Tag: Peter Dowson

New growth required!

New trees offer a good metaphor!

As regular followers of this place know (and a huge thank-you to you all) much of last Friday was spent planting trees in a grassy meadow just to the East of our house.

P1150940
A part view of the area where the trees were planted: Kentucky Coffeetrees; Northern Catalpas; a Red Maple, Eastern Redcedars.

An hour before I sat down to write this post (now 13:30 PST yesterday) I didn’t have a clue as to what to write. Then I read Patrice Ayme’s latest essay and, wow, it punched me in the face. For it resonated so strongly with a few other recent readings.

Patrice’s essay was called Trump A Demagogue? So What? and it opened thus:

“We empowered a demagogue” laments the New York Times ostensibly bleeding heart liberal, the kind Mr. Kristof, in his false “Mea Culpa” editorial, “My Shared Shame: How The Media Made Trump”. By this, Mr. Kristof means that Mr. Trump is a bad person. However, Mr. Kristof’s choice of the word “demagogue” is revealing. (Actually it’s not really his choice: “demagogue” is not Mr. Kristof’s invention: he just repeats like a parrot the most prominent slogan of the worldwide campaign of insults against Trump).

Trump a demagogue? Is Mr. Sanders a “demagogue”, too? (As much of the financial and right-wing press has it: for The Economist and the Financial Times, Trump and Sanders are both “demagogues” and that’s their main flaw.)

To understand fully the word “demagogue” one has to understand a bit of Greek, and a bigger bit of Greek history.

Then later on in that essay, Patrice goes on to quote Andy Grove:

A hard day may be coming for global plutocrats ruling as they do thanks to their globalization tricks. And I am not exactly naive. Andy Grove, founder of Intel, shared the general opinion that much of globalization was just theft & destitution fostering an ominous future (the Hungarian immigrant to the USA who was one of the founders of Intel). He pointed out, an essay he wrote in 2010 that Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by neglecting strong job growth in the United States.

Mr. Grove observed that: …”it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But… lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”

Silicon Valley makes its money from start-ups. However, that phase of a business is different from the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototypes to mass production. Both phases are important. Only scale-up is an engine for mass job growth — and scale-up is vanishing in the United States (especially with jobs connected to Silicon Valley). “Without scaling,” Mr. Grove wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate…

The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.

Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment.”

Spot on! For in my previous life I was the founder of two businesses. First up was Dataview Ltd, based in Colchester, that was formed in the late 1970s and soon became the global distributor of the word processing software Wordcraft, written by Englishman Pete Dowson. Dataview also initiated the ‘dongle’, a software/hardware security device to protect Wordcraft.

The Wordcraft dongle.
The Wordcraft dongle.

The second company founded by me was Aviation Briefing Ltd ‘AvBrief’ that is still going today, albeit with me no longer involved!

So I can reinforce, with hundreds of hours of lost sleep and tears, that growing a company and increasing employment, especially the employment of great technical people, is a very different matter to the start-up phase.

Frankly, regarding Dataview, it was only the luck of meeting Sid Newman that saved my bacon. For within 12 months of starting trading I was already sinking under the load of trying to be the number one salesman (that I was good at) and being the company general manager (that I was total crap at). Sid had years of experience at general management and very quickly let me get on with what I really loved – opening up Wordcraft distributorships all over the world.

The analogy with planting trees is very apt. For any clown can plant the tree but parenting that young tree into a mature forty-foot high beauty takes professional management.

Clown work! (This is a Red Maple, by the way!)
Clown work! (This is a Red Maple, by the way!)

Tomorrow I will return and offer a viewpoint as to how we, as in society, are currently bereft of professional managers.

Always two sides

I am indebted to my life-long friend, Dan Gomez, for this piece.

Background (Personal nostalgia warning!!!)

Dan and I go back too many years; I mean way too many!  He and I met in Spring 1979 when I was addressing a national conference of US Commodore PC dealers in Boston, USA.  I was there to promote a British Word Processing program called Wordcraft, written by Peter Dowson, that I had exclusive rights to.  I was also a Commodore PC dealer in Colchester, Essex, England; indeed I was the 8th dealer appointed in the UK.  The luck in finding Wordcraft is underlined by the fact that between 1970 and 1978 I was a salesman with IBM UK Office Products division and ended up as a word-processing specialist salesman for IBM.

Anyway, in my sales pitch to these US dealers, I used the word ‘fortnight’, a common term in England.  From somewhere out in the audience, this Californian voice shouted out, “Hey Handover, what’s a fortnight?”  Many readers will be aware that Americans don’t use that term.  That Californian voice was Dan!

From that cheeky start came a great relationship including Dan being my West Coast distributor for Wordcraft.  It was Dan’s sister, whom I have also known for countless years, who invited me to her Winter home in San Carlos, Mexico, to spend Christmas 2007 with her and her husband and which was the catalyst of me meeting Jean, who is now by most beautiful wife!

Dan, my Best Man, at the wedding of Jean and me, November 20th 2010

————————ooOOOoo————————

OK, to the theme of this article.

Shortly after the Newsweek ‘Weather Panic‘ article on the 10th, Dan sent me this email,

Paul – Saw your blog vis a vis Newsweek’s recent cover.

Don’t forget to publish the other side of this perennial story without all the sensationalism of selling newspapers and proselytizing to the unwashed masses or you could end up drinking your own cool-aid.  The science of weather cycles, sun activity, ocean currents, high-altitude jet streams, colliding warm/cool fronts have been at work long before any creature walked the earth, let alone man. The facts demonstrate this time and time again. Good science is skeptical science and needs to be viewed carefully by way of verifiable and constant testing of hypotheses.

