many managers land their jobs without having the correct skills or receiving an ounce of leadership training. Their only visible talent being that they 'really' want a bigger office, job title and paycheck. Leaving the acquisition of professional management skills to fate, blind chance or learning how to lead 'on the fly'.

Cardinal Jekyll and Hyde
To be cursed with a boss who could go from "greatest gal /guy to hang out with for drinks" to an hysterical raving lunatic in mere half seconds, is very dusturbing.

Anyone that can carry around 2 separate personalities inside them and can appear to be a friendly person in the morning and a ranting monster in the afternoon, is without doubt, unfit for leadership and is clealry overwhelmed by the pressure of it.

Managing a manic manager
If resigning or getting an internal transfer isn't a viable option, especially in today's employment environment, you have to find and manage your boss's trigger points. If they tend to implode after 3 p.m., seek them out early in the day and check their blood sugar levels.

If they're a holy terror after departmental review meetings with their own manager, stay far, far away but try to find the root cause of the problem, between manager et manager.

If your boss hates long e-mails, and we all do, spread the word to keep the correspondence snappy and to the point.

Tantrums
If you still find yourself the target of an unexpected and undeserved tirade of abuse, don't fight against the storm. Wait patiently until it subsides and is shown to be ineffective. Speak quietly if shouted at and stay calm. Give your boss the opportunity to vent their steam. Don't fight noise with noise or a tantrum with a tantrum.

Micro-management
Micromanagers are rarely the perfectionists they claim to be. They are normally just control freaks, who cannot delegate effectively. They claim that they do not trust others but they are really very aware of their own shortcomings and insecurity. Especially, about how their own results and performance will be perceived upstairs.

Make progress lists and status checklists for them, documenting the tasks and projects you are doing, their status and their completion. Then sit your boss down and show them the last four assignments that you did that they were happy with.

Clarify, Clarify, Clarify
Tell them directly that they're interferring with the steady efficient flow of your work, tasks and company business. Tell them bluntly that you could work more efficiently if they backed off and loosened up the reigns, refraining from asking for excessive copies and repeated rounds of revisions.

Multiple revisions normally come about because your boss has not thought their requirements through, thoroughly enough. So lots of clarification should be demanded at the earliest stage to prevent circular re-iterations at the later stages. You can do this yourself or you can prompt project team members to do so, for their own peace of mind.

You cannot be subtle with a micro-manager. You have to be direct and clear. Hit them over the head with it. If you use standard business terms and phrasing, there is less risk of offending.

Competence
To deal with an obviously incompetent boss, you have to become a role model for them and show them what the correct behaviour is. Try not to look surprised and dumb-founded, when they say something stupid.

There is an old adage that states 'If your boss enjoys success, then you will too'. It is always better to work for a stable, well respected and efficient boss, even if it is you who has made them that way. The ability to control works in both directions. If you are aware of your boss's mistakes, then you are the best person to take the initiative to change this.

Ancient history yields modern management lessons

Ancient history yields modern management lessons - ABC News

Looking to iconic figures of history for guidance on how to take charge of today's corporations remains fertile ground for publishers of books on management and leadership.

The new book "Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient...
The new book "Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today . . . and the Lessons You Can Learn" by Forbes CEO Steve Forbes and classics professor John Prevas richly details the successes and failures of six leaders from the classical period.
(amazon.com)A recent search of Amazon.com reveals thousands of books with "leadership lessons" in the title.

Management writers have found useful lessons in the lives of such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Patton, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi. The roster is endless.

Now comes an addition to the genre, Power, Ambition, Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today ... and the Lessons You Can Learn.

The book reflects a fusion of expertise of the two authors: classics professor John Prevas brings a knowledge of antiquity. Steve Forbes, the chairman, CEO and editor in chief of Forbes, brings a knowledge of management garnered from years in the executive suite.


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Symantec and Norton Produce list of 100 Dirtiest Websites

Symantec and Norton have produced a definitive listing of 100 of the dirtiest websites i.e. the websites to avoid.

These websites are most likely to damage your PC or laptop system and /or to install viruses, Malware and Mal-bots, intended to cause major disruptions to all web users.

Click here to see the Report.....

A Roadmap to Reducing Complexity in IT Infrastructures


Friday, August 21, 2009

I am older than Hawaii - 10 Things You Didn't Know About Hawaii

Cowabunga, dude - Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Hawaii - TIME

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Workplace suicides in the US surges 28% in 2009

Workplace suicides in the US rose dramatically by 28% this year, according to the US Labor Department.

Circumstances have certainly not improved in the working environment, as anxious workers watched colleagues depart in a rash of layoffs and were left alone to manage their survivor's guilt.

At the same time, the agency's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said the total number of workers who died on the job from any cause fell 12%.

The 5,071 workplace fatalities recorded in 2008 was the lowest number since the agency began tracking the data in 1992. That number includes 251 suicides, the highest number since official reporting began.

Labor officials did not seek to explain the sudden rise in workplace suicides. A BLS spokesman said the agency plans to research it more extensively, and will anounce their findings at a later date.

The agency said that it is very likely that current economic factors could be responsible for the overall decline in fatalities. Workers on average worked 1% fewer hours last year and the construction industry, which usually accounts for a major share of serious accidents or accidental workplace deaths, posted even larger than normal declines in employment and hours worked.

