Chris Croft's Personal Blog

February 28, 2010

Are you drinking WINE??

Filed under: Assertiveness, Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 10:52 am

Last night Sally and I went out to see Malcolm’s band, ‘State of Undress’, at the local Liberal Working Men’s Club.  Not normally a place I would frequent, in fact I’d never seen the inside before and had to sign in and pay a whole pound, but I wanted to see his only local gig for a while.

Just after we’d got a drink and sat down, the  bloke on the next table (shaved head and wearing a sweater over a white t-shirt) pointed at my glass and said with a mocking tone “Are you drinking WINE?”

and I thought to myself  ‘This is 2010 but it might as well be 1970 in here”, and also

“how odd to feel the need to control not only what you drink but also what other people drink.  He just couldn’t bear the thought of someone else drinking something different to him.  A microcosm of our world where you’re not allowed to be gay, not allowed to be black, not allowed to wear a crucifix, not allowed to even wear a t-shirt tucked in to your jeans.  What is it with people??

I was reasonably assertive, replying “Yes, it’s what I like, I don’t have anything to prove”, but I did feel that there might have been a better riposte.  How annoying it is when you only think of great lines afterwards!  But at least with a blog you can write them all down, which is therapy of a sort, and see if anyone else can come up with a better one.  These are my thoughts so far!

“Are you drinking WINE?”

  • “Yes, I’m not from around here”
  • “Yes, I prefer it to beer because it’s stronger”
  • “Yes, I’ve stopped drinking beer because I find it turns me in to a TWAT”
  • “Haven’t you ever seen a bloke drinking wine before?”
  • “Yes, I ordered it by mistake”
  • “No, this is beer but in a small glass – it’s cheaper like this”
  • “Well, imagine my excitement when I spotted a cheeky little 79 vintage sauvignon blanc behind the bar, and at £13.99 a glass it’s a complete snip”
  • “No, it’s my own urine, I have AIDS you see”

I think that one or two of the above might have resulted in a fight, but maybe 1, 2 or 4 would have been effective….

Anyway, thanks for a good gig Malcolm, and for yet another bizarre incident which I can mull over and laugh about.

PS – Listening to Gil Scott-Heron:  Me and The Devil.    Amazing!


February 23, 2010


Filed under: Project Management — chriscroft @ 1:50 pm

Am I the only person who thinks that the definition of Schedule Performance Index shouldn’t be the value of what you’ve done divided by the value of what you should have done (google and check any website to see that this is what we are always told), but should be How long it’s taken you divided by how long you thought it was going to take you?

In other words, if you’ve done part one, woth £1000, but not done part two, worth £3000, the conventional wisdom is that you are a quarter of the way there. But if both tasks were going to take you a week each (maybe the second one jsut involved more people), then surely you are only a week behind, or half way through.

This distinction is very important because SPI is used to calculate when we are going to finish, by multiplying the length of the whole job by the SPI, so in my example above the SPI slaves would multiply the whole thing by 4, whereas I would rather multiply it by 2 (we’ve done week instead of 2 so far)

… or did I miss something?


How can they possibly work?

Filed under: Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 1:47 pm

Magnets on your incoming water supply

in order to stop your pipes furring up.

Could be true if the magnetised particles don’t stick to the copper pipes.  But then again….

Magnets on  your petrol supply line to your engine

to improve your fuel economy (surely the calorific value would be the same?)

Sea Sickness Bands

They press on your wrist slightly – but surely that isn’t going to make any difference to the churning in your stomach?

Although when I tried one I think it did work. I still felt queasy, but breakfast stayed down.

Anyone else had experience of them working or not?

Any theories about how they might work? (And no refloxology crap please! – I’m looking for logic and science!)

