Category Archives: bad sights

workplace bullying: the stakes are raised

A few days ago I wrote here and here about workplace bullying, and how I believe it is rife, if not in New Zealand, then certainly it’s alive and thriving here in Wellington. When I first wrote about the workplace bully as a vampire, I described some of their psychopathic behaviours and modus operandi. Allow me to recap: they can be male or female, usually have an education or are well equipped with native cunning, and they’re well up (and continuing to work their way up) the totem pole. Apart from the stench of the undead, you’ll be able to identify a nest of vampires by all or all of the following signs: a high staff turnover, a climate of change, changing (unfair) work conditions and environments, workers are stressed, and the vampires inevitably surround themselves with a clan of cronies.

Today I came across a story online from Patrick Crewdson – The Dominion Post – today, Monday, 27 August 2007. I’m going to excerpt it heavily, as their archive system is a bit uneven, not as some sort of plagiarism. This is a story that should be preserved. It’s about vampires; see if you can recognise any of the spoor.

The scene opens:

The case of Stuart Selwood v Queen Margaret College pitted the school against itself and exposed a serious rift between teachers and the management.

Before the Employment Relations Authority, current and former staff of the school lined up with the Selwood family against the school’s hierarchy – principal Carol Craymer, deputy principal Rosey Mabin, bursar Annette Lendrum, year 13 dean Milada Pivac and others.

Located in Thorndon, Queen Margaret College an independent Presbyterian girls’ school, prides itself on being one of the premier schools for girls in Wellington, if not New Zealand. The school motto is ‘Luce Veritatis – By the light of truth‘, and their marketing line is ‘Passionate learners, resilient women, future leaders‘.

Most striking among his (Dr Selwood’s) list of complaints was the charge that the stress he suffered at the school masked the symptoms of his bowel cancer till it spread to his lungs and became terminal.

He claimed to have been bullied, pressured, and mistreated – forced to accept a revised job description under threat of redundancy; made to work out of a “storeroom”; victimised after an altercation over a pupil’s iPod; denied a support person at meetings with management; and marginalised by an audit of the school’s IT operations.

He claimed the school downgraded his responsibilities, threatened him with redundancy if he did not accept the changes, and moved him to an office “unfit for human habitation”.

Originally, he sought $74,000 compensation – as well as for the school to cover his legal and medical costs – but he reduced that to $59,000 as the hearing closed. In the end, the authority awarded him $5000.

Oncologist Peter Dady told the authority Dr Selwood’s life expectancy was one to two years. Stress would not have caused the cancer, but it could have cloaked the symptoms till it was too late, he said.

What does the Board have to say about this?

“The board has unqualified confidence in Ms Craymer and her leadership team and is offended by the allegations and inferences made about Carol and her team.”

Criticising Dr Selwood for taking the dispute “into the public arena”, he said the school had “a very disciplined strategy” for dealing with media coverage and anyone approached should direct inquiries to him.

This is from Board of governors chairman Allan Freeth. Hmmm, now there’s a name that sounds familiar.

So, what about the parents and other staff? Well, it seems in the ancient tradition of vampires, a conspiracy of silence prevails.

Other members of the school community agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity, afraid being seen to criticise senior management could damage their future at the college.

One mother told The Dominion Post that since her daughter had been at the school, she believed it had changed from a “vibrant, warm and nurturing” environment to somewhere with the atmosphere of “a fridge”.

As staff left, Ms Craymer had surrounded herself with a coterie of “scrubbed, ponytailed Brunnhildes”, she said.

“Factions developed, with the principal apparently gathering about her a closed senior management team and sending out messages about loyalty at all costs.”

I can only hope the Brunnhilde reference is to the Wagnerian Valkyrie, and not to the more frightening Brunhilda of Austrasia. But you couldn’t rule it out. Ok, so what about the vampire evidence?

Much of the most damning criticism of the school came in briefs of evidence submitted to the authority.

Part-time IT teacher John Barrow said unhappy teachers referred to the senior management team as “the enemy”. He has since resigned, after deputy principal Rosey Mabin told him his testimony at the initial hearing left him in an “untenable position”.

Former teacher Virginia Horrocks said teachers felt they “were being subjected to a regime of divide and rule” – under an autocratic system that even banned personal mugs from the staffroom.

Since Ms Craymer took over as principal in January 2004, 14 teachers had left to take up similar or lower- level jobs at other schools, with three department heads leaving to return to the classroom, she said.