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, said the numbers show that the struggling economy is taking a direct toll and negative impact on worker morale.

"Those who are still working at companies where there have been substantial layoffs, are trying to cope with survivor's guilt, and the anxiety that they may be next." Chaison said. "I also think there's tremendous anxiety for the future, in the American workplace. It's not just being anxious, its gone beyond that it is now a true depression."

Chaison added a note of caution, saying that the numbers may be 'temporary extremes' that will drift back toward normal, historical levels once employment rises and economic conditions improve.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called the decline in workplace fatalities a "change in the right direction," but said it does not lessen the need for stronger safety enforcement to prevent accidental injuries.

"Today's report prompts us to step up our vigilance, particularly as the economy regains momentum," Solis said.

Here are some details on other findings:
• Fatal work injuries in the construction sector plummeted 20%.
• Workplace homicides dropped 18%.
• Fatal workplace falls declined 20% in 2008, after rising to a historic high in 2007.
• The number of fatal work injuries declined for all age categories except among the 'risk prone' 16 and 17-year-old workers.

Why do we remember bad things? A single chemical may make all the

Why do we remember bad things? A single chemical may make all the difference

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Technology and Romance

Technology is very like a stormy romance. When everything clicks, you’re on top of the world — but every now and then, something goes horribly wrong, and your heart gets broken.

Like when your hard drive dies, or your new gadget becomes obsolete after two weeks, or you find out that that gorgeous iPhone runs only on a limited T-Mobile service.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

China Continues Persecution of Internet Teenagers

Another 14-year-old boy allegedly beaten at a boot camp in China for young Internet addicts was in critical condition Thursday, less than three weeks after a youth at a different camp died, Chinese state media reported. People sit at a wireless cafe in Beijing, using their laptop computers.

People sit at a wireless cafe in Beijing, using their laptop computers.

Internet use has skyrocketed in China, especially among teens and Chinese parents have turned to hundreds of training camps that offer to wean their children -- mostly teenagers -- from excessive Internet use.

There are at least 400 private rehabilitation clinics or camps in the country, according to a recent survey by the China Youth Internet Association, adding that China has 10 million teenage Web addicts but the Chinese Ministry of Health says none of the private rehab clinics are legally registered.

The parents of Pu Liang, the injured teen, had sent him to a camp called the Anti-traditional Education Training Center on August 4 near Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, Chinese media reported.

Pu allegedly was beaten three times between August 4 and August 11. Police discovered the boy in solitary confinement last week and he was taken to a hospital, according to media reports.

His parents accused a counselor at the camp and Pu's peers of repeatedly hitting him, Chinese media said, adding that particular camp has been closed.

"He is suffering from water on the lungs (pneumonia) and kidney failure," Pu's father, Pu Shiwei, told the publication China View on Wednesday. "All injuries were done by the people at the camp."

The training cenere denied that a counselor beat the youth, contending Pu was hit by other campers because he couldn't get along with them, China View reported.

Authorities in Zhongjiang county, where the camp is located, said they detained the counselor after a report of alleged abuse from the parents of another child.

The man who established the military-style camp, Wu Yongjing, admitted to the BBC that youngsters were sometimes subjected to "physical punishment."

"Physical punishment is an effective way to educate children -- as long as it can be controlled," he said in an online story Wednesday.

The injured youth's mother told Chinese media that her son "got addicted to online games and frequented Internet cafes ... at the end of last semester, my son said he didn't want to go to school."

The mother, Li Shubing, saw an ad for the training camp and hoped her son could be helped, she told China Daily. The parents signed a contract with the center and paid 5,000 yuan (about $730), she said.

In a separate incident, 15-year-old Deng Senshan died after his parents sent him to a summer training camp for his Internet addiction, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. That camp was in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Briefing: Cannabis compounds fight prostate cancer - health - 19 August 2009 - New Scientist

Briefing: Cannabis compounds fight prostate cancer - New Scientist

But I'm sorry to say that smoking the stuff doesn't help at all.

So you can't use that as an excuse guys!

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The Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop

For the past difficult months you have been exposed to the bleeding edge of our negative economy.

Housing markets spontaneously combust, coworkers quickly disappear and the stifled, tortured moans of diminishing savings and pension plans can be heard through the walls and floorboards,

Now you have the awful sensation that your body’s stress response has taken on a self-replicating and ultimately self-defeating life of its own.


Well, Congratulations! for once you may have it right.

Stress Indicators
It's bad enough that chronic stress has been shown to raise blood pressure, stiffen arteries, suppress the immune system, heighten the risk of diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease and make one a very unhappy and undesirable companion. Now researchers have discovered that the sensation of being highly stressed can drastically rewire the brain in ways that promote's a sinister persistence.

Repetitive Disorder
Reporting earlier this summer in the journal Science, Nuno Sousa of the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute at the University of Minho in Portugal and his colleagues described experiments in which chronically stressed rats lost their elastic rat cunning and instead fell back on familiar routines and rote responses, like compulsively pressing a bar for food pellets they had no intention of eating.

