Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thought for the Day

Parkinson's Law of Triviality

As promised, here is the second repost of some profound insights, previously posted in March 2010:

“Organisations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.”

A corollary is that:

“The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.”

Parkinson's Law of Triviality, that organisations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues, was advanced by him as part of a satirical look at bureaucracies in his 1957 book Parkinson’s Law.

The example given by Parkinson to illustrate his concept is a finance committee's deliberations where there are 11 items on the agenda. Items 9, 10 and 11 on the agenda are a nuclear power plant at $10m (remember that this was in 1957), a bicycle shed at $2,350 and the budget for refreshments, $57 per year.

A nuclear reactor is so vastly expensive and complicated that people cannot understand it, so they assume that those working on it understand it. Even those with strong opinions might withhold them for fear of being shown to be insufficiently informed. The committee members don’t know what it is, what it does or why it costs so much. It gets passed with little discussion. Parkinson writes:
Allowing a few seconds for rustling of papers and unrolling diagrams, the time spent on Item Nine will have been just two minutes and a half. The meeting is going well. But some members feel uneasy about Item Nine. They wonder inwardly whether they have really been pulling their weight. It is too late to query that reactor scheme, but they would like to demonstrate, before the meeting ends, that they are alive to all that is going on.
In contrast, everyone understands what a bicycle is, what is does, what a bicycle shed is for. The committee debates such aspects as the best choice of roofing materials. Everyone involved wants to add his/her touch and show that he/she is there. According to Parkinson:
The debate is fairly launched. A sum of $2350 is well within everybody's comprehension. Everyone can visualise a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some $300. Members at length sit back with a feeling of achievement.
The final item is the yearly coffee budget at $57. The debate is so lengthy and acrimonious that no decision is able to be reached. Item 11 is pushed back to the next meeting.

Anyone who has ever dealt with local Councils, government bureaucracies and committees will relate to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.

Kemp’s Restatement:

In 1999 Paoul-Henning Kamp referred to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality in an email post to a mailing list on the subject of software development problems. In it he said “A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass…”. Parkinson had not used a reference to colour in his original example but this has become increasingly identified with the principle, such that the Law of Triviality has now also become known as the “bike shed concept” and “the colour of the bike shed”.

Thought for the Day

Creating Bureaucracy

As things get busier this time of the year, time becomes more precious. I am sometimes left without sufficient time to prepare a post for Bytes, hence a repost.

During the previous week, I had occasion to mention to other persons some principles and commentaries that have previously featured in Bytes. The first one was initially posted in November 2012 and reposted in July 2015. It appears below. The other will be posted tomorrow. Hopefully you will either not have read them before or find the rereading of them enjoyable. I did.

How To Create Bureaucracy, Policy, And Procedures 

1. Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, an ape will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. 

2. As soon as the ape touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water. After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result - all the apes are sprayed with cold water. 

3. Turn off the cold water. If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them. 

4. Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted. 

5. Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm. 

6. Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape. 

7. After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. 

Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs. Why not? 

"BECAUSE that's the way it's always been done around here." 

If the above item seems a bit extreme, note the following comments by someone responding online to the above:

Heard a story about a woman who always cut the end off the leg of lamb before putting it in to roast, it was because her mother did. When the mother was asked, it was for the same reason. When the grandmother was asked, her answer was "because my pan is too small". The younger generations had the right size pans but continued to trim!

The origin of the terms "bureaucracy", from wikipedia:
The term "bureaucracy" is French in origin and combines the French word bureau – desk or office – with the Greek word κράτος (Kratos) – rule or political power. It was coined in the mid-18th century by the French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay and was a satirical pejorative from the outset. Gournay never wrote the term down but was later quoted at length in a letter from a contemporary: 
The late M. de Gournay... sometimes used to say: "We have an illness in France which bids fair to play havoc with us; this illness is called bureaumania." Sometimes he used to invent a fourth or fifth form of government under the heading of "bureaucracy." — Baron von Grimm 
The first known English-language use dates to 1818. Here, too, the sense was pejorative, with Irish novelist Lady Morgan referring to "the Bureaucratie, or office tyranny, by which Ireland has so long been governed." By the mid-19th century, the word was being used in a more neutral sense, referring to a system of public administration in which offices were held by unelected career officials. In this sense "bureaucracy" was seen as a distinct form of management, often subservient to a monarchy. In the 1920s, the definition was expanded by the German sociologist Max Weber to include any system of administration conducted by trained professionals according to fixed rules. Weber saw the bureaucracy as a relatively positive development; however, by 1944 the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises noted that the term bureaucracy was "always applied with an opprobrious connotation," and by 1957 the American sociologist Robert Merton noted that the term "bureaucrat" had become an epithet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thought for the Day


The following was sent to me by son Thomas, who is himself a barrister. Thanks, Thomas.

It’s from a site called and was written by a chap who goes by the handle Wigapedia, whose real name is Colm Nugent, an English barrister . .

