Annual Mince Pie Tasting 2015 : Mr Kipling

Okay it is now post Dec 1st, and the official start of mince pie season. Yes we have a month of gorging on these little treats, pretending that you have not eaten as many as you have and enjoying everyone.

Each year I havea mission to try them all and decide which is best.

Mr Kipling: 6 Deep filled mince pies.
Price: £1
Score: 6/10
Time taken to scoff the lot: 1 day
Comments: A standard, nicely presented with the holly on the pie crust. Sweet, not too spicy. May have eaten quickly as I missed mince pies so much!

Risk Management:  The importance readiness planning | Chris-Warburton.com

With the recent closure of the Forth Road bridge, commutes from Fife to Edinburgh by car have just dramatically increased by 30 miles each way, causing significant disruption for local residents.It is fortunate, in some ways, this has happened in the run up to and over the Christmas period. Many businesses slow down a little and hopefully many people will be able to work from home more often during the 4 weeks the bridge is out of action. (although looking at the crack, there are concerns this could be much longer)

Source: Risk Management:  The importance readiness planning | Chris-Warburton.com

Leadership inspiration from the Womens World Cup 2015 | Chris-Warburton.com

Those of you who know me well, know I am not a great follower of football (soccer). However this year is the Womens World Cup.Initially I started to follow because it was being played in Canada with both Canada and England playing in the tournament. However, as the tournament has progressed, my familiarity with the teams has improved, excitement of the games increased and now I am hooked.

Source: Leadership inspiration from the Womens World Cup 2015 | Chris-Warburton.com

Berenst(e)ain Bears and Walkers Crisps

Wow, first I learn it is Berenstain bears, not Berenstein Bears, all along! And then in the comments I learn that Walkers Salt and Vingear crisps have always been green.

Seems like there is some collective cognitive fault here (see the misspelling in the old newspaper too), or at least a brillant ad campaign by Golden Wonder crisps in the case of the later.

Article below explains the wilder theory, read with caution….. Who would have thought those cuddly Berenstain Bears and the home comforts of Walkers crisps could be quite so disturbing. Next I am going to find out that Rudolf does not have a red nose and every year Santa comes dressed in green not red….

Too much time on my hands this morning….. need to get some air! 🙂

The Bears are communicating these newfound realities to us through their name. Take a cold hard look at the wording above. Does something look wrong to you? Do you remember it being Berenstein with an E, not Berenstain with an A?If you do, you’re not alone. There are many who remember it this way. In fact, there are so many Berenstein believers that people in the know will cite that as proof that this is a glitch in the matrix. I’ve dubbed these individuals Berensteinites. I talked to quite a few people I know, and most of them remember the bears surname being spelled with an E.

Source: The Berenst(E)ain Bears Conspiracy Theory That Has Convinced the Internet There Are Parallel Universes | VICE | United Kingdom

Pluto, close encounter, close to home | Chris-Warburton.com

Tomorrow a little space probe, travelling at 45,000 kph (or 1 about million km a day) will whizz past Pluto and its largest attentant moon Charon. At its nearest point it will be at an altitude of 12,500 km above the target, robotically taking photos and readings. It is nearly 5,000,000,000 km from earth.An amazing piece of planning, engineering and project management, 9 years in the making. Great it is science fact rather than science fiction.

Source: Pluto, close encounter, close to home | Chris-Warburton.com

Why can’t the rest of the year be more like summer? | Chris-Warburton.com

Returning to the office after the summer can be tough.You worked hard all year and hoped to be able to take a break or at least slow down while the weather was better. You looked forward to it.Then in a flash it is gone; the kids are back at school, the morning traffic is back to its normal crawl and finally everyone is turning up to meetings again.

Source: Why can’t the rest of the year be more like summer? | Chris-Warburton.com

A contact strategy from the holidays… | Chris-Warburton.com

1. The eConversion of the wider population, the one we discussed for the last 10 years, is almost complete. As such we must all have a robust eCare strategy, it is going to accelerate and become ever more important. (… put another way, when your own family is preferring to send eCards, you know you ‘gotta have’ a robust eCare strategy)2. Increasing the flexibility in recording and retaining contact details will become increasing important. These are a flow of locations to find someone, not an absolute point or destination. It will evolve over time and we need to be ready for this.

Source: A contact strategy from the holidays… | Chris-Warburton.com

Am I getting a good price for that? my lesson in price sensitivity

I recently had an issue with my car.