Pet Perturbations
Moreover, the rats’ behavioural perturbations were reflected by a pair of complementary changes in their underlying neural circuitry. On the one hand, regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviours had shriveled, while, conversely, brain sectors linked to repeatative habit formation had bloomed.

Cognitively Predisposed
In other words, the rodents were now cognitively predisposed to keep doing the same things over and over, to run laps in the same dead-end rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener paths or sewers. “Behaviours become very habitual and occur much quicker in stressed animals than in the controls, and what's worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviours when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. “It is a vicious circle.”

Rat In a Rut
Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist who studies stress at Stanford University School of Medicine, said, “This is a great model for understanding why stressed people end up in a rut, and then continue to dig themelves deeper and deeper into that rut.”

The truth is, Dr. Sapolsky said, “we’re lousy at recognising when our normal coping mechanisms aren’t working. Our response is usually to do it five times more, instead of thinking, maybe it’s time to try something new.”

Perversity
Perseverance and determination can be an admirable trait and is essential for all success in life, but when taken too far and at the wrong time, it becomes, uncontrollable repetition or simple perversity (?).

“If I were to try to break into the world of modern dance, after the first few rejections the logical response might be, get more practice first,” said Dr. Sapolsky, the author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” among other books. “but after the 12,000th rejection, maybe I should realise this isn’t a viable career option.”

Reversible
Happily, the stress-induced changes in behaviour and brain appear to be reversible. To rattle the rats to the point where their stress response remained demonstrably hyperactive, the researchers exposed the animals to four weeks of varying degrees of stress: moderate electric shocks, being encaged with dominant rats, prolonged dunks in water.

Those animals who were chronically stressed were then compared with their non-stressed peers. The stressed rats had no trouble learning a task like pressing a bar to get a food pellet or a squirt of sugar water, but they had difficulty deciding when to stop pressing the bar, as normal rats easily did.

Restoration
Fortunately, after some R&R, four weeks’ vacation in a supportive setting, free of bullies and Tasers, the formerly stressed rats looked and behaved just like the controls; able to innovate, discriminate and would stop pressing the bar.

The atrophied synaptic connections in the decisive regions of the prefrontal cortex resprouted, while the overgrown dendritic vines of the habit-prone sensorimotor striatum retreated.

Resilient and Plastic
According to Bruce S. McEwen, head of the neuroendocrinology laboratory at Rockefeller University, the new findings offer a particularly elegant demonstration of a principle that researchers have just begun to grasp. “The brain is a very resilient and plastic organ,” he said. “Dendrites and synapses retract and reform, and reversible remodeling can occur throughout life.”

Neural and Endocrine
Stress may be most readily associated with the nano-second pace of postindustrial society, but the body’s stress response is one of our oldest possessions. Its basic architecture, its linked network of neural and endocrine organs that spit out stimulatory and inhibitory hormones and other factors as needed, looks pretty much the same in us as it does in a goldfish, rat or a frog.

Evading Predators
The stress response is essential for maneuvering through a dynamic world. For evading a predator or chasing down prey, swinging through the trees or fighting off disease. In fulfilling these functions, it is in itself very dynamic and succesful.

As we go about our lives, Dr. McEwen said, the biochemical mediators of the stress response rise and fall, flutter and flare. “Cortisol and adrenaline go up and down,” he said. “Our inflammatory cytokines go up and down.”

Natural Response
The target organs of stress hormones also dance to the same beat: blood pressure climbs and drops, the heart races and slows, the intestines constrict and relax. This system of so-called allostasis, of maintaining control through constant change, stands in contrast to the mechanisms of homeostasis that keep the pH level and oxygen concentration in the blood within a narrow and invariant range.

Balance Restoration
Unfortunately, the dynamism of our stress response makes it vulnerable to disruption, especially when the system is treated too roughly and not according to instructions. In most animals, a serious threat provokes a serious activation of the stimulatory, sympathetic, “fight or flight” side of the stress response but when the danger has passed, the calming parasympathetic circuitry calms everything back down to normal baseline flickering.

Thinking too much
Unfortunately, in humans, the brain thinks too much, extracting phantom threats from every staff meeting or high school dance, and over time the constant hyperactivation of the stress response can unbalance the entire feedback loop.

Health Hazards
Reactions that are desirable in limited, targeted quantities become hazard to your health in promiscuous excess. You need a spike in blood pressure if you’re going to run, to speedily deliver oxygen to your muscles but chronically elevated blood pressure is a source of multiple medical miseries.

Questions
Why should the stressed brain be prone to habit formation? This question remains unaswered but perhaps it is partly to help shunt as many behaviours as possible over to an automatic response mechanism or an 'auto pilot'. Separating the 'thinking' brain from the 'machine' and allowing both to do what they are best at.

The thinking half concentrates it's efforts on solving or dealing with the crisis, whilst the other half keeps the body functioning or simply just cycling a pre-determine routine.

Yet, unless they are 'dis-connected', repetitive habits can become entrenched, and as the novelist Ellen Glasgow observed, “The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.”