Knowing if there is a laptop in the boot of your car

Some people say there is a device which can detect laptops even if they are switched off, so the chavs break in and steal them. But can the induction of the coils in the power supply be strong enough to get through the metal of your boot? Or is it the battery that keeps the clock going somehow giving off electromagnetic radiation? I don’t think it’s likely to be true…

Putting a tea spoon in the top of a champagne bottle…

to keep it from going flat.  Yeah, right!

Those damper things that go between the strings of a tennis racket.  My wife swears by hers.

I have been told:  I think the way these work is not because of their weight but by tying two strings together. This gives the wave vibrations a shorter distance to amplify, a little like the Atlantic coast getting bigger waves than the North Sea coast. Of course in the old days with smaller racket heads this was not necessary.   In effect your wife’s string damper puts a little bit of frame further into the racket head.



Filed under: Project Management — chriscroft @ 1:40 pm

It seems that every book and every training course will teach you one or the other, but they never discuss both and tell you the pros and cons.
My feeling is that PERT (activity on arrow) is best for the customer since it gives them the key milestones, while CPM (activity on node) is better for the person doing the work since it focuses on the jobs to be done.

PRINCE2 is product based (they have PBS rather than WBSs for example) so they naturally tend towards PERT, which I think is not helpful.

I prefer CPM because it’s what MS Project uses, it is easier to draw (PERT can get very complicated, especially when you need dummy activities), sometimes you don’t have events but you always have tasks to be done (some projects are just a series of tasks one after the other with no particular milestones), and of course the killer reason, you can do CPM charts with post-its, while with PERT you have to move the arrows so you would need fuzzy felt or some such.

Is there an argument in favour of PERT that I have overlooked? Am I missing something great? Or does CPM rule?

February 21, 2010

Why happiness is difficult

Filed under: Happiness, Time Management — chriscroft @ 7:25 pm

Most people are reasonably happy, but I think an important and useful question is “Why aren’t we all VERY happy?”.  Personally I don’t subscribe to the belief that you can only have a certain amount of happiness (and more  would have to be counterbalanced by corresponding misery), and certainly in this country we have enough money etc, so why don’t we have more happiness than we do?

I think there are a number of reasons why it’s difficult to increase our happiness, and here they are:

1.   Pressure from other people tends to manifest itself as urgent jobs to do, and we tend to do the urgent things before the important things.  And it’s the important things that lead to increased happiness.  So we think “I’ll just do that last email before playing with my kids” or “I need to get to the shops before they shut” instead of sitting in the sun while it’s there.  To manage our time and do some important things amongst the urgent stuff is difficult, but important.  When people say they don’t have time to do the things they want to, and which would make them happier, they are really saying that their priorities are putting the unhappy before the happy, and they have losing the war against life’s pressures (they are not doing enough of my five options: saying no, negotiating, delegating, having better systems, and doing some things less well).

2 – Happiness doesn’t come from just one thing but from a collection of lots of small things.  If it was just one thing we could major on that, but it’s hard to keep track of all the small stuff – a bit of exercise, a bit of reading, a bit of relaxing, a bit of keeping in contact with friends, a bit of learning, a bit of family time, a bit of planning for the future.
3.   The balance between achieving and enjoying is hard to get right.  If your life is all achievement you won’t be happy because you wont have enough fun, and too much focus on enjoying means you’ll end up unhappy because you haven’t achieved enough.  Getting this balance right needs some planning and some self-discipline which isn’t easy.
4.   We are naturally lazy.  In ‘The Road Less Travelled’ Scott Peck says that laziness is the root of all of our problems and he might be right – laziness today leads to less happiness tomorrow, since both achieving and enjoying need us to overcome our laziness.  Have you ever thought “I can’t be bothered” but then you were pushed into doing something and afterwards you thought “that was great, I really glad I did that!”
5.   Short term vs long term: related to the above, we tend to focus on the short term problem in hand rather than the longer term picture, so that later we find the picture is not how we want it.  My dog has a totally short term horizon (and is very happy, but only thanks to Muggins buying food etc) and most animals are like that – interestingly the squirrels that my dog chases in vain each day are burying nuts for the winter, so they are a rare example of planning for the long term in the animal kingdom.  Avoiding the dog gets priority, but they always fit some nut-burying into each day.  People are a step up from dogs but are still mostly short term animals, and this is another reason why it’s hard to be happy in the longer term.