Decoding the language of barristers’ conferences

The sometimes arcane language used by lawyers, and barristers in particular, can seem strange and unfamiliar to the lay client.

This is particularly the case in the client conference — an ancient ritualistic process in which the clients and their legal team huddle round mystical offerings of weak tea and slightly curled sandwiches to have a “discussion”.

In ‘the conference’ each person has a key role to play. The solicitor pretends to know why the conference is necessary, the barrister pretends to have read the papers, the insurer wonders why they’re paying good money for this and the client’s job is to nod and pretend to know what’s going on.

Here’s a handy explanatory table for lay clients and solicitors alike in an effort to make a little more sense of the whole thing:
What counsel says:
What that actually means:
“So… how are you?”
I’ve not read the medical reports yet. Have you always had just the one leg?
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
Would the trainee like to make me a cup of tea?
“There’s quite a bit of law involved in this area.”
None of which I’m familiar with but let’s face it, neither are you.
“It’s what we barristers would term ex turpi causa non oritur actio.”
(Bytes note: Latin "from a dishonorable cause an action does not arise") is a legal doctrine which states that a plaintiff will be unable to pursue legal remedy if it arises in connection with his own illegal act.)
And it’s what almost everyone else would term ‘Taurus excretum’.
(Bytes note: This translates to “Bullshit”)
“I’d like to hear the version of events in your own words.”
Because I’ve not had time to read any of the words in the papers sent to me yet.
“This case is not without its difficulties.”
Let me just say something blindingly obvious, but in a slightly theatrically profound manner.
“Do you have a figure for settlement in mind?”
…because I certainly don’t.
“It’s an offer we have to consider carefully.”
I’m on a ‘no-win no-fee’ here, and if you know what’s good for you you’ll bite their arm off up to the elbow.
“Dr Bloggs is a very robust expert.”
Dr Bloggs is a complete hack who’ll say whatever the party paying him want him to say.
“A lot depends on the judge we get on the day…”
Don’t blame me if I completely cock it up in court and we lose.
“I know this judge pretty well.”
• She and I were at school together.
• She’s completely certifiable.
“Our prospects are about 55%, I’d say.”
I’ve literally no idea what the outcome will be but I’ve tossed a coin and it came up heads twice and tails once.
“We have excellent prospects and we’re bound to win.”
I’ve literally no idea what the outcome will be but I’ve tossed a coin and it came up heads twice and tails once.
“There’s been a recent case on this.”
Someone on Twitter said so this morning and they had a gavel in their profile picture.
“I think it’s a good offer but ultimately the decision whether to take it is up to you.”
In theory the decision is up to you, but we both know that it’s up to me. And you’ll take the offer, if you know what’s good for you.
“I have some experience in this particular area.”
I reluctantly went to a talk on this area of law two years ago when I was desperate for some CPD points. Fell sleep halfway through.


That article inspired comments from barristers and solicitors . . .

“We have excellent prospects and we’re bound to win.” – If I heard a barrister say that, I would think he/she is extremely incompetent and/or crazy.

Barristers never say that. At best you would get “on the papers you have a reasonable prospect of success, but nothing can be guaranteed”.

I’m counsel and this couldn’t be more far from reality.

Wot u doin on legalcherk bro if u is counsel?

“So, how do you feel that went this morning?” = “Tell me how good I am”

Best, most comprehensive advice I ever heard a silk give: “Well, basically, you’re completely f****d”.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thought for the Day

Reader Writes


From David B in Derbyshire, England: 
On the grounds that the old uns are the good uns I don't usually question the age of old jokes.   But your Dr Spock's third ear - the final front ear - took me back to 1955    The film Davy Crockett was all the rage (I had a coonskin hat with a tail and my popgun was carved with Brown Bess on the stock).    And the playground joke was that he had three ears, left ear, right ear and wild front ear.

Thanks, David

Here is a pic of David as he was back in 1955. . . 

No, that’s not true, it’s Darby Hinton who played Israel Boone, Daniel Boone’s son, in the 1964-1970 Fess parker TV series.

Siome mor Spock items . . ,.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quote for the Day

More monthlies

December 7
In the 19th century cotton candy, or as we call it in Oz, fairy floss (its original name), was made by hand.  Being simply spun sugar, the process was made a lot simpler when in 1897 John C. Wharton and his dentist friend William Morrison (drumming up business for himself and his colleagues?) created a machine to make it.  It was a smash at the 1904 World’s Fair and has never looked back, assuming cotton candy was capable of looking back. Personally, I have never liked the stuff, even as a kid.