Having driven the car over significant mileage over the last 12 months and leaving aside any comments about my driving style, I needed a new clutch mechanism.

So I went off to the nearest dealer to get it assessed and fixed. Quote £2,000…. Ouch that is nearly C$4,000

It seemed extreme and rather than just accept the price, I decided to shop around.

Final competitive quote: £800, for the exact same part that was removed.

60% lower, a saving of £1,200, all for about 3 hours of my time…. Wow, all fired up and excited by my success I decided to extend this to other purchases; Car tyres: £150 vs £120, Drain cleaning: £200 vs £100, Computer cables: £11.99 vs £1.99

The size and frequency of price differences, for the what was essentially same quality of product, certainly shocked me. It got me thinking about price sensitivity and consumer price sensitivity.

Now we all know we should shop around but, especially when time strapped, it can be a hassle getting competitive quotes, do we? Sometimes you just trust the market is competitive and transparent; reliant on other people doing the leg work and driving down the price…. ‘Surely if everyone else shops around and made decisions informed by price, I will be getting a reasonable price, the quotes will be close’… right…?

… wrong! This was not the case here and some significant savings could be made. The assumption that most consumers shop around and drive down prices is clearly flawed. The market is in fact rather opaque.

This also relates to my experience in the office, where I have seen similar dynamics at work. Items such as phones can be priced to your cost centre at £350, which you know can be purchased online for £180. You question it, but often this is the agreed price, it can be frustrating.

So there are savings to be made, cash flow improved, for both consumers and businesses. So we should be more price sensitive, but when should we be? To what degree? What is the trade off vs quality and service that helps offset the higher price?

All good questions, and to help have been using the following rules of thumb.

  1. Always get at least one extra quote. Even a little shopping around can save you a lot of money.
  2. Consider local businesses as well as the big brands. I have been finding better pricing and service from small local businesses.
  3. Limit the time you spend depending on the price of the item. With a rough guideline below.;

Quality and service are of course important considerations too, but all things being equal there is value to be added to your business and personally, simply by taking a few extra steps.

It is time to renew our commitment to finding value.

Let me know if you have had any similar experiences or would like to add to the equation…. am sure it can be refined!

Greece, whose fault is it any way?

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Developments in Greece are now happening fast, and with a risk of contagion across the financial system troubling.
It could affect all of us more than we think.

There are many statements being made in support of both sides. Some of these, especially in the comments sections appear particularly vitriolic, even accusatory of an entire nation or group of countries. Blame is being quickly apportioned.

At this point it is worth taking a step back to consider how we got here, and look more closely at each stakeholder perspective.

    Creditors – financial institutions : The creditors leant Greece money, on the basis it would be repaid with interest. This generated substational revenue which in turn would have been distributed to stakeholders (including shareholders). They benefited.

    Debtors – Greece : The debtors borrowed the money, knowing it needed to be re-paid with interest. They used this to build infrastructure, spend on the country. It created jobs and this trickled down through the economy. The people in Greece were better off. They benefited.

    Creditor nations and governments : The additional money in people’s pocket in Greece now enabled some of them to buy luxury goods. Many of these luxury goods were purchased with cash, from outside Greece. This created jobs, incomes and cash flow in these markets. They benefited.

As long as the wheels turned and the balance sheet expanded, everyone was happy, everyone benefited in some way (at least short medium term). I am not saying these funds were distributed evenly, a different topic, but each of these groups benefited in some way.

This is the reason we are here after all, it was in no-ones interest to say stop. It is not until something breaks, the cycle collapses and we suddenly have a problem.

Such is the nature of lending/borrowing money. Generally it is in good faith and appears sensible at the time. In life, events happen and all of a sudden there is a problem that needs to be worked out. Yes, with hindsight different decisions should have been taken but it is important to remember that for the past we have perfect vision, yet at the time we are always peering into the fog of the future. It is much more difficult to see clearly and any prediction does carry an element of risk.

Arguably the debt should not have been transferred from private to public institutions, but we are now here, Greece has defaulted and the next phase of negotiations needs to proceed. Greece wants forgiveness of the debt, the creditors want to be paid in full and have the agreed obligations met. A compromise needs to be urgently negotiated, with any consequences fully understood. (Yanis Varoufakis, the ex finance minister, interestingly is an expert in game theory, explaining some of the positioning to date).

