Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Useful Web site for Welsh Fibre Broadband Rollout

Mascot for Super Fast Fibre Broadband roll out in Mid-Wales

This site is required reading to set your expectations in line with B.T. and the encumbant power in Cardiff.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ceredigion left holding Broadband door open : again

This article on the Broadband roll out from the BBC, though there are many others which report the same, suggests that a set of people who should be representing  the people of Ceredigion are not shouting loud enough.

While not every county can be in the 1st phase, it is no surprise that Ceredigion is not in the list of 12.

Anyone want to add a comment which justifies the apparent lack of amount of effort made on Broadband roll out at a national or county level in Ceredigion? Except not.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Able to fight : 1/3 of poorest pupils don't have Internet access at home

The BBC article A third of poorest pupils 'without internet at home' does not discuss why this is the case. These are the reasons I can think of in no particular order

  1. There is no money to pay the extra cost of the line rental for ADSL
  2. There is no money to pay for a computer
  3. The property has no scope for Broadband to be installed
  4. The parents don't think it is important, so don't get it installed
  5. Some are mis-counted, they have 3/4G instead.
  6. Something I have not thought of
There is one other :- parents are unable or unwilling fight the various service providers
and the obstacles they put in the way to get a working service. Maybe they don't have the skills and persitance to overcome waves of hassle that B.T. et al put in their way.

I guess that I might be in the top few % of consumers equipped to deal with the sling shots and arrows that Broadband providers put in the way of getting a viable working service. Even so I sometimes feel it is beyond me to make progress to getting a descent connection, but we still persevere. I can go and research options, I have a good feel when the person on the other end of the line is telling me rubbish [ A mother of a friend of one of the kids mentioned that B.T. had told here that the reason they have poor service was that they were a long way from the exchange - they live less than 2 miles from it and were getting the same speed as us 3 miles further out. At my suggestion they persisted and a fault was found at the exchange and a 10x speed improvement ].

I don't know what the distribution of reasons are, but would be very interested to find out.

I would like to see some of the parties who represent us in Cardiff put forward the policy of fining the encumbant fixed line suppliers if they don't provide at least 2MB to a property in an area [ say by county, if you want to provide services, then you need to provide them to all ]. Lets say the fine is the same as the current line rental, so about 14 pounds per property where 2MB or less is provided [sliding scale open to discussion].

Doubt this will happen with X and Y in place.

Albert Hirschman, Ceredigion Politics and Surrey

The Schumpeter column in The Economist has a very relevant article about Albert Hirshman. Not being an economist myself, I had not heard of the now late Mr. Hirshman before, but reading the article coincided with what I call a Surrey Day.

When Clive has a Surrey Day, he wonders why the **** do I live in Ceredigion, suffer the long and unreliable journeys to get anywhere, sleeping in a car so I can both make a 9am meeting in London and read to the kids when they go to bed the night before. Broadband coverage that is worse than most of the less developed developing world countries, police who are institutionally lazy and arrogant [moving to Surrey would not fix that, I accept], roads which are not gritted and the majority of local politicians who regard anyone who tries to get something fixed or questions a policy as a dangerous irritant who should shut up. All [ yes, I do mean all ] then people I went to school with who went on to University, not one has come back to Aberystwyth and area to live as far as I am aware. Time to stop being the odd one out and making live hard for yourself. Sell up, move to Camberly, live on a nice estate, wash your car on a Saturday morning, play golf and join The Masons.

I do quite quickly remember that I would be miserable as sin living in Surrey. Ceredigion is my home and a place I really care about. I have lots of friends, I like the coast and hills, Myra's job is here, kids go to a good school and its a great place for them to grow up. I can serve the area by being someone who points out issues and possible solutions, if politicians listen and enguage or explain what part of the picture I have missed, they desirve respect. Those [Treferiug Community Council are masters at it] who dismiss and degrade so you go away and don't interfere their their self importance.

and here is where Albert Hirshman comes in.

Mr Hirschman’s most famous book, “Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations and States”, remains as suggestive today as it was when it first appeared in 1970, for managers and policymakers as well as intellectuals. Mr Hirschman argued that people have two different ways of responding to disappointment. They can vote with their feet (exit) or stay put and complain (voice).

Voting with you feet in a political sense may mean disengaging from the political process, not voting, not raising issues with an community council, Local Councilor,  M.P. or A.M., and not being persistent in following up when the desired outcome does not occur 1st time. Its a failure of politics, not the individual.