The below article, although not at all sexy, has a different view, in general, as to the vagaries of weather extremes.  There are many like this and represent unbiased, and to some, unpopular scientific reasoning at work.

Just food for thought.

–DG

He then included this.

Recent Weather Extremes: Global Warming Fingerprint Not

by Chip Knappenberger
March 21, 2011

On occasion, I have the opportunity to assist Dr. Patrick J. Michaels (Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute) in reviewing the latest scientific research on climate change. When we happen upon findings in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that may not have received the media attention that they deserved, or have been misinterpreted in the popular press, Pat sometimes covers them over at the “Current Wisdom” section of the Cato@Liberty blog site.

His latest posting there highlights research findings that show that extreme weather events during last summer and the previous two winters can be fully explained by natural climate variability—and that “global warming” need not (and should not) be invoked.

This topic—whether or not weather extremes (or at least some portion of them) can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming (or, as Dr. Pielke Sr., prefers, anthropogenic climate change)—has been garnering a lot of attention as of late. It was a major reason for holding the House Subcommittee hearing last week, is a hot topic of discussion in the press, and is the subject of an in-progress major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As such, I wanted to highlight some of the findings that Pat reported on. I encourage a visit to the full article “Overplaying the Human Contribution to Recent Weather Extremes” over at Cato@Liberty.

The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010

A new paper by Randall Dole and colleagues from the Physical Sciences Division (PSD) of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) examined the events leading up to and causing the big heat wave in Russia last summer (which was also part of an atmospheric pattern that was connected to the floods in Pakistan). Here is what they found:

“Our analysis points to a primarily natural cause for the Russian heat wave. This event appears to be mainly due to internal atmospheric dynamical processes that produced and maintained an intense and long-lived blocking event. Results from prior studies suggest that it is likely that the intensity of the heat wave was further increased by regional land surface feedbacks. The absence of long-term trends in regional mean temperatures and variability together with the [climate] model results indicate that it is very unlikely that warming attributable to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations contributed substantially to the magnitude of this heat wave.”

As Pat commented, “Can’t be much clearer than that.”

Recent Winter Severity

From Pat’s article:

Another soon-to-be released paper to appear in Geophysical Research Lettersdescribes the results of using the seasonal weather prediction model from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) to help untangle the causes of the unusual atmospheric circulation patterns that gave rise to the harsh winter of 2009-2010 on both sides of the Atlantic. A team of ECMWF scientists led by Thomas Jung went back and did experiments changing initial conditions that were fed into the ECMWF model and then assessed how well the model simulated the known weather patterns of the winter of 2009-2010. The different set of initial conditions was selected so as to test all the pet theories behind the origins of the harsh winter. Jung et al. describe their investigations this way: “Here, the origin and predictability of the unusual winter of 2009/10 are explored through numerical experimentation with the ECMWF Monthly forecasting system. More specifically, the role of anomalies in sea surface temperature (SST) and sea ice, the tropical atmospheric circulation, the stratospheric polar vortex, solar insolation and near surface temperature (proxy for snow cover) are examined.”

In a nutshell, here is what Jung et al. found:

“The results of this study, therefore, increase the likelihood that both the development and persistence of negative NAO phase [an atmospheric circulation pattern that was largely behind the harsh winter conditions] resulted from internal atmospheric dynamical processes.”

Or, as Pat put it “Translation: Random variability.”

Pat also examined a third study by Roseanne D’Arrigo and colleagues who found an historical analog of the conditions responsible for the harsh winter of 2009-2010 way back in 1783-1784. The winter of 1783-1784 was a historically extreme one on both sides of the Atlantic and has long been associated with a large volcanic eruption that occurred in Iceland during the summer of 1783. Even Benjamin Franklin connected the winter conditions to the volcano. But D’Arrigo and colleagues now suggest a different mechanism. According to Pat:

But in their new study, Roseanne D’Arrigo and colleagues conclude that the harshness of that winter primarily was the result of anomalous atmospheric circulation patterns that closely resembled those observed during the winter of 2009-10, and that the previous summer’s volcanic eruption played a far less prominent role:

“Our results suggest that Franklin and others may have been mistaken in attributing winter conditions in 1783-4 mainly to Laki or another eruption, rather than unforced variability.

“Similarly, conditions during the 2009-10 winter likely resulted from natural [atmospheric] variability, not tied to greenhouse gas forcing… Evidence thus suggests that these winters were linked to the rare but natural occurrence of negative NAO and El Niño events.”

Bottom Line

The take home message of Pat’s post is worth repeating:

The point is that natural variability can and does produce extreme events on every time scale, from days (e.g., individual storms), weeks (e.g., the Russian heat wave), months (e.g., the winter of 2009-10), decades (e.g., the lack of global warming since 1998), centuries (e.g., the Little Ice Age), millennia (e.g., the cycle of major Ice Ages), and eons (e.g., snowball earth).

Folks would do well to keep this in mind next time global warming is being posited for the weather disaster du jour. Almost assuredly, it is all hype and little might.

Be sure to check out Pat’s full article which includes much more in depth coverage of these three soon-to-be-released scientific studies.

————————ooOOOoo————————

I need to mull over this when I am back home with more time.  In the meantime, comments from readers most welcomed.