If you’re not part of the solution, you’ve clearly precipitated something.

In which Dr Aust stalls for time. Again.

It has now been two full months since anything new has appeared here. Sorry.

Like many bloggers in such a situation, I feel a bit, well, guilty.

As usual it is hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the barren spell – well, other than that I haven’t written anything, of course. Busy writing for other outlets (a bit); busy marking exams (some of the time); a new hobby (I’ve been re-discovering some of my adolescent enthusiasm for chess – anything for a new way to procrastinate); easier to comment elsewhere than to buckle down to something extended (definitely); other people cover stories first so it isn’t worth posting on them (certainly true); the feeling of repeating myself (very definitely)… and finally the Summer, which means the children are not usually in bed until somewhere towards nine, after which I find it hard to muster up the drive to blog. Or to do anything very much apart from slump in a chair with a beer.

On the other hand… there are still a bunch of three-quarters-, two-thirds, or even half-finished posts kicking around on the hard drive. it would be a shame to let them languish there forever – assuming I can find them at all. And perhaps the drive to blog goes in cycles. I see, for instance, that the excellent AP Gaylard, one of the original BadScience blog-derived skeptical crew, and renowned for his forensic dissections of the evidence (or lack of) for complementary therapies, has returned to blogging after a long absence and is now cranking out meticulously researched stuff at a punishing pace.

Anyway, what has brought me back to the keyboard this time?

Well, two things. Or three.

The first was the just issued Mea Culpa.

The second thing is an idea.

Yet another of the likely reasons for my reduced blog activity is that some of my ideas now end up on Twitter – which has the advantage of being much more immediate than blogging, and only requiring 150 characters at a time. Since I probably fire off at least one tweet (and probably considerably more – *cough* ) per day, I have been thinking about setting up a permanent archive of them here – perhaps on a weekly basis.

Talking of ‘regular features”, any long term readers still hanging on will perhaps remember I did a David Colquhoun-style occasional diary for about a year, before it too bit the dust. A Twitter archive might work a bit like a diary, only with the advantage that the material already exists, and would only need to be cut and pasted onto a kind of blogpost. I suppose that might even salve my guilt at not blogging enough, which might in turn get me fired enough to do the occasional proper blogpost. That is, it might be easier to blog, if I didn’t feel pressure to do it. I know that doesn’t make sense, really, but there you go.

So what do we think? Twitter archive? Yes/No ? Trial run?

And… the third thing.

All bloggers, of course, like comments and emails. I got a nice email the other day from occasional reader Nick Kotarski, who pointed me to a very funny site I hadn’t seen before, Despair.com, and particularly to their “Demotivators” range.

Now, you will recall that I have been a bit snarky in the past about tedious motivational language, and the kind of trite sloganising with it that is so prevalent in modern life, including the public sector. Despair.com subvert such stuff quite nicely.

I have been checking out the ‘Demotivator’ coffee mugs in particular, and I think the one that says:

Retirement: Because you’ve given so much of yourself to the company that you don’t have anything left we can use

- might be just the thing for my long-serving research collaborator who is taking voluntary early retirement from the University this year, just shy of sixty, to do some voluntary work and (he says) “learn dry-stone walling”.

It might also appeal, perhaps, to the Jobbing Doctor and Dr Grumble.

Nick did tell me there used to me a despair.com mug that said:

Customer (Dis)Service: Because we won’t be satisfied… until YOU’RE not satisfied

- which is also very apt, especially if you have ever travelled on Virgin Trains in the UK. But I can’t seem to find that one.

Finally, one of the curses of the modern workplace in both the private and public sector is the experience of having the consultants in. Consultants are, in the immortal words of Scott Adams’ Dilbert (though I am paraphrasing slightly):

“People who are way too smart to work for your employer…

You can tell this because, when they do come in to do your job, they ask you how and then do it exactly the same as you would… but they get paid twice as much.”

Now, some of my friends in the University had some dealings with the consultants recently (no names to protect the innocent), and of course I hear many stories about consultancy from my friends in industry, in the NHS, and even from a couple of my university mates who have ended up in consulting. So I was particularly taken with the mug that summarised this thus:

Consulting: If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

I don’t think anyone who has had any dealing with the consultants could doubt the truth of that.

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7 Responses to “If you’re not part of the solution, you’ve clearly precipitated something.”

  1. Sceric Says:

    “Consulting: If you’re not part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

    well, consultants that don’t tell the guy paying them, what he would like to hear, but instead the real problem, are probably bankrupt quite fast…at least that’s something I could and can see during my work…

    …on another note: even commenting repeatedly on the same thing or reading the same comments over and over again lets someone refrain from reading blogs and comments…which is even worse than not writing them…

    Sceric

  2. Euan Lawson Says:

    Great. Love the Demotivator mugs. You didn’t mention the blogging one – ‘Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few”. Perfect for me – not you of course ;)

  3. draust Says:

    @Euan

    Dunno, probably a good description of me too. Perhaps cognitive dissonance prevented me seeing it!! After all, I do have another ‘RealName’ blog that is even less read than this one.

    @Sceric

    Yes, similar to what my consulting friends tell me about consulting. I wrote a bit about this almost exactly a year ago in a comment on the Jobbing Doctor’s blog, which I’ll quote here:

    ————————————————————————-

    “A close friend and University flat-mate of mine, after several years working in local authority public housing, did an MBA and subsequently became a management consultant for one of the big London firms. This was in the early to mid 90s Major years.

    I recall her telling me that the first question the consultants asked the clients was “What are looking for us to tell you?”.

    In the case of the bit of the firm she worked for, they were usually contracted by local authorities to “tell them what to do with their public housing stock”, at least officially. But, as she explained to me, what her firm did was set out the various different options for sell-off (privatisation). Every time.

    Did they ever advise NOT to sell off, I asked?

    No, she said. We always advise sell-off, and the clients all know this. The only question is how exactly to do it.

    So, I asked, let me get this straight – would a Council really hire you to find out WHETHER it was sensible to sell off their housing stock?

    Well, she said, they might say that for public consumption. But they and we would be quite clear that the decision to sell had really already been made.

  4. Nick Kotarski Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I have just finished reading Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World by Barbara Ehrenreich. She mentions despair.com as an antidote to the mindless positivity which has infected corporate America. She does a hatchet job on The Secret which to my mind is always a good thing.

    Nick

  5. Nick Kotarski Says:

    The Customer Disservice design is here: http://www.despair.com/cudi.html
    All of the designs can be found here: http://www.despair.com/viewall.html

    Every time I look at them I find myself cheered up no end. There are so many gems.

    Nick

  6. Stuart Says:

    I can’t believe you havn’t seen “The art of demotivation” before. I’ve given the book to as a present to one of our mutual aquaintances (think Cardiff and Estuary English)

    My favorite is the picture of a salmon jumping majestically into the jaws of a bear……sometimes a journey of a thousand miles ends very badly!

  7. draust Says:

    Cheers, Stuart.

    No, I really hadn’t seen it before. The leaping salmon slogan plus slogan is another classic, BTW.

    Apart from the Motivational Bollocks, I think I detect a distant ancestor of some of the slogans in the t-shirt that used to say:

    “My Karma just ran over your Dogma”

    This was popular in the late 70s punk rock era among my contemporaries and I, usually because we wanted to wind up the kind of boring hippies who used to drone on incessantly about “like, karma, man”.

    Shall be interested to hear what our mutual friend makes of it. I reckon I witnessed him at his most demotivated when we were workmates… which in turn suggests some of our other mutual acquaintances must be highiy skilled demotivators…

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