Enough is enough! Stop hitting the bar! It's time to break out of that self destructive cycle. Take the Time to relax, re-appraise your situation and remodel your stressed out brain. It's the only way forward from where you are. Also, you have a responsibility to look closely at your managers, colleagues and staff for signs of stress and the tell-tale signs of instinctive orprotective, repetative behaviours. If you find it, then try to help them break the viscious circle that their brain has created for them, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mental Stress Training Needed for U.S. Soldiers

The US Army plans to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in emotional resiliency, military officials say.

The training, the first of its kind in the military, is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Active-duty soldiers, reservists and members of the US National Guard will receive the training, which will also be available to their family members and to civilian employees.

The new program is to be introduced at two bases in October and phased in gradually throughout the service, starting in basic training. It is modeled on techniques that have been tested mainly in middle schools.

Usually taught in weekly 90-minute classes, the methods seek to defuse or expose common habits of thinking and flawed beliefs that can lead to anger and frustration — for example, the tendency to assume the worst. (“My wife didn’t answer the phone; she must be with someone else.”) This is sometimes re-enforced by their colleagues teasing them, further.

The US Army wants to train 1,500 sergeants by next summer to teach the techniques.

In an interview, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the US Army’s chief of staff, said the $117 million program was an effort to transform a military culture that has generally considered talk of emotions to be so much hand-holding, a sign of weakness.

“I’m still not sure that our culture is ready to accept this,” General Casey said. “That’s what I worry about most.”

In an open exchange at an early training session here last week, General Casey asked a group of sergeants what they thought of the new training. Did it seem too touchy-feely?

“I believe so, sir,” said one, standing to address the general. He said a formal class would be a hard sell to a young private “who all he wants to do is hang out with his buddies and drink beer.”

Others disagreed, saying the program was desperately needed and in the interview, General Casey said the mental effects of repeated deployments — rising suicide rates in the US Army, mild traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress — had convinced commanders “that we need a program that gives soldiers and their families better ways to cope.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Building Careers or Selling Dreams and Magic Beans

Let me tell you a tale of caution and disillusionment but maybe also of unrealistic hopes and an, all to rapid relinquishing of personal responsibilities.

A sad fact of life is that there are a large number of people currently unemployed and an even larger number that fear they will soon be unemployed.


A large number of these people will be either senior in status or senior in years and it is this group that can be so easily disarmed, during such times.

Its been a long time since they were in the job market and longer still since they had to ask other people for help. Our tale begins with Mr F, a newly unemployed hard working guy, desperate to regain his status and station in life and also, in the eyes of his family. Unfortunately, desperation is a negative emotion and a poor master.

Outplacement Companies
Seeking an edge to regain his rightful place in society, Mr. F paid an outplacement company $8,250, believing it would help him land a six-figure job in his area. At least that's what their sales person promised. Unfortunately, the company did little more than redo his résumé, encourage him to cold-call employers and expand his network.

Took Advantage
Mr. F, aged 58, firmly believes that the company misrepresented its services and exaggerated its capabilities. He eventually found a job, but without their help, and gratefully received a partial refund from the outplacement company, after threatening to report them to the authorities.

Alarming Concept
This alarm, raised to the righteous authorities, is simply a vain but heart felt cry, to some unseen, and benign power of 'goodness' or 'justice' that is said to pervade the complex societies in which we live. Our 'state' buildings are decorated with statues that give fantastic form to these concepts but they are rarely seen in public.

Two Sides
One side of the argument says that the company misrepresented itself but the other sides says that Mr. F’s expectations were too high. Either way there was a misalignment or lack of negotiation but Mr F's experience does highlight the naivity and vulnerability of job seekers, when they are seeking help in the most difficult of job markets in decades.

Unregulated
Job seekers can encounter a bewildering and largely unregulated array of individuals and businesses offering various levels of assistance. While some people have clearly benefited from their work, others have accused the companies of using misleading sales tactics. Selling little more than promises and vain hope.

Up Front Fees
Unprofessional “career management” or “career marketing” companies, which charge large up-front fees, are easy to stumble upon, the're on every employment Web sites. From the other side, it is certainly very easy to contact job seekers, once they have posted their résumés, they are in the public domain.

Senior Service
Given a startling choice, it is clearly more lucrative to focus on senior professionals and managers of advancing age, easily massaging their egos by claiming only to accept the most desirable and marketable candidates.

Beware of companies that place advertisements that appear to be job postings but instead are lures for their sales pitches.

Valuable Support
Many good employment and outplacement services provide valuable support and assistance, but others can easily misrepresent themselves and the effectiveness of their services, in an attempt to take your money. It is not difficult to find good, legitimate agencies that will meet your needs, but it is critical that you do your research and homework first.

Overhauling CVs
Many of the companies do little more than provide ordinary job search assistance: overhauling résumés and assisting with covering or introductory letters, giving advice on how to start networking and helping sort through open or public job listings. While this can be a legitimate and useful service, much of it you can do yourself or it can be obtained more cheaply elsewhere.

No Happy Ending
To stop you getting bored, let's look at another example. Mr B, aged 44, who managed the technology centre of an Technical college before losing his job during a restructuring, paid a career management company $5,000, after responding to what he thought was a job posting for professionals looking to earn $100,000 a year.

Instead, he got a sales pitch from a professional careers hijacker. He was told that a search for someone his age would normally take 13 months but that the company would cut that in half, guaranteed.