An example of Laziness + Short-termism being ‘happiness negative’ is that we avoid the hassle of learning a musical instrument in the short term and then lose out on the longer term enjoyment of being able to play music later.

So the answers to all this are to

  • think our way through the tradeoffs between short and long term, and between enjoying and achieving, in order to optimise them,
  • use our conscious brains to overcome our subconscious tendency to be lazy and to take the easy options,  (and to not be self disciplined or assertive enough),
  • fill as much of our time as we can with all the small things that add up to our happiness each day – which may require time management and saying no to other things.

onwards and upwards


February 20, 2010

Wrinkly Apples

Filed under: Happiness, Time Management — chriscroft @ 1:28 pm

Thanks to the people at Watermeadow for making me think of this during a really fun training day.

I heard recently on radio 4 (so it must be true) that we throw away 50% of all the apples we buy. What a waste! How can that possibly happen? Well, I think I know…

In our kitchen we have a fruit-bowl with apples in it (and also bananas which I gather you should never have in the same bowl, they make the other things go off, but anyway…)

Often a new bag is bought, but there are still a few wrinkly ones left from before. Being the selfish person that I am, I usually take one out of the new bag, and since everyone else in the family (except my wife) does the same, the wrinkly ones eventually go off. But at least I am eating nice crunchy apples…

The other option, especially if I had a conscience, would be to eat the wrinkly ones first, at a rate of one or two a day, but by the time I get to the new bag THEY will have started to get old. I’ll be doomed to never eat a crunchy apple again.

What is the meaning of all this?

Well, I think the jobs queueing up for your attention are the same as my apples. They arrive all fresh, and ideally you would do them straight away while there is no time pressure. But if you do that then other jobs will become overdue and there will be trouble.

So you have to do them in order, and every job is done (eaten) just before its deadline (wrinkly, nearly going off) and you never get ahead, you can never seem to do a job well in advance (eating it while still crunchy).

One solution would be to not buy any apples until all the old ones have been eaten. But restricting the work arriving onto your desk / in-box is not possible.

The only other option is to have a work binge (or get help for a short while) and clear the backlog so that you have no apples in the bowl and you can eat any newcomers as soon as they arrive. You only have to do this once, and then you can stay ahead by working at the same rate as you always did, just without the queue of jobs becoming more and more urgent.

You then have to have the self-discipline to resist slowing down because you know you can – you have the potential safety net of a buffer of queued work that you can allow to build up – you don’t HAVE to do the jobs right now. Remember that the cost of procrastination is that once a queue has built up every job will be almost overdue when you do it. Much better that every job is done as soon as it arrives, and then every job is done with no stress, and done to its proper level of quality.

Be a Do It Now person!

May every apple you eat be crunchy!

Onwards and upwards


February 17, 2010

Changes to sports, especially rugby

Filed under: Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 11:23 pm

OK, before we get to the Olympics, let’s get a few things sorted out:

Rugby: I’ve long wanted them to stop people kicking the ball into touch on purpose, so why not say that all line-outs are level with where the ball was kicked, whether it bounced into touch or not. Also, less points for penalty kicks. We want running and tries!

Football: (oh dear, here we go!) – bigger goals. Yes, only a bit bigger. Goalies have got much bigger since the goals were first designed. A foot on either end and on the height would mean you’d get scores like 7-4 and hardly any nil-all draws. You know it makes sense. I’d also say that the refs should look at video footage after the match and anyone found diving could get a post-dated yellow-card.

Tennis: reduce the importance of big serves and get longer rallies by having slightly bigger balls, or only one serve. And encourage drop shots by having a longer (but same width) court.

