Saturday, July 31, 2004

New PDA

Bought a new Palm Pilot at last - a Tungsten E, to replace the old Palm V I bought five years ago, when it was the cutting edge of technology. Sickening really - four times the memory, colour screen, lots of new applications and about half the price. Lyrans tend to be early adopters of new technology, of course, even if we don't actually own the company: it's a way of feeling less alienated (sorry, silly choice of words) from this god-forsaken planet with its mostly stone age technology. Under Workstrand 16 of The Project 5.2 (still continuing in a reduced form) we were trying to make the western world more technology aware - until we could get a mass market for computers, there was no chance of developing the kind of components that The Project needs. So we started doing that in the 1970s. Some of the ideas (Sinclair for example) didn't work out very well, but on the whole we didn't do too badly. The World Wide Web was a particularly brilliant piece of planning which brought 1387 a big performance bonus. What I really want is a Blackberry but the Security people are becoming more and more paranoid that NSA and GCHQ will one day be able to read our communications, so for the moment that's out. (I actually suggested we do all our communications in plain text unencrypted. Why? Because how would you tell it from the thousands of sites and message boards devoted to alien invasions on the Internet? But that relies on a knowledge of earthling psychology: too risky for the bureaucrats.)

Friday, July 30, 2004

The History of America

Since a couple of people have written to ask what I meant by America being a bad idea, I suppose I had better explain that America was originally intended as The Project version 2.0. The idea was to produce an advanced technological society capable of interstellar travel by 1800 (1850 in version 2.1 before it was abandoned. I suppose it was a good enough idea at the time, but we've begun to realise that manipulating earthlings is a lot more difficult than we first thought. America still features in the Project even today, as Workstrand 54 of the latest version. I'll explain more about that another time.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Meaning of "Roll Out"

Saw an article on the train coming back which was making fun of management psychobabble (again). There was a sentence something like "rolling out an exciting and innovative financial service blah blah". It's a good point (can you visualise a financial service being rolled out? Would it need brakes?) but as usual the explanation is a simple one. In traditional Lyran villages, the houses were built around a slightly raised central mound where the community hall was. At festivals and other important times, the villagers would bring out special pieces of art or craft they had made, new arrivals in the family or anything else, and roll them up the hill on a kind of cross between a barrow and a cart. In modern Lyran the word for "roll out" is the usual one for publishing a book, announcing an initiative etc. When Lyrans wrote the first management textbooks, it got put in literally translated. There you are.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

World domination - more difficult than you think

The whole point about GM food, in case you were wondering, is that Lyrans find it very hard to digest most Earth foods. Eggs, ice cream, custard, watery rice and so on are OK, but most things have to be treated expensively before they will stay down. Among other things, this means that we get ridiculously hungry on long plane journeys. Anyway, the whole GM idea is based on manipulating food so that we can eat it without throwing up again - and of course to provide the enormous food stocks we'll need for the Trip Home. But it's a good example of just how difficult things are in practice:I've been working on the GM dossier for a decade now, and if anything I think we are farther away than we were a couple of years ago. It seems that no matter how many food companies we buy, consumers don't want it. We've been here before, of course, trying to manipulate this hell-hole of a planet. OK, America was a mistake - we all recognise it now. But something like The Project is so huge and so lomg-term that we've had to rush around manipulating almost every aspect of Earth's history for centuries, and we're still (they reckon) fifty years from completion. We even had to invent the printed book - and no-one expected the Reformation as a result, or at least not the way it came out. This world domination thing is a lot more difficult than it looks.

What a Stakeholder is

On the Eurostar yesterday I heard a couple of middle level managers for some large company (shiny plastic briefcase, shiny bald spot, shiny M and S suits, dandruff) complaining about management psychobabble again. What's this stakeholder thing, one said, waving his can of 1664 around. It's a good example of what I was blogging yesterday - "stakeholder" is a direct translation from the Lyran. Back on Lyra, before a wedding each of the three happy parties would invite two people they thought were really important to them to cary wooden stakes which were knocked into the ground, and a rope strung between them for the ceremony. I'm still not sure that inventing management concultancy was such a good idea - someone's going to work all this out for themselves, one day, unless we're very careful.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

More things that get me down

Writing this on the Eurostar, travelling First Class - it's a hangover from the days before the Chunnel, when all rail travel was First Class. So far, I don't think anyone in Human Asset Management has noticed, but when they do we'll be travelling with the £59 return backpackers and the football hooligans vomiting over each other. The rules also say that you're only allowed to accept alcohol at lunchtime if you're not working that afternoon. If you're with a non-Project person, you can take it in if you metabolise it. But who could possibly check? So nobody bothers with rules like that, he said, taking the glass of champagne offered. I'm on my way to Paris for some GM meetings, only because I'm one of the best French speakers in the European office (I worked in France before and after the First World War), and the only one who's ever worked non this subject before.It's funny, but you would think that all the time we've been here we would have become better at languages, but it hasn't worked out like that. I suppose it's our Lyran inheritance - we have only one language ourselves, and we've never bothered to learn the languages of the cultures we exterminated. Even now, most Lyrans have difficulty with Earth languages - it's a pretty good sign when you hear someone torturing the language of the country they live in that they are still translating directly from Lyran. There was a fuss last month when one of our people in the Government here - 639 I think - was caught talking on the TV about "driving through customer-focused change with buy-in from all stakeholders". He was told not to make it so obvious in future. You might think that someone like me with good language skills would do well, but no, it means I get sent off on all the difficult jobs while the bureaucrats manoeuvre for promotion in the head offices. I've got from Grade 9 to Grade 11 in 355 years.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Things that get me down

I suppose when you think about it, all large organisations are the same, even ours. It's always the little things that get you down; the turgid bureaucracy and the little rules and regulations. Take travel, for example. There's a rule that you can only travel economy by air within Europe - and this in an organisation which makes Bill gates look poor!I grumbled about this to 718, when I put my last travel application in.
“Surely...” I said.
"No", he replied, with the weariness of one who has been managing travel budgets for over a century (he's been trying to get out since 1981). And he showed me the book of rules. Our cover organisation is a large firm of management consultants, and they have a rule that says their staff can't travel business class unless someone else is paying. We always pay for ourselves….. QED. I suppose it's true that people would notice - turning them into auxiliaries is a long expensive process, and not done a lot, which means being careful with the majority of the staff, who still don't realise who they are really working for.
"Don't think I haven't asked" said 718. "I have asked, you know. I mean, I'm on your side, really"
"Thanks", I said. “I value that.”