Magic Beans
Mr. B believed that the company was a high-end recruiter, with access to a vast and somehow magical, “hidden job market” At least that's how the company officials put it. They claimed that they had connections to positions unavailable to regular job seekers. A 'secret' path to a quick solution.

Only later, after he began working with the company, did he realise that it did not have any special pathways to job openings. He demanded a refund but got nowhere. Two years later, he still does not have a job, and the company’s charge on his credit card has helped push him and his wife to file for bankruptcy.

Summary
In the end, Mr. F was very unsatisfied with the service he received from his outplacement company but by then, he had taken another job which he got through his own efforts, using his old résumé.

Misalignment
You could claim that in both cases, the company maintained their morale and motivation over the period of unemployment and, in Mr F's case, you could equally claim that they had given him the impetus and confidence to do well during the interview but, is that what the company claimed they would do when first they met and agreed the contract, perhaps not. Perhaps the company under stated their ability to 'influence' the candidates.

Influence
The power to influence others is most effective when the other party is unaware of being manipulated or directed. Our wives and partners do it all the time and still we remain together. Only when the curtain accidently falls and the charade is revealed do we feel cheated, used and misled and then we realise it was all done for our own good.

Magic Solutions
We readily accept external influences in advertising and marketing. We even suspend our dis-belief at the movies but for some reason in desperate times and in the face of adversity, we are all too willing to believe in the 'snake oil' of instant resolutions, the 'magic bullet' of quick results, or the 'magic beans' of sustainable new growth, that the brightly dressed wizard is selling. Reality bites and sometimes it bites very hard.

Remain open to new opportunities but do not travel unguarded against old advesaries.
.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Children's Fear of Adults Re-enforced

Last month in Bedfordshire, 270 children from four primary schools had their annual sports day without the normal audience of proud parents watching them compete.

All adults were banned except teachers.

The reason? The organisers could not guarantee that an unsupervised adult might not molest a child.

They preferred the certainty of ruining the pleasure of hundreds, and the instilling of general paranoia, to the phenomenally slight possibility of a sexual attack.

This is part of an insidious new orthodoxy that’s taking hold: that only authorised adults have any business engaging with children. It is no longer just about sexual abuse.

In Twickenham last month the mother of a five– year-old who was being bullied decided to talk to the offender. She knelt by his chair and asked him politely to stop. The next day she was banned from the classroom for doing something that would have been regarded as rational and responsible behaviour at any other time in the past century.

Much worse was to happen a few days later to Anisa Borsberry, from Tyne and Wear, whose 11-year-old was being bullied by agroup of girls. She, too, asked the bullies to stop. In retaliation, and knowing what a powerful weapon this was to use against an adult, the girls claimed Borsberry had assaulted them. Within hours they admitted lying.

Nevertheless, the accusation of assault against a child is regarded as so serious that Borsberry was handcuffed in her home and held in police cells for five hours before hearing that no further action was being taken.

Or there is the case of Carol Hill, the Essex dinner lady threatened with dismissal for telling a mother she was sorry her daughter had been tied up and whipped in the playground. Normal, empathetic human behaviour, you might think. That wasn’t the school’s reaction. Hill was suspended for breaching “pupil confidentiality”.

In every one of these cases a woman has been punished for daring to do what adults have always done in every society: uphold norms of behaviour by talking about them. But it has blown up in their faces because new unwritten rules about engaging with children are apparently being invented every day. The extent of society’s neurosis means the consequences of approaching children are becoming alarmingly unpredictable.

Influencing Authority; Its Not on Any Org Chart

NO one likes power grabbers, but there’s nothing inherently obnoxious about building and applying true authority to help your company or organisation achieve its goals.

Good employees with good ideas almost always face antagonism from entrenched interests. In these cases, one needs power to prevail in the inevitable politically charged battle.

Unfortunately, formal structured authority (clearly drawn up or laid out in organisational charts) doesn’t always work with peers or superiors, and it can generate stiff resistance and resentment. When used raw, nakedly or illegitimately, it will appear as 'coercion'.


Informal Power
Sometimes, informal power can be much more effective, and it doesn’t have to follow a hierarchy. Such influence can be exercised, say, by an executive assistant who controls a manager’s calendar, or by a midlevel manager who trumpets her team’s outstanding sales record but leaves out its soaring costs when seeking a budget increase.

Power and Influence, learn to identify all sources of informal and influencing power

The simplest to spot is the power of personal characteristics, which is more than just charisma. Just as some individuals appreciate certain traits, like kindness or empathy, organisations also value personality types.

The old school
An old school manager can be a genuine, square shouldered, company person in how they appear. They are never too slick and often look slightly over-used, not to mention, worn out. They can handle high-pressure situations, calmly, stoic and with a dry sense of humour. They have a personality that harmonises well with the organisation.

All this brings about a sense of deference from senior managers and an apparent uncanny ability to ensure that his ideas are listened to and will be sustained. Possibly all this will be justified by the feeling that he is just making 'good sense' but it is based more on his organisational credibility. Something akin to 'street cred'.

Negative power
Unfortunately, this kind of power is often most obvious in the negative. We all know about hard-driving managers, everywhere who have a real talent or 'knack' for generating cultural friction. Some will even confirm that this is a deliberate tactic, their management style.

