Saturday, September 17, 2011

‘Catching up and moving East

DSC05406‘scribbling from Schiphol – en route from Cambridge to Hangzhou for a variety of business opportunities.  ‘back in the mid-80’s, I visited Korea, Taiwan, and Japan twice and was really enraptured with the people and the culture.  Although I took a course at the University of Washington about Pacific Rim culture and politics, I never got back to the area, so this is both a renewal and an extension.

I’m not sure what to expect of it: ‘never having been to Mainland China I only know what I read in novels and magazines, a blend of James Clavell and James Fallows.  I hope for Internet access (at least enough to keep up with mail, short blog posts, and Skype) and peace with the local foods – otherwise, I’m pretty adaptable and am expecting to see and learn a lot.

KLM ChinaThe put a lot of pressure on the past week: a huge load was shoveled, but I wish we’d closed on a few key items.  The contracts are slowly coming together with our Universities as we go back and forth over what percentage overheads to include in their Full Economic Costing (FEC) models,.  Our lawyers have engaged with our consultant’s medical institution, frustratingly having to offer royalties in exchange for his consultancy.  We completed our diligence on a company with a new colo-rectal cancer test (I have to get to the other end of the digestive tract in my net project).  We applied for a Framework grant as part of a Mediterranean consortium building an artificial bladder.

All of that is fun to be part of and, perhaps soon, could pay nice dividends.  But  it’s mostly fitting my ambitions to work on creative projects with good people, to bring worthwhile innovation to patients, and to have an opportunity to keep what we win together.

Anyway, time to wing East with a clean conscience.  ‘Pictures, sorties, reflections from the Far East for the next 10 days.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reality is…

…where you take pictures to post on Facebook.

I’m not sure where the quote came from, but it’s a good one this week. I feel like I’m seeing the world through a variety of filters and lenses lately, a postmodern stance where the nature of reality depends on the time,. manner, and place where I view it.

For example, a windy Monday is, according to the paper, the remnant of Hurricane Katia, sweeping in from America.  The storm didn’t have the rain I’d associate with a hurricane; the gale howled out of a clear blue sky all day.

This is the cap to one of the coldest summers on record for the UK, and one of the wettest for the Netherlands. While presidential candidates still deny the evidence, I wonder if climate change is finally affecting the Great Ocean Conveyor.  Predictions are that the global flow of water, driven by salinity and temperature differences, will reverse as the atmosphere warms, plunging the Continent into a much colder weather pattern.


Closer to home, I’ve been trying to get our company website updated with a new News page that I can write to using a blog.  Bids from US programmers topped $4000, an unbelievable amount for only a few days programming to put a supplemental page onto an existing site.  A passing cab in London suggested trying I posted my job and got a half-dozen bids from Indian programmers ranging from £40 to £250.   I accepted the higher bid, since he offered to put the rest of the site into order while doing the supplemental page.

So I’m managing the project remotely, using someone I’ve never met to do work that we only describe to one another over typed Skype messages.  The language issues have been significant (it’s almost impossible to describe a conventional specification), but the work seems to be of good quality and we’re making steady progress.

It has made me think about my antipathy to globalization, though: am I disloyal to my home markets and exploiting emerging ones? I’ve taken some heat from US friends for offshoring, but given the difficulty in raising funds, I spend it carefully, even virtually.

Then I ended up in London over lunch today, grabbing a sandwich after a meeting, typing imaginary plans into a Gantt chart for presentation to a client board I’d never met in New York. Outside my window, in the shadow of the Gherkin, was a pub, the Shepherd Naeme.  And, in the shadow of the entryway was a gaggle of men and women, all expensively dressed, all clutching pints.  At 2 pm! On a working afternoon!

This sort of two-hour, two drink lunch ended in the US 30 years ago, but here the (presumed) bankers were carrying on the tradition with gusto.  I scrolled off a quick tweet, earning a “Lighten up; enjoy life” rejoinder.


Postmodern philosophy says that reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.  So, is reality my breezy day, best value, slacker’s lunch, or someone else’s hurricane, exploitative act, social occasion.

Does it all come down to perspective, and circumstance?

To consider further, try the Victoria and Albert museum, who’s hosting an exhibition of postmodern art (Style and Subversion), visible (in some sense) through January 2012.