The authority also saw a May 2006 letter from members of the private school teachers’ union to the board of governors that read: “Over the last two years we have seen substantial change to the college resulting in a falling roll, extraordinary staff turnover and minimal value placed on the professional skills and the goodwill of the teaching and support staff.”

According to a document available on the Queen Margaret College web site, there are, in 2007, 65 teaching staff, including some on maternity leave. If it is correct that 14 staff had left, that’s be something like the 25% – a substantial turnover it seems, for somewhere as caring and nurturing as suggested by the web site. I can’t help wondering why would somebody find it necessary or desirable to go to the effort of setting up a Googlepage dedicated to commentary on the bullying at Queen Margaret College? Slightly more than someone with a bit of a grudge it seems.

Vampires. In the school. It’s a disgrace. My heart goes out to Stuart and Sally Selwood, their family, and the other victims. Somehow I don’t imagine the $5,000 the Selwoods were awarded will offer much in the way of comfort. If (IF) the predictions are true and Dr Selwood doesn’t see out the decade, I can image the management team’s angst as to whether they should send flowers, or attend the funeral, or both. The hollow words at the school assembly, perhaps even a minute or two of silence. One thing’s for sure – QMC’s web site’s promise of a ‘professional and supportive staff and a warm, caring and friendly atmosphere‘ isn’t immediately obvious. It doesn’t matter if the Employment Relations Authority found the school management were only guilty to the extent of $5,000 – I would’ve expected any good vampire would’ve covered their tracks just as thoroughly. What does matter is Dr Selwood, and apparently others, did feel bullied and the school authorities have been unable to respond and communicate the sincere support and aroha that the victims might reasonably expect to experience in a workplace that so strongly identifies with Christian beliefs.

from dusk ’til dawn II

We were chatting about the idea of the workplace vampires, and I mentioned I’d forgotten to mention one of the other effective ways the vampires can get in amongst their victims. It’s simple. It’s elegant. Simply load up the victim’s work level, and then when it comes time for professional development, there’s no time for it – even if there’s money for it. Which of course is an ideal way of holding a victim back, and makes it harder for them to get a different job, because they’re not current.

The simple solution for victims of this kind of workplace bullying is to take charge of your own professional development – in most towns there are some sort of free or attractively priced classes, courses, or workshops. It doesn’t have to be on a subject directly related to your job – that’s be a bonus – but learning something new, and making a new circle of friends (rare to find a vampire there) will be a very good thing. Not only will it help sustain you through the bad times, a new circle might know of some job openings and an opportunity for a fresh start.

from dusk ’til dawn…

Wellington, as a concept, makes an effort to attract the creative talent, along the lines described by Richard Florida. And while that’s a good thing, I’ve noticed a rather disturbing pattern here – that is, how common the bullying of staff is. I have no figures to compare to elsewhere in NZ, or indeed, the world; but it is rife here. I usually go for a walk at lunch time and a couple of times recently I’ve overheard distraught people telling friends as they walk about their latest horror. I don’t mean vague ‘I hate my job, it sux’, kind of thing, I mean very stressed people telling tales of abusive treatment. Outside my office recently I encountered a colleague who was so angry and upset that they were unable to weep, but clearly they wanted to calm down to the extent that that was an option. It seems so stupid and unproductive to me – how on earth was this person going to go back to their desk and in any way be productive for the rest of the day? This bullying – this abuse – not only is destructive to the person, it must have a lasting effect on the profit and productivity of a workplace, simply because the time is lost, quite apart from how the worker responds over the next few hours, days and weeks.

So where does it come from? I’ve had many jobs, many work places, worked with and for many different people. And I’ve struck a few nasty people in my time. And then there are people out the other side of nasty. They are psychopaths. I call them vampires. They are devoid of any empathy, their emotion is carefully engineered for their benefit, and they have no compunction about doing whatever is required to suit their own ends. Their ruthless manipulations generate some sort of pleasure reward, in much the same way that rape is not about sex, rather it is about power and domination. They’re not common – predators never are – but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Think: vampires. There can’t be lots of them because they’d run of out prey quickly. Same with your typical workplace psychopath – if the entire office was full of them there’d be no-one for them to prey on. My unscientific guess is 1 in 100 people has the goods – the fangs, if you will. Oh, and just like the Dracula movie, the vampires can be just as easily be female as male.

