Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ask the Private Investigator New Zealand

Ask the Private Investigator New Zealand

I met private investigator John Dierckx through the Virtual Handshake NZ Yahoogroup. Through his blog, you get to see some of the real world of investigation that's only hinted at in even the most accurate cop dramas. Interesting reading!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

'Clocky' earns grad student 15 minutes of fame - MIT News Office

This is a fantastic invention... but why didn't she just make a clock with no snooze button?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

So what do you have to do to find happiness? - Sunday Times - Times Online

Fantastic article pointed out by Skip Press. It's about the science of happiness. A lot to the article, so it's hard to sum up, but here's a very interesting snippet:

Now Seligman is famous again, this time for creating the field of positive psychology. In 1997 the professor was seeking a theme for his presidency of the American Psychological Association. The idea came while gardening with his daughter Nikki. She was throwing weeds around and he was shouting. She reminded him that she used to be a whiner but had stopped on her fifth birthday. "And if I can stop whining, you can stop being a grouch."

Seligman describes this as an "epiphany". He vowed to change his own outlook, but more importantly recognised a strength — social intelligence — in his daughter that could be nurtured to help her withstand the vicissitudes of life. Looking back on "learned helplessness", he reflected that one in three subjects — rats, dogs or people — never became "helpless", no matter how many shocks or problems beset them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Film Review: Alexander - The Director's Cut

Alexander didn't do too well at the box-office last year, following a trend of historical epics in the last few years. Do bad box office figures translate to a poor movie? Not in the eye of this beholder.

Alexander - Director's Cut is clearly a labour of love. It breaks many of the rules of film, simply because Oliver Stone wanted to make his tribute as historically accurate as possible.

After the mystical opening sequence, and some great music by Vangelis (suitably Greek!), we come upon a classroom. Rule number one - start with an action scene. The only action going on here is a geography lesson, much needed if you want to understand the point of the whole story. Unfortunately, geography lessons are as unpopular as ever with filmgoers.

Then, it's quite a long film, and being based (as much as possible) on a true story, its main character is very human, with flaws and strong points liberally scattered throughout his personality.

What do we do with Alexander? Should we admire him for his tenacity, courage and sweeping vision? Should we condemn him for his hubris, his short-sightedness? Should we chastise him for his moral habits, as seen through 21st century mores? Or should we sympathise with him, facing the ultimate broken family, where when mum and dad argued it literally meant someone could die?

We can do all of those things. What I think Stone is asking us to do most of all is to understand Alexander, and appreciate the role he plays in our history.

Ptolemy's geography lesson actually has a lot to say about how we interpret the movie. Because he's not talking so much about geography as he is wavering between nearly worshipping Alexander and cynically dismissing him. Everyone who watches Alexander will probably feel the same.

Make sure you listen to Oliver Stone's commentary. For a director's cut edition, I was expecting a lot more special features than the commentary, but a three-hour commentary is pretty good, and he's edited it so there are no lengthy gaps without commentary.

You can hear in Stone's commentary that he has lived and breathed this story since 1986. He knows ancient Greece, he knows wars, he knows strategy. As always, the story behind the story is almost as interesting. Listen to Oliver Stone talk about this his creation, and hear someone who loves what they do.

If it's leadership lessons you're after, there are plenty to be had on Alexander - Director's Cut. It's just that they don't get handed to you on a plate - you have to work out what each one means for you.

Yay for Kendra!

Better late than never - I finally tuned into the latest The Apprentice last night in time for the grand finale.

I'm glad to say that both Marie and I picked the woman who had the right stuff- Kendra, from the book smarts team.

Why? Kendra and Tana were otherwise neck-in-neck, with not even Tana's unfinished college education proving a risk. Kendra's strength was how she dealt with people.

And it wasn't "dealing with people" as in "making them do what you want". She really liked her team members, and they liked her back. That's hard, if not impossible, to fake.

However, we still felt the tension as the extravaganza finale stretched on and on, because while we would choose Kendra over Tana any day... would Trump?

I think a lot of people feel like this sometimes: I'd choose so-and-so, but then I'm not a big billionaire tycoon like Trump. Maybe there are some "rules" or "secrets" he knows that I don't?

But no... common sense, it turns out, is quite common. And how you treat people will be one of the most important things about you, no matter where you are.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Left-handed people are ‘higher earners’

Left-handed people are ‘higher earners’ - Sunday Times - Times Online

Heard about this from Dan Pink's blog. As a lefty, I'm glad to hear this.

Interesting that the article also says:

"...when the researchers examined females they found the situation was reversed, with women paying a significant penalty for being left-handed. They earn 4% less than women with dominant right hands."

Strange. Because I remember reading somewhere that you're more likely to find a left-handed man than a left-handed woman. Don't know if that affects things statistically or not... but there y'go!

Interestingly, in my first creative writing job I came across more than my fair share of left-handed women as coworkers. Such is the nature of creative work. I told each one of them they were very rare!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Book Review: Foreign Babes in Beijing

Foreign Babes in Beijing seems an unlikely subject for review on a blog about leadership. But hey, I promised you leadership doesn't always wear a tie, and that's definitely true in this case!

China is an awakening economic giant. Whichever way you look at it, China is about to play a much more significant part in world affairs now than ever before.

So it makes sense to know what China is about.

Being a huge country of 1.3 billion people, that's no easy task. Foreign Babes in Beijing gives you a five year slice of life in China's second largest city through the eyes of a Westerner who became part of the culture she observed.

Rachel DeWoskin's memoir of her life in Beijing includes her friendships with Chinese who wanted to be American, Americans who wanted to be Chinese, PR people, film industry people, and just about anyone else you can imagine.

The book gets its title from the soap opera Rachel ended up in, an experience that allowed her to see herself through Chinese eyes (at least, through the scriptwriter's eyes).

As a way to get to know China, Foreign Babes in Beijing is incredibly subjective - which is great! Sure, a dry book of economic facts or history might help you understand the outline of the new China, but DeWoskin's slices of her life in Beijing give you a sense of the fragrances, colours and tastes of this ancient and very modern country.

Care factor zero

I felt very special as I sat at my "Networking Table" at the last Marketing Association event. I was quite curious to see how a networking table would be different from any other table at an event like this. I still don't know.

As always, it was a good opportunity to meet people from different companies, but I was kind of surprised to see four people (or was it five?) from one company at this networking table.

Now I know there's safety in numbers, but this is ridiculous! If I were running a company and sent five people to an event, I'd make sure they had instructions to scatter. Imagine the opportunities five people could bring back from different tables!

But there's the rub, you need to have people that think that way, that have some sort of sales nous. And as I've discovered, it's not necessarily being a 'hungry' salesperson - in fact that puts most people off. It's just being very interested in... everything. Well, that helps.

Because if you're interested in everything, you'll at least be interested in the person you're talking to. And whether they're a future client, supplier, employer or employee, or just a nice person, you'll be better off for showing some interest.

But that's the sort of stuff you can't learn at school, or be told to do by the boss. It's something you need to want to do.

Meanwhile, in her job Marie (my wife) is training - trying to train - 18-year-olds in customer service over the phone. The most important thing - and the hardest - is trying to get people to care.

Life experience, it seems, is still the most valuable commodity out there in the human resources marketplace.

Here's to experience!