The next few days will be filled with plenty of high level discussions between high powered delegates, and plenty of nervous watching for the rest of us.

But let’s spare a thought for the individuals caught up in this on the ground. There are many good people, who are not the decision makers, did not necessarily agree with the decisions at the time and are just hard working folk caught by the events. It is difficult.

Before quickly apportioning blame let’s reflect on the wider perspective. Most situations are not clear cut and understanding complexities helps us all make more informed decisions going forward.

Lets hope for everyone the negotiations can be quickly and smoothly worked out, the impact is minimal and we can return to our lives.

Photo Credit : Christophe Meneboeuf

You know your car is getting old when……

I was filling up the old car today (you know the one you are sentimentally attached to and don’t want to part with). Looked at the price of gas/petrol, it seemed expensive vs the cost of the car itself (yes, it is getting old)!  So have invented a new rule of thumb…

“You know your car is getting old when…. you start to consider filling up the car as an investment”.

Uh-oh it is snowing

Uh-oh, it is now snowing in Toronto.

Yes, this means that the queue for changing your car tires to snow tires has just gone from, “while you wait” to 4 hours.

Hey at least it looks wintery.

Personalisation of Computing

I was reflecting on my iPad the other day. It really is a very personal device, in fact all apple products seem to be personal.

They tend to be set up without a password, there are no separate profile for each user etc etc. Everything is customised for me, just like my actual notebook or diary is.

This is a trend that will develop I feel.

We will all have our own personal computing devices.
We will be the only users on the device, but hey we will each have one so that is ok.

There will then also be shared devices, such as the TV in the house too.

This will mean that software to share data across multiple devices, and even ‘send’ data or apps to a shared device will be needed.

Maybe the next hot thing to go parabolic.

One letter makes a difference

Isn’t it stange how some words can only be one letter different, yet mean something quite opposite.
Although they still seem related

For example.

Democratic is only one letter away from Demoncratic

Garage Sale is only one letter away from Garbage Sale

Social Networking is only one letter away from Social Notworking

Stockmarket is only one letter away from Stuckmarket

Meditate is only one letter away from Medicate

etc etc. I will post if I think of more. Do leave in comments if you think of any too

Educational Nursery Rhymes: Twinkle Twinkle Little Universe

Well I am now singing “twinkle twinkle little star” 20 times a night!
.. and only really knowing the first verse, this is getting tough.
So I have been updating it a bit more for or current thinking at the start of the 21st century, and spicing it up a bit with more educational content….

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Twinkle twinkle little star
Now we know what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a our sun, but far away
Twinkle twinkle little star
Now we know what you are

Twinkle twinkle Mercury
Why is it that you’re so hard see
Close to to sun, you do fly
Making it hard for the naked eye
Twinkle twinkle Mercury
Why is it that you’re so hard see

Twinkle twinkle little Venus
How far away are you from us
Nice and bright, in the sky
Next to Mercury you do fly
Twinkle twinkle little Venus
How far away are you from us

Twinkle twinkle little Mars
Do you hold life, we all ask
Spacehips go so hope we’ll know
You’re far away, so it maybe slow
Twinkle twinkle little Mars
Do you hold life, we all ask

Twinkle twinkle Jupiter
You’re a big planet that’s for sure
Thousand times the size of Earth
Almost a star, but avoided birth
Twinkle twinkle Jupiter
You’re a big planet that’s for sure

Twinkle twinkle big Saturn
With lots of rings you do turn
With you rings you look so nice
Who would think they were made of ice
Twinkle twinkle big Saturn
With lots of rings you do turn

Twinkle twinkle Uranus
Coldest planet we’ve visited in the universe
Cold and greenish you do fly
while on your side you do lie
Twinkle twinkle Uranus
Coldest planet we’ve visited in the universe

Twinkle twinkle blue Neptune
So far away it’s dark at noon
Clouds of gas and methane
Full of clouds and no terrain
Twinkle twinkle blue Neptune
So far away it’s dark at noon

Twinkle twinkle little Pluto
Are you a planet, we don’t know
If not a planet, maybe a moon
In any case we will see you soon
Twinkle twinkle little Pluto
Are you a planet, we don’t know

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Dedicated to Sophia, 2008

Let me know if you know rhymes for Eris, Larger Magellanic cloud, and NGC1952 (Crab Nebula)!