Like vampires, they have to have been invited over the threshold into the workplace, usually by inept HR processes, and, like vampires, once installed, they’re not easy to get rid of by the victims; nor by the other victims, the company itself who can see (hopefully, eventually) that previously good staff are starting to turn over. Typically however it’s not that easy – first the vampire will be quicker than that – there’ll be a seemingly valid reason why the staff turnover is going up, and no matter what, it’ll have nothing to do with the vampire. I have worked in places with a greater than 33% staff turnover – in other words, within three years 100% of the institution knowledge has walked out the door – not that there was that much in the first instance. I do not know why senior management compensation is not tied to turnover figures. I do not know what HR insist on inane questions at interviews along the lines of tell me when you succeeded at something, as if that’s really going to identify any aberrant behaviour. See the problem is, some of the vampire behaviours are desirable when you’re looking to recruit for sales or executive type roles – someone ambitious and charming, focussed and driven etc. What needs to be considered (apart from a thorough follow up on reference checking) is the emotional responses – along the lines of Dekkard checking for replicants in Blade Runner. I’ve yet to see any HR process that in any way genuinely looks at weeding out vampire applicants. And turbulent times – restructures etc is the exact environment to attract vampires. People are unsettled, they come in looking like leaders and champions, they’re sweet talking, and you look like fresh meat. The greater the staff turn over, the greater opportunity for vampires. They’re thrilled by change. Just like in the vampire movies – Drac wafts in when the wheel falls off and there’s a storm brewing.

The perfect murder
According to Dr John Clarke, Sydney based author of ‘Working with Monsters‘, people who have been ruthlessly bullied have sought escape from the depression and fear by taking their own lives. In that case, I believe the management of a company should be charged as being accessories to murder. And the vampire him/her-self be charged accordingly. The colleague I met outside was obviously highly stressed, and had finished a second cigarette. Killing – murder – takes many forms. A death resulting from these things would not be attributed back to the vampire (and they would not feel any remorse), but the end result is the same.

On becoming a vampire slayer
OK – so you think your boss is a vampire. What do you do? You’ve probably become aware of the worsening of the situation between you. You’re probably blaming yourself, or wondering what’s happening to you. Heads up – you’re not going mad, you’ve got a vampire there. The situation is exactly the same as in the Dracula movies. You have to get away from the vampire, or get rid of the vampire. There’s a good chance the vampire will have reinforced their position with some other people – so keep a look out for favorites, buddy-buds, shared in-jokes – that kind of thing – they will build their power base. Just like the bullies in the school yard – just like the movies – the children of the night, and the lurking manservant. J.K.Rowling summed the cronies nicely in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

They were a motley collection; a collection of the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish, gravitating towards a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty.

Look also for cover-ups, incompetence, and blame. Look for rules being changed arbitrarily, unfairness, inconsistency, and things that were acceptable before are now no longer so. You’ll know, because you’ll be baring the brunt of it. Don’t feel completely bad, you’re not mad, you’re not alone and you’re not the first – have a quick check of an online survey that’s about as authoritative as the HR babel. Don’t take it too seriously, but it’s an indicator.

Do a bit of a reality check – have you actually become crap at your job because something else has happened outside – are you studying on the side, started a new relationship, got into debt etc – these kinds of things, coupled by not getting enough sleep can affect your performance at work. So, be honest and look at yourself in an honest way, and, rather than reach for your stakes and garlic, make absolutely sure your performance is outstanding. I know it was once, is it still the same? Don’t be holding grudges because a person older or younger, male or female, straight or gay or whatever has got the role you wanted and now you’re jealous. Once you’ve cleared that up, go back over the points of complaint, and see what was wrong. If you genuinely stuffed up, sort it, learn from it, and move on.

Having done that, the vampire’s still there? Ok, sounds like you might have a live one. You’ve got two options. Get out, or get the vampire out. Usually the vampire is further up the totem pole than you, so, getting out is the straight forward option. Dust of your resume/cv – and get yourself gussied up ready for the next role by dropping your cv off to agencies and other employers. What you’ll gain is a feeling of being in some control, and jobs don’t seem so bad if you know there’s a back door somewhere. Don’t pretend it’ll get better, or you love your job. Stop making excuses, get out while you’re alive. Stress is a killer, and you and yours don’t need it. And the vampire will simply move on to the next victim – they are ruthless and relentless, and they won’t stop with you. If you stay you might just as well offer your naked throat to Hannibal Lecter. Other defenses include networking with friends and letting everyone know you’re in the market for a new role. Also, make an effort to build up some cash reserves – ideally 6 months worth of pay – so if all else fails you can simply leave. Get out of debt. If you let it slip that you need your job because of some financial horror you have just entirely put yourself at their mercy. And they have none. Remember, this is not the school bully (although they probably started there) the work place vampire has a control on your income, and there is no big teacher to come and sort it out. The HR team have their hands tied, and the vampire will typically have sorted them first, and besides, if the HR processes were any good there wouldn’t be a vampire here in the first instance.