Cricket: (who haven’t I upset yet?) – make everyone in the team bowl at least one over, and also, have the worst batsmen in first (not sure how you’d enforce it) so you’d see them every time and there would be more action at the start.

Motor-racing: make the fastest people start at the back. Plenty of overtaking!

Golf – just abolish it.

Just kidding.  But I hear that you can play Speed Golf where it’s the time to go round that counts, not the number of shots.  Interesting…


And here are some wonderful replies I have already had:

Sports rules:

Rugby. You must be/have been a back. So come up here and and watch a proper running game called “Rugby League”
I have never understood how two sets of 8 blokes, heaving head-to-head in their own bastardised version of the Eton Wall Game demonstrates any sporting skill whatsoever!

Soccer. I agree on goal size. Post match video footage re diving – yes – but also make Managers and Clubs take responsibility e.g 5 yellows for diving = one league point deducted.

Goalie should not ever be allowed outside penalty area. If he does transgress it should be an opposing free kick on edge of box adjacent to where he crossed the line.

Cricket. Ideally the greatest sport should not be messed with at all! But as cricket is a highly tactical and skillful war of attrition it cannot be appreciated by the great unwashed. So it has to be mucked around with in order to “entertain” them and then obtain the revenue to survive such barbarism. Leave Test & County Crcket alone for the afficionados but jazz up all one day, 20/20 etc by:
1) making 10 players each bowl 2 overs in sequence, then if batting side still in start sequence again.
2) the fielding side select the batting order of their opponents, after which
3) the batting side select the bowling order of their opponents.

Formula 1. A complete waste of time, money and energy resource for competitors and spectators.

Any form of Motor bike racing. Exciting, enthralling. Perhaps improved by your suggestion of starting the fastest at the back, and with season’s riders’ championship based on both points for final position & number of places gained in each meeting.

Golf. Should be made to be played with snooker cues.

And in a short time all redundant Courses turned over to sports grounds for primary and secondary schools with adjacent public park lands, all maintained from the green fees paid by the idiots who continue to play “snooker golf”, plus “highway fees” to be extracted from all the nutters (male and female) found running along the roads pounding their knees into early osteo-arthritis, whether clad in Lycra or not.


Bas is obviously a Northern Monkey (no disrepect meant), but the art of scrumming is a detailed and dark art and only available to those who have played and survived in the front rows!
Less points for penalties Rolling Eyes Clive Rowlings (referee) suggested increasing penalties to 10 points, stopping teams from deliberately killing the ball or giving away penalties rather than a try. Whilst we would all love to see free flowing rugby as per Wales early 70’s, Ba-bas until they became pros it is not going to happen until the ball is allowed to played quicker.

I totally agree with banning F1 – how can it be justified as a sport -it is a posession of planet destroying, wealth eating, ear shattering glorified go karts!

For tennis, how about higher nets – would stop all the power shots and become a game of skill and shot placement.

On a personal note – how does snooker and darts warrant so much TV time?

yes I agree about snooker and darts. They obviously require great skill (which I do’n’t have!) but they don’t feel like proper sports. i think this is because they don’t have a time axis – you can take as long as you like between shots, there’s no time-based interaction. You could almost play them on your own. A bit like golf – no time interaction, and you could play it on your own. Although with snooker you are sharing the cue ball and your tactics do depend greatly on what the other person does. Hard to claim that with golf or darts. Yes, i like a typology that lumps golf in with darts!


I’m just so sick of the sight of footballers who are lightly touched (or not even touched at all) writhing around on the ground in ‘agony’
and then as soon as they’ve got their free kick they up and about again as if by magic

so my suggestion is

a) if a foul appears to have been committed, yes give the injured party a free kick, but if the injured person is unable to get up straight away then they have to be carried off for 5 minutes to ‘recover’

b) have a look at the video evidence after the match and any diving (or undetected fouls for that matter) could be punished with a post-match yellow card


Lived up to the hype?

