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A “Free Android tablet”? Methinks not! May 11, 2017

Posted by wastedspacer in Scam.
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Another day, another scam – spread the word!

I just received an URGENT, rather rather official looking and unusual piece of mail suggesting that a “gifting department” was sending me an Android Touchpad Tablet and a $50 prepaid Visa card  reportedly valued at $199.99. The document was signed by (using an M… squiggle) reportedly  the Vice President of the Regional Awards Division, The document looked like a check, had a check number but contradicts itself in a memo line saying this has no cash value and is not a check.

If you get one of these refer it to your local police department as a potential fraud attempt and let’s shut these folks down!

This was sent from some vague and grandiose sounding “Accounting Division” with an address of 611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE #405 Washington DC- which is actually a UPS Store! After a little digging it seems that if you call the number you (and your spouse/partner – suitable and pre-screened to be of financial means) will be invited to collect your tablet and prepaid visa card from a nearby location. The collection point has to be attended by both parties as a couple and just happens to be at an upcoming, high-pressure timeshare/vacation sales event.

We can see where this is going, those poor souls that have actually fallen for this come-on are given the usual 90 minute timeshare type selling debacle, harangued and harried to drive most folks away before they ever get to the point of acquiring the “no charge (underscored) tablet and pre-paid visa card.

These type of scams started in Florida and have been going on for over 5 years garnering hundreds of complaints!



Walk this Way… and tracking it! October 31, 2016

Posted by wastedspacer in Health, Technologies.
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Following my ongoing attempts at a healthy lifestyle I  have used unreliable pedometers for some time. As part of our work health initiative, we were presented with a wrist-strap Fitbit a couple of years ago. After turning my wrist green I returned it for a refund and returned back to my older pocket-based tracking device. In my case the Withings Pulse which has been my tracker of choice for the past few years.

The Pulse has suffered a number of near losses including almost making the wash cycle several times, falling in the path of oncoming traffic and even dropping it somewhere at the Consumer Electronics Show where miraculously I was able to backtrack and find it! It certainly shows the ravages of being in my pocket mixed with keys, change and all manner of unmentionable items. The case is broken, the battery life degraded from 2 weeks to about 6 days, the paint worn and even the touch sensitivity has failed but it still faithfully records my steps. I was considering getting another Pulse but decided instead on the Fitbit One pocket/clip-on unit.

As my wife and friends all use Fitbit devices this was a logical solution since we can compare steps to “compete” in a way at least to encourage us to walk further distances. Given some comparisons to Fitbit walkers who always seem to get more steps in than I do over the same time, I have always wondered about the accuracy of the devices so I compared miles traveled with a Google map distance and the Withings Pulse over a 3 mile circuit and they tallied closely.

The speculation from my friend Laurence is that my gait is somewhat different so I actually use less steps to cover a given distance. Now I have the Fitbit One, I decided to test the theory. Both my Withings Pulse and Fitbit One were rattling around in the same pocket – the results are below – the Fitbit shows 4197 steps vs the Withings 3944 (about a 6% difference):


Fitbit One – Top, Withings Pulse – Bottom

Not a huge difference and in the grand scheme of friendly comparative step counts in the pursuit of health – totally irrelevant!

My iPod also does step counts, I might actually try another comparison …

…. to be continued.


Who’s Risk Is It Anyway? June 6, 2016

Posted by wastedspacer in IT Security, Notable Incidents, Risk, Social State, Spam, SPIM and other annoyances, Technologies.
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Nolan GouldHuman beings as a species are generally terrible at rationally assessing risk. This is particularly apparent when we consider basic everyday risks as well as common threats and risk from an IT security standpoint.

All thanks to the media, blogs, viral videos and security services the general public substantially overestimate the likelihood of spectacular, headline-worthy catastrophes.  At the same time completely ignoring many extreme dangers posed by common, everyday activities.

A prime example of this irrationality is a fear of flying. Fueled by news reports citing terrorism, bomb-threats, near misses as well as mysterious or even spectacular plane crashes. Other perceived threat vectors come from government agencies with a stated vested interest in keeping us safe (and of course themselves funded). Consequently, airport security screening services further amplify this level of latent terror for the misinformed traveler.