Disclosure. Do not disclose anything that in some way can be twisted by the vampire. They will, and will use it against you. I’ve mentioned the being in debt thing. Do not disclose any weakness at all. Keep your private stuff to yourself. I’ve seen guys present their necks at those matey drinking sessions. That vampire is not as drunk as you think. They are taking it all in, and it will be used. If you are good, and you intend hunting the vampire (careful, they are very, very dangerous), you might avail yourself of any information, but remember to triangulate evidence – they are are glib and convincing liars. Check out Gormenghast’s Steerpike as a classic example of a workplace vampire. Absolutely do not whine to HR or a more senior manager about the vampire, until you have got overwhelming, triangulated, documented evidence (and that you are free of all spatters). They cannot get rid of a person because you’re petty and don’t like them. The vampire will make it seem like that, and then you’ve shown your hand, and there will be no protection for you at all. A vampire will see your emotions very clearly, and they will manipulate them to their best advantage. Do not apply your value set to the vampire. They don’t have it, it is irrelevant. At best you can be thought of as a lamb for the slaughter.

Document. Get yourself a diary, (pay for it yourself so that doesn’t trigger any possible attack) and make detailed notes of everything. What time you start, take breaks, finish. Every phone conversation for work, stop using the phone for social purposes. Back up email etc. Take your own minutes of every meeting. That would be EVERY meeting. I use bigger postits and leave notes to myself as I go – along the lines of – I filed this here, here and here, because this may be needed for this, this, and this. They’re generic so other people finding them simply think I’m being helpful, but before today a note from two years previously has been the garlic to fend off the vampire. Some might call it covering your butt, I think of it as garlic on my throat. Document, document, document. And stop doing anything that provides a chink in your armor. Stop taking coffee breaks that are longer than allotted, leave the private photocopying to others, stop doing anything other than being an exemplary employee. Become the model employee. Sure, I know, you are now. What I’m writing about is closing off all opportunity for the vampire to strike, don’t quibble over a paper clip. Make a big effort to connect to your job – take every opportunity to get into every nook and cranny – learn all there is to know – knowledge is power, and besides, when you get the new role elsewhere you’re even more valuable.

In terms of fighting back, as an underling your options are limited. If your vampire is any good your access to the information and knowledge will be being limited, the rules will be being changed, and if they’re doing their job properly, they’ll have a group of people who’re rewarded for knifing you. Perhaps not overtly in either case, but that changes nothing. Your only hope is as per the villagers in the Dracula movies, group together with people who you know and trust, bide your time and strike a blow. Bare in mind it will be an all or nothing blow, if you fail to have the vampire removed you will have no backstop. I have heard of staking vampires being achieved with a successful (and valid) sexual harassment claim. Documented evidence, or be gone. By the way, if you see one of your colleagues being treated badly and unfairly (is there a difference?) then you should step in and offer support. Remember, you could be next…

If you are a more senior manager than the vampire, then it behooves you to get off your arse and do something for the health, not only of your employees, but also that of the company. Employment laws make it difficult to dismiss an employee – the vampire – unless there’s a clear reason for doing so. So you have to use some things that you should’ve had in place in the first instance. You, by the way, are responsible for the vampire being there in the first instance, so you should thank your lucky stars the workers aren’t chasing you with pitchforks and firebrands. First, why not start with a fairly simple test something like this one from FastCompany. It’s aimed at employees, but using your common sense you can see patterns of behaviours that your could verify by talking to the line workers. And there’s another hint. Why don’t you talk to your line workers? Management by walking around. It’s an exciting new business concept.

Dr Clarke’s book has some solutions – one was quite elaborate that took the vampire off to manage a company that the home company set up, and then left in the ownership of the vampire. It was elaborate and beautiful, and I can imagine volunteering to be one of the ‘victims’ if I got a chance to stake a vampire like that. But simpler would be simply tie employee turn over to the vampire’s performance criteria. If staff turn over is above industry average, you’re paying out more for induction and training than is necessary. Why are you so determined to squander investor profits? Another figure to look at is employee absences. Is there a pattern – is one employee absent every Monday? Why is that? Why haven’t you got employee absences tied into the vampire’s performance agreement? Personally, if I saw that the same employee was absent on the same day of the week twice in a month I’d want to know why, from the employee themselves – not in a vindictive way, but in a ‘how can we help?’ way. You haven’t got time for this? So why do you pay HR as though that’s some sort of added value to the business, when all you really need is a pay clerk?

