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Friday, April 30, 2010

Time for a fifth estate?

"Journalists try to shine a small torch into a very large, very dark cupboard. But a torch will not work if the batteries are not replaced when they run out, and that is what happens when those in charge cut editorial budgets and under-invest in journalism by reducing the number of reporters, closing local offices and turning journalists into churnalists. Nor will a torch illuminate a cupboard if it is pointed somewhere else. That is why journalist Ignacio Ramonet, of Le Monde Diplomatique in France, has called for the creation of a 'fifth estate' – made up of journalists and other concerned citizens – to rescue the idea of socially responsible journalism from the clutches of giant media corporations…"
"There are fears that it may already be too late for journalists working in some of the more profit-hungry sectors of the media. Academic Bob Franklin uses the term 'McJournalism' to characterise the predictable, standardised and 'flavourless mush' produced when journalists have to work in conditions that are more commonly associated with the fast food sector: conditions produced by the relentless drive for economic efficiency…"
"A campaign for slow journalism may be unlikely to set pulses racing, but the point is well made that journalists need time and space within which to function properly. Journalists are far more likely to get things wrong, or to behave unethically, when they are denied the necessary time and space; time to get out of the office, time to nurture a range of sources, time to build trust, time to check things out, time to read documents properly, time to thin, and the space to discuss with colleagues any ethical implications without the fear of being ridiculed."
(Tony Harcup in 'The Ethical Journalist,' p. 141 Sage)

Image rights

"The basic assumption is that a person's image may have a potential value in the marketplace. In one sense, it is the equivalent of the American 'right of publicity'… The theory is that an individual has the exclusive right to control commercial use and exploitation of his or her image, voice and likeness. In other words, image rights can be viewed as a commercial property right…"
"In Peck vs UK [2003] 36 EHHR41, the question was, 'What rights did the owner of the CCTV pictures showing him attempting to commit suicide have over the commercial exploitation of the film?' Ultimately, the European Court concluded that the laws in this country (UK) did not give sufficient legal remedies to Peck when the images of him were sold on to British television and transmitted."
"In the Elizabeth Jagger case in March 2005, a temporary injunction was granted by Bell J preventing the unauthorised use of CCTV film showing her in a compromising position with Calum Best in a nightclub at 4 am. However, at the time of writing, it appears that she has bought the rights to the CCTV footage from the club and is therefore protecting her own property interests in the film by resorting to the law on copyright. Whether or not Jagger will still be able to invoke the law on privacy or confidentiality to protect her image when, in fact, she could put the images on the Internet (and take any profit) remains to be seen…"
(Duncan Bloy in 'Media Law,' p. 118 Sage)

Japanese way of knowledge creation

"The concept of ba was introduced in 1996 by Ikujiro Nonaka and Noburo Konno. Since then it has played a major role in the Japanese way of knowledge creation. It now belongs to the specialised jargon of knowledge management that has emerged from the Japanese archipelago, which is different from the IT-oriented approach that has emerged from the US…"
"Ba is a Kanji ideogram, the left part of which means ground, boiling water or what is rising and the right part of which means to enable. On the one had, it denotes a potential and, on the other, a kind of engine that gives a direction. One may talk about a good ba when relational situations energise people, making them creative with positive and dynamic interactions. The right part of the ideogram refers to the yin and yang philosophy of permanent transformation."
"As Kitaro Nishida wrote: 'Reality is a succession of events that flow without stopping.' The use of the ba concept comes from this philosopher, who identified a physical space in which a hidden power is lying, from which one can receive energy when one dives in. However, it is not just a place but also a moment in which one may undergo a transformation and emergent process…"
"For Ikujiro Nonaka, a ba 'could be thought as a shared space for emerging relationships. This space can be physical (e.g. office, dispersed business space), mental (e.g. shared experiences, ideas, ideals) or any combination of them. What differentiates ba from any ordinary human interactions is the concept of knowledge creation. Ba provides a platform for transformation and integration of knowledge…"
"Exchanges of data, information and opinion, collaboration and mobilisation on a project to meet both requirements and the unknown convey the idea of ba within an organisation. It can be understood as emptiness appropriated for emergence or as a kind of 'oriented but not specifically determined' open, tacit and consensual space. Ba does not come into existence as a result of regulations and it differs from the command and control model of traditional pyramidal management. On the contrary, it comes into existence as a result of voluntary membership within an energise and stimulate mode through care and mutual respect. Ba is fundamentally subjective and relational and one becomes involved in it because it is ruled by common interest and because there are no conflicts within human relationships."
('Trends in Enterprise Knowledge Management,' Ed: Imed Boughzala and Jean-Louis Ermine, p. 171 Viva)