The end-result, we in the US put up with paying(as of 2015) another $7 Billion in taxes and even more added to the cost an airline ticket for the illusion of feeling safe. As the former FBI assistant director when asked about an effective method to fund anti-terrorism he put it thus: “Keep Fear Alive”. The FBI can’t even explain their success metrics around the perceived “war on terrorism”. The only real measurement we appear to fall back on is when the security fails! The only answer seems to be: we need to spend more!

Tragically, this appears to be a similar rhetoric that the terrorists themselves use to measure how effective their terrorism is on their intended target populations. The more perceived threats and the larger the anti-terror agencies become the more apparent they are as they broadcast the potential threats posed by future terrorism! Aside from the actual heinous terrorist attacks, the terrorist organization perhaps measures their success by how much additional chaos, media coverage, public inconvenience, fear and growth in anti-terror security services their actions are catalysts for.

Shocking airborne terrorist attacks such as 9/11 understandably leave the vast majority of our world population with a “never again” security-at-all-costs attitude.  Although the total number of people ever wounded or killed by terrorism on air travel is many orders of magnitude less than the number of victims by “ordinary” dangers driving to and from the airport.  Consider events such as having a blow-out or hitting a (deer, cow, dog, pothole) or being hit by (distracted driver, truck, road debris) when driving to the airport, all of these have serious or even lethal consequences to 1000s of travelers every year.

From a pure risk/value/mitigation assessment seems like an absurd disparity we could dramatically reduce the overall risk simply paying a little more money to fix potholes. Our collective thinking is habituated and skewed by sheer terror, amplified by sensational media coverage, augmented by continual terrorist rhetoric and supplemented by security agency threat alerts. As a result the perceived terror risks are far more salient and likely than reality. Consequently we are collectively convinced that it is worth standing up and funding entire government security agencies to combat the potential threats!


Keeping “Little Jimmy” safe!

As a general rule most individuals underestimate the risks for which there is a perceived benefit to the individual. The intended achievement of a laudable goal (or simply what’s in it for me) often creates tunnel vision where many risks are ignored or at least not adequately considered in context. Consider first-time parents of a small child they need to start taking to kindergarten. They logically purchase a very large SUV, perhaps a Chevy Suburban so that “little Jimmy” can be safe. What they understandably fail to consider is the consequences when the brakes fail on the Suburban. A smaller vehicle would simply bounce off the curb, the airbags would deploy and perhaps some minor injuries. With the height and gross tonnage of the Suburban however, it bounces over the curb and through the wall into the classroom killing six of little Jimmy’s classmates!


At least “Little Jimmy” was safe!

A less contentious example is the inevitable project management by dashboard method where NOT delivering on-time and on-budget are the only perceived risks. This conversely leads to the introduction of greater or imaginary risks for activities that have no perceived upside. The perfect IT security solution is a prime example where the pinnacle of success can be measured by “nothing bad happened today”!

We tend to mostly ignore or underestimate the less controllable risks in IT security. For example consider how easily can anyone in our organization get phished, scammed or inadvertently disclose sensitive information? We have awareness training for that but how easily or accurately can it be measured?  A number of security solution providers have a large marketing budget supporting products they can sell you to manage areas, functions and individuals you already have a degree of control over. But what happens when the actual threat is the password that’s shared with a spouse then used and inadvertently disclosed outside the organization? How can their solution address that?

The bottom line is that assessing risk can only be a general guide and not absolute. Perhaps risk assessment is more akin to Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle. A thorough unbiased quantitative risk assessment can certainly give a bottom-line risk score but as soon as it is observed and the results consumed by you, me or anyone else, each score will probably be different.