Obstructive
This type of manager can be competitive when the company was trying to become more collaborative, more results focussed when the company is building good process, more interested in individual accountability (Blame!) than in fostering a culture of respect and dignity. This is very much the 'bull in a china shop' management style, which went out of use decades ago, it violates everything the organisation is trying to achieve, and it will lose you that next promotion. Even if, on merit points alone, you probably deserve.

Resources
Another source of power that transcends the traditional hierarchy is control over or ring fencing, resources. This exists when someone has the discretion to withhold an important resource, whether this is something tangible, like a signature on an expense form, or intangible, like access to a senior executive or knowledge on how to best use a piece of software. Executive assistants, benefits managers and other intermediaries, can have immense powers of resource control.

Decisions
An equally effectual power base involves control of a different kind, over the premises of a decision. Just because you don’t have the power to make a decision doesn’t mean you can’t influence or steer its outcome. A smart employee knows how to order, stress and withhold information when making a presentation. Some manipulative meeting organisers, will place controversial issues at the end of a long meeting, when everyone is too exhausted to put up a fight and site this as getting a 'tactical' advantage.

Raven and French
In 1959, two social psychologists Bertram Raven and John French laid out an authoritative taxonomy of power in society, which remains the basis of the field today. They discovered that attempts to influence others work best when perceived as legitimate. One source of legitimacy is reciprocity, the nagging sense of obligation felt when someone does you a favour. How often have you heard 'You owe me one!'.

Alliance
This “favour” mentality is the root of another informal base of power: alliance. Whether between reciprecating peers or between mentor and mentee, alliances involve an exchange of support or resources that can be cached, owed and redeemed at a later date. Effective power brokers build extensive alliances all around an organisation, so they can request and withdraw support, as and when required or build a quantum reputation for being able to do so.

Reputation
A reputation for power is another potent base. Everyone loves a good-natured boss, but a boss incapable of exercising authority, is ineffective and just wide open to abuse and domination. Instead, it is prudent to exercise your capable power, early and clearly.

Confirmation Bias
Psychologists use the term “confirmation bias,” it is the tendency to interpret actions in light of one’s original impressions or experiences. Confirmation bias can also explain the “golden child” phenomenon: when an employee enjoys years of success based on an initial positive impression. It can also be readily transferred or transmitted down through an organisation but if lost, it is almost impossible to regain, inside the same organisation.

Influencing
Many business schools offer excellent courses on mastering the essential techniques of informal influence. This is very rightly based on the criteria that intelligence, dilligence and hard work doesn’t guarantee any kind of success in business.

Unfortunately, many people who have spent years in a politically charged work setting very quickly come to learn how to acquire, apply and counter informal power. It is a self fulfilling philosophy because if you don't learn this lesson early on, you are not going to last long and you will definitely not be promoted, allegedly.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Inexpensive Training for your Employees

We all agree that ongoing education is important because it helps keep technical workers interested, thinking innovatively and motivated.

Unfortunately, training programs and educational conferences can be very pricey and, given the state of many corporate budgets today, such offerings are simply out of their financial reach.

It's unfortunate that training is always the first thing to fall under the budgetory axe, because if you're not investing in your people, you and they, are falling behind.

Your workers know this and will remember it too when the good times are back, and they will be back, but at that time, when you need them most, your employees will be packing up to leave.

So, what can an IT executive do? The only thing you can do. Stretch your training budget as far as you can and as best you can, through efficient, yet effective, innovative arrangements.

1. Rotate your employees

Cross-training has long been an important way to help people learn new skills, you can take it a step further by rotating roles and responsibilities using other assignments involving different technologies and projects.

You don't want people to feel like they're only working on a care and maintenance basis. So, everyone needs to get the opportunity to be exposed to or work on the new products. This keeps everyone moving into new technology areas, so that they don't get stale and complacent. Skill stagnation and atrophy is the danger.

It allows people to grow, expand and diversify their skill sets and this kind of training can actually be far more effective than a typical classroom based session. You get to partner with someone who is hands-on with the application, so you can see the reality of what they actually do every day. It also creates a different perspective on issues and problem-solving techniques.

2. Establish Skills Forums

Two or three times a month, your employees can spend their lunch breaks hearing from colleagues who have developed expertise in particular areas.

Getting this innitiative started and off the ground is the biggest hurdle but once you have it going the program should become proactive and popular enough so that participation is truly voluntary. Half the session can be focussed on tech topics, with IT workers presenting and the other half can delve into known issues affecting other departments, with involvement from the employees in those areas. Better still if they can lead the discussions.

This gives us the ability to share more information, not just at a technology level, but also better insight into the business side. All for the cost of a finger buffet lunch.

3. Collaboration with Internal Partners

Don't ring fence the training that you would use for your business managers. That training is very much less expensive than techie IT training and the technologists are expected to understand what the business units do. They need to learn business analyst skills to understand the business.

Remember, if the company's accounting department want an application taht will better deal with commercial real estate bankruptcies, the IT workers are required and encouraged to attend. Encourage and co-erce business executives to give presentations to IT employees but specifically tailored for their perspective.