Stopping to think

"In many instances when we fail to think, we aren't in a crisis. In fact, ironically, the opposite is true. We fail to think when we are in the midst of familiar routines. How can we notice 'opportunities for thinking' when there's no crisis – no pressure, no fast-beating heart – to prompt us to take a time-out…"
"Since there are no conspicuous cues in our daily routines to alert us that 'this is a time when it would be good to stop and think,' we need to develop a habit of reflecting on our ongoing activities. To keep from missing subtle opportunities for thinking – opportunities that don't announce themselves by pushing our panic buttons or whispering 'problem' in our ear – we probably need to program review sessions into our daily routines. In the whirlwind lives that many of us lead, we need to build in 'reflection time' in the same way that some people build in time to exercise or time to spend with family or friends. Like companies that automatically review sales at regular intervals, or have managers attend annual retreats or training sessions, we can plan 'time-outs' to think about what is happening in our lives. Instead of being the fish who is the last to know that it is in water, we can be the fish who periodically jumps out of the water in order to see and reflect on what we've been swimming in."
"One manager told me that he decided to replace his afternoon coffee break with a twenty-minute 'thinking' walk. He began visiting an empty warehouse on the grounds of his manufacturing plant every day around three o' clock, just walking up and down the deserted aisles. He used the time to think about anything that had intrigued him, puzzled him, or upset him that day. He was surprised how often this activity led him to see a different perspective or to clarify a problematic situation. 'Thursday,' he announced with a grin, 'I thought of a way to solve a recurrent problem. It will save me hours and hours of work.'"
(Madeleine L. Van Hecke in 'Blind Spots: Why smart people do dumb things,' p. 43 Prometheus)

Voice, the most important teaching aid

"Children are excellent mimics and will imitate to a fault. As a teacher you must make the effort to undergo specialised voice and speech training, if necessary, to provide a good speech model for your pupils. Such a model presupposes an awareness of and positive attitudes towards your own voice, towards language as well as towards the presentation of the language."
"Your voice is your most important teaching aid. A well-trained voice contributes to interesting and effective teaching and helps in creating an enthusiastic, inspiring and challenging classroom atmosphere besides proving useful for classroom management. The way you perceive the quality of your own voice and your attitudes towards it, affects the quality of your own voice and your attitudes towards it, affects the quality of speech and teaching. These factors are closely related to your emotional states, the dynamics of your interaction and, most important of all, your self-image. Thus, it is important that your voice reflects positive attitudes, emotional richness and balance. It should be well-modulated, capable of articulating distinctly the sounds of English, producing appropriate intonation patterns and free from any distracting phonetic features…"
"While presenting language, do remember that for your pupils, exposure to a stimulating learning environment and opportunities available for talking, reciting or singing are both necessary in helping them develop not only their language but also their communication skills. Thus, the presentation of language must be confident and expressive in delivery and related to an interesting idea or experience. Correct pronunciation, proper articulation, clarity of diction, ease and sureness in speech delivery along with fluency, intelligibility of speech and appropriateness of language are crucial for an imaginative and motivating presentation."
(Brinder Aulakh in 'Teaching Nursery Rhymes,' p. 18 Pearson)