Droning on again! December 26, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Everything Else, Global Industry, New Rules and Compliance, Political Issues, Rants, Technologies, The Fun Stuff.
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I guess I could be classed as a drone early adopter of sorts with a trusty 4 year old Parrot AR Drone. I am somewhat dismayed that the FAA demands I now need to register it! It doesn’t weigh very much, nor fly very high nor even get out much but it does exceed the paltry 250 gram weight.
Being a responsible and law-abiding adult I decided I had better respond to the FAA drone-user nagging by visiting the FAA drone registration site and send them my $5 :
So what’s the big deal?    You first have to set up an ID which should be simple but of course there are unnaturally complex password requirements. You are informed that you cannot proceed with drone registration until your identity has been verified by a web link that has just been sent to you by email. Of course hour after hour go by with no incoming email from the system. You cannot log on again as your verification remains in a pending state, I send a help request to the supplied usahelp@faa.gov contact. Many more hours pass with no response or verification email!
Eventually (later the next day) I see the FAA mail has finally arrived. I click on the supplied link and I get a 404 “not found” error! I try again an hour later with the same result, I send another Email to usahelp but once again receive no response. Many hours later the site finally appears operational and I can register my drone. I was hoping to pay via something other than a credit card (Amazon, Paypal, BitCoin etc). Certainly of concern would be the need for trusting a historically porous government entity such as the FAA with my credit card information!! But given no alternative, I am forced to supply my credit card details (perhaps I should place a bet on how long before the FAA manages to leak their customer details?)!

DroneLALAFinally I receive a printable certificate to stick on my box and I can write my FAA registration on my Parrot drone! In fact if I buy another drone perhaps I don’t need to register that, simply use the same registration number hmmm? Well the chances of me flying more than one drone at a time is unlikely to say the least.

But why do I need to register this at all? Just how dangerous is my drone – or is it more about who is actually using the drone, the where and how?  Or is it just another media fueled paranoia piece of legislation latched onto by a government department keen to elevate its own sense of importance by adding yet more “care-bear” bureaucracy that comes with a whole department of taxpayer supported employees?

If we are registering drones why don’t we register big kites? I see 7-10 ft wide kites being sold that come with 1000 to 3000 or more feet of line! They seem to be potentially more dangerous and can also be fitted with cameras. We don’t even register guns for heaven’s sake and don’t get me started on the dangers there.
On the positive side, it is only costing $5 for every 3 years and the $5 is being rebated (though I will believe it when I see the rebate appear in my statement).  I do get a “Certificate” which makes my little drone seem just that bit more “official” than it did.
On the concern side, yet another massive, notoriously porous, allegedly incompetent and insecure government department is being needlessly inflated. The FAA itself has become a juicier target with the millions of new drone-owner identities and credit card details for harvesting and exploitation by nefarious individuals 
Sorry for droning on!!!

More Trumped-up nonsense? December 11, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government, Islam, Political Issues, Rants.
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donald-trumpWhile I find almost all of the seemingly hateful rhetoric from the odious Donald Trump distasteful I find it even more challenging to totally condemn all of it when visiting the UK I stumble upon material that actually appears to support some of his claims. A particular example: as Trump alluded, there really may be seemingly radicalized no-go areas in London where many local inhabitants and some UK Police officers feel this way 😦

Daily Mail article citing a number of British Police Officers unable to wear a uniform in some parts of London.

News clip on emerging “No-Go” areas in London from 2012.

Trump’s approach to dealing with Islam are nothing new, here’s an interview from 2011 where he makes his views on Islam clear.

The problem with all of this material is that it focuses mostly on the most radical and extreme aspects of Islam. Nobody bothers making a documentary on “normal” tolerant Muslims since it would in all likelihood be rather boring.

However, I also think Trump in his incessant bouts of (possibly feigned) stupidity has extrapolated his suggestion of a ban for US incoming Muslims as akin to the wartime proclamations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including “Alien Enemies — Japanese” (No. 2525); “Alien Enemies — German (No. 2526).” . His kindergarten level logic suggests while not only the US but the entire civilized part of the planet is at war with “Islamic State” and IS claim to be the only “true” Muslims. Trump therefore is absurdly supporting the IS view and presents a statement that all Muslims must be banned from US entry for the time being! What he missed is that part of the civilized world IS MUSLIM most of who will declare that miniscule number of Islamic State followers violate just about every tenet of what it is to actually be a devout Muslim!

So why would we want to ban those who would be allied against IS rather than turn them away at the door and risk alienating a few to the point they become radicalized!