Available for purchase on Amazon

Oops, wrong brownies, those are from Willow (love that film)
Nope, not those either
That’s more like it!
National Brownie day
December 8
There was a request for a dessert for a group of ladies that would be attending a fair in the late 1800s.  They wanted a small cake-like dessert that could be eaten from a boxed lunch.  A Chicago chef, working at the Palmer House Hotel, created the first brownie for the ladies, which featured an apricot glaze and walnuts.  The Palmer House Hotel still serves their original recipe for brownies on their menu.
One for Rosie, the Chocolate Queen: December 8 is the day for celebrating National Brownie Day. 
A chocolate brownie (commonly referred to as simply brownie) is a square, baked, chocolate dessert. Brownies come in a variety of forms and may be either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density. They may include nuts, frosting, cream cheese, chocolate chips, or other ingredients.
Brownies were created in the United States at the end of the 19th century.  A cross between a cookie and cake, they soon became very popular across the country.
Although the chocolate brownie is the most popular, the blonde brownie runs a close second.  A blonde brownie is made with brown sugar and no chocolate and is often called a blondie.

December 8
What’s it about? Unknown.
How to you celebrate it? Unknown.
Despite the fact that no one seems to know anything about it, the special day appears on most special days calendars and listings. So therefore celebrate it how you will, whilst pondering whether there is a missing r.

December 9
Christmas Card Day honours Sir Henry Cole (1818 - 1874) of England, who created the first commercial Christmas card in 1843.  That’s it above.
It was the first mass produced Christmas card and 10 survive today of the 1,000 printed.  The card was hand coloured in that it predated colour printing and depicts a family toasting Christmas, flanked by scenes of the poor being fed and clothed. Cole created it for personal use and sold the extra cards for one shilling each.  The card caused a controversy in some quarters for showing a child being given wine to drink.
I’ve noticed that each year the number of cards coming in is less and less.  People are either sending electronic cards or not sending cards at all any more, part of the changing face of society and Christmas.
Each year I Ask myself whether I should do the same but so far I have persisted in sending personal cards.  Regular readers will know that my only begotten daughter, Acacia, who resides in Dubai and in whom I am well pleased, creates a personalised family card each year.  This year is no exception and it is a great card, now all I have to do is address the envelopes and send them.
The card appears below, thanks Princess.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Thought for the Day

More Monthlies


December 6
Possibly created by school teachers as a way to have a fun Christmastime activity for the children to make while they were in school. It has also been said that the holiday was created because of a book with the title “The Mitten Tree” which was written by author Candace Christiansen, in the book the main character Sarah is bundling up to walk through the cold winter weather, and on her trek she sees a group of children placing their mittens on a small dead tree.
·         Celebrate by putting mittens on your Christmas tree branches.
·         The word “mitten” is derived from the Old French word “mitaine” which was an old pet name for a cat, because back then mittens were made of animal fur.
·         The earliest mittens known to man date back to around the year 1000 A.D. and originally were used as sheaths for gloves since mittens did not have any separate finger openings to allow finger mobility. They were believed to have been made out of wool due to the discovery of a woollen mitten found in the harbor area of Dorestad in the Netherlands, determined to be from the 8th or 9th century AD based on surrounding archaeological evidence.
·         In 1914 an informal Christmas truce took place along the Western Front between German soldiers on one side and French and English soldiers on the other.  Men strolled in no man’s land, exchanged gifts and played soccer.  The brass soon put a stop to it.  From Private Frank Sumpter of the London Rifle Brigade: ‘ . . . most of the boys stayed there the whole day and only came back in the evening. There were no shots fired and some people enjoyed the curiosity of walking about in no man's land. It was good to walk around. As a sign of their friendliness the Germans put up a sign saying 'Gott mit uns' which means 'God is with us' and so we put a sign in English saying 'We got mittens too'. I don't know if they enjoyed that joke.’

December 6
Encourage young children to select their own shoes and tie their own laces.

December 7
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was created  on December 7, 1944. In 1994, ICAO celebrated the first International Civil Aviation Day, in recognition of the organisation's 50th anniversary.  In 1996, The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognising December 7th as International Civil Aviation Day.
International Civil Aviation Day promotes awareness of the importance of international civil aviation.
This special day was created to promote and bring awareness to the importance of civil aviation for social and economic development around the world. It is also intended to promote the safety and efficiency of air transportation.

December 7
There is no clear origin of this day.
One possibility is that this day evolved from Japan, and the hobby of stamp collecting. Japan has a Letter Writing Week, and a Letter Writing Day. Actually, the Japanese Letter Writing Day is held monthly on the 23rd of each month.
A second possibility is that this day evolved from one of many school related letter writing days. There are many references to Letter Writing Day  as a grade school, high school and college letter writing days. These events are often one time events, and have been held on a myriad of dates.  
Celebrate it by doing something that you probably haven’t done in a long time: send someone a handwritten letter.

December 7
On August 23, 1994, the United States Congress designated December 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On November 29, President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation declaring December 7, 1994 the first National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Pearl Harbor Day, commemorates the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack began at dawn December 7, 1941. It crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and caused the U.S. to enter World War II.
During the attack at Pearl Harbor, over 2,400 American serviceman and 68 civilians were killed. Five of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, and virtually all ships were damaged.
On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, U.S. flags are to be flown at half staff.
 On December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in a speech to Congress it was "..a day that will live in infamy". The U.S. then declared war on Japan.
The attack left 2,335 U.S. military members dead.