Filed under: Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 11:14 pm

Disappointments which didn’t live up to the hype

· Cairo museum
· Copenhagen – little mermaid
· Mona Lisa
· Sistine Chapel
· Stonehenge
· Gordon Brown
.  Angkor Wat (though the other temples in the area were brilliant)
· Caviar

I expected it to be good
– and it really was:

· Venice
· The pyramids
· Led Zep reunion
· The Taj Mahal
· the rest of India
· New York
· Machu Picchu
· Michael Angelo’s David
· First view of the Exterior of the Duomo at Florence
· Cirque du soleil show at Las Vegas

Things I just don’t get

(sorry – you go ahead and enjoy them, it’s probably me!)

  • Opera
  • Golf
  • Lap dancing (like looking at lovely doughnuts when you’re hungry – why??)
  • Sushi
  • Tribute bands (like sex with a very realistic inflatable woman)
  • Tea
  • Sailing (Cold, boring, and vomit-inducing)
  • Glee
  • Horses (expensive, uncomfortable, and thick)
  • Pubs
  • Pink Floyd’s The Wall (apart from Numb and Brick of course)
  • The Beach Boys

February 7, 2010

Why the Tories won’t decimate Local Government

Filed under: News and Politics, Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 1:09 pm

Lots of people are worrying that this year will see huge cuts in LG spending, and it is true that the Tories have said that they’ll make the cuts that Labour haven’t, and certainly there is a huge debt that the government have to fix somehow.  But…

a)  Local Government represent a lot of votes – over a million maybe?  and this election looks like being a close one

b)  If you cut Local Government they won’t necessarily become more efficient (either because they already are pretty good, and/or because they can’t get any better because of their culture) so what they will do is reduce numbers employed and offer reduced service.  This will lead to…

c)  increased unemployment and no real savings, in fact probably an increase in overall costs to the government

d)  public outcry that everything seems to be crap under the Tories: bins not being empied, mess on the streets, libraries and sports centres closed, your grannie not getting home care from social services, more baby P. cases, roads not repaired, long waiting times for planning permission, errors in council tax, benefit frauds not being investigated properly, etc etc    The Councils do a lot of things that the public take for granted and which people won’t notice until they are taken away.  For example, environmental health make sure that restaurants are hygienic:  you don’t care about that until it stops happening!

So to sum up, if they make the cuts that they semi-promised as an election ploy, they won’t save any money and they’ll just end up looking bad. I already see signs of them weaseling out of their promise.  And I’m glad!

February 6, 2010

Should we regret our mistakes?

Filed under: Managing People, News and Politics — chriscroft @ 12:51 pm

There has been so much muddled thinking concerning theTony Blair / IRAQ / WMD enquiry

It seems to me that there are two separate questions that are getting muddled up:

Question 1 – If you had to make that same decision again, only knowing what you knew then, would you make the same one?

Question 2 – If you had known then what you know now, would you have done it?

For most of us who thought at the time that Saddam probably did have WMDs, the answers would be 1: Yes 2: No, so it’s very hard to give a good answer if the two questions are muddled up.  when Blair is answering Q1 with Yes (and it is Q1 they are asking since Q2 is pretty pointless) then the papers can easily accuse him of answering Q2 with a Yes, which is much more controversial.

Of course, it’s possible that Blair would answer Yes to Q2, and maybe he did already know then that there were no WMDs but still wanted to get Saddam for whatever reason.  But that’s not what this article is about.

My point is that if you take a risk in business, say you have a 90% chance of winning but in fact the 10% comes up, you may be accused of making the wrong decision (Q2) but actually, if you think about Q1, the answer should be “I regret nothing and would do the same thing again”.  Or at least you may well regret the outcome (which could even be the death of people!) but not the decision-making process: you would make the same decision again if you had the same information and the same odds next time.

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