Another solution that I’ve never ever seen implemented is generally the vampire controls the employee’s performance management and their word decides what the line worker’s income will be. The vampire gets to comment on the employee’s work, attitude, and performance. Why isn’t it back the other way as well. Why doesn’t the management value the opinions of the line workers? You do? How would I, as a consultant vampire slayer, be able to measure this? What are you afraid of? Being charged if an employee suicides as a result of being bullied by the vampire you hired? Of the highlighted loss of profit because of the staff turn over? I can see no reason why all employees shouldn’t also respond on the performance of their manager. It should be anonymous. If a single person has a trivial gripe it’ll show as being what it is. If more than one person comments perhaps there’s a pattern there worthy of further investigation. The basic perspective is to drive fear (and vampires) out of your work place. This is not to say that your workers will necessarily love every decision made – if you think of the great leaders (and I bet you can’t name a single great manager in history), leaders such as Shackleton, they made decisions that were not universally popular, however they remained respected leaders in the face of genuine adversity.

You have to get rid of the vampires. They have to go. You cannot retrain or therapy them. All you will achieve there is retrain them how to be more manipulative, more successful at the evil they do. Drive evil out by bringing light and communication in. That’s how it’s been done since the days of Vlad the Impaler. Be brave, take action. Save your good employees, save your company.

sharing and caring

You can tell a lot about a society by how they treat their aged and their dead. When I’ve travelled into other countries I often like to see what are the cemeteries like – how are old people looked after. I’m afraid – I’m ashamed – I’m disgusted – that New Zealand doesn’t have a very good treatment of the aged. If you’re planning on moving here because you’re a smart you thing and you figure retirement is forever away, and we’re really nice people; hello – after all, Lord of the Rings… make sure you find somewhere else to spend your dotage.

Recently my Mum had a slight fall, and had required some extra care to help her recover. She’s 90, things don’t heal as fast when you’re older. Mum’s very sharp, but she needs some help to recover physically. So, staying in the hospital is out of the question, they can’t deal with any long term stayers. So mum is moved off to a rest home for respite care. This costs $770 per week (that’s $40,000 per year), plus expenses. In New Zealand we have a compulsory tax/insurance – we call it Accident Compensation. Mum has run a business for years, and paid into to this tax system. She’s also on an age benefit – a pension – as you do when you’re 90. Because Mum cannot continue with her business we’ve wrapped it up for her. Oh, the compensation she gets for the respite care? $14/day – this is what she would receive given the extent of her injury if she was at home and someone came in to give her a shower or wash the dishes. $98/week. As Mum is still mentally alert (merely immobilised by her injury) she’s unable to get any further assistance, and so the balance of the weekly fee must be found by her – or, in this case, by us. As it happens, we don’t have a spare $670/week in our budget.

Doctors cut, burn, and torture the sick, and then demand of them an undeserved fee for such services.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535–475 BCE)

On the other side of town, it was announced recently that it costs $90,000 to keep someone in prison for a year. I know that the prison residents are able to enjoy television, heating and cooling, and three meals a day – much the same as Mum is able to. The big difference is I imagine the relatives are not expected to front up with the money to pay for that. I expect they don’t have to sell the family home to pay for the services.

Based on recent exploits by people now in prison, it is clear that as soon as a person starts to feel the need for some residential care they should rape and kill, or perhaps shoot and kill someone, get hit in the knee by a police marksman, and then go to jail for the rest of their natural. One of the bonuses is they can expect ACC will give them a pay out for the injury achieved.

If you don’t find the idea of doing a crime appealing, please immediately start saving $770 a week to start paying for your retirement/rest home. You must have that amount to pay for each week you intend to stay in a rest home, not allowing for inflation. Plan B is to turn into a vegetable, then the state will pay. Somehow this information doesn’t seem to be included on the kiwisaver web site. Instead the pretense is that the 4% you save now will do it. Ok, cool. To receive $770 (based on 4%) you need to have $19,250 invested. Ah, but there’s 52 weeks in the year, so, in this case you need to have invested $1 million at say 5%, ($50,000) – gives you some pocket money, and of course, the state will still continue to tax you – if you’re luck that’ll be limited to 20%. You can make up the shortfall perhaps with a cleaning job, serving at a fast food place or something. And, of course, if you have a partner, you better make sure they’ve got the same – the mill, and a job on the side, because if you have a fantasy that the rest homes do a bulk rate because “you’re special” you should probably get over that fairly soon.

