Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Early morning Lattakia coast


Monday, October 27, 2008


Lattakia birthday event

A celebration event in Amwaj after a year of operation, which proved a great success. Here are some of the young users expertly showing journalists round the centre, and two of the performers during the stage show.


Sunday, October 26, 2008


Dana gets another year younger

Monday, October 20, 2008


Things that worked in Japan, things that didn't

Canon Ixus 860IS digital camera. Not the lightest or best-built compact around, but it took some excellent pics, was easy to carry, and was ready to shoot in a second. Its large screen means it goes through batteries fast, so I was glad to have bought a spare. It has limited zoom of course, but an excellent wide angle. Lowepro belt pack was also great to have.

Ecco shoes. Really comfortable shoes for a tour make a huge difference, and a pair I had bought with a simple velcro fastening were perfect for this trip.

Ear plugs. We stayed in one hotel right beside the railways station, and earplugs were essential.

Imperial Hotel Osaka. A late change to our arrangements got us into this very smart hotel. An unreserved recommendation from me, just excellent, with great views over the river.

Park Hotel Tokyo. Our top-and-tail hotel, and very pleasant each time. Two good if expensive restaurants, great breakfast, good views, lovely and helpful people. Nice rooms, well provided with kit. Free internet in the business centre. Strongly recommended.

Travel For You. Our tour organiser, who put the trip together and were really supportive throughout.

Didn't work:
KLM. Lost some of our luggage at Amsterdam hub on the way out ("recompensed" with a 25 Euro voucher for future flights! Ha ha.); incredibly cramped seating on planes; pathetic in-flight entertainment on 747 on the way back. Won't ever use again.

New Myako hotel in Kyoto. Poor bedrooms, poorer food, disappointing service, crowded, noisy and unkempt. Avoid at all costs.

Scotte jacket bought from Magellan's. So full of pockets it was almost impossible to find anything. Designed to carry bits of electronic kit, but had sacrificed some essential ease of use in normal functions for this.



More images



Images of Japan



Images of Japan



Back from Japan

I've been on holiday in Japan with the family for the last ten days, an extraordinarily rich experience in almost every respect. Japan is a vibrant mix of the ancient and totally modern, and has a way of life that is stressed and material (in cities at least) but also spiritual, confident and fun-loving. The Japanese appear to take some things very seriously, but not too seriously - in fact to my eyes they sometimes appear self-mocking. Whatever the elements, the feeling was of a people as comfortable in their skin as one could expect to find in this age, and with a sense of security in the established order of things. They also have some of the most beautiful young women in the world, wearing some of the shortest skirts. We were there during a Japanese public holiday, so everywhere was crowded, but everything worked, everyone was having a good time, Shinto, Buddha and Mammon working in perfect harmony. The food was just delicious. It was wonderful.


Friday, October 03, 2008


Trust planning process considerations

Planning is not the same as strategy. Planning is informed by strategy, and is the effective marshalling of resources to meet strategic goals.

The best is the enemy of the good.  In the Trust we always try to do complex things 100% right first time, and arguably the planning process was one of them.  Unsurprisingly, we do not often succeed.  The planning process like many others can be an incremental one, not perfect from day one, but getting better every time.  A small step successfully completed is worth more than a large step missed at this stage of the organisation’s development.

Conformity and standardisation in planning documents are tidy but unnecessary.  What is needed is appropriate legibility and consistency.  The CEO and EMT need to read across the whole organisation at a highlight level, where they can look at the balance of priorities, the match of activity against strategic objectives, levels of organisational risk, and agree resource commitments.  With consistency at this level, whatever happens below it should be what works best with the teams implementing the plan.  Demanding a one-size-fits-all format for every layer of planning consumes time and provides little benefit.

The Trust is designed in an organisational form which routinely requires complex internal exchanges to make it work.  In practice it is not one organisation with a single intent, but a series of separate parts, most with their own individual definition of local optima.

Budgeting is not the same as costing.


Thursday, October 02, 2008


Blogs vs books

I visit Tom Peters' blog on a regular basis. He has a caffeine-like effect on my nervous system, and provides a necessary jolt out of whatever comfort zone I'm in. At least, he used to. Now I am not so sure. The change, I think, comes from the blog format, which has the unfortunate effect of down-scaling everything. Because it is immediate and regular, the effect is diffused by familiarity and a sort of pub-chat level of response to everyday events. And above all, it is unsynthesised - lots of relatively small pieces poured out more or less as they occur. Instead of the shock of a bucket of ice-cold water in the face it's more like a dripping tap.

A Tom Peters book, on the other hand, has a (usually provocative) proposition and assembles the case to back it up. It has substance, it has impact. It is deliberate and thoughtful. It is usually something that forces one to re-evaluate and re-invent. It's a big jolting event. An effect of the infrequent big thing as opposed to the frequent small thing.

The blog universe is sort of like being in the middle of a steady relationship, things ebb and flow but rarely dramatically reframe themselves. I don't know if anyone knows how many blogs have entirely shifted a reader's perspective. I suspect not many if any at all, ever. Comments on them seem to be of only two kinds, complete I've-always-said agreement or froth-flecked vitriolic disagreement. Can't think of a single one that has thanked the blogger for changing their point of view. So I don't think it's the ideal medium for Tom P, who thrives in/on the Shock Of The New. I hope he doesn't give up on the books.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Possible leader of free world on the bail-out

Sarah Palin tells it like it is...

"But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the -- oh, it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track.

"So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is part of that."

Well, that's clear then. Confidence-building stuff?


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