Common purpose

"An organisation is often described as 'a group of people working together for a common purpose.' This description applies to all types of organisations – commercial or non-commercial, profit-making or not-for-profit, as well as government departments and NGOs and charitable trusts. This is indeed a good definition as it captures the essence of why organisations come into existence in the first place. Unfortunately with time, this essence often evaporates. We then have organisations which comprise groups of people who spend time pulling in different directions, and the common goal becomes a nebulous dream. This can happen with well-managed, well-intentioned companies, both professional and owner-driven ones. These companies/ organisations then start performing sub-optimally, the employees and team-members become demotivated and devoid of creative energies and although there is a great deal of activity, the net result is just about enough to keep head above water – and certainly a far cry from the magic word 'excellent.'"
"I wonder if you belong to such a company, where there is work, activity and recompense, but no enthusiasm or energy."
(Anand Patkar in 'Master the Mind Monkey,' p. 49 Jaico)

Famine and free trade

"Two great waves of famine swept India in 1876-79 and 1896-1900…"
"Between 5.5 and 12 million died in the famine of 1876-79 and mortality rates were highest in areas best served by railways. As Mike Davis has shown in painful detail, it was the fanatical commitment to free-market and Malthusian dogmas which made famine a death sentence for millions while British officials railed against 'enthusiastic prodigality' as they shipped huge grain exports out of the country. Malthus' injunctions against feeding the poor and hungry because 'mother nature had not set enough places at her table' were taken up by British viceroys from Lytton to Curzon with methodical and murderous abandon. Just as in England, poor relief in times of poor harvest was considered a slippery slope leading to more permanent forms of relief. In India, Lytton reasoned, 'The doctrine that in time of famine the poor are entitled to demand relief… would probably lead to the doctrine that they are entitled to demand relief at all times, and thus the foundation would be laid for a system of general poor relief, which we cannot contemplate without serious apprehension.'"
"When Lytton dispatched Sir Richard Temple to deal with the famine in Madras, the latter was under considerable pressure to prove that he had overcome his previously 'profligate' ways in dealing with the famine in Benghal and Bihar (where he had imported half a million tons of grain from Burma, thus avoiding a mass catastrophe). As a result, official figures had shown only twenty-three deaths. Temple's job was to clamp down on such expenditures in order to finance the war in Afghanistan. He quickly set about reducing the rice ration to one pound per day, far below what medical authorities thought necessary for survival, especially under conditions where famine victims were incarcerated in camps and forced to do hard physical labour. What became known as the 'Temple Wage' resulted in a monthly death rate of 94 per cent…"
"In the Madras districts, at least 1.5 million perished; in the Deccan one-quarter of the population died; and in Madras city 100,000 starved around the precincts of the grain stockpiles being guarded by troops."
('The New Imperialists,' Ed: Colin Mooers, p. 122 Viva)

Parvati Valley

"After descending from your aerie at Naggar, instead of crossing the river your follow the road along its West bank for around 30 km to Bhuntar. The road is largely well surfaced and almost devoid of traffic and to cap it all, more scenic than the main highway on the opposite bank. At Bhuntar, turn left on the one and only road leading to Kasol and Manikaran and begin your ascent up this picturesque valley with its terraced paddy fields, thick forests and snowy mountains that loom at the valley head. For most of the drive the road runs along the beautiful and vibrant Parvati River, sometimes rising high above as it crashes through tight valleys and gorges and sometimes plunging to run tantalisingly close to it! This is a powerful river – a life giving force, stunning in all its moods and it saddens one to imagine what this distinctive valley will look like in the years to come when its flow is leashed. There is a mammoth hydroelectric project underway that will divert the river's waters through tunnels at Pulga (above Manikaran), into the neighbouring Sainj River valley and through turbines at the power station in Larji. What will be left is a trickle of water formed by the Parvati's downstream tributaries and this magnificent river, as it flows today, will no longer exist! It is equally disheartening to see what a high price 'progress' is exacting as you drive through ravaged hill sides of this fragile environment that have slipped massively with all the cutting and 'tunnelling' that is going on."
"On a very different note, it is another kind of natural endowment that has brought fame, and some notoriety, to this valley – the abundant and wild growing cannabis plant has made this the 'hash capital' of the country."
(Koko Singh in 'Driving Holidays in the Himalayas: Himachal,' p. 84 Rupa)