The same simplistic logic could be applied to ban Christians if we used the doctrine of Timothy McVeigh, the KKK or the Spanish Inquisition as paragons of Christianity they clearly would be unwelcome in a civilized society. However, when compared to other religions Islam has many political and more subversive components perhaps making it a more effective religious platform from which to launch radical ideals 😦 Take a look at the Islam and Politics Crash Course.

Perhaps Trump is merely a self-appointed spokesperson for a large contingent of society that refuses to evolve? Here in Britain there is an ever increasing backlash from both Islamic and non-Islamic factions.

Here’s a few examples from several years ago illustrating growing hatred within a polarized British society: Driving through a formerly innocuous part of London

A series of UK documentaries about the same time titled “Generation Jihad” paint a similar story:

The bottom line is that with the current trend, it would appear that civilized society as we know it is on the verge of collapse. Above all we need new counter-terrorism directions despite media fuelled societal, and political imperatives to react violently with even more indiscriminate military action or to create even more “care-bear” security policies with new taxpayer funded organizations. To fear, collectively identify, react and acknowledge the terrorist simply adds credibility and more encouragement to those hate groups.

If societal collapse is ever to have a hope of reversal,  massive majority of the civilized and tolerant world must rally together. Despite threats, enable avenues of communication, reach out to educate the ignorant and the religiously repressed and to ultimately stop fomenting hatred.  Easier said than done especially from within more radicalized societies but everyone who advocates tolerance over hatred and knowledge over ignorance needs to drive towards this goal despite the threats from within.

Where do we stop? Does banning Muslims at the US border actually provide a solution or merely further inflames the domestic Muslim communities already resident within each country’s borders?

Darkweb and the consumer facing state of Cybercrime November 10, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government, IT Security, Social State.
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The latest BBC Panorama episode (now available via YouTube) is a really effective and appropriately disturbing expose on the current state of cybercrime:

BBC Panorama How Hackers Steal Your ID BBC Documentary 2015

Darkweb = the eBay of Cybercriminality!

On the 9th of November BBC Panaroma put together this thought-provoking piece on the current state of the Darkweb. The primary focus was the volume of valid and current credit card numbers including the CVV were generally available via BitCoin payment for just a few dollars.

The recent internet provider breaches Talk-Talk and Comcast are merely the latest examples of known identity thefts that have been offered for sale via the Darkweb.

Many thefts begin with just general situational awareness and basic contact details (such as provided by these breaches) can provide organized criminal call-centers essential ingredients to perpetrate convincing but sophisticated identity theft along with personally targeted financial fraud.

According to the documentary, the Darkweb also provides sophisticated storefronts anonymously used by criminals to access all manner of highly illegal activities: Drugs, human and organ trafficking, child pornography, guns, valid passports, and even contract killings!

This raises the question: Is the leading edge of cybercrime pulling away from the ability of our law enforcement agencies to combat it?

Sadly the Panorama piece’s rather tepid “keep your anti-virus program current” advice from London Police commissioner – Adrian Leppard is not even altogether sound. Antivirus programs, once considered bastions of cyber-defense are marginalized and now under serious attack when seen by criminal hackers (and government spy agencies) as themselves potentially effective methods of malware delivery!

There are at least some publicly known indications of a response from international law enforcement such as the JTRIG team at the UKs GCHQ in concert with the NCA (National Crime Agency).

A simple credo to apply to all things internet related – always be seriously cynical and TNO (Trust NoOne)

DMV = Department of Misguided Values! September 9, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government.
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Earlier this year we bought a BMW i3 electric vehicle. It puts the “fun” back in funky, my wife and I affectionately refer to the new wheels as Sparkie.

For our anniversary, my wife ordered an appropriate custom plate for the i3 – namely SPARK13 (Sparkie and Sparki3 were already in use). Otherwise this seemed to me a pretty innocuous request. Imagine our surprise when we received a letter that the plate designation had been refused after being scrutinized and presumably extensively researched by the sinister sounding DMV Special Processing Unit!  According to the mandarins at this unit there may be an alleged gang affiliation and they use of CA Vehicle Code Section 5105 to deny our request. Seriously, do they think any self-respecting gang-banger is going to brag and get any street cred seen driving an EV?