Select and use your best presenters and speaker, no matter where or what they represent. Teach them to talk to a wider audience. If someone in marketing runs the best meetings, tap that person to teach IT how to do the same. They can observe the marketing person in action and then have a follow-up session for questions. The technologists are quite bright, they can be quick to pick things up, normally.

4. Buddy up workers

Encourage IT workers to collaborate and pair up. To teach one another through "buddy learning."

You can take an RPG coder who really wants to learn .Net, or a SQL coder who wants to be better at Cognos, and partner them up. That way they learn from each other. Again this approach will work equally well in IT and across other departments.

Of course, employees could tap colleagues for one-on-one training on their own, but they need your authorisation, to allow, enable or permit this to happen. They are often very tied up in their daily duties and let the opportunities slip away. Your support and an established structure are critical for the program to succeed. Also some IT types need to be taught how to 'share' or 'play well' with others.

5. Collaborate with External Partners

Do you meet regularly with other comapnies in your busines sector? Have you established an information exchange forum with them? If not, why not? If you have, then well done. You need to meet regularly with your business counterparts and other local companies to discuss key issues.

The group can be expanded to incorporate any amount of relevant comanies, in your area and can become a pressure group and a support team for change. Also consider exchanging employees on a temporary basis. Build a model of collaboration and sharing with their staff. Sending workers to one another's companies for brief stints to learn from what's happening in the rest of the world, will produce and enlightenment within your employees and a big boost to morale.

Of course you can also use this forum to ensure that poaching of key staff members does not occur. Establish some ground rules and 'gentlefolf' agreements, at least so that you get some awareness of an employees dis-satisfaction.

6. Create Mentoring opportunities

Mentoring is a staple of career development that all executive coaches will recommend and yet many working professionals find it hard to implement. Meanwhile, formal programs using outside consultants can cost companies a huge slice of their budgets annually. The smart executive can start in-house mentoring sessions for virtually no money.

Pick 5 - 10 of the company's best leaders from among a group of volunteers to be dubbed mentors. Then ask your employees to sign up to the program, if they are interested in being mentored. Select the 5 - 10 candidates who show the most potential and could be best matched with a mentor.

Conclusion

Make it easy for your employees to learn, grow and develop and show them every encouragement to do so. Establish a technical library with up-to-date materials and online learning facilities. Publicise the schedule. Refresh it regularly and keep it alive. Record training sessions on DVD for people who could not attend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Play the Right Person in the Right Position; No strikers in goal!

Aye! Aye! Sir! The face of Experience but not the Voice.


One of the most common mistakes that I see in organisations is that they promote or recruit great technical experts to be poor project managers and excellent sales representatives to be ineffective commercial or business managers.

I am not a big fan of the highly commercialised football business, but the strategy mentioned here is the same as taking your best goal scorer off the field and puting him in as the club manager. The skills needed to perform one job function are rarely suitable to perform the other.

Someone who is a highly accomplished technical expert in the organisation is not the same person to lead, control and focus the efforts of others.


I am not saying that this person is not capable of being re-trained into a new role but has the appropriate assessments and interviews taken place to ascertain, not only elligibility but motivation and focused commitment.

You originally hired them or trained them to perform a very specific task or fullfil a series of objectives. They have consistently delivered high quality results and have bailed the organisation out of many problems. Everyone knows that they can rely on this person.

Suddenly and after due thought, the organisation decides to implement strict project management methodologies to support the company's forecasted growth. They decide to use this chosen technical expert to lead a major implementation.

It makes sense, doesn't it? This is the person that always delivers and therefore they must be the best candidate. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily the correct criteria and so often this person quickly falls into difficulties and ends up on their face. The real victim can be the organisation and it's new found belief that project management doesn’t work for them.

At the core of this issue is not the person chosen to be the project manager, it is the organisation that put them into an untenable position. Although the chosen person is very focussed and motivated by their technnical expertise, they were not truly suitable to organise the resources and coordinate the project.

The majority of technical gurus, would prefer to get their hands on the toys and start fixing the problems themselves. They are used to working in chaotic situation and they are happy to live in that environment. Therefore, they do not always see the true value of running a well controlled project in an organised and structured way.

A second issue that I have seen is with the governance controls inside organisations. These are intended to be established to support project management in an organisation. Often these organisations are stuffed to the roof tops, with theoretical and process people that have never successfully run a project themselves.

So often, processes and policies are developed for the rest of the organisation, that are far removed from the reality of everyday projects. What is developed is something theoretically sound, state-of-the-art approved and slick but, unfortunately, it does not meet the organisation's cultural requirements. "Looks great Bob! but we can't use it!"

At this point one of two things can occur.
1) Stakeholders and senior management sponsors will continue to insist that the PMs, running the projects, use these processes and policies, or else! The risk here is that the projects will all bog down and start to fail, despite the determination of all concerned.

2) In the absence of a strong directive from above, the more experienced PMs will simply ignore the processes and policies and fall back into their own tried and tested 'ways' to run the projects. This can also spell disaster for the organisation and by association, project management methodologies.

Another common issue I have seen, is that most organisation think they can perform project management cheaply, using more junior level people. They hire people that have less than five years experience and they call them Project Managers. They tell these people to take control and drive the projects towards implementation.