The mentoring process

"The whole point of the mentoring process is to create a reflective environment in which the mentee can address issues of career, personal growth, the management of relationships and the management of situations, both current and predicted. It is a bubble of concentrated conversational energy in the soup of a working environment, which may often be over- or under-stimulating…"
"There are four main components to the mentoring process: the formal, organisational structure, if there is any; the relationship agreement; the learning conversation; and what mentor and mentee do as a result of the learning conversation."
"Organisation leaders and scheme organisers have a range of choices they can make about the purpose of the programme, how it will measure success and how it will support participants. It can adopt a highly interventionist or a laissez-faire approach, and a centralist or decentralising structure."
(David Megginson et al. in 'Mentoring in Action,' 2e p. 21 Viva)

You are your product

"Regardless of what service you provide or product you produce, remember that you are your product. In networking, you are always onstage. People will watch you with a critical eye and take notice of how you act. If people like and believe in you, they will extend themselves on your behalf, and they will speak highly of you to others. People who trust you will give preferences to you, your products, or services – preferences that will make your life much easier and your profits much greater."
"However, if people don't like, believe in, or trust you, they won't help. They may not say 'no' to your face, but when it comes time for them to deliver, something will always divert them and you won't get what you want. And once doors close, they become much harder to reopen."
"Start locally. Move from your street, to the neighbourhood, the town, county, state, and on to a national level and the world. Build a solid support base and continue to branch out. When you venture into bigger and deeper waters, maintain and keep in contact with your base."
(Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin in 'Networking Magic,' p. 53 Viva)

Teeth and gums

"Most disorders of the gums, and quite a few of the teeth, can be prevented by careful and regular oral hygiene. Brush after every meal even if you do not use toothpaste each time. Develop this good habit in the children very early."
"The bristles of the brush ought to be soft or medium soft, and not hard. Discard the brush as soon as the bristles begin to warp. Brushing with a toothbrush should be directional to clean all the recesses between the teeth and the margins where the teeth and the gums meet. Use of floss is desirable if food particles are not totally removed by a brush."
"Consumption of sugar and fat should be limited. After having such food, clean your teeth immediately."
"Keep your teeth healthy and sparkling clean. They enhance beauty as well as personality. You can say 'cheese' with confidence."
"If taken proper care of, your teeth will last a lifetime."
(Rajendra Tandon in 'How to Stay Healthy with Homoeopathy,' p. 132 Rupa)

Entrepreneurship

"The term 'entrepreneur' has never quite managed to shake off its shady origins. The word is French in origin. (When US President George W. Bush famously said that 'the French don't have a word for 'entrepreneur,' he was quite wrong. But, amusingly, the spelling-check function on old versions of Microsoft Word refused to recognise 'entrepreneurship' as a word.) It entered English usage in the late nineteenth century. Before that, English writers such as the economist Jeremy Bentham used to refer to 'promoters.' These were people who thought up schemes for making money and persuaded others to invest their capital in new factories, railways, canals and so on. When these schemes failed, the promoters often vanished, and so too, at times, did the money invested. Promoters and entrepreneurs were long regarded as shady characters."
(Morgen Witzel in 'How to be Your Own Management Guru,' p. 47 Penguin)