The Economist claims to engage in a “severe contest” with “an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. Mr Hirschman was an eloquent ally. In “The Rhetoric of Reaction” he wrote that purveyors of “timid ignorance” rely on three types of argument: jeopardy (reforms will cost a lot and endanger previous gains); perversity (reforms will harm the people they are intended to help); and futility (problems are so huge that nothing can be done about them). That certainly describes the current debates about global warming, illegal drugs and countless other topics. With luck, Mr Hirschman’s exit will not silence his voice.
In memory of Albert Hirschman I vow to continue to be a constructivly critical pain in the arse where appropriate.

There are many elements in the overall antidote to the disease of timid ignorance(sometimes not so timid) by our politicians and one small, but significant part of the larger picture to improve in this area are blogs like this from the Ceredigion Counciler Alun Williams.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Could this have been the real Mrs Walther ?

For those who have trained in some form of Rational Problem solving with Kepner Tregoe [if not, then never mind, but please don't solve problems, make decisions, evalute risks on my behalf as probability suggests are not very good at it. Unconcious incompetance and all that], was this inspriation for the real Mrs Walther of the Donut machine?

Taken from the Warren Buffet Berkshire Hathaway shareholders letter 1983 [ A worthwhile read I am finding. Working my way from 1977 to the present day].

Nebraska Furniture Mart

     Last year, in discussing how managers with bright, but 
adrenalin-soaked minds scramble after foolish acquisitions, I 
quoted Pascal: “It has struck me that all the misfortunes of men 
spring from the single cause that they are unable to stay quietly 
in one room.”

     Even Pascal would have left the room for Mrs. Blumkin.

     About 67 years ago Mrs. Blumkin, then 23, talked her way 
past a border guard to leave Russia for America.  She had no 
formal education, not even at the grammar school level, and knew 
no English.  After some years in this country, she learned the 
language when her older daughter taught her, every evening, the 
words she had learned in school during the day.

     In 1937, after many years of selling used clothing, Mrs.  
Blumkin had saved $500 with which to realize her dream of opening 
a furniture store.  Upon seeing the American Furniture Mart in 
Chicago - then the center of the nation’s wholesale furniture 
activity - she decided to christen her dream Nebraska Furniture 

     She met every obstacle you would expect (and a few you 
wouldn’t) when a business endowed with only $500 and no 
locational or product advantage goes up against rich, long-
entrenched competition.  At one early point, when her tiny 
resources ran out, “Mrs.  B” (a personal trademark now as well 
recognized in Greater Omaha as Coca-Cola or Sanka) coped in a way 
not taught at business schools: she simply sold the furniture and 
appliances from her home in order to pay creditors precisely as 

     Omaha retailers began to recognize that Mrs. B would offer 
customers far better deals than they had been giving, and they 
pressured furniture and carpet manufacturers not to sell to her.  
But by various strategies she obtained merchandise and cut prices 
sharply.  Mrs. B was then hauled into court for violation of Fair 
Trade laws.  She not only won all the cases, but received 
invaluable publicity.  At the end of one case, after 
demonstrating to the court that she could profitably sell carpet 
at a huge discount from the prevailing price, she sold the judge 
$1400 worth of carpet.

     Today Nebraska Furniture Mart generates over $100 million of 
sales annually out of one 200,000 square-foot store.  No other 
home furnishings store in the country comes close to that volume.  
That single store also sells more furniture, carpets, and 
appliances than do all Omaha competitors combined.

     One question I always ask myself in appraising a business is 
how I would like, assuming I had ample capital and skilled 
personnel, to compete with it.  I’d rather wrestle grizzlies than 
compete with Mrs. B and her progeny.  They buy brilliantly, they 
operate at expense ratios competitors don’t even dream about, and 
they then pass on to their customers much of the savings.  It’s 
the ideal business - one built upon exceptional value to the 
customer that in turn translates into exceptional economics for 
its owners.

     Mrs. B is wise as well as smart and, for far-sighted family 
reasons, was willing to sell the business last year.  I had 
admired both the family and the business for decades, and a deal 
was quickly made.  But Mrs. B, now 90, is not one to go home and 
risk, as she puts it, “losing her marbles”.  She remains Chairman 
and is on the sales floor seven days a week.  Carpet sales are 
her specialty.  She personally sells quantities that would be a 
good departmental total for other carpet retailers.

     We purchased 90% of the business - leaving 10% with members 
of the family who are involved in management - and have optioned 
10% to certain key young family managers.

     And what managers they are.  Geneticists should do 
handsprings over the Blumkin family.  Louie Blumkin, Mrs.  B’s 
son, has been President of Nebraska Furniture Mart for many years 
and is widely regarded as the shrewdest buyer of furniture and 
appliances in the country.  Louie says he had the best teacher, 
and Mrs. B says she had the best student.  They’re both right.  
Louie and his three sons all have the Blumkin business ability, 
work ethic, and, most important, character.  On top of that, they 
are really nice people.  We are delighted to be in partnership 
with them.