Category Archives: thinking

smirting like a cheshire cat

I don’t understand why it has become socially acceptable to punish addicts in New Zealand. In a nation I used to think of as fair, and indeed, supportive of the underdog, I find it horrid that we not only blame the victim, but we punish them relentlessly.

What I’m writing about is the banishment of smokers to the great outdoors. I really don’t have any problem with that. I don’t smoke, and I don’t want people smoking in the same air space I’m trying to work in. I have spent plenty of time as a passive smoker, and have no desire to repeat the experience. I wish people who smoke could give up and indulge in a safer activity. Nevertheless, it does seem strange to me that companies and organisations can’t find a budget to set up somewhere slightly more pleasant for their staff to have a cigarette. A seat. Shelter from the wind and rain. Instead I see staff standing out in the worst weather, dealing with their addiction as best they can. Don’t forget that – smoking is addictive – we know this, and what we do is force the victims of this addiction into cold and unpleasant environments in order to participate.

I guess the theory is that if it’s unpleasant enough people will stop smoking. In much the same way that the same approach to drinking helped stop alcoholism in days of six o’clock closing. New Zealand invented the bar leaner and the ability to dispense a vast amount of beer in a very short time. Seating was not used and the general approach was to make the drinking experience as unpleasant as possible. And what a royal success that turned out to be.

One of the interesting side effects of sending out small groups of people – a tiny clan of like-minded people – to face adversities like bad weather – is that they stand around talking to each other. Back in the day when I worked with helping to get people into work I used to recommend smokers identify where they wanted to work, get well presented, and then go network with smokers from that company. Build some relationships, and then use the relationships to explore employment options – the theory being you’re more likely to get work with someone you know than strangers. And, as a smoker you’ve already got something in common. And now there’s a word for the next step – smirting. Flirting while smoking. And of course, smexting – texting while smoking. There’s something bizarre, and yet encouragingly resistant, about the human drive to communicate, interact, and yes, flirt – to socialise when engaged in what is seen to be anti-social behaviour.

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.

stuck in the boondocks?

Ok. So you’re stuck in the boondocks and yet, weirdly, you have a call, if not a burn to learn stuff. Oh, how I know the feeling. And you and I both know that Tim Berners-Lee and Noam Chomsky are not going to do a double act down the pub on Friday night. So what do you do? You’ve burned the local library out (both books), bought a beer for the one bright light in boondockville, and now… and now?

Well, good news. Now you can check out lectures by and interviews with some of the world’s leading lights, not at the local pub, to be sure, but right here at videolectures.net. Oh yeah, Chomsky’s going to be there, as will Tim (that’d be Sir Timothy) Berners-Lee.

When you find a spark of the burn to learn, even in the boondocks, the best thing anyone can do is pour on petrol and back up apiece.

further tiddlywiki applications

Writing on from the use of a memory stick for a mobile research centre, there’s a little extra to add. It’s probably worth having a 1gb stick rather than a 2gb, because with a little care and attention you can can keep the volume of the contents down to the level whereby you can back up to cd effortlessly. Memory sticks can die without warning and so a backup plan is useful. Portableapps supports a backup as well – of course, if it’s valuable, you’ve backed it up; if it’s not, it doesn’t matter. Right?

I tried setting up my iPod with the same kind of set up (as mentioned above), it works, but my iPod (the 30gb model) was so sluggish it’s not something I’d actually use except for backup. The solid state nanotypes might be better, but given the price of memory sticks now crowbarring software on to an iPod is hardly worth the effort.

With regard to references, Cynthia Russell has created a tiddlywiki dedicated to APA referencing, and another on qualitative research.

heads up

image from the thinking bl0gger - http://bp2.blogger.com/An embarrassingly large number of days ago I awoke to an email from one of my Melbourne writing pals, Snail, who writes the Snail’s Eye View. What is it about Melbourne? It seems to have more writers per capita than any other Australian city. Sorry, I digress… Snail was writing to advise me that I’d received a THINKING BL0GGER award. It’s a web meme called ‘5 BL0GS That Make Me Think‘ and I was one of the writers Snail tagged. Curses! I mean she’d be one I’d tag, and now I’d have to think for myself. It’s taken me a while – there are so many strong contenders (contenters?) and this particular award is about content. And then, there were a couple while I was cogitating who received their awards. Eeek! (Why am I concerned – there’s always room for another writer who provokes thought.)

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the first of my list of thinking writers:

Zimbabwe Situation
If you haven’t been keeping up with the Zimbabwe situation this blog is a great place to start. If you loved the movie ‘Brazil’ and wondered what it’d be like in reality, this site is a great place to start. If you want to read a blog where one day you fall off your chair laughing with disbelief, and the next swing back on your seat with tears running down your cheeks, this blog is a great place to start. Here’s a quick update. It doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, by the time I finish writing it will be happening.

Once upon a time there was a country that was rich by every measure – its people were employed, well educated, and well fed. The land itself is fertile, with mineral wealth, and ample water for all. Unfortunately the people suffered from not being free to determine their own destinies, and so a well educated young man lead his people to overthrow the ruling foreign regime. The man became a hero to his people and when the negotiations were over the people wanted the man to become their leader. He thought about and said, “Ok, sure.”

Time went by and the man who was well educated, and a good leader in time of war, turned out to be very corruptible. He became wealthy. His friends became wealthy. He took threw the farmers off their farms and let anybody who was a friend in, whether they knew how to farm or not. The man soon had more friends than farms so the farms were split into smaller and less economic units. The man held free elections every so often, and his army and youth army did a good job of explaining who the people should vote for. The man’s friends would buy stuff cheap and sell it back to the government at inflated prices and cream millions, if not billions of dollars on the side.

Gradually the economy became bad, then worse, then munted, then just a joke, then fucked, then seriously fucked, and then finally, reached a place on the other side of all that when you realise things are beyond your simple understanding. In fact, beyond your wildest nightmares. Imagine living in a place where the inflation rate runs at 2,000%. Per month. That’s right, 24,000% per annum. What does that mean? From an article published yesterday (June 25), a standard loaf of bread now costs $44,000 and super white bread now costs $59,000. A loaf of bread cost $8,000 in May but has been going up virtually every week this month. A bottle of beer costs $75,000 [US$0.18]. People have given up on wallets, money is carried in suitcases.

The Zimbabwe dollar, which officially trades at $15,000 to the greenback, is reported to have slumped to around $400,000 to the dollar for large transactions on the black market. There are some reports that inflation this year might go to a million percent. Perhaps beyond. This isn’t surreal, it’s the Zimbabwe Situation. Thanks to the editors, Karen and Barbara, it’s part of my daily read. And, if you want to drop a thank you note to the man who’s made it all possible: Robert Mugabe, Number 7 Chancellor Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe. Thanks Bob, my card is on the way.