Gardens and goals

"Your ship will not come in unless you have first sent one out. A Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is the right mental attitude. It determines whether you act favourably or unfavourably, constructively or destructively, positively or negatively. A persona with PMA aims for high goals and constantly strives to achieve them…"
"Gardens take work and so do goals. Little can be expected if we work sporadically at our gardening. Likewise, little progress toward our purpose can be expected unless we devote time and energy toward it nourishment. Keeping our purpose ever present in our mind through daily actions is like weeding, tilling, watering, and feeding our garden. Most often, if these steps are followed regularly, we will be rewarded with a good crop of whatever it is we have planted."
(Napoleon Hill's '52 Lessons for Life' Harper)

Mind conditioners

"Every time you perform any task, try to excel your last performance and very soon you will excel those around you."
"If one gets something for nothing it generally turns out to be worth to him about what it cost."
"Nothing that causes a man to worry is worth what his worry cost him in peace of mind and physical health."
"Beware of the man who goes out of his way to pay you compliments you know you don't deserve, for he is on the hunt for something you may not wish to part with."
"Some men resemble a cheap watch. They are not dependable."
"The most interesting subject you can discuss with most men is – themselves."
"When a man says: 'They say' so and so. Ask him to name who 'they' are and watch him squirm with embarrassment."
"'How do you know' is a question that has put many talkative persons out on a limb for an answer."
(A few snatches from Napoleon Hill's 'Success Vitamins for a Positive Mind' Harper)

Training and development

"Once they get the right candidates, Indian companies pour on the training. One study of practices in India found that the IT industry provided new hires with more than 60 days of formal training – about twelve weeks. Some companies did even more: Tata Consultancy Services, for example, had a seven-month training program for science graduates who were being converted into business consultant roles, and everyone in the company got 14 days of formal training each year. MindTree Consulting, another IT company, extended its orientation period for new hires to 8 weeks, combining classroom training, mentoring, and peer-based learning communities. Even relatively low-skill industries like business process outsourcing and call centres provided something like 30 days of training, and retail companies required about 20 days. Systematic data on training among US companies is hard to come by, but the available statistics suggested that 23 per cent of new hires received no training of any kind from their employer in the first two years of employment, while the average amount of training received for those with two years or less of tenure was just 13 hours within a six-month period."
('The India Way' by Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh, and Michael Useem, p. 70 Harvard)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Worry beads

You know the Zoozoo that characterises the Vodafone ads. But what is juzu? Japanese for counting beads, used in prayers for keeping track of recitations.
"After nearly 30 years of using and making the prayer beads of various religious traditions, I have come to a simple conclusion: all beads are worry beads – from the Pope's rosary all the way down to those little wrist malas, sometimes popularly referred to as 'power bracelets,' worn by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike," writes Clark Strand in 'Commit to Sit' (www.landmarkonthenet.com).
The primary purpose of beads, he argues, is not so much for appealing to a higher power or for collecting the spirit or concentrating mind, as for worry. "They answer a human need so basic it actually precedes a religious consciousness – and that is to fret over things." The Buddhist mala, says Strand, acknowledges this, as a way to engage our worries, a way of combining the universal need for talismanic objects with the kind of repetitive movements that calm the body and mind.
For those who wish to use a juzu, one simply recites the nembutsu ('to think of Buddha') once for every bead, turning about the guru bead to go back in the other direction, repeating this cycle as often as possible, the author guides. "Pure Land practitioners who favour a simple, heartfelt recitation still use malas, only they refer to them as nenju ('thought beads'), to indicate that they are not to be used for counting…"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food self-sufficiency

"One of Michelle Obama's first acts when she and her husband took residence in the White House was to announce that she would be planting a 1,100 square foot organic vegetable garden. It will grow a variety of green vegetables and herbs, and it will be accompanied by a beehive, so that the White House will have its own natural honey. This is likely to be an increasing trend among households in the US and elsewhere as compulsory composting of foodstuffs and continued awareness of the ease (and enjoyment) with which vegetables and fruit can be grown drive people into a broader use of their backyards as vegetable and herb gardens."
"In the UK, the National Trust is masterminding a plan to get Britain's biggest landowners to turn over some of their land to families who would grow their own fruit and vegetables. The intention of the 'grow your own' campaign is to reduce carbon emissions from food import and to create healthier eating habits…"
"I was in Malaysia recently, and was surprised to hear that the government had decided to become self-sufficient in rice by 2020. This is a low-margin crop, and Malaysia's arable land could be used for growing much more value-added crops than rice. But apparently the recent shock of being unable to obtain sufficient rice at a reasonable price from neighbouring countries was so traumatic that the government immediately changed its agricultural policy."
(Alan Fairnington in 'The Age of Selfish Altruism,' p. 80 Wiley)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tulips