So dear DMV, you keep asking the public for more money to fix the ocean of potholes crippling California freeways. Why not look closer to home to see the types of low-value activities where you appear to employ a significant number of well compensated staff.

I searched for images, references and other possible known gang affiliations but turned up nothing matching the reference. The closest thing I could find suggests the affiliation they picked up on could be this Hispanic gang out of Santa Clarita: “Val Verde park 13“. I would have to recharge the i3 a couple of times along the way to even make it to Santa Clarita!

I am totally nonplussed! Compared to all the paraphernalia they CAN’T control like gang derived stencils, ganger styling, bumper stickers and car-paint schemes – the license plate is a miniscule and almost irrelevant issue! In fact I would suggest that having gang affiliation license plates would make law-enforcement tracking of “persons -of-interest” MUCH easier!

Based on recent estimates, the California DMV currently employs approaching ten thousand personnel. Given the average employee expected salary and burden, the costs to the taxpayer should be well North of $1 billion. Saving some of this burden by eliminating pointless processes might mean there is more money left over to go and fix more of those darned potholes!


Rant over, drive safe out there!

Thanks Chase for our new Chip cards but what happened to the PIN? July 14, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in IT Security, Rants, Technologies.
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What is the point of having a Chip card without a PIN?

In my opinion, the US credit card industry is bonkers and just squandered $33 Billion on upgrading everyone’s credit cards by adding a Chip but neglecting to add any kind of personalization step to create a PIN (too difficult they claim)!

A simple implementation and personalization step would have been to require the card’s FIRST USE in a chip reader to create a PIN and also require a positive ID from the merchant/bank and/or face capture at an ATM sent to the owner to confirm/decline within 48 hrs.

Instead the US card holder has a card that will still work for an unauthorized person even if it is lost, “borrowed” or stolen. The only minor improvement is to reduce fraud in the case of card-skimming or number + CSC theft.

What particularly galled me was the US banking industry citing how effective the fraud reduction had been in Europe as a principal driver for this change. But those fraud-reduction statistics are actually based on the use of Chip AND PIN not just a chip alone.

Another irritating claim by Chase is the suggestion that using a CHIP card in Europe “may” require the use of a PIN in which case you are out of luck so carry cash instead! In my experience in the UK, if you have a CHIP you MUST present the PIN so this daft credit card is no longer going to be usable over in the UK. We don’t even have an option to create a PIN if we wanted one, the default settings for these pieces of dumb plastic is OFF 😦

Here’s one of the less-than helpful pieces of documentation from Chase:


Seems I am not alone in the lambasting of this rather dumb and seemingly pointless waste of $33 BILLION!!

Source: Money – You’re about to get a new credit card … and it’s an epic failure

and Wal-Mart’s executive in charge of payments thinks the United States’ switch to chip-based credit cards is going to be a disappointment.

So far our experience with what just arrived in the mailbox is certainly looking that way! We are being given 60 days to comply, they changed the CSC and nudged out the expiration date so we will need to update all our auto-pay settings AGAIN. We only recently received new cards and had just completed that onerous exercise!

Perhaps its time to start a consumer security pressure group to force US Credit Card companies to implement the PIN, or at least provide a way for those of us who WANT a PIN can get one since that is an embedded part of the EMV design.

Don’t Let Today’s Demands Kill Tomorrow’s Workforce – Stratacom – San Jose May 27, 2015

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Don’t Let Today’s Demands Kill Tomorrow’s Workforce – Stratacom – San Jose

Feb, 2015

Martin Waterhouse – Enterprise IT Strategist

So much for my “working vacation” I never expected to be here 33 years!

From mainframes to mobiles, application development to architecture, databases and directories to cybersecurity, I have held a myriad of IT roles for the energy sector for 33 years witnessing  significant changes in the rate of change in technology plus the capabilities of the workforce needed to support it. My swansong role was as a strategist seeking ways to help prospective IT experts navigate a career path through the murky waters of today’s energy company IT organization.