It’s grim living in New Zealand if you’re elderly and don’t have a cool million up your sleeve.

Improved social outcomes are important because they improve the quality of life of individuals, families and communities and build the foundation for economic growth and national identity. Families and communities play a critical role in improving the wellbeing of individuals. Government’s activities affect how well families and communities function. If we continue to improve what we do in social areas then we should see improvement in New Zealanders’ wellbeing.

Families – young and old focuses on providing all families with the support and choices they need to be safe and secure, and for each member to reach their full potential. Achieving this priority requires close involvement with the communities that support strong families and are in turn enriched by them.

The Ministry’s policy, research, and services for children, families, communities, and older people all contribute towards the priority of families – young and old. We provide quality services to all families, including families experiencing particular difficulties; lead government work to reduce and prevent family violence; fund and support the community organisations that provide local services; and work across government to ensure that all the policies that affect families, like health, education, and positive ageing, work well together.

Our leadership of projects like The Social Report and Opportunity for All New Zealanders, and of the Health, Education, Social Development and Justice Chief Executives Group, helps to achieve the Government goal for cross-agency action that ensures all families, young and old, can reach their potential.

Ministry of Social Development

Yeah, right. You can tell a lot about a society, not by how they talk about it, but by how they actually treat their aged.

oh puh-lease

You would think third time lucky. Imagine if you got the chance to promote one of the world’s most recognisable brands. A real world brand level of brand, easily as recognisable anywhere in the world as Coke, and perhaps more universally recognised than the nazi swastika, the cross, the crescent, or the star of david. What I’m writing about is the five interlocking rings that make up the Olympic emblem. I think that there are few corners of the world that some scratched up hermit perhaps wouldn’t wouldn’t recognise the emblem and if so, well, then they’re not our kind of people.

So. Third time lucky. London is getting ready for their third Olympic games in 2012. They’ve have it twice before – first in 1908 because the Italians were busy dealing with an eruption of Vesuvius and the Rome Olympics had to be rescheduled to London, and second in 1948, because the 1939 games were postponed due to playing war games instead. You’ll be pleased to note that building on this fine British tradition for success in the face of disaster the organisers have got themselves off to a fine start. In these postmodern times, instead of using natural disasters (the age of monsters), or wars (the other age of monsters), we’re in the age of money. The City of London has paid renown branding gurus Wolff Olins the princely sum of GBP 400,000 (about $NZ 1 million) for a new logo. Yep, a new logo. Oh, and a campaign to justify the logo, of course.

Surprisingly short memories these Brits. In one my past lives I took myself off to the UK to study design. Graphics, as it happens. At that time design study at the degree level wasn’t an option in New Zealand – fine art was all that was available. I ignored everyone telling me it wasn’t possible and got myself into college. One of the gods, because indeed, it was a time when gods still strode the earth, was Wolff Olins. I’ve tried desperately to find an image of the logo they used at the time. It looked like a scribble done with a crayon. When they opened their new office they caught a stupid tradesman trying to scrape the logo off the front window. Apparently the fool didn’t recognise it as a logo – he thought it was the work of some kid tagging the building. Lordy – what a hick! Back to hermit-ville for him.

Based on the scribble logo, the Londoners have paid another fortune for a logo for the Olympics, based not on the five rings, but instead – innovation alert – on ‘2012’. Whoa. Amazing. Stupefying. I’ve truly seen better design work from high school students – of course, to be fair, they don’t get paid a million for their design work – so what would they know? Kids, generally, have finely tuned crapometers so they’d never write this:

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible. It will work with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.It will become London 2012’s visual icon, instantly recognisable amongst all age groups, all around the world. It will establish the character and identity of the London 2012 Games and what the Games will symbolise nationally and internationally.

To me the logo looks like a broken swastika, or a broken star of david. It speaks to me of a broken jigsaw, of not knowing what goes where. I don’t take a message of inclusiveness, but then I believe that’s true of postmodern Britain. The class system is as strong as ever – it’s about being inclusive if you’re already one of us. I did enjoy the video of the British team in training – apparently their cycling team store their bikes in the rustic shed at the bottom of the garden, and train with little kids, and do hill climbs against pensioners on mobility scooters. I think I could enter if that’s the strength of the competition.

Once Britain boasted the best designers in the world. I’m disturbed by how the empire has faded.