"Amsterdam was the first centre of bourgeois capitalism. It had become, since the decline of Antwerp and the Hanseatic League, the great international port of the north and the chief banking centre of Europe. Drifting through its leafy canals, lined with admirable houses, one may speculate on the economic system that produced this dignified, comfortable and harmonious architecture. I don't say much about economics in this book chiefly because I don't understand them – and perhaps for that reason believe that their importance has been overrated by post-Marxist historians. But, of course, there is no doubt that at a certain stage in social development fluid capital is one of the chief causes of civilisation because it ensures three essential ingredients: leisure, movement and independence. It also allows that slight superfluity of wealth that can be spent on nobler proportions, a better door-frame or even a rarer and more extraordinary tulip. Please allow me two minutes' digression on the subject of tulips. It is really rather touching that the first classic example of boom and slump in capitalist economy should have been not sugar or railways or oil, but tulips. It shows how the seventeenth-century Dutch combined their two chief enthusiasms – scientific investigation and visual delight. The first tulip had been imported from Turkey in the sixteenth century, but it was a professor of botany at Leiden, the first botanical garden in the north, who discovered its attribute of variation which made it such an exciting gamble. By 1634 the Dutch were so bitten by this new craze that for a single bulb of a tulip called the Viceroy, one collector exchanged one thousands pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, twelve sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes. When the bottom fell out of the tulip market in 1637 the Dutch economy was shaken. However, it survived another fifty years or so, and produced other superfluities of a most brilliant kind: silver cups and bottles; gold-stamped leather walls; and blue and white pottery, imitated from the Chinese with such technical skill that the Dutch were able to sell it back to China."
(Kenneth Clark in 'Civilisation,' p. 140 Hachette)

Having vision

"To be able to visualise the completed project, the final goal and all of its rewards and consequences, is the ultimate test for true-leaders. In addition to visualising 'the dream,' they must also be able to visualise each task that must be completed, and the integration of those tasks to successfully complete the project… To true leaders, vision defines the final goal, and action is the path that leads to the vision."
(Roger Fulton in 'Common Sense Leadership,' p. 102 Macmillan)

Sino-Russian rivalry

"A critical component of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) is the Russia-China bilateral economic cooperation. The two countries had targeted for two-way trade to reach $40 billion by the end of 2007. However, for the first time, Russia got into trade deficit with China running into $4 billion. Chinese industrial exports have threatened the Russian domestic market and heavy industries. A July 2007 study report of Russia's Natural Monopolies Institute (IPEM) warned of substantial economic and social risks from increased trade with China. Russia opposes China's aggressive mercantile practices and unfair trade practices. It complains against Chinese dumping, subsidy policies, and other technical regulations which create an unfavourable trade situation for Russia. The present structure of Russian exports to China is dominated by natural resources, with China looking at Russia as a source of natural resources to sustain its growth. The component of Russia's export of machinery and high-tech items to China has already dropped to 1.2 per cent in 2006, as compared to 30 per cent in 2000. Similarly, Russian weapon sales to China have declined from 40 per cent in 2006 to less than 20 per cent in 2007. It is against this backdrop that Russia has been dragging its feet about concluding a formal agreement on energy pipelines unless China opens up greater market access for Russian machinery and equipment imports to bridge the rising trade deficit."
('Global Power Shifts and Strategic Transition in Asia,' Ed: N. S. Sisodia and V. Krishnappa, p. 232 Academic)