A long long time ago in an alley not so far away ….

In 1978 the oil price was around $15 a barrel, by 1982 the benchmark oil price had risen to around the $30-35 a barrel then dropped way down to $23 in January 1986.


I can possibly even attribute my recruitment as the result of this significant uptick in the price of oil. By 1981 Standard Oil of California, desperate to find a number of experienced PL/1 programmers and unable to find them in the US ending up looking 6000 miles away in the UK.

During the first decade I noticed that every time there was a spike or crash in the oil price, capital projects and operational personnel were significantly impacted. Merger and acquisition activity associated with financial turmoil amplified these effects. At the time, there tended to be a lower impact on technical services and R&D functions especially in IT roles. Many non-IT personnel made an effort to join the IT service company with its apparent promise of more stability for long-term development of technical careers.

The second decade culminated in the rise and fall of the dot-com bubble where we were increasingly desperate to develop and retain IT talent, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some areas were severely impacted requiring a large influx of contract staff. Following a merger with Texaco, we were increasingly reliant on outsourcing, offshoring and the start of a shift of services away from California to Texas. Thus began some of today’s challenges of technical continuity in the IT space.

In the last decade, the reaction to oil-price and shareholder pressure has become even more acute with uncertain IT stability and an even greater pressure to commoditize and virtualize IT services. An even greater challenge is how to be recognized in developing and sustaining a consistent depth,  breadth of IT knowledge and related value applied to the myriad of energy company applications.

Big Data: The lifeblood of an Energy company.

The data science areas may have the most significant impact. One of my former managers Peter Breunig gave this presentation for IBM at their Almaden research lab:

Managing More Bits Than Barrels

A small citation from this presentation really puts things in perspective, Chevron has a long history in big data especially in the seismic data processing and core sample analysis. For example the micro-pore analysis for 1 cubic centimeter of a core sample can create over 100GB of data. Just a single sample analysis on a full 1000M core sample can generate over an Exabyte of storage!

Traditional long careers in Chevron IT: In Jeopardy?

What does this do to the sense of value for long-term technical career, of technical excellence, a sense of permanence, a viable, engaging learning trajectory and corporate loyalty? Perhaps in the core aspects of the energy industry in general. What of the IT space?

By 2015, with the burden of further downside oil-price pressure, Chevron IT appears to be taking an ever decreasing short-cycle strategy making it much harder to enable long-term technical skill career trajectories and technology deliverables.

With an industry trend to continue to commoditize services, increasing use of consumer/BYOT platforms and general shorter expected tenure the likelihood of many future generation IT “lifers” is in jeopardy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing but I wonder how prepared we (a large energy multinational) are to deal with some of the long-term consequences in sustaining the talent pipeline supporting our “crown-jewel” areas of IT expertise.

Is there still value in “Firm-specific human capital”.

Are we going to continue to erode the long-term human-capital knowledge?

On the plus side, we have some lively internal communities attempting to feed and grow big-data expertise, data scientists and modeling experts. Led by one of our IT Fellows, the modeling and analytics community certainly has an opportunity to keep the spotlight on this area.

Potential Enterprise Data/Modeling and Analytics Communities of practice:

  • Seismic processing
  • Oilfield production analysis and modeling (iField)
  • Optical sensor analysis
  • Down-hole sensor log processing
  • Drilling analysis and monitoring
  • Rotating machinery operational sensing/modeling
  • Stock-flow modeling
  • Global O&G Economic modeling
  • Pipeline flow analysis
  • HVAC monitoring
  • Buildings and Facilities Electrical system simulations
  • Cyber security anomaly detection
  • Perimeter security monitoring and analysis
  • Marketing trends analysis
  • Environmental airflow modeling
  • Environmental remediation analysis
  • Catalysis, Fuels Research, Molecular modeling
  • Materials/Lubricants R&D  Science
  • Emergency response modeling
  • Organizational Capability/HR technical talent simulation

…. not to mention emerging areas of interest we may not yet be aware of that can derive significant value.