Hat tip to Alex Shifrin at eXile for the lead.

internet ‘service’+customer ‘service’= Ø

We have a cable modem ‘net access, supposedly giving us high speed internet. It’s a bit like the girl with a curl – when it’s good it’s ok, when it’s bad it’s non-existent. This morning it went down just after 12. I know this because I was just trying to get the last everything sent/posted etc before hitting the sack. This evening I spend 90 minutes waiting for the technical support, who, of course are under-staffed, over-worked, and people who spend their time with angry idiots who’ve waited 90 minutes listening to KennyG or some other shite.

Here’s some advice to TelstraClearParadise cable modem users:

  • Write crucial stuff – i.e. everything – off line, and then you can save it and post or send it later – nothing gets lost.
  • Before you ring the help desk, turn the modem off at the wall, turn your wireless router (if you have one) off at the wall, and turn off the computer.
  • Go make yourself a nice hot cup of coffee, or a particularly delicious cup of tea. Relax a little.
  • Take a sip of your drink, and turn the modem on. Wait until the four green lights are all nice and stable.
  • Do a little tai chi, write a post card, have another sip.
  • Turn the wireless router on if you have one, otherwise, balance your chequebook, using roman numerals.
  • When the lights look stable and the router seems to be talking to the modem (flishy-flashy lights and the orange light is on), turn on your computer.
  • At this point you will either have ‘net access back, or you’ll have a nice drink and be calm, ready to spend the next valuable part of your life waiting for the help desk to answer. You’ll be able to say to the desk that you’ve done the restart thing, and allowed a full time for the modem/router to cycle down.

    Advice to TelstraClearParadise: how about giving the above advice in the phone message that drones on telling me I have at least 60 minutes to wait? I know it’s a long message, but I’ve got 60 minutes to hear it. If I had heard it I wouldn’t have need it to wait 90 minutes to have the techdude talk down to me. I had restarted the modem twice last night and twice again when I got home from work. It’s possible/probable I didn’t leave it long enough between the power down and restart. The phone message did say to cycle the modem – I did – four times, but obviously not enough – I missed the crucial make a cup of tea step.

    TelstraClearParadise – you’re supposed to be a communications company. Can I suggest that if you gave a better message people would be able to get the modem going again themselves. It’s not that hard, it’s not that expensive to record a decent message. You wouldn’t have to put up with people hanging around for 90 minutes, and your help desk people wouldn’t have to put up with angry callers and you wouldn’t have to hire more help desk people and you wouldn’t get people like me writing about how crap your service is. And, it’s not as though this is the first time

    b. all II

    image of yahoo serious from really hate advertisers treating kids as though they’re some how stupid. You know the one – a place for kids to do something that will ultimately benefit adults is branded with bad type (letters backwards as an example), and deliberate misspellings (kidzone). It’s not cutey cutey. It’s tacky tacky. See also bee boy (one word) dot org. I’ve avoided using the url or using a clickable link, because I don’t want to fan their feeble coals in the search engines. The site is presented as the personal site of Barbara Somerville, M.S., M.Ag., Ph.D. Bee Researcher. She writes (or not, more accurately) about ‘Bernard’, a boy raised by bees. A sort of postmodern Mowgli. There are photos that look like Yahoo Serious as a lad. It could be cool, or funny, or even entertainment. And perhaps it is intended as such. But for me, it stops around about the time I discovered the site is not slung together not by Ms Somerville, but instead, according to Nomi at Notes on Design, it’s the work of Ogilvy Canada, in an attempt to promote Hone yComb cereal. That would be another fine product from Kraft…which is like Craft, but misspelled for the benefit of children everywhere.

    I don’t think Yahoo would like it, no, not one little bit.

    By the way, the link at Notes on Design link was as a result of checking out the Notes on Design by Penelope Dullaghan, that would be Penelope Illustration, that would be the Illustration of Illustration Friday. That Penelope. Illustration Friday – I haven’t lifted a pencil, pen, or paint brush in anger for what seems like years. It’s probably not more than months, but it seems like forever. I have been writing every day, and taking photos, walking and thinking. But creating something more of a graphic art? This weekend perhaps.

    bee all

    Buy Worker Bee at AllPosters.comThelma was the first person who commented to me about it, back before xmas. More recently Gillian said about it too. This year there seems to be fewer honey bees around. Much fewer. In our new place I note there are a few wasps (German, most unwelcome), but I have to agree, not many bees. Initially I put it down to there not being much in the way of flowers, or possibly the non-stop rain from winter into most of summer; but I’m now wondering if there’s something more sinister – perhaps the ravages of the varroa bee mite or some other cause.

