About Me

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I'm an Australian, based in the Washington, DC, area, with extensive experience in the US, UK/Europe and Australia. I have also lectured in IT and Law related topics at King's College, London, and at The Australian National University.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

No Impact

In the United States, land of consumption, the New York Times has an interesting article about a New York couple and their No Impact project:

Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost...); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

The project is accompanied by a blog, and there will also be a book and documentary in due course!

Perverse incentives

Here's an interesting list of perverse incentives -- incentives which actually have the opposite effect to the one which was intended.

What is wrong with my brother?

My brother seems to have developed an irrational love of dentists. OK, so he got good service from the dentist he found in California, but there must be more interesting things to do around San Francisco!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can lunar dust harm astronauts?

BBC News has published an interesting article about the potential dangers to astronauts of inhaling moon dust. It seems there are a couple of health risks: the tiny size of the particles, which can cause lung damage; and the fact that they not only contain iron but are so small that the iron quickly reaches the bloodstream, with adverse effects on the blood's haemoglobin content.

On BA, dead person flies first class

I've flown business class once or twice on British Airways. It was nice but ultimately nothing to remember forever. However, the premium service on some flights is evidently a little different.

Today's London Times has an article about British Airways moving a passenger who died on board a long-haul flight up to the first class cabin because there was nowhere else for the body on the aircraft:

A BRITISH Airways passenger travelling first class has described how he woke up on a long-haul flight to find that cabin crew had placed a corpse in his row.

It seems that the passenger was a woman in her 70s who died of natural causes, and each year around 10 passengers die in similar circumstances on BA flight. According to the article, airlines have differing practices for these situations.

(Via Boing Boing)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

RuleBurst mentioned on Vendorprisey blog

Thomas Otter has an interesting write-up of my company, RuleBurst, on his Vendorprisey blog. RuleBurst sells a product suite to prevent, detect and cure breaches of regulations, rules and policy. The process begins with automation of complex decisions, using familiar business tools, and includes simulation and analytic capabilities. The software integrates easily with enterprise software such as SAP, which is a major RuleBurst partner.

Thomas Otter writes (in part):

I could see all sorts of uses for this application for testing policies and then passing the configuration rules to multiple applications, and when the policy changes, update the application rules. So image you have 20 union agreements and your company has grown with lots of acquisitions. This means you are faced with several 100 pages of rules and policies, with conflicts and ambiguities. Typically analysing this lot would take ages, even before any attempt to automate it, and whenever you create a new policy it would need to be checked against old ones. With Ruleburst this process could be dramatically improved, both in terms of speed and accuracy. The Ruleburst is delivered as a webservice that you can call from SAP or other applications.

The article actually links to my publication list!

Most powerful bomb ever constructed

I normally have zero interest in weaponry, but Damn Interesting's story about the most powerful bomb ever constructed actually caught my attention today. It talks about the 1961 detonation of a Soviet device code-named "Ivan". The article's conclusion is interesting:

Even at half strength, Ivan was so powerful that it was completely impractical. Much of the explosion's energy radiated upwards into space, and that which didn't was so excessive that using the device on any populated targets world would have resulted in adverse effects on Russian interests. It served as nothing more than a show of force, and in that respect, it served its purpose well. Thankfully, no other weapon with the massive destructive power of Tsar Bomba has ever been built.

(Via Digg)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Gettysburg Address in PowerPoint

Here's the Gettysburg Address presented as a series of PowerPoint slides: a cool example of why you shouldn't use PowerPoint to communicate everything. The related essay is interesting.

One thing that really annoys me in my work life is the way that people sometimes think that every meeting needs to be scripted with meticulously crafted PowerPoint slides. People hide behind the messages on the projector screen, rather than cutting to the chase and having a really productive, dynamic conversation. People copy slides from the corporate deck and recite them slavishly, without thinking about exactly what is required for the meeting at hand. The worst meetings are often ones where people actually read word for word from PowerPoint.

This is not to say that PowerPoint is a useless tool -- I actually find it very useful. But it's good for particular things: punchy summaries, providing structure to complex discussions. It shouldn't be the detailed script for a whole meeting.

(via Matt Cutts, where the Gettysburg link was mentioned as a tangent)