Without real, hard-won, experience about how to deal with and communicate positively with senior level functional and business managers, these poor people will very quickly lose their authority. They will be stripped of their implied status and will simply become the subordinates, and compliant 'yes-sirs', to the functional and business managers involved.

The functional and business managers have now gained control of your critical projects and the project managers becomes the note-takers, expeditors and coordinators. The project is now moving in another direction and with prioritised goals that were never required or intended. Again the organisation sees project management as the failure.

To have a successful project management environment you need to hire the right people. Just as you do not hire a goalscorer to manage a team, nor should you hire a technical expert to lead your project management effort. Find a seasoned, well weathered business management professional with the right experience and commitment to lead the organisation.

In conclusion, if you want to succeed, with the development and implementation of project management within your organisation, you must not skimp or stray from the path. You must hire a seasoned project manager with the correct skills and true experience to perform their duties and sometimes that means saying 'No sir!', with all due respect.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Drug Research shows cancer stem cells not invulnerable

A promising new cancer drug targets and kills the pernicious tumour cells responsible for metastasis and relapse. It is far too early to test the drug, called salinomycin, in humans, but the findings offer hope that the so-called cancer stem cells will eventually prove vulnerable to treatment.

"It's been thought that these cells are responsible both for metastasis and for recurrence following anti-cancer therapy," says Piyush Gupta, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the new study. "There's been a lot of evidence to suggest that cancer stem cells are resistant to a variety of cell-death-inducing agents."

Gupta's team found that salinomycin kills breast-cancer stem cells at least 100 times more effectively than another popular anti-cancer drug. And mice implanted with human breast-cancer cells and later treated with salinomycin showed fewer signs of metastases than mice given a standard cancer therapy. Click here for More....

Chinese Government Backdown on Censorship Software

In a previous blog we reported on the Chinese Government IT ministry's order to compulsory install censorship software on every computer in China.

Thankfully, this order has now been withdraw and the Chinese Government has climbed down and put the legislation on hold.

Advocates of free-speech and human rights said that the program was a clear attempt by the Chinese government to extend its control and censorship of political opinions, from public places into people’s living rooms.


The contentious order was first issued last May 19, and had stirred an outcry from Chinese Internet users and foreign computer manufacturers alike, arguing that the software ran counter to China’s proclaimed goal of creating an information-based society.


Although the government insists that the program is meant to shield children from online pornography and paedophiles, its filter is automatically updated by the government and targeted many topics with political overtones.

From a comercial viewpoint, the United States also warned China that the installation requirement would be seen as a violation of world trade regulations.

Green Dam Software
The information ministry previously had suspended the Green Dam pre-installation mandate on June 30, one day before it was to take effect, saying that computer makers needed more time to accommodate it as a pre-installed package in their manufacturing process.

Pre-installed on new computers
The statement by Mr. Li appeared to make that initial suspension, more permanent. Mr. Li said the government would neither require the program to come pre-installed on new computers or force computer makers to include the program on a CD with other optional software.

Lenovo, Acer and Sony
A few Asian computer manufacturers, led by China-based Lenovo, Taiwan’s Acer, and Japan's Sony, nevertheless, include the software on computers sold in China for fear of being barred from a lucrative market.

Filtering remains Mandatory for Public Internet Users
Although Mr. Li’s concession is a step backward for the Green Dam program, the software remains mandatory in schools, Internet cafes and other sites used by scores of millions of people.

The government already takes extraordinary steps to monitor computer use in Internet cafes, which remain common in a nation where owning a computer remains a comparative luxury.

Only 25% of Chinese people have access to a computer and the Internet. This number is equal to the entire population of the US and is growing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

H5N1 Bird flu virus linked to inflamation of the brain

As if fever, aching muscles and a sore throat were not enough, researchers have found that flu may also lead to chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Most influenza infections affect the respiratory system, but there have long been suspicions that they are also linked to neurological disorders. The H1N1 flu pandemic in 1918 was followed by an outbreak of encephalitis and later by an unusually high number of cases of Parkinson's disease.

Hard evidence of such a link has been hard to find, however. So Richard Smeyne of the St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, sprayed a solution containing a highly pathogenic subtype of H5N1 avian flu into the noses of 225 mice. The team found that the virus infected nerves in the gut, then entered the brain stem and finally reached the brain. In the brain, it led to chronic activation of the immune system, even long after the viral infection had been cleared.

This immune system activity later led to protein aggregation and neuron loss in the brain, and to symptoms like tremor and loss of coordination – the hallmarks of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Brain strains

"Infection with influenza virus might leave the brain vulnerable to damage from future infections with new influenza strains," says Smeyne, adding that this is more likely to happen in young children or during an flu pandemic.

Smeyne suspects that all flu viruses, including the current H1N1 swine flu pandemicMovie Camera, could cause symptoms of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. But he says that there is currently no proof that flu viruses other than the H5N1 he worked with can enter the central nervous system.

Reports of extra encephalitis during outbreaks of seasonal flu in Japan and the US, and most recently of swine flu-infected children hospitalised with neurological symptoms in Dallas, Texas, hint at a related mechanism, however.

"The link between flu infection and neurological disorders has been the elephant in the room [ever since 1918]," says virologist John Oxford, a virologist at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900096106