    There seem to be plenty of bumblebees, including some small bumbles – could they be young, or a different species from the one I’m more used to seeing. I see the smaller versions quite frequently on a shrub down on the waterfront – it has small white flowers and I wouldn’t have thought there was a lot of nectar present. What do I know – the bees have clearly figured out where’s the best place to be. I wonder if the decline in the numbers of honey bees provides opportunities for the increase in numbers of bumblebees.

    Hopefully next season will see the honey bees back in full force – the energy of the growing sector of the economy has more to do with the efforts of honey bees than the efforts of the drones in parliament.

    A later update: Patrick notes from the USA a possible link between disappearing bees and GM crops. I’m hoping (expecting) that’s very highly unlikely here – GM crops are best kept in the US. According to the BBC, US beekeepers apparently are experiencing ‘colony collapse disorder‘ – good grief, sounds ominous. Not the vanishing bees, that is disturbing. No, the part about Hillary Clinton being interested. On another tangent, it’s funny how events in the US are always an EVENT with a name, frequently involving multiples of words – a nation of poly-verbal disfunction syndrome disorder.

    law of diminishing returns

    image from few years ago I was in Italy and was surprised to get lollies instead of change in a supermarket. It happened in Spain too. Today, I offered 50 cents for a standard 45 cent postage stamp, and received no change.

    ‘There aren’t any more five cent coins.’

    So why don’t NZPost hand over 5 cent stamps as change instead? It’d be an ideal way of making money. Me – the customer is happy because I get my 5 cents. They’re happy because the stamp costs an incalculably small amount to make.

    Better than printing money or shares in Chris Trotter’s vacuous writing. Apparently when Chris sold out to Fairfax, basic research was not not part of the bargain – and while it’s true a journo should never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, apparently Chris doesn’t feel it should stand in the way of a bad story either…

    happy birthday to you…

    image of Robert Mugabe from man has manage to take one of the richest and powerful countries in Africa – literally the jewel in Africa’s crown – back into the economic stone age. In just 27 years. And today is his birthday. Hoo-rah!

    According to Jan Raath in Harare, reporting in The Times, February 21, 2007

    Robert Mugabe celebrates his 83rd birthday today as his supporters prepare a cake-and-fizzy-drinks party in the central city of Gweru.

    Africa’s oldest leader and the world’s oldest head of state and government is fit, active and alert, according to senior sources in his ruling Zanu (PF) party. But he is under pressure as never before.

    The party has been deducting money from civil servants’ wages and bullying near-bankrupt businesses for donations to raise the 300 million Zimbabwean dollars (about £30,000 at real rather than official rates) to pay for the celebration on Friday. In attendance will be the 21st of February Movement, an organisation of children established with the sole purpose of gathering on this day each year to pay homage.

    Together with hundreds of Mr Mugabe’s rich and powerful cronies, they are expected to hear a long address from the Most Consistent and Authentic Revolutionary Leader – his official title. The cost of the party would supply 300 Aids sufferers with antiretroviral drugs for a year in a country where only 50,000 people out of 500,000 infected have access to them.

    “If they said, ‘Come and join us’, and sent a car here to fetch me, I would never go,” Abigail Zvikomo, who sells vegetables on the streets of Harare, said. “Even though I am starving, I would not go. I hate him.” The price of bread rose 136 percent yesterday. Four loaves would cost a farmworker 15,000 dollars, a month’s wages. On Friday the Government doubled the price of maize-meal, the national staple, to the point where it will take a farm-worker two months to pay for a 50kg (130lb) bag, enough for a family of six for a month.

    With inflation at 1,600 per cent, the country is seething with discontent. The 450-odd junior doctors who run the hospitals are in their eighth week of a strike. So are about a quarter of the 100,000 teachers. The civil service is mooting similar action. And, while the President’s guests party on Friday, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions will review his failure to bring workers’ salaries into line with the cost of living and decide whether to strike.

    “We send him regular reports on the situation,” said a provincial head of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Mr Mugabe’s secret police. “We tell him the truth, that the population is fed up with the economic situation and that it is building up to an explosion.”

    On Sunday morning, when supporters of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change gathered in Harare for the launch of its campaign for presidential elections, due next year, they were met by armed riot police with teargas grenades and Israeli-manufactured water cannon, in defiance of a High Court order the day before that ordered police not to interfere with the rally.

    Mr Mugabe has no intention of holding elections next year. He is whipping the central committee into shifting the date to 2010, thus extending his tenure.

    Lovely. I’m old enough to remember Idi Amin – Uganda’s favorite despot, wanker, last king of Scotland etc. Remarkably similar. I bet Mugabe has millions stashed in Swiss accounts as well.