It seems we are clearly in a time of highly disruptive change with regards to technical careers, are we going to be able to rely on an ample supply of modeling & analytics, big data and visualization experts?  How do we engage and educate them in the aspects and peculiarities of the energy sector to enable them to realize value?

How will our hiring practices need to evolve to seek out potential data science experts and then manage to keep them through bleak fiscal times?  Clearly, giving them opportunities to  improve their craft, seek diversity and embed themselves into the business is crucial. Countering this is the ever constricting budgets

How will any large enterprise sustain and justify the cost to sustain a talent pipeline to connect the qualified data source and business application experts to them?

…. to be continued …..

In the meantime, here’s a data-science HR challenge – think of creative ways to capture and sustain quality metrics to support (or refute) the findings from the value of human capital? This 2003 research paper is considered a bellwether publication. Is the model even valid more than a decade later when the average tenure of many technologists today appears to be an order of magnitude shorter?

A 2003 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (Edward P. Lazear Stanford University):

Firm-Specific Human Capital: A Skill-Weights Approach

Help I’ve been “Clarksonized”! March 24, 2015

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Some may say he is the BBC’s prime example of a “bull in a china shop” and that he makes a neanderthal seem suave and debonair …. all we know is he is called Jeremy Clarkson!

Certainly the Top Gear presenter’s colourful but loutish, non-PC, edgy public persona is one that I find simultaneously irritating yet highly entertaining. His two sidekicks Hammond and May have amplifying qualities demanding the type of individual that Clarkson exudes as a central figure in order to create a successful show.

On the one hand the BBC is delighted with the profitability and unparalleled success of the Top Gear franchise. On the other, it is publicly appalled at the continually reported incidents of what they identify as disgraceful behaviour. While not only being a superbly produced and edited show, ironically, it is this very symbiotic dichotomy of personality characteristics that makes Top Gear so unique and highly successful.

Clarkson’s anti-BBC correctness antics have been fairly consistent over the decades, his so-called warnings have risen to speculation that the show would be cancelled a number of times. Yet the more this happens, the more popular the show becomes. The non-PC innuendos are legendary, the frequent and not-so-subtle digs at socio, ethnic, religious, moral and the establishment only appear to significantly raise the ire of the uptight BBC management, apologists and other well meaning but misguided folks affronted on behalf of another group. Around the world, Top Gear is applauded by the very allegedly targeted groups who see past petty correctness to enjoy the underlying humour and entertainment.

A prime example, what other media organization could have men driving cars in Syria, dressed up in burkas getting kudos and  being cheered on by followers of Islam around the world.

So after this latest report of a “fracas” does the BBC decide to suspend Clarkson and take the unprecedented step of cancelling the last episode of the current series of Top Gear?  Is it really a discipline issue or does the BBC management actually have a sense of humour – perhaps some sort of incredibly subtle publicity stunt? Over a million signed a petition for reinstatement, driven in a tank to the BBC by Stig certainly suggests the latter.

The BBC mandarins are not  generally known for subtlety  however, so maybe it is truly an example of public support.

The story continues, both of his co-presenters and the public at large support Clarkson. Will he be be reinstated by the BBC, Can Top Gear continue or will it need to depart the BBC to another carrier in rather the same way as Jonathan Ross?

I feel the need and emergence of a new verb: “clarksonized” (or perhaps just “clarksoned”) which means  being encouraged to be controversial, while placed on a pedestal and given free reign to say and do whatever you like in the name of profit. Your overlords meanwhile, publicly humiliate, berate, condemn and threaten you with expulsion, all for the sake of entertainment.

I will encourage comments, descriptions and suggestions of anyone out there to reply with examples of where they, or a friend, acquaintance has been “clarksonized”. Russel Brand may be another example worthy of study for this phenomenon.

At the time of this post it seems the BBC are still deciding Clarkson’s fate: According to this Daily Mail article.

Addendum. The day after this post it seems that Clarkson has been fired

Based on the official BBC report (courtesy of Road & Track mag) they may have had no option (based on terms of employment and hostile workforce legislation) other than to fire him.

Reaction by James May.

Well – I suppose the nomination for “Sir Jeremy Clarkson” is totally off the table now !